Visiting Costa Rica can be an overwhelming thing. With a country so large and versatile the sheer amount of things to do and see can be overwhelming. The biggest problem with picking which things to do is the fact that nearly all popular locales have the same activities. So the question is, what activities are best where and what should be skipped? Here are a few things not to do in Costa Rica and tips on where to find the best of them.
First time visitors probably visit butterfly farms expecting an affordable activity that will put them up close and personal with the butterflies. However, many butterfly farms in the country are just a sectioned off portion of the jungle that isn’t closed in. Yes, butterflies are bread and raised in these locations, but they are free to fly anywhere they please. Because of this, visiting a butterfly farm can be quite undesirable as there is no guarantee that you will see a large amount of various butterfly species. If you really want to roam through a butterfly habitat, visit a butterfly sanctuary.
The best sanctuary, and the largest in the country (possibly the world) is located outside of Heredia in Vao Poas. Hit up the La Paz Waterfall Gardens for a beautiful day. US$30 gets you entrance and a tour guide. Not only do you get to roam through an enclosed butterfly home and see hundreds of species of butterflies, caterpillars, and cocoons, but you can visit wild cats, monkies, reptiles, frogs, macaws and toucans up close, and hike through the trails and check out the seven waterfalls on the property. The gardens have restaurants and gift shops on site as well as a hotel. Wear something bright and the butterflies won’t be able to resist you. Check out our post on the La Paz Waterfall Gardens and Peace Lodge for more details.
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Because of the heat, vegetation, and other variable many horses throughout the country are undernourished. Not only are they undernourished, but often times the trails and riding areas are less than worth US$50 to US$100 to ride on. Before booking a horseback tour, check with the operator and visit the horses. If you find that the horses look unhealthy and that the ride is to know where desirable, wait and ride somewhere else in the country.
The best horseback riding can be found in Montezuma and Punta Uva. In Montezuma the horse back tour takes you down one of the countries top beaches, through the jungle, and ends at a huge waterfall that you cool off in. In Punta Uva you will find a new operation by a French women who has the most well trained and healthy horses around. Her tour takes you down one of the top 5 beaches in the country and through the jungle.
San Jose Canopy Tours
While in San Jose, activies and attractions can be limited. Aside from parks, zoos, museums, and nightlife you will find that adventures aren’t to be found everywhere. San Jose does however have a canopy tour that sends you zip lining from platform to platform hundreds to thousands of feet above ground. Even if you are bored with the city and want excitement, time shouldn’t be wasted on this canopy tour. Because San Jose is a mountain city, your views from up top will be full of lights not just flora and fauna. If you want a truly fantastic canopy tour check out them out in Monteverde. Extremo is a company that offers the most and the longest platforms and cables in the country. Here you can zip above the lush green valleys and through the cloud forest.
Many tourists visiting the country get themselves very hyped up about hiking through the rainforest. While this is most definitely a desirable activity, it should not be done alone. Unless you are planning on going to an area with a marked trail, a tour guide should accompany you. Whether you hire a true tour guide or take a local who knows the area and the dangers, it is a great precaution. Because tourists are unaware of the dangers the jungle withholds, going alone can become a life threatening experience.
The Costa Rican jungle is home to dangerous wild animals, venomous tarantulas, bot flies, bullet ants, deadly reptiles, unsteady terrain, fear rains, and even poo slinging monkies. Aside from safety reasons, a tour guide is nice to have because they can point out wildlife, flora, and beautiful locations that may otherwise go unnoticed. The best jungle explorations can be found in the National Parks. These parks are made up of hundreds of hectors of unspoiled land with all of its natural inhabitants.