When you think of Costa Rica, what do you imagine? For many, the words rainforests, beaches, and volcanoes come to mind. While all of those things can be found here, there’s so much more to be explored!
As home to 4% of the world’s biodiversity, found in an area smaller than the state of West Virginia, Costa Rica is comprised of many different climatic zones (12, to be specific). These zones range from tropical dry forests to mountain ranges, and can vary greatly in temperature and rainfall, as well as wildlife and flora and fauna. Here is a basic rundown of the different zones you can expect to find, and some popular areas where you can find them:
A staple of Costa Rica, rainforests are characterized by dense vegetation, with a thick canopy that does not allow much light to arrive to permeate down below. Rainfall is common here, and can be very heavy depending upon the time of year. Often rich in flora and fauna, although dense enough that fauna can sometimes be difficult to spot. Generally hot and humid.
Where to find it: Central Pacific Coast (Manuel Antonio), South Pacific Coast (Uvita and the Osa Peninsula), Northern Lowlands (Arenal), Caribbean Coast (Tortuguero and Limón)
Tropical dry forest
This climatic zone is a little more surprising, but takes up a large portion of the Costa Rican landscape. Found in the northern part of the country, this area is characterized by a hot, dry climate, and a much less dense forest. While it does not have quite as big of a range of biodiversity as its rainforest counterpart, the thinner vegetation often leads to easier spotting of the wildlife that is around.
Where to find it: Guanacaste (Tamarindo) and the Nicoya Peninsula (Nosara and Malpaís)
Similar to a rainforest, a cloud forest is found at higher altitudes, resulting in overall cooler (and sometimes cold) temperatures. Often foggy and rainy, cloud forests are home to dense vegetation, as well as a large variety of flora and fauna. It is the only zone in which you can see the Resplendent Quetzal.
Where to find it: Central highlands (Monteverde, Tilarán)
The beaches of Costa Rica, characterized by hot, humid weather. These beaches can be surrounded by rainforests or tropical dry forest.
Where to find it: Guanacaste and the Nicoya Peninsula (surrounded by dry tropical forest), Manuel Antonio, Dominical/Uvita, the Osa Peninsula, and the Caribbean Coast (surrounded by rainforest)
The highest points in the country, characterized by cool (often cold) temperatures, and sparse vegetation. While the biodiversity may not be as heavy as lower level forests, the views are absolutely spectacular, and certain bird species thrive only in these climates.
Where to find it: Cerro de la Muerte, Chirripó
Characterized by its volcanic activity, volcanoes can be found in varying climates around the country. Picking which volcano to visit is often dependent upon which climate zone you want to visit.
Where to find it: Arenal (rainforest volcano), Irazu (high level rainforest), Miravalles (dry tropical forest)