As a native Costa Rican, I can tell you my home country offers natural beauty beyond comparison – and outside activities are the #1 reason you should visit. In spite of its small size, Costa Rica has never been afraid to take on big challenges when it comes to preserving nature. In fact, more than 28% of our land is dedicated to national parks, reserves, and wildlife refuges and has topped the polls when it comes to ecological footprint since 99% of our energy is renewable. In addition, Costa Rica has been proclaimed as one of the happiest countries in the world, and here’s why:
As humans, we have this need to connect with nature and experience it first hand. In Costa Rica, we have access to countless beautiful beaches, rainforests, volcanoes, mountains, and wildlife. We also have warm weather throughout the year, even during the rainy season, making it an ideal place to visit all year round. Finally, there’s just something about the way Costa Ricans are. People tend to be very welcoming and warm; there’s a sense of community you immediately take part in when you arrive, we call it the Pura Vida Lifestyle.
This way of living and caring about preserving nature has been contagious both for us Costa Ricans and international visitors from around the world, making it an ideal destination for your next vacation. It is a little-known fact that Costa Rica holds more than 5% of the world’s species, even though its land only covers 0.03% of the planet. There is a lot to do when it comes to visiting Costa Rica; if you want to learn more about the popular destinations, keep reading!
Hands-down one of the best things to do is go on waterfall hikes, they are everywhere! Most of them can be a day trip, but you can choose to go to several in-between destinations. In some cases, you may need a tour guide since they can be quite extreme hikes, but there is definitely something for everyone. My most recommended ones are Rio Celeste, Nauyaca, Del Toro, Llanos de Cortes, La Fortuna, and Oropendula.
Whether you’re looking for hot springs, hikes near the volcanoes, ATV rides, or just be amazed by the craters, a Costa Rican volcano is a must. The most popular volcano is the Arenal Volcano, where you can enjoy the natural hot springs almost everywhere, as well as hiking, doing an ATV ride, and finding amazing wildlife. Other great options are Irazu, Poas, and Turrialba, and are also a great day trip near San Jose! If you visit Guanacaste, then definitely add Rincón de la Vieja to your itinerary.
All the Beaches… of course!
As you probably already know, visiting all the beaches is absolutely the most popular thing to do – and with reason! Whether you want to see wildlife, do literally any watersport, go sailing, or visit the most beautiful, hidden, untouched places nature has to offer, a Costa Rican beach will always deliver.
My personal favorites are: in the Pacific: Manuel Antonio, Tamarindo, Bahia Ballena, Osa Peninsula, Conchal, Santa Teresa, Montezuma and Mal Pais. In the Caribbean: Puerto Viejo, Punta Uva, Cahuita and Manzanillo. You will be amazed by any of these, trust me.
Rivers and Nature Extreme Sports
Certainly, if you want to get to the fun activities, you need to go to rivers and do some extreme sports. White Water Rafting in the Pacuare River, Canyoning, Wildlife Watching Safari in a motorized boat, dirt bike rides, or a combination adventure tour will definitely bring the sporty side of your trip out! You can book any of these in an area you’ll be visiting, and will probably be one of the best memories!
Road Trip around the Central Valley
The Central Valley is more than just the city in Costa Rica. If you rent a car, you can really see rare places that most tourists don’t consider visiting around the valley. For example, you can go on a hike to the Eolicas, Hacienda La Chimba, Hacienda La Central Turrialba, Iyok Ami Hiking Trail, La Olla crater, Prusia, Finca San Gerardo and much more!
Learn about the famous Costa Rican Coffee
You can’t come to Costa Rica and not learn about coffee! There are several tourist attractions that include a Coffee Tour, like the Starbucks Finca Alsacia and the Britt Coffee Tour. You get to see the whole process of how coffee is made in Costa Rica, and you can even pick some yourself! It’s important to mention that the best time to take a Costa Rica coffee tour is October – March as that is the production and harvest season.
If you are a fan of nature, you definitely need to explore the rainforest! Most of the beaches or day trips you’ll experience will belong to a national park anyways, and there is plenty of forests there, but if you want to see the canopy, I recommend going to the Braulio Carrillo National Park or Monteverde, where you can take the trams that take you through the forest up to stunning views. For those who aren’t big hikers or can’t do a lot of strenuous movements, the tram is the best way to experience the tropical jungle.
And for an up-close and personal Wildlife Experience… Visit Toucan Rescue Ranch!
Last but certainly not least, is visiting an accredited rescue center that works to protect all the amazing wildlife in the country. This is an opportunity to visit wildlife that has been given a second chance after accidents, confiscation, or illness, but that is so beautiful and rare to see! Toucan Rescue Ranch is really close to the airport, so it’s a good first or last destination on your trip. You can choose from a Classic Ranch Walk, Slothies and Coffees, Nocturnal Walks, Private Tours, or even stay overnight with the Ranch Experience!
About the writer: Mariana Diaz, born and raised in Costa Rica, has been part of the Marketing Team at Toucan Rescue Ranch since late 2020. With a background in Media for Development and Social Change, Social Work, and Graphic Design, she supports communications and all things media!