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The Gap Year Blog

A Guide to Exploring Costa Rica

5 Apr 2019 17:25 PM

Photo Credit: Flickr | Ian D. Keating

Edited with Permission by Frontier


Costa Rica continues to grow its popularity as a tourist destination. Its unique nature and range of activities and relaxations offer something for everyone which is part of Costa Rica’s charm. Known for its biodiversity, Costa Rica allows visitors to experience some of the rare wonders of the world in its rain forests, beaches and nature reserves. 

If that didn’t already sell you, just know that Costa Rica is one of the pioneers of sustainable travel from hotels to tours, guaranteeing you will spend a guilt-free holiday during which you can support the local economy and enjoy all the wonders Costa Rica has to offer sustainably.


The Arenal Volcano

There are over 60 volcanoes -some inactive and some still very active today- across Costa Rica, making it almost impossible not to see or visit one on your stay. 

For more adventurous hike around volcanic sceneries, head to Arenal Volcano, a 5,000-feet-tall volcano standing in the middle of a national park in north-west Costa Rica near the town of La Fortuna.

The volcano is famous for unexpectedly erupting and destroying three nearby villages in 1968 after which it has been the most active volcano in the country. However, the last massive eruption of Arenal Volcano happened in 2010, and since then the volcano hasn’t shown much signs of activity. Although for the past nine years Arenal Volcano has largely been safe for travellers – it’s one of the most popular tourist destinations in Costa Rica-, the volcano is constantly monitored, and park rangers aren’t afraid to close any trails or areas if any abnormalities are observed.

Even if the volcano itself has been asleep for almost a decade, there is still geological activity in the area. Hot springs and lava fields can be found along the hiking trails winding around the Arenal Park. These trails offer a glimpse to the unique flora and fauna of Costa Rica from monkey species to bromeliads. You can also hike to the other volcano in the area, Tenorio Volcano, which is located not-too far away from Arenal Volcano, or you can have a wonder around the stunning lakeside of Lake Arenal which presents an ideal view of the Arenal Volcano.  

Photo Credit: Flickr

National parks

You haven’t truly experienced Costa Rica unless you have visited one of the many national parks that reserve the rich but rare wildlife of the country. Every national park has their own distinguish flora and fauna which you can spend days, say weeks, exploring without getting bored.

To experience abundant wildlife in one of the most remote locations in Costa Rica, travel to Corcovado National Park which is one of the most diverse national reserves in the world. While there you can experience several ecosystems from lowland rain forests to beach habitants. Although the location of the park is distant, trails there are in good shape.

Another national park which biodiversity is worth exploring is Tortuguero National Park. Located on the Caribbean cost, you can expect high rainfall, but don’t let this discourage you to visit this a breath-taking national park which is most famous for turtle conservation. This the perfect place for observation of turtles as long as it’s done harmlessly without violating their habitant.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia Commons


Whether you are a beginner surfer or a professional one, Costa Rica offer waves for all the levels all year around. This why Costa Rica has long enjoyed a reputation of a perfect surf location. With warm waters, consistent waves and relatively inexpensive prices, Costa Rica is a surfer’s paradise.

The most versatile surfing locations, Tamarindo, Witch’s Rock and Ollie’s Point, are located in the northern region of Costa Rica. This also the best area to travel to for beginners as there are multiple surf schools and small sand-bottom breaks that are beginner-friendly.

Even though Costa Rica has transformed into a popular surfing destination, it has not lost its chill surfer vibe that attracted visitors years ago. New smaller surf locations are constantly opened as the tourism keeps growing. So, there’s something for all kind of surfers and adventurers.

Photo Credit: Flickr

Hot springs

With several active volcanoes, the natural hot spring offering in Costa Rica is one to compete with. For hundreds of years, hot springs have been believed to have healing and relaxing powers that come from the minerals in thermal water. These hot springs are a perfect way to relax, for example, after a hike in Arenal Volcano National Park.

Unfortunately, most of the hot springs in Costa Rica are now private and part of a resort. However, many of these resort complexes offer day passes to their hot springs, so that people who are not staying in the resort can also enjoy the wonders of thermal water. For more luxury experience, you can also spend the night and enjoy other services, such as massages and spa treatments. 

Likewise, you can find these thermal waters in natural parks where they are free, but you need to know where look and find them. The less crowed hot springs are usually hard to find but with a bit help from locals you can discover some real gems. Just remember never to go wonder around the dense jungles alone or to jump to a hot spring without out trying the water first as it can be boiling hot. 

Photo Credit: Flickr

By Tiia Kärkkäinen - Online Journalism Intern

Frontier runs terrestrial & marine conservation, community, teaching and adventure projects in over 50 countries - join us and explore the world!