One of the most biologically diverse places on earth, Costa Rica is home to incredible wildlife and blessed with lush national parks, majestic volcanoes and beautiful beaches. To help inspire you here are four of our top picks for Costa Rica.
The nature reserve of Monteverde is set atop the spine of Costa Rica’s continental divide. Located in the north west of the country, it is surrounded by volcanic mountains and lush forest. Monteverde is best known for its cloud forest. The forest stands at a high altitude which means it is surrounded by clouds that provide life-giving moisture. The moisture of the clouds and ever-present fog collects on branches of the tallest trees and drips down to the foliage below feeding entire ecosystems. A 13km network of trails with scenic overlooks runs through the forest and there is even a suspension bridge running 325ft long and 80-100ft high. Containing four ecological life zones, over 100 species of mammals, including the mysterious jaguar, 400 species of bird and 3000 species of plant, Monteverde is a naturalist’s dream.
Tortuguero is one of the most visited national parks in Costa Rica. Situated on the north east Caribbean coast, the park is made up of a network of canals and dense rainforests. The name Tortuguero can be translated as ‘Region of Turtles’, and Tortuguero beach is the most important nesting site of endangered green turtles in the western hemisphere. The national park was established in 1970 with the purpose of protecting the turtles. With its incredible biological variety of rainforests, swamps, beaches and lagoons, Tortuguero is also home to a diverse range of wildlife. Its forests are home to jaguars, sloths, monkeys and lizards whilst the rivers within the park are the dwellings of sensitive populations of manatees and crocodiles. The river and canal systems of the park make it a great place to explore by boat.
Manuel Antonio may be Costa Rica’s smallest national park but it is also one of its most diverse with 109 species of mammals and 184 species of bird. Established in 1972 is famous for its white sand beaches backed by evergreen forest. Situated on the Pacific coast, the park contains a variety of wildlife and twelve little islets off the shoreline, providing mating and nesting sites for a number of bird species. Punta Catedral is the best known island - with forest topped cliffs, it is connected to the mainland by a thin land bridge that divides two of the park’s beaches. The coral reefs along these beaches and islands present superb snorkelling opportunities and it’s also possible to try surfing, rafting, and kayaking, bird-watching and sport fishing. Visitors can also explore the mangrove forests and rocky islands along the park’s numerous hiking trails. Forested hillsides afford scenic vistas and are home to many of the animals, plants and flowers that are unique attractions of Costa Rica – sloths, monkeys, iguanas, toucans and scarlet monkeys.
Cahuita is a relaxing paradise located along Costa Rica’s exotic Caribbean coast. The National Park was set up in 1970 to protect the coral reef that runs along the coast, the largest reef in Costa Rica. The park is home to several ecological zones including swamp forest, rainforest, woodlands and coastal flora. Divers will find an underwater garden of marine life and the calm, warm waters are ideal for swimming and snorkelling. The wide array of fish found in these waters makes sport fishing another popular past time. Trails lead from the white sand beaches of the national park to the lush coastal rainforest behind, perfect for hikers and those who enjoy natural beauty. There is also a well maintained butterfly garden and a number of shipwrecks in the area. One of the best known is located north of the mouth of the River Perezoso, a ship believed to have transported slaves during the 18th century. According to local history, the Atlantic coast of Costa Rica was constantly visited by pirates. The village of Cahuita itself is a laid back and vibrant village with a unique Creole culture. With the unhurried parade of pedestrian traffic, the palm lined beaches and alluring Afro-Caribbean cuisine and way of life, Cahuita is a great place just to relax and soak up the atmosphere.