Costa Rica Books

5 Must Read Books about Costa Rica

Costa Rica Books

Boasting epic biodiversity and breathtaking landscapes, Costa Rica has captivated travelers from around the world. Yet beyond the postcard-worthy beaches and rainforests lies a rich cultural tapestry and turbulent history that has shaped the national identity.

Gain a deeper understanding of this socially progressive country by immersing yourself in celebrated literary works penned by local authors. In this blog post, we shine the spotlight on the top books for illuminating perspectives on Costa Rica’s vibrant essence and pioneering conservation efforts.

From David Rains Wallace’s chronicle of the national park system in The Quetzal and the Macaw to conservationist Wolf Guindon’s gripping memoir Walking with Wolf, these page-turners offer windows into the diverse ecosystems, cultures, and contradictions that define this enchanting country.

For armchair travelers and Costa Rica-bound jetsetters alike, grab a cup of locally-grown coffee and dive into our recommendations for the most insightful books on Costa Rica. Pura vida!

1. The Quetzal and the Macaw: The Story of Costa Rica’s National Parks by David Rains Wallace

The Quetzal and the Macaw offers a captivating look at Costa Rica’s pioneering efforts in environmental conservation through the lens of its national park system. Author David Rains Wallace provides a detailed narrative chronicling the establishment and growth of wilderness preserves across the ecologically diverse country.

Through extensive historical research and his own explorations while traveling in Costa Rica, Wallace illuminates the importance these parks have had in shaping the nation’s identity and preserving some of the world’s most precious biodiversity.

He transports readers to misty cloud forests, volcanic peaks, and pristine beaches while examining the social, political, and scientific contexts that led to the conservation of these vibrant ecosystems. For those interested in Costa Rica’s impressive commitment to ecological sustainability, The Quetzal and the Macaw provides a comprehensive and illuminating account.

You can find it on Amazon

2. Monkeys are Made of Chocolate: Exotic and Unseen Costa Rica by Jack Ewing

In Monkeys Are Made of Chocolate, acclaimed naturalist Jack Ewing offers a captivating look at the mysteries and lesser-known wonders of the Costa Rican rainforest. Through a collection of essays drawn from his personal journals, Ewing takes readers on an engaging expedition through tiny jungle villages, remote indigenous territories, and largely unexplored wilderness areas.

With infectious enthusiasm and poetic reverence for the natural world, he reveals the marvels he has encountered in his decades of immersion in Costa Rica’s wild places – from jaguars, peccaries, and scarlet macaws to ancient petroglyphs and medicinal plants unknown to science.

Blending vivid storytelling, scientific insights, and philosophical musings, Ewing ultimately inspires renewed awe at the complexity and beauty of this exotic ecosystem and our role within it.

You can find it on Amazon.

3. Costa Rica: A Traveler’s Literary Companion edited by Barbara Ras

Costa Rica Books - Literar7 Companion

A Traveler’s Literary Companion offers an enriching cultural portrait of Costa Rica through the lenses of the country’s most celebrated authors. Edited by poet and translator Barbara Ras, this anthology gathers a broad selection of short stories, novel excerpts, and essays spanning from the early 1900s to today.

Through eloquent prose, the various contributors provide poignant looks at life in Costa Rica – from tales of rural farmers and coastal towns to urban artists and intellectuals. The stories dive deep into the social issues, identities, values, and landscapes that define this captivating country.

Readers are transported through sugar plantations, cloud forests, and Caribbean beaches while gaining insights into the experiences that shape the Costa Rican people.

For travelers seeking to connect with the spirit of pura vida, Costa Rica: A Traveler’s Literary Companion presents an engaging cultural mosaic.

You can find it on Amazon

4. The Ticos: Culture and Social Change in Costa Rica” by Mavis Hiltunen Biesanz, Richard Biesanz, and Karen Zubris Biesanz

Costa Rica Books - The Ticos

The Ticos presents a thorough and illuminating study of the culture, society, and history of Costa Rica. Authored by renowned anthropologists Mavis Hiltunen Biesanz, Richard Biesanz, and Karen Zubris Biesanz, this book provides an extensive look at the cultural traditions, values, and daily lives that define the Costa Rican people, known as Ticos.

Covering topics ranging from family structures to education, politics, religion, and ethnic relations, the authors contextualize contemporary society using in-depth historical analysis. They examine the social changes influenced by coffee and banana cultivation, democracy, capitalism, and an influx of foreigners.

While focused on anthropological research, The Ticos succeeds in bringing vivid everyday realities to light through engaging examples and personal memoirs. For readers seeking to understand the nuances of identity and traditions in this socially progressive country, The Ticos offers an insightful resource.

You can find it on Amazon

5. Walking with Wolf: Reflections on a Life Spent Protecting the Costa Rican Wilderness by Kay Chornook and Rolf Blomberg

Costa Rica Books - Walking with Wolfs

Walking with Wolf offers a gripping firsthand account of conservationist Wolf Guindon and his pivotal role in protecting Costa Rica’s treasured ecosystems. Authored by Kay Chornook and Rolf Blomberg based on interviews with Guindon himself, the book chronicles his life as an immigrant from Quebec to the Osa Peninsula, where he helped establish and preserve Corcovado National Park.

With lyrical reverence for the diversity of flora and fauna that Guindon worked to protect, the authors follow his efforts to create one of Costa Rica’s most important wildlife refuges in the face of daunting odds.

Through anecdotes of adventure, hardship, community activism and sacrifice, Walking with Wolf provides an inspiring celebration of Guindon while illuminating the hard-won efforts to maintain one of the most biodiverse regions on Earth. For those intrigued by conservation history, it is a gripping and illuminating memoir.

You can find it on Amazon

Final Thoughts

From scientific studies to personal memoirs, these five books provide multifaceted perspectives on Costa Rica’s biodiversity, culture, and history. Together they offer an enriching opportunity to explore the country through the lenses of travel writing, anthropology, ecology, and conservationism.

Whether you’re planning a trip to Costa Rica or simply want to learn more about this sustainability trailblazer, these books will immerse you in the enduring spirit of pura vida. Let these tales of scientists, activists, and ordinary Ticos ignite your own passion for this astonishingly diverse country.