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What to see and do – a guide to Costa Rica’s best attractions and activities

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Costa Rica is divided into seven provinces, each providing tourists with a unique experience depending on their interests. Looking to top-up your tan on a beach in Playa Potrero? Or see the wildlife in Tortuguero? Anywhere along the Pacuare River is perfect for rafting and most beaches offer a variety of water sports, for those of you looking for adventure. In Costa Rica, there is so much to see and do that you won’t want to go home.

Chuck Chastain

My Destination local expert on

Costa Rica

Scuba diving

 

Costa Rica is becoming increasingly popular for scuba diving and although heavy rain and run-off from the rivers cloud the coastal waters, the Pacific Coast is the best place to dive from. With recommended tour companies such as Deep Blue Diving Adventures or Costa Rica Dive and Surf, you will be taken to the best spots and given all the help you need to make the most of your adventures. Playa del Coco is one of the popular beaches for young couples and teenagers, but the Catalina and Bat islands will open your eyes to sharks, octopus and even whales if you’re lucky.

 

Whitewater rafting, canoeing and kayaking

 

Due to the high annual rainfall rafting and kayaking are popular activities all year, on both rivers and seas. For the thrill seekers there are plenty of Class V sections such as Angostura to Peralta or Bajo Pacuare to San Martin. If you want to raft as a family or a beginner, there are plenty of calm rivers and tour guides to point you in the right direction. Try Dominical Surf Adventures, where regardless of experience the tour guides will ensure your safety comes first whilst allowing you to experience the waterfalls, wildlife and rivers of Costa Rica.

 

Exploring the volcanoes

 

Costa Rica’s most well-known volcano is Arenal and the most active until 2010 when it entered a resting phase. Despite Arenal being one of the most visited sites in Costa Rica, there are many other volcanoes that are just as impressive. Ricon de la Vieja volcano is known for its nine craters that scatter the National Park and its worthwhile, but draining, six-mile hike to the top. Poas Volcano is one of the most active, and although its last eruption was in 1910, occasional visitors catch a glimpse of exploding geysers. Other volcanoes worth visiting are Irazu, Tenorio and Turrialba depending on which area you’re staying in.

 

National Parks

 

Within an hour’s reach of the capital, Carara National Park is home to the American crocodile, capuchin monkeys and poison arrow frogs – don’t forget your insect repellent! Marino Las Baulas National Park was built to protect leatherback turtles and Tortuguero National Park is an internationally recognised wetland, with 11 distinct habitats. Manuel Antonio is the number one National Park in most guides as it homes capuchin monkeys and a range of birds into a small jungle, lined with white-sand beaches.

 

Zoos and rescue centers

 

Animal shelters, rescue centers and zoos are scattered all over Costa Rica, leaving you with plenty of choice. Arenal Eco Zoo, in Arenal National Park and Zoo Ave in Alajuela both have excellent ratings and allow you to get up close to the majority of the animals. Although you have to go with a guide, don’t miss out on the Jaguar Rescue in Puerto Viejo de Limon, where a couple have been saving jaguars in Costa Rica for over eight years. The Toucan Rescue Ranch in Heredia and Nosara Wildlife Rescue in Nosara are both heart-warming centers, rehabilitating the animals so they can be released into their natural habitat by dedicated, caring people.

 

Beaches

 

For the busiest beaches in Costa Rica head to Puerto Viejo or Playa Del Coco, where the sands are lined with restaurants, bars and lots of activities. Manuel Antonio boasts the most beautiful, but also the most popular so you have a mixture of the sights and excitement. Those of you looking for tranquillity, five miles west of Puerto Viejo lies Punta Uva, hidden from the main road and surrounded by jungle you’ll be in paradise. For somewhere even more secluded, take a boat trip to Islas Tortugas, uninhabited islands that boast white sand and stunning turquoise waters.