Ecotourism Guide To Costa Rica

By Tae Haahr

Costa Rica is one of the best spots for ecotourism in the world. If you’re looking for the best things to see, eat, drink and do, this guide to Costa Rica can point you in the right direction and help you travel with a light footprint.

A keel-billed toucan in Costa Rica | ZDENEK MACHACEK

Best time of year to visit

The best time to visit Costa Rica is during the wet season, but specifically in May, September, October or November when you can experience the vibrant culture of Costa Rica with less crowds. Weather is great during those months if you don’t mind getting a little wet – you are visiting the rainforest after all. 

Where to stay

Budget travelers starting in San José can find refuge at the solar-powered Hotel Aranjuez, where you can score rates of less than $50 USD per night. They also offer locally guided tours to places like Irazú Volcano and the Orosí Valley.

Terrace view from a rainforest bungalow at Lapa Rios Eco Resort | LAPA RIOS

Luxury accommodations can be found at the Lapa Rios Eco Resort in the Osa Peninsula. It is one of National Geographic’s Unique Lodges of the World and provides an immersive experience on a 1000-acre rainforest reserve. 

To experience local life in Costa Rica, the Danta Corcovado Lodge is rooted in sustainability and has a relationship with the nearby Guaymí community. Next to Corcovado National Park, you can visit their indigenous territory and meet families who will teach you about their lifestyle, culture and beliefs, while giving you a tour of their garden full of medicinal plants. 

Where to eat and drink

El Mirador Restaurant located at the Arenas Del Mar beachfront and rainforest resort in Manuel Antonio National Park is part of the sustainable Cayuga Collection. They use sustainably sourced ingredients for their locally inspired dishes that can be enjoyed from the open-air dining room on the cliffside perch overlooking the beach.

Aerial view of Finca Rosa Blanca Coffee Plantation | FINCA ROSA BLANCA

El Tigre Vestido Restaurant serves true farm-to-table dishes with fresh ingredients, sourced daily from their organic gardens located on the Finca Rosa Blanca Coffee Plantation Resort in Santa Bárbara, they blend Mesoamerican and Costa Rican culinary traditions and innovate by pairing cuisine and coffee that is grown, roasted and produced onsite.

What to do

Foodie travelers can experience the family-owned and operated Don Juan Coffee, Chocolate & Sugar Cane Tour (November through February), where you can experience the passion that’s put into this local gem from one of the areas earliest pioneer families.

Located 15 kilometers from Fortuna in the northwest part of Costa Rica, Arenal Volcano National Park is one of the most visited destinations in the country. Several trails (Heliconias, Coladas, Tucanes and Los Miradores) allow you to immerse yourself in much of the park’s flora and fauna, as well as the remains of lava tracts. 

Zip lining through the Costa Rican rainforest | PERRY GRONE

If you’re seeking adventure, the Superman Zip Line Aerial Pass in Diamante Eco Adventure Park can be an amazing way to see and experience the beautiful Costa Rican landscape. This is also the only ocean-view dual zip line experience in the country, so bring a friend!

For those looking to stick a little closer to the ground, the Pacuare River Rafting trip might be a more appealing option. This way you’ll get a chance to experience the beauty of Costa Rica from a different perspective.

While everyone knows Manuel Antonio National Park, Cahuita is a unique national park in Costa Rica because of its close relationship with the community. It’s an example of shared management for sustainable development between the community and government. Here, you can discover the most preserved coral reef in the Costa Rican Caribbean, with white sand beaches, turquoise water and diverse marine life.

Isla Tortuga, just off Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula | ATANAS MALAMOV

Isla Tortuga is the perfect day trip for white sand beaches, rainforest hikes and water activities like snorkeling alongside manta rays, sharks and spinner dolphins or scuba diving through three sunken shipwrecks.