10 Wonders of Costa Rica

The most beautiful places in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is full of natural wonders; in just a few kilometers and a couple of hours from any point in the country, the landscape and weather can change, from lush green forests to marvelous beaches, from amazing volcanoes to great cloud forests, from unique tropical rivers to great caves. Experiencing Costa Rica could change the way you perceive nature and life, it is full of nice people, a shuttle but great culture, and many adventures to enjoy.

1. Cocos Island

Cocos Island (not to be confused with Isla de Coco in Panama), is an uninhabited island located approximately 550 km (340 mi) off shore of the Pacific Ocean of Costa Rica. It has an area of approximately 23.85 km², and it is admired by many scuba divers for its populations of Hammerhead sharks, rays, dolphins and other large marine species.

Cocos Island was declared a Costa Rican National Park in 1978, and designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1997. It is the first of Costa Rica Top Wonders and also a candidate for the 7 New Natural World Wonders.

It is possible to visit the island, and if you are interested, Banana Adventure Tours offers a tour package for professional divers and nature lovers. Please visit the Cocos Island Diving Adventure Package.


2. Manuel Antonio National Park

Manuel Antonio, located close to the small town of Quepos on the Central Pacific of Costa Rica, is one of the country top touristic places. With emerald waters, dense lush green forest and kind people, Manuel Antonio has everything a visitor may want. The main attraction of these little beach town is the beautiful Manuel Antonio National Park, where you can bath on beautiful beaches, walk on numerous trails and get to see amazing wildlife so close you won´t believe it.

Manuel Antonio contains a great combination of rain forest, beaches and coral reefs. It is without a doubt, one of the most beautiful beaches in the country. Because of that, Manuel Antonio National Park is the most visited park in Costa Rica; with a top of 600 people per day on weekdays, and 800 on weekends. The islands and islets of Manuel Antonio provide an important refuge for a variety of sea birds.

The three primary beaches of the park are Playas Espadilla Sur, Manuel Antonio and Puerto Escondido Costa Rica. Manuel Antonio is one of the top places for tour packages in Costa Rica, and there are many activities for tourist, including surfing, sea and mangrove kayaking, hiking, butterfly farm and chocolate farm, and ATV.


3. Tortuguero National Park

Tortuguero is located on the North Caribbean side of Costa Rica. Tortuguero beach is the most important nesting site of Costa Rica (green turtle, Giant leatherback, hawksbill, and loggerhead turtles), one of them is endangered.

Also, it is an awesome ecotourism place because of the combination of rainforest, swamps, beaches, and lagoons. The Tortuguero National Park now includes over 19,000 hectares (46,900 acres) and protects 22 miles of nesting beach from the mouth of the Tortuguero River south to Parisimina.


4. Tenorio Volcano and Celeste River

Mostly unknown, Tenorio Volcano is one of the 7 active volcanoes in Costa Rica. It is located on Alajuela Province just in the border with Guanacaste. There are various ways to visit the National Park where the volcano lies; it can be from Bijagua Town or La Fortuna, among others. The Celeste River is an amazing jewel product of the combination of two different rivers coming from the volcano that carry special chemicals. When the combine, there is a chemical reaction that produces the wonderful color the entire river is: celeste or light blue.

Once in the National Park, there is a trail of 7 kilometers where the visitors can enjoy the cold beautifully colored waters of the river and see other interesting points along the way, such as the natural thermal waters, the fumarolas, and the beginning of the river, etc.


5. Arenal Volcano National Park

One of the top places to visit in Costa Rica is La Fortuna Town, where the Arenal Volcano is located. For a long time, the Arenal Volcano has been active, showing regularly red hot stones coming out of the crater. Next to the volcano lies the Arenal Lake, a manmade lake that acts as a dam, and where numerous activities can be enjoy (Standing Up Paddling, kayaking, biking, fishing, etc.).

The Arenal Volcano can be seen from many places around La Fortuna, but if you really want to have a close look to the majestic mountain, then you must visit the Arenal Volcano National Park. There you will be directed to various look out points and a trail that goes to where the old lava remains.


6. Chirripo National Park

If you are a nature lover, Cerro Chirripó is truly a place to go when you are in Costa Rica. It is the highest mountain in Costa Rica, with an elevation of 3,820 meters (12,533 ft). It is located in the Chirripó National Park and it is very important because of its ecological wealth. It is known for its high endemism and an extremely high biodiversity. The hike is very hard and a challenge for anyone who try to go to the top of the Cerro.


7. Twin volcanoes: Irazu and Turrialba

Cartago Province, where that capital of the country lied some time ago, has a lot to offer. Cartago City is the religious capital of Costa Rica, and there is La Basilica de La Virgen de los Angeles. Beside other nice places such as Ujarras Ruins, Orosi Church and Cachi Dam, the province has two active volcanoes: the Turrialba and de Irazu. Both are very different but because of its closeness they are also called the Twin Volcanoes.

The area is great for hiking and mountain biking, but mostly it is a place where many tourists enjoy some unique views of active volcanoes. On the picture the two craters are shown; it was taken from Irazu Volcano National Park.

Turrialba Town is also a great place to enjoy all kind of activities, especially those that have adventure written all over. Enjoy thermal waters, white water rafting, hiking, biking, bird watching, canopy, ATV, etc.


8. Corcovado National Park

Corcovado is a National Park located on the Osa Peninsula in the southeastern part of Costa Rica. It is the only remaining old growth wet forests on the Pacific coast of Central America. Corcovado National Park encompasses 13 major ecosystems including lowland rain forest, highland cloud forest, jolillo palm forest, and mangrove swamps, as well as costal marine and beach habitats.

Corcovado is home to a sizable population of endangered animals, including the Baird's Tapir and the very rare Harpy Eagle. The park protects various threatened plant and animal species, and is known to have about 124 species of mammals; 375 species of birds; 117 species of reptiles and amphibians; 66 freshwater fish species; and 70 species of marine crabs. Among the mammals are 4 monkey species, anteaters, sloths, southern river otter, crab-eating raccoon, 5-6 cat species, peccaries and Baird's tapir.

It is widely considered the crown jewel in the extensive system of national parks and biological reserves spread across the country. A virtually uninterrupted sandy beach extends for 20 km, with cliffs and pocket beaches at the northern and southern park headlands; there is a marine cave near the southern point.


9. Pacuare River and Reserve

The Pacuare River is a very beautiful tropical river. Along its course lie a lush green forest, which shelter ocelots, jaguars, monkeys, sloths, and an incredible variety of birds. There are also many waterfalls and a beautiful canyon. It is by far the best whitewater in all of Central America, ranging up to Class V in difficulty. It is also one of the top ten most scenic rivers for white water rafting.

On the Pacuare River, visitors can find many amenities, and a virgin rain forest. The lowland tropical forest in the Reserve is remarkable for its luxuriant variety and the amazing abundance and diversity of wildlife found within it. Other rivers close by, such as the Reventazon, are also beautiful but never like the Pacuare.


10. Barra Honda Caves

Barra Honda is unique among the National Parks of Costa Rica: its main attraction is an intricate large system of limestone caverns which house a multitude of capricious forms and figures. The caves range from a few feet to over 780 feet (240 meters) deep. Pozo Hediondo (Fetid Pit) Cave was named for the aroma of the guano deposited by thousands of resident bats.

The deepest of the Barra Honda caves is Santa Ana which sinks to 249 meters. La Trampa (the trap) has the deepest precipice - a vertical entrance of 30 m length. The calcareous formations of the limestone caverns at Barra Honda National Park are the main visitor attraction. Only about 50% of the complex has been explored to date.



Written by Caro Goodfellow

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