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Books about Costa Rica

From Surfing Tales to Cultural Insights: Our Favorite Books About Costa Rica

Seeking some reading material to accompany your visit (or move) to Costa Rica? Look no further! Below we list some of our favorite books about Costa Rica, essential reading for travelers, tourists, expats, and potential expats alike. This article contains links to Amazon, from which, as an Amazon Associate, this website will earn a small commission if you make any purchases. Some other links are also affiliate links, where we’ll also make a small commission if you purchase anything after clicking, at no extra cost to you. Visit our Affiliate Disclosure Page for more info. 

Travel and reading. Reading and travel. In whatever order you put them, these have both be up there among the greatest pleasures in life, no? They are for me, anyway. And if you’re on this website, chances are these activities are also important to you. Otherwise you’d be checking out a home improvements site or car maintenance site or something like that. Not a site like this.

We’ve covered some of our favorite books about Central America before, and we’ll update that list soon. But we also think it’s worthwhile breaking things down per country. After all, if you’re coming to Costa Rica for a vacation or to live, you want some recommended reading material about that particular country, right? Exactly.

So, speaking of Costa Rica, we’ll start there

Whether you’re planning a vacation or deciding on a new country to settle or work in, Costa Rica is always a popular option. But what if you want some reading material to accompany your Costa Rica adventure?

Below, in no particular order (well, the first two books are in a particular order – they’re my favorite two books about Costa Rica), we list some of our favorite books about Costa Rica to get you in the pura vida mood.

1. In Search of Captain Zero by Allan Weisbecker

This book follows Allan Weisbecker’s search for his old friend Christopher, “Captain Zero”. He follows his footsteps through Mexico and Central America to Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica, encountering great surf and all manner of characters along the way.

2. Can’t You Get Along with Anybody by Allan Weisbecker

Another Weisbecker memoir, this book recounts his experiences and relationships in the deep southern Costa Rican surfing community of Pavones. Aside from the (somewhat disturbing) personal aspects of the book, Weisbecker dives deep into the turbulent history of Pavones. A fascinating read.

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

An in-depth exploration of Costa Rican culture, society, and history. It examines the values, traditions, and social dynamics that shape the “Tico” identity and provides valuable insights into Costa Rica’s development and mindset. Published in 1998 but still relevant today.

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

A collection of short stories by Costa Rican writers. It provides a literary journey through Costa Rica, offering glimpses into the landscapes, people, and cultural experiences that define the country.

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

In this memoir, the author shares her experiences living in Monteverde in Costa Rica. She reflects on the challenges and rewards of integrating into a close-knit rural community and explores themes of sustainability and conservation.

6. Culture and Customs of Costa Rica by Chalene Helmuth

An overview of Costa Rican customs, traditions, and social norms. It delves into Costa Rican culture, including religion, family life, cuisine, and popular celebrations. Read this for some valuable insights into the everyday lives of people in Costa Rica.

7. Happier than a Billionaire: Quitting My Job, Moving to Costa Rica, and Living the Zero Hour Work Week by Nadine Pisani

Long considered the Costa Rica expat “bible”, Happier than a Billionaire chronicles the author’s personal experience of moving from the United States to Costa Rica. Nadine embarks on a journey to simplify her life, find happiness, and embrace the “pura vida” lifestyle. This humorous and engaging read provides a lighthearted and relatable perspective on Costa Rica expat experience. In the video below, our very own Casey Halloran chats to Nadine about the book and her life in Costa Rica as part of his Let’s Talk Tourism series of podcasts.

8. Cocorí by Joaquín Gutiérrez

Published only in Spanish, this 1947 children’s book is classic in Costa Rican literature. It tells the story of a young Afro-Costa Rican boy named Cocorí and his adventures in the tropical rainforest. The book addresses themes of cultural diversity, friendship, and the wonders of nature. An easy read if you’re learning Spanish.

The above list completes our essential reading list of books about Costa Rica

Whatever kind of expat, tourist, or traveler you are, we hope you find something you enjoy here. And then dig deep in to a wonderful read while relaxing in a hammock on a tropical beach or under a tin roof in the jungle while while the rain patters down. There’s not much more pura vida than that!

James Dyde is the editor of He lives in Escazu, Costa Rica.

James Dyde

James Dyde

James Dyde is a British immigrant to Costa Rica and the editor of this website. He has lived in Central America since 2000 and retains a deep love for the region. He lives in Escazu, Costa Rica.