Far, far away from city life, lost somewhere in dense jungles and uneven terrain lies Costa Rica. But it's not all leafy and green as San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica, could just be another North American city - with its department stores and streets lined with fast-food restaurants. But the urban character of the city ends rapidly along its edges. There’s much to explore in this country with its dripping cloud forest, belching volcanoes and sprawling parks. A fair part of the country is inhabited by the Ticos (or locals) but it is also home to a variety of wildlife.
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COSTA RICA QUICK FACTS
Capital: San José
Currency: Costa Rican colón (₡, CRC)
Area: 51,100 km²
Population: 4,999 million (2018)
Language: Spanish (official), Limonese creole (Mekatelyu) spoken in Limón Province
Religion: Roman Catholic 76.3%, Evangelical 13.7%, other Protestant 0.7%, Jehovah's Witnesses 1.3%, other 4.8%, none 3.2%
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COSTA RICA PUBLIC HOLIDAYS
- 19 March, Feast of Saint Joseph
- 11 April, Anniversary of the Battle of Rivas (Juan Santamaría Day) (not banks)*
- 1 May, Labor Day
- 29 June, Saint Peter and Saint Paul Day
- 25 July, Anniversary of the Annexation of Guanacaste Province*
- 2 August, Our Lady of the Angels (not banks)
- 15 August, Assumption/Mother’s Day*
- 15 September, Independence Day
- 12 October, Day of the Meeting of Cultures
- 8 December, Immaculate Conception (not banks)
* Observed on the Monday following if holiday falls on a Tuesday through Friday. If holiday falls on a weekend, it is not moved.
Also, Semana Santa (Holy Week) from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, especially Holy Thursday through Easter Sunday, and the Feast of Corpus Christi.
FESTIVALS IN COSTA RICA
Día de Juan Santamaria - April 11 commemorates Costa Rica's national hero, who died driving William Walker out of Costa Rica in 1856. The week-long national holiday features parades, parties and other celebrations, especially in Santamaria's hometown of Alajuela.
Las Fiestas de Zapote - (December) For one week, this celebration embraces all things Costa Rican – from rodeos to fried food, and a whole lot of drinking – in Zapote, southeast of San José.
COSTA RICA WEATHER SYNOPSIS
The lowlands of Costa Rica harbor a tropical and subtropical climate while the highlands experience a mountainous climate. The interactions between the trade winds from the east and the region’s topographic diversity creates a "rain shadow" effect, with the Caribbean slope experiencing rain practically all year round and the Pacific slope characterised by a prolonged dry season lasting approximately from November until April or May and a wet season during the rest of the year. The increased intensity of the trade winds in July produces a peak of precipitation on the Caribbean slope. Daily temperatures reach their maximum value before the start of the rainy season. Minimum temperatures show a different pattern, with the highest values observed in July and the lowest values during the Northern Hemisphere winter.
SPORT & ACTIVITIES
HIKING & CYCLING IN COSTA RICA
The best time for outdoor activities in Costa Rica is during the dry season, from December to April. Hike to waterfalls and volcano lakes near Arenal; lose yourself in the clouds at Monteverde. It takes two days to summit Cerro Chirripó, the country's highest peak.
BEACH OPTIONS IN COSTA RICA
The beaches in Costa Rica are best enjoyed during the dry season from late November to April.
SURFING IN COSTA RICA
Costa Rica is a year round surfing destination, with the best surf during the wet season from May to mid November, with June, July, August and September being the best months. You can still find surf during the dry season from December to April, it's just smaller waves and less consistent and you're better off heading to the Caribbean coast.
KITESURF IN COSTA RICA
The windy kitesurfing season in Costa Rica starts late in October and lasts until May. The best months are from December to March.
HEALTH RISKS IN COSTA RICA
Be aware of possible health risks in
Zika Virus - Zika is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These mosquitoes bite during the day and night. Zika can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus. Infection during pregnancy can cause certain birth defects. There is no vaccine or medicine for Zika.
Dengue - Dengue is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These mosquitoes bite during the day and night. About one in four people infected with dengue will get sick. For people who get sick with dengue, symptoms can be mild or severe.
COSTA RICA TRAVEL TIPS
The Caribbean coast is the most affordable part of the country. Puerto Viejo de Talamanca has some great budget lodging. It's free to go to the beach – and you can rent a bicycle to get there. You can also hike for free in the nearby Gandoca-Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge.
LGBTQ IN COSTA RICA
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights in Costa Rica have evolved significantly in the past decades. Although same-sex sexual relations have been legal since 1971, same-sex marriage in Costa Rica has only been legal since 26 May 2020, making Costa Rica was the first country in Central America to recognise and perform same-sex marriages.
Although progressing steadily, currently the country as a whole is only fairly LGBTQ tolerant, with the exception of San José which is known as a gay-friendly city. There are many openly gay bars in town, lots of gay-friendly restaurants and guesthouses and the city has held organised gay pride festivals since 2003.