Volcano, rainforest, cloud forest and beach. That’s the most popular combination of sites in the Classic, our best-selling Costa Rica itinerary. The volcano is typically Arenal. You’re surrounded by rainforest there as well. Monteverde is the most well-known cloud forest location. For beach, a popular option is Manuel Antonio (also rainforest) or the Guanacaste region at the northern end of the Pacific coast (dry tropical forest). The typical sequence is Arenal, Monteverde, and beach at the end. If the trip ends at Manuel Antonio, we recommend SJO Airport for flights and if Guanacaste, LIR for flights.
When planning a custom trip for clients, we often hear that these are the must-see/do places in Costa Rica. If you opt for the Classic, you won’t be disappointed. But if you’re up for getting off the beaten path, there are lots of options that go beyond the Classic.
For rainforest, consider the Osa Peninsula on the southern Pacific coast. The Osa is home to Corcovado National Park and the largest intact section of coastal lowland rainforest in Central America. Corcovado was labeled “the most biologically intense place on Earth” by National Geographic. The wildlife factor here amplifies to a level not seen in other parts of the country. You also have beautiful beaches in the area with rainforest right up to the sand’s edge. Scarlet macaws, toucans, howler monkeys, sloths and whales are commonly spotted. This is also the best place in the country to spot the elusive (and rare) jaguar. You won’t see large crowds here, though. We’ve walked for hours on Osa beaches without seeing another person.
For cloud forest, our top pick is San Gerardo de Dota, about 2.5 hours south of San Jose. Located in the cool mountains of the Talamanca Range, San Gerardo de Dota is a haven for birders and nature lovers. A highlight for many nature lovers is spotting a resplendent quetzal here. You can also visit Los Quetzales, Costa Rica’s newest national park. Los Quetzales offers decent chances of spotting tapir in case you missed seeing them in the Osa.
If a volcano is high on your wish list, you’re likely to see activity from Turrialba and/or Irazu Volcanoes during your cloud forest stay. A flight to the Osa also affords aerial views of several volcanoes on clear days.
And if you’d like even more beach time, that’s easy to combine with the Osa and San Gerardo de Dota. There are lots of ways to go beyond the Costa Rica Classic. Contact us for more details.