Costa Rica is one such dream destination, that narrowing down to the best of all the fun activities becomes quite a task. The lush green jungles, the exotic bird life, pristine unspoilt beaches and the spectacular scenery all go into making this country a paradise for holiday makers and nature lovers alike.
This striking and diverse terrain which is a heady combination of sun, outdoor fun and nature offers something or the other to every traveler, right from the Pacific coast to the Northern plains. Stunning Costa Rican villas amidst jungles and beautiful valleys, make for perfect retreats.
To make it easy for the first time visitor, some of the leading attractions of this enchanting country are highlighted here.
A four hour drive from San Jose will bring you to the northwestern tip of Costa Rica where the Nicoya Peninsula extends right up to the Pacific coast. The sparkling shoreline which is all of 80 miles long, offers a plethora of fishing, cattle ranch communities, mixed with trendy restaurants and hotels which have sprung up to cater to the influx of the increasing number of tourists that throng here round the year.
Every year, between the months of February and April, visitors come in hordes to have some of the best undisturbed views of one of the most active volcanoes of the world, namely, Arenal Volcano. Standing 5000 feet above sea level, this constant spewing mountain can be viewed in its splendor from the Arenal Observatory Lodge, which occupies a vantage point.
The base village of Fortuna, offers perfect opportunities to viewers to access Arenal, and fog or no fog, travelers come here in numbers to enjoy the experience.
From toucans,macaws, parrots and a host of tropical birds, Costa Rica with around 800 different bird species, is a mecca for birders. The top bird spots around the towns of Arenal, Puerto Viejo, Osa Peninsula and Montverde are all a haven for naturalists. Many hotels provide conducted tours with an expert guide to take enthusiasts bird watching either through forest hikes or from observation towers.
TORTUGUERO NATIONAL PARK
Accessible only by boat or a light airplane, the TORTUGUERO NATIONAL PARK is located in the North Eastern part of Costa Rica and is an extremely popular tourist destination. The major attraction here are the phenomenal sightings of endangered species of turtles, like the green turtle, hawksbill and other varieties that come onshore during the breeding season in their thousands to lay their eggs.
CORCOVADO NATIONAL PARK
This biologically rich rainforest area is home to some of the most exotic animal species like the jaguar, anteaters, tapirs, a diverse bird life with the water bodies sheltering crocodiles and bull sharks.The abundance of mangrove swamps are reminiscent of scenes from any popular nature film.
Nestled on the border with Nicaragua, this area is home to sleek resorts and luxurious retreats along the Pacific coast. Rainforest, Savannah and an active Rincon de la Vieja volcano, leaves visitors spoilt for choice while visiting Guanacaste.
TRAVEL ON HORSEBACK
Simply one of the best way to see the beaches and mountains of Costa Rica is on horseback.Though locally a common activity, visitors today can visit almost any popular destination, especially in Guanacaste. Horses can be hired from the local farmers at a nominal charge and are great options while visiting beach towns, such as Samara, Tamarindo or Montezuma.
One of the most relaxing and romantic activity along the Pacific coast is to go on a sunset cruise along the many beautiful beaches. Towns like, Playas del Coco,Playa Tamarindo and many others offer this excursion to let visitors get a feel of the ocean and view marine life. Snorkeling equipment, water, snacks and drinks are all included in this super romantic activity.
GO ON A ROAD TRIP
Embarking on a journey by road through Costa Rica is a breathtaking experience. It allows one to venture off the beaten path and explore the cities and its surroundings in a more natural and authentic manner. A trip through Central Valley for example, offers stunning landscapes and let’s the motorist experience the small town life and taste local cuisine which otherwise is not possible in the more touristy zones.
Located in the Osa Peninsula, is a unique UNESCO world heritage site dedicated to spheres made of stone. Though their origin and purpose have still not been established even till today, this mysterious site is a great attraction and of incredible interest.
CATARATA DEL TORO
Dropping from a height of 270 feet, this stunning waterfall is the tallest in Costa Rica. Located inside an extinct volcanic crater in the Central Valley, the steps down the waterfall offer a great walk and close-up views of the cascading water. The waterfall can be reached while driving to La Fortuna from San Jose. Private cabins are available for overnight stay at this reserve.
RAINFOREST BY TRAM
This is the ideal way to see the rainforest from close for those who cannot hike or endure strenuous excursions. The tropical jungle unfolds a variety of bird and animal life and the guide is always ready with the names of the different flora and fauna. The tram passes through many vantage points which offer stunning views of the rainforest. This facility is available at Arenal and Monteverde, while there is one on the Caribbean side and Jaco as well.