Surfing, sloths, and sunsets dominate social media’s representation of Costa Rica. While that trifecta certainly provides inspiration to book a flight, this Central American country boasts the title of one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, making it a dream destination for travelers who want to immerse themselves in nature. You don’t have to go ziplining, hiking or rafting to find yourself in the midst of a jungle or cloudforest. Rent a car and take a casual road trip through the backroads and intimate corners of the country. (Just make sure you have 4 wheel drive and sturdy shoes!)
Beyond the stunning topography lies a variety of unique travel experiences that give you an eye into the history, culture, and natural wonders. Many of the most curiosity inducing pit stops are only a few miles away from the country’s most popular tourist towns. Manmade and organic relics tell powerful stories all throughout Costa Rica.
Museums aren’t the only way to learn about the past. What seems like a simple beachfront rock garden is actually a living monument honoring two of Costa Rica’s conservation movement leaders. The Genius River Bridge is a creative marvel that makes a social statement about the country’s value of shark conservation. It’s a remarkable structure made out of the nets, hooks and other paraphernalia of illegal shark hunters. In the nearby Gulf of Nicoya, the Cabuya Island Cemetery is an opportunity to ask questions about this indigenous burial ground and the foreigner gravestones on display.
Mother Nature’s displays of grandeur are available both inside and outside of the national parks. Explore the vivid translucent aqua hue of Rio Celeste and its waterfall, part of Tenorio Volcano National Park. Trek through a cloud forest to Ficus La Raiz, a naturally occurring bridge created by the unfettered branches of this ubiquitous “strangler tree.” Book a night tour at the Curi Cancha Reserve and prepare to be astounded at the creepy, crawling wildlife that lurks in the dark. Soak your muscles with locals at La Fortuna Free Hot Springs, a naturally occurring jacuzzi, while gazing at the epic Arenal Volcano.
These places are ideal for wandering with no set schedule or time constraints. Some places offer compelling insight into Costa Rican (Tico) culture and local lore, while others are a reflection of its majestic earthly spectacles. Get intimate with the various expressions of pura vida.