Lush Costa Rica, rich in biodiversity and natural bounty showcased in its numerous national parks, is a paradise for animal and nature lovers alike. More than 25 percent of the country consists of national parks and protected areas. Visitors can take an eerie hike through humid Monteverde Cloud Forest, amid dangling roots, trunk-like vines and twisted trees layered with thick green vegetation while birds sing and howler monkeys roar. At night, watch the flowing lava light show of cone-shaped Arenal Volcano, one of the country’s four active volcanoes.

This peaceful, politically stable country, which has not had an army since 1949 and whose population has an outstanding academic level, has other attractions as well. The capital metropolis of San Jose offers a National Theater, museums, parks and historic sites. Heredia is appreciated for its colonial heritage, traditional architecture such as adobe houses and coffee plantations. Guanacaste and Puntarenas are known for their spectacular beaches and hotels.

Costa Rica is one of the world's most popular destinations for eco-tourists because of its biodiversity. Both tropical plant and animal species abound in Costa Rica, including huge ficus trees with epiphytes abounding on their limbs to approximately 1,500 different species of orchids. The animals are equally as impressive, including jaguars, crocodiles, and green and scarlet macaws.

Bird watching is one of the most popular tourist activities in Costa Rica, which has more than 800 species. Top bird-watching spots include the Monteverde Cloud Forest, Tortuguero National Park, Santa Rosa National Park, Cahuita National Park, La Sevla Biological Station and Helconia Island.

There are also impressive volcanoes, mountain areas, rivers, lakes and beaches throughout Costa Rica. Costa Rica is one of the most seismologically active countries in the Western Hemisphere, and as a result several volcanoes have sprouted over the years -- notably Poas, Irazu and Arenal. The most popular beaches are on the Pacific side, but the Caribbean side has many excellent -- and relatively uncrowded -- beaches as well.

Costa Rican cuisine can be described as simple but wholesome. Though not as hot and spicy as many cuisines in Latin America, the dishes of Costa Rican simmer in a large pot, and so the flavors are blended. Gallo pinto is a mixture of rice and beans with a little cilantro or onion thrown in. Casado is the typical lunch in Costa Rica, containing rice and beans with meat, chicken or fish, always served with salad and fried plantain.

Juan Santamaria Airport is located near the cities of Alajuela, Heredia and the capital city of San Jose. The airport is served by American, Continental, Delta, Frontier, JetBlue, Spirit, United, US Airways and others. Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport is near Liberia in the Guanacaste province, in the northwestern region of the country, and is served by Delta, American, United, Continental, and other international and regional carriers. Within Costa Rica, there is an extensive and reliable network of bus routes with reasonable fares, and taxis and mini-vans are also available. Rental cars are widely available, but renting a car can be expensive.

In general, the tropical climate in Costa Rica is pleasant not only during the dry season, from December to April, but also during the rainy season, which runs from May to November. Costa Rica has an average temperature of 72º, though temperatures are considerably higher in the coastal areas, and considerably lower in the mountain regions. The busier time of the year for travelers to Costa Rica is November to May. Still, many visitors prefer the quieter, though wetter days from June to October.