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Places to Visit in Costa Rica

Published by Nanni on Friday, August 03, 2012

Photo credit by Armando Maynez

For the ecotourist, it is hard to beat Costa Rica. With a wide variety of natural environments and almost one third of the country environmentally protected, there is much to see and do while in Costa Rica. The following is only a partial list of some of the interesting places to visit in Costa Rica.

Corcovado National Park

Located on the Pacific coast, on the Osa Peninsula, Corcovado National Park is the largest remaining stronghold of the primary forest that has been virtually destroyed along the coast from Mexico down through South America. It consists of eight distinct habitats, including cloud forest, mangrove swamps and palm groves. It is home to more than 400 species of birds, 116 amphibians and reptiles and 139 species of mammals. This represents 10 percent of the mammals on both American continents. It also has the largest population of scarlet macaws in Central America, with number estimated at 1,200.

Among the other notable animals to be found here are tree sloths, jaguars and crocodiles, as well as smaller denizens like the red eyed tree frog and the glass frog, with transparent skin on its underside. There are torrential rains from April until December, so the best time to visit is the relatively drier months of January to April.

Arenal Volcano National Park

Apart from the variety of ecosystems found in this park (eight of Costa Rica's 12 life zones), the main draw is Arenal Volcano, which is the Costa Rica's most active volcano. After a dormant period, Arenal erupted in 1968, wiping out the villages of Tabacón and Pueblo Nuevo, with a blast felt as far away as Colorado. It currently erupts on a constant basis, although the best time to watch the show is at night. At the foot of Arenal is the 5 star spa and resort of Tabacón, with pools and rivers of hot water, heated from rivers that start up near the volcanic activity.

Manuel Antonio National Park

One of the country's more popular parks due to the easy access from San Isidro and the capitol, Manuel Antonio suffers somewhat due to its popularity and small size. While animals abound, like squirrel, howler and capuchin monkeys, scarlet macaws, sloths and coatimundis, the park's small size and isolation created by hotels and other buildings makes keeping sustainable breeding populations problematic. For this reason, the number of visitors is limited and visitors are asked to try to visit during the less popular rainy season. There are also a number of beautiful beaches to enjoy.

Cocos Island

Some of the most fascinating sites in Costa Rica aren't on the mainland, they are out in the ocean. Cocos island is famous for the diversity on the island as well as the famous schools of Scalloped Hammerhead Sharks, eagle rays and manta rays. The island itself boasts a wide diversity of wildlife as well as more than 200 waterfalls. However, this is a trip in itself, as it requires a 36 hour boat ride to get here.

Caños Island

More accessible than Cocos, Caños Island is off the coast of the Osa Peninsula and boasts some of the clearest water in Costa Rica. Famous for manta rays and other large marine life, the best time to visit is during the same dry months as Corcovado, as the rainy season often makes the ocean inaccessible.

These are just a few of the highlights to Costa Rica. For the nature lover, there isn't another place like it. So much is packed into this tiny country that one trip just isn't enough to see even a fraction of all this gem of a country has to offer.

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