Costa Rica is an adventure travelers dream! Fly through the rain forest canopy on a zip line, climb a volcano, go white water rafting, surf the best waves in Central America, hook the big fish on a deep sea excursion or simply relax on a white sand beach. Costa Rica is also practically synonymous with ecotourism, with 25% of the country protected as national parks and nature preserves. The rich array of birds, wildlife and unusual flora is astounding.
Land of Volcanoes
Just 23 miles from the capital city of San Jose is Poas Volcano. Narrow roads wind through fertile farms and dark forests up to volcano, but you have to hike the last half mile to reach the mile-wide crater that sometimes spews steam and muddy water into the air. You can also you can hike the well-groomed and marked hiking trails through the cloud forest that rings the crater. For a different view, visit Irazu Volcano where the desolate landscape looks like the surface of the moon and the rotten-egg smell of sulfur is pervasive. Travel Maestro tip: Clouds usually descend by noon, so visit early in the day for the best views.
One of the most visited volcanoes in Costa Rica is the majestic Arenal Volcano. For fifty years, Arenal erupted dramatically with smoke, gas and lava almost every day, but it has entered a resting phase and has not erupted since 2010. Even without eruptions, the Arenal area offers a wealth of outdoor activities to enjoy. This most scenic and accessible area is the adventure capital of Costa Rica and not to be missed. The charming town of La Fortuna at the base of the volcano is a good base from which you can enjoy horseback riding, whitewater rafting, hiking or cave exploration. After active adventure, be sure to relax at the La Fortuna Waterfall or spend a day at one of the area’s many hot springs. Three days or more in this area is needed to take full advantage of the many activities available.
Rainforest Canopy Tours
A Costa Rica adventure would not be complete without exploring the rainforests from the unique treetop vantage point of a canopy tour. Sturdy steel cables connect platforms in the trees and participants soar through the trees with a monkey’s-eye view. Guides accompany small groups through the zip line course and anyone in moderate condition can safely ride (age restrictions may apply). Zip lining is part thrill-ride and part nature tour – an awesome experience! If you can’t quite summon the courage to soar on a zip line, there are several aerial trams (Caribbean coast, Jaco, Arenal) that also give a canopy view with a slower ride.
With 735 miles of coast on both Caribbean Sea and the Pacific, Costa Rica has no shortage of beaches. Many of the beaches on the Caribbean side are black volcanic sand and favored by marine turtles for nesting. The Pacific coast beaches are more popular for recreation, particularly in the northwest province of Guanacaste and along the Nicoya Peninsula. Costa Rica is a mecca for surfers and the well-developed resort areas of Tamarindo and Jaco are favorites. On the Caribbean side, Salsa Brava is a fierce reef break for advanced surfers. Travel Maestro tip: Many of the beaches have serious rip tides, so it is best to inquire about swimming safety before diving in.
The rivers and oceans of Costa Rica are chock-full of exotic and diverse wildlife and a boat tour is the perfect way to view them up close in their environment. Take the Corobici River Float to see exotic ospreys, mot mots, herons, egrets and visit the Las Pumas Rescue Center. A jungle boat cruise through the wetlands in Palo Verde National Park will reveal crocodiles, monkeys, and iguanas. Isla del Coco, off the Pacific coast is considered the best diving destination in the world for big marine animal sightings—particularly enormous schools of hammerhead sharks, manta rays, humpback whales and dolphin. If you’d rather catch the big one, Costa Rica has some of the best sport fishing in the world. On the Pacific side, fish for sailfish, marlin, tuna and snapper, and the Caribbean side is famous for big tarpon and snook.
Two international airports provide access the virtual playground of activities and attractions: the capital San Jose in the center of the country, and Liberia in the northwest.
Costa Rica is only 75 miles wide from coast to coast at the narrowest, but roads are narrow, curvy and lack signage. Expect driving times much longer than four-lane interstates in the U.S.
Bullfighting is a popular, often comedic event. Unlike in Mexico or Spain, there is no single matador and the bull isn’t killed. Instead, any male who so chooses can jump in the ring to tease the bull. Sometimes there are as many as 150 young Ticos (Costa Ricans) in the ring performing a slapstick scramble to thoroughly annoy the bull.
Mysterious relics of pre-Columbian culture are scattered throughout southern Costa Rica. Perfectly round stone spheres as big as six feet in diameter have defied archaeologists’ explanations but are under consideration as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Costa Rica has a diverse plethora of nature and adventure to enjoy on an active vacation. To learn more about Costa Rica vacations, please contact Covington’s Latin America vacation experts.