The more I know Costa Rica, the bigger it is for me. This is a destination that has an attraction in every corner. Costa Rica with dozens of different climates and twelve different life zones is a tiny region amazingly condensed. When you drive through it with your eyes open, you want to stop every five minutes, for the landscapes, the fruit stands, the huge trees and weird plantations.
Whenever people asks me which are your favorite spots in the country… I do have a hard time. It is almost impossible not to consider so many different tiny areas! Again… the more you know Costa Rica, the bigger it looks.
Now… what about the people who are coming for the first time? What do I recommend after 27 years in the travel industry?
Well! You have to see three things: Rainforest, volcano and beach.
You have to watch three things: Monkeys, sloths and toucans.
You have to see three things: Visit the rainforest tree tops (Either on a canopy tour, hanging bridges or an aerial tram… that is where 80% of the life of the rainforest happens!). Go down a river (Rafting or floating, watching the rainforest from the water is the most natural way to see it! ) and a volcano (With 112 volcanoes this is a hard to miss part of your trip).
And you have to see the two coasts… as different as they are one from the other.
That’s why, for a newcomer my recommendation, definitely would be: the Costa Rica Coast To Coast Program.
Let’s review it… Day by day:
Day 1 Arrival in San José. Meet and greet at the airport and transfer to your hotel.
One of the great things about traveling with an efficient tour operator is that when you get to the airport there’s is a smiling face waiting for you…. with a sign… with a known name: Yours! And this person will also answer your questions and in general gives you the words you want to hear when you are starting a trip “Don’t worry”.
Day 2 Tour of your choice: Pacuare River Rafting, Rainforest Aerial Tram, Irazú Volcano, Lankaster Gardens and Orosi Valley.
This is a very balanced choice… Either you want adventure and go rafting. You want nature and wildlife and go on the aerial tram or… you want to see Costa Rica and the Costa Ricans… the culture, the history and the traditions.. And you go for the Irazu Volcano.
Day 3 Travel Day to Tortuguero. Tortuguero Town tour.
Tortuguero is heavenly for anyone who really likes tropical nature. The traveling part of the day will make you see different landscapes, climates and life zones in a few hours, ending in this amazing labyrinth of rainforest and water until you get to a comfortable lodge. And then the town… Caribbean culture is so different form the rest of the country that this walk through a town without cars is certainly a must!
Day 4 Tortuguero National Park Tour
To this day I am going to say three words: Wildlife, wildlife, wildlife! … And a fourth one! Beauty! Nature’s beauty at its best!
Day 5 Travel day to Arenal Volcano area.
Again, a travel day that will make you see a lot! And then.. the majestic conic shaped volcano with its amazing rainforest surrounding it. Just that sight… makes the trip worth it!
Day 6 Morning at leisure – Arenal National Park walk and Hot Springs and Dinner.
You have to take it easy every now and then on vacation… a morning to simply sit on your porch and read, walk around manicured gardens or do an extra activity… But get ready for more relaxation in the afternoon! As said previously in another article… Hot Springs are more enjoyable after 4 p.m. So… go for the walk on the surroundings of the National Park and then chill out in one of dozens of hot pools surrounded by rainforest.
Day 7 Travel day to Tamarindo Beach
Another great traveling day… Now, depending ont eh time of year you will notice a big difference in the landscape. If you are coming in the rainy season or at the beginning of the sunny season you might not notice anything. The landscape becomes flatter, the trees are a bit different and the cattle fields seem endless.
However, for those coming from January to April… you will notice a big change in the colors of the landscapes as on this side of the country the dry season looks like that: dry. Browns and yellows in contrast with a bright blue sky is the tone that will carry the rhythm of your vacation from this point on.
Day 8 Days at leisure in Tamarindo for optional activities such as fishing, diving, horseback riding, hiking or just relaxing on the beach.
Day 9 Days at leisure in Tamarindo for optional activities such as fishing, diving, horseback riding, hiking or just relaxing on the beach.
A great vacation has to have some leisure days in it. So! Simply enjoy them… however, if you are one of those active people.. There are plenty of choices also for you… and that is what makes Tamarindo a great choice to end the trip
Day 10 Travel day to San José
Day 11 Transfer to the Juan Santamaría International Airport.
Written by Olga Sáenz-Carbonell for Camino Travel