Currasow. Photo © Christopher P. Baker.

Explore La Garita, Costa Rica

La Garita is an excellent stop for nature lovers, boasting a botanical orchid garden and a wildlife rescue center that welcomes visitors to explore its expansive grounds. There are also two lovely places to stay–one modestly appointed but wonderfully comfortable and the other a far more lavish, luxurious property–that make the trip especially pleasant.

A boy studies a preserved specimen in the San Ramón Museum.

San Ramón and the Nectandra Cloud Forest Garden

San Ramón is a gateway to Costa Rica’s northern lowlands via a mountain road that crests the cordillera, then begins a long sinuous descent to La Tigra. This agricultural and university town is known for its Saturday feria del agricultor (farmers market). A mere nine miles north is the Nectandra Cloud Forest Garden, where superb hiking trails and truly wonderful places to stay.

Ridley turtles during an arribada at Playa Camaronal. Photo © Christopher P. Baker.

Sea Turtle Nesting Sites in Costa Rica

Five of the world’s seven species of marine turtles nest on Costa Rica’s beaches, and you can see turtles laying eggs somewhere in Costa Rica virtually any time of year. Most of the important nesting sites in Costa Rica are now protected, and access to some is restricted; there are many more dangers to sea turtle populations than humans. Learn about the sites and the cycle of sea turtle reproduction from nesting to hatching.

An artisan working on an oxcart wheel.

The Oxcarts of Sarchí

Sarchí is famous as the home of gaily decorated wooden carretas (oxcarts), the internationally recognized symbol of Costa Rica. The carretas, forced from the fields by the advent of tractors and trucks, are almost purely decorative now, but the craft and the art form live on here, where artisans still apply their masterly touch at two fábricas de carretas (workshops), which are open to view

Río San Juan near El Castillo. Photo © Elizabeth Perkins.

Río San Juan: Whose River Is It?

Nicaragua has long disputed Costa Rica’s territorial rights to free use of the Río San Juan, while Costa Rica disputes Nicaragua’s claim that the river is entirely Nicaraguan territory. Despite both countries accepting a ruling by the International Court of Justice in 2009, the conflict continues.

Red-eyed tree frog at Parque Reptilandia. Photo © Christopher P. Baker.

Things to Do in and Around Dominical

Dominical is a tiny laid-back resort favored by surfers, backpackers, and the college-age crowd. The beach is beautiful albeit pebbly, and the warm waters attract whales and dolphins close to shore. If you overdose on the sun, sand, and surf, head into the lush mountains inland of Dominicalito or head east on a paved road that leads to San Isidro, winding up through the valley of the Río Barú into the Fila Costanera mountains, where you may find yourself amid swirling clouds.

Punta Piñuela in Ballena Marine National Park. Photo © Christopher P. Baker.

Costa Rica’s Ballena Marine National Park

Parque Nacional Marino Ballena protects the shoreline of Bahía de Coronado and the waters surrounding Isla Ballena. Wildlife and bird watching are rich here, but perhaps the most pleasant draw are the places to stay near the park, with beautiful bungalows and rustic cabins surrounded by acres of forest trails. After a day spent snorkeling, watching dolphins frolic, and exploring the park, you’ll be treated to incredible meals.

A small red eyed frog sits perched on a broad leaf.

Protecting Costa Rica’s Land

While much of Costa Rica has been stripped of its forests, the country has managed to protect a larger proportion of its land than any other country in the world. Today, one-third of land is legally set aside as national parks and forest reserves, “buffer zones,” wildlife refuges, and indigenous reserves. Throughout the country, representative sections of all the major habitats and ecosystems are protected.

Blue Ctenosaur in Santa Rosa National Park. Photo © Jorasm (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

What to See in Costa Rica’s Santa Rosa National Park

Founded in 1972, Santa Rosa National Park was Costa Rica’s first national park. The park–divided into two sections; the more important and accessible Santa Rosa Sector to the south and the Murciélago Sector further north–is a mosaic of 10 distinct habitats, including mangrove swamp, savanna, and oak forest, and is filled with hiking trails to explore and wildlife to watch. There are also great opportunities for scuba diving and surfing.

El Fortín, a circular fortress tower, in Heredia, Costa Rica.

Heredia, Costa Rica’s City of Flowers

Heredia, seven miles north of San José and colloquially known as La Ciudad de las Flores (City of Flowers), is surrounded by coffee fields. A pleasant atmosphere pervades the grid-patterned town despite its jostling traffic, making it easy to wander. There’s something here for history buffs, coffee aficionados, nature lovers, and after all that, the nightlife is pretty good too.