Costa Rica is one of Central America's most visited countries. Travellers return from this vast and beautiful country with inevitable tales of its intrinsic beauty. It has become a haven for expats and retirees due to its cheap living, great weather and friendly locals, not to mention amazing beaches and sprawling national parks. Those who are visiting Costa Rica for the first time to explore its natural beauty or to scout out a new home for themselves should explore these five breath-taking sights to get just a taste of what this country has to offer.
By Central Intelligence Agency (The World Factbook) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Arenal Volcano is one of Costa Rica's many volcanoes and easily it's most popular. Visitors enjoy Arenal Volcano and its eponymous national park due to the fact that it is still quite active. Visitors have no need to worry, there have been no mountain-busting eruptions that fling ash, debris and hot molten rock into the air in recent memory, but it still erupts. Lucky visitors will get to witness the volcano slowly oozing lava down its side, a sight that visitors will rarely be able to witness safely. In the national park surrounding the volcano, visitors can enjoy the stunning La Fortuna waterfall, some world famous hot springs and far-reaching hiking trails that explore the forest and barren area around the volcano.
Monteverde Cloud Forest
Located in Central Costa Rica right on the continental divide, Monteverde Cloud Forest looks like a place seeped in mystery. The lush green mountains and tropical jungles are all shrouded by a thick layer of clouds due to its unique position and the 100% humidity that dwells there. This rainforest is one of Costa Rica's most coveted natural wonders, but not just for its natural beauty. It is home to over 3,000 species of plants and animals, many of which are in danger in their other habitats around the world. Most people come for a rare glimpse at the elusive Quetzal birds that call this forest home. However, those seeking some natural adventure can find it among the park's canopy tours over the sky bridges or zip-lining through the tree tops.
Poas Volcano is a dormant volcano that is not far from San Jose. The volcano hosts twin calderas filled with the most curious sulfur lakes. For those who take pictures of Poas Volcano sulfur lakes to show to their friends, they will likely think that they have painted the colours on themselves. The lakes are so still and so clear that they are indistinguishable from the sky. The unique sky blue colour of the water is otherworldly when seen in the surrounding painted rock craters. There is a small trail to the summit, but most of the area is barren rock or low scrub, making it hard to get lost when wandering around. Hikers that manage to scramble to the volcano's edge or among the higher ridges on the volcano craters can get stunning views of the outlaying towns and rainforest. It is truly a sight that visitors will not soon forget.
Tortuguero is the Costa Rican version of the Amazon rainforest. It dominates the northern coast of the country and provides a thick tree shelter for wildlife as well as the massive river that weaves through it like a green serpent. Like its name suggests, it is a haven for turtles that come here instinctively to nest. Each year, tourists come to not only see the lush rainforest up close but to catch a rather glimpse of massive sea turtles as they come to nest on the sands. In April and May, massive green, leatherback and loggerhead sea turtles make their nests while two months later the babies hatch and storm the sands towards the water. Those who visit during the turtle off-season can still enjoy extensive hiking through the rainforest and canal cruises that showcase the other rich variety of other wildlife that call the forest home. While this is an eco adventurer's paradise and significantly safer to explore than the Amazon Rainforest, visitors should be sure to stick to the trails or venture with the many guides in the area as it is easy to get lost among the lush vegetation.
Rincon de La Vieja
Those venturing to the Rincon de La Vieja in the North Pacific region of Costa Rica are sure to see the large steaming behemoth long before they reach it. While the large Rincon de La Vieja active volcano is the area's main attraction, the eponymous national park is one of Costa Rica's most dynamic attractions. Surrounding the stunning volcano is a number of tall waterfalls, amazing hiking trails through the colourful flower-studded forest, mud baths and hot springs. Travellers are sure to see a number of the more eco-oriented expats and retirees in the mountainous environment that come to explore the luxurious mud baths and hot springs, but there are many for those who seek more privacy.