Costa Rica is a country that gives travellers endless opportunities for a diversity of experiences. In Costa Rica I found myself appreciating things all the more and trying a whole new range of activities. Whether zip lining through canopies in a cloud forest, hiking along old lava trails by an active volcano or simply enjoying the wildlife of one of the world’s most biologically diverse national parks, Costa Rica offers so much to travellers with interests of all sorts.
From my first glimpse of the Arenal Volcano to trekking out along the beach from the beautiful and remote Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica continued to astound with its natural beauty and abundant wildlife throughout the duration of my stay.
What makes the experience of travelling in Costa Rica even better is the feel of the country. The national motto is pura vida, which translates roughly to pure life, and this is a phrase that perfectly encapsulates the vibe the country conveys. The people are happy and friendly, the food is fresh – nothing fancy or complicated, just quality ingredients sourced locally and cooked well, and the general pace is slow.
Here are some of my highlights.
Arenal Volcano is Costa Rica’s best-known active volcano. For safety reasons, hiking is only allowed around its base however the gentle trails around Arenal Volcano can be a great way to start your Costa Rica adventure. The setting is beautiful and there are lots of colourful birds and animals around.
Costa Rica is famous for its eco lodges and you’ll be spoilt for choice in this part of the country. During our time at Arenal we stayed at Rancho Margot, an award-winning sustainable and self-sufficient eco lodge. Here days consist of morning and afternoon yoga on the outdoor deck by the river, lounging in the hammock strung on the balcony of your bungalow tucked away among the forest, tours of the sustainable farm, cow milking or exploring the self-guided trails on the property.
From the Arenal area, it makes sense to head on to the cloud forests of Monteverde. Although not a huge number of kilometres separate these places, in Costa Rica getting from place to place takes time. The roads are comically bad in parts and even main roads between major tourist destinations are single lane and often unsealed. Monteverde is different to the Costa Rica you imagine in that it’s at a high altitude and can get cool. Here there are forests and mountains, not jungle and beach. The big attraction in this part of Costa Rica is the cloud forest of Monteverde and Santa Elena.
From the cute little cabin we stayed in to the amazing tacos we ate each day and the active adventures we enjoyed, I loved every aspect of our stay in the Monteverde area.
There are endless activities to enjoy here. Horse riding was a great way to explore the cloud forest and made a change to hiking. After riding through the forest we arrived at a clearing from where we watched the sun set over the Nicoya Peninsula. It was stunning.
I got a different perspective on the cloud forest the following day when we went zip lining through the forest. I usually avoid activities like this as I don’t like tours and I don’t like waiting around but in this instance, it was worth it. After the initial queuing to get equipment and for the first zip line, things ran fairly smoothly. And with around 14 zip lines, after the first one or two you can get over any nerves and relax and enjoy the others.
When you arrive in Manuel Antonio you will probably pass through the rather uninspiring nearby town of Quepos. Try and stay out of Quepos on the road to the national park as it is so much nicer and some of the hotels out here offer great views of the park itself. We were almost tripping over wildlife in Manuel Antonio and this destination was perhaps the highlight of our entire stay in Costa Rica. From the pool deck at the Hotel Costa Verde I had my first view of the little slither of land that forms Manuel Antonio National Park and it was incredible. Looking like a whale tail from above, the park is tiny and easily walkable in a day. We had only just entered the park when we saw monkeys and sloths in the treetops. It is the kind of place that doesn’t seem real.
Our final destination was Costa Rica’s wild and isolated Osa Peninsula, home to the famous Corcovado National Park. We stayed at La Leona Eco Lodge, which you can read more about in another of my posts here. The lodge is remote and you can only get there by hiking in along a path that takes you through the forest and along the beach. Once you arrive, it feels like you’re in paradise with a series of tents set up along the foreshore and hammocks to laze in.
There are a number of activities on offer from the lodge including treks into Corcovado National Park, night hikes, bird watching and horse riding. We had a great day exploring Corcovado National Park from the lodge with one of their guides.