Costa Rica is a never ending odyssey of adventure and discovery
There is so much to do and see in Costa Rica, you are nearly guaranteed a memorable vacation, regardless of which part of the country you visit. Here are some of my top ten favorite tours and activities to choose from, listed in no specific order of fun and enjoyment:
Zip-line Canopy Tour in Monteverde
Sky Trek is an exceptional system of trails, suspension bridges and zip lines that permit visitors to view the rainforest from a variety of different vantage points – from above, below and within the canopy itself. I chose to do the zip-line adventure, and though my legs were shaking as I climbed up to the top of the first platform, I was soon over my fear of heights and caught up in the thrilling ride as I soured above the tree canopy. An absolute must, the zip-line canopy tour in Monteverde is, in my opinion, the best, biggest and most exciting in Costa Rica. If you’re not down for flying through the air, you can opt for one of the suspension bridges or the gentler Sky Tram.
Tortuga Island Calypso Cruises
There are a number of tours to Tortuga Island, but I think that the Calypso Cruise is the best in terms of amenities, food, and overall experience. Regardless of whether you are staying in the Jaco area, San Jose or even the Nicoya Peninsula, you can easily jump on the tour bus that departs from your hotel and grab the cruise from its departure point in Puntarenas. By far the most comprehensive Tortuga Island tour, you’ll enjoy lounging on the overwater net as you watch dolphins swim along with your catamaran, do the banana boat ride, snorkel, hike, and enjoy private changing rooms, lounge chairs, and a sumptuous luncheon under a gently swaying canopy on the beach.
Hot Springs at the Arenal Volcano
My favorite time of year to visit the Arenal hot springs is green season. There is something decidedly mysterious and romantic about the steam rising up from the deliciously warm waters as a light rain sprinkles down to coolly mist your face. There are a number of hot springs in the area to enjoy, from the oldest and more commercial Tabacon Hot Springs with its restaurant, bar, locker rooms, large pools, and spa, to the upscale Los Perdidos Springs at The Springs Resort, where a day pass lets you enjoy the thermal pools, lounge areas, restaurants and bars, or the lesser known, smaller Eco Termales Hot Springs, which is geared toward the privacy of its guests.
Damas Estuary and Mangrove Tour
As your boat silently drifts through the estuary you’ll be delighted right and left by the rich jungle and its inhabitants. This tour is highly recommended for any naturalist who wants to experience firsthand the pulse of the mangrove ecosystem in Costa Rica. Sit back and take in the wonders as your highly trained, bilingual guide points out the caimans, sloths, crocodiles, boas, white face monkeys, egrets, and other species of wildlife. This tour departs from Manuel Antonio, so is best accessed if you are staying in San Jose or the central Pacific.
Agriculture comprises roughly 6.5% of Costa Rica’s GDP, and 14% of its labor force. Depending upon location and altitude, the regions differ in agricultural crops and techniques. The main exports of include: bananas, pineapples, coffee, sugar, rice, vegetables, tropical fruits, ornamental plants, corn, and potatoes.
While you’re in San Jose, why not check out Café Britt’s famous coffee tour? It makes for a wonderful day tour and is absolutely fascinating, not to mention a tasty treat. Those closer to Talemanca can visit one of the many cacao factories for a delicious chocolate fix or, also on the Caribbean side, The Banana Tour is offered on two different farms. Those in Monteverde can see how coffee, cacao and sugar are farmed and processed by taking the Trapiche Tour.
La Paz Waterfall Gardens
La Paz Waterfall Gardens is a natural wonderland filled with botanical gardens, a butterfly sanctuary complete with laboratory, an aviary with 40 species of birds, a serpentarium (snake exhibit), a ranarium (frogs!), a trout lake, and 26 different species of hummingbirds.
The waterfalls (5 of them!) grace a long hiking trail that is pretty much all down hill, but does entail hundreds of steps. Wear sturdy hiking shoes that you don’t mind getting wet, so that you can sidle up to the railing and feel the spray of the waterfall on your face. At the bottom there is a regular shuttle bus that brings you back to the park restaurant and main area where all of the exhibits reside.
Rio Celeste National Reserve Hiking
This mid-range to challenging hike is well worth the effort as you trek through the rainforest of the Tenorio Volcano National Park, and arrive at the top to discover the waterfalls and the pool of Rio Celeste. Once there, you can go beyond to arrive at the river and hot springs- about an hour’s hike depending on your pace.
Sadly, the the waterfall has been closed by a fence, so the option to swim is no longer available. Nevertheless, the verdant rainforest, the roaring waterfall, the surreal blue waters, and the undulating flow of the green underwater grass truly create one of the most heavenly scenes in all of Costa Rica.
For eons, the torrential rains of the tropical rainforest have formed valleys and canyons, developing a landscape that creates the perfect setting for river rafting. River rafting tours in Costa Rica include both exhilarating white water rapids and calm stretches that flow through the Costa Rican jungles, which allow time for sightseeing and discovery.
With more than a dozen rivers to choose from, your options range from thrilling, class II and III rapids on the Pacuare or Reventazon, to chill, safari river floats like the Corobici or the lower section of the Tenorio River. Just ask your hotel concierge to hook you up; the perfect river rafting trip is not far!
Costa Rica offers some of the most prolific sport fishing around the globe, and has repeatedly broken world records for bill fishing during the last few years. Be prepared for an exciting day of fun in the sun along with the strenuous challenge of fighting a valiant fish, when you charter a boat for a half day or full day of fishing. Your bi-lingual, knowledgeable captains will take you out on the calm blue waters of the Pacific, where he knows the perfect fishing grounds to help you land the big one.
National Parks: Hiking, Bird Watching, Wildlife Discovery
Around 29% of Costa Rica territory is designated as either a national park or reserve, and Costa Rica boasts two parks that have been declared World Heritage sites by UNESCO. The country is a veritable dream for hikers and naturalists alike. With so many parks to choose from, there is bound to be one near you, regardless of where you are staying. Ask your hotel concierge to point you in the right direction; you won’t be disappointed!
Whether you’re seeking quiet, nature and discovery or thrilling adventure, Costa Rica has it all and there will never be a dull moment.