Surfers flock to Costa Rica to practice their skills and enjoy some killer waves. If you plan to drive yourself, rent a 4WD vehicle as the roads to most good beaches are strenuous and very potholed. You will find surf camps as well as surf schools all along the Pacific coast.
The best beach for beginners is a three-hour drive from San Jose to Puerto Viejo, south of Limon. The surfing season here is November to April, with November and December the best time to visit Playa Cocles.
The North Pacific coast offers excellent surf year-around, with the ideal season from December to March. Fly in to Liberia and head to Witches Rock on Naranio Beach in Santa Rosa National Park.
The South Pacific, near Panama, boasts surf season year-around at Pavones, an eight-hour drive from San Jose or a 35-minute flight with Nature Air.
Playa Hermosa, south of Jaco in the Central Pacific region, is only a two-hour drive from San Jose and is consistently good year-round.
Tico Travel, at (800) 493-8426, offers surf vacation packages.
Outdoor enthusiasts will have a hard time deciding where to spend their limited time in Costa Rica. There are many national parks in the country worth seeing. One of the most popular is the active 5,000-foot tall Arenal Volcano. Tour companies can arrange anything from ATV tours, rugged hiking, horse-back riding, bird watching, canopy tours or a swim in a waterfall.
Not far from the Arenal area is the mystical Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological reserve, offering over 450 species of birds, 100 species of mammals, 400 varieties of orchids and over 1,200 different types of reptiles. Open 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.; call 011 (506) 645-5122.
Manuel Antonio National Park is south of Quepos on the Pacific side of the country and is the busiest park in Costa Rica. Here you can enjoy a beautiful beach as well as plenty of wildlife: monkeys, 180 species of birds and over 100 species of mammals. The park is open from 7 a.m. until 4 p.m. every day except Monday. Call 011 (506) 777-0654.
To view spectacular turtles, visit Tortuguero National Park, north of Limon. From June through October you can see the green sea turtles nesting, from March through July the leatherback turtles consider this home, and July is the month when the Hawksbill turtles come to hatch their young. This remote area is also an excellent location for bird watching. Rain is prevalent here year-round. Call 011 (506) 710-2929.
One of the best ways to experience the natural, lush beauty of Costa Rica is via a tropical rainforest canopy tour. One of the best operators is Original Canopy Tours at Monteverde Cloud Forest, Mahagony Park and Limon. As the name implies, they are the first company to create canopy tours so they have excellent knowledge and superior safety standards. The contact number is (305) 433-2241. Soar from magnificent heights to get a bird's eye view of howler monkeys and hundreds of gorgeous tropical birds.
For a less strenuous option, take the Rain Forest Aerial Tram to see nature's beauty up front and personal without all the work of a zip line. The enclosed 90-minute tram ride is a safe and comfortable way to enjoy the flora and fauna that abounds, and there is also a butterfly garden and hiking available at the park. This operator has locations on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, and can be reached at (305) 704-3350.
Turu BaRi Tropical Park has a gondola ride as well as mountainous trail hiking, swimming, horseback riding, botanical gardens, bird watching, wall climbing, rappelling and even crocodile viewing. Not far from San Jose, this 595-acre park is located near Jaco Beach in the Central Valley.
Article Written By Lea Ann Fessenden-Joseph
Lea Ann Fessenden-Joseph, a professional freelance writer, spent more than 20 years with a major airline and enjoys writing about travel, health, alternative medicine and interior decorating. She is the National Caribbean Travel Examiner and her work has been featured in the "Dallas Morning News," "Caribbean Property and Lifestyle Magazine," Gadling, Travels and numerous other publications. Fessenden-Joseph attended Texas Christian University.