If your dream holiday is a relaxed and energising adventure in nature, put Costa Rica at the top of your list.
The Central American land of beaches and rainforests is bursting with activities for every kind of traveller. Thrill chasers can go white water rafting and hike an active volcano, while those in the slow lane can soak in thermal pools and learn about bean-to-bar artisanal chocolate making.
But no matter how you like to travel, you’ll find yourself quickly immersed in the Costa Rican concept of Pura Vida. Literally translated it means pure or simple life, but Costa Ricans use it for greetings, apologies, expressions of friendliness or joy and just about everything in between. But more than that, it’s a way of life that embraces positivity, relaxation and living every moment to its fullest.
Fortunately for you, from its sandy shorelines to wild tropical jungles and nature reserves, Costa Rica is the perfect place to embrace this lifestyle. These green corridors and parks protect hundreds of animals and exotic birds and thousands of colourful native plant species. Keep your eyes peeled for cheeky locals as they swing from tree to tree!
Ready for a wild escape? Check out these 6 incredible things to do in Costa Rica on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure with Trafalgar.
1. Touch the sky in Monteverde Cloud Forest
Discover the unreal natural beauty of Costa Rica from a whole new perspective – the tree canopy.
Deep in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, a series of treetop suspension bridges will take you high in the sky and face-to-face with one of the world’s most complex ecosystems. Tall trees covered with orchids, bromeliads, ferns, vines and mosses bathe in an ever-present forest mist.
Since the sun can barely reach the jungle floor, more than 90 percent of all organisms make themselves at home in the canopy. This is why trekking the SkyWalk is the best chance to breathe in the beauty and magic of Costa Rica’s dense tropical forests.
2. Taste exotic produce on a 2000-acre working jungle ranch
Hacienda Pozo Azul is a special place. In the heart of the Sarapiquí Rainforest, Trafalgar Be My Guest hosts Don Alberto and Doña Ana Quintana love to welcome guests to their working jungle farm.
Learn about the history and culture of Costa Rica through food – from the role coffee played during the colonial period, through to the small country’s recent transformation into the world’s top pineapple exporter. Taste, touch and smell different crops, from vanilla and pepper to various tropical fruits and medicinal plants that grow organically on the farm.
On our Costa Rica Eco Adventure tour your hosts prepare a traditional barbecue lunch using produce from their farm or sourced locally.
If you’re feeling brave after eating, go white water rafting down an 8 mile (13km) stretch of the Sarapiqui River. Or stay on dry land and explore the property’s jungle trails, crossing a 400 ft (120m) long hanging bridge that offers a magnificent view down the Sarapiquí River and beyond.
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3. Meet monkeys, toucans and crocodiles in Tortuguero National Park
Sometimes hiking isn’t the best way to get up close with nature. In Tortuguero National Park, there’s no better place to spy loud howler monkeys swinging through the treetops, colourful toucans and egrets flying above and crocodiles creeping in the shadows than from the deck of a river boat.
This is one of the best places to immerse yourself in Costa Rica’s extraordinary biodiversity. Keep your eyes peeled for sloths, green iguanas, caimans, spider monkeys, white-faced capuchins, river otters, tons of colourful, exotic birds and the endangered ocelot.
The best time to visit is when huge sea turtles lay their eggs on the beach between July and September. On our Costa Rica tours a local specialist from the Sea Turtle Conservancy Foundation will guide a night tour to where the turtles nest in Tortuguero.
4. Hike up the lava flow of a volcano
There are few better ways to feel alive than the sense of nature’s awesome power you get while hiking up Costa Rica’s most active volcano. Arenal Volcano erupted in 1968 and has been coughing up fiery red lava and smoky ash ever since.
On a guided hike you can see areas destroyed in the eruption, pass through more recent lava flows and admire how nature always springs back. Along the way look out for deer, monkeys, tapir, snakes, parrots and exotic plant life.
If the hike sounds a little too adventurous do not fear. Since 2010 the volcano has settled down again and park rangers monitor it constantly.
At the base rests Lake Arenal, where hydroelectric energy powers 12 percent of the country and hot springs give you a chance to melt away any post-hike aches.
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5. Indulge in chocolate made from the world’s best cacao beans
Central America is the world’s biggest producer of cacao beans, yet it exports most of its crop overseas. Julio Fernandez and George Soriano are working hard to change this one bean at a time.
The master chocolatiers are so passionate about local culture and preserving the environment they quit their careers as a historian and a journalist to start a bean-to-bar fine chocolate business.
Trace chocolate’s evolution from a sacred ceremonial drink for native Costa Ricans to its adoption as an elixir in European aristocracy with a tasting in their small workshop in the village of San Isidro de Heredia. You’ll taste fresh cacao fruit and roasted cacao beans while learning how the raw product is finally transformed into artisanal chocolate bonbons.
6. Get up close with snakes in the name of wildlife preservation
Say hola to snakes, crocodiles, alligators, basilisks, iguanas and turtles at a family-run wildlife refuge.
The local Costa Rican and Irish-Canadian founders use the Snake Garden Wildlife Center to educate people about protecting the environment and its animals.
The centre gives back to the local community by working to preserve the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor, a natural land bridge that stretches from South America to North America.
Thanks to the different habitats along the corridor, somewhere between seven to 10 percent of the world’s known species use this land to live or in migration.
Have you travelled to Costa Rica before? Share your tips and favourite experiences for others to enjoy in the comments below.