Is Costa Rica in your bucket list or scratch map? If yes, let me help with you with these popular recommendations of things to do while in Costa Rica.
One of the most visited Latin American countries, Costa Rica offers a variety of travel-worthy and Instagram-worthy scenery. Consisting over 5% of earth’s biodiversity, Costa Rica or “the rich coast” is a small country that will make you fall in love with its astounding jungles, beaches, waterfalls, volcanoes and last but certainly not least, the locals.
Hike the Wildlife
Placed on the Pacific side of Costa Rica, Manuel Antonio National Park is one of the most famous places you can go to in Costa Rica. One of the things you cannot miss is to traverse the abundantly blessed rainforest.
The trail that links to beaches is 1.3 miles marching in sandy and beginner-friendly trails. I recommend to do the tour first thing in the morning and very early if possible to avoid large crowds. Touring with a naturalist guide is also suggested as these guides have the expert eyes and ears to detect animals that live in the rainforest.
One of the interesting wildlife creatures that might greet you on your trail is the Central American Squirrel Monkey. This species can only be found in Costa Rica and Panama. A chance to encounter this monkey can be a living treasure as it is only found in Central American rainforests. Just make sure that you hold on to your food because monkeys have the tendency to snatch it and make sure to not give in to the temptation to feed them.
View from the Boat
On the opposite side of Costa Rica is the Caribbean Sea where you may find the Tortuguero National Park. Also rich with wildlife in its rainforests, Tortuguero has this novel way of exploration which is through a riverboat ride. You may also opt to kayak or use the canoe to see the rainforest’s beauty giving you that Amazon river vibe.
A sight surely worth seeing is the mass turtle nestings in Tortuguero. The spot is home to some species of turtles including the largest living sea turtle Leatherback. Generally, the baby turtles can be seen heading back to the sea after they are hatched from the months of March to October.
Hailed as one of Costa Rica’s seven natural wonders is the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve located in the Pacific side of Costa Rica as well. Being a cloud forest, it is in a constant state of drizzle and moisture and therefore covered with moss and aerial plants. The astonishing sight of the forest somewhat looks like it is hovering in clouds.
If you are one of those daredevils who seek that adrenaline rush, you should definitely consider bungee jumping here. Monteverde Extremo Bungee offers the highest one in all of Central America with 143 meters jump from the platform.
Brave the Waves
For a country surrounded by bodies of water, Costa Rica which literally means “rich coast” is unsurprisingly a good place to surf. Down the town of Puerto Viejo de Talamanca in the Caribbean Coast is Punta Uva beach. They offer beginner and advanced lessons for tourists. The primary swell (or the anticipated height of waves as it reaches the beach) could reach up to 1.3 meters at 8 seconds for a very light surfing condition. Other known beaches you could surf are Playa Jaco, Playa Negra, and Playa Cocles.
Beach with Roaming Monkeys and Raccoons
Despite being the smallest park in the country, Manuel Antonio does not only give amazing forests and wildlife but also the top beaches in Costa Rica. The most famous of them being the Manuel Antonio beach. Blessed with white sand beach and clear blue water, Manuel Antonio is accessible through the trails and is child-friendly if you’re planning to go with the entire family.
Chill in the Springs
Treat yourself to a thermal hot spring. Costa Rica is home to 120 volcanic formations so it’s no wonder that you can find hot springs that best suits your need for relaxation and pampering. One good recommendation is the resort Tabacon Hot Springs. The natural heat of the baths owes their temperature to the magma of the Arenal volcano. The resort specializes in pampering complete with outdoor massage and bars at the end of your dip in the thermal baths.
Shallow Water Expedition
Costa Rica is not only abundant in rainforest and cloud forest creatures, but it also offers a plethora of colorful schools of fishes and turtles underwater. The best spot to witness this is in Cocos Islands. The inhabited island is well preserved. White beach with clear blue waters astounds hundreds of tourists no matter what time of the year you go. The only thing that varies with the time you visit is which underwater creatures you could swim with.
Part of Costa Rica’s eco-tourism is to have an encounter with the animals. One way to experience this is through horseback riding and not just anywhere but on the beach where you get that ultimate Caribbean vibe. Riding horses may be daunting for you but I challenge you to overcome this fear because there really is nothing to fear with these lovely creatures. Plus, your tour guide surely knows what he is doing. One suggestion I could give is to book a riding tour with Playa Chiquita Riding Adventures. They make sure you are assigned with a horse that fits your personality and that you will be comfortable with whom you’re riding with.
Another option you can experience horseback riding is to book Alberto’s Horses. The tour offers a grand view of the Arenal Volcano leading to the majestic La Fortuna Falls.
Another treat for the adrenaline junkies out there is brave the violent waters of the river through a guided white water rafting adventure. Rio Pacuare in the Caribbean side of Costa Rica is one of the craziest white water rafting in the world with class 3 and 4 rapids (6 being the most dangerous) through 19 miles of the river.
Arguably the best ice cream in Costa Rica is found at Pop’s Ice Cream parlor. The now multi-national company originated in Costa Rica and their fame in the country has never faded since opening in 1968. Find this refreshment in Jaco in the province of Puntarenas and delight in the fun and vibrant ambiance and ice cream of Pop’s.
Tour de Café
Some locals claim that Costa Rica is the country of coffee and their claim might just be right. Costa Rica produces some of the best coffee. Diria Coffee Tours will prove that to you. The tour will take you from when the coffee cherries are received for grounding until the final product is packaged. They even show you the decomposition process of coffee beans that maximizes the usage of coffee bean waste. You will be awarded coffee tasting and the delicious aroma of coffee along the tour.
Happy Kitchen, Happy Tummy
Costa Rican culture is very rich and this can be reflected in their cuisine. With abundant trees and plants around, the locals have an array of selection of food. If you’re traveling with your family, with friends, or you just want to dive deeper into the culture, you should definitely try the cooking classes offered at Arenal Vida Campesina. They teach both the little background of the raw ingredients, the food itself, and the procedure on how to do their dishes Costa Rican style.
You know how American love their Tabasco sauce, the Mexican their guacamole? The Costa Rican has their favorite condiment as well. It is the Lizano Salsa. Unofficially known as their national condiment, Lizano Salsa can be found at almost every household and even at restaurants. That’s how much they love them. It’s sweet, spicy and tangy taste accounts for the spices and vegetables in it and the good thing is it doesn't contain any meat so even vegetarians can enjoy it.
Rice and Beans or Beans and Rice?
The Costa Rican national dish is called the Gallo Pinto. Essentially, it is a dish with their staple rice and bean with some plantains and meat. Don’t be surprised if every meal, maybe breakfast, lunch, or dinner, they serve your food with rice. No matter your opinion on carbs, the Ticos and Ticas love their rice and beans on every meal.
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