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10 Days of Delight: Your Ultimate Trip to Costa Rica

Make your trip to Costa Rica count

To help you make the most out of your trip to Costa Rica, we’ve created this travel guide that can promise you a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.Costa Rica is a popular vacation destination with its wide array of environmental and cultural attractions.  As you plan your vacation, be sure to check out the premier luxury Los Sueños Resort, featuring a spa, championship golf course, gorgeous views of the ocean and marina, and more!

 

10 Days of Delight: Your Ultimate Trip to Costa Rica

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5 Most Thrilling Things to Do in Costa Rica

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Costa Rica Offers Thrilling Adventures in Paradise

An adventurer’s paradise, Costa Rica is full of thrilling opportunities for the intrepid traveler. Whether it is ziplining through the rainforest, or fishing for the big one in the crystal blue waters off the coast, you’ll find no shortage of exciting things to experience here.

Arenal Volcano and Tabacon Hot Springs

Costa Rica’s best known volcano, Arenal was one of the most active in the world until 2010. While eruptions have for the most part ceased, Arenal remains a stunningly beautiful, symmetrical conical volcano worth a visit. The Arenal area also boasts lakes, white-water rafting excursions, and hiking trails complete with hanging bridges and gorgeous views. No visit to Arenal would be complete without a dip in the Tabacon Hot Springs, a completely natural, geothermal gem surrounded by lush rainforests.

Zipline Canopy Tour

Ziplining remains one of the most popular adventure activities in Costa Rica, and with good reason. Nothing can quite compare to the feeling of soaring through the rainforest canopy alone, with nothing but breathtaking views of the flora and fauna all around you. Tours can be found almost anywhere in the country, but those located in the Arenal and Monteverde regions are especially popular.

White-water Rafting

From gently floating down calm rivers, to fast and exciting white-water adventures, Costa Rica’s rivers offer boat, kayak, and canoe opportunities for all experience levels. For a real heart-pounder, arrange a rafting trip with one of the many guided water tours that can take you over the rapids and rappelling down waterfalls. You’ll also see areas of the jungle untouched and rarely visited while on the water, a big, and increasingly uncommon, treat.

Deep Sea Fishing

The coast off of Los Sueños offers some of the best fishing in the world. Boats wait to take you to top deep sea fishing locations teeming with marlin, sailfish, tuna and more. Local captains who know the best spots will guide you on a chartered sport fishing adventure you’ll long remember. Check out the latest fishing reports for some current local fishing conditions and news.

ATV Tours

To really experience all that the mountains and jungles of Costa Rica offer, there’s no better way than on an all-terrain vehicle, or ATV. Whether you’re on a smooth beach or braving a muddy, jungle trail, these four-wheeled vehicles give you the freedom of a motorcycle with the ability for off-road adventuring.

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HRG’s Guide to Hiking in Costa Rica

Arenal Hanging Bridges park of Costa Rica

Eco- Series: 7 Heavenly Hikes in Costa Rica

Preparing for the Rainforest Hike

Costa Rica boasts some of the greatest hiking and eco-exploration opportunities in the world. With its abundance of flora and fauna, there are a plethora of new discoveries to be made by hikers and adventurers every day when visiting Costa Rica. In this series, 7 Heavenly Hikes in Costa Rica, we will explore some of the best hiking destinations that Costa Rica has to offer, starting with some tips and tools that every hiker in Costa Rica should have in their virtual, and physical, backpack.

Prepare for Anything

You’ll be amazed at the bounty of microclimates in Costa Rica and the quick changes in weather- sometimes from one minute to the next- that you’ll experience when hiking. You should be prepared for this by planning to wear layers when hiking. Hiking pants that convert into shorts with a quick zip and good, sturdy hiking shoes are an absolute must. When looking into the perfect hiking shoe, go for one that will do well on wet surfaces or even submerged in water; you are going to come across a lot of those, especially when hiking the cloud forest reserves. Regardless of whether your vacation baggage consists of a giant backpacker’s pack or good old fashioned luggage, you’ll want a lighter weight backpack that is strictly for exploring- don’t plan to lug all your stuff along with you on these hiking trails. Most of the trails in this country are moderate to difficult, and you won’t be able to deal with all that. Plan on having something that will allow you to carry the essentials you need for a day’s hike only.

Be Aware of Your Environmental Impact

The lush natural habitat you have the privileged of trekking through in Costa Rica is often fragile. Unconscious hikers sometimes accidentally destroy the environments they enjoy. While the actions of just one hiker may not make a huge impact, the massive effect of large numbers of visitors to the forest can degrade the environment. Here are a few things to keep in mind while in the forest: 1. You are a guest in the forest. Respect the animals that live there. Do not feed them food that could damage their systems. Do not remove them from their homes. Do not taunt them or try to pick them up. Do not destroy or remove their homes or nests. 2. Leave no trace. Whatever you take into the forest, you must take out. Even if you don’t see signs or regulations, follow strict guidelines for dealing with food waste, packaging, or anything else that might alter the environment. This includes even human waste, which is often a major source of environmental impact from hikers. Human waste can contaminate the watershed and make other hikers ill. You can deal with this problem by using “catholes” and covering them up; try to create and use these at least 200 feet away from water sources and trails to minimize the risk of contamination. 3. Obey the rules and regulations of the area, and, if none are given, use good common sense and care. Fires and other hazards such as injuries or getting lost can be avoided in this way. The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics offers a set of guidelines for low-impact hiking: “Leave nothing but footprints. Take nothing but photos. Kill nothing but time. Keep nothing but memories”.

Hiker’s Etiquette

Hiking in a group can be fun and increase safety. However, sometimes groups of hikers can interfere with the good experience of other hikers. Here are a few rules for hiking etiquette that are universally beneficial. 1. When you or your group of hikers meets another on a steep trail, it is customary to allow the “right of way” to the group that is moving up the hill. 2. Conscious hikers typically avoid making loud noises or taking part in loud, boisterous conversations when hiking. Leave your cell phone conversations for emergencies only, and stay present, safe and considerate by leaving music listening (even with headphones- you need to be able to hear when you are in the forest) for another time and space. One caveat to this rule is when hiking in bear country, but that’s not something you need to think about when hiking in Costa Rica. 3. Stay on established trails; this helps to avoid impact on the land and its natural environment. 4. Hiking faster than your natural pace can increase fatigue and may even cause injury. If in a large group, slower hikers could be left behind or get lost. When in a group, it is a good practice to encourage the slower hikers to lead, while all the others match that speed. Another good safety tip is to have more experienced hikers take up the rear to ensure that everyone is safe. green frogIn this series, 7 Heavenly Hikes in Costa Rica, you will discover some of the best hiking trails that Costa Rica has to offer, as well as what to look for through our Spot This! Flora & Fauna of Costa Rica series that typically runs the first Monday of each month.

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Costa Rica Flora & Fauna

Costa Rica’s Amazing Abundance of Flora and Fauna

While many places around the word offer nature lovers stunning forest, mountain or desert landscapes to explore, few have the vibrance, color and diversity of the tiny country of Costa Rica.

Costa Rica may be small, but it’s one of the most biodiverse places in the world. Sandwiched between North and South America, species from both continents converge in this subtropical space. What’s more, a warm, humid subtropical climate and heavy seasonal rainfall make for rich soil, in which all manner of spectacular and colorful trees, flowers and plants grow.

For the intrepid nature-lover, Costa Rica features 26 protected forests, 20 national parks, 9 forest reserves, 8 wildlife refuges and 7 wildlife sanctuaries, making it perfect for thrilling eco tours. These types of tours are available across the country, and welcome enthusiastic explorers year round.

Some animals to look out for on an eco tour include:

Mammals

There are 205 species of mammals in Costa Rica, ranging from familiar critters like monkeys, dolphins, raccoons, deer and bats, to exotic and unusual species like the jaguarondi, the peccary, and the smiling, slow-moving sloth.

Birds

There are nearly 900 species of birds in Costa Rica, some of which are permanent residents, and some of which are merely passing through on their way south during their migration. From brown robins, to feisty seagulls, to graceful wading birds, there are countless opportunities for bird watching in Costa Rica. If you look closely, you may even catch a glimpse of a charming and colorful quetzal or an iconic toucan or scarlet macaw.

Amphibians and Reptiles

There are about 150 amphibian species and 200 reptile species in Costa Rica. Favorites of wildlife watchers include brightly colored poison dart frogs; charming marine turtles, which nest on local shores and can be seen laying eggs almost year round; and fearsome crocodiles, which if you’re brave enough — can be seen up close on Costa Rica’s crocodile tours.

Costa Rica has the highest diversity of plants in the world. Some must-sees include:

Trees

There are around 1900 species of trees in Costa Rica. The iconic coconut palms that stud the beaches are certainly graceful, but the real gems are the many hundreds of trees that make up the rainforest canopy. Especially worth seeing are the 200-foot tall ceiba trees, and the milk trees, which have brilliant reddish-orange roots.

Plants

Costa Rica features a vast array of flowering plants, ferns, and mosses. Some of the most beautiful and exotic include orchids, bromeliads, air plants, and – perhaps most captivating of all – brightly colored heliconia.

 

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Travel Costa Rica

Getting Around Costa Rica

Costa Rica’s rugged natural landscape, abundance of rural roads, and seasonal torrential downpours can make traveling around a whole new kind of fun. However, with some determination and some know how, you can get from place to place fairly easily.

By Car

Traveling by car can be a challenge in a country where less-than stellar roads, rural areas and changeable weather are abundant. However, it is one of the best ways to see the country on your own terms and your own timetable, and any challenges can be chalked up to part of the adventure.

In Costa Rica, out-of-country driver’s licenses and International Driving Permits will be accepted for up to 90 days, after which time you’ll need to get a Costa Rican license. While pricey, renting a car is one of the most common and convenient ways to travel by car. Keep in mind that most rental cars are manual transmission, and that 4-wheel drive options are highly recommended, even if you don’t plan to go far.

To rent a car, you’ll need to be at least 21, and you’ll need to present a valid driver’s license, a major credit card and a passport. While rentals from major, well-known companies are available in Costa Rica, renting from a local agency is typically cheaper.

Taxis are also available, and are a good option in more rural areas that lack a comprehensive public transport system. In general, shorter trips are metered, whereas a pre-negotiated flat fee is common for longer trips. Fares in bad weather and across poor road conditions can be higher than usual.

By Bus

Local buses run frequently, they can be found almost anywhere, and they’re an inexpensive way to travel. They’re also a common method of transportation for Costa Ricans, so you’ll have the chance to meet lots of locals and learn a little about their culture. You won’t get around quickly by bus in Costa Rica, but the slow pace does allow for some leisurely sightseeing.

Buses stop on rural and city roads, at marked and unmarked stops. Drivers almost never say no to a potential passenger, so buses are typically pretty packed, but they’ll always find a way to fit one more in. Costa Rica has two types of bus service: the directo, which makes fewer stops but costs more, and the colectivo, which goes more slowly and stops more often, but costs less.

By Plane

Traveling Costa Rica by air allows you to see more of the country and get the most out of your trip. The country has two domestic airlines: NatureAir, which operates out of Tobias Bolanos Airport in Pavas and Sansa, which operates out of Juan Santamaria Airport in San Jose.  Both traverse the country, and both utilize small passenger planes.

The size of the planes is significant when it comes to your travel plans. Baggage weight is limited to 12 kg (or 26 pounds) per passenger, and on full flights your larger items may cost you extra, or in some cases not be allowed on at all. Small planes and bad weather are not a good mix, so delays and flight schedule changes are common. For this reason, it’s important to book domestic flights into the airport well in advance of any connecting international flight.

Charter flights are another option; they’re relatively affordable, and they can take you anywhere you want to go. Know that baggage and passenger capacity on charter flights is very limited.

However you choose to fly, make all reservations in advance, include a time buffer, and have a backup plan in case of delays.

When staying with HRG vacations at Los Sunos Resort and Marina, the accommodating staff at HRG can easily arrange all your transportation needs.

 

 

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Traditional Costa Rican Food

Costa Rica Has Many Wonderful Traditional Foods and Eateries

Guest post by Jordan C.

galloEggsI have a passion for food. My passions have taken me far and wide and I love to write about my travels and the delicious discoveries I find while visiting reams near and far-flung. Recently, my explorations into the foods of South America took me to Costa Rica.

The traditional food theme here in Costa Rica is savory dishes, sweet desserts, and fresh fruits. These foods are served by street vendors or small, family run eateries called “sodas”. There are also many international restaurants offering cuisines from around the globe.

I visited San Jose and the nearby Central Valley to get a taste of the Costa Rican flair in these global cuisines. These internationally themed dining establishments are housed in refurbished colonial homes and tucked into little alleyways. Most of them are not expensive. You can buy three courses with wine and only pay around $40. I found many delicious options here in the gastronomic center of Costa Rica. The Spanish tapas made my mouth water. The Japanese sushi was always arranged so creatively on the plate and the handmade Italian pastas could have been made in Italy. They really were that good. My favorite dish from that region, though, was the Peruvian cerviches. I will absolutely do my best to make that dish at home. I purchased all of the local ingredients that I could to make it taste as authentic at home as it did in Costa Rica.

Spices play a big part in Costa Rican cuisine. When I thought of Costa Rica before visiting, I imagined spicy chili peppers to be a main ingredient. But traditional Costa Rican food isn’t spicy. The chefs there prefer mild blends of herbs, garlic, sweet pepper, onion and cilantro to season their national dishes. Below I will highlight two of my favorites:

  • Gallo Pinto – The base of this simple yet flavorful dish is just a mix of rice and beans. When you add cilantro, onion, sweet pepper and Lizano sauce you have a delicious addition to a flour tortilla stuffed with eggs. Lizano sauce is a thin, light brown, smooth condiment developed in Costa Rica. It can be used in cooking or poured over a dish at the table. It’s slightly sweet taste is balanced by black pepper and cumin. The sweetness in the sauce comes from sugar and sautéed vegetables like carrots, onions and cucumbers that have been cooked down and strained. The last condiment to be added to this traditional Costa Rican breakfast is a locally made sour cream called natilla. So, to summarize, I had a warm flour tortilla wrapped around freshly scrambled eggs and gallo pinto. I opened the wrap, dalloped on the natilla and liberally sprinkled the Lizano sauce, rewrapped it all (like a professional I might add) and chowed down.
  • Rondon-Coconut Stew – My favorite dinner dish accompanied by plantain chips is this wonderful fresh stew. Rondon is arguably the most common fish in the Carribean Sea and is the main component of this stew. The stew I had was made with the catch of the day. Freshly caught fish, locally grown yellow yam, yucca, onion and carrots cooked in a broth of coconut milk were the base of the stew. The spices and flavors added were the traditional garlic and onion, with minced ginger and a small hot pepper chopped into it. The hot pepper was so wonderfully balanced by the sweet creamy broth of the coconut milk that I would never called it a “spicy” stew.

Every time I visit a new region, I say it’s my favorite. Costa Rica is no exception. I can’t help it! The foods I experience are just too delicious not to say it.