Arenal Volcano. Photo © Christopher P. Baker.

Planning Your Time in Costa Rica’s Northern Lowlands

Travelers flock to Costa Rica’s northern lowlands thanks to the singular popularity of Volcán Arenal and the fistful of adventures based around nearby La Fortuna. Use this area overview to learn about the region and what more it offers, along with a bit of history and tips on planning your time.

Jaguar lounging in Belize. Photo © Lebawit Lily Girma.

Hiking Cockscomb Basin in Belize

The main draw of the Cockscomb Basin is the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, commonly called the “Jaguar Preserve.” The area is alive with wildlife and hiking opportunities, from an easy hour-long stroll along the river to a four-day Victoria Peak expedition. Here’s how to get to the preserve, the best hiking trails, and necessary preparations for staying overnight.

Judy Arroyo with rescued sloths at the Sloth Sanctuary. Photo © Christopher P. Baker.

Costa Rica Nature Reserves: Puerto Limón to Cahuita

Nature reserves south of Puerto Limón in Colombia tend to be remote and undeveloped, making them perfect for adventure travel. The one exception is the world’s only sloth sanctuary, an education and research center based around rehabilitating rescued sloths that amounts to a highly-fulfilling experience for visitors.

Fire Ginger at Esquinas Rainforest Lodge in Piedras Blancas National Park, Costa Rica.

All About Piedras Blancas National Park, Costa Rica

Centered on the village of La Gamba, Piedras Blancas National Park was split from Parque Nacional Corcovado in 1999. The rainforest has no shortages of unique plants to admire, wildlife to watch, and plenty of other ways to spend your time. Here are suggestions for your visit, along with the best places to stay.

Closeup of a Heliconia rostrata flower.

Costa Rica’s Incredibly Diverse Plant Life

Costa Rica’s tropical location, in combination with its remarkable diversity of local relief and climates, has resulted in the evolution of a stupendously rich biota. Some habitats, such as the mangrove swamps, are relatively simple. Others, particularly the ecosystem of the tropical rainforests of the Caribbean lowlands and the Nicoya and Osa Peninsulas, are among the most complex on the planet.

Aerial view of northern cayes. Photo © Lebawit Lily Girma.

Where to Go in the Belize Cayes

Regardless of where you go in the Belize Cayes, days are spent alfresco: kayaking, sailing, fishing, feasting on fresh catch, swimming alongside rays and turtles, gazing at magnificent frigatebirds hovering in blue skies. Or mastering the art of dolce far niente: the sweetness of doing nothing. Here’s an overview of island highlights.

A scenic highway leads south from Petén into Alta Verapaz. Photo © Al Argueta.

Las Verapaces: Guatemala’s Green Heartland

Las Verapaces remains green and lush throughout most of the year. From exploring beautiful cloud forests to remote hikes to discovering a lagoon in the middle of the rainforest, outdoor enthusiasts will find no shortage of vibrant, unique landscapes to experience. Here’s a sampling of the best.

La Coca Falls at El Yunque. Photo © Suzanne Van Atten.

Planning Your Time on Puerto Rico’s East Coast

Puerto Rico’s east coast is rich in natural wonders, making it the most popular destination for day-trippers from San Juan. From quintessential Puerto Rican sights and scenic drives to sleepy beach towns and spectacular resorts, here’s how to plan your time exploring the east coast.

Orange-billed nightingale-thrush in La Paz Waterfall Gardens. Photo © Christopher P. Baker.

Costa Rica’s Best Wildlife Watching Spots

National parks, wildlife refuges, and biological reserves are found throughout the country. They range from swampy wetlands to dry-forest environments and from lowland rainforests to high-mountain cloud forests. Sign up for guided natural-history excursions or hire a local naturalist guide. You’ll see many times more critters in the company of an eagle-eyed guide.