Nature is Costa Rica's biggest attraction. The incredible diversity of wildlife is probably due to the fact that Costa Rica lies in the middle of North and South America and is a convergence zone for species from both continents. With over 850 birds species alone you can see why it is a premium bird-watching destination. Frequently spotted animals seen at various locations include sloths, crocodiles, scarlet macaws, hummingbirds, anteaters, monkeys, tucans, leaf cutting ants, tree boas, iguanas, quetzals, blue crowned motmots, jaguars and pumas, to name a few.
Over twenty-seven percent of Costa Rica is designated as national park, biological reserve, wildlife refuge or some other category of protected area. Somewhere between half a million and a million species of flora and fauna; hundreds of thousands of species of insects; 2,000 species of orchids; 208 species of mammals; countless thousands of species of moths and butterflies inhabit this small country, the size of West Virginia. This represents five percent of all of the plant and animal species on the planet!
Volcanoes are one of Costa Rica's most notable geographic features. There are over 112 volcanic formations across Costa Rica; seven are currently active. Visiting volcanoes is fairly safe if you follow instructions posted at each site. Active, although relatively quiet, volcanoes located near San Jose are Poás (Costa Rica Map D-8/9) and Irazú (Costa Rica Map E-10). But the best place to see active volcanoes is in the North: Arenal (Costa Rica Map C-7), which can best be viewed at night when it displays its natural fireworks and Rincón de la Vieja (Costa Rica Map B-5), which can be viewed while soaking in hot springs. Some other volcanoes accessible to the public in the Cordillero, Central are: Tenorio (Costa Rica Map C-6), Turrialba (Costa Rica Map E-10), and Barva (Costa Rica Map E-9).
For the truly adventurous, excursions are available to the Isla del Coco, a small volcanic island off of Costa Rica, renowned for its beauty and deep water visibility. Legend has buried treasure also here! Call the Costa Rican Tourist Board for more information at (506) 223-5452 or go to www.tourism-costarica.com on the Web.
There are few places in the world that offer so many different opportunities for warm water kayaking and rafting. The standard runs on the Pacuare, Reventazón, General, and Sarapiquí are supplemented by dozens of others. But there is no doubt that the whitewater headquarters is Turrialba, which has gained popularity with rafting enthusiasts through its proximity to the Reventazón and Pacuare Rivers.
Beaches on the Pacific side are made of black and gray sand. Many of them are within National Parks boundaries. Surfing has become a major attraction of the west coast. Sport fishing, snorkeling and diving tours are available in the coastal areas.
The beaches on the east coast, or Caribbean side, are well known for their large number of coral reefs. Calm turquoise waters lap the nearly deserted pristine sand beaches. Tall coconut palms line the shore, providing ideal shade for picnicking and relaxation!