Costa Ricans treasure the natural beauty of their country and they love to share it with travelers. It can be said that the country is the home of ecotourism; in fact, the popular activity of zip-lining was made popular in Costa Rica.
For most Panama Canal cruise passengers the small city of Puerto Caldera will serve as the primary port of call for Costa Rica. Puerto Caldera and the nearby city of Puntarenas act as kicking off points for ecotourism, offering daytrips into the country's world-renowned rainforests. Here are just a few of the adventures that await nearby.
Pura Vida Gardens and Waterfalls
Offering over 50 acres of botanical gardens and the tallest waterfall in Costa Rica, Pura Vida Gardens makes use of the native flora and fauna that is unique to Costa Rica to spectacular effect. Their specialty is orchids with a variety of types from around the world, as well as those indigenous to the region. Stroll along the manicured walkways passing by rivers and mountains and take in the flowering plants, butterflies, and birds (cataloged at 397 species) providing a symphony of natural splendor. And don't forget about the waterfall: Bijagual Waterfall (also known as Manantial de Agua Viva waterfall) is the tallest in Costa Rica at more than 600 feet in height. Hear the roar as millions of gallons hurtle downward into a series of pools below.
Carara National Park
Close to the nation's capital of San Jose, Carara National Park is a popular destination for cruise ship passengers out of Puerto Caldera. The park is well known as a bird watcher's paradise due to its location in what is known as a transition zone. This region of Costa Rica is composed of tropical dry forests to the north with the wetter lush rainforests in the south. Located in the center of this zone, Carara affords a unique mix of animal and plant species indigenous to both areas, including armadillos, white-face capuchin monkeys, toucans, parrots, two-toed sloths, herons, deer, and egrets, to name but a handful. And of course, there are the crocodiles. Boat tours along the Tarcoles River offer close up views of these huge reptiles — keep your hands and feet inside the boat!
From mild to wild this park has something for everyone. Considered one of the best nature and adventure parks in the country, Selvatura is an 850-acre conservation area in Monteverde (approximately 62 km north of Puerto Caldera). Known primarily for its zip-line tours, Selvatura also includes a hummingbird garden, herpetarium (reptiles and frogs), and a butterfly garden. But for those seeking something a bit more thrilling, this park's got you covered. Zip-lining above the treetops while hanging by a wire in one of the most beautiful places on earth is something you'll never forget. The park offers a variety of zip-lining and suspension bridge packages affording a bird's-eye-view of the rainforest's vibrant ecosystem.
Arenal Volcano National Park
Looming some 5,437 feet above the forested hillsides of the park stands Arenal, Costa Rica's most active volcano for almost half a century. Now considered "sleeping," the volcano has been quiet since 2010. So, you won't see plumes of ash rising from the top or lava flowing down its slopes, but the park is a veritable paradise of hiking and horseback riding trails with views of past lava flows as well as opportunities for catching glimpses of the area's wildlife. Deer, tapirs, monkeys, snakes, and birds all call this forest home. Underground cave excursions, canopy tours, waterfall rappelling, mountain bike riding, and rafting are all on offer at the park.
By Delilah Onofrey, Suntory Flowers
Photographs courtesy of Suntory Flowers
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