Costa Rica: Ecotourism and Adventure, Budget and Luxury PDF Print E-mail
As Americans visit and learn about Costa Rica, there emerges a picture of a world-class destination close to the U.S.: not only does it rightfully have a reputation as an ecotourism and adventure destination, its beaches rival those of the Caribbean and its culture and history is deep-rooted and interesting. It also has a deserved reputation as a very stable country politically. Its tourism infrastructure is well developed and you can book your clients into the most budget to the most elegant accommodations.

Arenal Volcano Costa RicaThe country has both a Caribbean and a Pacific coast, with excellent accommodations and attractions on both sides. Volcanic mountain chains run from the Nicaraguan border in the northwest to the Panamanian border in the southeast, splitting the country in two. In the center of these ranges is a high-altitude plain, with coastal lowlands on either side. Over half the population lives on this plain, this has fertile volcanic soils.

The country's natural attractions lure visitors. It has 850 recorded bird species, which include the famed quetzal, indigo-capped hummingbirds, macaws and toucans. Costa Rica's tropical forests have over 1,400 tree species and provide a variety of habitats for the country's fauna including four types of monkey, sloths, armadillos, jaguars and tapirs. There are also a number of colorful butterflies. National parks cover almost 12 percent of the country, and forest reserves and Indian reservations boost the protected land area to 27 percent.

The cosmopolitan capital of Costa Rica is the transport hub of the country, so most visitors spend at least a few days in the city. It has a more North American feel to it than many Latin American capitals, with department stores, shopping malls and fast-food chains. However, it also has several excellent museums, some great restaurants, colorful markets and a fine climate.

Once your clients are through with San Jose, they will invariably visit some of the country's attractions. In the northwest of the country is the perfectly conical Arenal which has been exceptionally active since 1968 and clients can watch lava flow or spurt. Parque Nacional Santa Rosa is one of the best developed national parks in Costa Rica.

It covers most of the Peninsula Santa Elena, which juts out into the Pacific in the far northwestern corner of the country. It protects the largest remaining stand of tropical dry forest in Central America and important nesting sites for endangered species of sea turtle. Monteverde in northwestern Costa Rica is a popular destination, with attractions including a cloud forest, walking trails, quetzals, a cheese factory, a butterfly garden and a number of art galleries.

Clients will also be interested in Costa Rica's Pacific Beaches. Starting in Golfito, clients can visit the coastal Corcovado National Park, the Playa Cativo, Playa Zancudo and Pavones (which has some of the best Pacific surf). The central Pacific coast includes Jaco and Puntarenas. And many islands he just off the coast such as Isla Tortuga.

Tamarindo Beach Costa RicaThe northwestern Pacific coast is somewhat difficult to traverse because of the lack of paved roads; however, it's well worth the effort because it contains some of the country's best and most remote beaches. Just North of Tamarindo is the Playa Grande, an important nesting size for the leatherback turtle. Playa del Coco is the most accessible beach on the peninsula, in an attractive setting and with a small village, which has some nightlife.

Good surfing and windsurfing can be found at Playa Tamarindo. The Caribbean coast has more cultural diversity than the Pacific coast. Half of this coastal area is protected by national parks and wildlife refuges, which has slowed development and the building of access roads, making it an especially great place to get away from it all. The main city is Puerto Limón. While Costa Rica is noted more for its natural beauty, its culture is interesting, as well. Over 90 percent of the country is Roman Catholic. Costa Rican cuisine is tasty rather than spicy-hot and is centered around beef, chicken and fish dishes, with rice, corn or beans and fresh fruit as supplements.

Mystery shrouds pre-Columbian Costa Rica: few archaeological monuments and no proof of a written language have been discovered. The indigenous people did not have the necessary numbers or organization to resist the Spanish, and their populations dwindled quickly because of susceptibility to European diseases. As a result, the Spanish influence is felt more strongly here than in any other Central American country. Costa Rica ('the rich coast') was dubbed so by Christopher Columbus himself, who stayed for 17 days in 1502 and was impressed by the gold decorations worn by the friendly locals.

The hoped-for hoards of gold did not eventuate, and Costa Rica remained a forgotten backwater for many years. The 18th century, saw the establishment of settlements such as San José. The introduction of coffee in 1800s spurred further development, and the country was invigorated by independence in 1821. Clients can visit museums and sizes depicting all parts of Cost Rican culture. International flights arrive in San José; there are good connections to the U.S.
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