The oldest democracy in Latin America, Costa Rica beckons international tourists with its promise of an adventurous yet comparatively safe destination well-suited to the family vacation
. Costa Rica's varied terrain and abundant activities appeal to all ages and interests.
Costa Rica straddles the Central American isthmus between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. It shares a border with Nicaragua in the north and Panama to the south. As it traverses the country, the landscape changes from beach to rainforest to mountains and back again.
A subtropical climate means year-round temperatures average from 71 to 81 degrees Fahrenheit in the coastal areas, with cooler mountainous regions in the country's interior. The rainy season extends from May to November, though the arid Pacific coastal areas typically record less rainfall than on the Caribbean side.
Daily nonstop flights depart from many major U.S. cities, with service to the centrally located capital city of San Jose or the northern town of Liberia. Ground transportation includes long-distance and city buses, taxis, chartered vans and rental cars.
Lauded as an ecotourism destination, the country has 25 national parks and numerous protected beach areas. Favorite vacation activities include hiking, mountain biking, swimming, surfing, snorkeling, river running and zipping through the rainforest canopy.
Tourism leads Costa Rica's economy, and extensive facilities with varying degrees of amenities operate throughout the country. From all-inclusive resorts to bare-bones beach huts, accommodations exist for all budgets and travel styles.
Though widely considered a safe and friendly destination, petty theft has been on the rise in recent years, with isolated incidences of violence. The U.S. Department of State cautions tourists to use common sense to protect themselves and their belongings.
Since landing her first journalism job editing a small-town weekly in 1992, Deb Barracato has written for and edited newspapers, regional magazines, books and online publications. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from University of Maryland.