Costa Rica has the reputation for being one of the most beautiful countries in the world. This little country has spectacular tropical mountains, volcanoes, and some of the best beaches on the globe. There is something for everybody here: great surfing beaches, beaches with great adult nightlife, deserted beaches with mountains meeting the shore. It is all here.
Few visitors to Costa Rica realize its rich history or how it got its name. A few years after he discovered what is now the U.S., Christopher Columbus returned to the New World. He became so enthralled with the Caribbean beaches he found here that he named his discovery Costa Rica! The name means the rich coast and has stuck for over 500 years. Not to be outdone, the mighty English explored the region as well. Indeed, a few years before he defeated the Spanish Armada and saved England, English sea captain Sir Francis Drake explored Costa Rica’s southern Pacific and landed at what is now called Drake Bay, entrance to magnificent Corcovado National Park, described by National Geographic as the most biologically intense place on earth.
Despite the passage of centuries, there is still a lot for visitors to discover. The Caribbean coast is far less developed and has a very different ambiance from the Pacific. Think reggae and Bob Marley. Tortuguero National Park is a remote, world famous nesting site for green sea turtles. Sportsman from around the world come here for some of the best tarpon (and other) fishing on the globe. The Pacific Coast is far more popular with tourists and expats alike and an enormous number of attractions keep people coming year after year.
Costa Rica is developing a great, world-class tourism infrastructure. The country has year-round warm weather and waters, two coasts, and access to virtually limitless nearby attractions. Only in Costa Rica can you drive to the top of a volcano and see the Atlantic—and the Pacific—at the same time. There are, literally, hundreds and hundreds of beaches for you to choose from, all just a few hours from San Jose, the country’s largest city.
You could spend years trying to discover the beauty of all the beaches in Costa Rica but, even then that may not be enough time. So, my recommendation for first timers is the Nicoya Peninsula on the north Pacific coast. It is filled with stunning beaches and you will probably have a hard time deciding which is your favorite.
One beach (of hundreds) is called Playa Grande, located just 30 minutes away from another great beach, Montezuma. Some claim that, in addition to nude sunbathers, the beach is haunted by the ghosts of its ancient burial ground. I cannot speak to that but I can tell you that this is one place that is a favorite of surfers from around the world.
It is impossible to name or describe all the wonderful beaches in Costa Rica. This little country is dedicated to sustainable development and takes pride in what it calls its Blue Flag beaches. In a country filled with great beaches these are the cleanest, most pristine of them all. For those who like to be alone on the beach, Playa Grande, Mal Pais, Bahia Ballena, and Hermosa (not to mention hundreds more) beckon like a siren. For those who like the beach and an active adult nightlife, Jaco and Tamarindo are very popular.
But it does not matter whether you stay at Tamarindo, Mal Pais, Hermosa, Flamingo, Conchal, Bahia Ballena, Tambor, or wherever you happen to land because there is something special everywhere you go. Some places are easily reached by car or the ubiquitous (and inexpensive) buses but others are, well, still pretty remote. However you get there you will find a bit of paradise in that land named by Christopher Columbus, Costa Rica, the rich coast.