While there are mangrove forests located up and down both coasts, the Sierpe Terraba mangrove forest on the Osa Peninsula is the biggest in Costa Rica. The flooded forest stretches 67,000 acres (27,114 hectares) and is teeming with wildlife like crabs, caimans, crocodiles, boas, tree frogs, river turtles, iguanas, white faced capuchin monkeys, and an immense variety of birds. This serene and stunning habitat is one that can only be accessed by boat. Mangroves play a very important role in protecting the coastlines from the destructive force of big storm swells. You can take a tour with a certified naturalist who will be able to share with you all sorts of fascinating information about the mangrove forest and its inhabitants. Bahia Adventures Mangrove Nature Trip and Sierpe-Terraba Mangrove Tour are two excellent choices.
Between December and April, the Marino Ballena National Park in Uvita serves as the base for humpback whales migrating from Antarctica. Killer whales and pilot whales (both of which are actually in the dolphin family) also spend time in these rich tropical waters. Whale-watching tours in Costa Rica have fallen under the radar for years but are gaining popularity in places like Uvita. There are so many whales and dolphins during these months that there will most definitely have some special encounters out at sea.
Marino Ballena National Park, Uvita, Costa Rica, +506 8946 7134
See the volcanoes, forests, valleys, towns, coastal areas, and even wildlife of Costa Rica in one exhilarating tour. Lift off at sunrise with a highly experienced certified pilot who will take you on an incredible tour in the sky, and those seeking a more intimate and romantic experience can privately charter a hot air balloon. Serendipity and Centaura are two great hot air balloon tour companies.
Most people see Costa Rica from the ground, but seeing Costa Rica from above offers an entirely different perspective. HeliJet Aviation, a San Jose-based helicopter charter company that is based in, was one of the first companies to offer helicopter sightseeing tours; choose from four tour options (explore the city and surrounding Central Valley, the volcanoes, the beaches and crocodiles, or the rainforests) or create a customized tour. Having a bird’s eye view of the magnificent landscape and natural wonders of Costa Rica is an opportunity like no other.
Over 800 species of birds call Costa Rica home, around 600 permanent residents and 200 migratory species. All of North America has just over 900 species of birds, so Costa Rica is a bird utopia in comparison. It’s an incredible place for bird lovers to see some exotic and exquisite species, including the resplendent quetzal, scarlet macaw, toucan, roseate spoonbill, and 50 different types of hummingbirds. The best spots for birdwatching are San Gerardo de Dota, Curi-Chancha Reserve, Tortuguero National Park, Rancho Naturalista, Manuel Antonio National Park, and La Selva Biological Reserve.
Traditional Costa Rican cuisine is outrageously delicious. Everything from gallo pinto, corn tortillas, and tamales to arroz con pollo, sopa negra, and patacones will make your mouth water and your belly smile—and learning to make some of the traditional dishes is a wonderful cultural experience. Taking a cooking class in Costa Rica is a delicious way to learn about Costa Rican culture and food as well as skills to take home and share with friends and family. One of the best options is a cooking class offered through a local family in La Fortuna—a truly authentic Costa Rican experience.
A great way to spend some time in Costa Rica is by taking some Spanish classes at a local language institution. There are Spanish schools located in some really great spots in Costa Rica (Tamarindo, Turrialba, Puerto Viejo, Nosara, and Samsara). Signing up for Spanish school is a wonderful way to make new friends, engage in a number of cultural activities like salsa dancing and cooking lessons, and learn how to communicate with the wonderful local people of Costa Rica. This is a great choice for solo travelers, couples, and groups of friends.
Looking for things to do on Costa Rica’s coast line then visit our article on things to do on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica.