Published July 10, 2007
If you're interested in visiting Costa Rica in your future travels, this interview might inspire you to explore this natural wonderland. Norm Goldman, editor of websites www.Sketchandtravel.com and www.BookPleasures.com, is speaking with Erin Van Rheenen, an expert on travel to Costa Rica and the author of Living Abroad in Costa Rica.
Good day Erin and thank you for accepting our invitation to be interviewed. Please tell our readers something about yourself and your expertise pertaining to Costa Rica.
I’ve been travelling since I can remember, starting at the age of three, when my parents moved us from Portland, Oregon, to Lagos, Nigeria. That living abroad stint lasted two years, and since then I’ve lived in many places, including Ireland, Mexico, New York (a foreign capitol in its own right), Guatemala, Ecuador, and most recently, Costa Rica. I’ve traveled throughout the Americas and Europe, and have a running list of places I still want to visit.
I’m also the author of Living Abroad in Costa Rica, a guide for people who are thinking of moving to that country. The first edition came out in Winter 2004, and gives readers candid and comprehensive information on real estate, immigration, the business climate, private and public schools, expat social life, and Costa Rican history and culture. I describe in detail the various parts of the country, trying to give people an idea of what it would be like to live there.
I feel that having lived in many different countries gives me a broader perspective—I can better appreciate what’s unique to Costa Rica, like its political and economic stability, and the fact that nearly 25% of its territory is set aside in nature reserves and national parks.
More complete information (including my Top Ten Favorite Places in Costa Rica) can be found on my web site, www.livingabroadincostarica.com.
Where is Costa Rica and how easy is it to travel from the United States, Canada or Europe to this country?
Costa Rica is right in the middle of the Americas, at the northern end of the narrow isthmus that connects North and South America. Of the seven countries that make up Central America, Costa Rica is the second smallest (El Salvador is the smallest). Despite its diminutive size (it’s about the size of West Virginia), Costa Rica has two beautiful coastlines (the Pacific and the Atlantic, also called the Caribbean), lush rainforests, active volcanoes, and great adventure travel options like rafting, hiking, and surfing.
It’s easy to get to Costa Rica from North America. It’s a three-hour flight from Miami, five hours from New York City, seven hours from Los Angeles, and eight and a half hours from Toronto. You don’t need to apply for a visa—a valid passport is sufficient. When you arrive in Costa Rica they automatically stamp your passport with a visa good for 90 days.
What is the best time to visit Costa Rica from the point of view of weather, costs, crowds, and the availability of flights from the USA, Canada and Europe and Australia, etc?
In terms of weather, there are two seasons: from early December through the end of April is the dry season, sometimes called summer, while May through November is the wet or “green” season. Different parts of the country have slightly different weather patterns. The Caribbean (Atlantic) coast, for instance, has more rainfall overall, and its driest month is often September, when the rest of the country is absorbing heavy rains.
Tourist high season coincides with dry season (Dec – April), with a second mini-high season during the Northern hemisphere’s summer — June, July, and August—when kids are out of school and families take their vacations. Around Christmas and New Year’s is what you might call a hyper-high season, with prices shooting up and availability going down. If you plan a wedding or getaway around Christmastime, make sure you’re planning ahead — more than a year ahead for some of the most popular areas. Easter is a very important local holiday, and the week leading up to Easter Sunday sees the country all but shut down, as Costa Ricans head for their excellent beaches and national parks.
Some hotels, tour operators, and car rental outfits offer green season (May-November) discounts, and you’re likely to find the crowds thinning out a bit during those months. The rains can be prodigious, although they often come and go quickly, leaving the rest of the day for you to enjoy the outdoors.
A variety of flights from North America, Europe, and Australia are available year round.
How safe is it to travel to Costa Rica?
There is far less violent crime in Costa Rica than there is in, say, the United States, and political violence is almost unheard of here. Costa Rica has a history of pacificism that dates back to the abolition of its army in 1949. Unlike neighbouring republics, the country has no guerrillas, no political prisoners, and no military coups. It is known for its stability and its relative prosperity.