Costa Rica is a small country in Central America bordered by Nicaragua, Panama, the Pacific Ocean, and the Caribbean Sea. Nearly 30% of Costa Rica is protected as a national park, wildlife refuge, or private reserve.
Costa Rica is inhabited by 5 percent of all of the world’s species. During your eco-vacation, you can see coral reefs, cloud forests, and mangrove estuaries. Costa Rica is one of the world’s frontrunners in sustainable travel, and while you’re here you can book ecologically friendly tours and hotels.
The benefits for the local economy through environmental tourism go to local communities and replaces industries harmful to the landscape as logging and mining. You can either go on your own, or you can join an organized eco-tour.
The eco-tours available in the country, causing a minimal impact on the environment, offered in Costa Rica attract people who have a common interest in nature, culture, and wildlife. These tours provide environmental education, allowing tourists to get involved in conservation projects.
But with so many options for things to see and do, it can be hard to decide which of the many Costa Rica eco tours is right for you.
One of the best ways to explore all of the beauty of Costa Rica is a few nights stay at one of the country’s jungle lodges.
Photo credit: Cherie Stafford / Flickr
Coffee Plantation Tours in Costa Rica
Costa Rican coffee has grown to be much more than an economic boost to the local culture and plays an important role in the history of coffee. Some of the reasons Costa Rica produce quality coffee beans are the combination of ideal conditions such as higher altitudes, fertile soils of volcanic origin combined with cool climates and steady rainfall.
100% of the coffee produced in Costa Rica is arabica beans.
The government gave anyone who wished to grow the beans their own land and plants to get started and the industry quickly surpassed tobacco and cacao as the leading crop.
Whitewater Rafting Down the Pacuare
Rafting on the Pacuare River – rated one of the most exotic and scenic rivers in the world is an amazing experience due to thrilling rapids coursing through rugged canyons and verdant tropical rainforests.
The Pacuare is home to colorful toucans, parrots, sloths, frogs and morpho butterflies. You’ll experience some of the best whitewater that Costa Rica has to offer.
The river has been divided into three sections, the Upper Upper Section, the Upper Section, and the Lower Section. The most commonly rafted section is the Lower Section.
Photo credit: Leonora (Ellie) Enking / Wikipedia
The Arenal Volcano
Arenal Volcano is an active andesitic stratovolcano in north-western of the country. Arenal is considered a young volcano and most active of all the volcanoes, and it is estimated to be less than 7,500 years old. It is one of the few historically active Costa Rican volcanoes along with Poás, Irazú, Miravalles, Orosí, Rincón de la Vieja complex, and Turrialba.
Travelers to Arenal will still enjoy its bountiful sights, sounds and activities— there are mountains to be hiked, lakes to be fished and rivers to be floated. If you are visiting this area consider an exciting and scenic trip to the national park surrounding Arenal.
Many visitors do not realize that Arenal National Park is actually home to not one, but two volcanoes.
Photo credit: Ian D. Keating / Flickr
Manuel Antonio National Park
Manuel Antonio was listed by Forbes among the world’s 12 most beautiful national parks. Located on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, Manuel Antonio is easily one of Costa Rica’s most famous tourist attractions. It’s the country’s smallest National Park, complete with exotic toucans, lizards, howler monkeys.
This park has impressive landscapes and several coves with many white-sand beaches and lush foliage amidst great mountains and forests. our beaches are contained within the limits of the park: Manuel Antonio, Espadilla Sur, Teloro, and Playita.
The Central American squirrel monkey, Panamanian white-faced capuchin monkey, black spiny-tailed iguana, green iguana, common basilisk, white-nosed coati and many snake and bat species are also common in the park.
Photo credit: Daniel Borman / Flickr
Mario Boza lead the effort to preserve the region and to have the government declare the volcano a protected area.
Active volcanoes are the most exciting features of Costa Rica’s geological composition. The Poás Volcano is an active 2,708-metre stratovolcano in central Costa Rica and is located within Poas Volcano National Park. It has two unique crater lakes – lake Botos to the south is an inactive crater with cold clear lake water and the north is Laguna Caliente, a mile wide volcanic crater filled with water so acidic that no plant or aquatic life can survive.
Tamarindo Estuary Kayaking Tour, Guanacaste
This tour gives you the unique opportunity to enjoy the spectacular views of the beautiful mangrove in Tamarindo and observe the wildlife. You can observe abundant wildlife of the tropical dry forest while learning about the unique ecosystem of the mangrove forest. You will see brown pelicans, brown booby, magnificent frigate birds, and neotropical cormorants.
During your tour, you can stop and have a deeper explanation of the local flora and fauna, specifically the famous local Guanacaste trees, Costa Rica’s National tree.
Photo credit: Global Water Forum / Flickr
Tortuguero National Park
Tortuguero is a village on the Northern Caribbean coast of Costa Rica in the Limón Province. Tortuguero National Park can surprise you with its network of canals, rivers, lagoons, beaches, and dense rainforest here are interlinked. You can explore these canals and observe the wildlife by boat, kayak or canoe and it makes it a great and relaxing way to experience nature.
Its beaches are famous nesting grounds for sea turtles, including endangered green turtles. The surrounding rainforest is also rich with wildlife with many bird species. During September and October many local “guides” will offer tourists the opportunity to watch turtle nests hatch.
The National Park is also host to an incredible biodiversity of insects, resident and migratory birds, and mammals, including jaguar and four species of monkey.
Photo credit: carol patterson / Flickr
Wildlife Rescue Center
Some of the tours also includes a stop at the world-famous Wildlife Rescue Center, a not-for-profit organization that rescues wild birds and exotic animals, helps them rehabilitate and then releases them back into the wild.
The passion of the owners, the dedication of their staff and the generosity of volunteers and donors makes everything possible.
Photo credit: Tom Benson / Flickr
Carara Biological Reserve & National Park
It was established in 1978 as a biological reserve, but due to the growing popularity after 1990 its status was changed to a national park. Carara is one of Costa Rica’s most popular National Parks, mostly because it is located close to San José.
You can watch for the 150-200 scarlet macaws that nest and feed throughout the reserve. There are two hiking trails in Carara. Bordering the Pan-American Highway, this park is unique as the Amazonian and Mesoamerican ecosystems.
This national park has 10 of the most uncommon and rare hardwoods in the country.
Also, it can be found in the park many pre-Columbian archaeological sites dating back 2,000 years.
Photo credit: Reiner Kraft / Flickr
Leatherback Turtles National Park Guanacaste
Leatherback Turtles National Park was established in 1991 to protect Leatherback turtles species from extinction. The park is part of Caravan’s Costa Rica eco tours.
Leatherback turtles can grow as long as six feet and weigh up to 1100 pounds or more. Along with the Olive Ridley and Hawksbill turtles, Leatherback turtles use this area of Costa Rica as their annual nesting grounds and each year thousands of turtles return here to nest.
Although sea turtles live most of their lives in the ocean, adult females must return to land in order to lay their eggs. Scientists believe that nesting female turtles return to the same beach on which they were born.
The flora in the area includes mangrove trees that are greatly common and for instance monkeys and crocodiles can be observed in the park area. The park is the ideal place for hiking and after that sunbathing and relaxing at the lovely Playa Grande.
During your visit to the park you are not allowed to use flash cameras or flashlights, and to approach a turtle.
Featured image photo credit: Coral Blanche Hummer / Flickr
Want to learn more about Costa Rica? Check our other posts:
Sustainable Tourism in Costa Rica
Costa Rica Eco Travel – Top Eco-Friendly Travel Packages