Costa Rica Attractions
Tortuguero National Park
Barely nine mil northwest of San Jose, north on the Caribbean coast, lies the National Park Tortuguero. This is the most important breeding ground for the huge green sea turtles. On nights in the July-October period, you can have a nature experience for life, when you can see up close to hundreds of turtles coming in from the sea, digging a deep pit on the beach where they lay dozens of eggs, before covering the eggs with sand and swimming out into the sea. The park has both tropical forests and a network of canals and rivers. monkeys, reptiles, otters, wild boars, sloths, crocodiles, sea cows, antlers and more than 400 different bird species.
- See AbbreviationFinder for commonly used abbreviation of city Costa Rica, Costa Rica. Also includes meanings of the same acronym.
You can’t drive the last piece here. Either you drive a boat, or there is a small airstrip. A flight from San Jose takes half an hour on small flights.
Some miles east of San Jose is one of the few places where you can see ruins from the civilization that lived in Costa Rica before the Spanish invasion. Guayabo is the country’s most important archaeological site where you can see remains of road networks, foundations, aqueducts and tombs. This city was home to between 10,000 and 25,000 people from the year 1000 BC to 1500 AD, but archaeologists still do not know what the city was called or who its inhabitants were. Strangely enough, there are very few tourists here, and it is a very evocative experience to stroll around these mysterious ruins almost alone.
La Paz Waterfalls
A few miles northwest of San Jose lies the idyllic La Paz Waterfall Gardens park, centered around five waterfalls nestled in a green and lush forest. You walk along a 3.5 kilometer long trail to reach the waterfalls. Calculate at least two hours on this trip. Here you will also find a hummingbird garden, a frog exhibit, a trout lake, an orchid garden, a butterfly observatory with over 20 species flying freely around you, and a snake farm with 30 different species, both rare and toxic. You can also stay in the park area, at the beautiful Peace Lodge. The park is open daily from 08:00 to 17:00, admission about 170 NOK for adults and 110 for children up to 12 years.
Although there are only seven active volcanoes in this small country, it is Arenal that draws inquisitive onlookers due to its constant eruption. Nearby there are plenty of hotels and lodges where you can sit and watch as glowing lava floods down the mountainsides, which is a very spectacular experience after dark. The Arenal volcano is located at an altitude of 1650 meters and looks outwards Arenal Lake. The volcano was believed to be extinct for 400 years until it suddenly came to life in 1968 with disastrous consequences for the small village at the foot of the mountain, where 87 people were killed. Still, the Arenal volcano requires occasional life, often due to unlucky inquisitors who go too close and suffocated by the toxic gases from the crater, or cremated by the lava flood. Arenal Vulcano National Park is located approximately 9 miles northwest of San Jose, and also has a very informative volcano observatory.
Not far from Arenal we find Monteverde, a small community founded by American growers in the 1950s. Now it is characterized by local artists, who have opened several galleries and outlets with quality crafts. Monteverde (which means Green Mountain and lives up to its name) is over 1600 meters above sea level, and is considerably cooler than the lowland tropical heat. Also, take with you Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve, where you can glide high above the tree tops in the rainforest along up to 750 meters of cables. A fantastic experience. The price is just over, $ 44 as of 2007, but it’s worth it! The entire route is 2.8 kilometers, and you are sometimes 200 meters above the ground, looking down on exotic birds flying below you. Alternatively, you can walk across the forest on long suspension bridges between platforms in the tree tops.
La Fortuna Waterfall
Just a few kilometers from the Arenal Volcano, lies the small village of La Fortuna with its 7000 inhabitants. A nice day trip from here is the trail to the impressive waterfall La Catarata de Fortuna, which plunges violently 30 meters into the sea below. You can go all the way down to the falls, but it is steep and slippery, and expect to get wet. Here you should not swim, you can do it further down the river.
Costa Rica Tourist
Most of us want to see as much of the place as we visit, but often we have limited time available. You can of course rent a car or take a bus and experience Costa Rica on your own, or you can contact a tour operator who can set up a tailor made program for you.
We have taken inspiration from Travel Excellence which proposes the following tourist activities in Costa Rica.
San Jose and the Arenal Volcano
Most tourists arrive by plane from the United States and will land late at night at San Jose Santamaria Airport. As a rule, it will then be okay to get straight to a hotel and adjust your body to Central American times.
With San Jose as a starting point, you have many options for great experiences. Start early for a day trip to the Arenal Volcano, located about 120 miles northwest of San Jose. Few places in Costa Rica are as respectful of natural forces as Arenal. Here you can often see glowing lava mass flooding down the mountainsides, and if you are lucky, you will have a spectacular outbreak.
You must also be prepared that the top of the mountain is covered by clouds. Take the opportunity to visit the Tabacon resort hotel and immerse your body in the hot springs that will have healing effects.
Take the opportunity to visit Costa Rica’s beautiful national parks. We suggest you head west, and drive through the rainforest of the Braulio Carrillo National Park to the small village of Matina on the Caribbean coast.
From Matina you can take a two hour boat trip to Tortuguero. These are boats specially designed to maneuver along the canals. A good accommodation option is Mawamba Lodge. The hotel has a restaurant, bar, swimming pool, barbecue area and 36 rooms in surrounding bungalows, all with air conditioning, bathroom and a small terrace.
In Tortuguero National Park you can see crocodiles, monkeys and iguanas in their natural element, as well as countless bird species here. On the nights between July and September, you can watch closely when hundreds of sea turtles come in from the ocean to lay dozens of eggs buried in the sand before returning to the sea. An incredible nature experience.
If you have chosen to spend several days in the Tortuguero Park then take the opportunity to explore the river channels in small open boats and which will bring you close to the area’s wonderfully varied wildlife and plant life.
In the afternoon, you can stroll around the nearby small village of Tortuguero, walk in the jungle on the nature trails around the Mawamba Lodge or just linger in a hammock, sip a drink by the pool or dip in the Caribbean Sea.
Manuel Antonio National Park
From San Jose is a good tourist alternative to visit Manuel Antonio National Park and Quepos. Drive down to the Pacific Coast and continue southeast on the Pan-American Highway until you reach Manuel
Antonio National Park. We suggest combining this tour with one or more nights in hotels. An alternative is the Hotel Casitas Eclipse by the city of Quepos.
Although a tourist-class hotel, it has three swimming pools, a spa, a bar and a restaurant, and offers a variety of activities. In the evening you can visit one of Quepos’ many restaurants, such as seafood specialist El Gran Escape or the Mexican Dos Locos.
Take advantage of every opportunity to join one or more of the many excursion opportunities. Here everyone finds something exciting. Dolphin safaris off the coast, sport fishing, river rafting, sunset sailing, strolling along the trails in the national park, visits to the butterfly farm, kayaking in the Pacific, horseback riding to a great waterfall, cruising out to Isla Tortuga, or our favorite; canopy. On canopy, you can glide high above the tree tops in the rainforest along long cables. An amazing experience, but it costs.
Here you can actually look down on exotic birds flying under you. Alternatively, you can walk across the forest on long suspension bridges between platforms in the tree tops.
San Jose must also be explored. The capital of Costa Rica offers many beautiful museums and galleries, among the most popular in the country is the Jade Museum which is open Monday to Friday 0830-1500. Or, you can visit the National Museum, the Serpentario reptile farm, the Children’s Museum Museo de los Niños, the Natural History Museum or the Gold Museum Museo Oro Precolombino.
If you do not want to take excursions on your own, there are tour operators to help you with all the convenience. It may be Norwegian tour operators tailor-made for you, or international agents such as Travel Excellence.
Of course, you can choose whether to buy packages for a single outing or larger programs that cover multiple destinations with meals and accommodations.