About Costa Rica
Arenal: The area encompasses both an active volcano and natural hot springs. The rainforest is accessible through an elaborate system of bridges and footpaths known as the Arenal Hanging Bridges. This adventure in the treetops features more than three km/two mi. of hiking trails through spectacular lowland rainforest. Blending into the surroundings, eight fixed bridges and six hanging bridges are made of galvanized steel and high-strength aluminum for utmost safety. Rappelling, rafting, caving, lake windsurfing and relaxing in the hot springs are all waiting.
Bajos del Toro : In a valley in the central highlands, Bajos del Toro remains largely unknown. It is unrivaled for its cloud forest setting surrounded by lush vegetation and waterfalls. Nearby, Poas Volcano National Park’s main crater is 290 m/950 ft. deep and is active with small geysers and eruptions. Also, nearby is the lesser explored Juan Castro Blanco National Park, which has an extensive but basic and rugged trail system. It shelters turkey, peacock, falcon, monkey, coyote and armadillo. Archaeological finds have linked the area to ancient cultures.
Guanacaste: The area north of Papagayo down to Montezuma in the Nicoya Peninsula has a wealth of outdoor options. Beaches, stunning shoreline, incredible bird watching, horseback riding, surfing and snorkeling make this a welcome combination of sports and relaxation. The eastern border of Guanacaste is a chain of volcanoes that stretch out to join the Cordillera de Guanacaste and Cordillera de Tilaran mountain ranges. Excellent trails take hikers to the summit of some of the volcanoes.
Manuel Antonio National Park: This is the smallest of Costa Rica’s national parks, and boasts beautiful beaches and forest hiking trails. Forest, mangrove swamps, lagoons and beach habitats shelter 109 species of mammals and 184 types of birds. Twelve small isles off the coast see dolphins and migrating whales. Quiet Quepos spreads across a tropical inlet surrounded by primary rainforest. The small-town center has restaurants, galleries and shops.
Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve: Majestic trees, wild orchids, bromeliads and a wealth of ferns, vines and mosses greet travelers. The cloud forest is perpetually nurtured by mists from the coast. The primeval world of this old-growth cloud forest is filled with birds such as the three wattled bellbird and elusive resplendent Quetzal, and is home to jaguar, ocelot and the rare Baird´s tapir. Splendid trees are richly adorned with orchids. Its treetop Sky Trek cable-and-harness system provides exciting bird’s eye views of the jungle canopy.
Osa Peninsula: The peninsula is home to at least half of all species living in Costa Rica. It encompasses the lush Corcovado National Park, which conserves the largest primary forest remaining on the American Pacific coastline. It is the largest park in Costa Rica and protects about a third of the peninsula. It is widely considered a prize gem in the wide-ranging system of national parks and reserves across the country. It has been called “the most biologically intense place on Earth in terms of biodiversity.” Corcovado supports a substantial number of endangered Baird’s tapir and a small population of the rare harpy eagle. Its rivers and lagoons have both the American crocodile and spectacled caiman, along with bull sharks. Corcovado is also one of the final strongholds for the jaguar in Central America as well as ocelot, margay, jaguarundi, and puma. All four Costa Rican monkey species are represented here, including the endangered Central American squirrel monkey, white-faced capuchin, mantled howler, and Geoffroy’s spider monkey. Other mammals found here are two-toed and three-toed sloth, collared peccary, northern tamandua and silky anteater. Poison dart frogs and several species of snake, including the venomous fer-de-lance and bushmaster, are common.
Peninsula Nicoya & Tambor: Peninsula Nicoya is on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast. It includes northern Guanacaste Province and southern Puntarenas Province. The area’s surfing beaches include Playa Santa Teresa and Playa Mal Pais in the south, and Playa Grande in Las Baulas National Marine Park in the north. Tambor is set in the valley of a large and calm horseshoe bay, the Bahia Ballena. Whales used to frequent the bay, but not today because coastal development and activity have increased. The volcanic origins have left behind grey, hard-packed sand. Low tide offers a broad expanse of beach with calm waters that are great for swimming. Thick-forested hills surround the valley that is part of the biological corridor of the Peninsula Nicoya. Curu National Wildlife Refuge includes Costa Rica’s first private national wildlife refuge. The area supports several monkey species including white-faced, howler and spider as well as beautiful scarlet macaws, white-tailed deer, collared peccary, coati, raccoons, coyotes, iguanas, and hundreds of species of tropical and migratory birds. Also in the region is Ostional Wildlife Refuge, second-most important nesting site for the Olive Ridley sea turtle. Throughout the year, thousands of Olive Ridleys come to shore to nest, with peak times between June and December. September, October and November see the largest numbers. Small populations of leatherback and Pacific green turtles also nest on Playa Ostional. Guided walks, horseback riding, diving, kayaking, sport fishing, snorkeling and golf are available.
Perez Zeledon: Long before the Spanish arrived, this region had been inhabited by half a dozen indigenous tribes since at least 1500 BCE. The county of Perez Zeledon was founded in 1931, and is recognized for its ecological assets including scenic beauty, natural thermal pools, the Chirripo River and Chirripo National Park. The park encompasses Cerro Chirripo Mountain, which at 3,820 m/12,530 ft., is the highest in Costa Rica. It possesses the cleanest and clearest thermal pools with the best views of the valley and the surrounding wilderness. The menu of outdoor activities includes rappelling in waterfalls or cascades, river rafting, hiking, swimming in natural thermal pools and mountain climbing.
San Jose: Costa Rica’s capital city is modern and energetic with a bustling economy and a welcoming attitude. Founded in 1738, San Jose became the capital in 1823, and its university was established in 1843. The city retains hints of elegant, old-world character. Both the national theater and Melico Salazar Theatre maintain busy slates of productions in season. The National Museum of History is another valued asset; and the Gold Museum has an unusual collection of artifacts from ancient Latin American civilizations. Lankester Botanical Gardens is just outside the city. A player on the international stage as well, the city is headquarters to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Nearby are the tranquil La Paz Waterfalls with its hummingbird, orchid and butterfly gardens.
South Caribbean Coast: Wild and beautiful with pounding surf, gorgeous white sand beaches and prehistoric rainforests, Costa Rica’s Caribbean Coast is ideal for nature lovers. Inland rainforests reach all the way down to touch the coastline. Christopher Columbus landed along here in 1502. The country’s 201 km/125 mi. of shoreline lies within Limon Province, yet, this is one of the country’s least traveled areas. Typically hot and humid most of the year, the region receives the highest amount of rainfall in the country, especially May to August, and December to January. A plethora of activities includes outstanding diving and snorkeling and superb sport fishing. The Cahuita National Park here is also home to some of the last remaining indigenous Indian tribes of Costa Rica.
Tortuguero National Park: This park encompasses 11 different habitats, from high rainforest to marsh. It protects a fabulous array of wildlife, including more than 375 bird species, 57 species of amphibians and 111 varieties of reptiles, including three types of marine turtles, and 60 mammal species. Here, 13 of Costa Rica’s 16 endangered animals are found, including jaguars, tapirs, ocelots, cougars, river otters and manatees. The beach runs between the Caribbean and a narrow lagoon. Behind the lagoon, a coastal rainforest is traversed by streams fed from rivers flowing from the central mountain ranges, and by heavy rains. This is an important sea turtle nesting site from June to October. It is the third-most visited park in Costa Rica but only reachable by air or boat.
Turrialba Volcano National Park: Just two and half hours from San Jose, this area is a great option for exploring more off-the-beaten-path areas while still having access to adventure options such as horseback riding, hiking, mountain biking and whitewater rafting. The Pacuare River is ranked as one of the top five rivers in the world for whitewater rafting! What earns the river this acclaim is its 29 km/18 mi. of Class III-IV rapids and some of the most breathtaking scenery in Costa Rica. The volcano is still active, but the last major eruptions more than a century ago. Nature plus culture makes this truly a hidden gem.
Uvita & Dominical: Just an hour south of the more popular Manuel Antonio, this area offers small hotels with spectacular views, rainforest, surfing and a great base for those interested in Corcovado National Park. It is less sophisticated than other Costa Rica locales, but with remarkable rainforest. Dominical and Uvita are beach-front towns known for surfing. Both are growing but still retain that relaxed casual attitude. Rock climbing, ziplining, parasailing, boating and, of course, surfing.
Best Time to Go
High season for Costa Rica tourism is from late November until April, the dry season. Costa Rica is especially busy around Christmas and spring break/Easter Week. The rainy season runs from May through the middle of November. Most of Costa Rica receives rain at nearly the same time on most days.
Day 1: San Jose, Costa Rica
San Jose is Costa Rica’s lovely capital city and not far from extraordinary natural gems such La Paz Waterfall Gardens.
Day 2: San Jose / Bajos del Toro
Bajos del Toro includes a jungle canopy adventure and the highest rappel in Costa Rica’s original canopy.
Days 3/4: Bajos del Toro
Optional activities abound, including guided nature hikes along centuries-old Cabecar Indian trails and whitewater rafting over Class III-IV rapids.
Day 5: Bajos del Toro / Perez Zeledon
Perez Zeledon is a traditional agricultural town, and the region features picturesque landscapes.
Days 6/7: Perez Zeledon
The area is known for its ecological assets including natural thermal pools, the Chirripo River and Chirripo National Park.
Day 8: Perez Zeledon / Peninsula Nicoya / Tambor
Tambor is set in the valley of a large and calm horseshoe bay with thick-forested hills surrounding the valley, which is part of the biological corridor of the Peninsula Nicoya.
Days 9/10: Tambor
Among the natural gems here is the Ostional Wildlife Refuge, second-most important nesting site for the Olive Ridley sea turtles as well as leatherback and Pacific green turtles.
Day 11: Tambor / San Jose / Depart
Arenal (3-4 days)
The area is ripe with adventure activities that encompass hiking, trekking and canyoning around the active Arenal Volcano and spending time relaxing at the Arenal Hot Springs.
Guanacaste (4-5 days)
From beaches to volcanoes, the area is rich in outdoor activities from horseback riding, to surfing, to fishing.
Manuel Antonio (4 days)
The smallest of Costa Rica’s national parks, it is one of the most popular for its beautiful beaches and forest hiking trails.
Monteverde Cloud Forest (3 days)
An alternative to the Bajos del Toro region, this entrancing cloud forest is a cornucopia of extraordinary biological treasures – both flora and fauna.
Osa Peninsula (4-5 days)
This remote area is one of the last strongholds of primary forest in the Americas and one of the most eco-diverse regions on Earth. It is home to at least half of all species living in Costa Rica.
South Caribbean Coast (3-4 days)
Costa Rica’s 125 miles of Caribbean shoreline offer excellent scuba and diving opportunities and superb sport fishing. Cahuita National Park is home to indigenous Indian communities.
Tortuguero National Park (2-3 days)
The park has 11 different habitats, from high rainforest to marsh communities. It is the third most visited in Costa Rica, and can be reached by air or water.
Turrialba Volcano National Park (3-4 days)
Adventure options at this hidden natural gem include horseback riding, hiking, mountain biking and whitewater rafting.
Uvita & Dominical (4 days)
Just an hour south of the more popular Manuel Antonio, this area offers small hotels with spectacular views, rainforest, surfing and a great base for those interested in Corcovado National Park.
$600-$800 per person, per day. Land only, double occupancy.