Gift Guide

The Rough Guide to Costa Rica


As you fly over the Central American isthmus, Costa Rica spreads out beneath you like a whale basking in the sea, its narrow, mountain-ridged back clad with the barnacle-like forms of volcanos. To the north lies the broad bulk of Nicaragua, while to the south the crooked finger of Panam reaches out to South America. On the Pacific coast, two peninsulas, the Nicoya and the Osa, clutch at the sea like crab's claws; by comparison the ...
See more details below
Available through our Marketplace sellers.
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (17) from $1.99   
  • New (1) from $50.00   
  • Used (16) from $1.99   
Sort by
Page 1 of 1
Showing All
Note: Marketplace items are not eligible for any coupons and promotions
Seller since 2014

Feedback rating:



New — never opened or used in original packaging.

Like New — packaging may have been opened. A "Like New" item is suitable to give as a gift.

Very Good — may have minor signs of wear on packaging but item works perfectly and has no damage.

Good — item is in good condition but packaging may have signs of shelf wear/aging or torn packaging. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Acceptable — item is in working order but may show signs of wear such as scratches or torn packaging. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Used — An item that has been opened and may show signs of wear. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Refurbished — A used item that has been renewed or updated and verified to be in proper working condition. Not necessarily completed by the original manufacturer.

Brand new.

Ships from: acton, MA

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
Page 1 of 1
Showing All
Sort by
Sending request ...


As you fly over the Central American isthmus, Costa Rica spreads out beneath you like a whale basking in the sea, its narrow, mountain-ridged back clad with the barnacle-like forms of volcanos. To the north lies the broad bulk of Nicaragua, while to the south the crooked finger of Panam reaches out to South America. On the Pacific coast, two peninsulas, the Nicoya and the Osa, clutch at the sea like crab's claws; by comparison the Caribbean coast - just 280km away at the country's widest point - is dead straight and raked by waves.
Despite its small size, Costa Rica possesses five percent of the world's total biodiversity, in part due to its position as a transition zone between North and South America, and also to a complex terracing of micro-climates created by differences in altitude. With one of the most enlightened and dedicated approaches to conservation in the world, the country has made an impressive effort to preserve its wildlands, and in the Americas is second only to Ecuador for the proportion (about 25 percent) of land it protects. Somewhat ironically, deforestation assails much of the remaining tropical forests to the extent that by the year 2000 there may be no significant patches of forest left outside the boundaries of protected areas.
In sharp contrast to the brutal internal conflicts in Guatemala or the grinding poverty of Nicaragua, Costa Rica has become synonymous with stability and prosperity, with a long democratic tradition, free and open elections, no standing army (it was abolished in 1948) and a Nobel Peace Prize to its name, won by former president, Oscar Arias. It has also become the prime eco-tourism destination in Central America, if not in all the Americas, due in no small part to its efficient self-promotion. The main draw is its complex system of national parks and wildlife refuges. In the last few years, hundreds of thousands of visitors - mainly from the United States and Canada - have come to walk trails through million-year-old rainforests, raft foaming whitewater rapids, surf on the Pacific beaches and climb the volcanos that punctuate the country's mountainous spine. More than anything it is the enduring natural beauty that impresses. Milk-thick twilight and dawn mists gather in the clefts and ridges divided by high mountain passes; on the Pacific coast, carmine and mauve sunsets go down into the sea like meteors; vaulting canopy trees and thick deciduous understories carpet large areas of undisturbed rainforest, and vestiges of high-altitude cloudforest offer glimpses into a misty, primeval universe, home to the jaguar, the lumbering Jurassic tapir and the truly resplendent quetzal.
So much is said about Costa Rica's rich plant and animal life that its human population often gets forgotten in all the hype. Costa Ricans enjoy the highest rate of literacy, health care, education and life expectancy in the isthmus. That said, it is certainly not the middle-class country that it's often portrayed to be, with a significant percentage of people living below the poverty line. While it is modernizing fast, and almost half the populace is concentrated in urban areas, the country still has the highest rural population density in Latin America and society still revolves around the twin axes of campo (countryside) and family. In part drawn by these "traditional" values, in recent years an estimated 35,000 North American citizens have come to settle here, most of them retirees, along with a sizeable European population, prompting some foreign enclaves to be named "gringolandia". However, in the past few years, as tourism and foreign investment have grown, Costa Rica has had to come to terms with the darker side of the industry. Sex tourism, real-estate scams and local conflicts between foreign property-owners and (usually) poorer locals have all increased. Tourism has made Costa Rica less of an "authentic" experience than some travellers would like; it's hard to go anywhere in the country without bumping into whitewater rafters or surfers, and more and more previously remote spots are being bought up by foreign entrepreneurs who erect cabinas, rainforest lodges and New Age-type retreats. Still, few Costa Ricans have anything bad to say about their country's popularity with visitors - perhaps simply because they know which side their bread's buttered - but as more hotels open, malls go up, and foreigners flock to the country, there's no doubt the country is experiencing a significant societal change.
One glib accusation you're almost certain to hear lobbed at the tiny nation is that it has no culture or history. It's certainly true that there are no ancient Mesoamerican monuments on the scale of Chichn Itz or Tikal, and just one percent of the population is of indigenous extraction, so you will see little native Amerindian culture. Costa Rica's indigenous peoples experienced a rapid decline in the years immediately following the Spanish settlement of the country in 1560, largely due to New World diseases such as smallpox and influenza. However, anyone who has time to spend, and whose Spanish is good enough, will find Costa Rica's character rooted in distinct local cultures, from the Afro-Caribbean province of Limn, with its Creole cuisine, games and patois, to the traditional ladino values embodied by the sabanero (cowboy) of Guanacaste. Above all, however long you spend in the country, and wherever you go, you're sure to be left with mental snapshots of la vida campesina, or rural life - whether it be aloof horsemen trotting by on dirt roads, coffee-plantation day-labourers setting off to work in the dawn mists of the Highlands, or avocado-pickers cycling home at sunset.
Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Atlanta Journal-Constitution
A thorough and even-handed look at Costa Rica.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781858283371
  • Publisher: Rough Guides, Limited
  • Publication date: 3/1/1999
  • Series: Rough Guides Travel Series
  • Edition description: 2nd Edition
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 432
  • Product dimensions: 5.12 (w) x 7.80 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Not Sure What To See First?
Check out our authors' picks of must-see sights, local hangouts and unforgettable activities.

Museo National
The Museo National chronicles San Jose's violent colonization and has a worthy collection of pre-Columbian artefacts and tools, such as corn-grinding tables carved from volcanic rock.

Parque Nacional
Parque Nacional is San Jose's top lounging area, its thick foliage and shady canopy providing a delightful oasis in the middle of the city.

Marisqueria La Princesa
If you're in the mood for seafood, head to one of San Jose's best-value restaurants, the Marisqueria La Princesa, and try the shrimps with garlic at one of their sidewalk tables.

Museo de Oro Precolumbiano
Crammed with gilt reptiles, arachnids and birds, the Museo de Oro Precolumbiano is literally a treasure trove of pre-Columbian shamanistic relics.

Splurge on the sea bass and eggplant crepes and other unusual delicacies at Nimbé restaurant, where there's also Marimba dancing on Sundays.

Plaza de la Cultura
You can buy handmade hammocks, leather bracelets, cozy Ecuadorian sweaters and other crafts at bargain prices in the Plaza de la Cultura's colourful stalls.

Even those on a tight budget can satisfy a hearty appetite at Shakti eatery - San Jose's version of a greasy spoon - where a filling meal of black bean soup, main course and dessert costs as little as US$2.50.

Museo de Jade
Prepare to be dazzled at the Museo de Jade, which houses a staggering amount of the raw stone and fine examples of carved pendants from birds to fertility symbols.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Getting there from North America
Getting there from the UK and Ireland
Getting there from Australia and New Zealand
Red tape and visas
Information and maps
Costs, money and banks
Getting around
Eating and drinking
Mail, phones and communications
The media
Crime and personal safety
Women travellers
Geography, climate and seasons
National parks and reserves
Outdoor activities
Public holidays and festivals
Gay and lesbian Costa Rica
Travelling with children
Work, volunteering and study
City transport
The City
Drinking and nightlife
The arts and entertainment
Shopping and markets
Moving on from San Jos
Around Alajuela
Around Heredia
Around Cartago
Travel details
San Jos to Puerto Limn
Puerto Limn and around
Cahuita village and Parque Nacional Cahuita
Puerto Viejo de Talamanca and around
Refugio Nacional de Vida Silvestre Gandoca-Manzanillo
Refugio Nacional de Fauna Silvestre Barra del Colorado
Parque Nacional Tortuguero
Travel details
Volcn Arenal and around
The far north
The Sarapiqu region
Travel details
The Ro Tempisque area
Liberia and around
La Cruz, the haciendas and the border
The Guanacaste beaches
Travel details
The Monteverde area
Puntarenas 273
The southern Nicoya Peninsula
South of Puntarenas
Quepos and Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio
Travel details
San Jos to San Isidro
Parque Nacional Chirrip
The Dominical area
Palmar to Baha Drake
Golfito and around
The Osa Peninsula
The Interamericana to Panam
Travel details
A brief history of Costa Rica
Landscape and wildlife
Time running out: the tropical forest
Conservation and tourism
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)