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Costa Rica local time
Arenal Volcano National Park
Arenal volcano is the smallest and most active volcano in Costa Rica. Long dormant, Arenal erupted in July of 1968 and has been constantly active since. Prior to this, the last eruption is thought to have been around 1500 AD. The volcano is approximately 3000 years old and has an elevation of 5500 feet. Arenal puts out an unforgettable light and smoke show nearly every day. Nighttime viewing is the most spectacular, with glowing lava and mini-explosions lighting up the sky. The area is rich in natural attractions; experience thermo-mineral hot springs, waterfall hikes, horseback riding, birdwatching, biking, and boat tours on the Cano Negro.
Monteverde and Cloud Forests
Established in 1951 by Quaker conscientious objector dairy farmers from Alabama (honestly), residents have a love-hate relationship with tourism, which brings 50,000 annual visitors and a vital injection of cash into the city.
At around 1,500m above sea level, Monteverde offers its influx of tourists a chance to experience the misty and mysterious cloud forest. The Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve draws a large number of Eco-tourists, and the Sky Walk (a series of suspension bridges and platforms). The Sky Trek (a zip line through the tree canopy) is a must for the more adventurous traveler.
La Fortuna Waterfall
The town of La Fortuna sits just a couple of kilometers from the Arenal volcano. Even closer to the town is another of Costa Rica’s spectacular natural attractions, the 30m-high La Fortuna waterfall.
A narrow torrent of water, the falls plummet with great force into the pool below. One of the pleasures of visiting the falls is the hike through the forest to the base. Just 5km from the town it’s easily do-able in a day but beware, the descent down to the falls is steep even with the handrails provided.
At the pool you are treated to one of the most spectacular photo opportunities, like a geyser in reverse as water powers down vertically into the center of the small lake. Although you shouldn’t swim under the falls themselves there are pools suitable for bathing further down the river. One of the best ways to get here is on horseback. Stables at the nearby town offer horse-treks out to the falls.
If you can’t make it to La Fortuna the La Paz Waterfall Gardens nearer to San Jose offers the chance to see some spectacular falls along La Paz river, albeit in a slightly less wild setting than at La Fortuna. Well-marked paths and viewing platforms allow you to get within touching distance of the spray.
Central and Southwest Pacific
There is a certain atmosphere that permeates this mid-pacific region. It wraps itself around you and frees you from stress and troubles. The wildlife is abundant and you are likely to spot scarlet macaws, toucans, and monkeys.
The area is casual and laid-back but bustling when it comes to shopping, restaurants and nightlife. With its surfer-friendly atmosphere and magnificent beaches and waves, professional and amateur surfers from all over the world flock here. This region hold countless attractive beaches and picturesque towns and villages. There are also several protected areas and national parks to visit. This area offers a variety of adventurous travel experiences like touring through tropical forests and mangroves, horseback riding to tucked away waterfalls, kayaking through rivers and estuaries and walks on the beach. Prepare yourself for a full itinerary of sights to see.
The Quepos area is the home to the world famous Manual Antonio National Park. This park combines the rainforest with breathtaking white-sanded beaches. Manuel Antonio has become a Mecca for the jet set and Hollywood celebrities that come to enjoy the serenity of the place combined with an active nightlife that includes restaurants, bars and discotheques. The place has received plenty of coverage in travel magazines, which have listed it as one of the 10 most beautiful places in the world. From Manuel Antonio you can experience whitewater rafting, guided rainforest waterfall walks, horseback riding, snorkeling and sports fishing.
Guanacaste and Northwest
The province of Guanacaste covers most of the northwestern part of Costa Rica. This picturesque region opens a doorway to the romance and serenity of flat lands, green mountains, and rich foliage. Because of the unique climate, the region boasts a tremendous diversity of terrain from dense rainforests to airy deciduous forests, towering active volcanoes to lush sugarcane fields, and thick lagoons to unburdened beaches.
The region has a wide variety of national parks and reserves with plenty of sightseeing and historical tours. It is the ideal place for those who want to enjoy water sports such as surfing, fishing, snorkeling or SCUBA diving. The area offers some of the best deep-sea diving and deep-sea fishing in the world.
Explore amazing savannas, horseback ride into the forest or just relax on the unspoiled white sand beaches.
One of the last areas of Costa Rica to be developed for tourism, the Southern Pacific Coast has become increasingly popular in recent years. Visitors head to picturesque Golfito, with its duty free shopping zone and pristine port, the Osa Peninsula and the national parks of Corcovado (the “Amazon” of Costa Rica), Chirripo and La Amistad.
The beaches of Pavones and Zancudo have some of the country’s best surf and are a hot-spot for blonde bronzed boardies. The wide white-sand beaches of Manuel Antonio, on the Central Pacific coast, are some of the most popular in Central America.
Costa Rica is famous the world over for the quality of its white water and rafting, canoeing and kayaking can be had on almost all of the nation’s rivers. The class of white water varies to suit everyone from beginners to experts.
One of the most spectacular stretches is along the Rio Sarapiqui, which runs along the eastern side of the Cordillera Central mountain range into the Caribbean lowlands. Local operators offer the chance for everyone to get to grips with the Class II and III rapids along here in large rafts and canoes.
The surrounding scenery is as spectacular as the sense of the adventure as the turbulent water flows between its steep-sided forested banks.
Tortuguero offers one of the largest varieties of habitats of any of Costa Rica’s national parks and wildlife preserves. There are marshes, high rainforests, coastal rainforests and wetland forests. It’s also home to an astonishing variety of wildlife including 300 bird, 57 amphibian and 11 reptile species.
The natural network of canals and water channels form the perfect infrastructure for exploring this amazing expanse of wetlands (and with 6000mm of annual rainfall it is seriously wet). Take a boat down any of the rivers that make up the delta, or along the coast and with a bit of luck you’ll see sharks, crocodiles and even the odd manatee.
Toruguero actually translates to “turtle catcher” so it’s no surprise that the park is an important nesting area for green sea turtles (Jun-Oct), giant leather back turtles (Apr-May) and hawks bill turtles (Jul). Although you can sometimes glimpse these gentle creatures in the day time, at night they makes their way up the beaches and banks to lay their eggs. An amazing sight. 80km north-west of Limon.
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Costa Rica Travel Information and Tips
- Entry Requirements
- Business and Economy
- Communications and Transportation
- Travelers Tips
For entry into Costa Rica, you must present both a valid passport and either a round-trip ticket or proof of onward travel to another country. Passports should be in good condition, as Costa Rican Immigration may deny entry if a passport is damaged in any way. All persons – including U.S. citizens – traveling to Costa Rica from certain countries in South America and Sub-Saharan Africa must provide evidence of a valid yellow fever vaccination prior to entry.
Costa Rican authorities may permit U.S. citizen tourists to stay up to ninety (90) days, but are not required to do so. Visitors must pay a departure tax of $29USD when leaving Costa Rica. Visitors who want to stay beyond the period of stay authorized by Costa Rican authorities must request an extension by submitting an extension application to the Office of Temporary Permits in the Costa Rican Department of Immigration. Extension requests are evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Tourists who overstay the authorized period of stay without receiving an extension may experience a delay at the airport when departing, are subject to deportation and/or a fine of $100USD for each month of overstay, and may be denied entry to Costa Rica on future visits.
Because of possible fines levied by Costa Rican Immigration, many airlines will not permit passengers without proof of return or onward travel to board flights to Costa Rica unless they have Costa Rican citizenship, residency, or a visa.
In general, the climate in Costa Rica is very pleasant not only during the dry season, which extends from December to April but also during the rainy season, which runs from May to November. During the rainy season rain can be expected in the afternoons, on the other hand the mornings are usually sunny.
Costa Rica has a tropical climate with an average temperature of 22 degrees C (72 degrees F) that increases considerably on the coastal areas. The changes in temperature are considerable and due to the short distances in this relatively small country, they can all be experienced in just one day.
Due to factors such as the geographical location, the weather conditions, the formation of mountain chains, mountains, and valleys, this country experiences different microclimates that give a home to different types of vegetation.
The following climates in the country can be categorized in the following regions :
- The high and cold region: With an elevation of 3,000 to 3,100 meters in altitude with temperatures of 0 degrees C.
- The hot region: The elevation is above 1,500 meters in altitude, with temperatures between 14 degrees C and 18 degrees C.
- The humid tropical region: The elevation is up to 1,100 meters in altitude with temperatures between 25 and 26 degrees C.
- The tropical region: Pertaining to the dry season, with temperatures between 26 and 27 degrees C.
The inter-mountainous valley region with an elevation between 1,000 and 1,100 meters in altitude which is a characteristic of the central valley, with temperatures that range from 14 to 18 degrees C.
Due to the weather characteristics and the topography of the country, different types of forests can be appreciated: the cloud forest, the rain forest, the dry forest, and the transition forest.
Banks and Money
There is an ample selection of state owned and privately held banks in San Jose, and throughout the country. The official currency of Costa Rica is the colon; however US dollars are widely accepted. US dollars and traveler’s checks can be changed in banks and hotels. Most major credit cards are widely accepted, and cash advances can be obtained at banks around the country and a variety of places throughout San Jose.
Government offices are generally open from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm, while banks close anytime between 3:00 and 6:00 pm, according to the bank and its branch. Most shops are open from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm, while some open at 8:00 am and others close at 7:00 pm; most grocery stores close at 8:00 pm. Some shops also close for lunch, between noon and 1:00 or 2:00 pm.
You don’t have to drive very far in Costa Rica — past the coffee, pastures, bananas, and other crops — to realize that agriculture is the basis of its economy. Coffee has historically been the country’s most important crop, and Costa Rica continues to produce some of the finest coffee in the world. However in recent years less traditional crops have been playing an increasingly important economic role. Bananas are the second most important export crop, with vast plantations covering parts of the Caribbean lowlands. There is also significant land dedicated to the cultivation of pineapples, sugar, oranges, rice, hardwoods, and ornamental plants, as well as raising cattle for beef and dairy products.
Though agriculture remains the basis of the national economy, tourism has earned more than any single export crop during the last few years and the tourism industry continues to grow providing new employment opportunities and stimulating the conservation of our complex biodiversity.
Though government offices and most banks close on national holidays, this causes little inconvenience to travelers, since money and traveler’s checks can be changed at most hotels. We recommend that you do not change money on the street.
There are days when hardly anything will be open, such as Christmas, New Year, and often a couple of days proceeding, and during Holy Week from Wednesday to Easter Sunday.
Some holidays can be attractive for travelers, such as the last week of the year, when there are parades and many other activities in San Jose and throughout the country. On July 25 every year (the annexation of the province of Guanacaste), the main towns in this northwest province are overflowing with revelry and folklore. Carnival, which is celebrated in the Caribbean port of Limon during the week of October 12, is another colorful affair.
Costa Rica has one of the most advanced telecommunications systems in Latin America, with telephones and fax machines all over the country, and an increasing number of businesses online. To call or fax Costa Rica, dial the country code 506 before the number. There is also mail service and a wide selection of courier services in San Jose.
Most large hotels in the San Jose area have cable TV, with US and European stations. Newspapers and magazines from North America and several European nations are sold in many shops and hotels in and around the capital.
It’s easy to get around Costa Rica, and if you stick with public transportation, traveling within the country can be quite inexpensive. There are bus services to just about every town and city, and high-quality buses serving the main tourist destinations. Taxis are also plentiful and inexpensive, and in San Jose they are required to operate with meters for most trips.
The standard charge for a taxi ride between the international airport and downtown San Jose is $10 US. The quickest way to get around is to fly and several domestic airlines offer daily flights to most of the popular tourist destinations. There are also plenty of car rental agencies, most of which rent four-wheel-drive vehicles.
Costa Rica is a safe country but there are some things that all travelers should consider when traveling internationally.
- If you plan on traveling to areas far from your hotel, you must carry your passport and be cautious. If, on the other hand, you stay within close range of your hotel, it is advisable to keep your documents in a safe box and carry a copy of your passport with all the relevant information. Use the safe deposit box of your hotel for your valuables
Don’t leave unattended your possessions whenever you are in a public area (hotel lobby, transport, airports, restaurants etc)
Ask for information at the front desk of your hotel about the safest routes and means of transportation, especially during night time.
When using taxi services, verify that they comply with the legal established requirements, such as yellow triangles printed on the doors and a meter.
Exchange money currency only at banks and approved change offices. Bank transactions require a passport (not copy)
Use ATMs that are located in public, well illuminated areas. Don’t allow strangers to stand near you and avoid taking unsolicited help. Count your money and put it away prior leaving the ATM.