21 reasons to go on holiday in Costa Rica

The Central American hotspot is more attractive than ever for British travellers

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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.

Ten of the best things to do in Costa Rica

Ten of the best things to do in Costa Rica


Thousands of Turtles Nest on Costa Rica Beach