Costa Rica is an interesting and diverse country chock full of fascinating nature-related adventures. This series of posts provides what Costa Rica Adventures we chose to do and why, when to go, accommodations, and some of the professionals we used to enhance our trip.
Flying to Costa Rica
Many people fly into San Jose, Juan Santamaria International Airport to see the volcanoes and cloud forests. We chose to fly to Liberia, Daniel Oduber Quiros International Airport in Guanacaste on the Pacific Northwest side.
Costa Rica Adventures in Guanacaste
Guanacaste is the drier region, and offers great Costa Rica land and sea adventures. The Guanacaste area has the jungles, rivers, zip-lines, and more. Costa Rica Adventures that Guanacaste offers that differ from San Jose include sea, shoreline, and great dive adventures. We spent a little over 2 weeks playing on our Costa Rica Adventures, and split our trip up between diving and land adventures.
While I am unable to tell you about everything available on the Pacific Coast and the San Jose vicinity, I do have lots to share.
Costa Rica Weather
You must be aware that the time of year you choose to visit will impact what you can do and what you will see. Costa Rica is a tropical climate and has warm temperatures year-round. It has 2 seasons – wet and dry. The wet season is 6 months with heavy rains from May to November. While it does not rain heavily all of the time, it is enough to affect some of your jungle journey options, and diving.
We were in Costa Rica in mid-November through early December. While the northwest – Guanacaste – was not rainy, it is still rainy near San Jose and in the cloud forests in that region. We decided not to risk going to Monteverde (which was a first choice) since Monteverde was still wet and had risks of mudslides due to the rainy season. We did not want to get stuck there! Weather is a major consideration in what Costa Rica Adventures are possible and safe
Costa Rica Adventures – Activities
Sea Adventures in Costa Rica
Tom and I are divers, so diving off Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast was high on our bucket list. In the first week we dove every other day. On the off-dive days, we did jungle or river nature trips. We stayed at Ocotal Beach Resort (click here for more on accommodations in Costa Rica) because its dive shop was known as one of the better, safe, more dependable shops. (That was several years ago, so I am not sure how good they are today.) They were flexible and helped us with information related to dive and local non-dive related questions. We found them through a travel agent who specializes in diving only in Costa Rica, and also plans land activities. The travel afent booked only 2 land trips for us; we booked the rest locally, which was much more cost effective.
Diving in the Pacific is quite different than the diving we have done in the warm waters of the Caribbean. I bought a new warmer wet suit, a 5/7, and I wore a 3 mil vest and a 7 mil hood. I had 7 – 10 mils of protection. My husband had his 3 mil skin and 3 mil hood, and the shop handed him a 3 mil suit to put over his 3 mil skin. The cold diving was worth it! From December to April water temperatures can be 21◦ C or 70◦ F. When we were there in mid-November through early December, at one point at depth my computer read 60◦ F. Brrr!!
The visibility was 30-50 feet and more, and there was so much life.
Sealife Visible from Shore or Boat
In the mornings as we were having breakfast overlooking the Pacific, we were delighted by the schools of flying mantas. I wish we had pictures to share, but we only have great memories.
In addition, the dolphins surf the bow waves as the dive boats go out daily. Sometimes we would go out slowly and play with the dolphins. The captain would create waves for them to surf on, or offer us an opportunity to slip in the water with the dolphins.
Diving Flamingo-Coco Area
We did most of our diving in the Flamingo-Coco area, and had great dives exploring the volcanic formations, soft corals and fish life. Some of my favorite sightings include the clown shrimp that work together in chopping off a starfish leg and hide behind a rock to eat it. The small, diverse, plentiful, beautiful blennies and gobies were plentiful. We had fun looking for sealife hiding in the rocks or camouflaged. Even better are the diverse, beautiful Nudibranchs ( sea slugs). They are small and camouflaged, therefore sometimes hard to see unless you know what to look for. Nudibranchs come in rainbow colors and are from 0.25-12 inches in size. And of course, I love the colorful seahorses. See our other post for More on Diving in Costa Rica.
Land Adventures in Costa Rica
I am unable to tell you about everything available on the Pacific Coast since we spent just 2 weeks. But I do have lots to share. For those interested in land adventures only, there are many. There’s Ziplining, Cable Cars, Treetop Hanging Bridge Hikes, Mountain Hikes through the Clouds, Night Hikes, River Boating, Watching the Turtles nest in the middle of the night, Surfing, Hikes around the Volcano, Hot Springs heated by the Volcano, Horseback Riding, Climbing, and so much more! Partaking in any of these activities gets you close and personal with nature.
For more specifics on Land adventures in Costa Rica, see our post on Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica & Ziplining, or ask us – email@example.com.
We booked many trips on our own for a lot less than booking through the travel agent or having the hotel arrange the trip. The first step is to research the local car rental places, get a good deal on a car. Drive to some of these places yourself. Get the CDW insurance since the roads can be a mess and you sometimes have to drive through a river (weird but fun)!!
We wanted to choose our own naturalist guide. The only way to do that is booking directly. It is much cheaper to book our own adventures and accommodations. Our adventures included car trips to Arenal to see the volcano and Hike around it. We drove to a cloud forest for a hanging bridge hike and birding. After hiking with a naturalist we liked lots, we asked what other tours he led, which had us add a night hike to see the night creatures.
On the Pacific coast, we drove to Tamarindo to see the turtles lay nests on the beach. Tamarindo is also known for surfing.
See my post on Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica & Ziplining for more on cloud forests, accommodations & ziplining and my post on Costa Rica Diving for more specifics about what makes diving in Costa Rica different. There’s also a post on Costa Rica Travel Agents and Accommodations.