Costa Rica may be a tiny country but it’s one of the most bio-diverse regions in the world, home to about 10,000 species of plants and trees. It should top the destination list of every eco-savvy traveler thanks to its mesmerizing rain and cloud forests and volcanoes. It also boasts some of the most magnificent beaches in South America and it is a mecca for water sports and outdoor activities.
Costa Rica has five active volcanoes and another dozen that could ignite at any time. In most cases you can climb or drive to their summits. One of the most popular, and one of the largest, (rising up to almost 9000 feet) is Poas, in the Poas Volcano National Park, where you can peer over the edge into massive craters.
If you want to experience some excitement, you should travel to the tiny village of La Fortuna and get a glimpse of Arenal, the country’s most “irascible” volcano. On a clear day you should be able to see a trickle of lava sliding down from the peak. Or you could visit the Rincón de La Vieja, a cinder cone volcano that is part of nine contiguous craters that dot the Rincón de La Vieja National Park. This collection of volcanic peaks is most active in the Guanacaste Mountains where major volcanic activity occurred during the latter half of the 1960s. The Von Seebach crater is another active volcano, constantly spitting lava and smoke.
Ride the Rapids
Even experienced rafters will be thrilled by the range of white waters in Costa Rica. Having said that, all skills are catered to. Apprentices can take a leisurely ride down tame rivers such as the Sarapiqui and Corobici. You may even see some exotic creatures dozing by the water’s edge. More experienced rafters can try the Reventazon river, which means “bursting waves,” or the Pacuare, regarded as one of the world’s best rafting rivers.
Monkeys, snakes, raccoons, sloths, iguanas, otters and even jaguars, are known to prowl the river canyons, but you shouldn’t worry that they will come too close – the large cats tend to stay elusive!
In The Clouds
Costa Rica’s forestation can be essentially divided into three groups; rainforests, cloud forests and tropical dry forests. And while rainforests are the most common habitat, the cloud forests are a particularly heavenly sight to behold. It’s amazing to be able to walk around as swirling mist and clouds waft past!
Head to Corcovado National Park or the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve and watch the clouds literally float through the treetops. Monteverde, in particular, now attracts more than 70,000 people every year, unsurprising when you consider that the area is home to a remarkable biodiversity of more than 2,500 plant species (including the most orchid species in a single place), 100 species of mammals, 400 bird species, 120 reptilian and amphibian species, and thousands of insects.
All the forests in Costa Rica are remarkable – full of waterfalls, gentle streams and unusual wildlife, including monkeys, snakes, frogs bats and three-toed sloths. Sometimes a walk after nightfall is the most enchanting as these jungle creatures make their furtive entrances. In many places planners have thoughtfully built special overhanging suspension bridges to make the spectacle more accessible.
You can relax at one of Costa Rica’s famous springs where the mineral-infused hot waters are seen as excellent for various ailments including arthritis and skin conditions. It’s worth a visit to the hot springs resorts of Baldi and Tabacon in La Fortuna where you will be surrounded by numerous pools, ponds, waterfalls and lush gardens. For a more intimate experience head to Eco Termales, which allows only 100 visitors at a time. You can also ask the locals where to find the free hot springs, which don’t have the amenities of the larger ones, but are much closer to nature.
We can guarantee that a holiday in Costa Rica will be truly a life-changing experience.