A guide to things to do in Costa Rica
With a dry, tropical climate and beautiful white sand beaches, idyllic Costa Rican holidays are popular with those seeking winter sun. Costa Rica‘s Pacific coast provides some of the best surf spots and you’ll find a wealth of watersports to get stuck into. Inland are rainforest filled national parks waiting to be explored. Whether you decide to embark on a volcano hike or simply lounge on the beach with a good book, you won’t want to leave this little piece of paradise.
Fairytale magic at Rio Celeste River
In the northern lowlands you’ll find the Rio Celeste River and waterfall, one of Costa Rica’s best kept secrets that is hidden within the cloud forests of Tenorio National Park. Travel time from downtown La Fortuna is approximately two hours and upon arrival you’ll be met with dense rainforest and views of the towering Tenorio Volcano, immediately opening your eyes to some of Costa Rica’s natural wonders.
The moderate hike to the waterfall takes you along a trail through a scenic canopy of trees scattered with inquisitive monkeys, colourful poison dart frogs and an array of bird songs and butterflies. You’ll hear the acclaimed waterfall before you see it, as the river comes crashing 18 metres down from the trees into a vibrant pool of magical blue water. Complete your trip with a dip in the natural hot springs further up the trail.
The province of Guanacaste is quite rightly nicknamed The Gold Coast, offering a plethora of idyllic beaches. You’ll find everything from secluded white sand secrets to bustling tourist hotspots, complete with an abundance of watersports including snorkelling, jet skiing, kayaking and fishing.
The horse-shoe shaped bay at Playas del Coco stretches for three kilometres and is surrounded by mountains covered in rich jungle. The palm-lined sand offers some welcome shade and the striking blue water is perfect for a paddle – making this a consistently popular spot for families.
Further down the coast you’ll find the gleaming white sand of Playa Flamingo, cocooned by tropical greenery and home to the nation’s largest marina. This Blue Flag beach is the ultimate in luxury, offering indulgent sunbathing and a wealth of watersport activities. Beyond the kilometres and a half-long stretch of sand you’ll also find a handful of excellent restaurants and bars.
Costa Rica holidays are known worldwide for their excellent surf, so it’s the perfect spot to grab a lesson and take to the sea. Playa Tamarindo is the go-to beach for beginners and intermediates alike and just so happens to be the most developed beach in the region, with a big party reputation to match its acclaimed surf.
Surf shops and schools line the main street so you’ll have no trouble learning the basics. When you’re all surfed out, you’re free to relax under the palm trees or grab a refreshing drink in one of the chilled out beach bars.
Volcanic vents in the rainforest
For the ultimate Costa Rican adventure head to the Rincon de La Vieja National Park, around a two hour drive from the popular beach town of Playa Tamarindo. Here you can explore the rich tropical rainforest, home to a cluster of volcanoes that have left a trail of sulphuric hot springs, steaming vents and boiling mud pools.
Zigzag through the park along the marked trail and look out for monkeys, sloths and tropical birds stopping off to bathe in one of the naturally heated pools, before cooling down in a nearby stream or waterfall.
The more advanced trails to the volcanic summits have been closed intermittently. It’s likely to stay that way for the foreseeable future, but the trails around the base, passing through thick rainforest and open fields, are still accessible via the ranger stations.