5 best green experiences in Costa Rica

5 best green experiences in Costa Rica
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GET HIGH IN A CLOUD FOREST

 

Considered Costa Rica's green jewel, the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is located just outside the town of Santa Elena. This conservation area covers 10,500 hectares and reaches a height of 1650 metres above sea level. It is called a cloud forest because the canopy is consistently shrouded by mist.

The Monteverde attracts an increasing number of visitors each year. In order to manage more sustainable tourist numbers, admission prices have been slightly raised and the number of visitors in the park has been limited to 120 at all times.

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While in the reserve, visitors can hike through the forest floor up into the mountains or explore via the Sky Walk, a collection of suspension bridges which provide a bird's eye view of the jungle. There's also the Original Canopy Tour Company, which offers the chance to climb up and rappel down trees. And for the bold, there's the Tarzan Swing – scary, but a guaranteed adrenalin rush.

SPOT THE RAREST OF CREATURES

Costa Rica is one of the few places in the world where the jaguar can be found. Unfortunately, this graceful creature is severely endangered due to deforestation and hunting for its fur. For those who aspire to spot one in the wild, jaguars and other wild cats may be found on the prowl through the national parks of Tortuguero and Corcovado.

There are also plenty of other unique animals to see in Costa Rica. These include the three-toed sloth, tapir, peccary, giant anteater and various species of monkeys. Of the monkeys, you're likely to hear plenty of the howler variety – they are one of the loudest animals on earth.

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Many visitors come to Costa Rica specifically to view the abundant birdlife. There are over 850 species here, including the macaw and toucan.

Prime animal viewing locations include Monteverde and Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserves, Manuel Antonio National Park and the Osa Peninsula.

TEETER OVER A VOLCANO

Looming over the town of La Fortuna is the Arenal Volcano. It is one of the 10 most active volcanoes in the world and it is rarely subdued. Plumes of smoke and ash are seen during the day, while spurts of fluorescent lava can be seen on a clear night. Hikes to the summit are strictly forbidden, however visitors can still get close by treading over the cooled lava fields, covered with igneous rocks.

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Close by is Lake Arenal, a man-made lake which was specifically designed to harness the energy potential of the surrounding water. In fact, the hydraulic energy of Lake Arenal and its surrounding rivers supply almost 40% of Costa Rica's energy.

Located south east of the Arenal Volcano is the smaller dormant Cerro Chato volcano. The hike to the summit can be challenging, however visitors will be rewarded with an incredible view of the bright turquoise lake at the crater's centre.

HELP WITH TURTLE CONSERVATION

Situated along the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, Playa Grande plays host to a miracle of nature. It is here that visitors flock to witness the famous nesting of the endangered leatherback turtle. The spectacle typically occurs between the months of October and April.

Unfortunately, due to rising ocean temperatures, ongoing beach development, drift net fishing and poaching of turtle eggs, the number of leatherback turtles is diminishing at an alarming rate. The entire shoreline of Playa Grande has been declared a protected zone, known as the Playa Grande Marine Turtle National Park. To minimise the impact on the nesting area, only a limited number of visitors are allowed to attend the nesting at night.

Visitors can help protect endangered turtles by volunteering with organisations such as the Earth Watch Institute. By enrolling in their nine-day program, volunteers can take part in night time patrols, measuring and tagging nesting turtles, recording nest locations and tagging eggs.

TAKE A CANAL TRIP THROUGH THE JUNGLE

Relax and enjoy the tranquil sounds of the jungle by taking a canal trip through the Tortuguero National Park, located in the north-east of the country. This park is only accessible by plane or by boat and is often referred to as the Amazon of Central America, with its maze of waterways snaking their way through dense tropical forest.

Guided boat tours are available for visitors wanting to learn more about the surrounding flora and fauna. However, in order to observe wildlife at its finest, visitors should hire a sea kayak. This is a special canoe which allows paddlers to glide noiselessly along the river without disturbing the surrounding wildlife. They are also perfect for weaving through the narrow coastal inlets and rivers which larger vessels cannot access. Early morning is the perfect time to see the best of the wildlife.

Email the Travel Weekly team at traveldesk@travelweekly.com.au

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