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This is a guest post written by fellow travel writer Dawn Kealing from Life, Love and Adventure.
5 Unforgettable Places in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is one of my favorite places to travel in the world. I always thought traveling to the same place twice was a waste because there is so much to see in the world … The first time I traveled to Costa Rica I realized I was wrong!
Pura Vida: A phrase very commonly said by Costa Rican locals. Its direct translation is Pure Life yet the definition can mean many different things, for example; full of life, this is living, going great and life is great. Say that though the phrase can also be used on many other occasions, such as a greeting or farewell and also as a way of giving thanks.
Soda: A small restaurant/convenience store that is typically family run and cheaper than other restaurants. Prices for a full meal generally range around $3-6USD.
Looking for a place to stay? Check out these amazing Costa Rica home rentals. They will for sure make your trip even more unforgettable!
Puerto Viejo de Telemanca
Puerto Viejo* is a small town, located about 3 hours from San Jose, on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. Puerto Viejo is a very relaxing, laid back town with a strong Caribbean feel that is commonly known in the surfing community because of its Salsa Brava (big and powerful waves) as well as its beautiful beaches. Puerto Viejo is also known by many for being the home of the Cahuita National Park and the Jaguar Rescue Center. One thing to look for while you are walking along the beaches in Puerto Viejo is the black sand!
Many people from all over the world travel to Puerto Viejo to volunteer at the Jaguar Rescue Center, a wildlife rehabilitation center. I would have to say that the Rescue Center is a MUST visit while you are in Puerto Viejo. The rescue center is a safe haven for animals that have been injured and tries to get them back into the wild as soon as possible so they don’t become domesticated. You get the chance to get up close and personal with many different animals, it is a really amazing experience! The animals at the reserve changes regularly so you never really know what you are going to see but when I was there I got the chance to hang out with some Howler and Spider Monkeys, Toucans, Two Toed and Three Toed Sloths, Poisonous Snakes, Owls, Birds and there was even a Margay when I was there! The most surprising thing was that most of the animals are out in the open, we had a deer and toucan that were trying to get really friendly with us!
The Cahuita National Park is a nice morning stroll along the coast, there is a walking path or you can take the beach. There is a chance, if you keep your eyes on the trees, that you will see sloths, monkeys and possibly snakes but Cahuita is mostly known for its coral reefs that are close to the shore**. Not only are the corals and marine life impressive but there are also two sunken ships not too far off the beach. Here is to hoping you are out snorkeling on a clear day so you can catch a glimpse!
*Puerto Viejo de Telemanca is typically just called Puerto Viejo by the locals and should not be confused with Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui which is another destination in Costa Rica.
**Make sure to swim at the correctly labeled beach as the other beaches along the park have strong rip currents and it is not recommended to swim there.
Tortuguero is a small town, located about 5 hours* from San Jose, on the Northern Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. Tortuguero, translation; “Land of Turtles”, is known worldwide by many travelers and such for its National Park which offers many beaches which are nesting sites for four different species of turtles**… two of those four species of turtles are endangered.
Tortuguero has been called the Central American Amazon because of its navigable canal systems linking the town of Tortuguero to the National Park as well as to other towns in Costa Rica. Kayaking through the canals is a wonderful experience… but I must note that I wouldn’t recommend swimming in the canals because there are large crocodiles, caiman and possibly other predators or waterborne illnesses in the water. If you venture through the canals by kayak you may end up at the ocean on the Caribbean coast, it is recommended that you do not swim in the ocean because of very strong rip currents. I waded in a bit, not going past my waist, and kept getting hit by turbulent waves which ended up being a bit of fun, haha.
Tortuguero has a rich biological diversity and ecosystem which supports life of many different species of animals including monkeys, caiman, crocodiles, bats, many species of birds and of course turtles!
* Traveling to Tortuguero is a bit more complicated than traveling to other places within Costa Rica because it requires driving as well as a boat ride.
**If you are traveling to Tortuguero to see the turtles inside the National Park be sure to do some research to make sure you are traveling during the right time of year as the turtles are not always inside the park.
La Fortuna is a small town, located about 2 and a half hours from San Jose, in the Northwestern part of Costa Rica. La Fortuna is known for the volcano at which it sits at the base of. La Fortuna actually got its name from said volcano. In 1968 the Arenal Volcano erupted, spewing hot molten lava to the east and destroying everything in its path, including two villages. El Borio (La Fortuna), which is located on the west side of the Arenal Volcano was spared and renamed La Fortuna, meaning ”The Fortunate”.
La Fortuna has a wide variety of activities to offer, for example; canyoneering (waterfall repelling), ziplining*, hiking the National Park, hiking Cerro Chato, caving and white water rafting.
Hiking the Arenal Volcano National Park is a great day activity while in La Fortuna. It has many short trails ranging from 1-4km (it is easy to cover all the trails in an afternoon) that pass through sedentary forest and lava fields from previous eruptions. The Arenal Volcano is considered a very active volcano; the National Park may be closed without notice if it is deemed unsafe to hike any particular day. It has been said you can see lava flow down the eastern side (opposite La Fortuna) of the volcano at night, I have not been fortunate enough to see this. There is another hike up the secondary volcano, Cerro Chato, which has been dormant for over 3,500 years! This hike takes around an hour or so depending on your speed but is well worth the hike once you get to the top and take a dip in the lagoon!
Typically where there are volcanoes there are hot springs as well. La Fortuna has many different hot spring locations; most are located inside the resort hotels which are accessible to the public by paying a fee. There is also a local hot springs which is free of charge… but it is very crowed, there is nowhere to get changed or lock your belongings up and it has a difficult approach into the springs. **Please, please, please watch your belongings if you are not beside them at all times.**
*(If you are traveling to Monteverde, I highly recommend ziplining there as they have the longest zipline in Latin America.)
Monteverde is a small town, located about 3 hours from San Jose, in the Northwestern part of Costa Rica. Monteverde is known for its two key features, adrenaline activities and its Cloud Forest Reserve which National Geographic has called, “the jewel in the crown of cloud forest reserves.”
When I say adrenaline activities I am talking about ziplining, tarzan swings, bungee jumping, suspension bridges, canyoneering and white water rafting.
While I was in Monteverde I knew I had to go on the canopy ziplining tour because I had not been ziplining before. I knew I made the right decision when we found out the company we went with had “Latin America’s longest zipline” with a length of 1590m. Not only is it the longest zipline in Latin America but you zip across it ‘superman’ style aka. lying flat on your stomach with your arms spread out as if you are flying like Superman. After your canopy ziplining adventure you have to option to do the tarzan swing which comes included … I highly recommend doing it if you are into tarzan swings and bungee jumping. I did the tarzan swing and it made me come to the realization that I am not into those activities, haha. I am glad at least that I can say I did it!
The Cloud Forest Reserve in Monteverde is well known by Ornithologists, Ecologists, Entomologists, Scientists and more because of its extremely high biodiversity. The reserve is home to over 2,500 plant species, 100 species of mammals, 400 species of birds, 120 species of reptilians and amphibians and thousands upon thousands of insects. Sounds like an Entomologist’s dream, right? One species of bird that people travel from all over the world to see in the reserve is the Resplendent Quetzal. I had the honor of seeing the Quetzal while at the reserve and its colors are truly beautiful. Take a walk on the hiking trails through eight miles of cloud forest, you will not be disappointed!
Quepos is a small town, located about 3 hours from San Jose, on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. Quepos is well known by most for being the gateway to Manuel Antonio National Park. Manuel Antonio is exactly why Quepos is on this list as well. If you are a lover of all kinds of wildlife and beautiful beaches then this National Park is a MUST visit!
I don’t know of many places in the world where you can go and be around 109 different species of animals and 184 species of birds, do you?! Manuel Antonio is alive with wildlife ranging from monkeys, sloths, iguanas, coatis, snakes, dolphins and even the occasional migrating whale … and that is just to name a few. **Beware of Raccoons, they will try to steal your belongings**
One of the main things I wanted to see while traveling through Costa Rica was monkeys, Squirrel Monkeys to be specific. Saying that, Quepos is one of the only places in Costa Rica you could get the chance to see them!
So … if you are not already sold on visiting Quepos to see Manuel Antonio National Park for all the wildlife it has to offer there is something else … Inside the National Park there are also several beautiful beaches to visit that are safer for swimming because of the riptides are not as strong, yet precaution still must be taken.