10 of the best places to visit in Costa Rica — The Times

Stunning beaches, lush rainforests and incredible wildlife make this Central American nation the perfect getaway for thrill-seekers and sun-seekers alike — by Oliver Berry, The Times

I’ll never forget the first time I woke up in a Costa Rican cloud forest. Put it this way: I didn’t need an alarm clock — the sunrise symphony of hoots, whistles, barks, toots, trills, buzzes and howls did the job. It was like getting out of bed with a backing track provided by a David Attenborough documentary. I’ve been hooked on Costa Rica ever since.

Costa Rica is one of the most biodiverse places on the planet. The great pleasure of travelling here is the opportunity to encounter the menagerie of macaws, toucans, turtles, sloths, hummingbirds, tree frogs, resplendent quetzals and many other creatures that call this Central American country home. I’ve explored many of the country’s national parks over the past decade: from cruising past caimans and turtles in Tortuguero to watching whales on the Osa Peninsula. It’s made me realise that Costa Rica is truly one of the world’s great wildlife-watching destinations.

But while nature is the main draw, there’s more to explore in Costa Rica if you’re feeling adventurous. With two coastlines — one Caribbean, one Pacific — it’s a great destination for some beach time too. Surfing is hugely popular, and there are lots of laid-back beach towns where you can while away a few days — or weeks. The buzzy capital of San José is worth taking time to explore, as are the coffee plantations of the central valley, and the jungly, volcanic regions around Arenal and Poás. And if you can, make time for a homestay with a local family: it’s the best way to really understand what makes this nation tick. These are the best places to visit in Costa Rica.

Nicoya Peninsula

Four hours due west of San José, Nicoya is Costa Rica in a nutshell. There are beaches galore — from famous Playa Grande to little-known Playas San Miguel & Coyote. There are also boho surf towns like Montezuma, Santa Teresa and Nosara. And there’s adventure aplenty, whether it’s snorkelling with leatherback turtles in Parque Nacional Marino Las Baulas de Guanacaste, spelunking in the limestone caves of Parque Nacional Barra Honda or spotting monkeys amongst the mangroves of Refugio Nacional de Vida Silvestre Curú.

Make it happen

Casa Chameleon offers glamorous villas with private plunge pools overlooking Nicoya’s idyllic Guanacaste coast

Source: The Times