In a country that forged the concept of eco-travel, Costa Rica offers many thrilling ways to immerse yourself in nature. Whether relaxing in volcanic hot springs, trekking amid highland cloud forests, or watching sea turtles nest along the lone stretch of a Caribbean beach, eco tours and activities abound that will peak the interest of any nature lover. Here are a few that shouldn’t be overlooked on your upcoming Costa Rica vacation.
Tortuguero turtle nesting
Situated on the northern Caribbean coast, the bustling village of Tortuguero is famous for two things: its stunning national park and nesting sea turtles. The 77,000-acre Tortuguero National Park is comprised of primary rainforest, more than 20 miles of protected beaches, and a large network of winding canals, lagoons and rivers. While the park’s diverse habitats shelter thousands of animals including spider monkeys, tiger herons, basilisk lizards, caimans and green iguanas, most tourists make the journey for the sole purpose of observing endangered sea turtles. The green sea turtle, one of four species that nest on the beaches, arrives in droves from July through October, when visitors can take an evening guided tour to witness Mother Nature in action.
Volcanic hot springs of Arenal
While touted as Costa Rica’s ‘adventure capital,’ the La Fortuna/Arenal region offers much more than canopy tours and your standard adrenaline-pumping fare. One of the added perks of visiting an active volcano is the preponderance of blissfully indulgent hot springs. There’s simply no better way to unwind after a long day of travel and activities, and with four decadent volcanic hot springs to choose from, you can sample a different one each night of your vacation. Swim-up bars, kid-friendly waterslides, mini-waterfalls and lushly landscaped grounds are part and parcel of your hot springs experience. Some offer fantastic volcano views, which are even more impressive when giant lava rocks and plumes of smoke are emanating from Arenal’s near-perfect cone.
Hiking & wildlife watching in national parks
Costa Rica has made headlines for its progressive policies in regards to environmental conservation. More than a quarter of the country’s land is protected from development, and has been designated as national parks, biological reserves and wildlife refuges. The central Pacific beach town of Manuel Antonio claims one of the nation’s most picturesque and biodiverse national parks – one that is prized for its white-sand beaches and named by Forbes magazine as one of “the 12 most dazzling national parks to grace the globe.” Native wildlife includes howler, capuchin and squirrel monkeys, keel-billed toucans, two and three-toed sloths and coatimundi to name a few iconic species. Visitors can enjoy self-guided tours of the park, or take advantage of the expertise and eagle-eyes of local naturalist guides, who are adept at spotting camouflaged animals in the dense canopy.