Things to Do in Central Pacific
Selvatura Park is a popular nature-adventure park in the cloud forests of Costa Rica. Located just outside Monteverde, the park contains over 850 acres (344 hectares) of ecologically diverse forest. Attractions include zipline and suspension bridge tours, hummingbird and butterfly gardens, natural history walks, and reptile exhibitions.
Brimming with lush forest, wildlife, and waterfalls, Rainmaker Park provides a quieter alternative to the often-crowded Manuel Antonio National Park. As well as being home to animals such as dart frogs, snakes, and butterflies, the off-the-beaten-path attraction offers great forest views from a set of swinging bridges.
A postcard-perfect paradise of white-sand beaches, swaying coconut palms, and sapphire-blue water rife with marine life, Tortuga Island (Isla Tortuga) is an ideal spot to swim, snorkel, or bask in the sunshine. The island is only accessible from Costa Rica’s main cities via a scenic boat ride across the Gulf of Nicoya—an extra perk for your vacation.
Jaco is a lively beach town known for its water sports and party atmosphere. Located on some of Costa Rica’s most developed coastline, within two hours of the capital, it’s a favorite escape for San José residents, as well as backpackers, snowbirds, and North American retirees.
If you’re cruising to Costa Rica, you’ll almost certainly stop in Puntarenas, the ideal jumping-off point for daylong excursions into the countryside. Explore the rain and cloud forests around Monteverde, or visit Poas Volcano and Carara national parks.
The cloud forest of Curi-Cancha Reserve creates a habitat for flora and fauna such as colorful quetzals and monkeys. Visitors can explore the private reserve via several nature trails. Plus, the private reserve’s daily 50 person cap means you’ll see more wildlife without having to battle the crowds.
Just a few minutes south of Jaco’s hustle and bustle is the much mellower surf beach of Playa Hermosa. A handful of hotels and restaurants come with a reggae soundtrack and view over the Pacific, along broad, often empty, volcanic-gray beaches. What it lacks in amenities, however, it more than makes up for in waves.
Playa Hermosa’s claim to fame is unsung surf that’s more challenging, and less crowded, than nearby Jaco. Thus it brings in the more serious surfers, rather than those who have come to Costa Rica to test themselves in other ways after hours. It’s not for everyone—some folks find themselves wishing that they were within walking distance of Jaco’s dining and nightlife options. Others, however, enjoy Hermosa’s awesome views of the moon and stars, reflected in the dark Pacific.
There are at least five well-known breaks along the shore, and plenty of relaxed hotel-restaurants where you can wile away the hours between sets. And it’s just as convenient to Juan Santamaria International Airport, and other hot spots on the Central Costa Rican Coast, as its more famous, and crowded, neighbor.
At the confluence of two important Costa Rican ecosystems—the wet and wild Pacific Rainforest that characterizes the southern coast, and the dry tropical forest for which Guanacaste is known—this small, popular national park packs a lot of wildlife into a 5240-hectare (12,950-acre) package.
Most notably, Carara is home to one of Costa Rica’s last remaining populations of scarlet macaws, who you’ll likely see gossiping and preening in small groups throughout the park. The Rio Tarcoles, which forms the park’s northern border, is well known for its enormous population of huge crocodiles.
There are two short, 1km (.6mi) interpretive trails through the wilderness and waterfalls, perfect for families and less active travelers. A longer, 4.5km (2.7mi) trail follows the Rio Tarcoles and mangrove marshes, where both the crocodiles and scarlet macaws settle in for the evening.
There are scores of other animals in residence, hailing from both forest ecosystems straddled by Carara: sloths, peccaries, deer, monkeys, armadillos, and even big cats. Birders will appreciate the bounty most, with some 400 species easily spotted in this relatively small area.
Brimming with wildlife, orchids, and ferns, the Reserva Bosque Nuboso Santa Elena (Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve) is consistently covered in tree-level clouds, which result in the rich biodiversity that sets this forest apart from others. The reserve spans mountains, valleys, and rivers, and offers many wildlife-watching opportunities.
The Children’s Eternal Rainforest (Bosque Eterno de los Niños) is Costa Rica’s largest private reserve, purchased by children from 44-plus countries in a collaboration to preserve the rainforest. Visitors come to hike and see native wildlife in the park, which stretches across mountains and valleys between Arenal National Park and Monteverde.
More Things to Do in Central Pacific
Home to around 100 bats from 8 different native species, the enclosed Bat Jungle replicates the conditions of a cloud forest at night. While bats can be difficult to observe in the wild, this exhibit lets you see bats eating, interacting, and caring for their young. A tour gives visitors further insight into these mysterious nocturnal creatures.
Overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Pura Vida Gardens and Waterfalls boast nature trails, streams, and views of the tallest waterfall in Costa Rica. After exploring orchid gardens and watching toucans flying overhead, you can enjoy an al fresco meal on the patio.
Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary provides veterinary care and rehabilitation for injured animals and gives visitors the chance to see native wildlife up-close in a controlled environment. The centre is dedicated to releasing animals back into their natural habitats whenever possible but also provides lifelong care when needed.
- Things to do in Jaco
- Things to do in Puntarenas
- Things to do in Monteverde
- Things to do in Quepos
- Things to do in Central Valley
- Things to do in Guanacaste and Northwest
- Things to do in Caribbean Coast
- Things to do in La Fortuna de San Carlos
- Things to do in San Jose
- Things to do in Sámara
- Things to do in Santa Cruz
- Things to do in Osa Peninsula & Gulfo Dulce
- Things to do in Pacific Highlands
- Things to do in Central Highlands
- Things to do in Western Highlands