A hidden rainforest trail leads to an azure-blue pond, where a waterfall plunges down, inviting you to a refreshing dip. Walk on up the hill discovering plenty of wildlife and birds along the way. Stand still, awe-inspired at the view over the forest canopy. Zipline down back to your hotel and enjoy a spot of kayaking, rafting, snorkelling or sailing or simply an afternoon on the beach. This is La Pura Vida - Costa Rica style.
best time to travel
Mid-December through April is the dry season and the most popular time to travel to Costa Rica. During the green season rain falls mostly as afternoon showers and landscapes turn lush and verdant. The height of the green season is September and October when travel is not recommended.
places to go
Central Valley & Highlands
Steaming volcanoes, coffee plantations, verdant jungles clinging to steep mountains and rivers that tumble down the slopes - the Central Valley and Highlands have enough to keep you busy for a few days. Volcán Poás is one of the world's most accessible active volcanoes. The nearby La Paz Waterfall Gardens are a must for orchid, bird and butterfly lovers.
Just 30 minutes north of the capital San José, little visited Braulio Carrillo National Park feels like you stepped back 80 years in time when most of Costa Rica was forest covered. Due to its wide range of altitudes the park covers a largr range of ecosystems, from high cloud forest to steamy lowland. As a result it has some of the highest levels of biodiversity in the country, including the rare quetzal.
A remote network of canals and waterways that intersects the lowland jungle, Tortuguero is the perfect getaway for nature lovers. Paddle a canoe or take a guided tour and discover hidden wildlife and plants along the banks. Tortuguero is a great place to spot Leatherback, Hawksbills and green sea turtles.
One of the most important wetlands in the world Caño Negro is a haven for caiman and hundreds of bird species, including the the Jabirú stork. A boat trip through the area is an unforgettable experience.
Monteverde is where Costa Rica's ecotourism began. It is here that you can hike through cloudforests in search of birdlife, while engaging in adventure activities such as ziplining. Nearby Santa Elena reserve is still somewhat of an undiscoverd gem.
While its iconic volcano no longer erupts, the area still has enough hiking trails, outdoor activities and hot springs to merit a visit.
Rincón de la Vieja
Remote Rincón de la Vieja is one of my favourite places in Costa Rica. One of the most thermally active areas in the country it is home to two massive volcanoes and numerous hot springs, mud pots and fumaroles.
Dreamlike beaches where monkeys swing down the trees right to the ocean - that is Manuel Antonio in a nutshell. Throw in a good size national park and plenty of water and land-based activities and you have a must-visit destination, the perfect finale to any trip to Costa Rica.
National Geographic called it 'the most biologically intense place on earth'. Home to many endangered species, this is one of the last great stands of tropical rainforest in Central America.
Stay in an eco-lodge
Imagine staying in a lodge where, when you step out, you are surrounded by nothing but nature. Birds sing in the trees, a troop of monkeys swings in the canopy and the vegetation is so lush you have to rub your eyes to make sure you are not dreaming.
Soak in a hot spring
Costa Rica has many thermal springs. Find them in the middle of the forest, or at the bottom of the terrace of a restaurant - no matter where, take time to soak, relax and....
Eat in the sky
Ever fancied dining in a private glass cube high on a mountainside overlooking the cloud forest? San Lucas Treetop Dining Experience in Santa Elena is the place to go!
Explore a volcano
Costa Rica is a land of volcanoes and while Arenal is no longer active, it is still a wonderful mountain to see. Remote Rincón de la Vieja is one of my favourite places in Costa Rica and home to two massive volcanoes. Near San José, Volcán Poás is one of the world's most accessible active volcanoes
Join the nightlife
By which I don't mean pubcrawls! Places like Manuel Antonio and La Fortuna offer night hikes in the rainforest, spotting snakes, frogs, bats and perhaps some elusive nocturnal mammals along the way.
Walk to a platform overlooking the forest canopy, put on your harness, hook on to the line, push off and away you go! There is nothing quite like gliding through the forest, as free as a bird.
White water rafting
Ranging in difficulty from class I to V, anyone can enjoy a rafting trip. From half to two day trips, some of them staying at jungle lodges like Pacuare River Lodge, this is the perfect way to discover the jungles of Costa Rica.
Many of Costa Rica's national parks are crisscrossed by trails. Hike through the jungle to a hidden pool, waterfall or beach, enjoy the views and be surprised by the wildlife you may come across.
Home to 5% of the world's lifeforms, Costa Rica is one of the prime destinations for wildlife watching. Be it birds, mammals, insects or reptiles you are after, you will be not be disappointed.
Kayaking and boating
Kayaking and boating are two excellent ways to experience the mangroves along the coasts and the marshes of the interior, giving you access to places you cannot get to by road or on foot.
See sea turtles
Costa Rica is home to four main species of sea turtles and they nest on both the Caribbean and Pacific coast lines. Leatherback turtles nest between September and March in Las Baulas near Playa Grande on the Pacific. Olive Ridley turtles are best seen in September and October in Ostional Wildlife Refuge on the Pacific. Tortuguero on the Caribbean is a good place to spot Leatherbacks between March and May, Hawksbills between March and October and green sea turtles from from July through October.
Spot a quetzal
The cloud forest Parque Nacional Los Quetzales in the Savegre Valley is said to be one of the best places in the country to see the beautiful and shy resplendent quetzal. The best time to see it is the March to June nesting season.