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Pura Vida: Your Costa Rica Travel Guide

Standout sands, bubbling volcanoes, dense rainforests and some of the world’s most unique wildlife—Costa Rica has a lot. It’s no wonder, then, that the country is so popular with adventure-seekers, families and honeymooners alike.

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By Eglė

Published: Jan 26, 20248 min read

Pura Vida: Your Costa Rica Travel Guide

Planning on spending your next vacation in Costa Rica? Here’s the lowdown on what’s in store for you…

Unspoilt Beaches

First things first – let’s talk about beaches. While you can find fantastic beaches all over the rest of the Caribbean and indeed the world, Costa Rica’s really are something special. Yes, we’re biased, but honestly, we think as soon as you set foot on one of the country’s sandy swathes, you’ll agree!

Pura Vida: Your Costa Rica Travel Guide - unspoiled beaches - ratepunk

The Caribbean Coast

The Caribbean is famed for its balmy beaches, so we won’t blame you if you want to make a beeline for this side of Costa Rica when you fancy some R&R. Playa Tortuguero is one of the most popular spots—mostly thanks to its nesting turtles and crystalline waters—and Playa Colces is a hit with surfers because of its huge waves. As for more secluded sweeps, don’t pass on your chance to visit Playa Blanca. It’s a three-kilometer hike to the beach, but when you get your first glance of the pearly white sand, you’ll realise it was worth every step. On the opposite end of the colour scale, there’s Playa Negra—a long, black-sand number edged by a belt of tropical trees.

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The Pacific Coast

Over on the other side of Costa Rica, there are even more beaches to explore—this stretch of coastline is a whopping six times longer than its Caribbean counterpart. Playa Tamarindo is the biggest name around here—it’s a popular haunt for surfers and sunbathers during the day, and come sunset, the bars and clubs in the nearby town spring into life. If you’re vacationing with your family, on the other hand, Playa Flamingo’s a top choice thanks to its upmarket-yet-laidback feel and crop of restaurants. Then, there’s Manuel Antonio—a stunning sweep of sand lapped by protected waters on one side, and fringed by wildlife-roamed forest on the other.

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Lush Rainforests

Picture a vacation to Costa Rica, and a hike through one of the country’s thick rainforests is probably the first thing that pops into your head. And whether you fancy yourself as the next Tarzan, or you just have an interest in all things nature, venturing into the trees is an absolute must. You won’t have to look far to find them, either, because more than half of Costa Rica is blanketed in primary rainforest!

If you’re keen on spotting some of the native wildlife while you’re in the forest, taking a boat trip along a river is a great idea. Lots of animals hang out along the water, and because you’ll be gliding along without making too much noise, you’re less likely to scare them off. Rainforest hikes are equally as rewarding here, though. Many of Costa Rica’s national parks and cloud forests have suspension bridges you can walk across, which means you can spy the flora and fauna that live near the top of the forest canopy.

The Best Rainforests in Costa Rica

Tortuguero National Park has earned the nickname ‘the Amazon of Costa Rica’, so there are no prizes for guessing what it’s like here. And it definitely deserves a place on your itinerary, as it’s a top spot to see sloths, jaguars and howler monkeys in the wild. If you’re keen to get out on a river boat trip, another wildlife-heavy spot is Carara National Park—the water here is teeming with crocodiles. Then you’ve got Corcovada  National Park, which is the biggest rainforest in South America.

Pura Vida: Your Costa Rica Travel Guide -volcanos - ratepunk

Soaring Volcanoes

Arenal

Nothing says ‘adventure’ quite like a visit to a towering volcano, and Arenal Volcano should be at the top of your must-see list. Standing more than 5,300 feet tall, it sits at the heart of the aptly named Arenal Volcano National Park—a vast, protected area known for its hot springs, cooled lava fields and fertile forest. The volcano itself last erupted in 1968 and was active as recently as 2010, but has remained quiet ever since. Unsurprisingly, hiking is one of the top things to do here, and soaking in one of the national park’s natural hot springs is another unmissable experience—many of the swimming spots sit next to walking trails and stunning viewpoints, too.

Rincón de la Vieja

This volcano—which sits in the centre of Rincón de la Vieja National Park, in the Guanacaste region— is another of Costa Rica’s must-sees. Just like Arenal Volcano, it hasn’t seen any major activity since the 1960s, but you can still experience its bubbling hot springs, steam vents and the occasional small eruption! And when you’re not exploring the volcano itself, there’s plenty of vast rainforest to trek through—much of it roamed by fascinating wildlife, from monkeys to pumas.  

Poas

A lesser-known but equally scenic peak—Poas sits in Costa Rica’s central highlands. And at almost 9,000 feet tall, it’s home to some of the best views in the whole country. In fact, on a clear day, you can see both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean from the summit! It’s not just the widescreen vistas that draw people to this spot, though—the volcano’s one of Costa Rica’s most active, which means steam, smoke and bubbling pools will surprise you at almost every turn. 

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Rivers and Lakes

Thrill seekers take note—Costa Rica’s one of the best places on earth to go whitewater rafting. The Pacuare River is ideal for this activity, as it shows off more than 50 sets of rapids and the water’s not as cold as in other spots. For a slightly calmer adventure, try rafting in the Balsa River, instead—its tamer rapids make it suitable for children as young as eight.

Some of us prefer to stick to calmer waters, though. If that includes you, turn your attention to Lake Arenal, instead. As the country’s biggest landlocked body of water, the lake’s ideal for fishing trips, mountain biking, or just picnicking with the imposing Arenal Volcano as your backdrop. Bliss. 

Unique Wildlife

Costa Rica’s wildlife is unlike anywhere else on earth. The list of animals you can see here is seriously impressive—think sloths, jaguars, pumas, monkeys, crocodiles and anteaters, not to mention hundreds of species of birds. And while most people make a beeline for the rainforests, the country’s coastline shouldn’t be overlooked—whales, dolphins and sharks are all here in their droves.

In the Forest

The majority of your wildlife-spotting time will likely be spent in one of the country’s rainforests. Tortuguero National Park is a great starting point because of its huge array of exotic animals, including sloths, jaguars, anteaters and howler monkeys. Four different species of monkey can be spotted in Corcovada National Park, too. And as we mentioned before, Carara National Park is your go-to for crocodile watching. Then, there’s Montverde—an area of rich biodiversity famous for its protected cloud forest. Here, you can set eyes on pretty butterflies, tree frogs, several more species of monkey, and the resplendent quetzal—a beautiful, brightly coloured bird.

Pura Vida: Your Costa Rica Travel Guide - monkey - ratepunk

The best way to spot wildlife in Costa Rica’s rainforests is to head out on an organised tour—with the help of an expert guide, you’ll have a better chance of tracking down even the most elusive rainforest dwellers. A riverboat cruise is always a good idea, as well.

Along the Coast

Wildlife spotting in Costa Rica isn’t confined to the rainforests and jungles—even the country’s beaches are alive with creatures big and small. Tortuguero National Park is a favourite nesting spot of sea turtles, who flock there to lay their eggs in the spring and summer. If you want to see them swimming in their natural habitat, you can take a boat across to nearby Turtle Island. Elsewhere, Punta Uva—a beach on the Caribbean Coast popular with scuba divers—is edged with monkey-filled palm trees.

Under the Sea

It’s not just turtles that flourish in the waters around Costa Rica’s coastlines. Over on the Pacific Coast, off the shores of the Osa Peninsula, you can spot majestic humpback whales and cute bottlenose dolphins. For the best chance of seeing these amazing creatures in the wild, you can join an organised boat trip—they run all year round. If you’re someone who prefers getting into the water rather than watching from a boat, why not head out on a snorkelling or scuba diving trip? One of the country’s most popular snorkelling spots is Isla Del Coco—the waters here are teeming with hammerhead sharks, colourful fish and manta rays

Costa Rica Adventure Vacations

This incredible country really is unlike anywhere else in the world. It reels off everything from sprawling beaches and unique wildlife to lush rainforests and towering volcanoes, making it the ideal destination for nature lovers and adventure seekers alike.  

RatePunk Team says THANK YOU, Costa Rica Rios, for this article! We hope it will help our reader to plan their trips in Costa Rica. 

Jan 26, 2024

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