Nature and Nightlife: Your Guide to Costa Rica

Costa rica, Dunheger Travel Blog


If there’s one place in the world that deserves its hype in the tourism world, it’s Costa Rica. Few destinations out there strike that sweet spot between accessible, affordable vacation hotspot and unspoiled slice of nature, but this small Central American country is among those elite ranks. Friendly, stable, and peaceful, Costa Rica has long been an excellent destination for even the least experienced traveler.

Most tourists visit during the high season between December and April. If you’d like to avoid the largest crowds, you might schedule your trip for November or May, but don’t stray too far into low season as heavy rains tend to wash out roads during these months, making travel to more remote areas impossible.

San Jose, Costa Rica, Dunheger Travel Blog
San Jose, Costa Rica, Flickr © Marv Gillibrand

The capital city of San Jose has brought together students, artists, politicians, and residents from countless other walks of life for hundreds of years. It may not be known for its general beauty, but art lovers will still find a delightful mix of traditional museum-housed pre-Colombian artifacts and colorful guerilla street art. Shopping in the Mercado Central or taking in a show at the Teatro Nacional also make their way onto a fair number of itineraries.

San Jose, Cost Rica, Cathedral, Dunheger Travel Blog
San Jose, Costa Rica Capitol, Flickr © Diana
San Jose, Costa Rica, Dunheger Travel Blog
San Jose, Costa Rica, Flickr © Marv Gillibrand

Despite these attractions in the capital, Costa Rica is far from a country one visits for its city life. Get out into the wilderness and experience the magic of the nation’s natural beauty. The Arenal Volcano is a good starting point, particularly for hikers thanks to its multitude of trails. After a satisfying ramble among its dormant, mist-covered slopes, let your sore muscles relax in one of the nearby hot springs in La Fortuna.

Arenal Volcano, Cost Rica, Dunheger Travel Blog
Arenal Volcano, Flickr © Brian Henderson
Tabacon Hot Springs, Cost Rica, Dunheger Travel Blog
Tabacon Hot Springs, La Fortuna, Flickr © Craft0logy

Seeking a more classically Caribbean vibe? The eastern coast of the country shimmies and shakes to a tropical beat when night falls and will perk up even the most cynical visitor. Occupy yourself during the day with a visit to Tortuguero National Park, most renowned for its population of sea turtles as well as caiman, monkeys, sloths, and herons. You can get close to wildlife, both majestic and miniscule, on a boating safari.

Explore the canopy of the rapidly disappearing rainforest on a stroll through the cloud forests of Monteverde and Santa Elena. You won’t find more unique wild flora and fauna packed into such a compact space anywhere else on the planet. For a more heart-pumping experience, try the ever-popular zip line in this national park.

Cloud forest, Monteverde , Dunheger Travel Blog
Cloud Forest, Monteverde , Flickr © Speed of Life Tours
Canopy Bridge over Monteverde Cloud Forest, Costa Rica, Dunheger Travel Blog
Canopy Bridge over Monteverde Cloud Forest, Flickr © Speed of Life Tours

Though the Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio may be the nation’s smallest park, it’s far from the least populated. Hundreds of thousands of visitors come to this sliver of the western coast for its pristine beaches, coy capuchin monkeys, and other natural delights. Easy hiking trails lie nearby making this park especially good for families with children.

Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio, Cost Rica, Dunheger Travel Blog
Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio, Flickr © Ed Ogle

Simplicity is the key to authentic Costa Rican meals and you’ll find several dishes centered around rice and beans – as in the national dish gallo pinto – or fresh fruit and vegetables. Your dining choices will be far from limited however, as restaurants in San Jose span a wide international range and east coast eateries will subscribe to Caribbean traditions. Far more identifying to Costa Rica’s history is its world-renowned coffee. Visit a plantation to see how the bitter black elixir is made and pick up a bag of fresh beans to take home.

From rest and relaxation to adventure and excitement, Costa Rica encompasses what most travelers look for in a holiday and with the rainforest and countless endangered species slipping through our fingers, there’s no reason to delay visiting this one-of-a-kind landmark of biodiversity.