21 reasons to go on holiday in Costa Rica

Basiliscus basiliscus sits on a log of wood with leaves




Costa Rica is one of the hottest destinations to visit after British Airways launched the first direct flights from the UK to capital San Jose in May 2016. But is this small Central American country worth the 11-hour flight?

We're here to help you make up your mind. If you love abundant wildlife (adorable sloths, fascinating sea turtles and colourful hummingbirds are just the beginning), amazing adventures in the land of rainforests, volcanoes, waterfalls and beaches, there are many reasons why you will fall in love with Costa Rica...

SEE ALSO: Why Costa Rica is perfect for a family holiday

SEE ALSO: Ten of the best things to do in Costa Rica

1. There is a Caribbean and Pacific Coast. Choose from the laidback Caribbean side famed for its idyllic black sand beaches or the spectacular sunsets and upscale hotels of the Pacific beaches.

Caribbean beach close to Puerto Viejo - Costa Rica

2. It's one of the happiest countries in the world. Costa Rica consistently ranks high in the happiness index based on life satisfaction, average life expectancy, sense of purpose, social relationships, financial situations and community involvement.

3. Thomson and British Airways are bringing Costa Rica closer to UK tourists.Thomson launched the first direct flights from London Gatwick to Liberia in November 2015, while BA's direct flights to San Jose commence from May 2016.

Resplendent Quetzal -Pharomacrus mocinno-, male, San Gerardo de Dota, San Jose Province, Costa Rica, Central America

4. There is no army. Costa Rica's military was abolished in 1948 and today, the budget previously assigned to its army, navy, air force and heavy weapons is dedicated to security, education and culture.

5. It's the hummingbird capital of the world. There are more than 50 species of the vibrantly-coloured and energetic birds famous for their rapid-beating wings. The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, La Paz Waterfall Gardens and Los Quetzales National Park are some of the country's hummingbird hotspots.

6. 25 per cent of the country is protected land. There are 26 National Parks, 58 wildlife refuges, 32 protected zones and eight biological reserves. Costa Rica's environmental protection and sustainable ecotourism has been hailed a model for other countries.

Gallo pinto - traditional dish of Nicaragua

7. 'Pura vida' is the law of the land. It means 'pure life' and is used as a greeting or as a way of saying thanks.

8. Gallo pinto (rice and beans) is the national dish. It makes for a delicious breakfast dish served with fried or scrambled eggs.

A lush garden in La Fortuna, Costa Rica with Arenal Volcano in the background

9. There are more than 121 volcanic formations and seven of them are active. Arenal is one of the best-known volcanoes, while Poás, Irazú and Rincón de la Vieja are also worth exploring.

Sea turtle in Tortuguero National Park, Costa Rica

10. The colon is Costa Rica's currency but US dollars are widely accepted. For those who like to use the local currency, £1 will currently buy you 787 colones.

11. It's the 13th largest coffee exporter in the world and most of the coffee production takes place in San José, Alajuela, Puntarenas, Heredia and Cartago. Touring a plantation is a must if you are a coffee lover!

12. Sea turtles love it. Costa Rica's coast is home to dozens of important nesting beaches for leatherback, green, hawksbill and olive ridley turtles.

Arabica Coffee Cherries

13. One of the world's most beautiful birds, the Resplendent Quetzal, is found in the cloud forests of Monteverde. Famed for its vibrant shades of greens and reds, the striking bird is easier to spot in Costa Rica than other parts of Central America thanks to the protected forests.

14. UNESCO recently declared the mysterious Diquis Stones a World Heritage Site. The stone spheres crafted by the pre-Columbian Diquis people are found in the Osa Peninsula.

15. The Parque Nacional Isla del Coco featured in the opening sequence of Jurassic Park. Cocos Island is home to some of the most untouched landscapes in the world and the best diving in Costa Rica.

Waterfall on remote and pristine Cocos Island, 350 miles off the Pacific coast of Costa Rica.

16. Sodas are family-run restaurants that serve home-cooking for just a few dollars. The small eateries serve up the likes of casado, gallo pinto and stews.

17. The golden toad was once a national symbol of the country. The vivid orange or golden-coloured toad was only found in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve up until its last sighting in 1989.

18. Costa Rica's national flower is the orchid and there are more than 1,400 species. Blooming season is from January to April and the flower is found in tropical forests, on shorelines and on top of mountains.

Green Basilisk (Basiliscus plumifrons) running on water, Costa Rica.

19. The sun rises and sets at around the same time every day of the year. Sunrise is at approximately 5:30am and sunset is at 5:30pm.

20. Basilisk lizards are not your average lizard and can be seen running on the surface of water. Jesus Christ lizards, as they are also known, have large, long bodies and are found in the rainforests of Costa Rica.

21. Dia del Boyero is a celebration of beautifully decorated oxcarts which takes place every second Sunday of March in Escazu. The festival's highlight is a parade featuring over 100 oxcarts and many more oxen pulling the carts.

Hayes & Jarvis (01293 735 831) offers a seven-night Highlights of Costa Rica holiday with prices from £1,499 per person.

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Ten of the best things to do in Costa Rica
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21 reasons to go on holiday in Costa Rica

While you can only marvel at the Arenal Volcano from afar, this remarkable site is a must-see for everyone - from adventure seekers to spa lovers. At the 29,692-acre Arenal Volcano National Park, you can hike the area, relax in a hot spring and spot howler monkeys, parrots and tapir.

Try: Hayes & Jarvis' Arenal Volcano and Monteverde Cloud Forest tour

The Manuel Antonio National Park is a unique area dotted with hidden beaches straight off the rainforest, so expect to share its gorgeous white sands with monkeys and iguanas. It is one of the smallest National Parks in Costa Rica, yet one of the most scenic and most stunning, featuring Cathedral Point, once an island which is today connected to the coast by a thin strip of land separating two popular beaches, Playa Espadilla Sur and Playa Manuel Antonio.

Try: Hayes & Javis' Highlights of Costa Rica tour

On the Caribbean side of Costa Rica, lies Tortuguero, a  National Park home to canals, lagoons and beaches. An early morning boat ride allows you to spot the incredible wildlife (caimans, toucans and iguanas to name but a few). Another Tortuguero highlight is watching green sea turtles nest along the beach - an impessive sight you will never forget.

Stay: Evergreen Lodge

Declared the "most biologically diverse place on Earth" by National Geographic Magazine, Corcovado National Park is breathtakingly beautiful and one of the most remote places in Costa Rica. Located on the wild Osa Peninsula, it is home to countless endangered species, from Baird's tapir to the harpy eagle. Corcovado offers some of the best hiking in the country and allows you to experience nature at its finest.

Try: Hayes & Jarvis' Corcovado National Park holiday

The still-steaming Rincon de la Vieja Volcano is surrounded by a 35,000-acre National Park and is a wonderful place to visit for its thermal mud pools, waterfalls and hot springs. Its 32 rivers and streams make it an excellent spot for river tubing and as the region surrounding the Rincon de la Vieja National Park is famous for cowboys, you will be inspired to explore the area on the back of a horse.

Book: Hayes & Jarvis' Costa Rica Multi Centre itinerary

Considered one of best beach destinations in Costa Rica, Tamarindo Beach is a haven for surfers from all over the world and is becoming a popular party spot. Located on the central west coast of the Nicoya Peninsula, Tamarindo on the Pacific coast is a wide long bay petered with palm trees and surrounded by warm water and soft sand. It is also a perfect place to spot wildlife on the beach, such as howler monkeys and tropical birds.

Fly: Nature Air offers daily flights from San Jose International Airport to Tamarindo Domestic Airport.

Producer of some of the world's best coffee, Costa Rica is a caffeine lover's dream. Most of the coffee production takes place in San José, Alajuela, Puntarenas, Heredia and Cartago. On a tour of a coffee plantation, you can learn the history of coffee, as well as how the coffee cherries are picked, dried and roasted, before you enjoy a fresh cup of the hot drink.

Experience: Don Juan Coffee Tour

For an extraordinary bird's eye view of the Monteverde Cloud Forest, Selvatura Pak's Tree Top Walkways consist of a 1.9-mile trail crossing eight different hanging bridges that range from 50 to 170 metres. Providing one of the most iconic experiences for travellers in Costa Rica, the hanging bridges boast amazing views and form part of a must-do hike that takes around two hours.

Stay: Hotel Ficus

Incredible sunsets, luxurious boutique hotels and a myriad of activities make the isolated town of Santa Teresa the ideal destination for love birds. Located on the tip of the western peninsula, Santa Teresa is an oasis of calm and tranquillity surrounded by gleaming sands and crystal clear waters. The secluded beaches of Santa are an idyllic spot for couples to kick back and enjoy some alone time.

Stay: Villas Hermosas

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