I went to Costa Rica for eco-tourism and this is definitely the place to do it! If you aren’t there during the peak tourist season (mid-December-April), which is also the dry season, you don’t necessarily have to book in advance. I decided to set-up one or two things that I really wanted to do and then just winged it.
I found the tours/excursions were between $30-45 US dollars. You can book through a concierge service like Anywhere Costa Rica http://www.anywherecostarica.com/ where you can email/talk with tourism specialists. It costs a little more, but good for first-time visitors. The hotels/hostels will help and there are tourism company stands in town, or you can also book directly through the company and ask them to waive the concierge fee.
I stayed in La Fortuna, as do most tourists. It is near the base of the Arenal Volcano. I took a tour to hike it—or so I thought—but turns out you can only hike up to see the base.
Our guide said people died from volcanic gases and now it is closed to hikers. The guided tour or the Arenal Volcano National Park was pretty flat (except for the very end) and mostly a trail walk. Unfortunately it was cloudy at the top when I arrived. I probably could have done the walk alone, but the benefit to having a guide is he points out wildlife and explains the history. Did you know that for hundreds of years people didn’t know they were living next to a volcano? After nearly 400 year of inactivity it erupted in 1968 killing dozens of people and covering villages.
Next I headed to the Baldi Hot Springs. There must have been a dozen or so pools of varying temperatures. Thanks to the volcano many of these pools are hot!
There are areas to relax, waterslides for the kids (or big kids like me), and even swim-up bars. I didn’t know what to expect and was surprised to find manmade pools in a luxurious setting. They are not swimming holes in the woods.
The next day I booked what may have been my favorite adventure: waterfall rappelling!
With my gopro rolling, you can hear how nervous I was to jump off, but it was such a rush when I did. The first step is the scariest, but after that you control your speed and relax. I was expecting it to feel like a freefall, but it was more like a series of jumps. This is a great activity for any age. There was a family with five kids in front of me and a woman with her 30-some-year-old son behind me.
Later that day I went white water rafting. Our raft had the smallest crew of just five. We weren’t the strongest, but the only group where everyone stayed in the boat. The guide stopped to let people float in the water, jump off a high wall, and eat fresh fruit. Our trip included class II and class III rapids, which were just fine. Oh—and did you know that three quarters of the country’s power is hydroelectric? That means the government controls the water and you never know which river will be flowing the fastest until the day of your tour.
To recap I liked all of my tours, but probably would skip the guide to the volcano if I had to do it over again. Check out the video to see what these tours look like first-hand and see videos from other Costa Rican cities on www.Lizionlocation.com.