Most tours and travel packages offer a combination of the best of natural Costa Rica followed by final days and nights full of relaxation, or high-octane action on a beach or by the sea. Consider just a few of the options available through U.S. tour operators:
Tara Tours (taratours.com) has a new 8-day Special Mountains & Beaches vacation that features three nights in a deluxe suite at the Lost Iguana in Arenal National Park, and four nights at the deluxe JW Marriott Guanacaste on the Pacific coast. Private services include all land transfers—San Jose to Arenal/Arenal to the Guanacaste area/final transfer on departure to Liberia International Airport—an English-speaking tour guide and assistance of local representatives.
Backroads (backroads.com) has a new tour, Costa Rica Multisport, that’s an action-packed trip traveling from volcano-land to lush rainforests to palm-studded beaches. Clients will bike along Lake Arenal; soak in hot springs; walk hanging bridges; raft the Rio Savegre; take a naturalist-led walk in Manuel Antonio National Park; bike along Playa Esterillos Este; horseback ride; kayak; and relax at a spa. Accommodations are in premier inns, and departures are scheduled for March 9, April 6 and Dec. 18.
Wild Planet Adventures
Wild Planet Adventures (wildplanetadventures.com) offers a 9-day Ultimate Wildlife EcoTour starting at the beaches of Cahuita on the Caribbean side with a nocturnal hike and a visit to the Sloth Rescue Center; river rafting on the Rio Sarapiqui; hitting the hot springs and participating in the Proyecto Asis Wildlife Interaction at Arenal; and hiking, canopy touring and visiting an ecological farm in Monteverde Biological Cloud Forest Reserve. Departures are at least one each month through July, skipping to three departures in December.
1. Manuel Antonio: Best for short hikes, wildlife viewing and beaches
2. Poas Volcano: Best for scenery and volcano viewing
3. Irazu Volcano: Best for scenery andvolcano viewing
4. Arenal: Best for short- to medium-length hikes and volcano viewing
5. Isla del Cano: Best for island walks and scuba diving
6. Tortuguero: Best for wildlife viewing (turtles in particular), canoeing and kayaking
7. Santa Rosa: Best for short to long hikes, wildlife viewing and beaches
8. Carara: Best for short- to medium-length hikes and wildlife (birding) viewing
9. Cahuita: Best for beach walks
10. Chirripo: Best for long hikes to Costa Rica’s highest point
“GREEN SEASON” BRIEFING
In July, a little-known weather pattern occurs offering extraordinary opportunities for wildlife lovers. Early rains through May and June cause an eruption of flowering trees and fruits, which attract large numbers of animals. By July, the rains taper off in a month-long phenomenon called veranito (little summer), leaving cooler temperatures that cause wildlife to be more active and visible. At this time, you tend to see more volume of wildlife as well as more rare and endangered species than any other time of year.
Sea turtles love Costa Rica. Indeed, five different species of these huge marine reptiles—Olive Ridley, Pacific green, Atlantic green hawksbill, loggerhead and giant leatherback (the largest in the world)—come ashore. The main places along the Pacific Ocean to see nesting sea turtles include Santa Rosa National Park north of Liberia and Las Baulas National Park near Tamarindo. The Ostional National Wildlife Refuge near Playa Nosara is another hotspot and the place to be for the massive egg layings of the Olive Ridley. On the Caribbean side, one of the most turtle-conscious territories is Tortuguero National Park, which protects nesting grounds for the endangered leatherback turtles, arriving June through October—with the greatest frequency during April and May—and the Atlantic green sea turtles that come ashore from June to October, with the biggest numbers in September.