zip lining with the sloths
November 21, 2011 12:18 PM   Subscribe

Heading to Costa Rica with an open itinerary tomorrow. If you've visited, is there anywhere in particular I absolutely have to go?

I did read the previouslies.
posted by roger ackroyd to Travel & Transportation around Costa Rica (15 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: My favorite section [and I went to San Jose and the western beaches and also up into the mountains] was the Cloud forest. I particularly liked the butterfly garden up there. I was particularly interested in the American Quakers who settled there around the time of the Korean War. Interesting area with an interesting mix of people.
posted by jessamyn at 12:23 PM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

We spent some time near Tamarindo last winter and it was great. We were part of a tour that didn't get to the cloud forest, and I really wish I'd had a chance to see it.
posted by jquinby at 12:31 PM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I've been to Costa Rica several times, and enjoyed everywhere I went -- Manuel Antonio is stunning, as are Monteverde and the Nicoya Peninsula beaches -- but I am dying dying DYING to go to the Aviarios Sloth Sanctuary on the Caribbean coast. Also, Corcovado National Park, on the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica's southern Pacific region, has been called "the most biologically intense place on earth" by National Geographic. Next time I visit, I'm heading there for sure.
Enjoy your trip!
posted by changeling at 12:36 PM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

I would recommend Manuel Antonio for beaches and the national park.

If you are looking to go off the beaten path with no tourists and work on your Spanish, I would recommend Santa Maria/San Marcos. Both are quiet towns up in the mountains surrounded by coffee farms.
posted by unreasonable at 12:37 PM on November 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

I just spent a month surfing in and around Santa Teresa this spring and generally just lazed around the Nicoya beaches... I did get it together enough to rent an ATV in Mal PaĆ­s and drive it to Montezuma. Montezuma is kind of whatevs but the drive was real fun.
posted by nathancaswell at 12:51 PM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Go to the Sloth Sanctuary if you're anywhere near the area. It's awesome.
posted by flaterik at 12:54 PM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: We did the El Trapiche coffee/sugar plantation tour in Monteverde as kind of a last minute time-filler because it was pretty cheap but it ended up being really interesting, definitely a good value.

Also, if you do a nature walk in the cloud forest or elsewhere it's probably worthwhile to pay for a guided tour. The guides are very good at picking out things (birds and animals in the trees, bugs on the ground) that we never would have seen on our own.
posted by ghharr at 1:16 PM on November 21, 2011

Best answer: After the sloth sanctuary, continue down to Parque Nacional Cahuita. One of the best places for wildlife, IMO. Corcovado (on the other side) is absolutely fantastic, but there are a couple of things to consider. If you drive, it takes about 8 hours from San Jose (combination of distance, traffic, and road quality). Once you get there, you have to plan on staying a couple of days. Not easily accessible. You can also fly there, never have done it that way, though.
posted by bolognius maximus at 2:02 PM on November 21, 2011

Best answer: Poas Volcano, with the two craters. One is still giving off white and yellow sulpher smoke/gas. The other is a lake. When my family and I went, there were also all sorts of little birds that would come out of the foliage and walk around, unafraid of the tourists. Is a bit of a walk from the parking lot to the top.

An aerial tram through the rain forest. There was a specific park, the name of which I can't remember. You'll ride through the mid-canopy, above the undergrowth. Not sure about this time of year there, but we saw a few types of hummingbirds, a three-toed sloth, and an incredibly poisonous snake. The scenery is beautiful.

Tortuguero. Do you want to go on a tour of sea turtles giving birth, see several different kinds of birds (frigatebirds, toucans, several kinds of parrots, wader birds, Roseate Spoonbills, kingfishers and many, many others), a number of different types of monkeys, cayman, snakes, etc? This was the best way to go birdwatching on our trip.

If you want to see some Scarlet Macaws, try going to Jaco. We saw at least 12 to 15 pair there over a few days, though we heard that's relatively rare. Jaco's also a sort of more touristy town, with surfer dudes and shops everywhere, so be forewarned.

Oh, god yes, the cloud forest. If you get the chance, go. Though we couldn't spend very long there (scheduled tour) it was so very very worth it. If you enjoy birdwatching at -all- you need to go here. The place we went had hummingbird feeders already set up, along with wooden boards laid out with fruit. Imagine (or Youtube) the most epic hummingbird battles - but add the colors of bright green, deep vibrant purple (that was the Violet Sabrewing), reds and pinks. Imagine a swirl of color as they zoom right by your head in fighter pilot style, chasing each other away from the food under the dark forest canopy. Imagine, just a few feet over, a now quietly, now violently, shifting storm of yellow and orange tanagers feeding on fruit. And don't forget the possibility of spotting a Resplendent Quetzal. Go ahead. Look that up. I'll wait. O__O
posted by DisreputableDog at 2:22 PM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Oh, and if you're near Arenal, you can find guides that will take you on a Hike up it starting at 3am. You can easily see the red of the constant eruptions, and then watch the run come up from on top of a volcano. Easily my favorite part of the non-sloth portions of the trip.
posted by flaterik at 2:30 PM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My boyfriend and I went to Arenal, Monteverde, and a beach near Jaco in January 2011.
The highlights of the trip for us were the Eco Termales Hot Springs in Arenal and the Common Cup coffee shop/coffee farm tour in Monteverde.

We picked Eco Termales because we heard that it was less crowded than the other hot springs in Arenal. We had a reservation starting at 5, but we showed up an hour early (we were killing time and decided to make sure we could find the place), and they told us to come on in. We had the place pretty much to ourselves (maybe 2 other couples were there) until 5. They have several large pools of varying temperatures (including one that was pretty secluded) and a plunge pool. It was incredibly relaxing (and very romantic, if that's the kind of thing you're looking for).

In Monteverde, our tour guide at the Butterfly Garden recommended we drop by the Common Cup. I'm writing all of this from memory, so I may be wrong, but the Common Cup is the coffee shop for the San Rafael Sustainable Coffee Initiative, which is made up of three coffee farms. The farmers do all of the processing and sell directly to the consumer. We got to meet a few of the farmers and tour one of the farms, which was fascinating. It was really interesting to talk to a couple of generations of farmers about the challenges they face, where they see the industry going and what they do to make their farm more sustainable. Between the farm and the roasting lesson at the shop, we got a view of the whole process, seed to cup.

If you really dig looking at other people's vacation photos, you can see photos from the coffee farm tour here.
posted by amarynth at 2:42 PM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Count me as another vote for Monteverde. We did a coffee tour, and the butterfly garden, and the cloud forest. (And, yes, saw quetzals!)
posted by pemberkins at 5:12 PM on November 21, 2011

If you go to Monteverde, check out the Orchid Garden in Santa Elena. I'm not much of a flower person, but it was really amazing to learn about all the zillions of kinds of orchids that grow in the cloud forest, and their different adaptations. Most of them are tiny -- they give each person a hand magnifying glass for the tour! -- and the guide will walk you around to point out all the different things growing in the garden and explain what makes them each interesting. Plus you get a discount on admission if you eat at Morpho's restaurant or the coffeeshop in front of the garden, both of which have awesome food.

2nd-ing to hire a wildlife guide if you go on a nature hike. We would have seen like 2 birds that we couldn't identify if we had walked through the cloud forest on our own, but with the guide we saw tons of birds and a porcupine and a sloth and a tarantula guarding its nest and a troop of monkeys... plus he taught us a bunch about the different animals we saw.
posted by vytae at 10:32 PM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Oh, and just a tip -- if you'll be driving, get a GPS. We got one with our rental and quickly realized we would not have been able to get by without it. Many of the roads were not marked.
posted by amarynth at 7:32 AM on November 22, 2011

Oh, yes, the orchid garden is lovely too.
posted by pemberkins at 10:07 AM on November 22, 2011

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