The amazing country of Costa Rica is full of so many natural treasures, that choosing what to see with the limited time you have while visiting, can be quite challenging. I have had the good fortune of exploring the entire country of Costa Rica, and have come up with the top three must-sees while you are visiting this paradise. Each one is unique in its own way, and all are sure to provide an unforgettable experience that you will always remember.
1. Nauyaca Falls and the Don Lulu Tour – This amazing set of waterfalls are located in between the surfing village of Dominical on the central Pacific coast and the bustling little city of San Isidro de General. The falls are privately owned and the best way to tour them is by taking the Don Lulu tour, which consists of a horseback ride to the falls and includes breakfast and lunch. The tour costs only $40 per person making it a great value. The tour begins on the highway where you mount your horse, and begin the 3 mile trek to the falls, stopping at the quaint tico-style home of Don Lulu for a typical Costa Rican breakfast of fresh fruit and gallo pinto(beans and rice).
After breakfast, it’s back on the horse for the short trip to the entrance to the falls. After a fairly steep descent down a hand cut stairway, you arrive at one of the most amazing natural attractions in all of Costa Rica. The falls consist of two levels with the upper falls towering over 500 feet and the lower falls consisting of a wide cascade of over 100 feet that plummets into an idyllic 30 foot deep pool. Your guides on the tour will be more than happy to help you climb up into the lower falls for a once in a lifetime leap of faith into the refreshing pool below. After a few hours swimming and relaxing next to this Costa Rican treasure, it’s a short but strenuous climb back up the staircase to your waiting mount. A wonderful lunch is served at Don Lulu’s and then the tour concludes back at the highway. The rest of the day is spent reflecting on the wonderful experience had by all.
2. Volcano and Lake Arenal – Volcano Arenal towers over Lake Arenal in the north central region of Costa Rica. It is the most active volcano in Costa Rica with daily eruptions, and vibrant glowing lava shows that can be enjoyed at night. The volcano last had a major eruption in 1968 when it buried the old town of Arenal in ash and soot. The Costa Rican government has since flooded the area where Arenal used to be to create Costa Rica’s largest lake, and submerging this once lively village in hundreds of feet of water. The lake is home to some of the best rainbow bass fishing in the entire world, and there are many local guides that will take you to the best spots. In addition to the world class fishing on the lake, Lake Arenal is also internationally known for its windsurfing. There are many types of accommodations in the Arenal area ranging from five star resorts like the upscale Tabacon Hot Springs Resort to small rooms for the budget minded traveler. There are some wonderful canopy tours in the area in which you can spend a day zipping down a cable over the rainforest canopy below. The Arenal area is truly an amazing piece of paradise where you can enjoy the sights and sounds of an active volcano looming over a picturesque lake. Truly a must-see in this spectacular country.
3. Manuel Antonio National Park – The crown jewel of Costa Rica’s national parks, Manuel Antonio is without a doubt a must-see on your visit to Costa Rica. Located just south of Quepos on the central Pacific coastline, the park is only a few hours from San Jose making it very accessible. Manuel Antonio is a very small park in relation to the other parks in the country, but it attracts more visitors per year than any other park. The park has pristine powder sand beaches back dropped by lush emerald green mountains that plunge into the deep blue Pacific. Manuel Antonio has become so popular that the park director has had to limit the number of people allowed into the park to 600 on weekdays and 800 on weekends. It’s no wonder that people are lining up to get in to this amazing place, as on any given day you can spot 3 different species of monkeys, sloths, marmosets, ocelots, river otters, pacas, and speckled caimans as well as, 200 species of birds. The beaches at Manuel Antonio are often considered the most beautiful in all of Costa Rica. Manuel Antonio was actually discovered by Ponce de Leon in 1519 on his quest for the fountain of youth, and while he may have never located that particular fountain, it appears he had stumbled upon the garden of Eden. This place will leave you breathless and with unforgettable memories about the beauty of Costa Rica. A definite must-see on your visit to paradise.
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