Top 10 Things to Do in Costa Rica
(You will need a 4X4)
1. Manuel Antonio National Park – the best!
The park is located on the west (Pacific) coast in the Puntarenas just south of the city of Quepos. It is about a three hour drive from San Jose. Along the way, you will cross the Tarcoles River. You will probably see several people standing along the narrow bridge looking down at the river. The attraction are the extra large crocodiles in the water and on the banks.
Once in the park, there is an entrance fee of about $10.00 per person. There are several different packages depending on what you want to do. Just the nature preserve is amazing. However, you can also zip-line, bicycle, ride quads through the jungle, surf, snorkel, or more. The monkeys in the park are very fun. You are not supposed to feed them (which everyone ignores). They will come right up to you (they will go through your pockets and bags if you are not careful). Look for sloths and toucans in the trees!
There are many cool hotels. Our boys loved sleeping in the tree house like place we found, Plinio. Look for El Avion restaurant. It is hard to miss the Fairchild C-123 in the center of the building. It is actually one of two planes used by the U.S. CIA during the infamous Iran/Contra operations in Nicaragua under President Regan.
2. Arenal Volcano – if it is erupting, then it is like nature’s fire works
Unfortunately, the volcano is taking a break. It is no longer erupting bright orange plumes of lava. It is still impressive to see, however. You are not allowed to hike the cone, but can still get very close.
3. La Paz – simply amazing
We love this place! Yes, it is a little on the expensive side, but worth it. An American entrepreneur went down to Cost Rica and carved this place out of the jungle along a gorgeous river. It is a combination botanical garden, zoo, walking trails, restaurant, hotel, fishing hole, and cultural experience all in one. You can spend the day or a long weekend.
You can pay extra for an all you can eat buffet. The buffet is well worth the splurge. You get a wrist band to designate that you can eat at the buffet. The great thing is that it is open all day, so you can keep going back! The food is good and varied. With our two boys, we got our money out of it (I am sure that the restaurant lost on the deal with us).
4. Hanging Bridges – way cool!
Located on the far side of Arenal Volcano from Fortuna (the resort tourist town), Hanging Bridges is a little bit of a drive. The park provides an amazing experience of walking through the jungle canopy with incredible views of the volcano. Wear good walking shoes, as the trails are steep and long.
5. Zip Lining – our favorite
There are several places in Costa Rica to zip line. Be warned, it is fun, but not cheap. We had to do the longest zip line in Costa Rica near Fortuna. I will admit, we had a blast. We were a little worried about our 9 year old, Elijah, but you can see in the pictures that he loved it.
You can drive and hike Mount Verde. It has two main entrances. Like any large natural area, the primary draw is to see nature in the raw. You need to be careful hiking alone in Costa Rica. Remember, they do have jaguars the will attack humans and many species of poisonous snakes. Help is not readily available like in the U.S. or Europe. Cary a good first aid kit with a snake bite poison extractor. Educate yourself on the native flora and fauna before you take a hike into the wild.
Like zip lining, white water rafting can be found all over the country. Unlike in my native Pacific Northwest of the U.S., Costa Rica has warm water. I like it much better than our glacier fed rivers.
8. Irazu Volcano – breathtaking views
You can drive all the way to the top of the volcano! At the top is a gift store and small restaurant (of course) and an interpretive trail along the crater rim. On a clear day, you can see all the way to the Pacific Ocean. Across the valley is Turrialba Volcano, which was smoking the last time we were there. The elevation is over 11,000 feet, so be careful not to over exert yourself. You may feel light-headed or get a head-ache. If you do, sit down and drink lots of water. Once you start heading back down, it should subside.
9. La Selva
La Selva is a scientific research facility open to the public. Over half of the research done on rainforests has been conducted there. It is still an active site. When you cross the bridge over the river to enter the park, look for the iguanas in the trees sun bathing. You can usually see peccaries grazing in the grass areas. They have pumas, jaguars, and deer too. Look for many species of colorful birds. Also, watch out for snakes. We came across a fer-de-lance under a bush. Luckily, the morning was cool and it hadn’t warmed up yet to be active.
10. Tortuguero – sea turtles!
To get to Tortuguero takes some time. It is off the beaten path on the north east coast. If you want to get up close and personal to sea turtles, this is the place, however.