Costa Rica Feature

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Top Attractions in Costa Rica

Arenal Volcano

Costa Rica has five active volcanoes, but none put on a show like the Arenal Volcano. During the day you're likely to see smoke billowing from the crater. This doesn't compare with what you'll see at night, when orangey red lava oozes down the perfectly shaped cone. If you're very lucky, the clouds will part long enough for you to spot glowing rocks shooting into the air.

Selvatura Park

Soaring over the treetops on a zip line is a thrilling experience. But canopy tours aren't just for adrenaline junkies. Many rain forests have hanging bridges and elevated platforms to give you a bird's-eye view of the rain forest. Many of the best, like Selvetura, are around Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve and the Santa Elena Reserve, but others are clustered around Lake Arenal and Manuel Antonio.

Manuel Antonio National Park

Some of the country's most thrilling views can be seen from the trails through Manuel Antonio National Park. As you emerge from the rain forest, don't be surprised to find yourself alone on a palm-shaded beach. Make sure to look up—sloths and three types of monkey make their home in the canopy, and on a good day you might see them all.

Corcovado National Park

Bird-watchers come to this vast and pristine rain forest with hopes of catching a glimpse of the endangered harpy eagle. It's notoriously difficult to see, but other feathered friends—like the scarlet macaw, the orange-bellied trogon, and the golden-hooded tanager—practically pose for pictures. No need to head off into the rain forest with your binoculars; dozens of hummingbirds are likely to dart around you as you relax by the pool.

Playa Carrillo

This long, picturesque beach, backed by a line of swaying palms and protective cliffs, is certainly one of the most beautiful stretches of sand in the country. Perfect for swimming, snorkeling, or just walking, the beach isn't marred by a single building. Visit on a weekday and it's possible that you may have the entire shore to yourself.

Nicoya Peninsula

Popular with the sun-and-fun crowd, the peninsula still has a yet-to-be-discovered feel. Maybe that's because its sandy shores are never covered with a checkerboard of beach blankets. Drive a few miles in any direction and you can find one all to yourself. But civilization isn't far away—some of the country's best restaurants are within reach.

Turrialba

Heavy rainfall, steep mountains, and rocky terrain make this region a magnet for white-water rafters, and there's a river to match anyone's level of expertise. Not far from San José, the Central Valley has outfitters who offer everything from easy day trips to challenging multiday excursions. Many of these companies congregate around Turrialba, the country's white-water capital and close to the Rio Pacuare and Rio Reventazón.

Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve

The roads leading here are terrible, but you won't mind once you see the mist-covered reserve. Because of the constant moisture, this private park is unbelievably lush. It's gorgeous during the day, but many prefer night hikes, when you can see colorful birds asleep in the branches, hairy tarantulas in search of prey, and nocturnal mammals like the wide-eyed kinkajou.

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