Pristine rainforests, quiet beaches with peeling, empty point breaks and vast volcanic mountains are just a few of the natural wonders that await in the sustainability-minded nation of Costa Rica. Now is a great time to experience its beauty for yourself. The country is welcoming visitors so long as they comply with visa and COVID-19 entry requirements; and while there is no need for a quarantine upon arrival or negative test, sanitary regulations around the country help keep both tourists and locals safe. (All regulations are subject to change, so check with the tourism board for the latest information on the country’s COVID-19 policies.)
One pandemic safety measure we’re all accustomed to is social distancing, and Costa Rica is a truly breathtaking place to do just that. To make planning your next trip as easy as possible, we’ve selected five spots around Costa Rica you can explore responsibly while getting off the beaten path and taking a moment of solitude.
1. Trekking with Wildlife in Corcovado National Park
One of Costa Rica’s most remote national parks is also perhaps its most beautiful. Corcovado National Park is among Central America’s largest lowland tropical rainforests, covering more than 163 square miles of lagoons, mangroves, rainforest and cloud forest. Located on the Osa Peninsula deep in the southwest, the park is a prime example of Costa Rica’s untouched wilderness. Hiking trails meander through the rainforest, where you’ll find an abundance of wildlife, including more than 140 species of mammals. You’ll need an authorized guide to enter the park and most eco-lodges around the Osa Peninsula offer guiding and transportation services. For a truly regional experience, check out the family-owned and operated Danta Corcovado Lodge on the northeast side of the park. Featuring local materials and craftsmanship, the lodge feels like an extension of the natural environment.
2. Hot Springs and Hiking Around Arenal Volcano National Park
Just 56 miles northwest of the capital city of San José lies one of Costa Rica’s most iconic natural wonders: the Arenal Volcano, star of the 46.8 square mile Arenal Volcano National Park. Visitors can hike the numerous trail systems around the 5,436 foot tall volcano without a guide, crossing decades-old lava fields and forests filled with a diverse range of birds, insects, and mammals (yes, there are plenty of monkey species to be seen). After a day on the trails, head to the hot spring in the nearby River Tabacón in La Fortuna, where the mineral-rich waters hover around a soothing 100-degrees Fahrenheit. For the ultimate in relaxation, check into the Arenal Kioro Suites & Spa, where you’ll enjoy a private hot spring for guests and epic views of the Arenal Volcano.
3. Summit the Region’s Highest Peak in Chirripó National Park
Think Costa Rica is all rainforest and beaches? Think again. Chirripó National Park in the South Pacific region is home to Cerro Chirripó, the region’s highest peak at 12,533 feet where temperatures dip below freezing at night and on a clear day it’s possible to see both the Pacific and Caribbean. You can reach the summit in one day without a guide, but why not make an adventure out of your journey by staying overnight in one of the rustic refuges for hikers along the 11-mile trail? Tent camping isn’t allowed, so be sure to plan ahead!
4. Relax in the Verdant Orosi Valley
About an hour’s drive from the capital of San José lies the relaxing and historic Orosi Valley. Dotted with mountain streams, hot springs, rolling lush mountains and Costa Rica’s only colonial architecture. Check into the boutique Orosi Lodge, where you’ll enjoy local coffee and mountain views. Right next door are two public mineral hot springs pools (with a cold pool to get your blood flowing). Hiking trails and single track mountain bike trails are also nearby. Meanwhile, Tapantí-Macizo de La Muerte National Park offers a wealth of trails and world class trout fishing on the Orosi River. For a relaxing picnic lunch, hike up to La Mirador de Orosi, a local favorite spot for lazy afternoons and mountain views.
5. Explore via the Water in Tortuguero National Park
Costa Rica’s well-deserved reputation for conservation and sustainability is felt throughout the country, but is perhaps most pronounced on the Caribbean Coast in Tortuguero National Park. Spanning over 190,000 acres, the park features 11 habitats including mangrove forests, lagoons, and of course, beaches. While home to the Western Hemisphere’s largest green turtle nesting site, thousands of other species can be found, too, by following the winding mazes of waterways, including howler monkeys and jaguars. Boats are the best way to get around (and see the most wildlife) here, and adventurous visitors can paddle their own kayaks or canoes through the park with a guide. (All tours are guided to ensure the park’s conservation efforts are upheld — just one percent of the land is used for visitor facilities.) Laguna Lodge Hotel, five minutes by boat from the Tortuguero village, is widely renowned for its innovations in sustainability. Built on a narrow strip of land, the lodge is surrounded by a blend of wetlands, dense jungle and beaches.