Hoewel tokkelbanen langs de boomtoppen met duizelingwekkende vaart hun charme hebben, kunt u ook op andere manieren de prachtige wildernis van Costa Rica verkennen. Wat veel toeristen niet weten is dat het leven van het regenwoud zich voornamelijk afspeelt in de dikke bladerwereld bovenin het woud, als samenspel van zon en mogelijkheden.
De meeste vogels, apen, grote miereneters, luiaards, slangen en amfibieën in Costa Rica brengen het grootste deel van hun leven door in de verre boomtoppen, op veilige afstand van camera’s of jeugdige fotografen. Wilt u de dieren echt goed bekijken, dan zult u zelf de boom in moeten.
Dat kan met de 16 elegante Arenal hangbruggen. Soms liggen deze over bergkloven, op andere plekken hoog boven de jungle. Ze vormen een kronkelig wandelpad over een lengte van 2,6 km over de steile omgeving.
The vast protected forest of Braulio Carrillo National Park may be divided by one of the nation’s busiest highways, but this just means easy access for travelers, as well as the possibility of picturesque views without ever having to leave the car.
Lazy travelers can traverse the highway snapping photos of lush landscapes from the comfort of their car seats, while those eager to get back to nature can embark on one of the miles of trails leading to the waterfalls, open pastures and mountain stations that dot the rainforest. An Aerial tram on the eastern side of the park offers open gondola rides through the dense understory and canopy of the woods, where its possible to spot the sloth and other forest creatures that call Braulio Carrillo National Park home.
Perhaps the most famous (and certainly most prized) public building in all of San Jose, the National Theater of Costa Rica in the city’s Catedral district, is home to the nation’s cultural community. Classical music, theater and dance performances take place several times a week. And while it’s always worth catching a show, the theater’s traditional Renaissance architecture, breathtaking ceilings and grand interiors make it a must-see stop even if you can’t get tickets for the symphony.
Free tours of the historic building, which was built in1897, take place daily at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., and the theater’s highly regarded café with picturesque San Jose views, is a perfect spot to grab lunch before exploring the rest of the city.
Plunging down the side of Cerro Chato, Volcan Arenal’s dormant and thickly forested twin, is one of the most impressive, and easily accessible, waterfalls in all Costa Rica. Cascada La Fortuna pours some 65m (200ft) down a sheer, volcanic gray cliff face, perpetually bathed in mists and carpeted in abundant and exotic vegetation.
The trailhead for the falls is located just 5.5km (3mi) from La Fortuna proper, a popular bike ride or horseback trek. The descent from the parking lot to the jungle floor isn’t a long or difficult hike; it’s about 20 minutes down, and generally a bit longer climbing back back up. Just keep in mind that the staircase is steep, and sometimes slippery. A the mirador, or viewpoint, allows almost anyone to appreciate this natural wonder no matter what their fitness level.
Just off the tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, close to beautiful Curu Wildlife Refuge, lies idyllic Isla Tortuga, Costa Rica’s most popular island escape. It actually comprises two islands, Alcatraz and Tolinga, but just about everyone refers to them as just “Isla Tortuga,” or Turtle Island.
A postcard-perfect paradise of white sand beaches, gently swaying coconut palms, and sapphire blue water, this is the perfect spot to swim, snorkel, or simply enjoy the sunshine.
While there’s plenty to do on land—eat, drink, take a canopy tour, play volleyball, or even hike a short but lovely little nature trail through the heart of the island—most people come to snorkel or dive. The volcanic reef, featuring three shipwrecks, which surrounds the island, shelters spinner dolphins, angelfish, porcupine fish, octopi, eagle rays, moray eels, and if you’re lucky, the sea turtles for which the island is named.
The most famous national park in Costa Rica, Arenal Volcano National Park protects the still sizzling Arenal Volcano, one of the world’s 10 most active volcanoes. The park also encompasses 16 reserves and an amazing dozen different ecological zones, proof of Costa Rica’s incredible biodiversity.
A visit to the national park reveals an active cone topped with flows of red lava, belching columns of ash. As you’d expect it’s an unforgettably dramatic sight, especially if you take a visit to the park at night. Arenal’s 140-metre (460-foot) wide crater was dormant for centuries until catastrophically blowing its top in 1968. The most recent major eruption occurred in 1998.
At the confluence of two important Costa Rican ecosystems—the wet and wild Pacific Rainforest that characterizes the southern coast, and the dry tropical forest for which Guanacaste is known—this small, popular national park packs a lot of wildlife into a 5240-hectare (12,950-acre) package.
Most notably, Carara is home to one of Costa Rica’s last remaining populations of scarlet macaws, who you’ll likely see gossiping and preening in small groups throughout the park. The Rio Tarcoles, which forms the park’s northern border, is well known for its enormous population of huge crocodiles.
There are two short, 1km (.6mi) interpretive trails through the wilderness and waterfalls, perfect for families and less active travelers. A longer, 4.5km (2.7mi) trail follows the Rio Tarcoles and mangrove marshes, where both the crocodiles and scarlet macaws settle in for the evening.
In this well-watered rainforest pierced by the perfect gray cone of Volcan Arenal, it is not only lava that wells up from the depths of the Earth. Steaming hot springs pour like a river from the great mountain’s barren flanks, coursing through the lush tropical grounds of famed Tabacón Grand Spa.
Mineral-rich waters, fresh from the earth, cascade with picturesque through a lavishly landscaped setting. Costa Rica’s most beautiful flowers are woven through a world of quiet pathways and wooden bridges that connect the different pools. Some are warmer, others more isolated; the main pool, with fantastic views of the volcano, has a fabulous bar and water slide. A cold spring hidden away in a shady corner of this marvelous spot is the perfect place to recharge.
A trip to through the lush rainforests surrounding Arenal Hanging Bridges may be perfect for nature lovers, but it’s not for the faint of heart. That’s because 16 bridges—some suspended high above gorges and others stretching far across jungle floors—line the winding paths of this epic Costa Rican hike. Visitors can wander through thick vegetation on well-marked trails, look for families of monkeys swinging through the air, and spot lazy sloth lounging among tree limbs. Despite their height, bridges are stable and secure. And while heavy rains can make parts of the path difficult to navigate, a hike through this forest in sunny weather is a perfect way to spend several afternoon or mid-morning hours out of doors.
Sitting on a narrow peninsula in the Gulf of Nicoya, Puntarenas is a gateway to exploring the best of Costa Rica’s natural beauty and ecological diversity. It is also the country’s most important fishing port and a popular holiday destination for Costa Ricans.
If you are lucky, your ship will dock right in Puntarenas; other cruise ships may dock at Puerto Caldera, which is 20 minutes away from Puntarenas by taxi. In Puntarenas, you will arrive at the base of the Paseo de las Turistas, the main tourist drag. Without much to see in Puntarenas itself, you will most likely spend your day on an excursion. The Monteverde Cloud Forest, Poas Volcano National Park and the Carara National Park are all popular day trip destinations and possible activities include horseback riding or hiking through the rainforest, kayaking, whitewater rafting, birdwatching and ziplining.