The best way to learn about a new country is through the excellent Travel Guides and Costa Rica has a few. If you need personal opinions of where to go we'd be happy to offer them. Each traveler will find something new in any one of these. We thank the authors for the entries in all the guide books.
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELER
An unusually useful book!
I would highly recommend this book as a companion to any of the listed guide books. The photography is gorgeous, good history and excellent overviews for each region of Costa Rica.
But there's something more you won't grasp until you are here. Imagine this . . . you spent the last 3 nights at a lovely beach in Nosara (it is the dry season), you have heard that Santa Teresa and Malpais are places you just must explore, your 4WD RAV4 you rented way back in Alajuela is heading south and your spouse leans over and tries to explain some obvious logic you seem to have missed "Um er um honey, our map has no roads . . . where do you THINK you are going today!"
You feel the 4WD steady underneath you on the dirt track as you head south out of Nosara and smile, "try Page 148 in the Nat Geo book, I marked it for you." Your smile broadens as you remember the bit about the Rio Bongo crossing.
NEW KEY TO COSTA RICA
Beatrice Blake's eco-travel tome.
An excellent work and check out her eco-tours. Travel with your own expert on Costa Rica. Beatrice is an expert on the "roads less traveled" in Costa Rica. If you are interested in rural tourism, her guide book is a must.
The new edition has been much revised and the focus on rural tourism makes her work unique. She also helps support the efforts of the rural tourism association (ACTUAR). The Pura Vida Hotel is proud to be on her green rated hotels list
From the current Guide Book, "About a kilometer down the road to Tuetal is Hotel Pura Vida(private bath, hot water) a friendly place with bungalows in a hillside garden. Two bungalows have two bedrooms. Owners Berni and Nhi are welcoming hosts; Nhi makes delicious dinners for guests, using her Chinese grandmother's recipes, having fun with local fruit (homemade pineapple ginger sorbet), and decorating everything with flowers. Their website has a wealth of information. Airport pick up included. Recommended."
MOON HANDBOOK COSTA RICA
The Moon Guide book by Christopher Baker does a very thorough job indeed.
Particularly useful are his local maps and commentaries on what to expect. When you read Chris's work you know that a like minded soul has traveled there before you. Now Cuba is opening up you'll want his unique and excellent Cuba book.
How he is able to cover so much ground is remarkable. The book is set up with an excellent index and is overall well organized. He has a excellent suggestions for different routes to take - most useful if you are renting a car. This is the book we carried when we were tourists here years ago and keep a new edition in the car for our frequent explorations in country.
The book comes with a nice "suggested reading" section, excellent town maps as well as other thoughtful additions you won't always find in a guide book.
RUM & REGGAE'S COSTA RICA
Lots of details in the excellent Rum & Reggae Costa Rica Guide.
At 592 pages this is also the largest guide book on Costa Rica to date with a very useful index making things easy to find. We think that is the main purpose of a guide book? They have a section on Costa Rican Superlatives - you could use this as a list of "must sees" and route yourselves around these locations. They think of their book as "travel with an opinion" and it is. We don't even know when they visited us so they are pretty good "secret shoppers".
Here's a snippet from their nice review:
"It's a pleasure to wake up among the twenty varieties of fruit trees-such as mango, star fruit, avocado, guava, and grape fruit-while being bathed in volcano views. Gracious hosts amid a serene setting-after a night, all we could say was pura vida! "
OPEN ROAD's BEST OF COSTA RICA
Charlie Morris's different way of doing a travel guide - we like it and he was very kind to us though we did not know he stayed here.
This book makes no pretense at trying to cover ALL the territory. The author, Charlie Morris, has extensive Costa Rican experience and here he ONLY looks at the "best of this" or the "most interesting of that". This actually would make an essential second guide book purchase with ANY other guide book.
So for example in our area he shows three don't miss items on page 32 - Poas Volcano, the Doka Coffee plantation and the delightful local zoo, Zoo Ave. We agree wholeheartedly!
In the Pura Vida Hotel review on page 130 under "Best Sleeps and Eats" he notes "the gardens are filled with an astonishing variety of flowering things. There is a small orchid garden." And concludes his review with . . . "This is one of my favorites. Be sure to get in on one of their fabulous dinners".
EXPLORE COSTA RICA
From Harry Pariser, the eclectic writer based in the bay area of California and a frequent visitor to Costa Rica..
Travel tips, photos, and information on Costa Rica. Explore the nooks and crannies as Harry digs into what makes Costa Rica tick. This book has a good introduction to Costa Rica section with good animal sections as well as potted history to help you understand the people and culture better.
His latest edition just out has an excellent 100 page introduction to Costa Rica including a nice concise history you won't find in some guides as well as a detailed "practicalities" section. If you like Harry's writing email him for his daily news emails about life in the real world.
FODORS COSTA RICA
Perhaps the most well known and most used of the travel guides due to their global coverage.
Fodor's has a section covering "the sights, restaurants, hotels, and other travel experiences" which are "the best of their type in Costa Rica, not be missed and always worth your time." Last year Fodors writers combed the country in more detail and each year the book has had major improvements to make it often the most current book.
The latest book improves again with better organization and good detail. As you'd expect there is a thorough travel tips section. Each chapter covers a region with "a Top 5 reasons to go". There is a pull out map at the back to help orient you while you plan your routes at home. Recommended.
"Pura Vida Hotel, Alajuela. Perched on a ridge in the countryside north of town, this small collection of bungalows and rooms offers views of tropical gardens and distant Poas Volcano, a mere 10 minutes from the international airport."Fodors went on to note: "Some of these bright and cheery bungalows have separate bedrooms, and most of them have small terraces with chairs. Continental breakfasts and delicious dinners are served in a covered terrace behind the house. The helpful owners and proximity to the airport (15 minutes) make this a good place to begin and end a trip.
SLEEPING WITH THE TOUCANS
The 100 best places to stay in Costa Rica
Pura Vida Hotel appreciates the inclusion in this "guide book". But this is not really a guide book - the authors didn't just visit with each of us. If they enjoyed their stay they then asked us who we enjoyed staying with and went and visited them too.
This book is thus an excellent compendium of local knowledge assembled, pondered,visited and written by Alison & Chris who are also Costa Rican residents. This book doesn't replace a good Fodors, Moon or New Key guide book but if you enjoy good eats and good pillows with welcoming hosts you'll want to bring this one too.
We keep a copy in the car for our travels here - we know there'll be a place in it "we'd love to stay at".
FROMMERS COSTA RICA
A standard with good Costa Rican coverage.
This one was written by a local who knows his way around Costa Rica. The organization is by area with lots of travel tips and vacation planning advice.
Lonely Planet and shoestring guides with a reputation for finding you the best deals.
This guide book has a bunch of interesting "facts for visitors" and detailed maps though we'd like more town maps. There is a built in wild life guide that has a good overview of what you can see in many parts of Costa Rica.
The Costa Rica Handbook
As they say "Critical listings of the best and most interesting places to stay, eat, drink and party. Costa Rica: mysterious, magical, secretive..."
Well I dunno?
ROUGH GUIDE to COSTA RICA
If you have used them before you will be familiar with the style.
From Amazon, "The guide features practical tips for exploring the outdoors from trekking the lush cloudforest reserve at Monteverde to rafting down the rivers of Valle Central.
There are plenty of practical tips on all the best accommodation, transportation, shops, bars and clubs and an insightful background on Costa Rica's wildlife, politics and culture."
LET'S GO COSTA RICA
One of the budget travel guides.
As they like to claim " For independent travelers on a budget, with an emphasis on whatever's hip, fun or free. Hmmm but they didn't find us on their last update! As an Amazon reviewer notes, "Perfect for younger travelers or those on a budget."
Doesn't really work for us.
INSIGHT POCKET GUIDE
We also like the Discovery Channel INSIGHT POCKET GUIDE to Costa Rica - an excellent overview of the history and evolution of the country.
The information on the culture is excellent and the parks are very well covered. But this is not a guide book per se.
Visit TripAdvsor to read articles and reviews about Alajuela hotels and attractions.
OK not a guide book but has become an essential element in guiding people accurately around places to stay in Costa Rica.