Costa Rica is a paradise for eco-tourists. With 27 percent of the land dedicated to national reserves and more than 500,000 different plant and animal species, Costa Rica is no ordinary walk in the park. You can soar over the rainforest canopy on ziplines, hit the waves for world-class surfing or go on exotic hikes that will leave you in awe. From coast to coast, this Central American gem is a must-see.
Boasting more than 80 miles of shoreline stretching from the northern air lowlands to the southern moist hills, the Nicoya Peninsula is packed with beach towns, powdery sands and affordable getaways for all. Its beaches are its crown jewel, as they’re ideal for an assortment of water sports, including snorkeling, scuba-diving and surfing. The surf here is always up, and is deemed one of the best spots for the sport in the world. Shred the waves in the morning, and then take the kids to the turtle beaches or subterranean caves. The Peninsula is divided into two provinces, Gaunacaste in the north, and Puntarenas in the south, but you may want to explore it all.
Less than two hours north of San Jose lies Manuel Antonio National Park, where the rainforest meets the sea. There are four main beaches here: Espadilla Sur, Playita, Teloro and of course, Manuel Antonio, all of which are bursting with marine biodiversity and amazing coral reefs. Be careful, though, as there are rip currents.
Manuel Antonio is only one of two places in the country where you can see all four kinds of monkeys: howler, white-faced, spider and squirrel varieties. Once you’ve got your monkey fix, rent a fishing charter for an afternoon of family fun reeling in fish that are as big as you are. You’ll find sailfish, blue marlin, red snapper and tuna that’ll have you rattling off epic fishing tales to your friends. Last but not least, speed down the legendary ziplines that hang in the tops of the trees for a thrill of a lifetime. Don’t worry, safety is key.
With a population of 309,000, San Jose constitutes roughly 40 percent of the country’s total. It comes equipped with your usual commercial stores and side-street cafes, yet also showcases the National Theatre (Teatro Nacional). The amazing opera house is decked out in golden ceilings and marble staircases where you can watch a variety of different acts. Everything that glitters is gold in the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum (Museo del Oro Precolombino), a three-story underground structure below the Plaza de Cultura. The museum houses Central America’s largest collection of pre-Columbian gold jewelry. To practice your Spanish and socialize with the locals, head down to Parque Central, and for serious foodies, be sure to eat at the Hotel Grano de Oro, where you’ll find fine dining amidst a gorgeous ambience.
This behemoth volcano is a cornerstone of Costa Rican wonders. It is located in the 29,960-acre Arenal National Park and in 2010, was said to have moved into a resting state. Interestingly enough, 75 percent of all bird species found in the country can be spotted here. You can partake in a list of adventures for days, but the special ones to try are waterfall rappelling, whitewater rafting and hiking through the breathtaking jungle. You can even go spelunking in caves as you glimpse the colorful fish and frogs all over the rocks, or head to the Butterfly Exhibit in Castillo for a whole metamorphosis of fun.
Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
Yes, you read correctly, Cloud Forest. Located in the Tilaran Mountains northwest of the capital San Jose, Monte Verde is a wonderland for biodiversity buffs. Its lush jungle is teeming with wildlife, such as the red-eyed tree frogs that you find in National Geographic. It also hosts the longest zipline in the country, and insightful guided nature tours where a professional will point out bits of the flora and fauna that will blow you away. The night tours are a blast as well. Don’t forget to step across the Sky Walk, a series of suspension bridges with well-maintained walking paths that will take you through the canopy of the tropical forest.
Costa Rica is perfect for all ages. It’s animal-filled adventures and charismatic coastlines practically breed excitement. From volcanic peaks to vast rainforests to a culture that places family at the heart of life, Costa Rica is an end-all be-all getaway.