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Recommended Books and Maps

Note: You can buy books at discounted rates through Amazon.com by following the publisher links on our selected books, or you can access our page with book content information and our recommendations by clicking on the title. Books in Bold are Luke's picks.

Tourist and Specific Guidebooks

History Politics and Society


Tourist and Specific Guidebooks

Lonely Planet Costa Rica
by Rob Rochowiecki, John Thompson ***Luke's Pick

Costa Rica has something for everyone: rain forests, beaches, volcanoes, coral reefs, white-water rapids, and wildlife--proof positive that good things come in small countries. In addition to its variety of tropical habitats, Costa Rica also boasts the best-developed conservation program in Latin America. This is good news for travelers who want to see exotic animals in their habitats--everything from sea turtles to sloths--or experience tropical habitats as nature intended them.

Whether you come to Costa Rica in search of great beaches (you can choose either the Caribbean or Pacific coasts), to climb an active volcano, or explore the coral reefs, Lonely Planet Costa Rica is the perfect companion. In addition to in-depth sections on history, politics, economy, the environment, and the arts, Lonely Planet also covers a host of activities, outfitters, and special tours. The guide lists a variety of accommodations from budget lodgings to luxury hotels and includes 54 maps of cities, towns, regions and parks as well as a 36-page wildlife guide. Lonely Planet Costa Rica is a traveler's best friend.

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Explore Costa Rica
by Harry S. Pariser

Synopsis

This extensive, up-to-date guide for Costa Rica is a welcome sight. Selected accommodations and restaurants span the scale from luxury to low budget, while the author's respectful, ecologically aware perspective contributes a progressive view of the sights and scenes encompassed in mountains and lowlands, rain forests, and beaches.

In-depth personable guide to Costa Rica, December 26, 2000 Reviewer: Julie from San Francisco I recently obtained a copy of Harry Pariser's guide to Costa Rica. I was very excited about reading his book. A couple of years ago I spent over six months travelling through Costa Rica and had happened upon an earlier guidebook by Mr. Pariser at a hotel I stayed at in the Osa Peninsula. I enjoyed it immensely. So, as I opened my copy of 'Costa Rica Complete', I anticipated thorough research and genuine enthusiasm to be displayed in the book. I was not in the least disappointed. It is refreshing to feel the writer's personality shine through the text and he does a thorough job of detailing the information a fellow traveler needs to make his or her trip a fantastic one. I highly recommend this book!

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Costa Rica's National Parks and Preserves: A Visitor's Guide, Second Edition
by Joseph Franke***Luke's Pick

Unspoiled beaches, tropical jungles, volcanic mountains, exotic wildlife-Costa Rica's natural areas and preserves offer remarkable geographical and biological diversity for adventure-loving travelers. With complete profiles of forty accessible parks and preserves, including five newly protected areas, this book guides visitors through the unique terrain, and discusses each area's climate, flora, and fauna. Whether you are a hiker seeking a panoramic view from a volcanic summit, a kayaker longing to glide down river under a jungle canopy, or a naturalist eager to observe an incredible array of exotic wildlife, this guide is the key to exploring Costa Rica's best natural areas with an emphasis on environmental awareness.

Explorers will find descriptions of hikes, nature walks, and water trails, plus information on each park's facilities, attractions, and history. Hikes range from short walks to extended backpacking trips, and a complete planning section details when to go, what to expect, what to bring, and health precautions.

A guide to the biologically and geographically diverse parks of Costa Rica profiles fifty-four national parks and preserves, including information about hiking and nature trails and the environmental wonders of each region.

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Costa Rica: The Ecotravellers' Wildlife Guide
by Les Beletsky ***Luke's Pick

As ecotourism booms, it's only natural that eco-themed guidebooks would boom alongside it. The Ecotravellers' Wildlife Guides series, endorsed by the Wildlife Conservation Society and researched by professional biologists, is one of the more credible brands to have surfaced in the swelling ecotravel ranks. The series provides an encyclopedic introduction to Central America's flora and fauna, as well as a friendly primer on the principles of ecotourism. These rich ecological contexts are accompanied by hundreds of pictures and photographs. Miraculously, the guides deliver solid science without growing stilted or boring--as evinced by sections with such titles as "Avian Mating Systems and Birds That Cheat" and "Frugivory: Animals That Eat Fruit and the Trees That Want Them To." The one element in surprisingly short supply is ecologically sound travel tips, from general do's and don'ts to a list of ecologically responsible tour operators and other eco-friendly establishments in Costa Rica. This is somewhat discouraging--learning how to travel responsibly is as important as knowing what you're going to see. Though the book isn't quite a one-stop information source for the ecologically minded, it's an excellent guide to the natural wonders that make Costa Rica such a rewarding destination..

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A Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica
by F. Gary Stiles, et al***Luke's Pick

The Bible for whoever goes Bird-watching in Costa Rica, June 27, 1999

Reviewer: Martin_Pruimers@bigfoot.com from Spijkenisse (near Rotterdam), The Netherlands A guide with everything you'd possibly wish for. The only thing left after having read this book is go out and watch them, and use this book to easily identify them. You can tell the good (human) guides in Costa Rica from the bad guides by the use they make of this book: bad guides claim they don't need it; good guides know you can't do without it!.

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Costa Rican Natural History
by Daniel H. Janzen (editor)

Book Description

This volume is a synthesis of existing knowledge about the flora and fauna of Costa Rica. The major portion of the book consists of detailed accounts of agricultural species, vegetation, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, birds, and insects.

This is an extraordinary, virtually unique work. . . . The tremendous amount of original, previously unpublished, firsthand information is remarkable.--Peter H. Raven, Director, Missouri Botanical Garden font>

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Adventures in Nature Costa Rica
by Ree Scheck***Luke's Pick

With Adventures in Nature: Costa Rica, you'll get top choices instead of a long, comprehensive list that leaves you wondering which way to turn for environmentally friendly adventure. You'll find a wide variety of accommodation and dining options, along with lots of maps that make it easy to organize your trip and locate where you want to go once you arrive in Costa Rica. Plus, you'll get an explanation of the country's new "green seal" for tourist-related businesses, with details on how to find out which hotels and private reserves have earned it.

Natural History Tourism At Its Best, September 17, 1999

Costa Rica has it all--volcanoes, rainforests, beaches, cosmopolitan cities, whitewater rivers, and a rich tapestry of cultures--and so does this guidebook. Ree Sheck has done a terrific job of focusing on what's best about this amazing country, particularly with respect to its natural history, parks, and wildlife. There's a lot of information about hotels, restaurants, services, and transportation -- certainly enough for any traveler -- but where this guidebook really shines is in its description of the land, the people, and the natural resources of Costa Rica. I can't recommend it highly enough. Buy a copy and go!

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History Politics and Society

The Ticos : Culture and Social Change in Costa Rica
by Biesanz***Luke's Pick

Heading for Costa Rica? Take this book, July 3, 2000
Reviewer: Norma from Grecia, Costa Rica
Heading for Costa Rica? Take The Ticos along with a guidebook. The Ticos is a fascinating and beautifully written account of Costa Rica, past and present. The authors bring to bear on the subject their more than half-century of residence in the country, as well as their formidable anthropological expertise. As a permanent resident of Costa Rica, I compared my own observations and experiences with those of the Bizantzs. For every topic examined - community, health care, religion, family, education and so forth, the authors' descriptions were consistent with my own, and their keen analyses deepened my understanding of the country I have adopted as my own.
Beyond what The Ticos tells us about Costa Rica, this book is also extremely valuable for its examination of the effects of structural adjustment economic policies imposed on this country by the international financial institutions and by the United States (through bilateral agreements) as conditions for loans. These policies are having the same deleterious effects worldwide on developing countries. Normally, discussions of the impact of structural adjustment policies are abstract and academic. The Ticos, in contrast, provides us with a concrete and specific assessment of the "fall out" institution by institution, free of technical jargon. For foreign residents of Costa Rica (and prospective residents) I would say this book is a "must". But even short-term tourists will benefit from reading it.

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A Place in the Rain Forest : Settling the Costa Rican Frontier
by Darrel Cole-Christensen
***Luke's Pick

vocation of the Rainforest, April 13, 2000
Reviewer: Brian from Costa Rica
It is beautifully written--- the writer must also be a poet. The evocation of the forest, the air and the rain, the sweating labor of the horses and the men, the mud, all was done very well. The fine language combined with the author's humility made this an unusual book to come out of a backwoods experience. It is about farming on the frontier but it is also very much about his own growth!

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Costa Rica in Focus
by Tjabel Daling

Distinctive among the turbulent nations of Central America, Costa Rica enjoys a much-envied reputation for political stability and prosperity. Since abolishing its army in 1948, the "Switzerland of Central America" has experienced unbroken democratic rule and respect for human rights. Yet this small country has also been drastically affected by the debt crisis of the 1980s and ensuing structural adjustment, with resulting increases in poverty and social inequality. Though its economy was traditionally based on coffee and bananas, Costa Rica is now among the world's top eco-tourism destinations. The influx of tourists brings vital income and employment but also threatens to spoil the country's spectacular natural beauty. Costa Rica in Focus is an authoritative and up-to-date guide to this fascinating country. It explores: The history, the economy, the society, the environment, the culture and where to go and what to see.
Great Book!, June 22, 1999
Reviewer: leonie@ilisa.com from San Jose, Costa Rica Hi, I am working at ILISA Spanish Language Institute in San Jose, Costa Rica and I just want to say that this book helps our students a lot by giving them helpful inside information and thus by getting to know all the ins and outs about this fantastic country. Thanks!

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Coffee and Power : Revolution and the Rise of Democracy in Central America
by Jeffery M. Paige
***Luke's Pick

Over the past three decades, nearly every Central American nation has been at some stage of revolution, and understanding the numerous conflicts required a keen grasp of local politics. The facts were especially hard to discern because other countries, principally the United States, were throwing their weight around and muddying the political water. Now with a nascent peace shakily in place in Guatemala, the last conflict has come to an end, and Jeffrey M. Paige sheds some necessary light on the issues without lumping the entire region together. By focusing on the lucrative and influential business of coffee production and its connection to politics, Coffee and Power: Revolution and the Rise of Democracy in Central America looks at the shift toward democracy from the perspective of the elite class of coffee growers. Though the different nations share a common agricultural mainstay, the socioeconomic realities vary greatly, and Paige expertly negotiates the subtleties of each.
Outstanding study of comparative commodity politics!, February 1, 2000

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The Sparrow and the Hawk : Costa Rica and the United States During the Rise of Jose Figueres
by Kyle Longley)
***Luke's Pick

A Using Costa Rica as an example, Longley carefully examines the development of the successful relationship between a nonindustrialized country and the United States, revealing the complex forces at work in resistance and accommodation. During World War II and the immediate postwar era, both the United States and Costa Rica experienced dramatic changes. The United States assumed world leadership and the accompanying responsibilities; Costa Rica encountered far-reaching difficulties that culminated in civil war in 1948 and the rise to power of Jose Figueres. Longley examines why the United States supported Figueres and emphasizes the history and role of Costa Ricans, primarily the figueristas, in maintaining good relations in such a difficult era.
Kyle Longley wrote a passionate book about Figueres, September 10, 1998 Reviewer: A reader from San José, Costa Rica. The Sparrow and the Hawk is one of the most beautiful books I have ever read. It explains how Jose Figueres was able to flirt with socialism and capitalism, but at the same time avoid both extremes. Figueres´s tactics enabled him to calm the F.B.I and the C.I.A., in times when the common enemy was communism. Above all this, Longley can be regarded as an authority on El 48. The people of Costa Rica thank you (Longley)for contributing with such a work to our history. Certainly, the younger generations of Ticos will not forget for what our ancestors fought.

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The Costa Ricans
by Biesanz Family

Associated with the country for more than forty years, the authors insightfully describe and interpret the character and customs of the people of Costa Rica. Their sympathetic account challenges the myths of equitable income distribution, broad-scale landowning patterns, and Costa Rica as Utopia. In this sense, Costa Rica resembles much of the rest of Latin America. The Biesanzes note, however, that Costa Rica does differ from its neighbors in its peaceful settlement of political disputes, in the commitment to education, and in its blunting of class differences.

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The New Golden Door to Retirement and Living in Costa Rica
by Christopher Howard

Wall Street Journal
You'll get the insiders' low down for living and investing in Costa Rica from this GREAT BOOK.
Debiem Gomez Residents Association of Costa Rica
We highly recommend this guidebook to ALL of our members and to anyone else thinking of living in Cost Rica...
Invaluable Help For Would-Be Residents, August 1, 2000

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Adventures in Costa Rica

The wildlife and natural beauty of Costa Rica is unsurpassed. Paddle a jungle canal; witness thousands of nesting sea turtles, watch the nocturnal fireworks of volcanic eruptions while relaxing in hot springs; stroll through the miraculous Manual Antonio park; raft class V rivers; shower in waterfalls; search for birds and bright orchids in prime-growth rainforest. Our documentaries, photos, and travel tips give you all you need to discover Costa Rica by yourself.

Return to : Adventures in Costa Rica


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