Nearly a quarter of Costa Rica’s stunning natural landscape is dedicated to national parks and protected areas which houses a kaleidoscopic array of birds, butterflies, reptiles and mammals, in fact this family-friendly South American country is home to 5% of the worlds biodiversity!
Arenal Volcano – The highly active Arenal volcano last erupted in 2010 and travellers can walk parts of the 5,479 feet (1,670 meters) tall peak. Spot lava flows and keep your eye on the steam clouds emanating from the peak! Alternatively much of the surrounding parkland offers primetime views.
La Fortuna Hot Springs – Bathe in the natural hot springs heated by the mighty volcano. Baldi has 16 hot springs which vary in temperature, Tabaconcito Hot Springs is free to enter and Ecothermales Hot Springs is more private and discreet.
Cerro Chato Hike – Take a short hike through the dense primary rainforest heading towards the Cerro Chato Crater Lake. Here you can enjoy swimming and soak up the picturesque surroundings of vivid natural colour. The descent trail offers superb views over San Carlos Valley and Arenal Volcano. Finish up at the La Fortuna Waterfalls and take a cooling dip in the crystal clear waters.
La Selva Biological Station – Amongst the plains of the northeast is the La Selva Nature Reserve which is home to over 400 different species of birds – half of the species within the whole of Costa Rica! Spot hummingbirds, parrots and toucans as well as monkeys and peccaries.
San Jose – The central valley of Costa Rica is home to the thriving capital city of San Jose which has a European colonial feel and heritage. Don’t miss the elegant National Theater (Teatro Nacional) building which dates back to 1897, the fascinating Pre-Columbian Gold Museum and the amazing exhibits within the National Museum (Museo Nacional) which is housed within a 19th century mansion.
Chirripo National Park – Arenal may have all the media attention, but the highest point in Costa Rica is Cerro Chirripó which rises to a mighty 12,533 feet (3,820 meters) tall. Yes you can hike and climb it. The highlight is undoubtedly the coast to coast view from the summit, taking in both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean.
Braulio Carrillo National Park – Home to dormant volcanoes, crater lakes and verdant rivers, Braulio is perfect for walkers, bird spotters and kayakers. Spot falcons, hawks and quails.
Tortuguero National Park – Tortuguero is home to the Caribbean coasts’ most famous beach, where eco tourists congregate to explore the rainforest, witness turtle egg laying and spot manatees; one of the most amazing things to do in Costa Rica!
La Amistad National Park – Tropical rainforests dominate La Amistad National Park which is home to over 500 different species of birds including magnificent quetzals. Amistad is also one of Costa Rica’s three UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Tamarindo — Fronting the Pacific Ocean, Tamarindo is home to luxury resorts, beautiful beaches, boutique shopping and top quality class dining. This is also a great spot to tackle the waves with several surf schools, cams and shops located here.
Cocos Island National Park – Experience UNESCO-listed Cocos Island which lies 550 km off the Pacific coast, which holds the envious title of the only tropical Pacific island with a tropical rainforest. Teeming with endemic wildlife, Cocos is also a great scuba diving and snorkelling spot with dolphins, sharks and rays present.
Dominical – Surfing is the name of the game in Dominical. Hit the Pacific waves from November to august for some prime surf action. There is also a lively nightlife scene to relax and unwind.
Jaco – the resort city of Jaco lies on the Golfo de Nicoya and by day offers stand up paddleboarding, beautiful waterfalls, superb beaches and stunning gardens. By night there is plenty of hot and happening nightlife in the bars, clubs and casinos.
Monteverde and Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserves – A cloud forest is literally lush rainforest which is characterised by thick persistent fog, aka cloud. And the finest example in Central America has to be the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve where the best way to get to grips with the landscape is via a zipline experience or canopy tour which is perfect for the whole family. Visit the Bat Jungle with 80 or so bats fluttering about your head, admire the various species within the Monteverde Butterfly Garden and walk the Santa Elena Skywalk Bridge, high above the tree canopy.
Guanacaste – Considered the only dry region within Costa Rica, Guanacaste offers fabulous beaches and superb surfing and watersports opportunities. The large volcanic and dry forest parks of the Area de Conservación Guanacaste is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Carara National Park – Home to a rich kaleidoscope of absolutely spectacular natural colours within the 400 different species of birds that reside here. Some of the 2,000 different orchid species within Costa Rica can also be found here.
Beaches – Yes there are great natural beaches here and if you can bear to tear yourself away from all the action and adventure check out bohemian Montezuma, serene Playa Santa Teresa and peaceful Playa Grande which plays host to the nesting leatherback seas turtle along the Pacific coast each year.
Rafting – Did you know that Costa Rica has more rivers per area than anywhere else in the world? This makes it the ideal location to try a spot of kayaking, canoeing, river rafting and sailing. Try rafting in Turrialba which lies within the Reventazon Mountains, try white water rafting in the Arenal Volcano park and head to El General River for multi-day watery adventures including kayaking.
Fishing – Pack your rods for a spot of superb sport fishing in Costa Rica which was actually the first country in the world to establish catch and release fishing. Head to the Pacific coast and try your hand at snagging Marlin, Tuna, Dorado and Snapper. The Northern and Caribbean regions offer the opportunity to catch Tarpon and Snook. And for a bit of added pressure, over sixty world records have been landed in Costa Rica!
Biking – Saddle up for a back-to-nature cycling adventure. Costa Rica has some great mountain biking routes for keen cyclists – check out the trails at Irazu, Turrialba and around the Arenal Volcano.