When one thinks about Costa Rica, most people would picture this tropical country with warm water beaches, lots of palm trees, mountains, volcanoes, wild animals and lush vegetation. Well, the fact that many people relate the name of the country with lush vegetation is because of the Costa Rica Rainforest, famous worldwide because of its big biodiversity.
This small country located in Central America has a huge advantage: the vast majority of the population lives in a relatively small valley towards the middle of the country, leaving the rest of the territory pretty much unpopulated, which had made it easier for the government to create several National Parks and Biological Reserves without much opposition from the small populations of these rural territories. Nowadays, Costa Rica has a total of 28 National Parks and 6 Biological Reserves that protect Cloud Forests, Tropical Dry Forests and Tropical Rainforests, for a total of 26% of the territory, being the Rainforests the vast majority of these protected areas. There are also many private reserves that protect big extensions of land (8% of the territory), that also help with the conservation of our natural resources. Due to all of these efforts, many animals have recovered their natural habitats and are populating in big numbers, making it one of the main attractions for millions of tourists from all over the world who come to Costa Rica to observe its abundant wildlife.
The absolutely best places to see animals here are, of course, our rainforests, being the most common the monkeys, which are regularly the ones that families of tourists expect to see the most. Here we have 4 different types of monkeys, 2 of them very easy to spot throughout the country: the howler monkeys and the white faced capuchin monkeys (these could now be seen even in areas of the San Jose greater area!). The other 2 types are the spider monkeys and the squirrel monkeys, but both of these are much more difficult to find. The squirrel monkeys for instance only live in one area of the Central Pacific Region (Manuel Antonio National Park) and in the South Pacific Region of the country. As for the spider monkeys, they can be found in more parts of the country, but it’s harder to see them because their populations have not recovered as fast as the other species. Other animals that are easy to find in the Costa Rica Rainforest are the sloths, toucans, scarlet macaws, agoutis, coatis, iguanas, crocodiles, ant-eaters, colorful frogs and hundreds of colorful species of birds.
Some of the best places to admire the Costa Rica Rainforest are:
Sarapiqui: There are a few of private reserves here with many easy-to-hike trails. Adventure activities can also be done in the rainforests of this area.
Tortuguero: This place is known as the “Amazon Jungle of Costa Rica”, because of the numerous canals immersed in the Rainforest, which tourists can explore by boat or kayak. It is also the best place on the Caribbean Coast to observed sea turtles nesting and one of the best places in the country to observe wild animals.
Puerto Viejo de Limon: Even though the only known official park is the “Gandoca Manzanillo”, the whole area is a gorgeous rainforest, even at the touristic zone where the hotels are!
Braulio Carrillo National Park: Just a few kilometers from San Jose, this is the closest rainforest to the capital city. The trails are a little rough, but there are also private reserves outside the park with nicer facilities for the tourists.
Arenal Volcano area: There are many private operations with very nice trails in this whole area, offering easy short hikes, as well as longer hikes for the most adventurous.
Volcan Tenorio National Park: Besides the gorgeous bright green rainforest of this park, it also has the famous Blue River or “Rio Celeste”, making it the best attraction of this whole area.
Miravalles Volcano area: There are a few private reserves with trails here, many of them to observe waterfalls, and some of them even have hot springs.
Rincon de la Vieja National Park: Same as Volcan Tenorio, the rainforest is very nice, but it is not the main attraction. Here the best thing is the several “mini volcanoes” that can be seen along the trail, this is definitely the best place to observe volcanic activity in all Costa Rica from a close viewing point. Around this huge volcano there are also many private operations where rainforest hiking can be done.
Manuel Antonio National Park: This is an amazing combination of Rainforest and white sand beaches, making it one of the most beautiful coastal areas of the country. This is also an ideal place to observe wildlife.
Dominical: There are not protected areas here, but the whole place is a huge Rainforest everywhere you look. Dominical Beach is also well known for its good surfing.
Marino Ballena National Park: The main attraction here is the observation of whales during their seasons, but the Rainforest Mountains around it are very beautiful. There are also a few private reserves nearby where hiking can be done.
Corcovado National Park: This is one of the best parks to observe our Costa Rica Rainforest, with lots of wildlife and unique beaches. This is one of the most remote areas of the country and the trails of the park are a little rough, definitely not a place for everyone…