Country Number 6 on our Overland Central America expedition. Check out our entire route here.
Costa Rica can be summarised as national parks, turtles, surfing and beaches. We loved it. However, the cities and towns lack any character and charm and with the 1.5 million tourists it attracts per year, the culture is nothing like the rest of Central America. Indeed, you'll find many people speak English, rather than Spanish. BUT, we didn't care, Costa Rica is an awesome place - there's a billion activities on offer and if you like nature and wildlife, this is the country for you. We'll definitely be back.
We spent 16 days here, but you could've fit more in than what we did in the timeframe. If we had more time and more importantly a bigger budget, we would've hit more national parks, climbed Cerro Chirripo and visited Tortuguero (in the turtle season). We would've done more activities too, but we found that for us, we'd done most of what they had on offer somewhere else (and for a lot cheaper). It's definitively a place one could linger in for months though. It's just got such a chilled vibe and as much as everyone slates the development that the expats have done, they've done a lot for the country - it's a lot cleaner than other Central American countries, and they introduced the national park system.
NB The same activities tend to be repeated everywhere eg coffee and cacao tours, butterfly/botanical gardens, iguana farms, jungle tours, zip lining, etc, so it might be worth researching the recommended ones on Trip Advisor first.
Surfing - it's been one of our favourite destinations for this.
Watching a Leatherback lay her eggs on Playa Grande.
Tabacon hot springs. They're pricey, but worth it.
The beaches, especially those at Manuel Antonio, along the peninsular and the Caribbean coast.
The national parks, especially Corcovado national park.
Surfing with humpback whales at Dominical was one of favourite travelling memories of all time.
The wildlife - monkeys, sloths, birds, coatis, raccoons, etc.
The laid-back vibe of Costa Rica and it's people.
Great sign posting on all the roads.
Expensive - it was pretty much American prices everywhere.
The roads - they went from straight and flat, to windy, off-road pot-holed messes, which is surprising given it's poorer neighbouring countries have much better conditioned roads.
The humidity and the mossies that came with the jungle.
The culture. For us English-speaking, westernised citizens, it just lacked the culture and food found in other Central American countries.