Top 5 Spots in Costa Rica for Ecotourism

Costa Rica is a shining example of a nation “doing it right” in terms of ecotourism and sustainable travel.

The small country has an estimated 26% of its land dedicated to wildlife reserves, nature preserves, and protected areas. Many of the tourists that arrive to the Central American nation come just for that, to participate in eco-friendly adventure activities.

While the whole of Costa Rica offers stunning landscapes, animal encounters, and adventurous activities, a few spots are even better than others.

Monteverde

The unique forest of Monteverde is a major draw for nature lovers from around the world. Offering protected wildlife areas, and many adventure opportunities, it’s a definite stop for animal loving adventurers.

justinknabb
justinknabb

The Monteverde cloud forest is a special protected area that also offers many activities for tourists. One of the most popular is zipping through the canopy on a thrilling zipline. Costa Rica’s high safety standards combined with pristine forests make it one of the most secure places in the world to try a zip line experience. Whizzing above and into the forest canopy offers an unparalleled perspective of the forest, and gets your adrenaline pumping at the same time.

For an equally interesting view, but a bit less heart thumping, taking a stroll on a hanging bridge allows for a slower and more thoughtful understanding of the forest. Suspended above the ground, hanging bridges place visitors at tree-top level, the perfect place to see animals like monkeys and birds that spend most of their life there.

The Bat Museum is a must-see for anyone interested in bats, or with a fear they want to cure. The museum features an artificial, indoor, fully functioning bat cave that allows travelers to get up close and see the winged creatures acting naturally.

Christer Jansson
Christer Jansson

La Fortuna

Little La Fortuna isn’t much of a looker, but it is a major destination for the gems that sit just outside of the main town.

The most famous attraction must be Arenal Volcano, a once-deadly volcano that now sits dormant since 2010. While treks can no longer go to the top of the volcano due to safety issues, responsible tours can take travelers a fair way up the side of the volcano, offering views of the peak on clear days, and a fascinating tale of the history of the volcano and its impact on the forest regardless of the clouds in the sky.

Another La Fortuna classic is its namesake waterfall. While reaching the base requires hundreds of steps down, it is totally worth it. Descending a few hundred steps may sound like plenty, coming back up makes it feel like even more. The brave and cold-resistant can take a dip in the river or waterfall pool, but even the aqua-averse will enjoy the spectacular scene.

One of the best ways to see animals is at night, when all of the nocturnal creatures come out to play. In La Fortuna, the best way to take advantage is with a night safari float. A guide and several tourists will float down in an inflatable raft in the dead of night, using only a paddle and a flashlight to traverse the waterway. Tourists are sure to spot birds, bats, monkeys, and maybe even poisonous frogs and sloths.

Photographer:  Miles Tuttle
Photographer: Miles Tuttle

Jacó

While Jacó is most known as a popular tourist city, and its sometimes seedy nightlife, it also offers a score of ecotourism activities.

Jacó may be most popular with surfers of all skills levels. From beginner to advanced, there is a break for everyone. While you are taking advantage of the waves, though, be sure to respect the wildlife by not disturbing coral.

Jacó is also home to another fabulous water feature – waterfalls. One particular set of waterfalls and canyons at Ocean Ranch is particularly popular for adventurous activities. Waterfall rappelling is an awesome (and exhilarating) way to experience the waterfalls, and is broken up by stretches of hiking, as well as ziplining.

Nelson de Witt
Nelson de Witt