Planning a trip across Costa Rica from Coast to Coast or can’t decide which places to visit? Make sure to hit these spots to get the full Tico experience!
Located right on the Pacific Ocean, this is one of the best places to check out white sand beaches, rainforest, and get in some snorkeling or scuba diving along the beautiful coral reefs. Manuel Antonio National Park has excellent maintained paths that will take you through the rainforest where you can see monkeys and get great views of the beautiful coastline. Make sure to keep an eye up in the treetops where you can catch a glimpse of the sloths!
From Manuel Antonio you can take either the public bus, or if you have a group of four to six, you can arrange for an affordable private shuttle bus to drive to Monteverde. The roads here turn into dirt and can get pretty intense especially during the rainy season so keep this in mind depending on when you plan on travelling. Another plus in using the shuttle bus is that you cans top anywhere you want to take pictures, the rivers are safe and excellent sources of information. If you do choose to drive or take the shuttle, make sure to stop at the Tarcoles River and check out the American crocodiles.
The Tarcoles River boasts one of the highest concentration of crocodiles worldwide with 25 crocodiles per square kilometer. The easiest place to see the crocodiles is from the main bridge, which you will pass on the way to Monteverde, you can’t miss it and can also buy some nifty souvenirs at the small shops along the road. Once in Monteverde, you will experience the amazing Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, which is home to a variety of species including jaguars, ocelots, quetzals, and the largest number of orchid species in the world. Make sure to also check out the zip line through the cloud forest, definitely an experience not to be missed! Along the trail you will also get to experience the hanging Suspension bridges, one of the longest systems and highest in the world.
From Monteverde we took again a shuttle down to Lake Arenal where we boarded a small transport boat to reach the city of Arenal. Another option is to drive around the lake although this is significantly longer than the boat route.
Once in Arenal, take a short hike to see the Arenal Volcano. Cap off the day with a nice long, hot soak in the natural hot springs. One of the most popular places to do this is Tabacon Grand Spa and Thermal Resort. Note that it does come with a higher price tag than some of the other options. An even better way to check out the hot springs is just south of the town with an unmarked entrance to one of the rivers flowing into the hot springs. Ask one of the friendly locals and they might just tell you how to get there, and best part, it is free!
Raft Arenal to Puerto Viejo
A little too much downtime after relaxing in the hot springs and ready for some adventure?! One of the coolest ways to get from Arenal to Puerto Viejo is a bus/rafting combination. An excellent company for planning this is Gecko Trail Adventures. The bus will pick you up right outside your hotel and take you first to a meeting point. Here you will enjoy a breakfast buffet, change clothes, and can place your items in lockers.
From here, the company takes you directly to the rafting start point where you will meet with your guide and get ready to raft! Rafting takes about four hours, but the whole journey from start to finish will take one full day. The river consist of class III-IV rapids. Along the way you will get to see the lush forests, the Huacas Waterfall, Pacuare River Gorge and the river transport systems of the indigenous peoples. You will stop about halfway down the river for lunch and bathroom facilities before continuing on. Once you finish rafting, the shuttle or bus (depending on how many people you have) will take you to Puerto Viejo directly.
Puerto Viejo is a lesser known destination in Costa Rica outside of the surfing world, although it’s gaining in popularity. Here you can enjoy the Atlantic Ocean by snorkeling, surfing (in certain seasons), and scuba diving. Take a quick drive up north to see the baby turtles hatch and head into the sea! If you are really into surfing (read expert), Puerto Viejo is home to a powerful wave known as Salsa Brava. Nearby are also the Jaguar Rescue Center and several kayaking options. It is also easy access to Panama and the Bocas del Toro.
Costa Rica has so much to offer! The Pacific Coast highlights cloud forests and inland volcanoes. The Atlantic coast is surfing heaven and offers all types of adventures. So go meet an awesome community of rad individuals and go zip lining, scuba diving, hiking, or rafting!