The lush and scenic Costa Rica is known for its biodiversity, volcanoes, beautiful beaches, and tropical forests. The three months I studied abroad with International Studies Abroad (ISA) in San José, the capital, allowed me to explore this beautiful country first-hand. There is so much wildlife to see and the people, known as Ticos, are incredibly welcoming. If Costa Rica was not already on your list to visit, I hope that these suggestions give some insight into how amazing this country truly is and excite you enough to want to experience the Pura Vida (pure life) lifestyle for yourself!
A trip to Costa Rica is not complete until you visit Arenal Volcano at the Arenal 1968 Park, the youngest and most active volcano in the country. This national park has a couple of beautiful hikes at the base of the volcano and the beautiful Lake Arenal to gaze at. Although there is not a ton of wildlife due to historical eruptions, you will still have a chance to see some. I saw what looked like an army of ants carrying leaves in a single-file line. It is not every day that you get to see that.
La Fortuna Waterfall
The 15-minute hike down the steps to La Fortuna waterfall will not be a disappointing experience. You have a chance to see tropical creatures such as toucans and monkeys along the trail. This is one of the largest and most beautiful waterfalls I have ever seen. Even though the water was freezing, I jumped in to swim at the base of the powerful waterfall with my friends. This is a refreshing experience that you do not want to miss out on so make sure to bring your swimsuit and a towel.
The name literally means “green mountain,” which probably explains why this is one of Costa Rica’s major ecotourism destinations. Monteverde is known for its hills, cooler weather, cloud forests, birds, and zip-lining activities. The cloud forests are formed by 100% humidity; walking through the haze will have you feeling like you are walking through a cloud. This unique humid environment leads to some unique biodiversity (look for sloths!). I met many people who traveled long distances just to do a bird tour through the trails. I chose to zip-line because I am a thrill-seeking adventurer, and it did not disappoint! Just don’t forget to bring a jacket to keep you warm because cloud forests are wet and have cooler temperatures.
Do not leave Costa Rica without getting a day pass for this thermal resort and spa! The Tabacón falls are natural hot springs that are heated by the Arenal Volcano which you can see from the pool. How awesome is that? There is a slide, swim-up bar, and incredible waterfalls all around the resort which allows for privacy. The best part of the resort is the pathway system that allows you to climb the volcano with little ponds for you to bathe in along the way and admire the surrounding greenery. The higher you go up the volcano, the warmer the water gets. What are you waiting for? Add it to your list!
Manuel Antonio National Park
This popular tourist destination is my host mom and I’s favorite place. It has the perfect mixture of nature, beach, and adventure. Consider going on a catamaran boat with your friends for a day full of sun, snorkeling, and relaxation. There are trails that lead to the different beaches throughout the park and the water is an incredible teal blue color. The abundance of wildlife allows you to spot so many kinds of birds and monkeys and there are tons of sloths! If you want to be sure you are going to see wildlife and you can only pick one spot to visit, this should be your choice.
Costa Rica is so beautiful thanks to the country’s eco-friendliness. The country not only has beautiful sights for you to experience but the people, food, and coffee will leave a lasting impression on you. Happiness simply radiates off people here! This tropical paradise is also a relatively safe destination with a peaceful presence most likely due to the absence of a military force. The country is full of unique attractions and hidden gems that are waiting to be explored and there is an activity for everyone. Head to Costa Rica during the dry season which runs from December though May. There will be less rainfall and you can expect to have long sunny days during your visit!