VOLCANO, JUNGLE, & BEACH ADVENTURE GUIDE
EXPERIENCE COSTA RICA
Hike to a waterfall. Climb an active volcano. Zip-line across lush landscapes. Or enjoy the infamous S’s: Sand, Surf, & Sun. It’s all taking place right here!
Where can you fall in love all over again, 100 times in a row? There is a place where there is time enough for everything – history, adventure, beach bumming, and never ending smiles. That place is Costa Rica!
In-the-know travelers have been buzzing about Costa Rica becoming the new tropical paradise for vacationers. From pristine beaches and active volcanoes to Tarzan swings and local chants of “Pura Vida”, Costa Rica has quickly become one of my favorite destinations and the perfect place to get your adventure on. It’s home to the original canopy tour, great beaches for surfing, one of the best white water rafting experiences, and there’s a volcano situated almost in the capital!
There are several ways to experience Costa Rica. I opted for the jungle, volcano, and beach route, which included relaxing in the hot springs with amazing views of Arenal Volcano, white water rafting down the Pacuare River, and spending time on the jungle-lined beaches along the Caribbean coast. Tours can be arranged via Gecko Trails Adventure, who provides many poplar coast-to-coast itineraries for travelers.
- Local currency: Costa Rican Colon.
- Bring small bills. Credit cards are accepted in most places, but may be an issue in rural areas. Always good to have ample local currency.
- It rains year round – Pack a small umbrella.
- $29 USD departure tax may be due at the airport (if not already included in your airfare): payments by credit card and colons (yes, even in Costa Rica) will be charged an additional fee.
- Peak periods: Christmas/New Years and the week leading up to Easter Sunday.
- Road conditions throughout the country varies, be careful renting a vehicle.
- Typical restaurant meals along the Caribbean coast will range anywhere from $5-$25 USD.
- No mandatory vaccinations required when traveling from the United States.
- Mosquito/Dengue Fever – remember to bring lots of insect repellent.
- Restaurants typically include taxes & service charges in the menu prices. You can confirm by checking the bottom of the menu.
Below is my guide to adrenaline pumping activities mixed with diverse landscapes and the laid-back vibe of the Caribbean coast!
Costa Rica’s capital city, San Jose, is typically the first stop on most itineraries as it’s home to the country’s international airport that makes it easily accessible to both the Pacific and Caribbean coasts. While there are several sites to see, most visitors to the capital frequent San Jose merely for arrival and departure purposes.
The Adventure Inn is situated in a gated community midway (10 minutes) between SJO International Airport and San Jose’s downtown area. The Adventure Inn offers large spacious rooms equipped with two queen-sized beds, cable TV, and free unlimited international calls. There’s a solar heated pool and jacuzzi, international cuisine at the Moon Glow Bar & Grill restaurant, a small gym, free Wi-Fi, and free taxi service to and from the airport. Get in touch with the owner, Robert, and he’ll certainly take care of all your needs before, during, and after your stay.
Positioned within Costa Rica’s lowlands, Arenal is one of the most picturesque towns along the country’s northwestern region and until 2010, it was the home of Costa Rica’s most active volcano. While it’s easy to sit back and enjoy the amazing views of Arenal Volcano, there’s a ton of adventure lurking in every corner.
Lomas del Volcan is perched high on a mountain top perfectly nestled between Arenal Volcano and the tropical forest – it doesn’t get any better than this! With 47 wood cabins, each with a private deck, spanning across 150 hectares, Lomas del Volcan is a great choice when staying in Arenal. There’s an infinity pool looking into the forest, a jacuzzi, a natural trail of 1.5km, and a variety of local dishes in their restaurant situated a short distance from Arenal Volcano.
Arenal Volcano Evening Hike
Shortly after arriving in Arenal, you’ll realize that access to Arenal Volcano can be done in a variety of ways. One way is during an evening hike. Your hike will take you to the west side of the volcano, which offers the best night time views. Be weary of the weather, foggy conditions will limit visibility, but it’s a fun night out regardless!
Arenal Volcano ATV Tour
If hiking is not your drug of choice, explore the village and Arenal Volcano on a high-powered ATV. Who knows, you may even end up in a remote river for some rest and relaxation.
Arenal Volcano & La Fortuna Waterfall & Horseback Ride
One of the highlights in Arenal is a horseback ride to La Fortuna Waterfall. Your horse (mine was partially psychotic) will take you deep into the jungle to explore Costa Rica’s wildlife. You’ll then leave your horse in a designated area and make your way across the daring hanging bridge, before beginning your descent to the Waterfall… the view and calm surroundings will immediately make you one with nature. Be sure to leave some time to enjoy the river and be lazy in a civilized manner.
Indigenous Family Visit
After enjoying a swim at La Fortuna Waterfall, grab your horse and pay the Maleku tribe a visit and exchange the native “Copi Copi” greeting while bumping shoulders with the local tribe.
Tabacon Hot Springs Resort w/Dinner
Tabacón Hot Springs Resort offers a variety of natural hot spring pools, perfect for rejuvenating the body after hiking Arenal Volcano. There’s a waterslide, a swim up bar, 12 different pools, and a dinner buffet to finish off the night.
I consider the Pacuare River the “it” river of Costa Rica with its stunning scenery and abundant wildlife – jaguars, monkeys, sloths, and a variety of birds. Most importantly, the Pacuare River is home to the thrilling class IV white water rapids!
White Water Rafting w/River Lunch
White water rafting in Costa Rica is an experience like no other. Picture steep green walls, waterfalls cascading from both sides, colorful Toucans flying high above, and rainfall as you tackle the river gorge. I immediately went into combat mode. This is a day filled with lots of laughs. Let’s see if you can stay on-board the entire 4 hours!
Someone once told me that if I went to Costa Rica I should go to the Caribbean Coast. The Afro-Caribbean culture fueled by an anything-goes attitude, and surrounded by black sandy beaches makes the town of Puerto Viejo quite memorable and a attractive alternative to escape the tourist population on the Pacific Coast. Puerto Viejo offers an authentic experience – it’s small, easy to navigate, beaches everywhere, the population is diverse, and you’ll find joy in rocking to soothing reggae beats with the locals while drinking a beer or two!
Banana Azul is my number one pick whenever I visit Puerto Viejo. It’s a great mix of nature and culture, nestled in-between the jungle and the beach. There are 14 beautiful guest rooms with my personal favorite being the Ocean View and Red Frog rooms along with the Howler Suite. Banana Azul offers easy access to jungle trails and the popular black sand beaches of Puerto Viejo. If you’re not interested in the standard all-inclusive vacations and seeking a more local experience, Banana Azul will not disappoint!
Full Day Jungle Adventure
Well, the pictures speak for themselves – ATV ride, jungle hike, tree climbing, canyoning, canopy/zip-line, and a Tarzan swing!
Punta Uva Horseback Ride
They say it’s the best beach in the area and I definitely agree. I had miles of white sand and blue waters to myself. Start off with a horseback ride through the jungle followed by a relaxing and secluded swim.
My favorite beach of them all is Manzanillo. Three days in a row, I did a 45 minute bike ride into this quaint town. There’s not much to do here besides beach bumming, having a delicious meal at Maxi’s, playing some beach football, and if daring enough, hiking to Punta Mona.
The bartender Franklin, from Banana Azul, put me in touch with his best friend Norlan to arrange a hike to Punta Mona. Norlan and I clicked immediately and began the 2.5 hour trip on foot. It wasn’t easy. In fact, it was the hardest hike I’ve ever done. Falling trees, steep cliffs, slippery rocks, muddy paths, thick spider webs, and the heat of the jungle made this a very challenging journey. Norlan seemed fine… I was determine to fake it until I made it to my destination.
After the longest trail ever, we arrived. Punta Mona is a Vagabond’s paradise. No homes, shops, people — nothing! Only thing noticeable to the human ear is the sound of the waves crashing against the rocks. The view was worth every minute of the hike. I would have regretted not taking the time to add this to my “to do” list while in Costa Rica. Norlan was very informative and very helpful as I had the hardest time tackling some of the landscape during the hike. I say it’s worth the effort at least once.
Surf, Eat, Sleep, and Repeat. That’s all that’s required on your off day in Puerto Viejo. For about $60USD, meet your surf instructor, grab your board, and find out first hand why Puerto Viejo is known worldwide as one of the best places to surf.
This will be a journey just as exciting as the destination and you’re one step closer to enjoying the Pura Vida lifestyle in Costa Rica! Feel free to share your experiences below!