Costa Rica is a land of unparalleled ecological diversity. Its strategic location gives it a unique biological make-up, combining the southern range of North American species of fauna and flora with the northern range of South American species. Costa Rica’s ecological uniqueness draws visitors from around the world. Costa Rica has taken the lead in developing ecotourism in Central America. We have made a number of ecotourism trips to Costa Rica; so when we drove through Costa Rica, from the Nicaraguan border in the north to Panama border in the south, the route was familiar.
Our first stop in Costa Rica was in Papagayo where we stayed at Casa Conde del Mar. It is a great place with white faced and howler monkeys, iguanas, and a variety of birds. The jays at the restaurant entertained us. These birds always keep an eye on the food because they love to steal sugar from the tables.
From Papagayo we journeyed to Arenal, a popular tourist area. The drive around Lake Arenal is a must, as you will get to see the Arenal Volcano erupt. Many visitors are drawn to Arenal because they can view wildlife, watch an active volcano or relax in one of Arenal’s geothermal feed hot springs. On prior trips the author recalls only seeing two hot springs in the area, the famous Tobacón Hot Springs and one public hot springs. The continued growth of tourism in the area however, has resulted in the development of hot spring hotels.
Not far from Lake Arenal is the incredible Monte Verde Cloud Forest Reserve. The Monte Verde Cloud Forest is the richest and most complex tropical cloud forest in the New World. The abundance of life associated with the cloud forest is truly astounding. The reserve contains over 2000 species of plants. This provides an incredible backdrop for its diverse animal population, which includes over 300 species of birds. Costa Rica is home to the resplendent quetzal, considered by many naturalists to be the most beautiful and spectacular bird. Other exciting bird life includes the three-wattled bellbird, buffy tuftedcheek, prong-billed barber, and emerald toucaneet. It is also home to mammals such as howler monkeys, sloths, and agoutis.
From Arenal it was onto San José. While in San José one day we explored the area around Volcan Barva. Along the route there were roadside tables. We stopped at one roadside table to buy local cheese and some baked goods.
Our next stop was in Southern Costa Rica at San Geraldo de Rivas near Mount Chirripó, the highest mountain in Central America. San Geraldo de Rivas is used as a base for those planning to climb Mount Chirripó. Many people come to this area not only to climb but also to bird watch, hike, and horseback ride or to just relax in the public hot springs. These hot springs are not touristy but primarily serve the needs of the local population. We stayed at Hotel Pelicano near Rio Chirripó. The hot springs is located about a kilometer down the road from the hotel.
After a relaxing stay in San Geraldo de Rivas we drove onto San Vito. In San Vito we stayed at a small hotel. Next morning, we did a hassle free border crossing into Panama at Rio Sereno. You will find many public and private hot springs locations throughout Costa Rica. In fact, as we traveled throughout Costa Rica wherever we saw volcanoes we usually saw hot springs. We were also happy to discover that in Costa Rica we had no problems finding pet friendly hotels (Papagayo (Casa Conde del Mar), San José (Adventure Inn), San Geraldo de Rivas (Hotel Pelicano) and San Vito). Eco-friendly Costa Rica is perhaps the most pet friendly country.