In just a few short decades, Costa Rica has gone from some little backwater that nobody visited to being the most popular destination in Central America by far, especially for luxury travelers. Costa Rica has some decent beaches, but the main draws here are activities in the great outdoors: the cloudforests and jungles filled with wildlife. With the best facilities and service in the region, even the eco–lodges here provide plenty of luxury comforts and pampering.
Costa Rica has long been a beacon of stability in the region, with a democracy that's over 100 years old, a literacy rate of 95 percent, and the highest standard of living in Central America. There are a lot of natural superlatives in this country as well. Arenal Volcano is Central America's most active volcano. Some five percent of the world's species are found on this small plot of land, including more species of birds than the U.S. and Canada combined. A quarter of the country is devoted to protected lands and parks and the Costa Rican government here has been far more enlightened about environmentally friendly tourism than most other countries anywhere.
See our reviews of the best hotels, resorts, and lodges in Costa Rica
Don't plan on having the whole place to yourself though unless you stay at a luxury lodge with plenty of land. The secret has been out for ages and this is one of the most popular destinations for North Americans, drawing over 1.5 million total visitors per year. A fair number of those visitors never made it back home: this is a popular place to retire to and buy or build a dream home.
The good side of all this traffic is that upscale facilities are quite good, the better guides speak English well, and staffers aren't just figuring all this out as they go along. Some of the eco–tourism pioneers are based here, so eco–friendly lodges and five–star hotels that "think green" are more prevalent than those that are not—a welcome change in the luxury market.
A Costa Rica vacation is not about colonial history and sightseeing. Instead come here to find jungle adventures, white–water rafting, hiking, mountain biking, and then a bit of beach living on the Nicoya Peninsula, Guanacaste, or Quepos/Manuel Antonio. Follow our links to find the best of Costa Rica.