Central America: Natural Wonder in Costa Rica

San Jose: The capital, sitting at a climate-friendly 3,805-foot altitude, treats its visitors to an excellent choice of hotels and restaurants, as well as attractions such as the 19th century National Cathedral, the National Museum with its collection of pre-Columbian artifacts and the Jade and Gold Museums.

Monteverde Cloud Forest: A protected biological reserve some 100 miles from San Jose, Monteverde's highland trails wander through a forested world of ferns, orchids and bromeliads.

Arenal National Park: The Arenal Volcano is the largest and most active in Meso-America, putting on a fairly constant display of thundering explosions that send cinder and lava tumbling down its slopes.

The Pacific Coast: Costa Rica's beach resorts, popular for sport fishing and surfing, offer a variety of inns and hotels scattered along Pacific waters. Starting from Manuel Antonio National Park in the south, favorite beaches (moving north) include Jaco, Tambor, Tamarindo, Conchal, Flamingo and Ocotal on the Gulf of Papagayo.

Tortuguero National Park: This Caribbean coast reserve displays the natural spectacle of 300-pound sea turtles nesting and laying their eggs. The park has a good system of natural and man-made canals -- home to manatees and crocodiles -- that ease transportation and exploration for visitors based at a choice of fine lodges.

Costa Rica Fast Facts
  • Capital City: San Jose
  • Area: 19,730 square miles (approximate size of state of West Virginia)
  • Country population: 3.5 million
  • Language: Spanish; English widely spoken
  • Entry documents: Valid passport, no visa required
  • Currency: Colon
  • Local Time: Central Standard (Greenwich Mean Time -6)
  • International phone code: 506
  • Recommended guidebooks: Costa Rica Handbook by Chris Baker, Moon Publi-cations; New Key to Costa Rica by Beatrice Blake/Anne Becher, Ulysses Press
  • Information: Costa Rica Tourist Board: (800) 343-6332; Web site www.tourism-costarica.com
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