Costa Rica is a country full of adventures, and there is much to do for travellers. Expect to see majestic volcanoes, beautiful beaches, breathtaking waterfalls, secluded islands and fascinating wildlife… Costa Rica has it all.
We spoke to our Costa Rican local travel expert Roberto, and asked him to fill us in on all the best day trips Costa Rica has to offer, and all the hidden gems he recommends for the best possible Costa Rican experience.
Roberto says that rafting is one of the most underrated activities in Costa Rica – but it’s an amazing one to take part in and experience. Most rafting companies in the country have activities for different levels and ages, and it’s a fun, exciting adrenaline-filled experience you won’t want to miss.
“For adventurous people, I always recommend going on a rafting trip, but this is something that many people visiting Costa Rica overlook. Rafting the Pacuare river is one of the best experiences, I love it. The season has to be right, but it is one of the best day trips you can have”
Farming is a huge part of local culture in Costa Rica, and nearly 10% of the land in Costa Rica is used for farming and agriculture. There are many different types of farm you could visit, some of the country’s main exports include: pineapples, sugar, bananas, coffee, vegetables, rice, corn and potatoes.
At Not in the Guidebooks we run a day trip to Don Juan’s organic farm, which specialises in sugar cane. Part of your experience during the day is seeing how the farming process works, exploring the grounds and even enjoying a cooking lesson too. To truly experience local culture and working life, no visit to Costa Rica would be complete without visiting one of the local farms and meeting the people who work there every day.
For a truly Costa Rican experience, Roberto recommends taking a trip to a quieter beach such a El Jobo. After all, when you have the entire beach to yourself, there’s no better way to spend the day! El Jobo gets Roberto’s stamp of approval because of how secluded it is and the various nature projects running nearby.
“People don’t go here, so it’s very quiet. There’s even a special turtle conservation project you can visit here too, which makes it even more special”
The beautiful array of waterways in Boca Pacuare are the ideal place to spot local marine wildlife such as turtles and rare fish. Roberto says the wildlife is a huge part of life here in Costa Rica, especially in areas like this where conservation is so important. A boat trip around the area will open your eyes to a different side of Costa Rica, and it’s something you won’t want to miss. Close by, a trip to Madre de Dios lagoon is also a wonderful day trip – and gives you even more opportunity to see monkeys, reptiles and birds in the wild.
“I have to mention Boca Pacuare which is an amazing place to go and see the leatherback sea turtle. There’s also a reserve here called Pacuare reserve in this area, that works to conserve the turtle population of the area and you can go to see the hatchlings – which is really special”
If this sounds like your kind of day trip, you’ll be able to visit both of these areas as part of our ‘Boca Pacuare & Turrialba’ tour.
Corcovado National Park
The Corcovado National Park is a natural wonder home to many of Costa Rica’s most beautiful views and wildlife. It is often referred to as one of the best national parks in Central America. A visit to this part of Costa Rica is the essence of why the country is so appealing and so magical.
When you’ve finished spending time spotting all the animals, birds and insects – take time to visit the beautiful coastline, and soak in some of those famous ocean views. Get your camera at the ready, the outlooks are postcard perfect. The water is breathtakingly blue and the landscapes feel like something from a painting.
Our ‘San José to Manuel Antonio’ 6 day tour will take you on an immersive tour into the heart of the national park so you can experience this wonderful place for yourself. And then take some time to relax on we can recommend some different beaches to visit.
Irazu Volcano National Park
You can’t visit Costa Rica without paying a visit to one of the amazing volcanoes. If you’ve never seen a volcano before, then prepare to be awe-struck, there’s nothing quite like it. This is the first stop on our ‘San José to Manuel Antonio’ tour, so you get to set the bar high on day one!
“There’s lots of people that come to Costa Rica to see a crater of a volcano. So going to the Irazu or Poas volcano, these are two I’d always recommend because the crater is huge and they’re active volcanoes and you can actually go up to the crater, just park your car and walk right up to them”
The Irazu Volcano National Park, which is mentioned by Roberto above, is home to the Irazu Volcano, which is one of Costa Rica’s most well known and picturesque volcanoes. The steep outlook, and dramatically coloured water in the base of the crater are mystical and unique – and make for some great photo opportunities.
The Gulf of Nicoya is an ocean inlet in Costa Rica and the beautiful landscapes around the ocean are made up of beautiful coastlines, rocky islands and cliffs. It’s a stunning place to explore – especially by boat. According to Roberto, this is a relatively unknown day trip and many people don’t consider taking a trip out here because of costs or accessibility. But, there’s an easy way around it!
“If you’re in a group of 6-8 people it’s not expensive at all really. You can rent a private boat and go to the islands on the Nicoya Gulf. In the Nicoya Gulf, they’re a group of beautiful islands that you can go and visit. There’s one called Tortuga island and this is set up for visitors, it has a really nice, white beach and there’s activities like banana boats, snorkelling, stand up paddle boarding and beach volleyball. There are two ways to do it, you can go with a tour company on a big boat or you can rent a private boat”
The Dota Cloud Forest
This magical and enchanting cloud forest is located high above sea level. Cloud forests have different conditions to normal rainforests and so attract slightly different wildlife. If you’ve never been to a cloud forest, it’s a wonderful experience.
Whilst all days are beautiful here, if you get lucky with the conditions, visiting a cloud forest can be an absolutely enchanting and magical place to visit. A cloud forest isn’t ‘in the sky’ but it is located higher above sea level than a normal rainforest. You’ll want to dress as you would for a normal rainforest – but maybe bring a waterproof layer – incase the clouds come in heavy.
Celeste River is a beautiful river located in the Tenorio Volcano National Park. Roberto tells us it’s one of his favourite hidden gems, and is most known for the beautiful mysterious colour of the water. The Celeste River also has hot springs and a stunning waterfall too.
“This is really special. Celeste means light blue and it’s a river that has a really nice waterfall in it. There’s a national park where it starts so you can actually go and see where the river starts as a normal one and then turns into this really nice blue colour. It is a really special trip and not popular with tourists at all. It’s not a complete secret but people usually skip it, I don’t know why because it’s amazing”