5 of the wildest destinations in Costa Rica

It’s hardly a secret that Costa Rica’s famed for its wild and untouched hinterland. Travellers flock from far and wide to see the wondrous cloud forests (one of the most endangered habitats on the planet), caked in millions of mosses and beset by eerie plumes of fog and mist throughout the year. Others come to scale the multitude of volcanos, bathe in bubbling hot springs, spot iguanas and jaguars on the jungle paths, raft the rivers – the list goes on! Mhmm, this jewel of Central America offers all that and more...


Mist­topped canopies rise and fall over the Sierra de Tilarán all around Monteverde. Volcanos peak and trough above the horizon in the distance. The colourful flash of a resplendent quetzal appears now and then in the deep green of the thickets. The stalk of a panther creases the undergrowth, sloths recline on the lower boughs, and the possible glint of a golden toad gleams under the Costa Rican sun. Welcome to wondrous Monteverde: unquestionably one of the wildest destinations in the land of Ticos, but also one of the most popular. Curiously accessible, we head here on our Rockin’ Rica trip to join the Quaker families and backpackers of Santa Elena, and to conquer the soaring wire bridges and ziplines of Selvatura Park – you’ve been warned!

Bosque Eterno de los Niños

A poster boy for grassroots ecotourism and conservation, the Bosque Eterno de los Niños (that’s the Children’s Eternal Rain Forest to you and me) owes its existence to a group of determined Swedish schoolkids from the 1980s. These guys pushed and pushed to get the area designated a national park, and boy are we glad they did! A land of blooming orchids so big you could wear them to a wedding, emerald­green ferns and primeval rainforest untouched by the outside world, the sprawling reserve of more than 230 square kilometers covers a mega seven individual biospheres. The Sendero Bajo del Tigre hiking route is the way to see it, on which you can expect curious three ­toed sloths and multi­coloured vipers!


Barra del Colorado Wildlife Refuge

Something like Costa Rica’s answer to the endless bayous and brackish riparian lands of the Deep South, the Barra del Colorado Wildlife Refuge is a vast enclave of riverside and oceanside greenery that occupies the northern end of the country’s Caribbean Coast. With a far ­flung position and just a single Miskito come Carib come Nicaraguan village in its midst, it’s hardly surprising that the whole area is indelibly wild. Travelers who do make their way here are in for a real medley of unusual sights and sounds though, from rare glossy ibis stalking through the waters to caimans and crocs on the edges of the lagoons, curious West Indian manatees to spotted snakes between the hardwood vines. Arenal Simply put, Arenal is the reason so many adventure travelers have Costa Rica right at the tip top of their bucket list. A chipped and magma­carved mass of charcoal­coloured rock that pokes its way high into the skies of Alajuela province, this bubbling caldera and its surrounding swathes of virgin rainforest (all encompassed in the Arenal Volcano National Park) are a magnet for thrill­seekers and intrepid types. There’s whitewater rafting on the rapids of the Balsa River, while log flume rides down the courses of the Peñas Blancas means iguana spotting and papaya picking. Hot springs bubble from the nearby vents too, and there are more waterfalls than you can shake a waxy coconut palm at! No wonder the nearby town of La Fortuna is a real favourite on our Rockin’ Rica itinerary!


Parque Nacional Los Quetzales

A fusion of Costa Rica’s great volcanic sierras and its deep green rainforests, the Parque Nacional Los Quetzales remains one of the more off­the­beaten­track wildernesses in the country. Trodden mainly by birdwatchers and trekkers eager to spy out the endangered cloud forests away from more popular Monteverde, it’s crisscrossed by just a smattering of rugged and crooked bridal paths; trails that weave through the montane woods and along the rushing courses of the appropriately­named Savegre River (think whitewater rafting to challenge even the pros!). A vast area of rainforests and peaks, the Quetzales of the Cordillera de Talamanca is a real treat for any true intrepid travelers hitting Central America!


"Rich is a traveler, writer and filmmaker who's always after somewhere new to go. He's been hopping around the globe since 2011, from Poland to Paris, Mumbai to Ho Chi Minh. He runs several travel sites of his own, from Ski Eastern to Live Krakow to Crabs Move Sideways. When he's not planning his next trip, he's usually listening to 50s jazz, surfing in Wales, skiing in the Alps, or just swigging (too much) great craft beer."

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