Costa Rica is an adventure traveler’s dream! Fly through the rainforest 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 the volcano, but you must 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. 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 all of the active adventure, be sure to relax at the La Fortuna Waterfall or spend a day at one of the area’s many hot springs. Spend three days or more in this area to take full advantage of the many activities available.
Rainforest Canopy Tours
A Costa Rica adventure would not be complete without exploring the rainforests. One of the most exhilerating ways is 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. Anyone in a moderately fit 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 summon the courage to soar on a zip line, there are other ways to experience the canopy. Try one of the aerial trams (Caribbean coast, Jaco, Arenal) or a suspension bridge through the tree tops.
With 735 miles of coast on both the 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 are favored by marine turtles for nesting. The Pacific coast beaches are more popular for recreation. Favorites include the northwest province of Guanacaste and 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 beaches have serious rip tides, so inquire about swimming safety before diving in.
On the Water
The rivers and oceans of Costa Rica are chock-full of exotic and diverse wildlife. A boat tour is a perfect way to view them up close in their environment. Take the Corobici River Float to see exotic ospreys, mot mots, herons, and 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. Enormous schools of hammerhead sharks, manta rays, humpback whales, and dolphins are often spotted there. 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. The Caribbean side is famous for big tarpon and snook.
Fun Facts About Costa Rica
Two international airports provide access to this virtual playground of activities and attractions. The capital of San Jose is in the center of the country, and Liberia is 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 can be many matadors and they do not kill the bull. 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 defy 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 vacation experts.