Get out and explore Costa Rica’s beaches, rainforests, oceans, and mountains
By: Marcel Evans, The Costa Rica Star
Costa Rica often seems like it was made specifically for adventure travelers.
Where else can you spend the morning scuba diving in the ocean, the afternoon swinging from tree to tree in the rainforest, and the evening at some incredible clubs, restaurants or hotels? And, just in case that isn’t quite enough to satisfy your craving for adventure, you can always get up the next day and hike a volcano.
If you are like me at all, though, so many options can lead to over-planning the trip. You get so caught up with all the possibilities that you try to schedule every second of the day to make the most of your time out of the office. While there’s nothing wrong with that, I suppose, it does tend to limit the potential for spontaneity.
And what’s an adventure without a little room for the unknown?
Costa Rica is home to more than 5% of the world biodiversity, even though it’s only about the size of West Virginia. What does this mean to the average adventurer? It means that it is one of the only places in the world where beaches, rainforests, oceans, mountains and other micro-ecosystems are all within close proximity to each other.
This level of diversity in the landscape, of course, has created the perfect home for thousands of exotic animals and plants. Despite the small landmass, they are actually still finding new species all the time, whether it’s in the deep rainforests or in the many waterways. If you have any interest in ecological wonders like this, it would be hard to go wrong in Costa Rica.
They take their ecology very seriously in the country, too. More than one forth of Costa Rica’s land is dedicated to national parks, reserves, and wildlife refuges. All in all, there are more than 100 different protected areas where you can see for yourself exactly how amazing this area is.
In the Water
While everyone has their own preferences on where to start their adventure, I thought it would be best to begin things out on the water. The surfing in Costa Rica is nothing short of amazing. There’s a pretty good community of surfers here – some tourists and some locals – and they all come out to enjoy the pacific waves all along the coast.
There are a lot of popular surfing spots, and one of the best places to start is the Nicoya Peninsula’s Goal Coast. This is where you’ll find a lot of great beaches like Playa Grande, Playa Samara, Avellanas, and others.
Of course, surfing isn’t the only water sport that attracts visitors from all over the world. Some of the best scuba diving can be had right off the east coast of Costa Rica. There are a lot of incredible coral reefs just off the shores, and there are plenty of places in the nearby towns that will rent gear for good prices and some that even offer lessons to anyone who is just trying the sport.
Through The Air
One of the top tourist attractions in Costa Rica is the famous zip-lines that stretch across some gorgeous ravines and hillsides, filled with foliage of all sorts. These “canopy tours” may be aimed at tourists, but if you have any sense of adventure, you won’t want to miss them. I had seen plenty of pictures myself, and I knew that a lot of other places offered similar attractions, but I doubt anything was quite the same experience as the one in Costa Rica.
Basically what you get are a number of platforms scattered throughout the forest, connected by thick cables. Your tour operator will hook you into a harness, clip you to the wire, and then send you soaring through sky, trees, and not much else.
You may be surprised exactly how fast you can get going on these zip-lines, and if you are a little on the timid side when it comes to heights, well, just don’t look down. You’ll be at the next platform in no time.
On the Ground
If your idea of adventure leans more toward exploration than flying or swimming, there are a lot of options for those of an intrepid nature. With the protected rainforests so close, it would be a real shame if you missed your chance to see it for yourself. You can take a tour, day or night, through some portions of the rainforest and see everything from huge trees, to the massive waterfalls, to the exotic wildlife.
I had originally planned on spending a couple days exploring some of these national parks, but ended up changing the itinerary at the spur of the moment to discover something else that is very particular to Costa Rica. The country is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, which means that it’s part of a belt of volcanic activity and there are five active volcanoes and another dozen or so that are currently dormant in the country, and it is possible to hike around some of the dormant volcanoes and see some of the huge craters. (This, of course, all depends on exactly how dormant the place is. If there’s too much sulfur or other gases spewing into the air, then hiking around the area is less of an adventure and more of a poisonous kick in the lungs.)
Costa Rica invests a lot of money in making the country attractive to travelers, and the accommodations, restaurants, and nightlife are the perfect way to wind down after a long, active day seeing as much of the country as you can. Hotels, vacation rentals, and timeshares are common options for extended stays, and there are plenty of opportunities to try the local cuisine and experience something unique.
Over the years Costa Rica has expanded its economy to include strong technology and tourism industries, which means you should be able to find all the amenities and accommodations you expect. If you want to exercise those adventurer muscles, this is a great place to start.