- The Best of Costa Rica
- Costa Rica’s Top Spots for WIldlife
- Costa Rica’s Most Beautiful Beaches
- Costa Rica’s Best Beaches for Wildlife
- Best Surfing Beaches in Costa Rica
- Costa Rica’s Unique Retreats & Resorts
- Surf’s Up in Costa Rica
- Off-The-Beaten-Path Eco-Adventures
- Costa Rica Family-Friendly Adventures
- Adrenaline Rush
The vast majority of visitors come to Costa Rica to do something fun. In fact, the chance to partake of hiking, surfing, white-water rafting, and zip-line canopy tours is one of the great appeals of Costa Rica.
Wherever you are in the country, there are dozens of options to choose from. Here I guide you to some of the best of countless adrenaline-charged experiences, from A to Z.
Worth the trip to Playa Sámara, in Nicoya, an open-cockpit flight in an auto-gyro at Flying Crocodile Flying Center is the ultimate high as you hover, swoop, and plunge over the coast and mountains.
Having previously made a reservation through the National Park Service, allow two or three days for hiking in Chirripó National Park, with an overnight near the mountain summit. The second day you’ll be on the trail well before dawn for the final hike to the summit of Costa Rica’s highest mountain. Congratulations!
You can hike to the summit of Rincón de la Vieja volcano in one day, but set off well before dawn, as no overnighting is allowed. It’s a great workout, rewarded with spectacular views (assuming no clouds).
Wind-whipped Lake Arenal is considered a rival to Oregon’s Columbia Gorge for consistency of winds. The adrenaline kick of whizzing across or over the lake on a sailboard or kite at Tico Wind Surf Center (tel. 506/2692-2002, www.ticowind.com) is boosted by signs warning that crocodiles have been spotted here.
Beginners can take the plunge at the Islas Murciélagos, part of Santa Rosa National Park, off northwest Nicoya, to commune with giant groupers, manta rays, and whale sharks; trips are offered by scuba outfitters at Playas del Coco, Playa Ocotal, and Playa Hermosa.
For the ultimate rapture of the deep, experienced divers should sign up for a 10-day trip aboard the Okeanos Aggressor (U.S. tel. 866/348-2628, www.aggressor.com) to Cocos Island, where schools of hundreds of hammerhead sharks await your arrival.
The search for the ultimate wave in Costa Rica ends at Puerto Viejo, on the Caribbean, where the storm-generated wave known as Salsa Brava is for dudes who really know how to hang ten.
Stamina is required to ride what is often billed as the world’s second-longest ride (behind Chicama, Peru) off Pavones. When conditions are right (usually during southern swells, April–October), this epic wave can carry you for two kilometers.
On the Osa Peninsula, Everyday Adventures (tel. 506/8353-8619, www.psychotours.com) in Puerto Jiménez challenges you to a rope climb up a giant strangler fig for a 20-meter freefall plunge to the ground.
In the northern lowlands, you can also play like Spiderman by climbing inside a hollow strangler fig, or haul yourself up a giant ceiba tree, courtesy of Serendipity Adventures (tel. 506/2558-1000 or 888/226-5050, www.serendipityadventures.com) in Turrialba.
Costa Rica offers more white-water sizzle than seltzer, and a trip down either the Reventazón or Pacuare, both accessed from Turrialba, guarantees more seat-of-the-saddle thrills than a bucking bronco. Between the rapids, you get calm spots for swimming and for spotting wildlife. Plan an overnight trip with Aventuras Naturales (tel. 506/225-3939, http://www.adventurecostarica.com) and a night at their deluxe Pacuare Jungle Lodge (tel. 800/963-1195, www.pacuarelodge.com) near the Chirripó Indian Reserve.
With more than three dozen zip lines throughout Costa Rica, adrenaline junkies are spoiled for choice. Sky Trek, at Arenal in the northern lowlands, is one of the best with four kilometers of cables, including a 750-meter-long span.
© Christopher P. Baker from Moon Costa Rica, 8th Edition