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Costa Rica

General Information

Languages: Spanish (Official), English
Currency: Colón (CRC), US $ accepted
Time Zone: EST -1hrs
Capital City: San José
Population: 4.2 million
Government: Democratic Republic
Total Area: 19,692 mi²
Climate: Tropical and subtropical; dry season (December to April) - busiest; rainy season (May to November); cooler in highlands
National Holidays: Independence Day, 15 September
Additional Info: Costa Ricans often refer to themselves as ticos (masculine) or ticas (feminine) - the tico ideal is that of a very friendly, helpful, laid back, unhurried, educated and environmentally aware people.

Destination Activities

Activity Details

Rafting

White water rafting is the big thing in Costa Rica, offering various class rafting experiences on such rivers as the Sarapiqui, the Pacuare, Reventazon and the Colorado River.

Sarapiqui River - 90 minutes outside of San Juan, an opportunity to escape the city and enjoy some class III rapids. The section La Virgen to Chilamate is popular with its lush vegetation and the classic Costa Rican symbol, the toucan, as well as egrets, parrots and monkeys to observe as you paddle by. On the way to the destination, you will head through the Braulio Carrillo National Park, which contains many notable geological features, such as the Barva Volcano, Hondura River, Patria River, and the mineral-discolored Súcio River.

The Pacuare River is one of the top five rafting rivers in the world for its scenery and rapids. It is a popular location for white water rafting and riverboarding and has been named one of the top 10 river trips in the world by National Geographic. This tropical river is a trip of pure magic, unsurpassed beauty, wildlife and exhilarating rapids. This river has everything from big open rapids and waterfalls that plunge down from hundreds of feet above the river, to spectacular scenery and wildlife. Here you can expect to sight monkeys along the river banks as you paddle along. This rapid adventure includes rapids called the Upper and Lower Huacas, Cimarron, Dos Montanas and many more.



Reventazon - this river flows into the Pacific and forms the southern boundary of the Tortuguero National Park. This dam-controlled section of the river for rafting has some incredibly fast class III rapids you might encounter. Expect to see big waves and stunning scenery. Driving from San Juan, the Reventazon tour takes you through the Braulio Carrillo National Park, past waterfalls and through rainforests. Look out for toucans, kingfishers, herons, tanagers, iguanas and bright green "Jesus Christ" lizards.

The Colorado River, in the Guanacaste region of Costa Rica, offers great fun in two person boats with Level II-III rapids. The surrounding habitats are protected as part of the second largest rain forest preserve in the country, the Barra del Colorado Wildlife Refuge. There is a midway stopping point providing great fun for those wishing to jump or dive from cliffs. Two person boats include one guide per raft and one paddler. Expect to pay $75-$80 (2007 prices) a person for all equipment and guide, including transportation and drinks.

Ecotourism

Costa Rica is one of the top destinations in the world for ecotourism with its canopy jungle tours, volcanoes and waterfalls, and dedication to preservation with numerous protected national parks. There are many ways to experience the diverse options but most require joining a guide for at least some of the time. Guided tours, for example to the Miravelles Volcano in the Guanacaste region, will include a full day adventure from hotel pick to a horseback ride up a hillside to a rainforest trek to playing in waterfalls and over to the volcano where you can bathe and rub the nutrient rich mud onto your skin. A day trip, including well-prepared local food and transport, like the above costs about $75 (2007). For those who prefer to leave the guided group, be sure to read up on local insects and protect from the sun before entering the rain forest, its usual to get assistance from the locals, and relatively cheap.



A canopy tour is not to be forgotten and can be enjoyed by all members of your adventure team, including children and grandparents. Start at the top of a rain forest and descend over and sometimes through trees and vegetation on a series of zip lines you attach to and repel down. In the Guanacaste region, a Congo Trail canopy tour swoops over the rain forest allowing you to see the beauty of the life below, and if lucky you might even see some howler monkeys. A tour can cost between $50 and $60 per person and usually includes travel to and from your accommodation. You will lose your hat if its not securely fastened but consider it a reason to go buy a cool Costa Rica hat replacement! For the adventurous daring types, ask the guide to flip you upside down before pushing you along a zip line - it's exhilarating and makes a fantastic photo (although I'm not vouching for its safety!).



Scuba Diving

Costa Rica has recently exploded onto the scuba diving scene due to its vast variety of marine wildlife. All along the pacific coastline, there are many dive shops and outfits who can take you out on boats to find the best spots. Unlike other scuba diving locations, you often don't see another dive boat the whole day. Ask your dive boat driver to take you to a deserted beach to barbecue some fish for an all round great day. Snorkelers like this opportunity to explore the rock pools and divers get the chance to rest for their surface intervals.



One of the main draws to the Pacific Coast (the Guanacaste province) is the whale sharks in the area . You can find a huge variety of fish, soft corals and invertebrates - a result of the abundance of plankton that thrive in this tropical area. Moray eels and resting rays are regular sightings when down below. The boat trips can be fun too - watch as dolphins leap majestically by the side of your boat, sea gulls pass by sitting on the backs of turtles, and rays flip in the air trying to rid themselves of pesky parasites. Visibility can often be obscured - especially in the rainy season from May to November.

Fishing

Chartering a boat is usually a case of talking to your hotel tour operator or heading down to the local waterfront. In Guanacaste, the local port is Playas Coco. It cost a group of 8 people $150/per person (2007) for a full day fishing charter including all tackle and bait, drinks and food. Part of the excitement for all of us was the trip out to the fishing area, we were chased by dolphins who frequently caught up and passed our speedy boat and then flew out of the water majestically along side, while we all rejoiced at the gorgeous site and grabbed our cameras. If you keep looking out, you will see rays leaping out of the water spinning in mid air and diving back down, apparently trying to cleanse their body of parasites. Another interesting sight was the floating birds that appeared to be standing on the water - not until you get up close do you realize these birds aren't just standing on nothing, they have found a conveniently located swimming turtle to rest on before they take flight again - they are a great way to find passing turtles that seemed to swim in small groups.



Our fishing experience was actually cut short due to engine failure but the deep sea fishing adventure in Guanacaste, Costa Rica (pacific side), offers some of the best sport fishing available. Billfish can be caught year round although locals recommend the best time for catching is from April-September. Marlin, sailfish and tuna can all be found 20 miles or further from the shore.



Another option for fishermen is to go out on a locals boat who are catching smaller fish to sell to restaurants in the evening. These boats will stay close to shore but offer a unique perspective on the local fishing trade, and they will teach you a lot about the fish in the area, what can be eaten, the fish to throw back and so on. They'll let you take back some of your catch for dinner, if you are game! For die hard fishermen, smaller tropical fish were biting on the rocky shores, if you have access to rod and reel.

Photography

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