San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Bradt Guide to Costa Rica a Winner

The Bradt line of travel guides has made a name for itself dealing with some pretty far-flung destinations. The African nations of Benin, Gabon and Rwanda, for example, are all well covered in the series as the best-known – perhaps only – single-country guidebooks in English to those locales.

Costa Rica is nowhere near as off-thebeaten-path as Gabon, but, as of late last year, it became part of the Bradt canon, and is a superb addition to the series. Bradt joins the existing list of British-published guides (Insight, Rough, Footprint and Eyewitness) to Costa Rica.

“Costa Rica: The Bradt Travel Guide” is a first book from Larissa Banting, a Canadian teacher-slashwriter-slash-consultant who has lived and worked here since 2002.

At my first picking up of the book, my impression was:What could possibly be here? The work weighs in at 282 pages, relatively slim for a travel guide to Costa Rica, though easy to carry on the road. On top of that, the nutsand-bolts “Where to stay,” “Where to eat,” and “What to see” information, divided by region, doesn’t get under way until page 83.

Diving into the book erased my doubts. In those first 82 pages, exemplifying what a fellow guidebook writer likes to call a guidebook’s “boomph,” Banting provides a wealth of background material to Costa Rica. You’ll find the standard fare: Tico directions, holidays and transportation, among many topics, are all well covered in this section.

I did a double take at some of the information; the guide includes a section on avoidance of deep-vein thrombosis, the dangerous clots that could plague someone confined to an airplane cabin for long periods.

OK – that is a concern for a passenger on a 10-plus-hour flight from Europe, but most visitors taking the short jaunt from Miami wouldn’t give DVT much thought.

Much of pages 1-82 is downright fun, a quality missing from many travel books. How many guidebooks give you recipes for gallo pinto, Costa Rica’s signature rice-and-beans dish, or ensalada de repollo cabbage salad? In what other travel guide can you read a fun essay called “The Zombie Spiders of Costa Rica”? Who knew such a thing existed? And who knew that soccercrazy Costa Rica has a cricket sporting tradition? Only a British-published guide would unearth that one.

It all makes for enjoyable reading before, during or after your trip. Of course, there’s the planning part, too.

The last half of the book does a good job as the meat of any guidebook, the requisite “What do I need to know to get around?” section, with a good selection of lodging and dining listings for the nine regions into which it divides the country.

All in all, Bradt has published a good addition to the burgeoning number of guides to Costa Rica. And while British-published, it’s a valuable resource to the country no matter where you live.

“Costa Rica: The Bradt Travel Guide” is available for approximately $23.95 at bookstores in the United Kingdom, Europe and North America, as well as from Internet booksellers such as, or from the publisher’s Web site, The book is expected to be available in Costa Rica at Librería Internacional stores in the future.


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