Even though Costa Rica is a tiny country, it’s jam-packed with bucket list travel adventures. At our weeklong surf and yoga retreats at Pura Vida Adventures, you’ll be immersed in the dreamy surfer’s paradise of Mal Pais and Santa Teresa (think unspoiled beaches, stunning sunsets, endless perfect waves…). But if you’d like to explore even more of Costa Rica while you’re here — maybe see a sloth in the wild, hike an active volcano, or walk above the cloud forest on a hanging bridge — this gorgeous country will not disappoint. Here’s our list of the top-5 must-see places to visit in Costa Rica before or after your surf retreat with us!
Are you a fan of sloths? These sweet and slow-moving animals are some of the most beloved treetop residents of Costa Rica, and many of our retreat guests ask us about seeing one in the wild. While our retreat home base in Mal Pais isn’t a natural sloth territory (we’re more of a monkey town), there are several other spots in Costa Rica where you can see these most-chill animals in their natural habitat. One of our favorites is Manuel Antonio National Park, a nature-lover’s paradise on the mainland Pacific coast just a few hours’ drive from the capital city of San Jose. There’s a wide selection of hotels within walking distance of the park, and it’s easy to hire a certified English-speaking guide in town to take you on a wildlife tour. The park is easy to navigate and packed with animals! The beaches are also stunning and ideal for swimming. There’s even a spot to rent a board and surf some small, gentle waves. Click here to find out more about the park and surrounding areas.
Tucked high up in the mountains of central Costa Rica and right on the continental divide (wow!), the small community of Monteverde is home to one of the rarest habitats on Earth — the cloud forest. The high humidity at this spot, 1,600 meters above the ocean, creates the mist and provides a cloud-like cover. Famed for its dramatic hanging bridges and wild zip-line courses, Monteverde is also a bird-lover’s paradise, with more than 500 species in the area. If you love hiking, you won’t want to miss a some leisurely days here, exploring the miles of well-maintained forest trails. It can feel like an entirely different world from the beach when you’re up here in the clouds. You can stay in one of the area’s many charming lodges for a truly magical experience. Pack a sweater and socks, it gets chilly here! Visit this site to check out some of the amazing plants and animals you can see in Monteverde.
We love the lush Arenal area for it’s awesome mix of active adventure and rejuvenation, especially the all-natural thermal pools found at the base of the volcano. Back in the day, the Arenal Volcano was one of the 10 most active volcanoes in the world! The lava eruptions have ceased for now, but you can still see smoke and ash spew from the crater on some days, and enjoy a breathtaking hike nearly to the top. After a good workout on the trails, you absolutely cannot miss a day at the hot springs (a destination in itself). Many of the hotels in the area have been built around their own natural springs, giving them each a different vibe and level of luxury. But one resort in particular — Tabacon — rises above the rest. It costs a pretty penny to stay here, but the entire experience is more than worth it. If you’re not ready for the splurge, you can get a day pass to the springs that includes a gourmet buffet lunch or dinner. You’ll leave feeling like a million bucks. Find out more about the luxurious hot springs at Tabacon.
Do you know the word for “turtle” in Spanish? Yep, it’s “tortuga.” And if seeing some tortugas nesting in the wild is on your travel bucket list, you’ve got to visit Tortuguero on the Caribbean coast. Known as the “Amazon of Costa Rica,” this destination is truly off the beaten path and ideal for adventure seekers. Four different species of sea turtles come to Tortuguero each year to lay their eggs on the beach in a mass nesting. During your visit, you may get to see the Green, Leatherback, Hawksbill, or Loggerhead sea turtles, and it’s something you won’t soon forget. The Leatherback is the largest living turtle species — it averages 6 to 7 feet long and can weigh up to 1500 pounds! You can also rent a kayak to explore the areas Amazon-like canals, or take a guided boat tour. There’s also plenty of jungle trails to explore on foot (with plenty of insect repellent, of course). Read more about exotic and adventurous Tortuguero experience here!
So you’ve caught the surfing bug, and all you can think about is CATCHING MORE WAVES. Woohoo! You’ve come to the right country. After learning to surf with us at Pura Vida Adventures, you can easily keep the stoke alive with a visit to Nosara. Hop in the rental car or catch a shuttle for a super fun surf trip a few hours up the coast, where you’ll find another beginner/intermediate surfing beach in the hip surf town of Nosara. Check in to one of the area’s many boutique hotels or stay at one of the acclaimed yoga resorts here to get totally into the zone. The surfing beach, known as Guiones, is very long, giving you plenty of space to find some friendly spots to practice your pop-up and catch some gentle rollers. Intermediate surfers can paddle out to the lineup on moderate days, where the beach break can be ideal for longboards. Surfboard rentals are plentiful and the locals are welcoming. Many Americans have retired in this area, so it’s got a decidedly “gringo” vibe, but Nosara will always be a favorite among surfers for its reliable waves. Click here to check out one of our favorite places to stay in Nosara.