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Costa Rica: coast to coast


One of the best ways to see Costa Rica is to travel between its Caribbean and Pacific coasts, taking in culture and wildlife along the way

Tortuguero, Costa Rica
Tortuguero, Costa Rica

Located in the narrower section of Central America, Costa Rica boasts two distinctive coastlines – a Caribbean Sea coast and a Pacific Ocean coast – ideal for an itinerary travelling between the two. The country’s small size means a road trip along this route is a popular choice, with most people spending two to three weeks exploring the beaches, mountains and rainforests in between.

Caribbean coast
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Those starting on the Caribbean coast will begin their trip on rugged terrain populated by iguanas, turtles, monkeys and sloths, and in towns oozing with Afro-Caribbean culture.


Tortuguero national park is a must-see, with its black beaches frequented by green sea turtles (who nest between July and October) and numerous waterways dotted with eco lodges primed for digital detoxes. The waterways mean Tortuguero is only accessible by boat or plane, while a half-day exploring the canals by boat is a recommended activity. By doing this, visitors can travel deeper into the rainforest with local guides who point out notable flora and fauna, and gain insight into the small communities that live in the area by stopping off at family-run souvenir shops and bars. Barra del Tortuguero and San Francisco de Tortuguero are both good options.

Inland Costa Rica

Moving inland and north, clients can make a beeline for Monteverde Rainforest to see the famous cloud forest and the hanging bridges, vibrant orchids and hummingbirds within. The nearby town of La Fortuna gives visitors a view of the iconic Arenal Volcano and an insight into cowboy culture, with horseback rides, learning old farming techniques, milking cows and cooking traditional meals all on the agenda.


Also inland, but further south, San Gerardo de Dota national park provides an alternative to Monteverde. Famous for being home to the native quetzal birds, this cloud forest also offers the opportunity to go zip-lining and visit the hot springs heated by volcanic activity. Making a short journey to the cowboy town near Turrialba means clients can take a culture tour with a hacienda or try a cooking class or horse riding.

Pacific coast, Costa Rica

Essential information

  • Costa Rica is a year-round destination with a warm tropical climate. Typically the UK winter has been the high season, but recommending when to visit depending on which wildlife your client wants to see is recommended.
  • British Airways offers a direct flight to San Jose from Gatwick.
  • Despite its small size, Costa Rica proudly shelters 6.5% of the existing biodiversity in the world – up 1.5% on 2019.
  • Costa Rica is a pioneer of ecotourism, with a goal for carbon neutrality by 2050. Currently, 99% of the country’s energy comes from renewable sources.

Reaching the Pacific coast, visitors will find dry forests and biodiversity that can survive in tropical climates in a region known for its spectacular watersports and fresh seafood. Many of the towns along this shoreline exude bohemian vibes, with residents and visitors spending their time surfing or relaxing in yoga retreats. For the best and most golden sunsets, send your customers to stay in the Guanacaste province – it’s both home to Rincon de le Vieja national park, where clients can try white-water river tubing, and the perfect place to recharge in a luxury eco lodge after a week or so of adventures.


In order to help protect Costa Rica’s nature and wildlife, the Costa Rica Tourism Board has launched the Pura Vida Pledge on its Pura Vida University training programme. This is a list of hotel and tour partners that are practising sustainability, designed to help UK travel agents curate a sustainable itinerary and promote responsible tourism.


The Costa Rica Tourism Board is also offering agents the chance to win a soft sloth toy or toucan teddy by completing the course by 30 June 2020.

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