Costa Rica is one of the few countries in the world that we went to twice. Not that I want to recommend doing that but it is a gorgeous country. Despite the increase in tourism and despite the fact that some parts of the country seem to have changed into a theme park.
Here my ten tips of things to see or do in Costa Rica.
My absolute number one in this list is Tortuguero. Maybe because it is in a remote location and getting there requires some effort but here you can roam the jungle without running into hordes of tourists. If you’re lucky and you come in the right season, you might see turtles on the beach. But apart from that you have all the chance in the world to see the sloth, lots of cayman, howler monkeys (and god, do they howl!!) and the yellow pit viper. To name just a few. And the birds…!
Corcovado National Park – Another hard to reach destination (unless you come by mini plane as there is an airstrip close to the park) which requires a trip across the water to get there. You can choose to go on a hike here (always with a guide!) and if you’re lucky you can even spot a leopard here in the wild. But to be honest; just staying at the camp on the edge of the sea is enough as the wildlife tends to come to you. We stayed in the luxury tent camp (La Leona Eco Lodge) and spotted most animals right from the comfort of our own tent. Beautifully colored parrots, nose bears that are very curious. lots of butterflies and of course more bird. A wonderful place to stay and relax. A word of warning about the sea as the currant here is known to be very treacherous. When we arrived someone had just drowned. And that happens here on a regular basis. Just so you know.
Canopy tour in Rincon de la Vieja or Monteverde. We did it the first time in Rincon, the second time in Monteverde. It doesn’t really matter where you do it, it is still an absolute adrenaline rush to throw yourself into the depths of the jungle. Try and prevent yourself from screaming a Tarzan like scream… You will scare the birds away.. 🙂
Hiking on and around the Arenal Volcano. The area here is a bit more open than the dense rainforest giving you a better view of the surroundings and because of the difference in heights you have beautiful views when hiking. The Arenal is an active volcano and you can see her spitting out lava at night.
Watching hummingsbirds at Savegre Hotel de Montana
It doesn’t happen very often that you get to see hummingbirds so close and in such big numbers. Yes, they are being fed by the lodge so that is the reason they keep coming back but it is still gorgeous to see and if you like taking pictures of birds: this is an excellent opportunity to test your patience. Even though they come close it is still extremely difficult to get them on film! Trust me…It is the quickest bird on the planet!
Watching iguanas at…. I can’t find the name of the place but I guarantee you that everyone who has ever been to Costa Rica will known which spot I mean. It’s a virtual heaven for iguanas that hang in large numbers from the trees there. By now they are also fed and yes it is another tourist spot but still a fun one to see these prehistoric monsters so up close and personal. Although you may wonder at some point who is watching who. They’re weird creatures!
Monkey watching in Manuel Antonio. Manuel Antonio is by far the most touristic parc in Costa Rica. When you arrive across the one road you can’t help but notice the neon signs, hotels and busses everywhere and yes, obviously a very popular place. I have to confess that both times we were there we did not go into the park. It was at the end of our trip and after all the jungle hikes I kind of had enough of that. But if you find yourself a good lodge here you can just wait until the monkey come and find you. We were at the edge of the rainforest and each day around the same time large groups of squirrel monkeys (my favorite monkey in the world!) came and visited the trees around the lodge. The trees carried there favorite fruits and they were ripe just at the time we were there. So yes you need to be a bit lucky as well, but it was the best part of the day! I love monkeys! We stayed in Hotel Villa Teca and I wouldn’t call that a recommendation by the way. It’s a typical tourist hotel with big pool. Rooms were fine, but the food was mediocre to bad and if you ordered a drink that contained alcohol you got mostly water and not a lot of alcohol (mix drinks that is)
Monteverde and Santa Elena – Parts of Monteverde (and particularly the part where the canopy tour is) has been changed into an amusement park with tickets to buy for each little piece of the area. If you want to walk the suspension bridges it costs you x, you want to do a canopy tour it costs you y. You can buy a dayticket for everything or do it in pieces. it is expensive. Is it worth it? We didn’t think so. But if you go outside of the crowds and little further away from the madness Monteverde is still a beautiful piece of primal rainforest and one of the few places in the world where you can spot the quetzal.
Cero de la Muerte – Eddie Serano – Mirador de Quetzales cabins
We were only here in 2001 but I looked it up and by the looks of it not much has changed here. Such a wonderful place to visit! But also very very cold. The wooden cabins are charming but don’t have any isolation and you’re high up in the mountains. At night it gets very cold! I slept with no less than five (!!) blankets on the bed and a hot waterbottle under the blankets. Of course part of it is the difference in temperature between high and low. You can do a early morning hike here to see the quetzal. We found it but it was so far away that we didn’t see more than a silhouet. O and don’t forget to check the door of your cabin in the morning. It is possibly covered with beautiful moths! Not the ugly little things we have here but with the most beautiful feathers and colors.
And bonus number eleven. Boatride across the Caño Negro – This river is at the border between Nicaragua and Costa Rica and from Fortuna it is easy to make a daytrip to the river. Make sure you get there really early as it will get crowded later in the day. We were the first boat in a row plus we had a really good spotter on board. And that is essential to have as you will miss most of it if you don’t know where to look. We saw the most amazing wildlife during this boattrip.