How can I organize my vacation in Costa Rica so I see as much of the country as possible and also experience the Costa Rican culture? That is a challenge! The country is so diverse that you could easily stay for a few months without getting bored. Here you will find some of our personal favorites including popular must see destinations as well as lesser known activities.
One of our well-known highlights is the Arenal Volcano due to its extraordinarily beautiful shape. We think that if you haven’t seen the Arenal Volcano in its full glory, you definitely must travel to Costa Rica again. The country has a few volcanoes but none are as perfectly formed as this imposing volcanic cone. Its peak is often hidden behind a layer of clouds but if you are lucky you will see it in its full glory in the early morning hours or in the evening. Even if you do not see the entire volcano, a hike is always worthwhile. It is best to book a guide because they will not only tell you interesting things about the history of the Arenal but also know the surrounding rainforest and its inhabitants.
Ecocentro Danaus is a little ecosystem all of its own near the town of La Fortuna. A few years after it was initiated as a reforestation project, the little jungle transformed into a small rainforest. The settlement of various animal species has worked well. Caimans, frogs, agoutis, sloths, iguanas and many more have made the Ecocentro Danaus their new habitat. The Ecocentro is particularly exciting during a guided night hike when you go armed with flashlights in search tiny croaking animals and the frogs start singing. If you are traveling in Costa Rica for a longer period of time, you can also do a traineeship here from a few days to several weeks and learn about reforestation, nature and animals.
Most people fall in love with the brilliant light blue waterfall Río Celeste at first sight. The color looks unreal in pictures but anyone who sees the river is immediately convinced its color is true. To see the waterfall you can visit the Tenorio National Park and take a nice hike.
Always keep your eyes open, birds like kingfishers and tapir pass by here often. A guided hike is always recommended.
Otto is a genuine Costa Rican campesino who lives with his family on a finca near La Fortuna. Here he sustainably cultivates a large fruit and vegetable plantation. Who doesn’t want to know where peppers grow? Snacking is more than allowed here and even encouraged. Otto takes a lot of time for his guests and explains everything about sustainable cultivation on his finca. Over a delicious Costa Rican meal, you can get to know their whole family because several generations live under one roof here. Otto has created a relatively new frog garden in which several species are romping around and can be observed especially at night. Otto’s uncomplicated nature is always a delight.
If you want to combine nature in Costa Rica with some activity we recommend trekking through Corcovado National Park. The walking tour takes you straight through the jungle, along the beach and through several rivers where you get your feet wet. A basic level of fitness is necessary to be able to take part in the trekking. The stages are relatively long with the longest being over 17 kilometers and the routes are not always flat. Overnight stays are “back to the roots” in very simple tents or huts where you can experience the intensity of the jungle.
If you are adventurous you might check out a canopy tour in Selvatura Park in Monteverde. The tour includes 13 ziplines some of which reach a height of up to 100 feet. It is best to wear long clothes and sturdy shoes. Those who dare will be rewarded with a magnificent view, especially the last 3/4 mile long cable over a gorge.
Anyone traveling in Costa Rica probably wants to enjoy nature and wildlife to the fullest. What would be better than a tour of the majestic bird of the gods, the Quetzal. This trogon is a very special feast for the eyes among the birds. The male in particular has bright green-red plumage and very long tail feathers. The quetzal lives in the highlands of Costa Rica and is usually very difficult to spot. You have a particularly good chance of catching a quetzal in San Gerardo de Dota and it is best to book your own guide or take part in a guided tour. The locals know best where the quetzal are hanging out or breeding.
If you are on your way to the Arenal Volcano, you should definitely plan a stop at the restaurant of the Hotel Casa Luna in La Fortuna for dinner. Alfredo, a talented chef, works here and one of his particularly delicious creations is the ceviche. To do this Alfredo takes a raw tilapia and puts it in a tasty lime juice. A culinary highlight that tastes particularly good after a hike in the Arenal National Park.
Most of us are looking for relaxation on our vacation which can be achieved with a visit to the thermal springs at Aguas Zarcas. From the central valley you can take a great full day trip to the springs. With a rental car you drive on one of the most beautiful routes between Poasito and San Miguel down into the Caribbean lowlands. Spectacular natural spectacles and fantastic landscapes accompany the journey. You can really have a good time in the warm water surrounded by blooming nature before you head back to the Central Valley via Ciudad Quesada past the ornate gardens of Zarcero.
Who wouldn’t want to stand on a peak and gaze at two oceans at once? This is exactly what is possible on Cerro Chirripó, the highest mountain in Costa Rica, when visibility is good. At the summit, you see both the Pacific Ocean and gaze into the Caribbean Sea. The start of your tour of several days to the summit begins at San Gerardo de Rivas. The tour should be booked several months in advance and sturdy shoes and good clothes (especially rain protection) are necessary. In the dry season, you have the best chance of a breathtaking view after a strenuous climb.