Costa Rica is sometimes referred to as the ‘capital of adventure tourism’, and with good reason! The honorary title hints at the myriad different ways visitors can enjoy this beautiful country. Tourists visiting Costa Rica are spoilt for choice with exciting outdoor activities, ranging from hiking through the national parks, to camping under star studded skies, to surfing the ocean waves. If you’re looking for adventure, then this Central American country is the place in which you will find it.
Famous for its coffee and banana industries, Costa Rica is also rich in fascinating wildlife and breathtaking natural landscapes. It’s one of the most biologically diverse areas on the planet so spending time in nature here is like nowhere else. Home to deadly poisonous snakes as well as exquisite hummingbirds and butterflies, exploring this country is a once in a lifetime experience. Read on to find out some of the best ways to do it.
Costa Rica is a hiker’s paradise. It’s one of the most popular reasons for visiting and it’s not difficult to see why. National parks like Tortuguero and Arenal provide the perfect opportunity to get up close and personal with the native flora and fauna, rather than confining your stay to the city.
Tortuguero is located in the eastern part of the country and the village itself is so remote, it can only be reached by plane or boat. The park is made up of dense, lush rainforest and its walking trail El Gavilan (after the tree of the same name) takes you right through it. It also has a coastal edge, so you can wander along the soft sands and perhaps even spot a leatherback turtle or two.
Whilst most of Arenal is also covered by rainforest, it has the added attraction of an active volcano in the middle of it! This is a favourite walking spot for many and has several different trails to choose from. You can inspect the cooling lava from Las Coladas trail or take the Toucans Trail to spot plenty of local wildlife, including four different species of monkey.
The perfect way to experience the true spirit of Costa Rica is to camp out right in the middle of it. Most national parks allow you to set up a tent for the night, and the starry skies overhead make this a must-try activity. Head to San Agustin Rainforest Reserve for a night spent close to nature, or to Braulio Carrillo for an easily accessible spot just outside the city of San Jose. If you fancy something a little more sheltered, the subterranean cave system found at Barra Honda national park gives you a whole new world to explore before turning in for the night.
Personally, when I’m away I like to update friends back home by posting shots online of my travels, and I find a great way to fund my trip for a little while longer is to take a spin or two or play some chess on my favourite sites. I find that camping out allows me the time in which to do this, whilst also catching up on R&R. It’s great to step back from the pace of daily life when you’re exploring, but it’s also necessary to check in every now and then. Having your own space in a tent along with some peace and quiet gives you some much needed breathing space from what can be a hectic and busy trip. And it’s always so cool to Skype my family as the rainforest teems with nocturnal life around me!
Kayaking and white-water rafting
Apart from walking, Costa Rica’s other great outdoor attractions are based in the water. People go crazy for white-water rafting here and there are some hair raising places where you can check it out too. The real experts go up against the fearsome Upper Balsa, a Class V rapids river, but there are gentler options available as well. This can be a fun way to view the country and see wildlife like herons, kingfishers and even crocodiles as you speed past.
Perhaps a less intimidating but still thrilling activity is kayaking. If you want to switch things up a bit from tramping around in your walking boots and sunhat, then try this activity on for size. A little more relaxed than rafting, it still gives you the opportunity to see a unique perspective of Costa Rica from its waterways, and a chance to get some great shots for your photo album.
The beaches in Costa Rica mainly mean three things: surfing, swimming and snorkelling. Although there are some important precautions to take before leaping into that inviting blue (the fourth ‘s’ is sharks), the sunshine and sandy beaches make swimming a very enjoyable pastime here. Dipping beneath the waves, snorkelling is possible all along the Pacific coast where you’ll discover an underwater world filled with colourful life and movement.
Alternatively, you can surf off the coast of Costa Rica pretty much anywhere that takes your fancy. Playa Naranjo is a star attraction on the north-west coast, whereas the eastern Caribbean coast offers up Playa Negra, Manzanillo and La Salsa Brava, a massive wave reserved for the most experienced and fearless of surfers. It’s common to see people surfing here so there are many surf schools and places to hire boards from if you fancy checking out the ultimate summer sport.
Costa Rica is almost a country of two halves; the lush green land and the raging blue sea. Strapping on a pair of boots and a backpack means that you can explore any part of it, and everywhere you go you’re guaranteed to find beauty and wonder.