Costa Rica is a land of unparalleled natural beauty. Home to an incredible 4% of the world’s animal species, any visit will awaken your senses to exactly what has been so magnificently preserved here.
It doesn’t matter you’re seeking natural beauty or a fun, laid-back place to visit— Costa Rica will not disappoint. The pace of life here is slower, and ticos are excessively friendly and patient with visitors. They are proud of their heritage and ecological treasures.
Here are a few “can’t-miss” highlights of this rainforest paradise.
Explore the Arenal Volcano Area and La Fortuna Waterfall
The Arenal Volcano is one of Costa Rica’s most well-known geographic features. This 5,358-foot volcano is the centerpiece of the massive Arenal Volcano National Park. Once one of the most active volcano in the world, Arenal has substantially quieted down in recent years, and it still looms large over the entire region.
The area has incredible biodiversity due to its altitudinal range, annual rainfall (137 inches) and status as a national protected area. Beyond the amazing wildlife, the nearby hot springs (heated by the volcanoes) are extremely popular for relaxing after a long day of trekking or paddling. Adjacent to the national park is also the Lake Arenal watershed, an area popular with windsurfers, kayakers and wakeboarders.
Nearby is the majestic La Fortuna Waterfall. Fed by the Tenorio River, this waterfall has an amazing 210-foot drop (Niagara Falls is 167 feet). Visitors climb down 550 steps in the cliffside to reach the waterfall’s plunge pool below. Plunge pools typically get deeper with passing years, and La Fortuna is no exception. It has become an excellent place to cool off and swim, all in an incredibly picturesque jungle paradise setting. Be sure you wear more than flip-flops down to the hillside track to the bottom; an untimely blowout could have consequences.
The Mystical Power of the Cloud Forests
The cloud forests between the small villages of Santa Elena and Monteverde shot to international recognition in 1983 after a National Geographic article called attention to this unique region. Ever since, the villages have sought to strike the perfect balance between showcasing their ecology and preserving it. In most places, the roads are little more than jungle tracks, and the local ticos are committed to sustainability in most everything they do.
The word “cloud forest” is indicative of a condition that occurs when heavy rainfall and lingering condensation occur as air currents bring in more and more moisture-laden air from lower elevations. The result is brilliant. Soaked in seemingly perpetual fog, this environment features vegetation that grows to incredible sizes. In the biological sense, because of the unique balance of the natural elements in these forests, places like the Santa Elena cloud forest become home to flora and fauna that are found nowhere else. Plus, some amazing canopy-level zip lines give you the opportunity to explore this one of-a-kind place from both the ground and air.
Some of the Nicest Beaches in the World: Manuel Antonio Park
In Manuel Antonio Park, the rainforest grows beautifully and encroaches the beach in stunning fashion. Just offshore is an incredible mix of marine biodiversity with beautiful, colorful reefs waiting just below the surface. The entire 716-acre park is crisscrossed with hiking trails and four distinct beach areas. Several scenic overlooks are easily reachable via short hikes. If you’re looking for the Jesus Christ lizard (Basiliscus Basiliscus) or the mantled howler monkey, you are in the right place. The park is home to hundreds of animal species. Simply put, it’s one of the nicest places on the planet to spend a day.