In the green Orosi Valley, Churacas Hotsprings Estate offers full day tours of its coffee plantation and includes a dip in its naturally thermal hot springs. Surrounded by mountains, this is an ideal place to relax and take in "la pura vida," which the Orosi Valley is proud to keep intact. Ricardo Fallas, the owner of Chucaras, owns eight other coffee plantations with a total of nearly 4 million coffee trees, all at an elevation of 3,450 feet or higher, giving his high-altitude beans beans superior quality and a distinctive taste. The Churacas Hotsprings Estate is open seven days a week, 7am to 5pm, but reservations for tours are required.
La Paz Waterfall and gardens is a delightful eco-excursion just outside the city of San Jose, and with a half or full day trip, you'll be treated to not only five rushing waterfalls, but lush tropical rain forest, exotic birds, butterflies, monkeys, sloths, and snakes in the serpentarium. Marked paths allow self-guided tours of the grounds, and are designed to give visitors a well-rounded rainforest experience. The Butterfly Observatory and a Hummingbird Garden are added bonuses, enchanting places where creatures can feed out of your hand. You can allot as little as two hours, but a whole day could easily be spent exploring.
A visit to Parque Nacional Volac�n Arenal makes a great day trip from San Jos�. As this area of Costa Rica is known for its outstanding volcanoes, a visit to the area wouldn't be complete without seeing one. An active volcano, the Arenal is the youngest in the nation and actually one of the ten most active in the world since massively erupting in 1968. Depending on the weather, you may or may not be able to catch a glimpse of the eruptions as Arenal is usually surrounded by clouds which often produce rain. However, nighttime viewing can prove quite impressive.
After the sun sets in the rainforest in Monteverde, Costa Rica, a different set of species comes alive. To the untrained eye, and without experience, there may be little to see, but their eyes are watching you. The Hidden Valley Night Tour is led by bilingual, expert naturalists who point out the plethora of wildlife that inhabit the forest during the dark hours. Tours begin at 5:30 and 7:30pm and are two hours long. Flashlights are provided, comfortable footwear is advised. Regular price: $25, Students: $23, children under 10: $15
The Lankester Botanical Gardens (Jardín Botánico Lankester) was created in 1973 as a center for the exhibition, conservation and research of orchids and tropical air plants. Recognized worldwide for its stunning collections of bromeliads, the Lankester Botanical Garden takes up 11 hectares , hosting more than 3,000 species of plants. On the walking trail, look for sloths eating in the trees above the extra large leaves of the Cecropia tree. Hours: 9:00 a.m. with last entry at 3:30 p.m. every day except for the Easter holiday week, Christmas and New Years day. Entrance fee is approximately $3, with discounts for students.
The Monteverde Cloud forest is a lush preserve that remains largely intact. Most of the wildlife is rare and much of it is nocturnal, which is why a night hike of the preserve is such a stimulating attraction. The reserve is open daily from 7am to 4pm, and the entrance fee is $17, discounts available for children and students. Since there is a limit to how many people are allowed into the reserve at any one time, there is a chance you'll have to wait in line, but it's well worth it. Couples can hire a guide for the nocturnal stroll.
The Caribbean's most precious beach could just be Punta Uva, or Grape Point. There are two sides to this beach, North and South, divided by a steep green cliff. On the south side lies a long sweeping stretch of white sand, dappled with coconut palms and a sloping shoreline lapping with gentle waves. One the north side is a smaller beach, protected on both sides, with gentle surf good for learners and conditions that tend to be ideal for snorkeling. Kayaks may be rented on the sand here, and the Punta Uva dive shop offers scuba tours and PADI certification.
Chocolate lovers, nature enthusiasts, and those looking to learn more about Costa Rica's rich history of cacao should indulge in the Chocolate Forest Experience. It's an in-depth exploration of chocolate from tree to bar, and it's a real treat for all the senses. The experience begins with a guided tour through the varied areas of cacao. Following the tour, stick around for a professional chocolate tasting with organic wine. The Chocolate Forest Experience costs $26 per person and includes all the chocolate you can eat. Regular excursions are Tuesday and Thursday at 10:30am and 3:00pm, no reservations, and private tours are available at other times with a reservation.
Playa Chiquita is a small stretch of coast with a narrow white sand beach and calm water that is often ideal for snorkeling in between the coral reef. This is the most hidden beach in the area, due to the dense rainforest that separates the water's edge from the road, and a lack of signage- but that's part of why it stays so special. During high season, Playa Chiquita is a popular beach for families, dogs, and nudists, who come to revel in the privacy and play in the protected waters- the rest of the year it may be found nearly deserted.
The Corcovado National Park is Costa Rica's "crown jewel" of natural preserves. Located in Costa Rica's southwestern-most corner, the Osa Peninsula, Corcovado may be visited on a day trip. The most popular route is a long coastal path that may be accessed from Puerto Jimenez. Encompassing thirteen vegetation types including montane and cloud forests and palm and mangrove swamps, Corcovado is home to more than 500 tree species and an astonishing amount of wildlife: three toed sloths, white-faced capuchin and mantled howler monkeys, and several jungle felines, including jaguar and pumaa. The greatest number of Scarlet Macaws also live in Corcovado.