Our Costa Rica Top 10

Surfing, Wildlife, and Primary Forest

Our Costa Rica Top 10

Surfing, Wildlife, and Primary Forest

After spending 4-weeks in Costa Rica, we wanted to share our top 10 adventures with you. Most of them we did. Others we could not fit in, but wished we had the time.

# 1. Surfing on the Pacific Coast

There are lots of amazing break on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. For us the challenge is finding relatively safe and uncrowded intermediate breaks and beautiful backdrops. With a bit of luck and persistence we found what we were looking for including Playa Estrillos, an uncrowded black sand beach with a big but forgiving beach break to the south of Jaco to the reef breaks near Matapalo on the tip of the Osa Peninsula.

A hardcore surfing couple on Playa Esterillos

A pod of Spotted Dolphins in the Golfo Dulce

# 2. Golfo Dulce

Golfo Dulce was one of only two tropical fjords in the world as well as one of only two places in the world with resident dolphins superpods. Despite this fact few people spend much time in the Golfo Dulce, chosing instead to speed past it on their way to Corcovado National Park. But we spent days there and loved it. In addition to going out on the water to see dolphins (year round) or calving whales (best in September), don’t miss the opportunity to kayak through the mangroves.

# 3. The Tilarán Mountain Range

This is the first cloud forest we went to and we liked it alot (although not as much as Los Quetzales National Park). It’s a great place to go if you want to hike through the forest and pursue a range of “adventures” in private reserves, including canopy tours, canyoneering and hikes over hanging bridges.

Leah in the Forest on Our First Jungle Walk in Costa Rica

Leah in front of a Costa Rican flag in the tiny tiny town of San Gerardo de Dota with a bag of fresh trout

# 4. Los Quetzales National Park

As described in our trip report, in our opinion Los Quetzales is even better than the Tilarán Mountains for exploring the cloud forest. But Los Quetzales National also includes 14 other ecosystems, including 3 different types of rainforests. We’d recommend using San Gerardo de Dota as a base (although it’s really the only option).

# 5. Visiting Santa Maria de Dota

5. Visiting Santa Maria de Dota – Dota is a beautiful region and home to Costa Rica’s best coffee. It’s also home to the Coopedota where you can take a coffee tour and and even learn how to make coffee drinks like a proper barista (highly recommended if you are coffee snobs like us). Santa Maria de Dota is an authentic, off the beaten path Tico town. If you have the time, visiting San Jose de Dota and Santa Maria de Dota is a great combo.

Coffee from Santa Maria de Dota produced using the Natural (on the left) and Honey (on the right) processes.

A self-guided mangrove tour in Gulfo Dulce where we had many rare wildlife sightings, including the Roseate Spoonbill.

# 6. Kayaking Through Primary Old Growth Mangrove Forests

Mangrove forests are amazing habitats for all sorts of birds and animals. There are numerous places to do this in Costa Rica. We did it on the Pacific coast with the Rafiki Beach Camp and on the Golfo Dulce by ourselves. If possible, try to find a primary Mangrove forest or, even better, a primary old growth Mangrove forest to explore (old growth forests are those that have not been altered by humans, e.g., logged).

# 7. Soaking up the Wildlife in Costa Rica’s Other Primary Rainforest

There are many amazing rainforests in Costa Rica, including the rainforest surrounding the Rafiki River Lodge (and the nearby campground) and the many rainforests on the Osa Peninsula including Corcovado National Park. If you want to visit Corcovado, I’d avoid it during the busiest months of the high season.

A horse hanging out in the Savegre River near Rafiki Safari Lodge in the Jungle

# 8. Exploring the Afro-Caribbean Culture of the Caribbean Coast

I haven’t been to the Caribbean coast in 30 years but when I went I really enjoyed it. Apparently, it’s black sand beaches lined with primary and secondary rain forest are still beautiful and Cahuita and Puerto Viejo are still authentic Afro-Caribbean towns.

# 9. Drake Bay

Drake Bay is on the northern Pacific side of the Osa Peninsula. It’s apparently a relatively rough road to get there. But it’s set on a beautiful, relatively deserted coastline with and is a good launch pad for trips, including scuba diving trips, to the Coco Islands.

# 10. Hiking to the top of Chirripó

We have heard that the hike to the top of Chirripó, Costa Rica’s tallest mountain is well worth it. At a minimum, it’s cool to wear fleece in Costa Rica. Unfortunately, we couldn’t do the hike with our dog, but it sounds like a great adventure.

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