Visit The Wonderland Of Natural Attractions, Costa Rica
Costa Rica is a wonderland of natural attractions, with volcanoes, beaches, cloud forests, and unique wildlife. This is a country that appeals as much to birdwatchers and luxury focused travellers as it does to surfers and backpackers. The busy city of San Jose is home to the country’s best museums and lovely squares, but the real treasures lie beyond the capital, in the forests and small coastal villages. Endless stretches of beach line the Pacific Coast, with small towns that cater to surfers and sun seekers. Inland, the forest-covered mountains offer their own adventures, from volcanoes and waterfalls to ziplining and extraordinary wildlife viewing. Costa Rica also has shoreline on the Caribbean. While this is a lesser visited area of the country, it offers something a little different in terms of culture and attractions, and is known in particular as a breeding ground for green sea turtles.
The Arenal Volcano National Park is found in the rugged Cordillera de Tilarán and is one of the top volcano viewing areas in the country. The main attraction in the park is the Arenal Volcano, reaching 1,633 meters. It looks just as one might imagine a volcano; a cone-shaped mountain with huge ash columns streaming from the crater.
Arenal was dormant from 1500 AD until a massive eruption on July 29, 1968, which killed 82 people and destroyed two villages. Since then, it has seen regular activity and, depending on the day or week, visitors can expect to see anything from a cloud of ash to glowing red lava flowing down the mountain.
The Arenal Observatory Lodge, originally a private observatory established in 1987, is the only lodge within the Arenal Volcano National Park boundaries. It is located on a macadamia nut farm on the south side of the volcano. From the lodge, there are excellent views of the volcano and Arenal Lake in the opposite direction. Numerous hiking trails are in the area, some of which lead to waterfalls, as well as old and recent lava flows.
Dominical is a tropical backpacker’s haven, with dirt streets, beautiful beaches, cheap accommodation, casual open-air restaurants, and its own unique vibe. Surfers who come here find it hard to leave, and visits often turn into extended stays. But Dominical also attracts an upper-end crowd who can find small luxury inns and bed and breakfasts on the outskirts or in the hills overlooking the town. These places are often set off on their own and allow for close up wildlife viewing, with howler monkeys waking guests in the morning and toucans flying by the pool.
The town’s main claim to fame is a wide stretch of open beach, backed by shady trees, where vendors set up tables and sell crafts and other items to tourists. Outside of town are quieter beaches where it’s possible to find a peaceful space all to oneself. Due to Dominical’s southern location, it is lush and steamy even in the dry season when northern areas are dusty and the trees have dropped their leaves.
Mal Pais and Santa Teresa
Mal Pais on the Nicoya Peninsula, is an area along the coast known for great waves that attract surfers from all over. The town of Santa Teresa is the main hotspot in the area, but a chain of villages and beaches lie along the Mal Pais, including the villages of Mal Pais and Manzanillo. Today, the area is a mix of backpackers, surfers who never managed to leave, and tourists who wish they had planned a longer vacation. The area is more trendy and has more of a scene than places like Dominical, and development in the area has turned it more upscale.
The National Theater in San Jose
Costa Ricans take pride in the National Theater, which is considered to be the most impressive building in San José. In the 1890s, the ruling coffee barons voted for a tax on coffee exports in order to fund the construction of the theater, and European artisans were imported to design the building.
Completed in 1897, the building features a classical Renaissance columned façade topped by statues symbolizing Dance, Music, and Fame. Inside, the pink marble foyer features allegorical figures of Comedy and Tragedy, and painted murals depicting themes in Costa Rican life.
Rincón de la Vieja National Park
The Rincón de la Vieja Volcano is the main attraction in this park. This active volcano last erupted in 2011 and as a result, hiking trails to the summit are no longer open, but there is still hiking in the area with trails leading to waterfalls and hot springs. This park is also home to a wide variety of wildlife, with tapirs, sloths, monkeys, and large cats such as the jaguar, puma, and ocelot still inhabiting the park.
Monteverde and the Cloud Forests
The Cloud Forests near Monteverde and Santa Elena have become popular ecotourism destinations within Costa Rica. For those itching to immerse themselves in nature and see unique plants and wildlife without venturing too far off the beaten path, this is definitely the place to come. The clouds that cover these forests provide the moisture necessary to sustain the area’s unique habitats that are only found here. While many people come simply for the bird watching, the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve and the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve sustain all kinds of mammals, amphibians, and reptiles, from jaguars and pumas to frogs and monkeys. Organized hikes are one of the best ways to see the forest, along with canopy tours that may involve zip-lines or bridges and even cable cars.
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