Costa Rica is a small, breathtakingly beautiful country. It has a laid-back and peaceful democratic republic (there is no army), without much of an indigenous culture or colonial heritage but exuding a warm, authentic Latin personality. It is also abuzz with things to do, from white-water rafting, to night walks, to zip lining and coffee plantation tours; there’s never a dull moment.
Here we have combined, only a handful, of Costa Rica’s well-organised, fun and interesting excursions for you to investigate.
Spend an afternoon white-water rafting. The safety standards are high in Costa Rica, so you’ll be kitted out with helmets and life jackets etc. The guides – our JLA guides – are excellent. They are clear with the briefings and commands throughout the trip! The rafting is more enjoyable than challenging mainly through class I and class II rapids, with the occasional class III stretch.
A great activity for families, the fast sections aren’t too scary! Once you triumphantly reach your final destination there are showers, changing rooms and towels. Don’t forget to take some money to buy some pictures yourself (approx $20). (Example: Sarapiqui)
Zip Lining & Sky Tram:
As per all these adrenaline-fuelled activities, you’re kitted out and then taken through the safety briefing and shown how to operate the equipment.
Zip lines are measure in terms of how many lines they feature, in this Monteverde example, there are 10 lines in total! The longest is the penultimate one, at 770m while the highest line is 100m up. The rest of the zip lines are between 60 and 100m so you get great views of the high forest.
You’ll take the sky tram up to the top, where you begin negotiating the zip lines. You get such a thrill from soaring so high – about the forest canopy – on the zip lines. The lines aren’t terrifyingly fast; you get the chance to soak up the views. On the longer lines you go down in pairs, as singles are too light so would get stranded on the way down!
Our tip, take a jacket with secure zip able pockets where valuables can be kept without falling out. (Example: Monteverde)
The Arenal Ecothermales hot springs are located a few minutes outside the town of La Fortuna. The good thing about these hot springs is that they set a limit on the number of people per slot, so you don’t have the problem of overcrowding which you might experience in other hot springs.
This is a real treat of an excursion; Ecothermales is set in beautiful grounds with wooded, tree lined trails which take you down from the reception area to the hot springs themselves. There are a total of 6 pools with varying sizes, depths, and temperatures. The temperatures range from 37C to 41C and there is a cold water pool with a shower/waterfall which comes in handy after spending time in the hotter areas!
This sauna-like experience is sure to set you at ease, while there is a bar next to the pools where you can sneak in a drink on the decking area after your dip. (Example: Arenal)
Night walks to spot wildlife:
From most lodges, Tortuguero in this example, there are optional night walks. Don’t be put off by ‘night’, as the general idea is that you head off as the sun is setting (approximately 5.30pm) to catch the nocturnal animals as they are creeping out for the night.
This particular trail has a purpose built path, raised off the ground with rope to support oneself. You’ll be given a flashlight to spot the insects, frogs, spiders and bugs. In our experience, what we enjoy most about this activity is the incredible sounds as you hear the forest come alive.
Insider tip, wear long trousers and long sleeves to protect against mosquitoes, and also to bring waterproof jackets and bug repellent. Wear closed shoes. (Example: Tortuguero)
Mangrove Boat Excursion:
Although offered as a morning and an afternoon tour, we would say go in the mornings as there is more activity from the animals on the ground and birds in the trees.
The mangroves are swamps where fresh water from the rivers mixes with water coming in from the ocean to create flooded forests. It is a very different ecosystem to that of a rainforest.
Wander slowly through the mangroves, along rivers, until you reach Isla Damas (where the ocean and mangrove waters meet) learning everything from fish reproduction to the different types of trees.
It is a short (usually a couple of hours), relaxing trip. (example: Tortuguero)
Coffee Plantation Excursion:
Café Britt is in the ‘city of flowers’ set amidst volcanoes and lush surroundings where you’ll take a tour of a working coffee farm. As you wander you’ll learn about the history of coffee in Costa Rica and around the world, and the production process from bean to cup!
This specific excursion includes a visit to a butterfly farm, again, great for children. Begin with an introductory film about butterfly natural history and the farm’s operations within an enclosed garden where hundreds of butterflies, fly freely. (Example: Britt’s Farm, Heredia)
From the car park it is a 15 minute uphill walk, up a wide path to the crater, which sits at 2,574m above sea level. Fingers crossed you get a clear day, as the views are stunning and you can see the steam rising off it.
As per most excursions, we would advise you to wear good hiking shoes or trainers and take a waterproof jacket or poncho to protect from the rain as it can be wet, particularly in the rainy season (mid-November to mid-April). (Example: Poas)