First Timer's Guide to Costa Rica

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  • Outdoors

  • Surfing

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Fora’s Take

Nature lovers will have the best time experiencing Costa Rica’s incredible waterfalls, beautiful beaches on both the Pacific and the Caribbean coasts, and ziplining in the jungle. The country is known as an eco-travel destination, with about 25 percent of its land protected, which makes it a dream destination for outdoorsy types.

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Where to stay in Costa Rica

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La Vela Boutique Hotel

Low-key boutique hideaway, walking distance to a surfer’s beach and a short ride to the National Park.

Igloo Beach Lodge

Haute hippie hideaway with a plant-based restaurant, fun beach club and Pacific Ocean soundtrack.

Los Pinos Lodge and Gardens

Family-friendly, sustainable resort between two cloud forest preserves.

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Things to do in Costa Rica

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If you’re into surfing, one of the best spots in the country is Tamarindo, a beach town on the Pacific coast known for its great waves. There you’ll find a community of surfers and water sports enthusiasts. It makes the place even more special, even though it also means it gets very busy during the high season (from December to April).

Explore Monteverde, a rainforest park high up in the mountains with absolutely stunning sights. Hike in the cloud forest and admire the diverse wildlife. You’ll also enjoy trying to spot one of the 500+ bird species, as well as the occasional jaguar or puma.

Spend a few days (minimum three and ideally a week) in La Fortuna, a town in the north of the country. From there, you’ll have endless options for activities: go hiking around the volcano, relax in hot springs, feel the thrill of ziplining while admiring the lush surroundings and take in the amazing wildlife. Try spotting slumbering sloths, an activity that is harder than it may seem. These cute animals abound in Costa Rica, but they camouflage themselves very well. Other outdoorsy excursions include kayaking and rappelling, both of which you can do with a guide if you’d like. 

Take a trip to Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast to enjoy the beautiful lesser-known part of the country, as many tourists head to the Pacific side. The small town of Limón offers a good jumping point for a relaxing beach break.

Discover Manuel Antonio National Park to enjoy a mix of beaches and wildlife spotting. It’s a great place to relax and disconnect.

Diving is also popular in Costa Rica and it’s usually done in the south of the country.

Places to eat & drink in Costa Rica

bananas and watermelon at a fruit stand during daytime

Note: All of these options are vegan- and vegetarian-friendly.

Green Papaya Taco Bar, Tamarindo: Delicious tacos in a relaxed atmosphere. A good option for brunch with dishes on the healthier side.

Mother Earth Vegan Hotel and Restaurant: The restaurant in one of Costa Rica’s first vegan hotels is simply delicious and sure to please even the non-vegan travelers.

El Chante Vegano, Alajuela: Another vegan restaurant with great nachos, smoothies and juices.

Chifa La Familia Feliz, La Fortuna: A family-run eatery with a warm, authentic spirit and very friendly staff.

Orgánico Fortuna: This restaurant and coffee shop is the place to go for organic, gluten-free and/or vegan food. 

Rico Tico Jungle Grill, Manuel Antonio National Park: Enjoy traditional cuisine with amazing views of the jungle and ocean, in a casual atmosphere.

La Luna Restaurant, Manuel Antonio National Park: A vegan-friendly restaurant serving healthy, local cuisine. It also offers stunning views of the tropical rainforest and the ocean.

Need to Know

For more Costa Rica travel tips, check out this guide by Fora Advisor Jill Marie: The Best of Nosara, Costa Rica.

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