- The New Key to Costa Rica by Beatrice Blake and Anne Becher. This book is a wonderful guide for travelers who would like to patronize lodges, parks, etc. that are dedicated to the conservation of the ecology and support the culture and economy. They have developed a sustainable tourism rating system with recommendations on the destinations that received the highest marks in their surveys. This book also gives a wonderful background on the history and culture of Costa Rica.
Lonely Planet Costa Rica by Rob Rachowiecki. The Lonely Planet guides are popular, and for good reason. This book is very thorough and covers all types of accommodations, places to eat, things to do. The book is laid out conveniently in categories according to budget. It also has a great color wildlife guide in the back with useful photos and summary descriptions of the native species.
Web Sites for planning
Costa Rica Tourism Board A general site about what to see and do in Costa Rica. (Warning: graphics/script intensive site - slow to load)
Costa Rica Tourism and Travel Bureau A great site for planning what activities to include in your trip. They are also a travel agency that will book what you want, and even arrange for your own driver. We worked with them and we had a perfect trip.
Center for Disease Control Health information for travelers to Mexico and Central America
White water rafting and kayaking Pick a river trip from here.
Lonely Planet A good destination guide to get you started.
Deja.com If you check out the discussions in the travel section, you can sometimes find some good advice.
When you are eating your way around Costa Rica, you will find Lizano salsa on almost every table. It is a tangy sauce that is delicious on just about everything. We found out it is the secret ingredient in their "comida tipica" (a mixture of rice, beans, cilantro, onions, and Lizano served with meat or eggs.) If you come home and find yourself craving Lizano and comida tipica, here's a place you can order yourself some Lizano!
The sounds of Costa Rica will play a major part of your experience there. You will almost always be influenced by some peaceful or mysterious sound: birds, insects, animals, the rain etc. While in Monteverde, I picked up the CD Voices of the Cloud Forest at Chunches, a bookstore/office supplies/laundromat/snack bar in the village of Santa Elena, diagonally across from the Banco Nacional near the bus stop. Whenever I listen to it, it really takes me back and helps me recall the sense of calm I felt there. The CD has two parts: the first half is just the sounds of Costa Rica, uninterrupted but helpfully indexed, and the second half is the same soundtrack, but narrated. The narrated half I don't care for, but the first half is great. Due to "intellectual property" issues, I cannot post sounds from the CD for you, but you might be able to order it from Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology and also find some other great bird sounds and info.