Costa Rica has been on my ‘to visit’ list since I saw my first sloth picture in a book as a child. How cute are they? 🙂 Over the years, as I climbed the editorial ladder in various jobs, my colleagues visited – and then enthused – about their holidays to Costa Rica. For a while it was ‘the’ place to go. But I was young and all my wages went on rent. Yet it didn’t stop me wanting to go.
As a university student I studied Environmental Biology. I learned loads about my favourite animals and the habitats in which they live. And I discovered how diverse such a small country as Costa Rica really is. With the children now 11 and 9 (well, 9 next week) – and with them both sharing my fascination for wildlife – I think it’s time to finally make that trip real! This post explains where we want to visit, how we’ll get there, and the Costa Rica vacation rentals we’ll pick to stay in.
Some facts about Costa Rica
Costa Rica has coastline on both the Pacific and the Atlantic, and in total this covers 800 miles. In terms of size, Costa Rica would fit into Lake Michigan! However, even though it only takes up 0.3% of the earth’s surface, it has 5% of its biodiversity. There are:
- Over 130 species of fish
- 220 species of reptiles
- 1,000 species of butterflies (10% of the world’s total)
- 9,000 plant species
- 20,000 species of spiders
- 34,000 species of insects
I have to confess, the 20,000 different types of spiders just put me off a teeny bit, being the wuss I am around them…
Because of the valuable habitats, over 25% of Costa Rica is protected.
Do you know where Costa Rica is? It’s in Central America, sandwiched between Panama (south) and Nicaragua (north).
Animals I want to see in Costa Rica
Gosh, where do I start? Sloths, obviously, either the two-toed or three (or both!) Toucans, macaws (scarlet and great green), the beautiful hummingbird birds. Another bird – the motmots … never seen one before and there are six different species in Costa Rica. But the main bird to see just has to be the resplendent quetzal, considered the most spectacular bird in the New World.
Anteaters – they always make me smile, though I’ve yet to see one in the wild. Howler, spider and squirrel monkeys, jaguars, manatees, tapirs, caimans and crocodiles … not forgetting all the whales, dolphins, turtles, rays and sharks in the sea. It’s clear that when we go to Costa Rica, we will need quite a long visit!
By the way, did you notice that I’ve not mentioned a single spider in my wish list …
What is clear is that we’ll need a multi-centre stay, so we can experience as many of these habitats as possible.
What we want to do and see in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is home to the Arenal Volcano National Park. From the small town of La Fortuna at the base of the volcano, you can take a rainforest chocolate tour (oh yes!), visit the hot springs, and take a 2.8km cable-car ride through the canopy of the national park. There is also a butterfly gardens. This is definitely on our ‘to do’ list.
The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is another ‘must do’ visit. This 26,000 acres biome is a wildlife lover’s dream! There are several good hiking trails, but also a Sky Tram, Sky Walk, and a Sky Trek zipline adventure for the brave!
Tortuguero National Park is the place to go to see marine turtles. Four of the eight species of marine turtles in the world visit Tortuguero to breed. The West Indian manatee can also be spotted here.
The Osa Peninsula and Corcovado National Park is one of the most diverse places on earth. Home to the only tropical primary lowland rainforest on earth, this is the best place to see scarlet macaws, as well as tapirs, jaguars, monkeys (four species), and sloths.
Costa Rica is such a diverse country. There are twelve ecological zones in Costa Rica. Deciduous forests, mangrove swamps, rainforests, herbaceous swamps, cloud forests, riparian forests, swamp forests and coral reefs, Atlantic and Pacific coastline that some of the animals I want to see live in. For our first visit, I think four different regions is enough!
Where to stay
Because of the different areas we want to visit, we will stay in villas/holiday rentals. There’s a lot of choice, with villas catering from small groups like ours (four people), all the way up to large groups of 18+. They look stunning, so there will be a bit of luxury as well!
How to get there
You can fly non-stop to Costa Rica in just under 11 hours. Direct flights cost a little more than going via a US airport, though this cheaper option will take you longer. British Airways fly direct from London Gatwick to San Jose Juan Santamaria, the main international airport of Costa Rica. This flight uses their Boeing 777 planes – hoping they’ll ‘upgrade’ to the amazing Dreamliner before we fly!
When to go
Mid-December to April is considered the dry season in Costa Rica (basically the same as the UK’s winter). This however is when Costa Rica is at its busiest (and most expensive). I think we would plan to go at either the beginning of the dry season, or right at the end – just trying to avoid the peak times. Of course, it would need to be school holiday time too. Hmm … Easter? Though I imagine this will be really busy. I will let you know on our return 🙂