Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui Activities
If taking the Guapiles Highway from San Jose, travelers pass Braulio Carrillo National Park en route to Puerto Viejo. Here, visitors can take in a panoramic vista while slowly climbing above the treetops aboard an open-air gondola with Rainforest Aerial Tram Atlantic. Glide above the canopy layer in one of twenty cable cars, enjoying spectacular views and an opportunity to spot wildlife that would otherwise remain hidden. Three-hour tours include a quick film, aerial tram ride, and a guided hike through the park’s trails. Tours depart several times daily and cost $55 for adults and $27.50 for students and children age 12 and under. Telephone: 2257-5961.
Get to know these highly evolved creatures, which account for almost 50% of Costa Rica’s total mammal population. Tirimbina Biological Reserve offers an evening bat program that includes a 30-minute slideshow and an opportunity to see and touch live bats, caught with the aid of humane nets. Costa Rica has more than 110 species of bats, and 70 of those species can be found at the biological reserve. Reservations are required. $20 adults, $16 students, and $14 children. Telephone: 2761-0055.
Bird & Wildlife Watching
A visit to one of the many parks, wildlife refuges or rainforest reserves is a great way to discover the area’s amazing biodiversity. Crocodiles, iguanas, monkeys, poison dart frogs, bats, and a slew of tropical birds are commonly seen. While a naturalist guide is always helpful, travelers will enjoy the variety of self-guided trails available at Tirimbina Biological Reseve and Hacienda Pozo Azul. Visitors can experience the rainforest at their own pace on a variety of trails and suspension bridges that meander through the reserves.
Black Pepper Tour
One of Puerto Viejo’s newest gastronomic attractions, the Black Pepper Tour is located in Rancho Chilamate, less than six miles outside of town. The tour includes a walk through the family farm, a sampling of black pepper infused ice cream, and lunch prepared with heaps of the savory spice. This homespun tour is a wonderful Mom and Pop operation, and well worth a visit. Reservations are required for a bilingual guide. Telephone: 2761-0024.
Botanical Garden Tour
A tour de force in tropical gardening, Heliconia Island is situated 15 minutes south of Puerto Viejo. The five-acre island is verdant with more than 70 species of heliconia, as well as ginger, bromeliads and ornamental plants. Additionally, the island is excellent for butterfly and birdwatching – more than 200 bird species have been observed, including orange-chinned parakeets, keel-billed toucans, snowy egrets, rufous-tailed hummingbirds, and scarlet-rumped tanagers. Visitors can arrange a garden tour or stay overnight in the bed and breakfast. Telephone: 2764-5220.
Canoeing & Tubing
More interested in wildlife than whitewater? Try paddling the Sarapiqui’s lower section, where mild Class I and II rapids allow time to enjoy the area’s beautiful surroundings and wildlife. Tour operators also run canoe trips down the tranquil Puerto Viejo River and tubing adventures down the Sardinal River.
There are at least three canopy tours in Puerto Viejo, and each offers awesome heights and a naturalist guide as part of the experience. Canopy La Linda boasts 14 zip-line cables and two crossings over the Sarapiqui River. This tour has the one of the longest cables (nearly 2300 feet in length) and fastest rides in town. Hacienda Pozo Azul has a similar tour with twelve cables ranging from 65 to 100 feet high, and a 984-foot ride across the river on their exciting and ultra-safe double zip-lines. The Aventuras del Sarapiqui canopy tour traverses tropical rainforest, and includes a wild ride on 15 cables – including the final, 2,000-foot run over the Sarapiqui River. Recommended for children age six and older.
The Chocolate Tour is one of Tirimbina Rainforest Center’s most popular attractions. Discover the natural history of this ancient food and the entire chocolate-making process, from harvest to production. The three-hour experience includes a tour of a former cacao plantation and a taste of hot cocoa and organic chocolate. $22 adults, $17 students, and $15 children. Telephone: 2761-0055.
The Mi Cafecito coffee tour introduces visitors to Coopesarapiqui, the region's Fair Trade coffee cooperative. Learn about coffee production in the mountain areas of Sarapiqui and San Carlos, and follow the coffee bean on its journey from germination to roasted product. The tour ends with a cup of coffee, espresso or cappuccino, and the cooperative's souvenir shop sells a variety of whole bean and ground coffee roasts. Telephone: 2476-0031 or 2476-0283.
Cultural Immersion Classes
The Sarapiqui Conservation Learning Center promotes community development and sustainable tourism in the region. Visitors can sign up for cooking, Spanish, art and Latin dance classes offered by local residents. Telephone: 2766-6482.
The easy to moderate trails of Selva Verde Reserve and Tirimbina Rainforest Reserve offer excellent hiking and wildlife watching opportunities. Travelers can hike solo or hire a naturalist guide for a more in-depth rainforest experience.
Explore scenic rivers and backcountry roads on horseback. Several tour operators, including Hacienda Pozo Azul, offer two or four-hour rides with chances to gallop along the way. Guides always match riders to horses according to ability, making the experience enjoyable for both the novice and experienced. Multi-day treks are also available.
Zoom along miles of dirt roads while exploring cattle farms and tropical forest. Mountain bike trips range from two hour to two-day adventures, with several exciting routes to choose from. Tours include an experienced guide, support vehicle, drinks and snacks. Bikers must be at least 12 years old.
Pineapple Plantation Tour
Learn about the entire pineapple harvesting process, from start to finish, at Collin Street Bakery’s Pineapple Tour. Find out how pineapples came to be the fruit of kings and how cultivating techniques evolved over time. The excursion includes a tractor tour of Finca Corsicana, the world's largest organic pineapple farm, and visitors have a chance to try the farm’s sweet, organic pineapple, and a refreshing pina colada at the tour’s end. Finca Corsicana is located in Llano Grande, 9 miles outside of Puerto Viejo. Telephone: 8820-6489.
Safari Boat Ride
See monkeys, herons, egrets, ibis, kingfishers, crocodiles and more while gliding down the Sarapiqui River on a safari float. Make sure to have your binoculars handy on this fun and relaxing trip. Motorized boats depart from the dock in Puerto Viejo. Tours last one to two hours and can be booked with many tour operators in town.
Experience the thrill of rappelling at Hacienda Pozo Azul while descending a 90-foot rock wall into the Sarapiqui river canyon. Tours operate daily with experienced guides. $38. Telephone: 2438-2612.
Whitewater River Rafting
The spectacularly scenic Sarapiqui River attracts thousands of river-runners each year. Rafters can tackle Class III-V rapids on a variety of tours ranging from half to multi-day adventures. During the rainy season, from June through November, rivers are particularly wild as the water levels are high. Several tour operators in town offer two and four-hour whitewater trips that include transportation and guides.