Off the Beaten Path: Costa Rica

Costa Rica, known for it's vast rainforest and beautiful beaches, has lots to offer whether you're looking for a relaxing beach trip or an adventurous hike in the jungle. With the largest area of protected land in the world, Costa Rica boasts more species of trees than anywhere else and a huge diversity of animals. While Spanish is the primary language in this southern region of Central America, most all areas of Costa Rica are also English speaking or at least accustomed enough to travelers to make communication easy in some way. If you'd rather explore the jungle of Costa Rica and get a taste of local life than spend your week at an all inclusive beach resort, here are some must-see adventures you can experience in just one week. Make sure you rent a 4x4 that can handle some of the rougher roads in Monteverde and take advantage of promotions that offer you a GPS with your rental. 

1. Manuel Antonio

To get the best of both worlds, plan to stay in Manuel Antonio for a couple of days. Begin with a hike through the Manuel Antonio National Park and make sure to get a guide. The guides have highly trained eyes and can spot animals and plant species difficult to recognize on your own. They also carry along a telescopic lens to help you spot things far away. In this national park you'll find howler monkeys, white-faced monkeys, sloths, and iguanas among an extensive variety of trees and plants. The hike through the forest is appropriate for all ages, but will leave you ready for some relaxation at the beach. Choose from the beaches in the Manuel National Park, or relax on one of the many less populated beaches along the coast. 

Photo courtesy of muchacostarica.com

Photo courtesy of muchacostarica.com

2. Monteverde

In Monteverde you'll immediately notice the change in elevation as you climb to the top of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. Because of the change in elevation you'll see less monkeys and sloths, but you'll be surrounded by songbirds of all kinds. A guide can help you spot difficult to see birds, including the endangered and colorful Quetzal bird. For a more adventurous and strenuous hike, try the Night Walk where you'll spot viper snakes, tarantulas, frogs, sloths, and maybe even the rarely seen kinkajou. For breathtaking tree top canopy views, walk the hanging bridges where you won't need a guide to point out the beauty of Costa Rica. If you're able to book a night tour upon your arrival and get up early to see the cloud forest followed by the hanging bridges, you can accomplish the highlights of Monteverde in a day and a half.

Photo courtesy of CraftingTrip.com

Photo courtesy of CraftingTrip.com

3. Rio Celeste

There are beautiful waterfalls peppered all through Costa Rica, but perhaps the most photographed waterfall in the region is Rio Celeste, located in Tenorio Volcano National Park. The sulfur and calcium carbonate in the water here combine to give the water the blue hue you see. The hike to this waterfall is particularly strenuous and we highly recommend a guide for safety and direction. Plan for the better part of a day in Tenorio Volcano National Park because the hike will take at least a few hours or more depending on your speed.

Photo courtesy of glbrain.com

Photo courtesy of glbrain.com

4. Miravalles

The Miravalles Volcano provides hot springs and volcanic mud bath opportunities you won't want to miss. There are multiple locations and ways to take advantage of both whether you want to spend your entire day relaxing in the springs and soaking in the mud bath or you want a full day of adventure first. Las Hornillas offers tours that take you to four nearby waterfalls, provide lunch, include a trek across hanging bridges, and then allow you to relax in the hot springs and mud baths. You'll want to spend a full day whether you only plan for the hot springs and mud baths, or you tackle the full adventure.

Photo courtesy of VidaAventuraPark.com

Photo courtesy of VidaAventuraPark.com

5. La Fortuna / Arenal Volcano

La Fortuna is a town that sits just a few miles away from Arenal Volcano and offers stunning views of the volcano and lake. You can enjoy plenty of restaurants and nightlife here or spend your time waterfall rappelling, white water rafting, exploring caves, ziplining over the tree tops and more. You'll also find plenty of hot springs to relax in after a day of activity. Spend at least one full day here exploring the adventure in the area, but you may want to plan for more time if you want more activities.

Photo courtesy of Arenal.net

Photo courtesy of Arenal.net