There are so many highlights in the land of Pura Vida, that it’s impossible to include them all in one trip. But for a varied experience taking in a snapshot of both the Pacific and Caribbean sides, these are our top highlights to include in your next trip to Costa Rica.
Tortuguero National Park consists of 19,000 hectares of protected land on the northern Caribbean coast of Costa Rica and includes beaches, canals and tropical lowland forest. The area is famous for its turtles and is a nesting ground for around seven species of sea turtles, including the endangered Green sea turtle.
The park is best navigated by kayaks or canoes (known as cayucas or botes). This allows you to explore the park’s dense rainforest landscape, winding your way through lagoons, creeks, and freshwater passages. Keep an eye out for dozens of native species of tropical birds, monkeys, and caimans.
Known as the adventure capital of Costa Rica, Arenal is located in the Alajuela province just a few hour’s drive from the capital San Jose. Most famous for its volcano by the same name, which towers over the region, there are abundant outdoor activities in Arenal to suit every type of traveller including hiking, horseback riding, white-water rafting and ziplining. Expect to see diverse wildlife such as armadillos, sloths and capuchin monkeys and birdlife including toucans, Amazon kingfishers and the rare jacana. For awe-inspiring views of wildlife and scenic Arenal Lake, head for Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park, and don’t forget your camera!
Manuel Antonio may be one of the smallest national parks in Costa Rica, but it’s also one of the most beautiful. Encompassing several kilometres of beautiful white sand beaches, clear turquoise waters and verdant jungle forests and is home to 109 mammals including the endangered red-backed squirrel monkey which can only be found in two protected parks in Costa Rica.
The beaches of Manuel Antonio are equally as impressive. Playa Espadrilla is a large public beach located near the entrance to the national park. It’s a perfect place to relax after a day of hiking and wildlife spotting, but if you prefer your beach secluded and peaceful, Playa Biesanz or Playa La Mancha tick all the boxes.
On the edge of Puntarenas province just a few hours from Costa Rica’s capital, San José sits Monteverde. This is a region favoured by naturalists, photographers and outdoor enthusiasts and boasts activities to suit all ages. Situated 1,440 metres above sea level, this verdant land is home to the magnificent Monteverde Cloud Forest and home to over 100 species of mammal, 400 bird species and 2,500 rare plants.
Birdwatchers will enjoy spotting the native Quetzal in the forest, or if you feel more daring, why not try an adrenaline-pumping zip-line adventure! Horseback riding is available in Monteverde Cloud Forest, as is a tour of the local coffee plantation. Costa Rica is known for its rich, aromatic coffee and in Monteverde, you can discover the entire crop to cup process, while indulging in a flavourful cup or two at the same time!