Best Trips for Every Traveler
Though smaller than the state of West Virginia, Costa Rica is a world unto itself. The country never measures longer or wider than 200 miles, so you can travel from cool mountains to tropical beach in just hours. With its geographic and ecological diversity, Costa Rica offers the ideal trip for every type of traveler, whether you’re seeking seaside relaxation or the adventure of a lifetime.
Best Eco Trip
Tortuguero, a small village on the northern Caribbean coast, is a haven for some of Costa Rica’s most iconic wildlife. The pastel-painted town sits within Tortuguero National Park, a protected area of rainforest and beach joined by lagoons and lush canals. The region is renowned for its tranquil boat tours, which explore the waterways and riverbanks flush with tiger herons, white-faced monkeys, basilisk lizards, anhinga, caimans and other fauna.
The area is most famous for its nesting sea turtles – leatherback, Olive Ridley, hawksbill, and green sea turtles – that come ashore its beaches to lay eggs. Nesting is most prevalent from July 1 to October 31, when you can join an evening tour with trained guides versed in turtle ecology. The tour fees go directly into turtle research and local conservation efforts.
Best Tropical Beach Vacation
Manuel Antonio stretches out before your eyes like a Technicolor postcard: the sparkling Pacific laps at soft white sand, the foreground flanked by emerald rainforest. Playa Espadilla, the long, pristine shore in front of the village, is a great beach for beginner and intermediate surfers, while sun lovers can laze the day away, enjoying the gentle breezes and shady patches along the shore. Just over a two-hour drive from the international airport, the town is conveniently located for a quick getaway.
Well-developed as a tourist destination, Manuel Antonio offers a wealth of options and amenities. If you choose to punctuate beach lounging with a bit of activity, Manuel Antonio is sure to please. Set out on a snorkeling or sunset cruise; hike through Manuel Antonio National Park, where you’re guaranteed to encounter white-faced monkeys; or take an eco-tour through the Damas Island estuary. Lodging ranges from budget to supremely luxurious, and the town’s main street is lined with restaurants of every international persuasion.
Best Destination with Kids
Child-friendly exhibits and outdoor activities are the name of the game in Monteverde – a cloud forest wonderland full of fun and fascinating experiences. Our top pick is the Children’s Eternal Rainforest, where day and night hikes engage young minds while educating on the importance of conservation.
If your children are animal lovers, you can’t miss a visit to the frog pond and bat jungle. Home to 30 amphibian species, the frog pond boasts knowledgeable guides who can tailor tours to young interests. Before the day is through, your kids will know which frogs bypass the tadpole stage and hatch from eggs, what species can leap 50 feet in just one hop, and the type of frog that is completely transparent. Next, head to the bat jungle where children can try on a set of huge bat ears, choose what kind of bat they’d most like to be, and observe these amazing flying mammals in their native habitat.
Known as the adventure capital of Costa Rica, Arenal is the undisputed champion when it comes to extreme tours. Situated at the base of Arenal Volcano, the town of La Fortuna is an excellent headquarters for the area’s adventures, which include rappelling down tropical waterfalls, 45 mph zip-lines over treetops, and exploring five million-year old caves.
As an introduction to Arenal’s exhilarating activities, gear up for the area’s fastest canopy tour and soar from one platform to the next on eight zip-line cables, the highest of which towers 660 feet above ground. After that heart-pounding warm up, you’re ready to graduate to the big leagues of waterfall rappelling. A quick hike into a rainforest canyon leads you to a series of small falls, where you practice for the big daddy – a 200-foot rappel down slick rock face, as a roaring cascade pounds in your ears. Wrap up your trip at the Venado Caverns, an ancient cave system home to bats, stingless scorpions and artistically formed stalactites and stalagmites.
If you’ve ever yearned to escape from it all, the Osa Peninsula is your destination of choice. Situated on Costa Rica’s southern Pacific coast, the Osa is a true wilderness frontier. Home to Corcovado National Park – named by National Geographic as “the most biologically intense place on Earth” – dramatic encounters with rare and elusive animals like tapirs, squirrel monkeys and even puma are commonplace.
Traveling to the Osa Peninsula is half the fun, and the region’s major towns – Drake Bay and Puerto Jimenez – are accessed via boat, rugged road or small plane. Once you’ve arrived, you’ll be treated to a world of staggeringly beautiful beaches hemmed in by verdant rainforest. Immerse yourself in the beauty around you: take a dolphin and whale watching tour; hike the park in search of tapirs; or snorkel off Cano Island, where you’ll mingle with moray eels, white tip reef sharks and schools of multihued fish. Wholly surrounded by nature, you’ll soon forget the hustle and bustle of life back home.