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The Rough Guide to Costa Rica 5 (Rough Guide Travel Guides)

Rough Guides, McNeil, Jean

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ISBN 10: 1858283671 / ISBN 13: 9781858283678
Published by Rough Guides, 2008
Used Condition: Good
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Title: The Rough Guide to Costa Rica 5 (Rough Guide...

Publisher: Rough Guides

Publication Date: 2008

Book Condition:Good

Edition: 5th.

About this title


Make the most of your time with The Rough Guide to Costa Rica, the definitive companion to this peaceful destination. The full-colour section introduces Costa Rica’s highlights, from the spectacular sunsets at the Pacific coast beach of Sámara to taking a boat ride passed the luxuriant tropical vegetation and colourful wooden houses that line the Tortuguero Canal. Using informed accounts, clue-up on all the remote beaches, active volcanoes and wildlife-rich parks, plus all the unforgettable sites of the capital city, San Jose. The guide features practical tips for exploring the outdoors from trekking the lush cloudforest reserve at Monteverde to rafting down the rivers of Valle Central. There are plenty of practical tips on all the best accommodation, transportation, shops, bars and clubs and an insightful background on Costa Rica’s wildlife, politics and culture. Explore the best of Costa Rica with the clearest maps of any guide.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:


Though everyone passes through it, hardly anyone falls in love with San José, Costa Rica’s underrated capital. Often dismissed as an ugly urban sprawl, the city enjoys a dramatic setting amid jagged mountain peaks, plus some excellent cafés and restaurants, leafy parks, a lively university district and a good arts scene. The surrounding Valle Central is the country’s agricultural heartland, and also home to several of its finest volcanos, including the huge crater of Volcán Poás and the largely dormant Volcán Irazú, a strange lunar landscape high above the regional capital of Cartago.

Though nowhere in the country is further than nine hours’ drive from San José, the far north and the far south are less visited than other regions. The broad alluvial plains of the Zona Norte are often overlooked, despite featuring active Volcán Arenal, which spouts and spews within sight of the friendly tourist hangout of Fortuna, affording arresting night-time scenes of blood-red lava illuminating the sky. Off-the-beaten-path travellers and serious hikers will be happiest in the rugged Zona Sur, home to Mount Chirripó, the highest point in the country. Further south, on the outstretched feeler of the Osa Peninsula, Parque Nacional Corcovado protects the last significant area of tropical wet forest on the Pacific coast of the isthmus and is probably the best destination in the country for walkers – and also one of the few places where you have a fighting chance of seeing some of the wildlife for which Costa Rica is famed.

In the northwest, the cattle-ranching province of Guanacaste is often called "the home of Costa Rican folklore", and sabanero (cowboy) culture dominates here, with exuberant ragtag rodeos and large cattle haciendas. Limón province, on the Caribbean coast, is the polar opposite to traditional ladino Guanacaste, home to the descendants of the Afro-Caribbeans who came to Costa Rica at the end of the nineteenth century to work on the San José–Limón railroad – their language (Creole English), Protestantism and the West Indian traditions remain relatively intact to this day.

Close to the Pacific coast, Monteverde has become the country’s number-one tourist attraction, pulling in the visitors who flock here to walk trails through some of the last remaining cloudforest in the Americas. Further down the coast is the popular beach of Manuel Antonio, with its picture-postcard ocean setting, plus the equally pretty but far less touristed beaches of Sámara and Nosara on the Nicoya Peninsula.


Despite its small size, Costa Rica possesses no less than five percent of the world’s total biodiversity, in part due to its position as a transition zone between North and South America, and also thanks to its complex system of interlocking micro-climates, created by differences in topography and altitude. This biological abundance is now safeguarded by one of the world’s most enlightened and dedicated conservation programmes – about 25 percent of Costa Rica’s land is protected, most of it through the country’s extensive system of national parks.

Costa Rica’s national parks vary from the tropical jungle lowlands of Corcovado to the grassy volcanic uplands of Rincón de la Vieja, an impressive and varied range of terrain which has helped the country become Central America’s prime ecotourism destination. Outside the park system, however, land is assailed by deforestation – ironically, there are now no more significant patches of forest left anywhere in the country except in protected areas.


Although Costa Rica lies between 8° and 11° north of the equator, temperatures, governed by the vastly varying altitudes, are by no means universally high, and can plummet to below freezing at higher altitudes. Local microclimates predominate and make weather unpredictable, though to an extent you can depend upon the two-season rule. From roughly May to mid-November you will have afternoon rains and sunny mornings. The rains are heaviest in September and October and, although they can be fierce, will impede you from travelling only in the more remote areas of the country – the Nicoya Peninsula especially – where dirt roads become impassible to all but the sturdiest 4WDs. In the dry season most areas are just that: dry all day, with occasional blustery northern winds blowing in during January or February and cooling things off. Otherwise you can depend on sunshine and warm temperatures.

In recent years Costa Rica has been booked solid during the peak season, the North American winter months, when bargains are few and far between. The crowds peter out after Easter, but return again to an extent in June and July. During peak times you have to plan well in advance, faxing the hotels of your choice, usually prepaying or at least putting down a deposit by credit card, and arriving armed with faxed confirmations and a set itinerary. Travellers who prefer to play it by ear are much better off coming during the low or rainy season (euphemistically called the "green season"), when many hotels offer discounts. The months of November, April (after Easter) and May are the best times to visit, when the rains have either just started or just died off, and the country is refreshed, green, and relatively untouristed.

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