What to Expect on Safari in Costa Rica?
This peaceful nation, with no army and a thousand smiles, is consistently ranked high by global happiness experts as a place to live your happy life.
National Geographic has coined Costa Rica’s rainforest as the most biologically intense place on earth, packed with wildlife opportunities. From the Caribbean coast that is home to hundreds of nesting sea turtles to the north where volcano-studded landscapes teem with hot springs, Costa Rica is an adventure enthusiast’s paradise.
And, honestly, what’s not to love about a land full of adorable sloths?
Before we jump into the vast array of Costa Rica trips full of the tantalizing adventures one would expect from a country where coconuts bob in the ocean, and dense lush jungles provide a haven for prolific wildlife, I’d like to shine some light on the ecotourism initiatives of Costa Rica.
Costa Rica’s eco-tourism and conservation ethos somewhat surprised me and wholly stole my heart (yes, even after seeing sloths).
At Rothschild Safaris, our immense passion for environmental and wildlife conservation, along with minimal-impact tourism keeps us continually on the quest for new accommodations and destinations that align with our principles (while maintaining deep-rooted, healthy relationships with our favorite lodges which are already at the forefront).
We aim to bring you a mix of Costa Rican attractions featuring luxury, adventure, wildlife, and culture… but also ensure that you can feel good about where you are resting your head each night and do good by merely being there.
It is astounding that a small, third-world country would lead the earth in sustainable tourism and eco-friendly initiatives. So much so, that Costa Rica is on track to be the first carbon-neutral country globally by 2021.
For the modern thinking traveler, a Costa Rica safari translates to being spoiled for choice with some of the world’s best eco-lodges and an almost entirely plastic-free visit!
What can you expect to experience while on a Costa Rican adventure?
Costa Rica is a paradise for all creature and bird lovers. Housing more than 5% of the entire world’s animal and plant species, the southern Osa Peninsula is Costa Rica’s last frontier; a remote and raw jungle experience where scarlet macaws and toucans fly overhead, while monkeys roam the jungle. Birdlife is prolific for the twitchers out there, and while challenging to spot, the elusive ocelot, puma, and jaguar also call this home. Your eyes (and Instagram followers) will not be disappointed.
Few areas on earth are blessed with such plentiful wildlife opportunities, experienced in varying forms of jeep, boat, and on foot via the treetop canopies or jungle floor.
If adventure is your style, we promise you’ll be enthralled by the array of choices around the actively volcanic Arenal region and the mystical cloud forests of Monteverde. Prepare body mind and soul for days packed with turquoise waterfalls, horse riding, zip-lining, hiking to volcanic calderas, and soaking stress and exercised muscles in natural hot springs.
Amp up your Costa Rica adventures with a rappel down free-flowing cascades, a scale to the summit of ancient trees 300 feet high, SCUBA diving with manta rays and reef sharks, or suspend yourself among the rainforest canopy on hanging bridges in search of sloths and monkeys by day, and once the light falls you can hunt for tarantulas or poison dart frogs on a night walk through the jungle.
Almost every experience your adventurous heart desires can be satisfied in Costa Rica.
The ocean buffers the country on both sides, the Pacific on the west and the Caribbean on the east coast. A tropical palm-fringed beach is never far away.
The Pacific coast is one of the best places in the world to spot the majestic humpback. Whales migrate here to raise their calves and then remain in residence, off the Costa Rica coast for more months of the year than anywhere else worldwide. Dolphins are plentiful, too, frolicking among the boats. During winter, you can even witness magical bio-luminescence at a few select locations, around the new moon each month.
Five different species of turtle nest across different regions on both the Caribbean and Pacific coastlines, allowing you to witness mothers laying hundreds of eggs at a time after their long journey home. If you are lucky, you may see babies hatching and scurrying towards the sea for their first taste of the ocean!
(And if you don’t catch the turtles this time, you will simply have to return. What a shame.)
Accommodation in Costa Rica’s luxury resorts range from divine lodges in the depths of the jungle, or bedrooms perched among the treetops with spanning views over the ocean; guests can indulge in sumptuous spa treatments with biodegradable beauty products or dine on delicious meals created from organic ingredients – many grown onsite – while feeling reassured that your hosts are doing everything possible to reduce their impact on the environment and wildlife.
Many lodges have sustainability tours to take you ‘back of house’ where you can learn more about their direct efforts, and those of Costa Rica as a whole.
Of course, an incomparably lush jungle lodge is nothing without its wildlife.
Where to Stay
While there are a plethora of lodges and hotels in Costa Rica, we have a few that have won our hearts.
A Divine Beach Break
We’ll escort you by boat or an off-road 4×4 to Kasiiya; a beautifully styled lodge with ‘safari’ theme rooms located on a remote white-sand bay of the Guanacaste coast on the Pacific side of the country.
This is your barefoot luxury paradise, where you can kayak or paddleboard to secluded bays; head out on a fishing trip or don a wetsuit and scuba dive with manta rays; tune into nature with guided meditation, yoga and movement classes; indulge in sumptuous spa treatments or expand your mind with chakra healing and reiki.
We highly recommend finishing your day at the sunset lounge for a cocktail and dinner with one of the most spectacular ocean views in all of Costa Rica, followed by a bubble bath on your outdoor deck.
Other accommodations we love include El Mangroove for those who need a little more bells and whistles while staying beachfront, Casa Chameleon with divine views over the ocean for both sunrise and sunset, or for golf lovers we recommend the Four Seasons Papagayo Peninsular with fantastic ocean views fro your tee-off point.
Adventure in Volcanic Arenal
Head north to the adventure playground of the Arenal Volcano National Park region and to the Nayara Springs Resort, the perfect place to rest and rejuvenate after action-packed days.
Ideally located in a quiet setting surrounded by lush green gardens and affording views to the Arenal volcano itself, individually decorated rooms feature a private plunge pool creatively supplied by natural volcanic hot springs. A choice of delicious restaurants, luxurious spa treatments, spacious suites with private outdoor showers, and divinely comfortable linen and beds provide a well-earned rest in this region of horse riding, hiking, zip-lining, waterfalls, wildlife spotting and so much more.
Nearby Tabacon, while a larger resort, has fantastic service, cuisine, and the divine Tabacon Hot Springs located on-site. Surrounded by beautiful lush gardens and jungle, each pool is a different temperature and all fed by natural volcanic spring water, this is the perfect way to melt away sore muscles and stress.
Tortuguero for the Turtles
The western Caribbean coast holds a special place in our hearts for many reasons; however, the main drawcard here is the hundreds of green turtles who call this place home and return each year to lay their eggs, and night tours allow you to witness turtles digging nests and laying eggs.
If you are lucky, you may see hatchlings scurry down to the waters edge for their first taste of the ocean. Accommodation choices are less luxurious, but adventure awaits! We love the rustic Tortuga Lodge and Manatus Lodge, with comfortable rooms designed to immerse you in nature. From the lodges, you may find toucans, sloths, and giant green iguana.
Take a sunrise riverboat ride to the depths of Tortuguero National Park in search of monkeys, caiman, crocodile, and a plethora of birds for the twitchers. And, while rare, the elusive jaguar has been spotted here too
Wild, wilder, wildest.
In the deep southern Osa Peninsular, we love the wildlife prolific Lapa Rios; your private deck complete with compulsory hammock and an outdoor shower is nestled among the treetops with views to the bay below.
You’ll be absorbed by your surroundings as you explore to the beach in search of scarlet macaws; head out on jungle hikes in search of sloths, anteater, and tapir; and can immerse in a medicinal plant walk or a yoga session right at the lodge. Indulge in delicious meals on the restaurant deck nestled in the jungle canopy while monkeys play in the trees, toucans fly overhead, and giant green iguanas sunbathe in the trees.
Sunrise is the perfect time to climb the spiral staircase and perch in the 360-degree treetop viewing deck as the birds come out to play.
Board a boat across the bay to the idyllic beachfront Playa Cativo Lodge, a birder’s dream where you can hike deep into the jungle to waterfalls, kayak to secluded beaches, or head out on a marine safari in search of dolphins and whales. In winter months, a night- time boat trip will take you out to see magical bioluminescence in the water.
After a big day of adventure or relaxation, cue the cocktails as you enjoy another vibrant sunset over the ocean.
We aim to keep you away from the crowds, providing unique and intimate experiences to cherish for years to come.
With so many adventures on offer in Costa Rica, the only question that remains is:
When are you going to travel?