Exploring Tourism in Costa Rica
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Costa Rica Popular Places to Visit

Marino Ballena National Park

The Marino Ballena National Park is located in the south pacific coast at the footsteps of the community’s of Uvita – Bahia Ballena, in the province of Puntarenas, Osa, Costa Rica.

The park pertains to the Area of Conservation for the Osa region and was officially declared as a Marine National Park in 1989.  The park covers an extension of 110 land hectares and 5,375 sea hectares and is named after the humpback whales that migrate from mid July and October, and again in December through March from feeding and mating grounds in the north and south hemispheres to the warm tropical waters of Costa Rica.  The objective of the park is to conserve the rich marine ecosystems that are found inside the park boundaries.  The Marino Ballena National Park forms part of the 1% of Costa Rica’s protected marine territory; a country which has 11 times more marine territory than land, and contains at least 85 species that are endemic to its’ waters.

The Marino Ballena National Park is home to one of the most biologically diverse marine habitats in Costa Rica. Marine birds such as pelicans, brown booby and frigates can be observed on the islands and rocky formations. Approximately 70 species  of fish (bi-color parrot, bump-head, puffer, butterfly, marlin, tuna, wahoo, etc.), humpback whales, (Megaptera novaeanglieae), brydes (Balaenoptera edeni), orca (Orcinus orca),  false orca (Pseudorca crassidens), pilot (Globicephala sp.) spotted dolphins (Stenella attenuata), spinner dolphins (Stenella longirostris), bottle-nose dolphins (Tursiops truncatuas) sharks, crabs, starfish, worms, sea snakes, lobstes (Panulirus sp.), sponges and mollusks (Strombus galeatus) all form part of the diverse marine life found in the park.  Also observed in the park are olive ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea), hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata), leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) and green turtles as well as reptiles like the green iguana.


The Marino Ballena National Park contains a total of 18 coral species making it one of the best snorkeling places to observe corals of the central-south pacific of Costa Rica, second to Cano Island Reserve.  Inside the park boundaries visitors can snorkel and dive to observe eight coral community’s and two coral reefs with the majority of three different species of corals; Stony Coral (Porites Lobata), Star Column Coral (Pavona clavus), Cauliflower Coral (Pocillopora elegans). Together, Marino Ballena National Park and Cano Island Reserve make for the best Costa Rica snorkeling and diving destinations.

South Pacific, Costa Rica

Monteverde Reserve


Areas with poor drainages support swamp forests, while other parts – dissected by deep, expansive gorges – have numerous streams tumbling through, creating rapids, waterfalls and standstill pools. It is, however, not merely the forest and landscape that are so diversified.

The variable climate and large altitudinal gradient have helped to produce an amazingly heterogeneous set of creatures that live here. Some of these include the jaguar, ocelot, Baird’s tapir, three-wattled bellbird, bare-necked umbrellabird, and the famously elusive resplendent quetzal.

History: In the early 1950s, a group of Quakers from the United States left their homes in Alabama and arrived in Monteverde at a time when the region was just beginning to be settled. The Quakers, fleeing the United States to avoid being drafted into the Korean War, established a simple life in Monteverde centered on dairy and cheese production. Some of these families helped establish the Monteverde and Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserves some 20 years later.

In 1972, the Monteverde rainforest was threatened by local farmers looking to expand their property and homestead on certain forest sites. With this prospect in mind, visiting scientists George Powell and his wife joined forces with longtime resident Wildford Guidon to promote the establishment of a nature preserve. The Tropical Science Center, a non-governmental scientific and environmental organization, proved receptive to the efforts of the Powells and Guidon, and accepted institutional responsibility for ownership and management of the protected areas. An initial land purchase of 328 hectares formed the core of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve.

Following the preserve's creation, the Tropical Science Center continued to secure the financial and human resources necessary to expand, consolidate, and properly protect the preserve’s current 10,500 hectares.

Monteverde, Costa Rica

White Water Rafting Savegre River

Costa Rica offers some of the world’s best white water rafting. Wild and untamed, these big , brash rivers plunge through spectacularly beautiful, largely unexplored tropical wilderness.

Enjoy our local tropical rivers, whether and expert or beginner, nature lover or thrill seeker, this expedition is for you.

Get on board for the ride of a lifetime as you take on the rapids of the Savegre River in Costa Rica.

Enjoy the captivating surroundings of the wild Costa Rican jungle while you make your way down the beautiful river. Suitable for all levels of rafting experience, the Savegre River offers a variety of class 2 and 3 rapids, with some class 4 rapids. While in Costa Rica, don’t miss the chance to head out rafting on the tropical Savegre River.

The waters aren’t too rough, but you have to work out how to manage them. You’re sure to spot monkeys, colorful birds and lizards before your day ends. Ride the rapids on one of the most popular rivers in Costa Rica as you taste the thrill of this adventure sport.

This is a trip of pure magic, unsurpassed beauty, wildlife and exhilarating fun. The Savegre River provides adventure and enjoyment for novices and experts alike. Experience the ride of a lifetime, while enjoying the surrounding tropical forest and its exotic vegetation

Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

Naranjo River Rafting


For more experienced rafters, the Naranjo River runs from April to December and is a consistently adrenaline-pumping Class III and IV wild ride.

April - December

The wild and ever-changing Naranjo River White Water Rafting challenge is recommended for physically fit adventure seekers and experienced rafters who are familiar with Class III and IV rapids.

On this high-octane, half-day adventure, the trip begins when the Naranjo River drops steeply from the Costa Rican mountains and charges though pristine jungle gorges, then winds around rocky curves to take you on a wild, adventurous ride back to sea level waters.  While your internationally-trained, bilingual guides and safety kayakers work with you to navigate this exciting river, you’ll pass by (rapidly) stunning farmland, working cattle ranches, and beautiful African Palm Plantations.

Unlike the Savegre River Adventure, the Naranjo River Rafting Trip packs all its punches in a 7 mile ride that keeps your adrenaline level high for several hours.  Water levels can rise rapidly on this Costa Rican river treasure, especially during the rainy season (May-October), which definitely brings the difficulty level up for any experienced rafter.

Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

Mangrove Damas Island

The mangrove forest is one of the most vital and astounding ecosystems in the world. Damas Island, located just 10 minutes from Manuel Antonio is currently one of the most important remaining mangroves in Costa Rica. Covering thousands of acres of protected forest, this amazing biodiversity is home to a large number of birds, reptiles, mammals and insects.


This long and narrow island is located due north and is an incredible representation of a portion of Costa Rica's endangered wetlands. The mangrove's swamps & canals are natural habitats and ecosystems filled with plant life, colorful birds, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals.  The Damas Island community is a quiet fishing community where it is common to see ancient techniques still in practice.

Immerse yourself in indescribable beauty, where nature reveals its flawlessness.  In the mangrove everything flows harmoniously-- the diversity of the most extraordinary plants and wildlife in full splendor.  Our experienced bilingual guides will share the beauty and natural history of Damas canals and once on board, the surprises and animals will appear before your eyes!

The variety of mangroves changes the scenery dramatically -- red, black, white, and pineapple (green) mangroves abound!  Each of them provides different attractions to Costa Rican wildlife and your guide will be able to help you identify each of the individual species.

Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

Carara Biological Reserve


This is the northernmost region of Pacific rainforest remaining in Costa Rica, and is the beginning of the transition zone into the tropical dry forests of the northwest. Carara is one of Costa Rica's most popular National Parks, in large part due to its proximity to San José. This is also where many cruise ship's passengers are bused for a day trip when the liners dock just up the coast at Puerto Caldera, and a common destination for field trips by school children.

Carara is a favorite with bird watchers for several reasons besides its ease of access. First, its position in a transition zone means that residents of both habitats are likely to appear. Second, the Río Grande de Tárcoles has free flowing sections and its waters seep into seasonal marshlands and a shallow oxbow lake covered with hyacinths further expanding number of local habitats. Finally, because it is slightly dryer, and not all of the trees are evergreen, Carara is more open than the rainforests further south making wildlife spotting easier.


One advantage of the relatively large numbers of people that visit Carara is that if you just stop by, you are likely have several quite competent amateur guides at your disposal. Birders are a friendly lot, and they generally like interest from novices (as long as you don't interfere with their spotting. Walk quietly and slowly)

We made a spontaneous stop here, and found that one of the best ways to see wildlife was to look for people with their necks craned, peering into the brush or canopy. We would then stop at a respectful distance, and look where they were looking. More often than not the guide, or one of the birders would invite us over to look through their binoculars or telescope while they described the habits of the bird or animal we were seeing.

About 150 scarlet macaws nest and feed throughout the reserve and can usually be seen around dusk flying west down the Río Tárcoles towards the coastal mangroves where they roost for the night.


When to visit:
It is always hot and humid in the forests of Carara, even during the drier season from late December through April.Carara is a great place to stop off for a quick hike on a trip up or down the pacific coast any time of the year. If you are headed to or from slothful beach bumming, take a few hours to explore a trail. The rewards will be well worth the effort, and you will feel better after a little exercise.


Be somewhat cautious parking at the trail heads, and even the ranger station before sunrise or after sunset. The parking is just off the highway, and if you leave any valuables in your car, odds are pretty good that a opportunistic petty thief will grab them and be miles down the road before you return.           

Jaco, Costa Rica

Manuel Antonio National Park

Size: 682 hectares.

Distance from San Jose: 132 kilometers.

Dry season: December through March

Trails: Yes

With the establishment of ManuelAntonio National Park in 1972, the people of Costa Rica decided to preserve, for future generations, one of the most beautiful and bio-diverse areas in the world. Although it is the country's smallest national park, the stunning beauty and diversity of wildlife in its 683 hectares is unequaled.

Manuel Antonio contains a charming combination of rain forest, beaches and coral reefs. This beaches are the most beautiful in the country, lined with lush forest, and the snorkeling is excellent too. The forest is home for sloths, iguanas, the rare and adorable squirrel monkeys and millions of colorful little crabs. And the trail that winds around Punta Catedral affords some spectacular views. The park is easy to reach, south of the town of Quepos, and is near a good selection of hotels and restaurants.

Visiting the park, one is treated to an abundant diversity of wildlife. Cathedral Point, with its forest topped cliffs was once an island, but is now connected to the coast by a thin strip of island. This land bridge now forms the spine separating the parks two most popular beaches, Playa Espadilla Sur and Playa Manuel Antonio. The southern facing beach, Playa Manuel Antonio, is a picturesque half mile long, white sand crescent bisecting deep green foliage to one side and a private, secluded cove to the other.

Standing with your feet dug into the sand and watching the wave crash against the rocks on either side of the lagoon, it is easy to believe that you are a thousand miles from anywhere.


Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

Orosi Valley

The Orosi Valley of Costa Rica is an undiscovered paradise, offering a serene and peaceful setting to the few visitors who manage to make it here. The Orosi valley is just under an hour from San José, passing through the city of Cartago. Upon entering the valley, you’ll be amazed by the fantastic views. The Reventazón River winds it’s way through the steep sided valley until it collects into a beautiful lake formed by the Cachí Dam. Pine trees covered with Spanish Moss sway in the wind and the temperatures here are always cool and pleasant – giving the feeling of an “eternal spring”.

As you drive down the steep road that enters the Orosi Valley, there are several spots where you can stop to take in the scenery. Many feel that this area is one of Costa Rica’s most beautiful, truly a hidden jewel waiting to be discovered! The small town of Orosi is found at the head of the valley near the banks of the lake. The name “Orosi” comes from a Huetar Indian Chief who lived here at the time of the Spanish Conquest. The area offers a wealth of water, rich soil and perfect climate – making it an attractive place to settle for centuries. Here you’ll find one of the last colonial towns that have survived the test of time.

Central Valley, Costa Rica

Coffee Doka State


THE DOKA ESTATE COFFEE TOUR is located in the coffee capital of Costa Rica, Sabanilla, Alajuela. The farm belongs to the Costa Rican Vargas Ruiz family, pioneers of coffee production for more than 70 years.

In2000 and 2001 Doka Estate was awarded as the best Estate coffee of Costa Rica for two consecutive years by the Associación Semana International  del Café (SINTERCAFE).FROM THE SEED TO THE CUP

The main objective of the Coffee Tour is to educate and inform the local and international population with regard to the whole production process as well as the processing of coffee. The tour takes place on the Doka Estate, where you can learn about the production, the harvesting, the processing plant and the roasting of the grain.

Costa Rica has a large variety of microclimates and altitudes within short distances. This route explains how the different climatic factors favor the taste of our coffee.

Guided by an expert, the visitors will receive extensive information, which will make this activity an incomparable experience.

  • The tour begins in the seedbed. There you will observe and be explained the development process of the plant up to the point of recollection of the ripe grain. You will also learn about the history of the estate, its owners, the production and varieties of plants, the geography of the area and the traditional ways of cultivating the grain.
  • The second station is the oldest humid coffee processing plant, declared to be an Architectural Heritage for Humanity in 2003, that works by hydraulic power. In the receiver you can see the first classification of the grains, afterwards the process of de-pulping of first and second quality coffee takes place in the grinders.
  • Next, the natural honey of the grain is cut in the fermentation tanks and a process is carried out that is significant to the taste of the coffee. The coffee that has been dried in the Guardiola or on the patios under the sun, is stored in the warehouse. This grain is ready to be peeled, and then exported or roasted in the country.
  • Finally, the roasting plant Café Tres Generaciones is visited, where you will be explained and can observe the different types of roasts that are offered.
  • Once the tour is over, a visit is made to the Doka Estate souvenir shop, where you can find the coffee packed in sealed bags. You can also find pieces omade by Costa Rican craftsmen.

Central Valley, Costa Rica

Poas Volcano

The story of conservation at Poás began in Tennessee's Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the 1960's. Mario Boza was a student when he visited the park in the United States and was so impressed that he developed a plan to manage the area around Poás Volcano in a similar way, presented it as his masters thesis, and pursued its implementation. How the plan was adopted as an integral part of the birth and development of the National Park system in Costa Rica is described in David Rains Wallace's book.



Attractions and Amenities

Poás volcano is a powerful symbol of the geothermal forces that formed Costa Rica.

When the mist and clouds part you'll see the sulfuric, bubbling, green rain fed lake at the bottom, surrounded by smoke and steam rising from fumaroles. Water from the lake is constantly seeping through cracks in the hot rock, evaporating and building pockets of steam. When the pressure in these pockets exceeds the weight of the water above, the steam breaks through in geysers that rocket up to 820 feet (250 meters) high. Don't worry about getting a shower though, the crater is 1,050 feet (320 meters) deep. At almost a mile (1.6 km) across it's also the largest active crater in the world.


Poás is active, but don't expect to see a full fledged eruption or even any lava flow here, the most recent period of eruptive activity ended in 1954. The last major activity was in 1910 when nearly a million tons of ash was ejected along with an immense column of smoke and steam.

MuseumWheelchair AccessRestroomsCafe
A modern visitors center (wheelchair accessible) and small museum explains and interprets the geothermal and ecological attractions in the park. A cafe serves coffee and hot drinks—as much to wrap your hands around to warm them as anything else—sandwiches, and snacks.

HikingThe volcano provides an excellent if extreme example of the effects of acid rain. Around the caldera, and for several miles downwind, the vegetation is stunted brown and black by the tainted moisture that precipitates from the omnipresent clouds near the peak.

Trails that lead through cloud forest stunted and twisted, not only by volcanic emissions but the rigors of the cold windy high altitude habitat. Lake Botos fills an extinct crater at the end of one trail, and is home to many cloud forest birds including hummingbirds, tanagers, flycatchers, toucanets, Costa Rica's national bird the clay-colored robin, and the area's most famous avian resident, the resplendent quetzal. 

Central Valley, Costa Rica