Luxury Travel Advisor, Karen Kilyk, recently went in search of eco adventure in Costa Rica. She found everything from rafting and zip lining to hanging bridges and hot springs, making Costa Rica a perfect vacation choice for active travelers and eco-tourists.
I traveled with G Adventures on their 9-day Costa Rica Quest, which took me to three very different parts of Costa Rica: Arenal Volcano, Monteverde Cloud Forest, and Manuel Antonio National Park.Â I flew into San Jose, the capital, to meet the group and spend the first night. Itâ€™s worth noting that when I arrived in the evening, my journey through customs was a quick 20 minutes, but those who got in mid-afternoon had a two-hour wait because of multiple simultaneous flight arrivals.
La Fortuna and Arenal Volcano
The next day we drove north to La Fortuna. On the way, we visited the Mi Cafecito Cooperative, a community coffee plantation supported by G Adventures. La Fortuna is a dream for active and eco adventure travelers. This area has the best white water rafting and challenging canyoneering. One person in our group opted for horseback riding to a waterfall and said it was a great excursion.
I chose a nature walk and volcano hike. It was a beautiful three- or four-hour trek through the jungle that got thicker, wetter and darker as we went. The guide carried a telephoto lens to get an up-close view of wildlife and take photos through the heavy foliage. We emerged from the jungle and hiked up the lava field of Arenal Volcano for a spectacular view from the top. Karenâ€™s tip: Youâ€™ll need a raincoat for the rainforest and good (broken in) hiking boots and drinking water for Arenal hiking.
In La Fortuna, there is a river heated by the volcano a short hike from town. The locals can guide you as it is not an official site. Itâ€™s like a bath that never cools off and was fun at night with personal headlamps. A more organized hot spring is at Los Lagos just outside town with many pools of different temperatures, a swim-up bar, a small zip line, and lots of cozy spaces. They also serve a nice buffet dinner there. Karenâ€™s tip: La Fortuna also offers hanging bridges and zip lining, but there are better options in Monteverde.
If youâ€™re looking for zip lining eco adventure in Costa Rica, Monteverde is the place to go. The course has nine platforms, with the highest being 600 feet. From a couple of platforms, you can lay flat to zip, which really gets the adrenalin pumping as you stare at the ground far below! The course also includes a rope bridge and a short rappel that must be negotiated to advance. Karenâ€™s tip: If youâ€™re not sure of your bravery, you can try the first two platforms for free before you advance.
I enjoyed a nice Monteverde forest walk in the rain forest where we walked downhill to the hanging bridges and up into the rainforest canopy. The highest bridge is 500 feet and those with height issues were a bit wary but ultimately fine as the bridges are fairly steady.
I also took a fun night walk where the guide pointed out the vipers, tarantulas and other creepy crawlies that kept me jumping in the dark for 2.5 hours. Less threatening, we saw a sloth and other small creatures, too.
The last area we visited was Quepos where you can visit Manuel Antonio National Park or relax on the beach of this fun surf town. Eco adventures available here include sailing, snorkeling or surfing in the Pacific, and kayaking through the mangroves. The beautiful horseshoe beach was accessed via a 15-20 minute walk on a boardwalk. Karenâ€™s tip: There were cute, but pesky, monkeys and coati just waiting to steal your backpack, so zipper up any food and keep your bag close.
I also visited an organic farm about 20 minutes from Quepos. I got to taste spices grown there during the 3-hour Vanilla Villa Spice tour led by one of the farmâ€™s family members.
Design Your Eco Adventure in Costa Rica
There are many opportunities for eco adventure in Costa Rica, ranging from pay-as-you-go adventures to all-inclusive tours. Accommodations range from budget to luxury hotels, resorts, and lodges, and pricing varies accordingly. You can self-drive a four-wheel-drive rental, but that can be challenging â€“ be sure to read All You Need to Know About Driving in Costa Rica first! Or choose a tour that includes transportation.
The physical challenge of eco adventure in Costa Rica runs the gamut from light walking to very strenuous canyoneering. For the most part, you need to be able to walk some distance, uphill and downhill, over uneven terrain. It’s imperative that you understand the challenge level of the adventures you choose and give your fitness level an honest assessment.
To discuss which options fit your own personal vision of eco adventure in Costa Rica, contact one of our expert vacation planners today.