Costa Rica

Most flights will land you smack-dab in the middle of the congested capital of San Jose, where taxis tear through the streets and locals push grocery carts full of fresh oranges, waiting and ready to be squeezed straight into your cup. Most visitors high-tail it out of San Jose as soon as the plane comes to a stop, but if you give it a chance, the city comes through. Get your souvenir shopping out of the way in its curio shops, stacked with beach-themed trinkets. Or, if your goal is to get your bronze on, gear up for the chaotic central bus station, and ride a couple hours to either the Pacific or Caribbean coasts.

The first stop along the Pacific is Jaco, a dirty beach town typically utilized as a weekend getaway from San Jose. If you’re willing to put in a little more bus time, however, the beaches get exponentially better. To the north lies Nicoya Peninsula and the surf town of Tamarindo, or the more upscale Moctezuma, which offers day trips to the Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve. If you’re the wildlife type, head south to Manuel Antonio. Mind your bag: monkeys have been known to unzip backpacks and snag unsuspecting snacks.

The rasta vibe seeps into everything on the Caribbean coast, from coconut drinks to green-, yellow- and red-painted mini-marts. Head over to Lima for an umbrella drink in a hammock and a chance to watch the sun rise over the calm, rolling waves. You can also bus up to Tortuguero National Park on the northern Caribbean coast, where a guided night stroll along the beach to find the famous Leatherback turtle will bring you nose to nose with a beautiful three- to six-foot giant.

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