Sámara seen from a Flying Crocodile ultralight flight. Photo © Christopher P. Baker.

Planning Your Time on Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula

Known for its magnificent beaches and a long dry season with sizzling sunshine, the Nicoya Peninsula is the epicenter of Costa Rican beach vacations. Most tourism activity is along the dramatically sculpted Pacific shoreline. Although each beach community has its own distinct appeal, most remain barefoot and traditional, appealing to laid-back travelers who can hang with the locals and appreciate the wildlife that comes down to the shore.

Because of its strategic location, the Dúrika Biological Reserve serves as a refuge to many endangered species, such as the Harpy Eagle. Photo © Brian Gratwicke, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

Buenos Aires and the Durika Biological Reserve

The gateway to the northern section of Parque Internacional La Amistad is Buenos Aires, a small agricultural town in the midst of an endless green ocean of piñas. Here you’ll find the Reserva Biológica Durika, a self-sufficient agricultural community operating an authentic ecotourism project that welcomes visitors.

Peccary at La Selva Biological Station. Photo © Christopher P. Baker.

Plan a Visit to La Selva Biological Station

One of Costa Rica’s premier birding sites, La Selva Biological Station offers guided nature walks with phenomenal wildlife viewing. There are a handful of tours offered, including an early-bird walk and for those who choose to overnight in comfortable dormitories, a nocturnal tour.

Scuba divers set out from the Águila de Osa Inn at Drake Bay. Photo © Christopher P. Baker.

Things to Do in Drake Bay, Costa Rica

On the north side of the Osa Peninsula, Drake Bay lies between the mouth of the Río Sierpe and the vastness of Parque Nacional Corcovado. It’s a good base for sportfishing and scuba diving, and for hikes into nearby wildlife refuges and the national park.

Stela 5 at Takalik Abaj. Photo © Simon Burchell (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

The Ruins of Takalik Abaj, Guatemala

The archeological site of Takalik Abaj, meaning “standing stones,” is particularly interesting because it reveals elements of Olmec influence in early Mayan culture. Learn about the ruins and how to get there in preparation for your visit, along with recommendations for where to stay to explore the surrounding landscape.

Currasow. Photo © Christopher P. Baker.

Explore La Garita, Costa Rica

La Garita is an excellent stop for nature lovers, boasting a botanical orchid garden and a wildlife rescue center that welcomes visitors to explore its expansive grounds. There are also two lovely places to stay–one modestly appointed but wonderfully comfortable and the other a far more lavish, luxurious property–that make the trip especially pleasant.

Vegas Alta and Baja are on the north coast of Puerto Rico. Photo © Suzanne Van Atten.

Things to Do in Vega Alta and Vega Baja

The highlight of the Vegas is definitely Punta Cerro Gordo, a gorgeous piece of coastline that boasts one of the island’s best publicly maintained beaches and a great camping area, but remember to take time away from the surf and sand to explore the history, culture, and beautiful sights of the area. Expert author Suzanne Van Atten talks festivals, cultural hotspots and exploring the outdoors in Vega Alta and Vega Baja.

A boy studies a preserved specimen in the San Ramón Museum.

San Ramón and the Nectandra Cloud Forest Garden

San Ramón is a gateway to Costa Rica’s northern lowlands via a mountain road that crests the cordillera, then begins a long sinuous descent to La Tigra. This agricultural and university town is known for its Saturday feria del agricultor (farmers market). A mere nine miles north is the Nectandra Cloud Forest Garden, where superb hiking trails and truly wonderful places to stay.

Aerial view of Lake Amatitlán, on the fringes of Guatemala City. Photo © Al Argueta.

Things to Do at Lake Amatitlán

Lake Amatitlán is in the process of being rescued from what would have been certain ecological death caused by wastewater from nearby industry and uncontrolled urban growth. Though it’s still not possible to swim in the lake’s waters, the area around it is home to very affordable hot springs and spas, and a park with full facilities and picnic areas offering several outdoor activities.

Diving at the RMS Rhone National Park wreck site. Photo © Susanna Henighan Potter.

Salt Island and the Wreck of the RMS Rhone

Many islands in the Virgins have salt ponds where crystal salt was collected, but no island had a larger or more productive pond than Salt Island. It’s also home to the wreck of the RMS Rhone, the preeminent dive site in the British Virgin Islands and one of its most visited attractions. Learn about the island’s history and how to thoroughly explore the Rhone’s remains.