As a nature and animal lover, this country was basically heaven on earth, so let me introduce just a taste of what it has to offer…
Tortuguero National Park
Located on Costa Rica’s north Caribbean coast, Tortuguero is particularly unique in that it is only accessible by boat or plane. We arrived at our jungle lodge after an hour-long boat ride that also introduced us to some of the villages, nature and wildlife that we could expect to see over the coming days. That afternoon we explored the tiny village of Tortuguero by foot, taking in the many colours, sounds and aromas. We had some free time to browse some of the many artisan handicraft shops and try some fresh coconut water.
We walked back to the lodge along the stunning black-sand beach before heading out on a night walk with our guide. Night walks in the jungle really are a must, even if creepy crawlies aren’t your cup of tea! Just the sense of being in the middle of the rainforest with nothing but a torch and listening to the sounds of the frogs and insects is incredible. Our guide pointed out tarantulas, insects, a snake and many frog species, including the beautiful red-eyed tree frog and the blue jean frog.
The next morning, we took kayaks out to tour some of the canals that boats cannot reach. With no motors or noise to scare off the wildlife, we were lucky enough to spot many caiman (including a mum and her babies) and a multitude of the amazing Jesus Christ lizards that run on water. We also witnessed a show of spider monkeys jumping from tree to tree across the canal. Such an incredible experience to really get back to nature! After lunch, we took a boat out to discover some of the larger canals and on this tour we spotted our first sloth, perched high up in the trees, and toucans flying overhead.
Arenal Volcano (Also Volcan Costa Rica)
Volcano views from our hotel room
In north-western Costa Rica lies one of the country’s seven active volcanoes, iconic Arenal. Arenal Volcano is almost perfectly conically-shaped and thanks to its geothermal activity, there are a number of natural hot springs in the area. We were lucky enough to have them right in our resort! We spent our few days here hiking through the lava flows in the national park, canyoning down nearby waterfalls and white water rafting, plus relaxing in the hot springs in between!
We also had a free afternoon and ventured down to La Fortuna waterfall, where we were able to swim in the crystal-clear pools at the bottom. Arenal was a definite favourite place amongst the few of us travelling, it was just incredible to wake up to views over the volcano and watch the steam billowing from the crater whilst enjoying the hot springs.
Monteverde Cloud Forest
Our next stop was Monteverde. To get here we took the famous road-boat-road transfer across Lake Arenal. This shaved hours off our travel time and was a very scenic trip, be prepared for the bumpy roads across the other side of the lake though. We arrived higher in the mountains to a significantly cooler climate, although it was still a pleasant 20 degrees. That night we had dinner in an amazing treehouse restaurant in the centre of Santa Elena. Lit up with different coloured lights, it was simply stunning and another favourite experience of our time in Costa Rica.
The next day we wandered through the cloud forest with our guide in search of the elusive quetzal, and were extremely lucky to see 3 – 2 females and 1 male! Our guide also pointed out the amazing glass-winged butterfly, as well as many other bird species. We took a short hike to a waterfall and also crossed a suspension bridge. As we left the cloud forest reserve, we stopped at a hummingbird gallery which offered numerous photo opportunities with these stunning birds.
In the afternoon, we took an amazing zip-lining tour of the cloud forest canopy for a bird’s eye view. This was another incredible and favourite experience for us all – suitable for all ages and fitness levels too!
Manuel Antonio National Park
Our last destination on the trip was to Costa Rica’s Pacific coast, home to the famous Manuel Antonio National Park. Despite being the smallest of Costa Rica’s National Parks, it is home to many of the country’s endangered species…and many sloths! We spotted 6 or 7 here in just a couple of hours. As well as wildlife, there are some beautiful beaches to relax at inside the national park, just make sure to tie your bags to a tree and try not to take any food – I can guarantee you it will get stolen by monkeys or racoons! I even had a banana zipped inside my backpack, which a racoon unzipped to get at. It was actually super clever and very funny to watch.
Banana stealing racoon
If animals, nature and a bit of adventure are your thing, I can almost guarantee you’ll have the time of your life in incredible Costa Rica.
We visit Costa Rica on our Guatemala & Costa Rica small group tour.
Photo Credit: All Images by Emily Fraser