Best of Costa Rica in nine days

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of October 24-30, 1996
Best of Costa Rica in nine days
Winter climbing at Joshua Tree
A pop Civil War trivia quiz
Sunny January hiking on a budget
Canadian adventure, minus the boys

Best of Costa Rica in nine days
Question: Hope you can help; we're wanting the impossible. We will have nine days to explore Costa Rica. I want to see it all, but know I can't. What do you recommend as the "must" things to see or do?

Thelma Coles
Austin, TX
[email protected]

Adventure Adviser: Okay, take a deep breath. Practically pocket-size, Costa Rica packs a lot of wilderness punch, all things considered. Thanks to rough terrain, however, getting to these choice adventure locales can be outrageously time-consuming. The solution? Resign yourself to a healthy dose of pre-trip strategizing, set realistic goals for what you'll see and do, and, most important, relax: You're on vacation!

If you're looking for old Costa Rica--land of unspoiled rainforest, abundant wildlife, and rustic accommodations--plan to spend a good part of your trip on the Osa Peninsula, a rugged slice of crowd-free jungle only 90 miles south of San José on the Pacific Coast. Home to jaguars and other big cats, not to mention hundreds of species of birds, reptiles, and insects, the Osa is about as unpackaged as Costa Rica gets. You'll start with a 20-plus-mile boat ride down the Rio Serpé from Plamar Sur to almost-inaccessible Drake Bay. Don't forget the Dramamine: Huge Pacific breakers at the mouth of the river and dinghy-sized boats make the fear factor and seasickness factor skyrocket. No matter; once you're ensconced in the Aguila de Osa Inn (doubles, $100 per person, meals included; 011-506-232-7722), relaxing is a no-brainer. Horseback riding on clay paths through the rainforest can be arranged through most lodges, two-tank dives at nearby Isla de Cano go for $110 per person, and there's always a canopy tour--a close-up look at monkeys, macaws, and butterflies via pulley-and-cable maneuvered swing chair ($40 per person; 011-506-257-5149).

You should also consider a rafting trip on one of Costa Rica's world-class waters. If you only have time for one river, make it the Pacuare (Class III-IV), an easy day trip from San Juan through some of the prettiest jungle around. Rios Tropicales, the king of Costa Rican paddle sports, is the company to call ($90, including lunch and transportation; 011-506-233-6455). Another don't-miss experience is a trip to the Santa Elena Forest Reserve, a wildlife-laden cloudforest about 115 miles west of San José. Less-visited than the famous Monteverde, just down the road, Santa Elena boasts a healthy population of sloth, deer, ocelots, and monkeys. Pick up a pair of rubber boots (always a good idea in a rainforest) and a guide at the visitor's center (011-506-645-5238), and look to the Monteverde Lodge for post-trek R&R. Just 15 minutes away from the reserve, it's got a welcoming hot tub and plenty of good food (doubles, $93; 011-506-257-0766).

For a whole mess of other suggestions, check out "The Last Best Peninsula" in the Destinations section of Outside's November 1996 issue and "La Ruta Tropical" in the 1996-97 Winter Travel Guide.

Search the archives | Ask the Adventure Adviser

©2000, Mariah Media Inc.

More at Outside

Elsewhere on the Web