Osa Peninsula The most biologically intense place on Earth

Costa Rica has long been renowned for its incredible biodiversity; a small, yet environmentally rich country that is home to over 5% of the entire world’s animal and plant species. Lying along its south-western coast is the Osa Peninsula, a tiny strip of land measuring just 35 miles long and 20 miles wide and covered in magnificent, unspoiled rainforest. The Osa Peninsula is itself home to half of all the species in Costa Rica, that’s a staggering 2.5% of the entire biodiversity of the planet, living on a mere 0.00000085% of the earth’s total surface area.

Formed geologically by the same faulting system that extends to California, this patch of Costa Rica’s last remaining tropical humid rainforest embraces a complex system of freshwater and marine systems; there are 13 major ecosystems, ranging from sea level to 745 metres and encompassing mangroves, sandy beaches and elevated primary forests. As a result, the Osa Peninsula is home to over 700 species of trees, which is more than all the North temperate regions of the world combined. Trees that are comparable in grandeur to the best that the Amazon Basin and the South East Asian forests have to offer, with 80 endemic species and the largest tree in Central America, a giant Silk Cotton tree some 77 metres tall.

There are 117 species of reptiles and amphibians, 365 species of birds and over 120 species of mammals, (all with varying degrees of endemism). Its forests are home to endangered species such as Baird’s tapir, the white-lipped peccary, the American crocodile, the harpy eagle and the Central American squirrel monkey. It’s a place where jaguars still roam the jungles, scarlet macaws fly freely about the town and the enormous humpbacked whales swim close to its shores. The Osa Peninsula holds possibly the highest natural diversity on the planet, inspiring The National Geographic magazine to describe it as “the most biologically intense place on earth”.

Protecting this unspoilt wilderness

At least half of its rainforest and swamps are protected by Corcovado National Park and numerous private reserves, yet sadly, like the majority of the world’s most delicate ecosystems it is under threat. In addition to the challenges posed by climate change on delicate bio-systems, there are also the added threats of poaching and unregulated construction in an area that lacks adequate infrastructure to deal with the resultant rubbish, wastewater and sewage.

The good news for its future is that it also home to an active and committed community who work tirelessly to counter the negative effects of human impact. In addition to the establishment of recycling programmes and supporting the role of local producers, the Osa community also provides strong opposition to any proposals that might cause further damage to this fragile ecosystem. It is with some irony that tourism is also playing a major role in the protection of the Osa Peninsular. Many hotels and businesses are adhering to the standards set out by the Certificate for Sustainable Tourism and have even bought tracts of land with the sole aim of increasing the protected forest land

As a result, there is genuine hope that the Osa Peninsular will remain a beautifully wild and unspoilt wilderness; a unique and quite beautiful oasis in an increasingly over populated planet, a place where animals can roam freely with little or no fear of their human neighbours.

30 Photos That Will Make You Wish You Were In Costa Rica Right Now

How many of your vacatiosn days did you use in the last year? If you live in the United States, chances are the answer to that question is somewhere around half of them. Which means you could be taking paid time off to hang out in Costa Rica right now.

And Costa Rica is a pretty sweet place to be, whether you go for its unrivaled ecotourism opportunities, from watching sea turtles nest to ziplining through the rain forest; its 1,000 miles of coastline on both the Pacific and the Caribbean, and the spectacular beaches and surf that go along with it; or its 50 national parks, representing the nation’s unprecedented commitment to preservation and protecting a full 5% of the world’s biodiversity.

Not that anyone really needs convincing, but here are 30 images of Costa Rica that will inspire you to take your vacation time and put it to better use in the months to come. Here’s to restoring our work-life balance, one epic trip at a time.


Costa Rica is small, just under 20,000 square miles—about the size of two Vermonts. And yet, this country that accounts for just .1% of Earth’s land area harbors 5% of its biodiversity. Costa Rica’s tropical mountain chains, rain forests, and various islands are home to species both highly endangered and more common, such as the red-eyed tree frog seen above.


Bordered by the Pacific to the west and the Caribbean to the east, Costa Rica has no shortage of beaches. The best part is that, no matter what time of year you visit, if conditions on one coast are less than ideal, all you have to do is travel a few dozen miles overland to access a completely different white-sand paradise.


Caño Island Biological Reserve, just one of the country’s dozens of protected areas, is located off the Osa Peninsula in southwestern Costa Rica. If you’re into marine life and top-notch diving / snorkeling, this is where you should be.


Of Costa Rica’s 14 volcanoes, Arenal is probably the best known thanks to its near perfect pyramidal shape. The national park that surrounds it shares its name and is located a short drive north of the capital San José.


The Emperor butterfly is common in Central America and can grow to have a wingspan of nearly 8 inches. Its iridescent coloration brightens the forests of Costa Rica.


Thanks to its dual coasts and favorable features / conditions, Costa Rica has long been a surf destination. Pictured above is Playa Avellana, located on the Nicoya Peninsula. Its waves tend to be mellower than those of the popular Playa Negra farther south.


Near the Pacific town of Quepos, Manuel Antonio draws lots of visitors for its mix of pristine jungle and palm-bordered beaches. Punta Catedral, the point you see in the distance above, is accessed via hiking trails.


One of Costa Rica’s most iconic creatures, the three-toed sloth lives in the trees but is also a capable swimmer. Near Puerto Limón, you can arrange a boat tour for a chance of seeing this beloved animal in its jungle home.


Costa Rica’s biodiversity includes flora as well as fauna, of course. The colors and forms of plant life here are hard to match.


Cocos sits 340 miles southwest of mainland Costa Rica (about halfway to the Galápagos) and is an uninhabited national park. If you manage to make it out here, you’ve probably done so for the diving—some of the best in the world.


Bajos del Toro is a private reserve, just north of San José, where this waterfall plunges 300 feet from a hole in the cliff face to the bottom of an extinct volcanic crater.


Guanacaste’s Playa Hermosa remains a laid-back alternative to some of the more popular beaches nearby. Find it just south of Culebra Bay on the north Pacific coast.


Palo Verde National Park is set in the valley of the Tempisque River in northwestern Costa Rica, protecting ecologically significant dry forests as well as mangroves along the river. It’s a great place to see birds, from macaws to ibis to wood storks, as well as the mangrove black hawk, pictured above.


On the northern outskirts of San José, set in the foothills that lead up to the Poás Volcano, the town of Sarchí preserves traditional Costa Rican crafts. Chief among them is the oxcart, elaborately painted carriages that were once used to transport highland coffee to port.


The coast around the Osa Peninsula, where Caño Island lies, sees multiple whale migrations each year, giving it one of the longest whale-watching seasons anywhere in the world.


If you need evidence of Costa Rica’s tremendous biodiversity, consider this: The nation is home to 133 known species of frog, many of which are endemic. This poison dart frog was photographed in the rainforests of the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge, near the border with Panama.


Costa Rica’s forests are nearly as diverse as the creatures that live within them. Blanketing the lower reaches of the Tilarán Mountains in the northwest, the Monteverde Cloud Forest stands in near perpetual mist and harbors an extraordinary abundance and diversity of life. Its unique topography and wildlife attracts many tourists, who can choose from a variety of ecotourism excursions and adventure activities such as ziplining through the forest canopy.


If you’ve ever wondered exactly where chocolate comes from, you can find out in Costa Rica. The country’s indigenous people were trading in cacao long before Europeans arrived, and today many operations continue to produce high-quality chocolate from local beans.


The Bribri are one such indigenous people, residing in Costa Rica’s Limón Province. Multiple organizations can arrange voluntourism trips to Bribri communities, where you can learn firsthand about their traditional beliefs and practices.


Nosara, a small city located on the mountainous Nicoya Peninsula, abuts some pretty awesome Pacific surf.


Both of Costa Rica’s coasts provide vital nesting grounds for endangered populations of sea turtles. Tortuguero National Park, on the Caribbean north of Limón, is recognized as a world leader in turtle conservation and study.


You can have fun on the water away from the coasts as well. The Río Pacuare flows for some 70 miles from the highlands east of San José to the Caribbean just south of Tortuguero National Park, creating some excellent whitewater along the way.


Few animals scream “tropical paradise” as loudly as the toucan. The bird above was photographed at the La Paz Waterfall, north of San José on Highway 126.


The abundance of wildlife below the waves is nearly as impressive as that above, which makes Costa Rica one of the world’s premier destinations for diving and snorkeling.


Costa Rica’s oldest national park (established in 1971) covers the peninsula that forms the northern boundary of the Gulf of Papagayo, in Guanacaste province. Originally created to protect the site of a military battle, the park also contains a wide range of habitats and wildlife.


Cahuita mainly draws tourists with its excellent reef diving / snorkeling and sea turtle nesting grounds, but its land-based attractions, which include wildlife such as tree sloths, eyelash vipers, and capuchin monkeys, also make it worth a visit.


Near the tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, just north of the Cabo Blanco Natural Reserve, you’ll find this beach, which epitomizes everything that makes Costa Rica’s shores so great.


Arenal might strike a nice pose from a distance, but you’ll want to look Poás right in its face. In the national park of the same name, you can follow a mile-long (round trip) paved trail to the top of the volcanic crater and peer down over eerily colored lagoons.


Costa Rica’s pioneering decision to set aside more than 25% of its territory as protected area rather than develop it means that tourism is a vital component of the national economy. Unlike in other countries around the world, where the effects of tourism are more dubious, Costa Ricans know your visit is helping enable them to preserve their unparalleled natural wonders. You will be welcome here.


No matter where you are in Costa Rica, an epic beachside sunset over the Pacific is just a short drive away. Sure beats wasting your vacation days in the office, doesn’t it?

13 Foods You Have To Try In Costa Rica

A BIG PART of breaking out of your routine and experiencing someplace new is exploring the local cuisine. In the case of Costa Rica, you can’t really go wrong — but here are some extra special items to keep an eye out for.

1. Rondon

Composed of whatever the cook can ”run down,” rondon dates back to earlier times of subsistence diets in the Caribbean. Though the only thing consistent is that it changes, there are a few fundamentals to this spicy coconut soup.

Typically, you’ll find a fish head and assorted catches of the day, along with a variety of tubers like sweet potatoes and yucca, simmered in coconut milk for hours over an open wood flame that imparts a smoky depth. Toss in a couple Panamanian chilies for that signature lip singe, and there you have it — rondon. Hands down, this is my favorite Costa Rican dish.

2. Naturales

Wherever you are in Costa Rica, you’ll see standalone kiosks dedicated to juicing tropical fruits. Climb on a stool — if you can find an empty one — and take your pick. Mango, pineapple, blackberry, melon, and banana are the usual favorites, though watch out for seasonal offerings like my personal go-to, cas (sour green mango), or horchata (rice, cinnamon, and milk). These delicious beverages also go by the name refrescos.

3. Cacao fresco

When cacao pods ripen, they look like little yellow footballs. Crack them open and you can eat the tender white flesh encasing the cacao beans (from which you get cocoa powder when twice roasted and ground). The fruit’s sweet and tangy taste will give you a whole new outlook on what you thought chocolate was.

Costa Rica has several cacao farms, where you can take tours to learn about the product’s cultural importance in indigenous communities, as well as chocolate’s role in the nation’s history. Try the southern Caribbean — there you’ll find everything from plantation tours to chocolate museums, cooperatives, and local chocolate artisans. On your way through the coastal towns, keep your eyes peeled for roadside stands selling homemade cocoa butter.

4. Picadillo

A typical Costa Rican side dish, you’ll see picadillo accompany many meals, most notably the casados (see below).Picadillos are diced vegetables, a common one being the chayote squash, that are parboiled and then fried with onions, carrots, garlic, and sometimes a little ground meat. Though versions vary, ask any Tico and they’ll tell you their mom makes the best.

5. Gallo pinto

You can’t set foot in the country without encountering the Costa Rican take on rice and beans. Local lore points to its origin in the tiny town of San Sebastían, where long ago a local resident, Don Bernabe, boasted widely of his prized gallo pinto (spotted hen), which he was saving for the town’s Christmas celebrations. Small-town gossip spread and grew to daunting proportions when Don Bernabe unexpectedly received a crowd of townsfolk eager to try his spotted hen. Being the quick thinker that he was, Don Bernabe decided to pay homage to the appearance of his gallo pinto by frying up copious amounts of white rice and black beans so that everyone had something to eat.

The true Costa Rican twist? A few dashes of Salsa Lizano, the ubiquitous national sauce that’s tangy and smoky with a hint of cumin.

6. Rice ‘n’ Beans

Wait, didn’t we just cover this? NO! And you’ll be met with an equal measure of admonition if you call it gallo pinto to someone who grew up with limonense cuisine (from Limón, on the Caribbean coast). This difference exemplifies Costa Rica’s cultural diversity within its own borders. What sets this particular dish apart from gallo pinto is that it incorporates coconut milk, red beans, thyme, and spicy Panamanian chilies.

7. Chifrijo

Controversy abounds regarding the birthplace of chifrijos, including failed attempts at establishing intellectual copyright and charging royalties. Regardless, all evidence I know of points to Chepe (aka, San José, the capital) as the source.

Chifrijo is a popular layered dish of rice topped with black beans, twice-fried pork bits, and pico de gallo (tomato salsa with onion, cilantro, and lemon), served with fresh tortilla chips. A fixture in the bar scene, chifrijos are a drunken rally brick and next-day booze mop wrapped in one.

8. Granizados

This is a cold treat to stave off the heat when hitting the beach. You’ll see men pushing wooden carts down the sand shouting ¡Piraguas!, or ¡Granizados!. Line up with the local kids and watch the vendor shave a solid block of ice, and layer it with powdered milk, condensed milk, and any flavored syrup that tickles your fancy. I go with coconut every time, but the classic flavors are cherry, blue raspberry, grape, and mango.

9. Ceviche Tico

While Peru is the country most often associated with ceviche, for me, ceviche Tico is the measuring stick for all other versions. The Tico variety is clean, light, and refreshing. Fish (typically sea bass) is cut into tiny cubes, mixed with diced red onion, cilantro, and some red pepper, then marinated in citrus juice. The acid in the citrus delicately cooks the meat, leaving it tender and flavorful. The dish is then served with soda crackers or fried plantains.

10. Trits

It’s like a baby’s first taste of ice cream — the world will never be the same. National dairy company Dos Pinos produces these addictive ice cream sandwiches comprising a generous portion of vanilla ice cream swirled with fudge ripple and nestled between two cookies that totter somewhere between sugar cookies and graham crackers. At a buck a pop, you’ll find yourself buying out the local corner store in a matter of days.

11. Casado

Translated literally, casado means ”married.” Found in nearly any soda (small restaurant serving typical Costa Rican dishes) across the country, casado is the fixed pairing of white rice with a side of savory black beans, a vegetable side (like cabbage slaw dressed in citrus), and a protein — usually a fish fillet, charcoal grilled chicken, or pork chop — smothered in sautéed onions. Pretty much everything you need.

12. Agua de Sapo

Don’t let the name of this treat — agua de sapo translates to ”toad water” — deter you; the moniker derives more from the look than the taste. It’s a refreshing twist on lemonade made with brown sugar and ginger.

13. Coffee

Costa Rica’s recent history has been largely shaped by coffee, and the country’s beans rank as some of the best in the world. The rich volcanic soil at high altitude lends them their characteristic silky body, and the taste of the beans ranges from crisp fruitiness to smoky chocolate.

To see the process firsthand, head to the Central Valley region, where the altitude and climate help the coffee bushes thrive. Plantations scattered about the mountains offer educational outreach programs — you’ll see just how a ripe red berry is transformed into a steamy cup of high-grade coffee, and you’ll be taught how to use your palette to distinguish between varieties.

25 Reasons a Trip to Costa Rica Could Actually Change your Life

The country is divided into two sides – the Pacific side, known for its stunning beaches, and the Caribbean side, known more for its low-key rainforest vibe — and I’ve been to both. In fact, I love Costa Rica so much that I actually lived there for a month last year, back when my job was remote. So here are 25 reasons you should definitely go to Costa Rica – at which point you’ll become slightly obsessed, just like me.

1. It has some of the most beautiful beaches ever.

That blue water is not enhanced. Swear on my life. Neither is the sand. That’s just how the beaches are in Costa Rica. This particular beach is called Playa Conchal, because the sand is actually made of conch shells (!). And there are many, many others that are just as sweet.

2. And it also has beautiful cloud forests …

One of Costa Rica’s biggest attractions is Monteverde, the cloud forest. The main difference between a cloud forest and a rainforest is that cloud forests are located at higher elevations — which makes them cooler and also creates a foggy, misty atmosphere. Whatever the science behind it, though, the fact is that cloud forests are super magical and definitely worth a visit.

3. … and rainforests, too.

While there are rainforests in Monteverde, there are also many on the Caribbean side. When I went the first time, I stayed in Monteverde and then moved on to Manzanillo, a super chill little rainforest town. I actually liked Manzanillo better because it was super remote and I’m into that, but I still recommend hitting up Monteverde for the experience.

4. Its motto, ”pura vida,” which is Spanish for ”pure life,” will speak to your soul.

It certainly spoke to mine. The locals are so friendly, the vibe is so chill, and there is a lightness in the air that makes you feel like you’re living in happy land, where all is joyful and wonderful. (I’m sober right now, btw. It’s just that peaceful there.)

5. Especially because the locals — called Ticos — truly embrace the pura vida lifestyle.

Of course there are tourism businesses that capitalize on the ”pura vida” motto, selling tacky ”pura vida” t-shirts, and offering ”pura vida” yoga classes that are commercialized to the max. Ugh, it pains me to think of them! But steer clear of those touristy zones, and you’ll find that the ”pura vida” lifestyle truly is ingrained in the soul of its people, who seem to appreciate life’s best simplicities, and will undoubtedly assure you that everything actually is pretty chill.

6. In the less-touristy towns, it’s easy to feel like you’ve stepped back in time.

Smaller towns like Dominical, Uvita, and Nosara will take you back to the way things were. There aren’t really any big commercialized chains, people smile at you as you’re walking down the sunny street, and life is golden.

7. There is a sloth sanctuary. Yes, a sloth sanctuary.

Aptly titled ”Sloth Sanctuary,” the staff has been rescuing sloths — a very common animal in Costa Rica — since 1992. They’ll even take you on a sloth tour!

8. And there are howler monkeys!

They’re everywhere! They chill in the trees, just like that, and they howl. Could they be any cuter?

9. The roads, though full of borderline dangerous twists and turns, are stunning.

If you’re going on a road trip, be very careful: The driving can get tricky. People tend to pass you if you’re going slower in front of them, even if there’s a sharp turn ahead of you and it looks like things could get tight. It can get mildly terrifying, to be honest. But as long as you’re careful, it’s worth it, if only because you get to cruise along and see gorgeous local back roads like these.

10. The sunsets are unreal.

There are sunsets, and then there are sunsets. Costa Rican beauties fall under the latter category, namely because of the STRONG pinks and purples and oranges. They’re just killer.

11. I repeat: unreal.

People sit on the beach every night to watch the sunset (myself included), and why wouldn’t you? It’s a daily show, it’s free, and it’s epic 99.99999% of the time. Documented evidence above.

12. And the sunrises, if you can actually wake up for them, are #worthit, too.

I took this one on a morning run in Tamarindo. The best part is that if you wake up for sunrise, you usually have the beach to yourself, which is the perfect time to clear your mind and let those heady thoughts roll in.

13. There are beautiful bogenvelia bushes everywhere you look.

Take it in, take it in.

14. And there’s some other seriously cool flora, too.

Heliconia, pink ginger, and golden trumpet, respectively.

15. The local food hits the spot, especially the plantains.

In my opinion, the best food is served at sodas, which are the outdoor casual roadside restaurants — NOT the touristy ones. The most common Costa Rican meal is called a ”casado,” which is: beans, rice with finely-chopped onions and peppers, a cabbage salad, fried plantains, and some sort of meat (chicken, steak, fish, pork, whatever) with fried onions. The plantains are my favorite — they are buttery and carby and fried and perfect.

16. And their most well-known beer, Imperial, tastes great at the beach.

Let me be clear: This is no artisanal IPA. It’s a lager, meaning you can drink a bunch of them at sunset without getting tanked — which is exactly what a tropical beer is meant for. And it’s cheap, too! One costs about 600 colones (about $1 a beer).

17. The surfing is incredible, both for beginners and for people with more experience.

There are tons of surfing schools and surfing camps all around Costa Rica, making it the ideal spot to learn how to get out there on the waves. But there are also different beaches with stronger waves, for super legit surfers. I hung out with some local pro surfers while I was there, and they raved about Playa Grande in Guanacaste.

18. And yoga is all over the place.

Who needs a studio when you have the beach? (Though if you want a studio, they definitely have them. Nosara is especially well-known for their yoga retreats and studios.)

19. The volcano situation in Costa Rica is on point.

There are six active ones — the most famous is Arenal, above — and another 61 dormant or extinct ones.

20. And the hot springs around Arenal are some of the most soothing in the world.

Thanks to Arenal’s geothermal activity, there are tons of hot springs all around that contain healing minerals (and they’re pretty low in sulfur, so they don’t have that weird smell).

If you want to go, stay in La Fortuna, the town near Arenal. The most famous hot springs around the volcano are Tabacon Hot Springs, Baldi Hot Springs, Ecotermales Hot Springs, and the Springs Resort Hot Springs. I went to Tabacon on a day trip and loved it and highly recommend it, but I’m sure the other ones are great, too.

21. Ziplining will change your perspective forever.

Most people go ziplining in Arenal or Monteverde, but you can also go in other places around the country. I went in Monteverde, and it was amazing! I’m really scared of heights (and, fine, pretty much all scary things), so this was big for me — but I ended up loving the ride, probably because I was going too fast to think.

22. You can bike pretty much anywhere you want.

Including, but not limited to, the beach!

23. There’s also tons of hiking, for those who are so inclined.

Forest hiking, beach hiking, you name it. It’s there.

24. The waterfalls are magical.

This one is in Uvita, though they really are everywhere.

25. But perhaps most of all, Costa Rica is a great place to chill out, breathe deep, get in with nature, and let yourself totally, completely decompress from the stresses of daily life.

Pura vida, man. Pura vida.