List 05 March

11 wonderful ways to experience Costa Rica

With its rainforest adventures, beautiful beaches, volcanoes to climb and an absolute abundance of wildlife, Costa Rica has an adventure for everyone. Here are 11 of the best...

1: Journey along the Tortuguero Canals

Tortuguero National Park (Shutterstock)

Tortuguero, on the north east coast of Costa Rica, is impossible to reach by car. You can only travel there by boat. The lack of modern infrastructure means that the region feels wonderfully peaceful and is a haven for an abundance of wildlife.

As you float down the river, you can spot manatees, caimans and crocodiles, as well as sloths and a variety of monkeys hiding out in the trees above you. Tortuguero is also one of the best places in the world to view sea turtles; the nearby beaches are key nesting sites. 


2: View a volcano

Arenal Volcano (Shutterstock)

Costa Rica is home to several impressive volcanoes, including a handful of active ones. Arenal Volcano is popular, and nearby Poas Volcano boasts the largest crater in the world. Its volcanic vents spew water and steam, and there are also two beautiful lakes near the summit, one a hot water lagoon and the other cold and clear.


3: Relax on the Osa Peninsula

Drake Bay, Osa Peninsula (Shutterstock)

The Osa Peninsula is blanketed in rainforest and fringed with endless sandy beaches. This is a real slice of tropical paradise, but without the usual crowds that normally flock to such beauty spots. It’s hard to understand how Osa has remained such a well-kept secret all this time.


4: Book into a homestay

Traditional Costa Rican home (Shutterstock)

Costa Rica’s indigenous groups have all but vanished, however much of the population still live very traditional lifestyles which can be fascinating to experience. A homestay offers you the chance to be integrated into small Costa Rican communities and live the daily life of rural people.

Remember you're staying in someone's home – so heed advice about homestay etiquette. The experience will give you unique insight into Costa Rican culture, the traditions of the people, their respect for nature and the daily tasks that are common to their community.

5: Swim in a waterfall

Waterfall Rio Celeste, Tenorio Volcano National Park (Shutterstock)

Wherever you go in Costa Rica, you will never be far from an impressive waterfall – and half the fun is finding it. Throughout the country there are dedicated walking trails that take you deep into the rainforest or cloud forest to seek out the most impressive falls, where you can usually take a dip or kick back with a picnic.


6: Go snorkelling or scuba diving

Diving with a whaleshark, Costa Rica (Shutterstock)

Caño Island Biological Reserve is one of the best places in Latin America for snorkelling and scuba diving. In the clear warm waters of the Pacific Coast you can explore this marine reserve, with five platforms of low coral reefs featuring 15 different species of stony coral.

Spot a wide variety of fish and marine mammals including manta rays, turtles and small white-tipped sharks. On the boat ride from the mainland you might even encounter humpback whales and dolphins.


7: Take a hike

Suspended bridges in Monteverde (Shutterstock)

Costa Rica boasts mountains, volcanoes, cloud forest and rainforest, with each of its regions being home to an abundance of incredible wildlife. This makes it the ideal destination for hiking, as you can enjoy a variety of terrains and encounter some fascinating wildlife as you go.

For the ultimate challenge, hike up the country’s highest peak, Mount Chirripó, which stands at 3,820 metres above sea level.


8: Plunge into white water rafting

Frio River in Costa Rica (Dreamstime)

Imagine the pure excitement as you battle rushing waters down miles of powerful rapids. Costa Rica has many ideal rivers on which you can enjoy rafting to a range of different grade levels.

White water rafting is also a chance to admire the natural beauty of this country, as you pass through picturesque canyons where crystal clear waterfalls fall into gushing rivers, or past tall trees and thick vegetation from where a multitude of wildlife is hiding out and watching curiously as you float by.


9: Seek out a Quetzal

Queztal, Costa Rica (Shutterstock)

The Quetzal is one of Costa Rica’s most beautiful and elusive birds. The central mountains and cloud forest south of San Jose are the best places for Quetzal spotting, and even if you don’t find this mysterious species you are sure to come across many other beautiful and fascinating birds along your way.


10: Brave a nocturnal walk in the rainforest

Fruit bat, Tortuguero (Shutterstock)

At night time, the wild protagonists of the rainforest are completely different from those you’ll encounter by day. You will need to make a quiet and slow journey through the dark rainforest so as not to frighten away the amphibians, insects and mammals that are active at this time. It’s a fantastic sensory experience unlike any other.


11: Treat yourself

Corcovado National Park (Shutterstock)

When you're tired from all that hiking, swimming and snorkelling, seek out Costa Rica's wealth of natural beauty. You'll find secluded jungle lodges galore – ideal spots to connect with nature and take some time out. 

Fancy a stint at a spa? With a range of world-class spa hotels and lodges situated throughout the country, you'll find plenty of places to kick back and immerse yourself in the animal calls and wild tangles of the rainforest.

These tips were provided by Highlives Travel, experts in Bolivia, the Andes and South America.

Main image: Sloth in Costa Rica (Dreasmtime)