Costa Rica Eco-Adventures
By Candyce H. Stapen
Eco-adventures abound in Costa Rica, a country that serves as a “land bridge” between North and South America and whose shores border both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean.
As a result, Costa Rica features an incredible diversity of ecological zones from forests to mangrove swamps, marshes and coral reefs. Enjoy hiking rainforests where parrots screech and monkeys chatter, viewing volcanic lakes and rafting rivers edged with thick bamboo stands and wild mango trees.
At the 25,000-acre Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, the winds create clouds that envelop the mountain peaks. That means you hike through mist-shrouded woods, lush with ferns, mosses, vines, and orchids dangling from tree limbs.
The forest shelters more than 400 species of birds and such exotic wildlife as jaguars, ocelots, and quetzals, although these are rarely encountered. Since only 120-people are allowed in the reserve at one time, be sure to book ahead for a guide through your lodging.
Scarlet macaws, bold red and brilliantly feathered, star at Carara National Park. Sometimes you can detect these magnificent birds by looking for their long tails protruding from the leafy branches of trees. Corcovado National Park, a huge expanse of lowland rainforest, is home to abundant wildlife, including scarlet macaws and the biggest bird of prey, the harpy eagle.
San José, Costa Rica’s capital, is within an easy day trip of two volcanoes. One of Irazu’s two craters appears as a green or even red lake because of the volcanic minerals. The drive to Poas offers scenic valley views of coffee plantations whose dark green bushy fields are outlined by willowy palms. Poas’ wide crater steams and bubbles with sulfurous waters.
Arenal, the country’s most active volcano, still erupts. The red hot lava tubes snaking down the slopes look the most impressive at night, but clouds frequently enshroud the slopes. Even if you miss the fiery show, during the day you can bike on the gravel and dirt roads that ring the volcano and then soak in the region’s soothing mineral springs. Tabacón Hot Springs Resort welcomes day guests.
In Costa Rica, choose either mild or wild rivers. The Corobici River from Cañas offers an easy float. You glide past bamboo, mango, spiny cedar, and panama trees. In the afternoon wood storks and white cattle egrets feather the banks, flocking home to their evening roosts.
The swift-moving Pacuare River is designated one of the top whitewater runs in the world for its combination of easy access, cascading rapids and wilderness scenery. You paddle past tall ceiba trees, swirl by waterfalls and boulders, and in the calm of a canyon, you can get out of the raft and float along, admiring the rock walls and the blue sky.