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10 Interesting Books About Costa Rica: Fiction and Non-Fiction

Are you dreaming of the lush rainforests, pristine beaches, or vibrant communities of Costa Rica? Well, I bet there is a book about Costa Rica that will take your mind right to this beautiful place.

If you know me, you know I read a somewhat unhealthy number of books. I am a bit of an armchair book critic, so I was really excited to do the research and write this post. I included my own opinion of each book as well. But, be warned, I was a bit critical of some of these books.

So, from thrilling adventures and historical accounts to personal memoirs and insightful guides, we’ve got a non-fiction or fiction book to transport you right into the heart of the country. Let’s get to all the books about Costa Rica!

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1. The Adventurer’s Son by Roman Dial

“The Adventurer’s Son” by Roman Dial is a gripping written account of a father’s desperate search for his missing son in the jungles of Costa Rica.

In July 2014, twenty-seven-year-old Cody Roman Dial ventured alone into Corcovado National Park and never returned. His final email to his father hinted at a short adventure, but when Cody didn’t come back, Roman Dial embarked on a two-year quest to find him.

This narrative delves into Roman’s intense investigation and introspection.

My Opinion

I loved this because I could relate to it in so many ways as someone living in Costa Rica. However, I wish the book focussed more on Costa Rica, Corcovado National Park, and the author’s son.

To be honest, I didn’t like the author. Roman Dial came across as super conceited with major main character energy. Even the title alone rubbed me the wrong way. You write a book about your son and title it “The Adventurer’s Son” as if he’s just a minor character in your life? Yuck!

There was way too much info on the author’s life. I get that a lot of that info was needed to convey his search methods and stuff, but it was just a bit too much.

I also found myself annoyed with his search. Losing a child is a heart-wrenching pain that I hope to never comprehend, but it is illegal to hike in the Corcovado National Park without a guide. His son knew that and did it anyway.

For the father to then expect the Costa Rican government to jump through hoops to help find his child was a bit frustrating as somebody who loves this country.

However, if you plan to visit Corcovado National Park or do any remote exploring in Costa Rica you will likely enjoy this. Maybe read it after you explore though, so you aren’t terrified of all the things here that can potentially kill you.

Purchase The Adventurer’s Son

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

In “Monkeys Are Made of Chocolate: Exotic and Unseen Costa Rica,” author and naturalist Jack Ewing offers a glimpse into the intricate relationships between animals, plants, and people in Costa Rica’s rainforests.

Drawing from over three decades of observations at Hacienda Barú, Ewing shares fascinating stories about the natural world, from the complex social order of leaf-cutter ants to the aggressive behavior of toucans.

Originally written as guest columns for local publications, these essays blend scientific insight with engaging storytelling, making the wonders of nature accessible and intriguing.

My Opinion

I love this book! First of all, I find Jack Ewings to be a very likable man. He is thoughtful and reflective in his actions and effects on the world.

This is a great read before your visit to Costa Rica. I have a feeling it will influence your travel plans and the areas of the country you choose to visit.

Purchase Monkey’s Are Made of Chocolate

3. The Year of Fog Michelle Richmond

The novel “The Year of Fog” by Michelle Richmond begins with a heart-wrenching moment. Abby Mason, a photographer and soon-to-be stepmother, loses sight of six-year-old Emma on a foggy San Francisco beach.

As Abby stops to photograph a baby seal, Emma vanishes into the mist. This devastating loss sets off a gripping and emotional journey as Abby, consumed by guilt and fear, relentlessly searches for clues about Emma’s disappearance.

While Emma’s father turns to faith and science, Abby’s quest for answers takes her to distant shores, (Costa Rica). This leads to profound discoveries about love, memory, and redemption.

My Opinion

I listened to this one as an audiobook, which I never do, but that was the only way I could get it through the library. So, my opinion might be a bit different than if I had read it.

I found it to be so dull. I won’t give anything away, but it is rather anticlimactic in the end.

Also, just so you know, most of this book is set in the Bay Area of California. There is very little Costa Rica content.

Purchase The Year of Fog

4. Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

In “Jurassic Park,” Michael Crichton combines sci-fi brilliance with thrilling storytelling to bring dinosaurs back to life. Set in a Costa Rican backdrop (with fictional places like Nublar Island included as well), the novel follows the discovery of dinosaur DNA and the creation of a theme park where these magnificent creatures roam once again.

But when things go wrong, the excitement turns to terror as the park spirals into chaos.

This thriller not only captivates with its action-packed plot but also raises poignant questions about the ethics of genetic engineering and the unforeseen consequences of humanity’s scientific pursuits.

My Opinion

It was interesting to read this because I have seen the movies countless times. It is very unusual for me to read a book after seeing a movie. Usually, I do things the other way around. But I made an exception mostly so I could write a review of the book.

Well, I’ve got to say, I’m so happy I read this! Although the book follows a similar premise of the movie, there is so much info about Costa Rica in the book.

I later found out that Crichten actually lived in Costa Rica for several years, so it makes sense that he was accurately able to depict certain areas such as Cabo Blanco Reserve.

I found the book to be well-paced, well written, and a captivating read.

Purchase Jurassic Park

5. Bananas: How the United Fruit Company Shaped the World by  Peter Chapman

In “Bananas: How The United Fruit Company Shaped the World,” Peter Chapman presents a compelling history of how United Fruit (the company that is now Chaquita) revolutionized global capitalism.

This book traces the company’s journey from the jungles of Costa Rica to the power corridors of Washington, D.C. The company was also involved in covert CIA operations and political coups.

Chapman delves into the dark side of United Fruit’s legacy, revealing its ruthless tactics and impact on Central America.

This sharp account is a vivid portrayal of how one company’s quest for power left a lasting mark on global business practices.

My Opinion

I found this book very interesting, but a heavy read. I love books about company histories (yea…I know that’s super nerdy), but this one was hard to get in to at first.

A big part of that is the writing style. In the beginning, it is a bit clunky and jumps around a lot. But, I can understand that it is hard to organize the sheer amount of content this covers in a cohesive way.

Don’t get me wrong, I was fascinated, but just don’t expect some light reading material with this one.

Purchase Bananas: How the United Fruit Company Shaped the World by

6. Where There Was Fire by John Manuel Arias

In “Where There Was Fire,” John Manuel Arias crafts a tale set in Costa Rica in 1968. A devastating fire at the American Fruit Company’s banana plantation shatters Teresa’s life and leaves her husband missing.

Twenty-seven years later, Teresa and her daughter Lyra grapple with the aftermath, with Lyra desperate to uncover the truth of that tragic night.

As they navigate their strained relationship, they confront a haunting past filled with ancestral spirits and secrets.

This story of love, loss, and redemption captures the complex journey of a family seeking to heal and understand their fractured history.

My Opinion

I was really excited to read this one because it sounded like the kind of novel that I usually really enjoy. The premise had so much potential!

Unfortunately, I found myself annoyed with the writing style and overall weird tropes about women. You can tell this was clearly written by a man who doesn’t seem to have much understanding of how women actually are. Plus there were plot holes and way too many characters.

Ugh! It could have been so good!

Purchase Where There Was Fire

7. The Blue Zones Secrets for Living Longer by Dan Buettner

Dan Buettner (a National Geographic Explorer) introduced the term “Blue Zones” in 2005. These are areas of the world in which people regularly live an exceptionally long life.

One of these places happens to be the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica.

Other places include places like Sardinia, Italy; Ikaria, Greece; Okinawa, Japan; and Loma Linda, California.

In “The Blue Zones Secrets for Living Longer,” Buettner reveals the lifestyle secrets that contribute to these long lifespans by highlighting essential habits such as purpose, faith, community, relaxation, natural movement, and plant-based diets.

My Opinion

I find books about different lifestyle choices to be very fascinating and I have learned a lot about Blue Zones in the past, so I figured I would thoroughly enjoy this book.

I like how the book is set up. Buettner has divided it into sections about each Blue Zone area of the world. He interviews locals, provides info on why it is believed people live long there, and even includes some recipes.

I liked that this book made me question a lot of my lifestyle choices and how they may be affecting me on a long-term basis.

Overall, an informative read with some practices that you might end up adopting into your own lifestyle.

Purchase The Blue Zones Secrets for Living Longer

8. The Blue Zones Kitchen: 100 Recipes to Live to 100 by Dan Buettner

In “The Blue Zones Kitchen,” longevity expert Dan Buettner compiles 100 recipes inspired by the world’s healthiest and happiest communities. Each dish (such as Sardinian Herbed Lentil Minestrone, Costa Rican Hearts of Palm Ceviche, and Okinawan Sweet Potatoes) utilizes ingredients and cooking methods shown to boost longevity, wellness, and mental health.

Alongside these mouthwatering recipes, the book offers lifestyle tips, including the best times to eat and proper portion sizes.

These innovative and easy-to-follow recipes make the Blue Zones lifestyle accessible, promoting better health, longer life, and happiness right from your kitchen.

My Opinion

This is definitely a book you will prefer to have a physical copy of rather than an e-book, but I feel that way about all cookbooks. There are a lot of nice color photos and the layout and size are very conducive to a nice cookbook or coffee table book.

I have tried a few of the recipes in this book and all have turned out good. I like that it is divided by region, so if you are interested in Costa Rican cooking it is easy to directly access those recipes.

⤷ Purchase The Blue Zones Kitchen

9. Happier Than a Billionaire by Nadine Hays Pisani

“Happier Than A Billionaire” by Nadine Pisani is a humorous account of one couple’s bold adventure in pursuit of a happier life in Costa Rica.

Pisani’s witty storytelling captures the ups and downs of quitting their jobs and starting anew, from unreliable utilities and quirky neighbors to the daunting challenge of navigating local bureaucracy. Despite these obstacles, the couple discovers why Costa Rica is celebrated as one of the happiest places on earth.

Whether you’re dreaming of starting over in a tropical paradise or just looking for an entertaining escape, this book offers a perfect blend of inspiration and armchair travel.

My Opinion

I read so many negative reviews before reading this, so I assumed I would have issues with it. And, I didn’t dislike it as much I suspected I would.

A lot of the negative reviews were about her privilege and naivety in moving to a foreign country without having any idea what she was getting to.

And, I can relate to so many of the things she went through.

We moved here for Thomas’s job and neither of us knew what to really expect. We had never visited before.

Was it a privilege? Yes, for sure. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t come with its share of culture shocks and complications.

I didn’t agree with her on everything. But, overall my ability to relate to her overshadowed any negativity.

I also found the author to be witty, which I love in books about travel.

⤷ Purchase Happier Than a Billionaire

10. Girl Off the Grid by Jillian Dodd

“Girl off the Grid” by Jillian Dodd is somewhat of a blend of “Emily in Paris” and eco-tourism in Costa Rica. Keep in mind that this is definitely more of a Young Adult novel.

The premise is that NYC fashion blogger Camille Caldwell lands a dream assignment to embark on an eco-trip. She imagines glamorous beach days and stylish photoshoots. Instead, she faces the challenge of unplugging from social media and dealing with the rugged outdoors.

She meets a London-based wildlife photographer Adam Lloyd and sparks fly, but not in a good way. They can’t stand each other.

The story unfolds as they navigate their differences within the jungle.

My Opinion

Truthfully, I only read this book so I could write about it here. I figured it would be a very contrite beach-read type of book.

In reality, it was, but it also included a lot more interesting information about Costa Rica ecology and conservation than I expected. I felt like all of this info got in the way of the story a bit, but I really didn’t mind it.

So, just go into this one expecting a mix of a fictional story and non-fiction info about the country.

Purchase Girl Off the Grid

Other Things to Know About Costa Rican Books

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In conclusion, these books offer an interesting glimpse into travel, history, relocating, and ecology of Costa Rica.

If you know of any other books about Costa Rica, let me know! I am always looking for the next great thing to read.

You Might Also Like:

Costa Rica Travel Details: What You Need to Know

🚗 Should I rent a car in Costa Rica?

Having a rental car will give you the most flexibility when traveling in Costa Rica. This will also allow you to take fun day trips on your own.

🏄🏽 How can I book things to do?

We find that Viator tends to have the most comprehensive selection of activities with secure booking and good cancellation policies.

🍍 I’m overwhelmed with planning. Can you help?

Of course! I suggest joining our Facebook group for specific questions and head to our Start Here Page to get started planning.

✈️ What is the best way to book a flight?

Usually, we have the best luck finding great prices with Skyscanner. Check for flights to both San Jose Airport (SJO) and Liberia Airport (LIR).

🛏️ What is the best way to book my Costa Rica hotels?

We highly suggest Booking.com for hotel bookings and typically use VRBO for Costa Rica vacation rentals.

🗣️What is the main language in Costa Rica?

The main language in Costa Rica is Spanish. Most people working in tourism speak at least some English.

💰 What is the currency in Costa Rica?

The currency used in Costa Rica is the Costa Rican colón (CRC). However, the US dollar is widely accepted in most tourist areas

📞 What is the best way to stay connected?

An eSIM from Airalo is the easiest way to get 4G data while traveling in Costa Rica.

🌴 Is Costa Rica safe?

Generally, Costa Rica is considered safe for tourists. However, like any travel destination, it’s best to use caution and be aware of your surroundings.

🛂 Do you need a passport to go to Costa Rica?

Yes, Costa Rica is its own country. You will need a passport to visit.