Costa Rica is a small peaceful country on the central American isthmus. It is rich in diversity with palm fringed tropical beaches, cloud forests, jungle, spectacular flora and fauna, and active volcanoes. Due to the dramatic changes in altitude over relatively small distances Costa Rica has many very localized microclimates, but generally there are two main seasons - the 'Green Season' between May and October when there is more cloud and rain, and the 'Summer' or 'Dry Season' between November and April. There is less humidity is less on the northern Pacific Coast than further south, and in the central mountainous region it is virtually non-existent.
Although only a small country, Costa Rica has over 5% of all life forms on earth, making it a wonderland for nature lovers. This valuable bio-diversity is being preserved in a number of Conservation Area, which cover 25% of the total area of Costa Rica.
Jose is set on a plateau 1600 meters above sea level mid way between the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. Surrounding this lush San and fertile plain is a number of volcanic peaks. The temperature in San Jose is almost constant throughout the year, about 75° - 85°F, however between May and October there is more cloud cover and rainfall, hence the name 'green season'.
Within a short distance of San Jose there are many places of spectacular natural beauty, and a number of exciting activities. Visitors can take a drive up to one of the many volcanoes, some still active, or horse ride through the lush mountain scenery. White water rafting on the rivers running east to the Caribbean is some of the best in the world, offering extreme excitement and incredible unspoiled scenery.
There is an aerial tram, similar to an open ski lift, which travels through a section of virgin rainforest -one way above the jungle canopy and the other, actually through the canopy. Here you can see wildlife and plants in their natural surroundings.
In addition to the usual large hotel chains there are a number of smaller individual hotels.
The Tortuguero National Park is a on the Caribbean coast and consist of unspoiled virgin rainforest. The transfer to Tortuguero from San Jose is where your jungle adventure starts. This consists of a one and a half hour car/bus transfer to Moin and usually includes a stop for breakfast, followed by a three to four hour fast boat trip through the rain forest using a series of natural jungle canals that follow the coastline north. During this trip the boatman/guide may point out any interesting wildlife or scenery. The boat will then moor directly in front of your jungle lodge at its own private dock in time for lunch. Tortuguero also has an airstrip allowing direct air transfers to and from San Jose.
In order to really appreciate this area of exceptional interest and beauty we recommend that you stay here for at least two nights. As the beach is a protected area for the turtles, none of the driftwood is cleared and swimming from the beach is not recommended. There are strong undercurrents, and during turtle hatches some predators (including sharks) are known to be in the area. There are local jungle tours, boat trips and guided night walks to see the turtles laying their eggs at certain times of year. Some of these turtles are over 250 years old and nearly two meters in diameter. There is a number of jungle lodges here allowing visitors to stay in relative comfort The Southern Pacific region is one of the least developed in Costa Rica.
Much of the Osa Peninsula is taken with the Corcovado National Park which is home to 140 species of mammals, 367 birds, 117 amphibians and reptiles, 40 types of freshwater fish and approximately 6000 types of insects. The park provided sanctuary to the largest population of scarlet macaws in Costa Rica. This is a wonderful area for naturalists. Accommodation in the area can be found in lodges.
The Arenal Volcano is one of Costa Rica's most spectacular sights, sounds and feelings. This very active volcano may erupt up to 30 times a day. During the day you may see clouds of ash exploding literally miles into the sky, hear a roar louder than any thunder and feel the ground shake beneath your feet. At night this can be even more spectacular. During an eruption you might see a natural fireworks display of red molten rock exploding and red glowing rivers of lava flowing from the peak. Due to the altitude and surrounding mountains the climate is more temperate and less humid than the coastal plains. A hot river flowing from the volcano is the setting for the Tabacon hot springs. These are a series of hot waterfalls and pools bubbling and steaming though a tropical garden. Here you can relax with the therapeutic sulphurous water running over your back and shoulders. You can sit at the bar with a drink in a man-made pool, through which hot water has been diverted. Twenty lengths in water at 90°F is quite an interesting challenge. After an afternoon or early evening in the hot river you can have dinner in the restaurant overlooking the steaming river and (clouds permitting) look up at the glowing volcano. Junior suites at The Arenal Lodge offer guests a great view of the volcano on the other side of the valley. It is quite an experience to feel the room shake as the volcano erupts. The lodge has a restaurant, bar and a games room. The Tabacon Resort is situated close to the springs and offers guests therapeutic massage and mud masks together with other health and beauty treatments. Whilst in the Arenal area it is possible to visit the Cano Negro Wildlife refuge, where there is a large population of endangered species including jaguars, tapirs and ocelots. .
Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is at the apex of the mountain range between the Caribbean and the Pacific. This position creates a unique microclimate supporting a very varied and fascinating ecosystem. The bird life in this area is particularly spectacular. Other local places of interest include the Hummingbird Gallery where bird feeders have been hung from trees attracting vast numbers of brightly coloured hummingbirds; the butterfly farm, where most of the indigenous butterflies are bred and then released. The reptile house is where most of the Costa Rican reptiles can be seen in their natural surroundings, and in complete safety. At the nearby Santa Elena Reserve there are unique opportunities to travel through the canopy on 'zip lines' with the Sky Trek, or to view the jungle from the Skywalk, a series of platforms and suspended bridges.
Northern Pacific Region - Tamarindo is a small town at the end of a long sandy Pacific beach. The coast around Tamarindo has long pale sandy beaches and secluded sandy coves. Off the coast there are masses of small rocky islands, many of which have sandy coves to visit by boat for the day. A short distance along the beach from Tamarindo is a nature reserve where you can see bird life, monkeys, crocodiles and many other indigenous species. The best way to see the reserve is by boat or canoe. Tamarindo has a number of activities; the hotels can arrange most. These include; Horse riding, boat trips for a beach BBQ, snorkeling, scuba or fishing; wildlife boat trips into the local estuary
Jaco is on the Pacific coast about one and a half hour's drive from San Jose. The coastline in this area has abundant white sandy beaches with palm trees and tropical jungle overhanging the beach and clear blue sea. The climate in this region of the Pacific coast is much drier than the Caribbean coast. Here you will generally find tropical dry forest, however the Carara National Park is one of the last remaining areas of rainforest in the region. This is the home of the rare and spectacular Scarlet Macaw, one of the largest parrots in the world. If you are lucky you can see flocks of them soaring through the treetops. .
Manuel Antonio National Park is both a rain forest and marine reserve. There are gorgeous hiking trails through the thick tropical jungle of the 1800 acre park, which is bordered by white sand beaches, clear blue sea, and palm trees. The small town of Quepos is nearby and most of the hotels are on the road between the town and the beaches. Manuel Antonio has enough hotels to create quite a good nightlife scene. There is a good choice of restaurants and bars, some of which have music, and dancing, there is also a small casino in Quepos