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National Parks and other Places of Interest in Costa Rica

 

Clicking on an icon will open a page of small photos taken during the CASKE expedition.

 

 

 

 

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Volcan Arenal - La Fortuna

The eruptions of Volcan Arenal, just outside of the town of La Fortuna, are a sight to be hold. We recommend that you bypass the walking tour in the National Park and just sit in the hot springs at Tabacon Spa after dark. Cold beer, hot water and the best fireworks you will ever see.

While in town we recommend a couple more attractions. Make the trek to La Catarata. The jungle-coated waterfall and swimming hole are a delicious reward. As well, try a rafting trip from one of the tour operators in La Fortuna; class IV and V rapids will give you a thrill.

 

 

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Manual Antonio National Park - Quepos

This one is a jewel, no surprise that it's the most-visited park in Central America. White sand beaches, good surf, trails that wind through virgin rainforest, troops of monkeys, coatimundi, birds, sloths, and much more, all make it an unforgettable experience. It gets crowded during the high season; arrive early. Excellent food and lodgings abound on the access road to the park but there are few bargains. To save money, stay and dine in Quepos and take a shuttle bus to Manual Antonio.

 

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Ostional

This little coastal village on the Nicoya Peninsula is magic; we can't believe that it's not more popular. The surf (January-March) is world class. The world's largest population of Olive Ridley sea turtles nests on its beaches monthly (peak June-December). It's a mind-blowing natural phenomenon.

The turtles have proved to be a boon to the community. Advised by a team of marine biologist, the village has organized an association and a limited egg-harvesting program. The association employs over 80% of the village for about a week a month. A controlled harvest allows the turtle population to thrive and egg sales provide most of the villagers' incomes. They have even managed to put illegal poachers in other areas of the country out of business.

There is a wonderful Italian woman, Silvia Grassi who lives up on the hill. She has constructed an aerobics studio, nautilus gym and massage center with a stunning view of the beach. There is nothing better than a workout and a rub-down while watching the sunset. Her facility is all the more remarkable for the way it is utilized by the local community. Most of her regular clients are women from the town, wives of fishermen, farmers and carpenters who have adopted the ethic of healthy living. Even some of the men, after a day of work, come up to the gym to lift. She charges most a nominal monthly fee and some of them pay with labor, doing chores around the house. The story of how she got all the equipment out there is worthy of a movie.

Check our recommended lodgings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Playa Grande - Tamarindo

Playa Grande is home to the Parque Nacional Las Baulas, a nesting site of Leatherback sea turtles. It's quite popular and scientists worry that, ironically, all the development may scare off the main attraction. However, it is humbling and awe-inspiring to see a 700 lb. turtle lay its eggs. The nesting season is October to March. Go during the less-crowded rainy months of October and November and the only people on the beach will be you and a few scientists. They only come out at night, no flash photos allowed. Take a mental picture; you will never forget it. For food and lodging there is a great place run by a couple of Spanish guys up the road who have lovely rooms and a clay, wood- fired pizza oven, fabulous! For a first-hand account from one overwhelmed traveler, read Luke's story: Playa Grande, Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica "Leatherbacks and Strip Development".

Tamarindo, just down the beach from Playa Grande, has become a legendary surf mecca. It has become quite developed and receives a lot of hype. Surfers tell me the waves are worth it. There is a variety of lodging available for any budget. December through March is the dry season and is the time to go for the best waves and weather.

Check our recommended lodgings

 

 

 

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Brazilito

This quiet little town on the Nicoya Peninsula is famous for its white sand beach, a five minute walk south of the main plaza. Calm turquoise water doesn't make for good surfing and that's the point; it's perfect for swimming, lounging and kayaking. We brought a couple first-timers there for paddling lessons. We ate lunch in the shade of beach grapes and coconut palms on the beach. It was September and there was nobody around. We loved it. There are cheap and comfortable rooms at a place called Ojos Azules run by a Swiss couple just up the street from the plaza.

 

 

 

 

 

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Tortuguero National Park

As the name indicates, this town has become famous as a nesting ground and habitat for sea turtles. However, even if you don't see any nesting turtles, the scenery in and around Tortuguero is beautiful. It is set along riverbanks amidst stunning jungle. Hire a guide and paddle a dugout through the canals. We paddled the canals all the way from the Nicaraguan border and loved it. You will see amazing wildlife. Bring your raingear and your money; it's very wet and the prices are rising. Reasonably priced lodging and food can be had close to the center of town. The outlying resorts are more exclusive. Fly in and arrange tours and accommodations yourself, rather than with an agency, you will get better deals.

 

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Corcovado, Osa Peninsula

The Osa Peninsula has long been a cult spot for surfers and tropical biologists, a strange combination to be sure. Driving the muddy, single-lane dirt roads out to the best surf breaks you will understand why. The Corcovado national park protects a rare tract of Pacific coastal rainforest with an amazing diversity of plants and animals. We hired a guide for a day-hike and although we certainly sweated, slapped and itched, we marveled at scarlet macaws, orchids, bright poison-arrow frogs and countless streams and small waterfalls. The towns in the area are unremarkable but the scenery is worth the trip. 

You can view specific photo galleries by clicking on the photo icons in the left margins.


Natural Highlights


Lodging, Food and Equipment

Unlike guidebooks that try to offer a comprehensive list of  establishments, few of which the authors have ever visited, we only mention our favorite, highly-recommended places.

Ostional:

 Ask for Dona Elmith's Cabinas Ostional if you want a clean, cozy and quiet place to stay.

Dona Elmith
Ostional, Ostional, Santa Cruz GTE,
Peninsula de Nicoya
Costa Rica, Central America
Tel: 682-0428

Silvia, the Italian woman up on the hill rents out a lovely open-air house with a great view overlooking the village, a long stretch of beach and perfect surf. Tell her Luke and Jean-Philippe sent you and watch her smile. Just ask anybody in Ostional for Silvia.

Silvia Grassi
Finca "El Franco Pablo"
Ostional, Santa Cruz GTE,
Peninsula de Nicoya
Costa Rica, Central America
Tel/Fax: 682-0445
silviafit@hotmail.com 

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Tamarindo:

We highly recommend staying away from the very expensive and unimpressive beachside hotels. There are better deals to be had in the smaller, out of the way places. We stayed in a bed and breakfast called Villa Amarilla. It is owned by a French couple who do everything to make their guests feel at home. Their private garden with access to the main beach is slowly being transformed into a tropical Eden. The rooms are lovely and airy and fully equipped with AC, Fan, Hot Showers, Fridge, etc. Cable TV and Fax are also available. If you want to save money by cooking your own meals, a small outside kitchen is available. 

Villa Amarilla
Bed and Breakfast
Herve and Brigitte
Playa Tamarindo, Peninsula de Nicoya
Costa Rica, Central America
Tel: 653-0038
(Located between Hotel Diria and the Licoreria Las Palmeras in front of the Restaurant L'Eden)

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Paraiso (Orosi Valley):

We came across the cozy and rustic lodge of Montana Linda while looking for cheap accommodations during our visit to the Volcan Irazu National Park. The Orosi valley is breathtaking and Montana Linda is conveniently located for jungle or mountain trekking. Horse back riding is also available and cheap. The friendly owners can also arrange private Spanish classes. It's a nice place to spend a few days relaxing. 

Montana Linda
A.P. 83 -7100
Paraiso, Cartago
Costa Rica, Central America
Tel: 533-3640
(Fax or Intl. Tel: (506) 533-2153)
mtnlinda@sol.racsa.co.cr


Recommendations and Information for Paddlers

Surfers will tell you that Costa Rica rates very high on their list. The Pacific coast offers hundreds of miles of world class surf beaches. Yet there are ample opportunities for kayakers as well.  Along the coast many deep bays are protected from the waves. Often they feature beautiful islands that make for wonderful tours for folks less inclined to battle the swell. You can follow our itinerary to view our camps with GPS coordinates and paddling distances. You can also read our journals.

Read about Health and Tropical Diseases: Click here and Malaria: Click here


 
We left our kayaks for a few weeks to visit some of the most famous national parks. Our favorites were Arenal Volcan and Manual Antonio. As well, we spent much time in Ostional waiting for the arrival of the ridley turtles. They were late but they did not disappoint us. Click on the photo to view more.
 

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