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Live and spitting, Costa Rica's finest volcano, Arenal, backdrops the ramshackle town of La Fortuna.
Towns in this impoverished Central American country are sadly disorganised and dilapidated, packed with style-free cinder block buildings splashed with eye-busting colours and gaily festooned with sagging cables.
But you don't go to there for urban action, do you? We sincerely hope not. Head for the green, amigo.
Why holiday in Costa Rica?
Outside its tedious and tacky urban zones this country is a delightful melange of vast, eco-friendly rainforests offering well-organised walks, long or short, buzzing with critters - particularly exotic birds (870 species, so they say, but who's counting?), frogs, butterflies, iguanas, monkeys (200 species of mammal), turtles and varied boggling insects embraced by deep, damp greenery perfectly offset with frequent splashes of floral colour (9,000 species of flowering plants - 1,200 of which are orchids).
Tourist hotels out of town are usually delightful and often efficient too, while local people are friendly and welcoming, except of course, for the ones who go for your wallet with some determination. See Costa Rica Safety.
There are dozens of possible adventures and activities including high-anxiety rainforest tree-top wire slides, canopy tours, volcanoes to scout, rivers to raft, kayak or tube, golf balls to smack on manicured courses, big and consistent waves to ride off wild surf beaches or deep sea fishing and scuba diving if your pockets are deep.
Alternatively just simmer on the sand of some spacious, wild beaches. Hot springs, mud baths and a cool one are a perfect way to end a sweaty day.
North of Costa Rica lies Nicaragua and to the south Panama. Neither domain offers much in the way of turismo interest though slightly further north are Mexico and Guatemala, both diverse and loaded with attractions, while serious wildlife watchers with fat wallets could head down to Ecuador and cruise out to the magnificent Galapagos Islands.
It's not difficult to get to CR overland from North America though Texas is 2500 miles north; Peñas Blancas on the west coast is the main border crossing from Nicaragua.
Costa Rica Weather
The best time to visit is from December to May when it's cooler and drier, unless you're a committed surfer in which case the big stuff appears on the Pacific side from April-October. The rest of the year is a variably wet season, though it doesn't usually rain all day, mostly a heavy hour or two in the afternoon.
The coasts - both Pacific and Caribbean sides - are pretty much always hot, ranging from the low 20Cs (70F) to high 30Cs (90F+), with high humidity (which is more tiring than the heat). San José, the less-than-inspiring capital has a much more comfortable climate due to its altitude of 1100m (3770ft) with temperatures ranging from 15C (60F) to 26C (80F).
We hope that these pictures will give you an idea of things to do, and perhaps things not to do in Costa Rica.