If you enjoy ecotourism, that is, if you enjoy traveling to places that preserve and protect natural ecosystems and wildlife, then Costa Rica should be at the top of your must-see destinations. Located in Central America, Costa Rica is one of the world’s most biodiverse environments.
For its size, Costa Rica is home to an enormous variety of plant, bird, animal, and reptile species. Because of this, the country boasts numerous national parks where you can experience this incredible biodiversity firsthand. The following list describes five of Costa Rica’s most popular national parks.
1. Manuel Antonio National Park
This national park may be Costa Rica’s smallest in size, but it is also the country’s most visited because it is favoured for its exceptionally beautiful scenery that encompasses rivers, waterfalls, white sand beaches, turquoise ocean, stunning coral reefs, and lush rainforest teeming in howler monkeys, parrots and iguanas. A great place for backpackers, ecotourists, surfers, and families alike, this national park offers a wide array of activities and adventures ranging from whitewater rafting to surfing, diving, sport fishing, sea-kayaking, whale-watching, hiking, jungle tours, and more.
Manuel Antonio National Park is located on the country’s central Pacific coastline nearby the city of Quepos, where you can find hotels, restaurants, shops, bars, car rental agencies and bus tours to the park.
2. Corcovado NationalPark
Considered by many to be the cream of the crop within Costa Rica’s national park system, Corcovado is so rife with exotic wildlife, it is one of the few national parks in the world that can guarantee numerous sightings that could possibly include the likes of sloths, monkeys, poison dart frogs, and pumas as well as elusive species such as jaguars, Baird’s tapirs, and harpy eagles. The reason for all this amazing biodiversity is because the park comprises several ecosystems including coastal habitats, mangrove swamps, cloud forests and rainforests.
There are numerous hiking trails laced throughout the park offering adventure and encounters with waterfalls, flowers, birds, animals and reptiles, while a stroll along one of the beaches may award you with sights of sea turtles, pelicans, scarlet macaws, and hermit crabs. You can also enjoy river canoeing and exploring interesting rock formations here.
Corcovado is located in southwestern Costa Rica on the peninsula, Osa. The park’s nearest town is Puerto Jimenez, where you can arrange for a bus tour through the park, or rent horses, bikes, and 4WD vehicles to explore on your own.
3. Tortuguero National Park
Accessible only by airplane or boat, the remote location of Tortuguero National Park doesn’t deter it from being one of Costa Rica’s most visited national parks. What makes Tortuguero so special? In two words, the answer is “sea turtles.” The park is one of the most important turtle sanctuaries in the region, drawing large numbers of tourists annually who are eager to witness mother turtles laying eggs or hatchlings racing to the sea. Between July and October, you can see hawksbill and green turtles, while the best time to see leatherback turtles is between February and April. To see the turtles, you have to arrange a guided turtle walk.
Although Tortuguero is famous for its sea turtles, the park is also home to an outstanding array of other wildlife including endangered species such as tapirs, jaguars and ocelots. Because Tortuguero is made up of many swampy and mangrove areas, the best way to explore the park is by taking a boat tour or renting a boat, both of which you can do from the nearby village of Tortuguero in northeastern Costa Rica.
4. Rincon de la Vieja Volcano National Park
Located in the North Pacific of Costa Rica, this national park is named after its most popular attraction, the Rincon de la Vieja volcano. Every year, people come here to see the steaming volcano and explore the intriguing features that surround it such as bubbling mud pits, vapor vents, craters and hot springs. The region around the volcano offers acres of hiking trails that wind through lush woodlands, enchanting cloud forests, and plains where you can view hidden waterfalls, boiling mud pots, and fields of purple orchids.
Additionally, you can enjoy swimming in lagoons, horseback riding, soaking in hot springs, camping, canopy tours, whitewater tubing, and viewing wildlife like two-toed sloths, toucans and howler monkeys. There are also working cattle ranches in the park where you can stay overnight and participate in daily chores such as tending horses and herding cattle. To reach Rincon de la Vieja, you can hop on a bus tour, hire a taxi, or rent a car from the nearby town of Liberia.
5. Arenal Volcano National Park
Noted for its perfect symmetrical shape, Arenal Volcano soars high over the green pastures and rolling hills of the country’s northern lowlands. Until 2010, Arenal was Costa Rica’s most active volcano, attracting crowds of visitors eager to marvel over its spectacular shows of spewing lava. However, Arenal is now in a resting phase, but that doesn’t mean there is nothing to see or do here. This national park also offers beautiful mountains, lakes, rivers, rainforests, and hot springs where you can enjoy adventures like mountain climbing, hiking, horseback riding, waterfall rappelling, whitewater rafting, ziplining and canopy tours. Plus, the park is home to an abundance of exotic plants, flowers, birds, animals and reptiles. For information about nearby accommodation, dining, shopping, nightlife and tour operations, you can check out this link.