Award-winning travel writer Christopher P. Baker shows travelers the way to the best of Costa Rica—whether it's surfing the beaches of Golfo Dulce, hiking in Corcovado National Park, or dining in the upscale Escazu barrio in San José. Along with his in-depth coverage, Baker includes unique trip ideas for a variety of interests, such as Sweet Retreats, Best Beaches, and Adrenaline Rush. Complete with details that range from where to surf to which spots are the best for seeing wildlife, Moon Costa Rica gives ...
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Moon Costa Rica

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Award-winning travel writer Christopher P. Baker shows travelers the way to the best of Costa Rica—whether it's surfing the beaches of Golfo Dulce, hiking in Corcovado National Park, or dining in the upscale Escazu barrio in San José. Along with his in-depth coverage, Baker includes unique trip ideas for a variety of interests, such as Sweet Retreats, Best Beaches, and Adrenaline Rush. Complete with details that range from where to surf to which spots are the best for seeing wildlife, Moon Costa Rica gives travelers the tools they need to create a more personal and memorable experience.

Coverage includes:
San José
The Central Highlands
The Caribbean Coast
The Northern Zone
Guanacaste and the Northwest
The Nicoya Peninsula
Central Pacific
Golfo Dulce and the Osa Peninsula
South-Central Costa Rica
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Best of Costa Rica:

Few visitors have time to explore Costa Rica from tip to toe, but the following itinerary takes in half a dozen of the best national parks, a potpourri of active adventures, and many of the best sights.

Day 1
Arrive in San José. Take the afternoon to visit the Museo del Jade and Museo del Oro Precolombino, then dinner at Hotel Grano de Oro.

Day 2
An early-morning visit to Parque Nacional Volcán Poás is followed by a visit to the La Paz Waterfall Gardens. In the late afternoon, get a feel for Costa Rica’s coffee culture with a tour at Café Britt or Doka Estate.

Days 3–4
Head to La Fortuna and fill your days with hiking at Parque Nacional Volcán Arenal; a ride on the Sky Tram, including the zip line; and a soak at Tabacón Hot Springs. A traditional meal at Choza de Laurel is a good way to end the day.

Day 5
Transfer via Laguna de Arenal and Tilarán to Monteverde, where the Monteverde Lodge makes a fine base. After lunch, head to Selvatura for a canopy adventure.

Day 6
Rise early for a guided hike in Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve or Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve. In the afternoon, visit the Serpentario and Frog Pond. In the evening, take a guided twilight walk at Bajo del Tigre.

Day 7
Transfer to Parque Nacional Rincón de la Vieja. After settling in at one of the nature lodges that double as activity centers, you’ll want to visit the bubbling mud pools and fumaroles and partake of canopy tours, horseback riding, and hikes.

Day 8
Today, it’s the Nicoya Peninsula and Tamarindo, arriving in time for lunch at a beachfront restaurant. This evening, head to Playa Grande to witness marine turtles laying eggs (in season)—you’ll need to make reservations.

Day 9
Head south to Nosara via Ostional National Wildlife Refuge. If you’re driving, the coast road will prove an adventure. With good timing and prior planning, you can visit the turtle arribada at Ostional.

Days 10–11
Travel to Manuel Antonio for wildlife-viewing, snorkeling, and relaxing in and around Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio. The resort hotels here offer superb accommodations, and there are plenty of excellent restaurants and a lively night scene.

Days 12–13
Transfer to the Osa Peninsula for more rugged adventure. A guided hike along coastal and rainforest trails in Parque Nacional Corcovado leads to waterfalls and offers phenomenal wildlife sightings.

Day 14
Return to San José for your homeward flight, or extend your trip and fly to Tortuguero, where you can explore Parque Nacional Tortuguero by canoe or boat.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781612388663
  • Publisher: Avalon Travel Publishing
  • Publication date: 2/11/2014
  • Series: Moon Handbooks Travel Series
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: Ninth Edition
  • Pages: 650
  • Sales rank: 459,006
  • File size: 30 MB
  • Note: This product may take a few minutes to download.

Meet the Author

Christopher P. Baker was born and raised in Yorkshire, England. He received a B.A. in geography from University College, London, and masters degrees in Latin American studies from Liverpool University and in education from the Institute of Education, London University.

He began his writing career in 1978 as contributing editor on Latin America for Land & Liberty, a London-based political journal. In 1980 he received a Scripps-Howard Foundation Scholarship in Journalism to attend the University of California, Berkeley.

Since 1983, Christopher has made his living as a professional travel writer, photographer, speaker, and international tour guide. He is acclaimed for his specialist knowledge of Cuba and Costa Rica, about which he has written 10 books, and created the Costa Rica ¡Pura Vida! travel app. His many books include Moon Cuba and Mi Moto Fidel: Motorcycling Through Castro's Cuba, winner of both the 2002 Lowell Thomas Award for Best Travel Book and the North American Travel Journalist Association's Grand Prize. He has contributed to more than 150 publications worldwide, including Caribbean Travel & Life, Maxim, National Geographic Traveler, The Robb Report, and the Los Angeles Times.

Christopher has been profiled in USA Today; appears frequently on radio and television talk shows and as a guest-lecturer aboard cruise ships; and has been privileged to address such organizations as the National Press Club, the World Affairs Council, and the National Geographic Society (on the televised show Live from National Geographic). He is a National Geographic Resident Expert and escorts cruise-tours of Costa Rica and Panama for National Geographic Expeditions and Smithsonian Journeys.

His many awards include the prestigious 2008 Lowell Thomas Travel Journalist of the Year, from the Society of American Travel Writers, and Travel Journalist of the Year from the Caribbean Tourism Organization and the Jamaica Tourist Board.
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Read an Excerpt

Costa Rica's Best Beaches with Christopher P. Baker

1. For sheer beauty, which Costa Rica beach takes your breath away?

Costa Rican beaches are less about scintillating white sands and more about physical context. For a sheer scenic “Wow!” reaction, I’d give top marks to Playa Guiones in Nosara. Wider than a football field at low tide, this favorite of surfers has tide pools and is great for horseback riding. I’m still bowled over every time I visit Manuel Antonio’s Playa Espadilla Sur, too—not the main Playa Espadilla which fronts the resort area, but the long scimitar separated from the former by a rocky outcrop and river, which sweeps around the crook of a tombolo and ends at a large knoll called Punta Catedral. The views of Manuel Antonio from there are fantastic. I love arriving by Zodiak off the National Geographic Sea Lion when I escort tours. Monkeys are almost always there to greet us, along with coatis, iguanas, and sloths and boas in the trees.

2. If a traveler is craving privacy and a secluded spot to relax, what’s your recommendation?

Costa Rica is largely about nature. If you’re seeking a total escape where you can relax in a hammock with a good book and a pair of binoculars to spot birds and wildlife, there are a few options. If you’re in the mood for deluxe rusticity, try Casa de Tranquilidad—it has its own rainforest wildlife reserve. On a lesser budget, the experience of literally being eye-to-eye with the monkeys in your own treehouse is unbeatable: Lapa’s Nest Costa Rica Tree House gets my vote. Two favorite “chill out and relax” hotels that immerse you in nature but also offer something intangible and unique are Iguana Lodge, which is on the Osa Peninsula, and Monteverde Lodge, which edges up against the cloud forest in Monteverde.

3. What should a visitor know about beach etiquette? For example, are there clothing-optional beaches? Or is nude sunbathing not appropriate?

I’m always amazed at how often I see European women walking through beach towns, such as Quepos, in bikinis. Costa Rica isn’t Brazil! It’s much more conservative, and such dress is considered inappropriate by locals. There are no nude beaches, nor even topless beaches in Costa Rica. Gay locals and visitors used to have their “own” nude beach (Playa Dulce Vida) at Manuel Antonio, but it is now the domain of the magnificent Arenas del Mar, which I recently blogged about.

4. Is beach camping permitted in Costa Rica?

Camping is not permitted on any beach. For many years, locals paid no attention to the regulation; now it’s being enforced more, but you will still find many Costa Rican families pitching their tents beneath the coconut palms (which is actually one good way to ruin your day—more people are killed by falling coconuts than by venomous snakes in Costa Rica).

5. What beaches are best for snorkeling?

Costa Rica has relatively few great snorkeling spots, especially compared to its neighboring countries. There are, however, small coral reefs and fabulous fish life to be seen off Cahuita, on the Caribbean side; off Playa Manuel Antonio, in the Central Pacific Coast; and further south (and most notably) at Uvita. Riptides are a danger at many beaches, and you should always inquire about local conditions before swimming.

6. Where can visitors combine a beach day with seeing wildlife?

The ability to combine beach with wildlife is one of Costa Rica’s major fortes. On most beaches on both the Caribbean and Pacific coasts, the forests spill over the sands. The large-scale resort development that has characterized the beaches of northern Nicoya Peninsula has driven away much of the wildlife that was previously easily viewed in the dry forests backing the beach. Elsewhere, however, the world’s your oyster. My favorites—all of which are served by eco-sensitive hotels—include Tortuguero (good for viewing marine turtles nesting), Manuel Antonio (although it can get crowded, it offers guaranteed viewing of creatures), and the beaches of Cahuita National Park.

7. What’s a good beach for people who love to surf, but aren't seasoned surfers?

Surf’s up! Are you a beginner? Me too. If I were to choose my preferred learn-to-surf spot, I’d opt for Tamarindo: it’s the most developed beach resort for surf schools and offers a wide choice of beaches for every level. There are also women-only and kids’ classes. Plus, since it’s “surf central” you get all the fun of chilling with fellow surfer dudes and checking out a crazy bar scene, if that’s your thing.

8. A day at the beach is always good, but what if someone wants to do good as well? Are there any volunteer programs you'd suggest?

Tremendous! Again, lots to choose from. For example, beach-goers can help save the planet’s endangered marine turtles at Playa Matapalo’s Portalon Ecological Wildlife Refuge, and with the Sea Turtle Conservancy at Tortuguero. Also at Tortuguero, Costa Rica Expeditions offers an innovative way for guests to donate a few hours of their time in local schools.

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Table of Contents

The Lay of the Land     14
Planning Your Trip     18
Explore Costa Rica     20
The 21-Day Best of Costa Rica     20
Monkeys and Macaws: A Biodiversity Tour     22
The Beachcomber     24
Surf's Up     28
Pura Vida: Offbeat Costa Rica     30
Family Adventure     32
Adrenaline Rush     34
San Jose     37
Sights     42
Entertainment and Recreation     59
Shopping     64
Accommodations     66
Food     77
Information and Services     84
Getting There and Around     86
Central Highlands     91
West of San Jose     96
Cariari to La Guacima     107
Alajuela and Vicinity     109
Grecia to Zarcero     120
La Garita to San Ramon     125
North of San Jose     131
Northeast of San Jose     141
Cartago and Vicinity     143
Turrialba and Vicinity     159
The Caribbean Coast     167
Highway 32 to Puerto Limon     172
Puerto Limon and Vicinity     177
Tortuguero and Barra del Colorado     182
South of Puerto Limon     192
Cahuita and Vicinity     194
Puerto Viejo and Vicinity     202
Manzanillo and Vicinity     215
Rio Sixaola Region     219
The Northern Zone     221
Ciudad Quesada and Vicinity     226
Los Chiles and Vicinity     231
La Fortuna and Arenal     233
Highway 4 to Upala     252
Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui and Vicinity     255
Guanacaste and the Northwest     265
The Southern Plains     271
Monteverde and Vicinity     279
Tilaran and Vicinity     294
Canas and Vicinity     296
Liberia and Vicinity     303
The Far North     312
The Nicoya Peninsula     321
Highway 2 to Santa Cruz     327
Playas del Coco and Vicinity     337
Playa Flamingo and Vicinity     348
Tamarindo and Vicinity     353
South to Junquillal     366
Playa Lagarto to Ostional     369
Nosara and Vicinity     373
Playa Samara to Carrillo     379
Playa Camaronal to Manzanillo      383
Southeast Nicoya     390
Southern Nicoya     394
Central Pacific     404
Orotina to Playa Herradura     408
Jaco and Vicinity     414
Quepos and Manuel Antonio     425
Savegre to Dominical     442
Costa Ballena     450
Golfo Dulce and the Osa Peninsula     455
Valle de Diquis     459
The Osa Peninsula     461
Golfito and Golfo Dulce     478
The Burica Peninsula     486
Ciudad Neily and Vicinity     492
South-Central Costa Rica     495
Valle de El General     498
Chirripo and Vicinity     502
Buenos Aires and Vicinity     508
Valle de Coto Brus     511
Background     515
The Land     515
Flora     520
Fauna     526
Environmental Issues     548
History     555
Government     563
Economy     565
The People     568
Arts and Culture     573
Recreation and Tours     577
Essentials     586
Getting There      586
Getting Around     590
Visas and Officialdom     596
Conduct and Customs     599
Accommodations     602
Food and Drink     604
Tips for Travelers     607
Health and Safety     611
Currency     619
Maps and Tourist Information     621
Film and Photography     622
Communications and Media     622
Weights, Measures, and Time     625
Resources     626
Glossary     626
Spanish Phrasebook     627
Suggested Reading     631
Internet Resources     633
Index     635
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