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Costa Rica

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Arenal Volcano National Park

ARENAL VOLCANO NATIONAL PARK

Arenal Volcano National Park is located within the larger Arenal Conservation Area, which protects some 16 reserves between the Tilarán and Guanacaste mountain ranges. The park is most directly accessed from La Fortuna but is also easily accessed via Tilarán and the north shore of Lake Arenal. This area contains a great wealth of geologic and biological complexity, as evidenced by the active and incredible Arenal Volcano. The perfect cone is visible from most anywhere in the area, but if you want a really good view your best bet is to stay in one of the “observatory” type lodges and get up with the sun. The clouds tend to move in soon after sunrise. It neighbour Lake Arenal is the site of the country's largest hydroelectricity project - the Lake Arenal Dam. The park also contains a second volcano, Chato, whose crater contains a lagoon. It is also called Cerro Chato (literally Mount Chato) as it has been inactive for around 3500 years. This national park is popular with birders, as most of the 850 species identified in Costa Rica can be found within the park's borders. This includes one of the country's most elusive and beautiful birds, the endangered resplendent quetzal. Other animal species living within the park include white-faced capuchin monkeys, jaguar, deer, coati, and snakes like the fer-de-lance and parrot snake. The park also has a strong showing of plant life, including orchids, heliconias, ferns, laurel, cirri, guayabo de monte, palms, bromeliads, and strangler figs.

Monteverde, Costa Rica

MONTEVERDE

Monteverde, whose official name is Monte Verde, is a district of the Puntarenas canton, in the Puntarenas province of Costa Rica. It is located in the Cordillera de Tilarán mountain range and is roughly a four-hour drive from the Central Valley. One of the country's major ecotourism destinations, situated at 4,662ft (1,440m) above sea level, Monteverde is evergreen due to the precipitation and moisture-filled clouds which hover over the horizon on an almost daily basis. Monteverde's cloud forests are the by-product of fog tangling amongst the leaves and branches of the forest canopy. When these water-based clouds come into contact with solid plant material, the plant absorbs what it needs, and the remaining water condenses and drips down until it reaches the forest floor. This natural 'waterwheel' is what maintains Costa Rica's impressive ecosystem and within the cloud forests of Monteverde you will find tens of thousands of diverse insects, 2,500 species of plants (420 are strictly orchids), 400 varieties of birds and over 100 types of mammal.

Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

PUERTO VIEJO

Puerto Viejo de Talamanca is a town in southeast Costa Rica located in Limon province on the Caribbean coast. It’s known for the Salsa Brava surf break and beaches like black-sand Playa Negra. The Jaguar Rescue Centre rehabilitates wild cats and other animals. Gandoca-Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge has rainforest, wetlands and mangroves. To the north, Cahuita National Park protects a large coral reef and has a shipwreck dive site. All in all, Puerto Viejo de Talamanca is a laid-back beach town with a distinctly Caribbean feel. With residents of both Afro-Caribbean and indigenous descent, Puerto Viejo offers a unique culture that can be found only in this part of Costa Rica. Here, coconut rice, Reggaeton beats, colourful homes, and a laid-back attitude dominate.

San Jose, Costa Rica

SAN JOSE

Located in the heart of Costa Rica, San José is one of the most diverse provinces in the country due to its dense urban capital city also known as downtown San José. Boasting a pleasant and mild climate, San José is one of the most populated regions of the country. It is home to dense culture and history, exquisite architecture, bustling nightlife and friendly locals. Considered to be both a traditional Central American city and cosmopolitan urban centre, San José provides a wonderful array of activities and attractions. Although the city is fairly modern in terms of Latin American cities, as buildings are rarely older than 100 years, there are still plenty of World War II era buildings. Some of the best attractions in San José include Central Park, Morazan Park, Spanish Park, National Park, Democracy Plaza and the Jade Museum.

Tortuguero National Park, Costa Rica

TORTUGUERO NATIONAL PARK

Parque Nacional Tortuguero (meaning Turtle Catcher) is a protected wilderness area on Costa Rica's northern Caribbean coast. Its beaches are famous nesting grounds for sea turtles, including endangered green turtles. The park's freshwater creeks and lagoons, which can be navigated by boat or canoe, shelter spectacled caimans and river turtles. The surrounding dense rainforest is also rich with wildlife, from monkeys to many bird species. This is one of the few Costa Rican National Parks where walking quietly isn’t necessarily the best way to see things. The marked trail along the beach is used mostly for observing turtle nesting, but the best way to see most of the park is from a boat. Tortuguero’s dense jungle maze of winding canals is evocative of the wild Amazon. A float down these ominous brown waters is an adventure in itself, as you are sure to hear the howling of monkeys and screeching of exotic birds along the way. The network of canals, rivers, lagoons, beaches, and dense rainforest here are all interlinked and this is one of the rainiest parts of Costa Rica, which contributes to its rich biodiversity.

Costa Rica, Central America Map

Information

General Information

Costa Rica is a rugged, rain forested Central American country with coastlines on the Caribbean and Pacific Oceans. Though its capital San Jose is home to cultural institutions like the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum, Costa Rica is known for its beaches, volcanoes, and biodiversity. Roughly a quarter of its area is made up of protected jungle, teeming with wildlife including spider monkeys and quetzal birds.


Costa Rica has many beautiful sights - the jungle-cloaked Osa Peninsula, the cascading Nauyaca Waterfalls, the mist-shrouded cloud forest and the sandy beaches of Parque Nacional Tortuguero, where turtles come ashore to nest. If you’re travelling to Costa Rica to spot wildlife, Corcovado is home to the country’s more exotic species, while the jungle region of Sarapiquí conceals the endangered great green macaw.


Whilst many people visit Costa Rica for its curious critters, there are ways that you can escape the crowds. The lesser-trodden Parque Nacional Los Quetzales is home to the iconic quetzal, for instance, and the southern Nicoya Peninsula is a remote spot to kayak past monkeys and sloths.

When to Visit

Spring (April and May). This is the best time of year to visit Costa Rica, at the tail end of the season, when the crowds retreat from the sandy coastline. Spring is a popular time for music festivals, generally starting with the Monteverde Music Fest, when national and international musicians gather in the cloud forest town for a month of song and dance. Alajuela’s annual Festival Imperial follows, attracting a crowd of over 30,000 to the biggest rock festival in Costa Rica. Easter Holy Week (Semana Santa) is widely celebrated across Costa Rica, starting with country-wide processions to mark Ash Wednesday. In Guanacaste they have horse, cow and bull parades, with bullfights (in which the bull is not harmed) in Liberia.


Summer (June to August) If you visit Costa Rica in the summer, you will find yourself in the middle of the rainy season, but this is also known as the ‘green season’ for the incredible displays of lush green foliage.  In these months you will benefit from fewer crowds. In drier regions like Guanacaste, afternoon showers tend to last for only a few hours. Along the Caribbean coast, the rain showers linger until September and October. The summer months are the best time of year to visit Costa Rica for surfing, when storms bring impressive swells to the Pacific.


Autumn (September and mid-November) The rains are heaviest in these months but although they can be fierce, they will only impede you from travelling in the more remote areas of the country (especially in the Nicoya Peninsula and Zona Sur, where dirt roads become inaccessible to all but the sturdiest 4WDs).


Winter (mid-November to March). During these rainy season months tourists flood the beach towns in search of sun, sea and sand. In San José, temperatures rarely dip below 20 degrees Celsius year-round, while the Northern Plains and drier coast, like the Nicoya Peninsula and Guanacaste, see temperatures in the high 30s. Travel at this time and you'll also discover country-wide holidays, featuring bullfights, dancing and music.

Currency

Costa Rica’s national currency is known as the colón (plural: colones) named after Cristóbal Colón (Christopher Columbus) and notes come in 1000-, 2000-, 5000-, 10,000-, 20,000- and 50,000-colón, while coins come in denominations of five, 10, 20, 25, 50, 100 and 500 colones.


Dollars are widely accepted in tourist areas and other places around the country but it’s worth noting that bills larger than $20 may not be taken by some businesses. Also, when paying for goods and services in dollars, you’ll more than likely get your change in colones. Newer US dollars are also preferred throughout Costa Rica - if your note has a rip in it, it may not be accepted.


When venturing to the more remote areas of Costa Rica, while some places will accept credit cards, the likelihood of this diminishes the further you go out into the countryside.

Most major towns and even some small villages have at least one ATM, so using these machines is a great way to ensure you’ve got access to your money when you need it.

Visas and Vaccinations

You must have all visas (and vaccination) certificates that are necessary to enter or pass through Costa Rica.


Visa requirements are subject to change so please check with a Visa Service Company in the country in which you are located, or you can check details online instantly with companies such as CIBT Visas (https://cibtvisas.co.uk/. Visas can be obtained through the relevant embassy or consulate.

General Note: Some countries refuse admission to travellers not meeting their accepted standards of dress or appearance (even if they hold a visa). Entry may also be refused to certain countries if your passport bears stamps or visas (valid or expired) for Israel.


A useful general health advice website for travellers is http://www.who.int/ith/en/ and there are also advice sites in individual countries.

https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel

https://www.nhs.uk/livewell/travelhealth/Pages/Travelhealthhome.aspx

http://smartraveller.gov.au/guide/all-travellers/health/Pages/default.aspx


Please note it is your responsibility to ensure you have the correct, current visa and vaccination information and that you act on it.

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