A small and very friendly Central America country located between Nicaragua and Panama! On the Caribbean coast and the Pacific Ocean, it offers paradise beaches along vast national parks. Although perfect for a laid-back vacation, it is above all a paradise for ecotourism with flora and fauna that represents 5% of the world's biodiversity. Add to it the hundred volcanoes, some of which are still in activity. The destination has been popular for a long time in the North American LGBT community finding a safe country, welcoming and where the tropical climate is pleasant all year round. While fifteen years ago friendly places were mainly located in San José and Manuel Antonio, they now spread over the whole country. In May 2014, the new President did not hesitate to fly our rainbow flag over the Presidential palace in solidarity with LGBT communities. A destination where you will feel well... Welcome to paradise!
When to go?
Costa Rica has a tropical climate, hence a dry season and another humid. The dry season lasts from December to April. The weather is hot, it does note rain and the sky is blue. It is the best time to visit the country but prices are high. From May to November, during the rainy season, the weather is more unpredictable, but rain falls can be rare. So it is not not at all disturbing and temperatures (25°C on average) are very pleasant. Prices are more reasonable except in July /August. The big Marcha de la Diversidad or San José gay pride takes place every year at the end of June and terminates in Parque Central. Check outtheir website or Facebook. Therefore you can travel to Costa Rica about all year round.
What to see
Surprising that such a small country offers such a diversity of landscape and biodiversity. Two weeks seem a minimum to tour the must-see sights. You will arrive at San José, the capital city, which has a beautiful city centre and some interesting museums including the National Museum or the museum of Oro Precolombiano. North of the Caribbean coast, the national park of Tortugero is an amazing lake estate with a large biodiversity and eleven different habitats. You can see turtles laying eggs there. Further south, Puerto Viejo is a rather lively seaside area and at the end of the coast is Cahuita, its national park and playa blanca. The trails that borders it are a paradise for sloths and howler monkeys. There are also coral reefs and snorkelling possibilities. The central valley offers an opportunity to approach the volcanoes including the Poas, Irazu or Turrialba. The other volcano region is Guanacaste in the north, with the Arenal or Rincon de la Vieja. Approaching volcanoes is very interesting and offers many walks with waterfalls, hot springs, fumaroles and craters, most them no longer active. The famous quetzals bird, the emblem of the country can be approached in the Savegre valley in the Southwest mountains. On the Pacific Coastis the Osa peninsula in the South, whose beaches are famous for surfers. Quépos Manuel Antonio, 200 km from there, is the second gay area (after the capital city San José) of the country. The area has lost its glory a bit because of a very important development of tourism and the arrival of a classic hotel on the "gay" beach of the country, the famous Playita which now has to be shared. But national parks are lush and you will get to lie on your towel next to iguanas; while capuchin monkeys monitor your picnic basket carefully! Further north on the same coast, the peninsula of Nicoya offers beautiful beaches and other parks.
What you must do
With 5% of the world's biodiversity present in the country, the observation of the fauna and flora is the main activity of the trip. Sloths, monkeys, very green frogs with the globulous eyes (or the poisonous blue frog), quetzals. And also more than 2000 species of orchids and dense primary forests! You are in an eco-tourism paradise ideal for hiking or practicing canopy. It is actually here that it was invented by researchers to better penetrate the forest and discover it from above. Beaches are also splendid be it on the Caribbean coast near Cahuita or along the 1200 kms of the Pacific coast. You will enjoy the sun, go snorkelling or surfing in a preserved environment. You can also do nothing, rest and enjoy the quiet life and extraordinary kindness of the people. A philosophy of life which is illustrated by the national motto Pura vida.
Not necessarily a big country in terms of gastronomy but you can eat quite well. Rice (el arroz) is very present and you can eat it in many variations, as well as the red or black beans (los frijoles) with vegetables, beef, chicken and fish. We loved the ceviche which is fish (or seafood) cooked in lime with onions, corn, peppers and coriander. The iconic dish is the casado (or the groom because a husband is entitled to this at least) with rice, red beans, fried plantain banana, onions, tomatoes, eggs... Really very rich! On desserts’ side, it’s hard to resist a dulce de leche or simply the tropical fruits produced locally.
Costa Ricans are very sociable and festive. You can easily engage in conversation with them and integrate their group of friends. San José, the capital city is bustling with quite few gay or gay friendly bars. Manuel Antonio is the other region in the country where there is gay nightlife. Elsewhere, in the country, some establishments are a meeting point for local gays, but in general, you will be welcomed joyfully.
In San José, we have discovered El 13 or Al Despite its gogo dancers on Saturdays. Puchos Night Club (at the corner of Av.8 and 11th St) and Bochinche (Calle 11) offer drag shows while La Avispa (Calle 1 between 8th and 10th AV) is another popular nightclub on Sunday afternoons. For bears and their admirers, get to La Cueva del Oso, while lesbians rather choose Buenas Vibraciones Bar or Castilla Bar.
In Manuel Antonio, there is Café Milagro which is very popular on afternoons certainly because it is ideally located to "monitor" the access to the gay beach of Playita. Mogambo on the 2nd floor of the restaurant Raphael' s Terrazas is a good spot for a drink facing the sunset. Karma Lounge has a beautiful view on the jungle. Ask your hotel for the more recent openings and the trendy places of the moment.
In Puerto Viejo, there is the club and the restaurant Azul in the gay friendly hotel with the same name. Many go there without being residents.
Where to sleep
How to organize your trip
Equiped with a good travel guide, it will not be very difficult to define an itinerary and then book directly by phone or internet. Costa Rica is a safe destination whose only flaw is to be a little expensive. Otherwise, there is always the possibility to go through an agency, which simplifies things a lot. Ernesto's by Gecko Trail Adventures is used to working with the LGBT and even has special packages.
To go out and get more details on places available, the website Costa Rica Gay Map (in English) is a treasure of information. Gente 10 is the magazine of the community. Finally, we recommend you to visit Librería Nuestras Letras which is the only gay bookshop in San José.