What Costa Rica Does BestBarbara Zanotelli Rodrigues - Former Travel Expert
Our Real Latin America Expert
Barbara Zanotelli Rodrigues - Former Travel Expert
With Brazilian parents, Barbara has a passion for all things Latin American.
When thinking about Costa Rica many topics come to mind, this small, breathtakingly beautiful country has created a worldwide name for itself for many positive reasons. Here we explore the top five areas Costa Rica thrives in.
Globally recognised as one of the best tasting coffees in the world, Costa Rica’s coffee plantations have played a key role in the country’s history. Initially introduced in 1779, Arabica coffee was imported from Ethiopia due to the country’s ideal soil and climate conditions. As its popularity and plantations grew, and exports reached as far as England, coffee became the main source of income. With this a new elite society was created who invested in the country, better infrastructure and the construction of the National Theatre in San José. Today Costa Rican coffee can be easily found in all shops from well-known brands to small companies who specialise in organic and Fairtrade production. As with most products, it is important to buy Fairtrade coffee to guarantee the farmers are guaranteed a better livelihood.
Whilst in Costa Rica, don’t miss the opportunity to drive into the lush rolling hills of the central highlands where you can experience coffee tastings sessions, learn about the beans, witness the cultivating process and appreciate the history of coffee within the region and around the world.
A guilty pleasure for most around the globe, chocolate was once considered as valuable as gold to the Aztecs, Incas and Costa Rica’s Chorotega people. Cultivated and cherished as the food of gods, cacao was originally prepared as a bitter drink blended with spices and wine, it was believed to have aphrodisiac powers as well as providing the drinker with strength!
Today demands for chocolate grow 25% every 10 years, increasing production and plantations around the world. In Costa Rica, it is a key contributor to the economy as its popularity increases as one of the finest chocolates in the world, with 20 plantations dominating the country’s landscape. Chocolate tourism is continuously growing in Costa Rica from tours featuring tastings to week long holidays, including chocolate spa treatments on offer.
With around 25% of the country’s land protected in national parks, it’s hard to imagine that Costa Rica was once considered one of the most deforested countries in the world. The forests were cut down to make space for the growing population, banana plantations and cattle ranching which is the primary cause of deforestation in Costa Rica. In the late 1980s it was clear that action had to be taken in order to preserve the country’s vast biodiversity. Working alongside the World Bank, the Costa Rican government introduced conservation programmes which have effectively made Costa Rica a pioneer in reforestation, forest management and forest protection policies. Although an enormous victory to the country, it is a lifelong battle to preserve the land which is still not within national parks or privately owned.
With so many national parks to choose from, it can be difficult to decide on which ones to visit due to different landscape and fauna. A must see is the Arenal Volcano National Park in the north of the country, not only abundant in wildlife and lush forestation, the country’s most active volcano is also within the protected land, offering magnificent views and unique hike.
Costa Rica is most commonly known for its wide variety of wildlife, homing more than 500,000 species. This represents nearly 4% of the total species found worldwide. It’s geographical position and climate has created the perfect environment for the vibrant coloured and unique animals, hundreds of which are endemic to Costa Rica. Corcovado National Park is known as the ‘crown jewel’ of all Costa Rica’s national park. The largest of the country’s protected parks has an astonishing amount of biodiversity, including 10% of mammals found in the Americas and the endangered squirrel monkey.
Take a guided tour around Corcovado National Park, the Mecca for naturalists and wildlife enthusiasts where your guide will help you spot jaguars, all four Costa Rican monkey species, toucans and many more.
With award winning beaches, it easy to understand why water sports have become so popular. The country boasts an array of activities from surfing to waterfall abseiling and white-water rafting. Make the most of your visit to Costa Rica, exploring more than one water sport and you’ll sight Costa Rica’s rich underwater and overland oasis in a thrilling new light.