Fun things to do in Costa Rica

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    Coffee Lovers Tour at Cafe Britt in Heredia

    by starship Updated Oct 9, 2012

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    If you are a coffee lover, don't miss the Cafe Britt "Coffee Lovers Tour." I found Cafe Britt online before leaving for Costa Rica, and booked the "Coffee Lovers Tour" which included transportation hotel pick up and return, an in-depth educational tour, tour of the Beneficio Tierra Madre Coffee Mill museum, lunch, barrista demonstrations and unlimited coffee tasting for $60 per person (2012 price).

    We were picked up at our hotel for the 30+ plus minute ride to Cafe Britt located near Heredia. With good humor, our guides, Maria and Luis did a marvelous job of educating us about Costa Rican coffee history and culture, and on all aspects of coffee from how it is grown and harvested, to how beans are selected, roasted and packaged for gourmet coffee. It is a labor intensive process and also quite technical --- the result is Cafe Britt's own brand which is made from Arabbbica beans and the coffee is really very good. There are probably 7 or so types of coffee offered by Cafe Britt so if you're a coffee lover, a visit to their website is a must!!

    We were given a tour of Cafe Britt's grounds, a coffee field, an off-site visit by bus to the original "wet mill" and returned for lunch and the coffee barrista's demonstration. Lunch was buffet style and included beverages as well as dessert after which we had about 30 minutes to spend walking the grounds or shopping in the Cafe Britt Shop. Lots of great stuff here for coffee lovers and other souvenirs as well. Although we ultimately did purchase some bags of coffee, at the gift shop I found some jewelry made from indigenous, variable color Costa Rican woods --- the jewelry designs were unique and beautifully made right in Costa Rica. I love them!

    It was really one of the best tours we've ever taken and well worth the money!! Since visiting, we have become fans of the coffee and have ordered it online several times for special occasions. Expect to pay about $7.50 and up per 12 oz. bag depending on how many bags you purchase at a time -- the more bags of coffee purchased typically the greater the discount. Coffee is sold as whole bean or ground. Cafe Britt also has a line of delicious candies and mints -- try the chocolate covered roasted coffee beans.

    There are relatively few Cafe Britt stores, however, there is a large shop located in the Juan Santa Maria Airport if you'd like to purchase some before leaving the country. They will also ship it to your home.

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    Teatro Nacional ~ Costa Rica's National Treasure

    by starship Updated Oct 9, 2012

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    Costa Rica's capital of San Jose has its fair share of sights and museums, but the place which ranked high on my list of "must sees" was its famed "Teatro Nacional." Located on the southern side of the Plaza de la Cultura and adjacent to the Hotel Gran, the Teatro is the country's most treasured public building and rightfully deserves that sentiment.

    It's more glorious and lavish than I even imagined. Adorned with marble, gilt, artwork, carved wood and more, artisans from Europe were commissioned to create a theater which would rival any in Europe and which would host the great operas, musicians and performers of the time.

    Constructed in 1897, it features a columned neoclassical facade that is flanked by statues of Beethoven and Calderón de la Barca, a 17th-century Spanish dramatist.

    The Teatro's most famous painting is "Alegoría al café y el banano", which depicts an idyllic scene showing coffee and banana harvests. The painting was produced in Italy and was even depicted on a 5 colones note which is no longer circulation. Our tour guide pointed out that the painting was actually done in Italy and the painter never witnessed a banana harvest which is evident by noting specifics in the painting: the light skins of the people, the clothing, and the way the man in the center is awkwardly holding in front of himself a large banana bunch when banana workers would actually hoist the stems onto their shoulders and back rather than hold them in front.

    Small but beautiful gardens are enclosed behind a wrought-iron fence and make a lovely place to stroll before or after visiting the Theatre, and make a nice place for photos. Unfortunately I never found the light just right for a really good photo of the theatre because mornings in San Jose were always cloudy.

    You can tour the theatre on your own or pay slightly more for a guided tour and we found it was worth the small extra cost for the tour. Our guide was terrific -- we wished to tip him but guides are not allowed to accept tips.

    Tour tickets cost about $7.50 pp. (2012 price)

    Related to:
    • Theater Travel
    • Historical Travel
    • Architecture

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    Extreme Ziplining ~ Sky Trek at Arenal

    by starship Updated Aug 23, 2012

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    Ziplining is a sport that has seen an explosive growth in the last 10-15 years. You can now zipline in many places around the globe. Several years ago my family and I ziplined at Roatan Island in Honduras and I felt pride that I had gone through with it. However, after that experience and now being several years older, I wasn't completely sure I wanted to do that again, but as it was a planned adventure activity on this tour, I thought I might give it one more shot here in Costa Rica.

    Costa Rica Sky Adventures is the company we used and they offer a complete package of activities. The Sky Tram, Sky Trek or what I consider the "mother of all ziplines", a Sky Walk, Butterfly Garden, hiking trails, and so much more!!! Considered a private reserve, Sky Trek is near El Castillo, on the north-facing slopes of the Cordillera de Tilarán which offers phenomenal views of Arenal Volcano.

    The Sky Trek zipline in Costa Rica made our first zipline in Hondurus look like child's play. Sky Trek's system combines a ride on the Sky Tram to its highest tower point, and 8 cables down the mountain with the longest being approximately 750 meters in length (just shy of 1/2 mile) with the highest line being 676 feet or nearly 70 stories!!

    I was given not only a waist harness but also a chest harness which gave me an additional measure of comfort, but more importantly, a more secure feeling. We were given instructions, and harnesses were checked, cable-hooking gear was checked, helmets fitted, and we were lead to the sky tram. The guides were extremely reassuring and helpful to everyone.

    The only true way to share what this experience was like would be to show the appropriate pictures (which I hope to add). Other than that I can only tell you that I have never been so scared in my life. BUT, I can say that at the "advanced age" of 60, I did it!! Those who decide ziplining isn't for them may take the tram up and back for the especially scenic views -- Lake Arenal is close by.

    Back at the observation station you will find information about the surrounding area and part of the entry area is devoted to information about Mount Arenal. A large dining cafe area with panoramic windows offers the opportunity to enjoy a meal while you also enjoy the astounding scenery of Arenal. There is a large gift shop, restrooms and a few other amenities.

    NOTE: Helmet-mounted movie cameras can be rented to record your experience!!

    Check website for information on hours, current cost, and directions from La Fortuna, etc. You can purchase packages for the Sky Tram & Sky Trek Zipline, and Sky Walkway. For the Sky Tram & Sky Trek (for ziplining), adults should expect to pay: $70 -$75 pp. (non-group price); students under 25 years old: approx. $57 pp. (2012 prices).

    NOTE: NO CHILDREN UNDER 8 YEARS OLD ALLOWED ON SKY TREK

    Hotel pick-ups can be arranged.

    The Butterfly garden, orchid exhibition, and Arenal exhibition gallery are free.

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    Run the River! Whitewater Rafting on Río Sarapiquí

    by starship Updated Jun 29, 2012

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    On the last full day of our trip, we left from Arenal driving through La Fortuna and in the direction of Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí-- our destination was the "Rio Sarapiquí" where we would spend a good portion of the rest of the day whitewater rafting---one of my favorite activities!!

    The Río Sarapiquí flows into the San Juan River and the Lake of Nicaragua, and is one of several rivers running down from Costa Rica’s mountainous central highlands, the Cordillera Central. This drive was rather long, but not only had I become accustomed to long drives, I found myself loving them!

    Our rafting adventure was booked with "Aventuras del Sarapiquí." The numerous guides wasted no time giving us instructions on commands, safety and what to expect. Our group of 18 filled 4 rafts, each with its own experienced guide. Two kayak teams were also deployed with us in case anyone fell out of a raft -- no one did! The kayakers also performed some amazing tricks with their kayaks which also kept us entertained.

    Just before boarding the rafts we sighted our first TOUCAN!!

    Being at its low level during this dry season, the river held only Class II and Class III "holes" which were fun but not necessarily challenging for those who had previously rafted. (My previous rafting experiences were at the New River Gorge in West Virginia where the "holes" are Classes III to V depending on whether you raft the upper or lower level sections and also based on the water level at the time.) About half way on our run, all rafts gathered on the river bank while our guides deftly carved slices of pineapple and watermelon with their machetes for our snacks. Pineapples in Costa Rica are exquisitely sweet and mouthwatering. Two brahma cows on higher ground came closer to be fed daily treats of fruit rinds by our guides.

    Back in the raft, we experienced a fast moving rain shower which made the trip even more fun and then all too soon our whitewater rafting adventure was over -- but higher up on the river bank our picnic lunch was being prepared. Long picnic tables undercover of a tin roof provided a great place to have our lunch of beef & chicken soft tacos, tortilla chips, guacamole, pico de gallo, salad, fruit, beverages including Costa Rican beers, and dessert.

    I would highly recommend Aventuras del Sarapiquí for your whitewater rafting adventure! The guides were great guys and made sure you were enjoying the experience but stayed safe.

    For your rafting trip, be sure you bring a waterproof camera, wear aqua socks/water shoes; sun block; mosquito repellant and bring a change of clothes. (Changing rooms and bathrooms are available on site.) (Water shirts and T-shirts sold on site.) Aventuras del Sarapiquí does more than just rafting; check out their website. Online reservations can be made prior to your arrival in Costa Rica.

    NOTE: Unfortunately, as I forgot to bring a waterproof camera with me, I had to make a choice of whether to take my camera and possibly lose it overboard or to forego taking pictures. I chose not to take the risk of losing my camera, but we have a great DVD assembled by the tour group in a slide format and I am hoping to capture several pictures from that for this page.

    Related to:
    • Hiking and Walking
    • Kayaking
    • Rafting

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    Arenal Hanging Bridges

    by frank_delargy Updated Dec 1, 2004

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    On the end of Lake Arenal, nearest the volcano is a new tourist attraction, the hanging bridges. There are 14 bridges (6 hanging) that span the valleys up to 197 feet (60 mt) high and about 320 feet (100 mt) long.
    It really is a walk though the jungle of about 2 miles and it has some fantastic views of the volcano and of course the jungle.
    There was one bridge that had collapsed just before we arrived, so we needed to take a detour that felt very much like bushwhacking. I don't know if they ever fixed that bridge.

    Price: $20.00 each Children under 12 years admitted free.
    Open 7am-4pm.
    Guided night tour available at 7 pm

    Related to:
    • Jungle and Rain Forest
    • Road Trip

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    Zip Lines in MonteVerde Cloud Forest

    by frank_delargy Updated Mar 1, 2006

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    You pays your money.. join a group of 20 or so other crazy people, attach a small nylon strap to your body, drive to a higher place, climb up a tall tree, attach you tiny strap to a steel wire and then coast down these wires (zip lines) for about 2 miles, from treetop to treetop, crossing over valleys hundreds of feet above the very tall trees in the process.
    Awesome..
    If it was just a walk through the treetops it would be great, but the added thrill of almost flying across valleys is incredible. I do have a whole page devoted to this on my web site http://www.delargy.com/2003_8_CostaRica/monteverdi.htm .
    There are many companies that provide this service. I only used one (Selvatura), which I do recommend. Oh yeah.. They also have a great hummingbird 'garden' at the end of the trip.

    Related to:
    • Jungle and Rain Forest
    • Adventure Travel
    • Eco-Tourism

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    Rainforest Aerial Tram in Braulio Carrillo N.P.

    by starship Updated Jul 2, 2012

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    On the first full day of our tour, we left Santa Ana near San Jose traveling northeast to the Braulio Carrillo National Park via the Guapiles Highway. Credit must be given to Costa Rica for having the foresight to create and preserve this area as this park is relatively new being created only in 1978. It was named after the 3rd President of Costa Rica who held office in the mid-1800's. The park covers just over117,000 acres and at its highest point, it is 2906 meters at Barva Volcano.

    Although the park offers many opportunities for all types of outdoor exploration and sights, our goal was to experience the rainforest via the Rainforest Aerial Tram located approximately in the middle of the park (the aerial tram is a separate cost). By the time we arrived at the Aerial Tram there was a steady downpour which seemed appropriate considering where we were, but the temperature had dropped as well. We all donned rain ponchos and I added a sweater but remained chilled throughout the time as the temperature in the rainforest was considerably lower than in San Jose.

    With a naturalist guide in each tram, which could carry up to 6 people, we ascended high into the forest canopy where she explained the complex, and often symbiotic relationship of the plants, trees, wildlife, and climate. The ecosystem supports an enormous diversity of plant and animal life. We had already noticed as we drover closer and closer to the park, that the landscape had not only changed to more dense and greener vegetation, but the size and variety of plant life had also changed dramatically. This was even more so when in the rainforest where the size of such plants as elephant ears, poor man's umbrella, and philodendrons were gigantic.

    The rainforest itself reveals how nearly every living plant or tree supported another plant, moss, orchid, or fern and often wildlife as well. The rainforest is an excellent place to sight all types of birdlife from quetzals to eagles. Other animals include jaguar, ocelot, and scary types of reptiles and amphibians -- our own tour guide spotted a red poison dart frog.

    The trip took about 45 minutes in each direction and stopped at intervals where the guide pointed out interesting specimens and we could take a closer look at the flora which was often only at arm's length. On ground level there was an excellent gift shop, visitor's center and small cafe (although only a covered area) where steaming cups of coffee and tea helped to shake off the chill. If you wish to spend more time in the park and rainforest, there is a trail (one of many in the park) from the station which leads to 10 bungalows for rent offering private bathrooms, hot water and balcony views of the rainforest.

    This was a great experience for anyone who wishes to learn and lives in totally different topography and climate. Definitely bring rain gear and possibly a sweater. Slippery terrain requires sturdy, skid-proof shoes.

    The park has 2 entrances and the entrance fee is about US $7.

    Related to:
    • Eco-Tourism
    • National/State Park
    • Jungle and Rain Forest

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    Arenal Volcano

    by frank_delargy Updated Sep 9, 2004

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    Well, if you like seeing red hot lava flowing and steam coming out of a volcano.. what else do you need to know.
    Most people, however never see this, even if they go to Arenal, because it is pretty much covered with clouds all the time. I was lucky to see the top during the day, but you can't see it glow during the day, just steam & smoke.

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    • Eco-Tourism
    • Jungle and Rain Forest
    • Adventure Travel

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    Parque Nacional Carara

    by BEETLE_VERTE Updated Mar 22, 2006

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    Jaco

    Wonderful and easy to explore forest park. Numerous paths to see the rio tarcoles, creeks and a beautiful primary forest and its incredible fauna and flora.

    Two set of trails, you still got to buy your tickets (and pick up your map) at the entrance. From this headquarters, you'll access 3 main paths, including the peaceful Sendero Quebrada Bonita. Or you can drive (or walk or hitchhike, as we had to do) 2 km toward the Rio tarcoles and enter the last trail, Sendero Laguna Meandrica, a long 4km walk alonside the river to spot crocodiles, turtles and shore birds.

    Even without a guide, we had a blast and saw a lot of wildlife. On the Laguna trail, we saw jesus lizard, crocodiles, cormoran, herons, trogons, iguanas, blue butterfly morpho, white faced monkey, howler monkey, and so on. And on the Quebrada sendero, we had the luck to see an Ara Macao!

    We had a deal with our taxi driver from Jaco and for a reasonnable price (but not cheap), he took us to the park and also to the bridge over the tarcoles to see the crocodiles. Really worth it: quite impressive! Be careful if you drive your own car. A lot of theft occurs in parked vehicules over the bridge.

    See more pictures in my Jaco travelogue.

    Related to:
    • Hiking and Walking
    • Birdwatching
    • Jungle and Rain Forest

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    Manuel Antonio National Park

    by frank_delargy Updated Jan 10, 2005

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    If possible this should be on every Costa Rica itinerary. It is a trek from San Jose to Manuel Antonio, but I felt that it presented a unique experience. This might be one of those cases where the destination might rank up there with the journey.
    We did see lots of iguanas, plenty of monkeys (capuchin and red squirrel), sloths, toucans, red white & blue crabs and some of the worlds best gorgeous beach scenery.
    No crowds when we went, August, the 'green' season. You will need to walk into the park .. through a river! I found this to be an interesting first impression. Be careful on the way back as the tide may have come in and you will may need to wade up to your neck or take a boat across. You can walk along the beach and when you reach the river there may be a local there with a rowboat to help out. The difference between low tide and high tide is significant!
    I have a separate page for Quepos, with some of the same stuff and more pictures.

    Related to:
    • Jungle and Rain Forest
    • National/State Park

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    Arenal Lake

    by frank_delargy Updated Dec 1, 2004

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    We rented a house for a few days with a wonderful view of Lake Arenal. The lake has the Arenal Volcano on one end and the town of Nuevo Arenal on the other. I understand that it is a popular place for windsurfers, but to be honest I did not see any while I was there.
    The lake is in the middle of Costa Rica, hence higher and the climate is temperate compared to the lowlands on either coast.
    There were plenty of Howler monkeys and Toucans around.

    Related to:
    • Birdwatching
    • Jungle and Rain Forest
    • Road Trip

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    Overlooking Lake and Volcano Arenal

    by frank_delargy Written Dec 14, 2004

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    We stopped here for a view of the lake and got our first glimpse of the Arenal Volcano. As you can see it was a very clear day and we could easily see the volcano from about 40-50 miles away. Although hard to see in this photo, the only clouds around were actually hugging the top of the volcano! Typical..

    At this point the car had yet to navigate anything but a paved road. That was to change very very soon.

    Related to:
    • Jungle and Rain Forest
    • Road Trip

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    Wild? Animals

    by frank_delargy Written Dec 14, 2004

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    On the road about halfway between Neuvo Arenal and Tabacon, near nothing in particular, we saw a Coatimundi strolling. We stopped the car to get a picture and although I expected it to run away, it did quite the opposite and moved toward the car. This of course presented better photo opportunities, but also raised some questions about what these creatures are like. I understand that they are related to raccoons, but I have never experienced a raccoon coming toward a car.
    It struck us that this was a roadside creature that played cute for every car that passed this way. Although we had only passed about 3 or 4 cars in the last 20 or so miles, it is conceivable that in the more touristy months, the pickings were good. As it was, we succumbed to his likely intentions and offered some nuts.

    Related to:
    • Road Trip
    • Jungle and Rain Forest

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    Visit Carara National Park

    by Helga67 Updated Jun 6, 2006

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    Carara National Park is one of the smaller and not so known parks. It's an excellent place to observe the scarlet macaw. There are about 100 couples of those beautiful birds who have there home here.

    There are two paths, a short one (800 m) near the entrance and a long one (4 km) 500 m from the Tarcoles bridge. The longer one has a broad path going along a small lake with a lot of waterbirds. We also saw a lot of monkeys.

    Open from 8 am to 16 pm.

    Related to:
    • Birdwatching
    • Jungle and Rain Forest
    • National/State Park

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    San Jose

    by frank_delargy Updated Nov 11, 2004

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    San Jose is the largest city in Costa Rica and it probably should be part of your experience. It is a city with traffic jams, crazy drivers and everything else you would expect to see in a city. The architecture is varied and when you get off the main road, it can be a bit confusing to get from point A to point B.
    The tallest building is maybe around 15 floors, so we aren't talking about Manhattan here.
    I felt comfortable walking around by myself, but I can't say how you would feel.

    Related to:
    • Birdwatching

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Costa Rica Things to Do

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