Costa Rica Tu Nuevo Destino
Why Costa Rica?
Even though Costa Rica is a small country, it has a great biological and habitat diversity due to the convergence of two hemispheres, two oceans, and its varying geography. This creates wonderful changing views for travelers. There is a chain of mountains that forms a back- bone down the length of Costa Rica. They start in the north with the Guanacaste "Cordillera" (mountain range), continues with the Tilaran Cordillera (location of Monteverde and Arenal), the Central Cordillera (Irazu, Poás, Braulio Carrillo), and finishes with the southern Talamanca Cordillera (which is the highest in the country).
While the Pacific coastline is almost 780 miles (1,254 km), the Caribbean is only 132 miles (212 km). Hilly peninsulas are settled in the Pacific coast. There are two large gulfs, and many small coves and bays. Two major commercial ports are located in the Pacific: Puntarenas and Puerto Caldera. On the Caribbean, there is a natural harbor in the Moin - Limon area. It is the largest area of lowland plains (about one-fifth of Costa Rica), which stretches back from the northern coastline almost to Limon.
Costa Rica lies in the tropics between 8 and 11 degrees north of the equator. You might expect moderate temperatures, but the rugged mountain chain's effect on factors such as wind, and rain, creating many microclimates. Most people are surprised to learn that frost and ice can occur on some of the loftier peaks, such as Chirripo. Temperatures are somewhat higher on the Pacific side than on the Caribbean at the same elevation because there are more clouds on the Caribbean watershed year-round than on the Pacific. At sea level on either side, the annual average is always above 75°F (24°C). Some of the highest peaks average 54°F (12°C), though temperatures there can fall below freezing.
There is not spring, or fall times in Costa Rica. The seasons are called verano (summer) and invierno (winter).They are just a dry season (since December until April) and a rainy season (since May until November). Temperature has more variation from night to day than from verano to invierno. Difference in daily temperatures averages 14°F to 18°F (8°C to 10°C). From November to January, cold breezes from the north funnel through the mountains of North America causing a little down in temperature. This is one of the few countries in the world in which polar air gets this close to the equator. The warmest months are March, April, and May, and the wettest months are September and October. Rainfall amounts vary from less than 59 inches (1500mm) to more than 190 inches (4800mm) during these months. The country's average rainfall pattern is in the range of 79 to 158 inches (2,000 to 4,000 mm). Precipitation can come in the form of a tropical downpour with impressive lightning and thunder (aguacero), steady rain, or the less common, a continuous light rain for several days (temporal).
Even in the rainy season, rain will not fall during the all day, every day. It usually begins in early afternoon in the Central Valley and other highland areas, but later in the afternoon in the Pacific lowlands. Each season has its own beauty and unique characteristics. In wetter times the flora is profuse, with a vibrant life that gets into the soul. In the dry season the background is perfect for orchids, bougainvilleas, reina de la noche (queen of the night), as well as for colorful trees that flower only then.
Costa Rica can boast that it is the country with the highest percentage (25%) of its territory designated as protected areas: Forest Reserves, Biological Reserves, Nature Shelters, and of course, National Parks. These is another of the good reasons why many Europeans and North Americans, further than coming to travel, have made this land their home being nowadays around 1% of the Costa Rican population.
Costa Rica is one of the small nations that together comprise the isthmus of Central America. The country's borders are defined by Nicaragua to the North and Panama to the South. Because it is between two continents, and two oceans, this convergence of land and water makes the region a great bottleneck, rich in ecological diversity.
51,100 sq km (19,929 square miles)
Costa Rica is divided into seven provinces (States) which are: Alajuela, Cartago, Guanacaste, Heredia, Limón, Puntarenas, & San José (Capital City)
Here, geography constricts a breathtaking amount of plant and animal life within a modest 19,563 square miles (50,900 sq. km), an area comparable in size to Denmark or West Virginia. Within this diminutive nation is found an astonishing five percent of the world's biodiversity, including more than 800 species of ferns, 1,000 of orchids, 2,000 kinds of trees, and 200 species of mammals.
Both coastlines of Costa Rica have an abundance of beaches, though the Pacific strands are generally both less developed and less spacious. Between the coasts, the interior of the country is shaped by four cordilleras, or mountain ranges, which run from North to South. The capital, San Jose, rests roughly in the nation's center, settled within a highland valley. Cascading down to the Caribbean from the central mountains are Costa Rica's many great rivers, including the Reventazon. The Pacific side is marked by two broad peninsulas that hook out into the Pacific, the Nicoya and the Osa. It is a geographic curiosity that their shapes are almost identical, the Osa being a smaller rendition of the Nicoya.
Costa Rica's climate is renowned as an atmospheric treat. Mild subtropical conditions prevail year-round, and discomforting temperature extremes and prolonged periods of gray are practically nonexistent. Temperature varies mainly according to elevation, the higher the cooler. The brunt of the rainy season lasts from May through November, while a brief dry spell pays a visit from February to April. Costa Rica's rain falls mainly on the Caribbean coast, giving the Pacific a much more arid climate.
- San José
- Arenal Volcano
- Manuel Antonio
Costa Rica is the same as U.S. Central Standard Time, but does not observe daylight savings time.
The most widely spoken language in Costa Rica is Spanish (97% of the population); although there are other native languages used mostly within the indigenous reserves. Many businesses, in and around San Jose, and resorts throughout the country have employees who also speak English.
It is 100 volts. Plugs are two pronged without the grounding prong.
Currency & Exchange Rate
The Colon (¢1.00) is the national currency of Costa Rica. The exchange rate against the US dollar can vary day by day, but as of April , it was ¢510.00 colones per dollar.
Automated Teller Machines (ATM's) can be easily found in most populated areas of Costa Rica. Most international credit cards are accepted throughout the country: Visa, Master Card and American Express.
Most restaurants will include a 10% service charge at the bill. Taxi drivers generally do not receive a tip. If you are satisfied with the service you receive, hotel maids, tour guides and drivers would appreciate a tip.
Check out Tax
The average rate is US $26.00 as of May, 2003.
Geography of Costa Rica
The country is divided by a backbone of volcanoes and mountains, an extension of the Andes-Sierra Madre chain which runs along the western side of the Americas. Costa Rica has four distinct cordilleras or mountain ranges -- Guanacaste and Tilaran in the north, Central and Talamanca in the south. Costa Rica is part of the Pacific "Rim of Fire" and has seven of the isthmus's 42 active volcanoes plus dozens of dormant or extinct cones. Earth tremors and small quakes shake the country from time to time.
Costa Rica has also divided in different regions with a wonderful interested points :
The Central Valley is formed by the provinces of San José, Heredia, Cartago and Alajuela. Even though is the smallest, this region has the highest population, the majority of it concentrated in the capital city San José. San José is located at 3.900 feet above sea level and its temperature ranges between 22ºC and 24ºC. During the rainy season -specifically from May to October- the rain is combined with fresh breezes coming from the Pacific Ocean. This region is considered the heart of Costa Rica since the four powers of the Republic, all banking systems, the bigger hospitals, the universities, the museums and the theaters are concentrated here.
San José, the Capital of Costa Rica, located at 1149 m above sea level, maintains an average all year round temperature of 24°C and is home to the main museums and cultural centers. This is where you might spend your first night before embarking on the unforgettable experience of discovering the natural beauty this small country has to offer.
San José's foremost architectural showpiece, the National Theater is a source of pride to Costa Ricans everywhere. Inaugurated on October 19, 1897 with a performance of "Faust" by the Paris Opera Company, the building's origins date to 1890 when the Italian opera singer, Angela Pelati, gave a number of performances in Guatemala but refused to come to Costa Rica due to the lack of a proper theater. The members of the country's coffee elite proposed that a theater be built in San José to correct this situation and agreed to contribute five centavos per exported sack of coffee to finance the construction.
Some parts of the theater were crafted in Europe and shipped to Costa Rica for assembly, such as the metal framework which was cast in Belgium and many of the statues, murals, and ceiling frescos which are the work of Italian artists that never saw Costa Rica. The stunning baroque design features ample use of 221/2 karat gold overlay and Carrara marble.
The National Symphonic Orchestra season runs from March to November with performances on Thursday and Friday evenings and again on Sunday mornings. Periodically, other activities ranging from the Moscow ballet and Chinese acrobats to state dinners and Costa Rican theatrical presentations are also scheduled. The coffee shop adjoining the main lobby is a wonderful place to sit and watch the world go by.
The building is open to the public from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Saturday.
Entrance fee US $ 5
Best known for the variety of pre-Columbian artifacts on permanent display, the National Museum also has exhibits dedicated to Costa Rican religious art and the history of the country since the Spanish conquest. The building itself has historic significance since it was once a military fortress and after the abolishment of the army, following the Revolution of 1948, was converted into the museum.
The museum is located on calle 17, between avenidas central and 2, hours are from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday.
Entrance fee US $ 4 p.p.
Museum Of Jade
Although the numerous pre-Columbian jade pieces on display are among the most impressive anywhere, the museum also features excellent examples of indigenous craftsmanship in stone, ceramics, and gold. Housed on the 11th floor of the National Insurance Company (INS) building, the view of the city and surrounding mountains is an added attraction to a visit to this museum.
Entrance fee US $ 2 p.p.
Rotating selections from the permanent collection together with temporary exhibitions showcase the artwork of Costa Rican painters and sculptors in a building that was once an airport terminal. The Sabana Metropolitan Park which stretches west behind the museum was formerly the international airport landing strip in the days prior to jet planes.
Located at the western end of Paseo Colón (avenida central), hours are from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday
Entrance fee US $ 5 p.p.
Operated by the Central Bank of Costa Rica, this museum houses an extensive collection of pre-Columbian gold in which the level of artistry achieved by native craftsman working with this precious metal is easily appreciated. The exhibition rooms have been completely remodeled in 2002.
The entrance to the museum is on calle 5, beneath the Plaza de la Cultura, hours are from 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday.
Entrance fee US $ 6 p.p.
Poás Volcano National Park
The Poás Volcano soars 2.708 meters above sea level and is one of the most spectacular volcanoes of Costa Rica with breathtaking scenery. It is a sub conical volcano with several calderic depressions near the summit. The main crater is a huge depression that measures almost 2 kilometers in diameter and 300 meters deep. There is a little lake at the bottom of the crater, with a diameter of 350 meters and temperatures that range from 65-95°C. The high sulfur and acid content reduces the pH almost to zero, which makes it possibly the most acid natural water body of the world. To the southeast, there is another cone known as Botos, which was the center of volcanic activity until approximately 7500 years ago. Today it contains a spectacular cold water lake that measures about 400 meters in diameter. The eruptions of the Poas volcano have been recorded at least since 1747. This long history of eruptions includes almost 60 episodes. The most violent one took place on January 25th, 1910, when an immense cloud of ashes rose 8,000 meters into the air. The most recent period of eruptions lasted from 1952 to 1954. Poás is known to have the largest geyser in the world.
Entrance fee US $ 7 plus parking fees
Braulio Carillo National Park
Constituted by abrupt and irregular territory, it is covered by dense tropical rain forest and innumerable streams and rivers that run through deep canyons. Waterfalls abound in the park.
There a few trails to hike, starting at the Quebrada Gonzalez Ranger Station, located at the Braulio Carillo highway.
Entrance fee US $ 6 p.p. (Sector Quebrada Gonzalez)
There are three volcanic buildings in the Braulio Carrillo. One of them is the Barva (2906 m.)., densely forested on its northern slope. The surroundings of Barva house two precious lagoons, Barva with a diameter of 100 meters and Danta with 500 meters. It is the only volcano of the Central Mountain Range that has been inactive for the past 400 years.
Entrance fee US $ 6 p.p.
At the North Eastern border to the Braulio Carillo National Park, the North American biologist Donald Perry has set up a private project for nature protection. As one of the highlights, it offers an aerial tram of a little bit more than 1-mile length with 16 cars, „flying" through the canopy of the rainforest in a height of about 56 ft. The visitor will be informed about this project and the construction of the aerial tram by a 15 minutes video before he starts his 90 minutes ride through the canopy together with a naturalist guide. There are also plenty of possibilities for nature walks on the many trails, alone or accompanied by a guide.
Packages start from US $ 50 p.p.
Rara Avis is a remote virgin forest area of more than 2,471 acres at the eastern side of the Braulio Carillo National Park and is protected by a private initiative. The biological research station is an excellent example that the rainforest can be made economically productive and so be saved from destruction. In Rara Avis, more than 330 different kinds of birds have been discovered, and besides innumerable kinds of bromeliad, orchids and lianas you are most likely to see monkeys, anteaters and coatimundis. Though you may spot tracks of tapirs and jungle cats, these animals are hardly to be seen, since the huge forest area gives them enough space to withdraw from „invaders".
The name Irazu comes from the Indian words Istaru, Iaratzu and Iartazu, which mean the mountain of trembling and rumbling. It is an active volcano that towers 3.432 meters above sea level and spreads over 500 square kilometers, which makes it the largest volcano in Costa Rica. The main crater is almost perfectly round with a permanent lake at its bottom. Diego de la Haya was active in 1723 and was named for the colonial governor who wrote an account of the eruption. The volcanic ash has greatly increased the fertility of the soil of its slopes, making the area of Cartago an agricultural center. Today, the colossus is showing signs of becoming active again in the near future. The crater is accessible by car. There is only one trail half way around the crater lake.
Entrance Fee US $ 7 p.p.
Cartago has been the Capital of Costa Rica until 1823 and in present days still is the religious center of the country. Worth to visit are the Basilika de Nuestra Señora and the ruins of the old church as well as the vegetable market downtown. Cartago is only 45 min. away from San José.
Turrialba, (3,349 m) the southeast-most of Costa Rica's Holocene volcanoes, is a large vegetation-covered strato-volcano located to the northeast of Irazu volcano. Three well-defined craters occur at the upper end of a broad summit depression that is breached to the northeast. Turrialba has been quiescent since a series of explosive eruptions in the 19th century that were sometimes accompanied by pyroclastic flows. Fumarolic activity continues at the summit craters. It is possible to descend to the crater bottom.
Entrance Fee US $ 6 p.p.
The town of Turrialba, located at the bottom of the volcano is a good starting point for White-Water Rafting on the Reventazón and Pacuare Rivers. Tour Packages from/to San José are available, please refer to our White-Water Rafting section.
Is one of the most important arqueologic areas and the bigger in size that has been discover in the country. Protect arqueologic structures like mounds, bridges, aqueduct etc. Also protect drums of high forest, typical of the rain forest. Costa Rica because of its location and geographic structure plays an importance place like a meeting area for different pre-Columbian cultures. The arqueologists has demonstrated that Costa Rica received influences from the north like from South America. The Guayabo National Monument covers a big area, from the province of Alajuela in Costa Rica all the way to Colombia.
Entrance fee US $ 4 p.p.
The botanical gardens have been founded in the 1950's by the British naturalist Charles H. Lankaster. Lankaster Gardens are internationally recognized for its collection of epiphytes(plants which live on other plants), of particular interest are the orchids. Approximately 11 hectares of land, countless numbers of other species are also found on the premises, including insects and other animals.
Entrance fee US $ 5 p.p.
Orosi Valley is located one hour east of the capital San Jose There are two thermal volcanic springs right next to the Lodge and several refreshing cold pools in the area. You may explore the wild life of the Tapanti National Park, go fishing Trouts in Purisil or just sit on the porch of one of the small typical 'Soda' restaurants, sip a fresh tropical fruit drink and watch the village life. The oldest church in Costa Rica, built in 1743 by the Spaniards, with the adjoining museum of religious artifacts, statues and vestments from colonial times is located in downtown.
Tapanti is located in the wild and wet country on the rain forested northern slopes of the Talamanca Mountain Range, accessible on a good gravel road in aprox. 30 minutes from Orosi. Although not a large refuge there are reported over 150 rivers within it, which gives an indication of the area's wetness. It has two "life zones": lower mountain rain forest (lower mountain slopes) and pre-montane rain forest (lowlands skirting the lower slopes). The forests are home to forty-five species of mammals, including tapir, paca, red brocket deer, eastern cottontail, kinkajou, raccoon, white-nosed coati, white-faced monkey, mountain hare (conejo de monte), agouti and such cats as ocelot, jaguarundi and tiger cat (an endangered species). You'll also find some 260 kinds of birds here: Quetzals, sparrow hawks, hawks, goldfinch, doves, hummingbirds, parrots, and falcons, etc. From the ranger's cabin, a Quetzal nesting site can be seen.
Entrance fee US $ 6 p.p.
The Northern Region stands out internationally for the Arenal Volcano, its Mountain Range of Tilarán, the Monteverde Cloud Forests and Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge. From January to the end of April the temperature in the lowlands of this region reaches 30ºC, making it parts appropriate for travel. The Northern Zone has rainfall levels between 100 mm and 400 mm during the driest months of March and April. The maximum temperature in some parts is 32ºC and the minimum temperature in the highlands goes down to 12ºC.The humidity ranges between 82 and 89%.January, February, March and April show the sunniest days in this region.
The community of Chilamate exhibits a rare coincidence of forest and road. Chilamate is located where the Sarapiquí River passes through the southern extension of the Sardinal Hills. Probably because of the ruggedness of the terrain, the land has not yet been deforested. The main road from Puerto Viejo to the capital city of San José, parallels the river, thus in Chilamate, there is easy access to the forests of the Sardinal Hills. In addition, electric and telephone lines run along the road through Chilamate. This coincidence of forest with road access and basic utilities makes Chilamate an ideal location for the development of nature tourism projects. Sarapiqui; has been a center of conservation activity in Costa Rica for many years, originally due to the presence of La Selva, an international research station just south of Puerto Viejo.
La Paz Waterfall Gardens
This large private reserve features the World's largest butterfly observatory, hummingbird and orchid gardens, and nicely designed, safe trails along the La Paz River with 5 large waterfalls. One will find lush, verdant green rainforest, lots of colorful birds, flowers and butterflies.
La Paz is located on the slope of Poas Volcano, about 1 hour from San Jose. It's quite large, so you should plan on spending 3-5 hours here. You start at the Welcome Center, walk down to the World's largest butterfly observatory, then follow the extensive trails along the La Paz river past 5 magnificent waterfalls. All trails are either concrete or steel with handrails,and are extremely well-designed for people of all ages and abilities. If you keep walking all the way down the river to the end of the trail, and then a shuttle picks you up and drives you back up the road to the Welcome Center.
Entrance fee US $ 24 p.p.
La Selva Biological Research Station
La Selva is the international biological research station owned by the Organization for Tropical Studies, a consortium of approximately 50 universities in the United States and Costa Rica. La Selva works closely with the surrounding community by involving them directly in the research being carried out by using their farms as study sites while at the same time educating them in new conservation techniques, new viable native species for reforestation, etc. La Selva also offers a course to train locals as naturalist guides. In the 1980s, the Braulio Carrillo National Park was created in the mountains to the south of La Selva. The Park was subsequently extended 20 kilometers northward to connect with the research station.
Tour incl. English speaking naturalist guide: US $ 25 p.p.
Lowlands Of San Carlos / Boca Tapada / Rio San Carlos
Between the town of Ciudad Quesada and the San Juan river, bordering Nicaragua, stretches the lowlands of San Carlos. Pineapple and Heart of Palm are grown there and huge areas have been deforested in the past for cattle. In the North however, towards the border of Nicaragua, still some beautiful rainforests are remaining. The area around Boca Tapada is one of the main nesting sites of the Great Green Macaw, which is in danger of extinction.
Arenal has been a dormant strato-volcano. Young deposits were of the slopes of the volcano but it had not erupted in historic time. Arenal's status changed dramatically in July of 1968. An explosive eruption produced hot avalanches and ejected blocks that devastated the west flank of the volcano and killed 78 people. Arenal has been continuously active since 1968. It rises 1,633 meters above sea level and casts an almost flawless silhouette on the land below it. Arenal's last explosion was in 1969 but this volcano is far from dormant. Its constant rumblings are Arenal's most popular characteristics. Often spewing ash and smoke, the volcano provides a striking backdrop for photographs and video. There are several excellent look out points along the highway and several resorts and spas that have developed in the area. Starting point for all excursions is the picturesque town of La Fortuna, located about 8 km east of the volcano. Most of the hotels and Lodges are situated along the road between La Fortuna and the Arenal Volcano National Park.
Arenal Volcano National Park
With an extension of about 12,000 hectares it is one of Costa Rica’s smaller parks. Elevations range between 1,000 to 1,633 meters (3,200 - 5,300 feet), the habitats found there are tropical highland forest (cloud forest), tropical lowland wet forest (rainforest) and streams. A gravel road leads to the park entrance.
Entrance Fee US $ 6 p.p.
This dormant volcano has a collapsed crater with a small lake and can be accessed by a hiking trail starting near the Arenal Observatory lodge.
On the road between La Fortuna and Lake Arenal private grounds have been developed into two Spas. Either one can be the perfect setting for a relaxing day, or better yet, evening (especially if the volcano is active).
The “real” Tabacon Hot Springs offer five natural mineral pools at varying temperatures (one with a swim up bar) set in tropical gardens, an indoor hot tub, a waterslide and a hot waterfall. Massages and mud packs are available. There is a restaurant as well as a wet-bar
Entrance fee: US $ p.p.
Across the road from Balneario Tabacon is a shorter section of the river where shallow bathing pools are set in a tropical garden. There are toilets, changing rooms and towels available.
Entrance fee: US $ 15 p.p.
La Fortuna Waterfall
This beautiful waterfall set in the rainforest near the edge of Arenal Volcano National Park is managed by a local community development group (Association de Desarollo de Fortuna) It is about a 1 hour walk from downtown Fortuna. It is accessible by a gravel road, horseback tours from downtown La Fortuna are offered. The hike down the canyon is slippery but you will be rewarded with a natural pool under the falls, perfect for a dip on a hot day. There is a small restaurant / shop at the entrance.
Entrance fee US $ 6 p.p.
A artificial lake with an area of about 85.5km, making it the largest lake in Costa Rica, surrounded by rolling hills that are partly pastured and partly forested. The northwest side of Lake Arenal is a dry region of rolling hills and pastures, distinctly different from the lush landscape near La Fortuna. Lake Arenal produces about 60% of the hydro electrical power for Costa Rica.
The caves are located close to the small village of Venado, about and 30 minutes drive from La Fortuna. Dating back over 7 million years, the Venado Caves are the direct result of water currents penetrating and passing through the surrounding limestone rocks. Over time, the continual flow of water opened crevasses and forced sediments to flow throughout the caves, leaving in it's wake an endless network of deep tunnels. So complex and deep, absolutely no light penetrates these caves, except for a few isolated incidents which are located in one of the quarters.
Guided tour (aprox. 2 hours): US $ 8 p.p.
The town of Sta. Elena has been founded by Quaker families immigrating to Costa Rica from the United States in 1951. They came to Costa Rica because of the fact that the country does not have a standing army and, in many ways, supported their ideals. A dairy farm and associated cheese factory now produce over a ton of cheese a day, and much of the 1,500 hectares they purchased forty years ago is part of the famous Monteverde Cloud forest reserve.
Starting point to all attractions of the region is the small town of Sta. Elena, located between the most important nature reserves, Santa Elena and Monteverde . Most of the hotels and lodges are situated between the village of Sta. Elena, along the connecting roads between both preserves.
The Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve is owned and administered by the Tropical Science Center (TSC). The Center, established in 1962, is a non-profit, non-governmental organization with headquarters in San José, Costa Rica. The objective of the Center is to conduct and support scientific research and education, particularly in relation to the understanding and rational management of tropical environments. Established in 1972, the Monteverde Preserve covers over 10,500 hectares, more than 90% of which is virgin forest. It contains an extremely high biological diversity, including over 2,500 plant species (among them 420 different kinds of orchids), 100 species of mammals, 400 bird species, 120 reptilian and amphibian species, and thousands of insects. Visitors can enter the Preserve on a natural history walk, or on their own. There are more than 20 kilometers of trails.
Entrance fee US $ 12 p.p.
As Monteverde, Santa Elena is both the name of a small village and the name of another cloud forest preserve, located about 5 km northeast of the village. Sta. Elena preserve is as beautiful as Monteverde, offering more than 10 kilometers of hiking trails, but is much less frequented by visitors. It is administrated by the Sta. Elena College and the „Youth Challenge International“ organization.
Entrance fee US $ 9 p.p.
Half way between the town of Sta. Elena and the Sta. Elena Preserve, the „Skywalk“ is located: A complex of suspending bridges and platforms, with a total of 1800 m in length, constructed within the cloud forest. It allows a vision of the forest from a different perspective which starts with a walk on the ground taking you up to explore the treetops, a hardly discovered habitat, called the “canopy”.
Entrance fee: US $ 15 p.p.
Sky Trek is a system of three platforms suspended above the ground in the midst of tree boughs. Zip lines attached from one platform to another allow our to slide with the use of special equipment. A suspended bridge 90 m. (300 ft) long and 22 m (66 ft) high, gives you the best view of the inner forest. An observation platform above the canopy offers visitors a panoramic view (360°) of the Guanacaste, San Carlos, and Puntarenas lowlands. There are four cables, two of them 190 meters (633 ft) run through the inner canopy, and the other two 214 (713 ft) are outside. The whole system is integrated by a path 2300 m long (7000 feet) in length. Sky Trek gives you access to a world of incomparable beauty, tropical cloud forest canopies. Through jumping, flying, and gliding, experience what it is like to be an inhabitant of the canopy. You will never forget the Sky Trek experience, which guarantees you 1,317 meters of secure and comfortable sliding adventure.
Guided Tour US $ 40 p.p.
The Monteverde Butterfly Garden is located about 1 km from downtown Sta. Elena. It was founded in 1991 by biologist Jim Wolfe. The focus of this Monteverde project is environmental education, and thousands of butterfly enthusiasts each year visit the Nature Center and four enclosed butterfly gardens.
Entrance fee US $ 9, Opens from 9:30am - 4:00pm
More than 25 different species of Costa Rican snakes are shown and explained. The Serpentarium is located just a few walking minutes from downtown Sta. Elena.
Entrance fee US $ 7 p.p.
This herpetarium with over 20 species of frogs and other amphibians allows visitors to appreciate the beauty of the areas amphibians and to learn about their role in the natural world. Some of the species include the large Marine Toad, the colorful Poison Arrow Frog and the famous Red Eyed Tree Frog. Visitors receive an informative guided tour of the terrariums with their entrance fee. Frogs and toads are undergoing a massive global decline. Part of the proceeds from ticket sale goes to conservation and research efforts. Part of the goal is to educate and inspire others to take an interest in the conservation of amphibious life and nature in general. It is best to visit after dark as the frogs are more active and you can hear their calls.
Entrance fee $ 8, Students $5 Open 9:00 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Located about 3 km from downtown Sta. Elena, “Aerial Adventures” offers cable cars for two persons gliding through the canopy of the cloud forest, similar to the “real” rainforest aerial tram of Braulio Carillo National Park.
Entrance fee US $ 15 p.p.
North Pacific Region
The North Pacific Region including the Nicoya Peninsula is Costa Rica's hottest and driest zone. The rainy season starts later and ends earlier here, and overall it's more dependably sunny in this region than in other parts of the country. Many beautiful beaches are located here as well as huge cattle ranches. The Palo Verde, Santa Rosa and Rincon de la Vieja National Parks protect large areas of tropical dry forests where trees drop their leaves during the dry season and start flowering. The rainy months are from May through October, even though there is a small period when the rain ceases; this is called "Veranillo de San Juan- The dry season comes between December and March. The rainfall increases from 1.400 mm to 2.500 mm in the mountains in the beginning and the end of the year. The wind direction is from east and northeast during the dry season. June, September and October are the most humid and rainy months.
Santa Rosa National Park protects some of the last remaining tropical dry forest in the world. Guanacaste National Park was created in 1989 to connect Santa Rosa National Park with the high elevation cloud forest of Orosi and Cacao volcanoes and across the continental divide to the Caribbean rainforest of Northern Costa Rica. The hope is that together these two parks protect enough land to ensure sufficiently large habitats for wide-ranging species such as jaguars and mountain lions while simultaneously creating a biological corridor for birds and insects to make local seasonal migrations between the dry forest and the evergreen cloud and rain forests. At the historic building of “La Casona” the Battle of Santa Rosa in 1856 took place. The building has been preserved as a monument and museum.
Entrance fee US $ 6 p.p.
Rincón de la Vieja National Park
Rincón de la Vieja National Park has been created in 1973 to protect the flora, fauna and watersheds around Rincon de la Vieja Volcano. The park extends over 14,083 hectares of semi-deciduous forest and very moist forest, and includes a barren, rocky terrain at altitudes that range from 650 meters to 1,916 meters above sea level on the Caribbean and Pacific sides of the Guanacaste Volcanic Mountain Range. The climate in this national park is so diverse that areas with a severe dry season lasting 4 or 5 months are immediately followed by others, near the summit or on the Caribbean side, where there is constant rainfall, which gives rise to a forest mass rich in epiphytes. The differences in altitude and climate play an important role in the distribution of the flora and fauna. There are three stories of vegetation: that of the lowlands found between 650-1,200 meters above sea level where typical growth includes masicaran, bitter wood, ear tree, gumbo-limbo and Spanish cedar; that of the intermediate zone at 1,200-1,400 meters above sea level with didymopanax, yellow man wood, yos and especially, cupey, which sometimes forms almost pure groves that are completely twisted out of shape by the raging winds; and that of the heights at 1.400 meters above sea level as far as the summit with low-growing forest and highly branched trees laden with moss and other vines and creepers.
Entrance fee US $ 6 p.p.
Tenorio / Miravalles Volcanoes
Hardly explored and for those who like hiking steep trails. It consists of four volcanic peaks and two twin-craters. The slopes are covered with savannah, rain forest at middle elevations and cloud forests at higher elevations. From its top spreads the sight for Guatuso and San Carlos lowlands, Lake Nicaragua, Cano Negro National Reserve and Arenal Lake. A legend exists about an eruption in 1816, but the volcano was observed to be densely forested in 1864 and is not considered to have erupted in historical time. Since 1989 it has been under a pre-feasibility study to determine its geothermal potential.
The Tenorio National Park also hides one of Costa Rica´s treasures. The Rio Celeste (the blue river) is named after the color of its water a bright, jewel-blue caused by many dissolved, natural minerals, like cobalt. Hike through secondary and primary rainforest, home to pumas, tapirs and other animals. There are also streaming hot and cool springs of the local volcanoes, mineral mud pits and the blue lagoon of the Rio Celeste. A pool at the bottom of a waterfall allows the adventurous to swim in its blue waters.
Palo Verde National Park protects part of the Tempisque lowlands, including fresh and saltwater marshes, deciduous, riparian, and evergreen forests, and mangrove swamps. The marshes are important habitats to migrating waterfowl and wading birds. The most conspicuous species and the one from which the park takes its name is the "palo verde" or horse bean, a leafy bush with its branches and parts of its trunk colored light green.. Some of the most abundant mammals are the howler and white-faced monkeys, white-nosed coati, white-tailed deer, tree squirrel and porcupine. Large Crocodiles have been sighted in the Tempisque River.
Entrance fee US $ 6 p.p.
About 2 km north of Cañas, two more places worth to visit are located right next to the Interamerican Highway:
A small animal shelter which protects many kinds of Costa Rican jungle cats such as panther, puma and ocelot. as well as birds They had been abandoned by private persons or had been confiscated by the customs authorities for violating the law for the protection of endangered species.
Offers scenic raft trips on the Corobicí river. There is a great variety of wildlife to view such as Howler and Capuchin monkeys, Iguanas, caimans and many species of water birds. The river is quite gentle, and since the guide does all the paddling, all you have to do is to sit back, relax and enjoy looking at the tropical forest with all its wildlife
Price for a 2-hour rivercruise: US $ 35 p.P.
The Nicoya Peninsula, home to many of Costa Rica’s most beautiful beaches can be reached on the Interamericana via Liberia or the car-ferry across the Tempisque river as well as by ferry-boat from Puntarenas. A bridge has been built across the Tempisque and is said to be opened in March 2003.
There is a significant number of beaches to choose from. Pristine, unspoiled and hard to reach to well developed and with significant tourist infrastructure. We have chosen the most beautiful ones according to our opinion and selected some of the most recommendable accommodations. Not only by size and offered luxury, but also by uniqueness and personalized service.
A small island in the Golf of Nicoya with pristine beaches and clear waters.
Cruise packages are offered from US $ 90 p.p. incl. Meals and transportation from San José.
Barra Honda National Park & Limestone Caves
Barra Honda National Park was created in 1971 to protect its famous cave systems. Although most of the park has been cut over in the past, wildlife is fairly abundant and increasing with protection. A good trail system takes the visitors to the caves, where unusual limestone formations offer spectacular views. The park is located east of the town of Nicoya, on the northern part of the Nicoya Peninsula. Barra Honda Peak has a vast system of independent caves, nearly 42, of which only 19 have been explored. This caverns are renowned for their pristine condition and conservation efforts have helped to retain all the geo-biological features of the area. Vertical entrances to the caves require special equipment and trained professionals.
Opens daily from 8:00 a.m.- 4:00 p.m. only in the dry season
Calculate about US $ 35 for spelunking the caves with one of the park rangers
Curú Wildlife Refuge
A small reserve on the SW portion of the Nicoya Peninsula with an extension of 84 hectares. This reserve is an unusual mixed property belonging to both the national government and the Schutt Family. The reserve has a wide range of wildlife. It harbors a colony of the giant oyster (Ostrea iridescent) which is extremely rare throughout the Pacific Coast.
A small preserve protecting secondary growth on 1,250 hectares. The reserve also provides protection to the marine environment to one kilometer off shore. Within these 1,790 hectares (4,423 acres) everything is prohibited except boat traffic crossing the zone. There is only one trail leading from the guard shack to the beach.
Entrance fee US $ 8 p.p.
This long beach with a fine light gray sand, located 18 km southwest of Paquera, is protected by the wide Bahía Ballena which makes it suitable for swimming. Frequented mostly by locals on weekends, it is almost empty on most days which makes it ideal for long walks along the shore.
Playa Montezuma is known as one of the most alternative and happening places in Costa Rica.
Playa Sámara is one of the nicest beaches on the Nicoya Peninsula. Not only is it a wide and beautiful, sandy beach but it is also very safe for swimming as there is a coral reef protecting the coast from waves and currents. Snorkeling, windsurfing and diving are some of the popular water sport activities available in this area. The vacation homes of many wealthy Costa Ricans dot the landscape. Even though Sámara is somewhat secluded, you can find and buy anything you might need during your stay. There are restaurants and a few shops as well as a number of tour options.
Playa Nosara actually consists of 2 beaches: Playa Pelada and Playa Guiones. Both are light colored sand beaches, have excellent waves and are ideal for surfing and swimming. Other activities: horseback riding, snorkeling, turtle watching on the neighboring Playa Ostional (depending on the season).
This refuge is situated on a 200 meter stretch of beach between Punta India and the mouth of the Nosara River, including the town of Ostional. It belongs to the Santa Cruz Canton in the Guanacaste Province. The refuge protects the region's wildlife, an important nesting site of the olive ridley and leatherback turtles, and a wide range of seabirds. The vegetation consists mainly of trees and plants typically found in sandy environments, such as the coconut and royal palms and the area mangrove, among others. Among the fauna, many kinds of seabirds and land fowl, marine turtles, some mammals, and a few crocodiles and other marine animals inhabit the area.
Playa Junquillal is one of the country’s most secluded beaches - the village itself consists only of a few houses; The dark Grey sand beach with high waves is the ideal place for surfing, long walks, horseback riding and scuba diving.
Located a few kilometers north of Nosara and south of Tamarindo, Playa Avellanas hardly has any infrastructure. It is well known for its long running waves and good surfing.
The long bay of Tamarindo with its light colored sand beaches is an ideal place for swimming and extended beach walks. Activities: golf, boat trips, horseback riding, sailing, scuba diving, snorkeling, fishing and surfing. The small town of Tamarindo offers quite some restaurants and bars to enjoy nightlife.
The small, well protected bay of Ocotal is partly sandy and partly rocky. There is no village. The neighboring beaches/villages of Playa de Coco and Playa Hermosa can be reached in 10 or 20 minutes car ride. Activities: swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, fishing, surfing.
Small, protected bay about 7 km north of Coco - relatively clean and good for swimming. Playa Hermosa features various restaurants directly at the beach as well as dive shops and equipment rentals (snorkeling equipment, sea kayaks, etc.) Playa Hermosa is also home to one of Costa Rica's most famous scuba diving companies - "Bill Beards Diving Safaris".
South of Puntarenas down to Quepos / Manuel Antonio National Park, the Central Pacific Region stretches along the Pacific coast line, forming the transitional zone between tropical dry forest and evergreen humid and rain forest.
On the Pacific coast, 25 Km southwest of Orotina, Puntarenas Province. Carara presents a wide variety of plant life with evergreens being particularly predominant. The reserve possesses several ecosystems, including marshlands, a lagoon, and primary, secondary and gallery forests. The marshland is rich in waterfowl, wading birds, amphibians and reptiles that are usually found in these environments. The lagoon is completely covered with water hyacinths and other floating aquatic plants. The primary forests occupying most of the reserve are species-rich, multi-layered, and have an abundance of creeping vines and epiphytes. The tallest trees include such species as espave, silk cotton, wild fig, nargusta and quamwood, a very spectacular tree during the dry season when it is covered with yellow flowers. Amphibians and reptiles are abundant. Crocodiles measuring up to three meters long are widely distributed and easy to sight in the Grande de Tarcoles River. Waterfowl such as roseate spoonbills, anhingas, jacanas, pied-bellied grebes and Mexican tiger-bitterns are also in attendance. The fauna is abundant in spite of the isolated location of the reserve. Among the mammals, the four-eyed opossum, two-toed sloth, aouti, kinkajou, tayra, margay cat, collared peccary and white-tailed deer are found. A particularly conspicuous bird in Carara, notable for its beautiful bright blue, red, and yellow plumage, and the fact that it has all but disappeared from the Dry Pacific, is the scarlet macaw. Other species include the collared aracari, American egret, great tinamou, and turkey vulture.
Entrance fee US $ 8 p.p.
You'll pass over the Tarcoles River on your way to Carara. The bridge is renowned as a spot for watching alligators. From the safety of the bridge's span, you'll be able to see several good-sized ones warming up in the sun on the sandy beach along the river.
The narrow, dark sanded bay of Herradura has been one of the favorite beaches for Costa Ricans.
About 2 1/2 miles long dark sand beach stretching in a long bay. At times, dangerous currents do not allow swimming; there are warning signals on the beach. The town of Jacó has good infrastructure and is very lively with lots of restaurants, bars, discotheques and souvenir shops.
Manuel Antonio National Park with an extension of almost 1,800 acres attracts the visitor with gorgeous hiking trails through abundant, tropical jungle which borders white sand beaches and turquoise waters. The evergreen fascinating forest is the home of about 100 species of mammals and 180 kinds of birds. A hiking trail through dense vegetation all around the cape enables you to catch the beautiful sight of 12 smaller islands just in front of it. A splendid combination of nature experience and beach fun.
The seas contain numerous dolphins and, at times, migrating whales are sighted. The dominant trees include black locust (an endangered timber-yielding tree), balsa, monkey comb, bastard cedar and mayflower, among others. The fauna is diverse and some 109 mammal species and 184 species of birds have been spotted. Of particular interest is the beautiful and delightful squirrel monkey, an endangered species now restricted to a very small territory. From the beach, it is possible to see two-toed sloth, raccoons white-nosed coatis, howler and white-faced monkeys, and squirrels. There is a wide range of marine flora and fauna. So far, 10 species of sponge, 19 corals, 24 crustaceans, 17 algae, and 78 fish species have been identified.
Most of the hotels are located on the road between the town of Quepos and the beaches at the national park. An hourly public bus shuttle to the beaches of Manuel Antonio (about 15 minutes) make these hotels an ideal basis for beach lovers as well as for active people (horseback riding, visit of a spice growing farm, canoeing in the nearby river delta with good opportunities to watch crocodiles, hiking and wildlife observation in the national park, etc.)
Entrance fee US $ 7 p.p. The park is closed on Mondays!
The South Pacific Region stretches between Quepos in the North down to the Osa Peninsula and border to Panama, bordered by the Talamanca Mountain Range with its highest Peak in Costa Rica, the Cerro Chirripó. Main parts of this region are hardly explored for tourism and visitors mainly are focusing on Drake Bay and the Corcovado National Park. Coastal Vegetation is dominated by lowland rain forests reaching close to the vast and wild beaches, often interrupted by huge oil palm, banana and pineapple plantations. The average yearly precipitation in this area is about 5000 mm.
To visit the South Pacific Region, a domestic flight to Palmar Norte, Golfito or Puerto Jimenez should be taken into consideration or, interrupting the exhausting drive from San José, one or two overnights at the beautiful Valle de Dota, home of the largest Quetzal populations in Central America.
Cerro de la Muerte / Valley Of San Gerardo de Dota
The Inter-American highway winds its way through Costa Rica, it traverses a wide variety of landscapes. From less than 300 feet above sea level at the Nicaraguan border, to 11,500 feet on the slopes of the Talamanca Mountain Range, and back down again to below 200 feet, it presents the traveler with a look at several of the many ecosystems in the country. Perhaps the most dramatic stretch runs from Cartago, in the Central Valley, to San Isidro de El General, as it rises from about 5,000 feet through its highest point in Costa Rica at a spot called Cerro de la Muerte . As you wind around Cerro de la Muerte on the Interamerican Highway, you will see the lush vegetation become stunted and then diminish. The turn off for San Gerardo de Dota is on Kilometer 80, driving for 9 kilometers down on a well maintained gravel road you reach this narrow, pristine mountain valley at 2200 meters of altitude (7220 ft). San Gerardo de Dota has become a paradise for birdwatchers, hikers, and trout fishers.
Chirripo Peak is the highest mountain in the country, soaring to a height of 3,821 meters. The paramos of this elevation contains many varieties of stunted Andean-type woodland, consisting of shrubs, grasslands and perennial herbaceous plants. One of the most common species found here is the batamba. The largest trees include oak, sweet cedar, nargusta, elm, Poas magnolia, iera, cypress and manni. The fauna is astonishingly varied, with 263 species of amphibians and reptiles and about 400 types of birds observed to date. The largest concentration of tapirs in the country can be found here, plus the puma, jaguar, ocelot, jaguarondi, white-lipped peccary and cacomistle. The most noteworthy birds include the resplendent quetzal, crested eagle, red-tailed hawk, volcano hummingbird, black guan, crowned wren-thrush, elegant trogon, and acorn woodpecker.
La Amistad Biosphere
La Amistad Park is located in the Talamanca Mountain Range and extends to the Panama border. Both Amistad Pacific and Caribbean span the most biologically diverse area in Costa Rica and comprise the largest unspoiled forest in the country. An astonishing number of habitats -produced by the differences in altitude, soil, climate and topography- can be found, including paramos, marshlands, oak forests, madrono forests, fern groves and mixed forests. Amistad has an extension of more than 192,000 hectares.
Just outside the southern pacific town of San Vito, Wilson's Botanical Gardens are part of the Las Cruces Biological Reserve, which is maintained by the OTS (Organization for Tropical Studies). The gardens were began in 1962 by Mr. Robert Wilson and have since become a tremendous facility used for research, teaching, and to help preserve numerous threatened species of local and international plant species. More than 1,000 genera in 212 plants families can be seen along trails that wind around palm-covered hillsides, through agaves and lily beds, under rain forest canopy, through banana and heliconia groves, or to strategic overlooks on the rolling grounds.
Guided hiking tours: US $ 6 p.p. (only with reservation)
Golfito is set on the north side of the Golfo Dulce, at the foot of lush green mountains. The setting alone is enough to make this one of the most attractive cities in the country, but Golfito also has a certain charm all its own. Sure, the areas around the municipal park and public dock are kind of seedy and the "downtown" section is quite run-down, but if you go a little bit farther along the bay, you come to the old United Fruit Company housing. Here you'll find well-maintained wooden houses painted bright colors and surrounded by neatly manicured gardens. Toucans are commonly sighted. It's all very lush and green and clean--an altogether different picture from that painted by most port towns in this country. These old homes are experiencing a sort of renaissance, as they become small hotels catering to shoppers visiting the adjacent duty-free shopping center.
The Piedras Blancas National Park, formerly called Esquinas National Park or Corcovado Section II, was established in 1992 as an extension of the Corcovado National Park. The park borders the Golfito Forest Reserve in the East. In the West the park is connected with the Corcovado National Park by a forest corridor (Rincon) which unfortunately is highly threatened by illegal logging. The Piedras Blancas National Park covers 30'000 acres of undisturbed humid tropical primary rainforest and 5'000 acres of secondary forests, pasture land and rivers consisting primarily of hills of varied steepness, over one hundred stream valleys, a river plateau and coastal cliffs and beaches. A study by Austrian biologists recently revealed that the diversification of tree species counted on different areas of 10'000 sqm. each exceeds the variety of trees found in the Corcovado National Park which makes this area even more important to conserve. The scientific study will be publicized in 2001.
This pristine bay, lined by palm trees and named after the pirate Sir Francis Drake, is located in the north of Osa Peninsula, at about 12 miles distance from the San Pedrillo entrance to Corcovado National Park. Here, time seems to have no meaning; it is here that you are taken into a world of pure rainforest, magnificent beaches, and adventurous boat trips. The lodges in Drake Bay offer day trips to Corcovado National Park and Caño Island.
Often called the “biological most intense place on earth” because of its stunning variety of flora and fauna, the park protects major habitats including a mountain forest, which covers more than half the park; a cloud forest, located in the highest region, richly populated by oaks and tree ferns; swamp forests, flooded practically all year-round; a holillo forest, predominated by palms; a mangrove swamp, located on the estuaries of the Llorona, Corcovado and Sirena Rivers; and a freshwater herbaceous swamp. The park is home to some 500 species of trees -equivalent to a quarter of all the tree species in Costa Rica. Some of the larger trees include the purple heart, poponjoche, nargusta, banak, cow tree, espave and crab wood. The park protects several endangered species including cats and large reptiles. Moreover, it is home to several species of birds, which are either endemic or whose distribution is very restricted. There are 140 species of mammals, 367 birds, 117 amphibians and reptiles, 40 types of freshwater fish, and it is estimated that there are some 6,000 types of insects. It is common to see large herds of white-lipped peccary, as well as howler and spider monkeys, and squirrels. The park is sanctuary to the largest population of scarlet macaws in the country. Other species of birds found here are the vulture, white hawk, short-billed pigeon, tovi parakeet and bronze-tailed sicklebill.
Located in the Pacific Ocean, 15 Km offshore from Corcovado National Park and the port of San Pedrillo. This reserve is of major archaeological importance since it was used as a cemetery in pre-Colombian times. It is still possible today to see some almost perfectly round stone spheres, made by the Indians. It has a plateau some 90 meters high, covered by a very tall evergreen forest with trees reaching heights up to 50 meters. Other species present are the locust and wild fig. The smaller trees include wild cocoa and rubber tree. The fauna is sparse, possibly caused by the disappearance of the natural forest. The few birds that can be sighted here are the cattle egret, common black hawk, osprey, brown booby, and Northern phalarope. The four-eyed opossum, paca (introduced), boa constrictor, brown tree gorge and transparent tree frog, and a few species of rats, bats, small snakes, and lizards are also sighted here. A rich variety of marine fauna inhabits the tidal pools. In addition to a multitude of fish, there are countless brittle starfish and sea urchins. Two endangered species in the vicinity of the island are the lobster and the giant conch.
Boat trips are offered from most of the lodges in Drake Bay
Long stretched, dark sand beach, ideal for those who are looking for tranquility.
This dark sanded beach borders the Barú beach in the north and is perfect for long beach walks and surfing. At the river mouth of the Rio Barú there is great bird-watching. A good choice for an excursion on horseback are the Nauyaca waterfalls.
The national marine park “Ballena” protects the marine life and coastal area from Playa Uvita till Playa Piñuelas. The park includes some rock formations, small islands like “Isla Ballena” and the three sisters (Las Tres Hermanas) and some coral reefs. A perfect habitat for all kinds of marine animals and plants. You have a big chance that you will see dolphins. Even there is a possibility to observe whales (February/ March).From the river Terraba, which connects the biggest mangrove area of Central America to the sea, tons of micro organisms flow into the sea. Another big attraction for bigger and smaller fish and their predators. There are 5 species of coral in the park (from the 18 existing ones in the west Pacific ocean). The best time for snorkeling is during the dry season (December until March) when the water is very clear.
Atlantic Region / Caribbean
The Caribbean Zone is located between the coast of the Caribbean Sea and borders of Nicaragua and Panama. The temperature in the coastal areas oscillates between 25ºC and 27ºC; therefore the warmest days fall between May and the end January the temperature reaches 31ºC. . In the Caribbean Coast, the dry season is divided into two periods: February to March and September to October. Again, like the other regions there is a period when the rain ceases -Saint John's Short Summer, in July. This region is different than the others because of its people and culture particular characteristic of the Caribbean Islands. The principal access to this zone is through the city of Limón (consisting mainly of afro Caribbean people since 1870) where the plantation of banana and portuary activities are of great importance for Costa Rica's national economy the Caribbean Zone is the most humid region of Costa Rica, because of the wind influence coming from the Caribbean Sea. The rainfall in the lowlands of this region reaches 3000 mm per year and up in the highlands increases to 4500 mm.
Located in Limon Province, bordering the Barra del Colorado River, on the Caribbean coast. This area consists of swampland, almost totally devoid of wooded areas. The topsoil is unsuitable for supporting agriculture or livestock. However, the refuge has great tourist appeal and possesses a wide range of wildlife. This is a very hot and humid tropical rain forest environment, very similar to Tortuguero National Park.
One of the country’s main attractions is the 47,000 acres Tortuguero National Park with its innumerous lagoons and canals. It protects a terrestrial area of 18956 hectares and 52265 hectares of marine habitat.
Tortuguero (derived from the Spanish word tortuga = turtle) is an one of the most important nesting sites for the Green Sea Turtle, the Leatherback and the Hawksbill Turtle in the whole Caribbean These are best observed between July and September at night. North of the national park, the village of Tortuguero is located on a narrow land strip. To the west side of the village lies the tranquil Tortuguero lagoon; to the east the Atlantic ocean with a strong surf and sharks, so swimming is not recommended here. In the small canals where the bordering vegetation forms amazing tunnels, nature presents itself from the most beautiful tropical side: Caimans, crocodiles, sweet water turtles, poison-arrow frogs, Basilisk lizards, oropendolas, toucans, Anhingas, Amazon kingfishers, bats, howler monkeys and manatees are just a few examples of Tortuguero’s abundant fauna.
Entrance fee US $ 7
Tortuguero Village and National Park are accessible by boat only, so individual traveling in this area might become difficult. Most of the lodges are offering complete packages including transportation, meals and a tour program from/to San José. For those traveling on a limited time budget, a domestic flight to the Tortuguero air-strip could be taken into consideration.
On his fourth journey to the New World in 1502, Christopher Columbus anchored in front of the Island of Uvita, just in front of the nowadays city of Limón. He named the country “Rich Coast” (Costa Rica), but his and the Spanish crown’s expectations of unlimited treasures never were fulfilled.
Limón boasts a population of some 85.000 people, most of which are of Afro - Caribbean heritage. The town has increased in size steadily since the 1970s and has proven to be a good place for Costa Ricans to settle down. The climate is warm and tropical, the surroundings are beautiful and a recent influx of tour operators has brought a new focus of the town. Limón was founded in 1870 as a port for exporting bananas and grains. Today it continues this tradition although it is now complimented by the Check in of cruise ships that stop off for a few hours of shore leave.
The Talamanca is part of the biosphere La Amistad Caribe and difficult to access. A good starting point to enter the rainforests of the Talamanca is the Selva Bananito Lodge.
Cahuita National Park is located just south of the town of Cahuita, about 43 kilometers south of Limón, on the Caribbean coastline in one of the most beautiful and scenic regions in Costa Rica. Its main attractions are the white sand beaches fringed with endless coconut trees, a calm sea of transparent waters and the coral reefs just offshore. Other habitats of the park are secondary rain forest and littoral woodlands, home of the three-toed sloth, numerous leaf frogs and monkeys. A shipwreck located at the mouth of the Perezoso river was used to transport slaves in the 18th century.
The main entrance to the park is at Puerto Vargas, located about 6 km south from Cahuita at the main road to Puerto Viejo.
Entrance fee US $ 9 p.P.
In recent years, this small village has developed rapidly and become a point of tourist attraction with the corresponding infrastructure. The roads have been paved; a variety of small hotels, bed & breakfasts and restaurants is now available in the immediate surroundings of the village's center. More expensive accommodation close to the most beautiful beaches of the area can be found further south along the road to Gandoca Manzanillo. Here you will also find all kinds of restaurants in different price ranges.
In the foothills of the Talamanca Mountain Range, southwest of La Estrella Valley, 45 Km from the port of Limon. This zone is criss-crossed by countless rocky rivers with rapids and waterfalls, some reaching several meters in height. It is interesting to note that the name of the Reserve, taken from the Bri-Bri Indian language, has to do with rain. "Hitoy" means wooly, describing the algae and moss- covered river stones, and "Cerere" means clear waters. Most of the trees in the upper elevations are more than 30 meters tall and the emergent trees top 50 meters. The fauna is rich and varied, although most species either live in the treetops or are nocturnal and therefore are not usually seen. Some mammals inhabiting the area are the three-toed sloth, silky anteater, four-eyed opossum, collared peccary, and howler and white-faced monkeys. 115 species of birds have been observed including the Montezuma oropendola, which congregates to build large numbers of hanging nests in a single tree, vulture, chizo parrot, salty-tailed trogon and hummingbirds, among others.
This important refuge protects the wildlife of the region, especially species in danger of extinction or having reduced populations. It also safeguards the only naturally occurring mangrove oyster beds to inhabit the reefs along the coastline. The remaining primary forest in this region is unique throughout the Atlantic coastal lowlands because of the relatively small surface area available to support the area's abundant wildlife. This area contains a wide range of lowland habitats with patches of primary forest and numerous rare and unique plants. The refuge also protects major freshwater and marine habitats, including one of the least spoiled coral reefs on the Atlantic coast of Costa Rica. This part of the Atlantic coast is classified as a tropical rain forest.