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  About Costa Rica >Regional Information  
 
 
 
The Caribbean
If there is a region in Costa Rica where a local atmosphere can be sensed all around, it definitely has to be the Caribbean Coast. It has a particular history of immigrants from Jamaica, Trinidad and other West Indies islands, as well as Chinese descendants who came as workers during the height of the banana exports, when the railroad San José – Port Limón was built (1880’s – 1940’s). Furthermore, unlike other Central and Latin American countries, only 1% of Costa Rica’s population is indigenous; most of which lives in the mountains of Talamanca (Western Caribbean).
The Caribbean has the splendor of the beaches and palm trees, but also the privilege of being one of the few places in Costa Rica – and Central America – where green turtles come every year to lay their eggs. Visitors can’t help falling under the charm of the Calypso music, the local gastronomy (rice and beans dish, pati, and ginger drink), the little braids in women’s and little girls’ hair and the local “Creole” English (known as Mekatelyu).


Northern Caribbean: Tortuguero and Barra del Colorado
Tortuguero is one of the most important nesting sites in the world for the green sea turtle, which finds its way onto the brown-sand beaches every year. Its territories protect not only the turtle-nesting beach, but also the surrounding forests, canals and lagoons. Everything in Tortuguero centres on the waterways; therefore, access is by boat or air only. It is an ideal place to observe wildlife. Its peaceful atmosphere and the feeling of being in one of the most remote places on Earth attract nature lovers; the area has managed to develop a low-density tourism system.

Southern Caribbean: Cahuita, Puerto Viejo and Manzanillo
Less than two decades ago Puerto Viejo could hardly be called a town. It has changed considerably since then, but the beaches are still free (no fees), the surf can be downright awesome, and everyone appears to be in a state of tropical bliss, enjoying the hammock culture in full swing. The unique Afro-Caribbean influence is reflected in the music, and food. Sights in this picturesque area include Cahuita National Park (great for snorkeling as it still has coral reef alive), Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife refuge, Punta Uva, Puerto Viejo, Talamanca, and the Kekoldi Indian Reserve.


Northern Region
The Northern Region covers a vast area that includes tropical humid forests, wide plains with pasturelands, an active volcano, and dense, misty woods isolated within the mountains, not to mention the many attractions and things to do: canopy rides, river floats, bike rentals, nature trail walks for leisure or scientific purposes, hot springs bathing, great scenery, and lots of wildlife.
Sarapiquí, La Fortuna (home of the Arenal Volcano), and Monteverde, all belong to the Northern Region. This region is one of the favorites for nature lovers, who will certainly feel that time is never enough for all there is to do, see and learn about. The area’s location makes it a great itinerary connection point. One can easily head towards the Caribbean, stopping over at Sarapiquí, or from Arenal to Monteverde and the Pacific Beaches, or even hop from one volcano to another (Arenal to Rincón de la Vieja), using the Northern Region as a strategically located starting, intermediate, or ending point.
The region features three main areas:
Sarapiquí
La Selva Biological Station (a center owned and managed by the Organization for Tropical Studies in collaboration with universities in Costa Rica and abroad), La Tirimbina Rainforest Centre (sponsored by the Milwaukee Public Museum and the Riveredge Nature Centre), the Sarapiquí River (ideal for floats on mild river rapids), and butterfly farms.
La Fortuna (Arenal area)
Hot springs, canopy tours, rental bicycles, birdwatching tours in Caño Negro, waterfalls, and great hiking places. The major town within the area is Ciudad Quesada, where facilities such as health centres, banks, and general service suppliers are located.
Monteverde
Quetzal viewing, Monteverde & Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserves, Children’s Eternal Forest, Canopy Tours and suspended bridges, frog ponds, living snakes museum, trail hikes, orchid gardens, butterfly farms, and a cheese factory.
The Central Valley
The Central Valley and surrounding highlands form Costa Rica’s cultural and geographical base. Dense in population in comparison to the rest of the country, the Valle Central shelters one of every four Costa Ricans & immigrants. It is also home to the four most important cities in the country: San José, the capital city of Costa Rica, and the provincial capitals of Cartago, Heredia and Alajuela, together providing the most economically productive region, and gathering the main political and social institutions, as well as the main health centers (hospitals, private medical centers, drugstores). Its strategic location in the middle of the country makes it the starting point of many activities: museum visits, National Theatre, white water rafting, rain and cloud forest hiking, mountain biking, as well as visits to butterfly farms, botanical gardens, picturesque towns, and coffee plantations, all can be seen while in the Central Valley. More than 25 one-day activities (both private and group tours) can be done from San José.
The average temperature in the valley is 24ºC (77ºF) all year-round, and the altitude ranges from 2000 to 5000 feet (600 to 1500 m). Mountains and volcanoes enclose this land in a sort of geographical cradle, and are, in turn, some of the region’s main attractions. In just 20-40 minutes you can find yourself in the uplands, enjoying the beautiful view of San José and the fresh mountain breezes. Volcanoes are also well worth visiting: Poás and Barva in the northwest, Irazú in the southeast, and Turrialba in the east. Being the country’s network core has its many advantages, particularly when it comes to infrastructure. The Central Valley hosts the main international airport (Juan Santamaría), which is around 20 to 30 minutes away from the majority of hotels and lodges. It is also the place in the country where one can find the most developed hotel facilities; meetings, conventions, and congresses for large groups can be easily arranged in and around San José, with side options for businessmen and for their families, such as golf courses, shopping centers, a variety of dining options, swimming pools, and tennis courts among others… definitely … a wide variety to choose from!

The North Pacific
Best known for its beaches, which indeed are astonishing, the truth is that Costa Rica’s North Pacific is more diverse and has much more to offer than only palm trees and ocean waters. Comprising practically all the province of Guanacaste and part of Puntarenas (which corresponds to the southernmost tip of the Nicoya Peninsula), the region is marked by its landscape and history, both unique within the country. Guanacaste voted to join Costa Rica in year 1824 in a close election that would have otherwise meant its annexation to Nicaragua; in no other province has this ever occurred. Another eccentricity: the North Pacific is the only area with tropical dry forests, open prairie-like spaces, an active volcano with geysers and boiling mud, old haciendas and cattle ranches, and sabaneros (the Costa Rican version of cowboys). A rarely mentioned fact, evident however with a little detailed observation and sensibility, is the North Pacific’s folklore. The traditions have even become the icons of Costa Rican typical culture: the most widely spread national dances, the Marimba instrument, big homemade tortillas, and other songs, were inherited and adopted as its own in the rest of the country.
Birding sites, national parks, and local art crafts are daily expressions of the region’s diversity but, of course, when it comes to the North Pacific, beaches are a “must”... and there is one for every type of traveler. Big, luxurious resorts with plenty of daily activities and nightlife entertainment in the Papagayo Gulf, boutique hotels with a personal touch in remote hideaways like Tamarindo, Punta Islita, and Flamingo, kilometers of unspoiled beaches between Nosara and Sámara, and towns with an alternative, “retro-style” atmosphere, like Mal País and Montezuma, all can be found in this land portion. Not to mention the many activities awaiting: birdwatching near the Tempisque River, canopy touring, golfing with great ocean views, some of the best sportfishing and scuba diving, and horseback riding in mountains and beaches.
The North Pacific is currently experiencing a significant turning point. The opening of the Daniel Oduber International Airport in Liberia has encouraged the region’s economy and highlighted its attractions. Today this is the doorway to Costa Rica for many travelers, and for some, perhaps the only region in the country they get to visit.

The Central Pacific
This thin strip of coastal land that descends from the port of Puntarenas to the southern warm-hearted, non-touristy coastal village of Uvita is virtually separated from the Central Costa Rican territories by the country’s highest mountain range: the Talamanca Cordillera. In the region one can find the closest beaches to San José (2 – 2 ½ hours driving), like Jacó and Herradura. Most international cruise ships arrive in Puerto Caldera (near Puntarenas), which makes it a popular starting place for some one-day activities, for instance, visits to the Poás Volcano, Coffee Tours, City Tours of San José, and Canopy Tours among others.
The Central Pacific is ideal to go hopping from one beach to another, especially if one is eager to get different “beach feelings” in a short time. Jacó and nearby Playa Hermosa, as well as Dominical, are surfers’ hot spots, whereas Manuel Antonio National Park has become the undisputable region’s main attraction for nature lovers who want comfort and some restaurant/ bar options after the treks through the trails, and Uvita hosts small hotels, in a cozy, not-so-developed area where one can still enjoy a strong local town atmosphere. If you are an active traveler and wish to invest your spare time in nice activities, there is plenty to do like Golfing at Los Sueños, horseback riding, sportfishing in Quepos, and canopy touring in Jacó and Manuel Antonio.
The Coastal road has magnificent scenery, with miles of oil palm-tree plantations, great ocean views with mountains rising up almost directly from the sea, and in the beautiful Carara National Park you can, with a little luck, see scarlet macaws. The region is rather humid and in the rainy season strong showers refresh the afternoons… perfect to cuddle in the room and take a long siesta!
The South Pacific
One of most impressive regions in the country, for its vast areas of complete wilderness and primary forests, the South Pacific gives travelers the sensation of being in Costa Rica’s ultimate frontier. There are three main areas to visit: the Corcovado National Park, the town of Golfito and its surroundings, and the mountainous Chirripó National Park & La Amistad International Park.
There is plenty to see both for nature and rural-lifestyle lovers. Visitors find it charming and challenging to walk through tropical humid forests of Corcovado, abundant in flora and fauna; get in touch with the rural life in San Vito (with its amazing Wilson Botanical Gardens), or hike the country’s highest peak - Chirripó. There are basic lodging options, but the region – particularly Corcovado’s surroundings – offers a wide scale of places to stay at, from the budget hotels and cabins, to upscale deluxe wilderness lodges. Different means of transportation are used to reach this remote area: airplane, boat, and ground vehicles.
Corcovado and surroundings
Besides its natural beauty, the Osa Peninsula (where Corcovado National Park is located) is home to many endangered species, such as the endemic Scarlet Macaw, the Titi monkey, and Jaguars (rarely seen). It is also a divers paradise, especially in the surroundings of the Caño Island. Moderate diving skills are required, and a PADI license shall be shown before taking any diving tour.
Golfito and surroundings
Golfito, a former banana company enclave, is the main town in the South Pacific Region. Since the creation of a tax-free zone there, in the early 1990’s, it has become an important economic area, hosting visitors from all over the country and abroad. Some of Golfito’s highlights include: taking a boat ride along the Gulf to spot dolphins, go sportfishing, walk in the Peñas Blancas National Park, and visit the Wilson Botanical Gardens in San Vito town.

Chirripó National Park
This Park hosts the country’s highest peak (3,820m. / 12,533 ft). It is an ideal place for moderately fit trekkers. Visitors experience changes in the vegetation as they climb up, from the dense tropical forests, to high altitude landscapes, with small trees, bushes, and old glacial lakes. No camping is allowed and visitors can only stay at the mountain shelter (with a maximum capacity of 40 people), so make sure you let us know with anticipation your travel plans to consult availability.

 
 
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