Step away from the crowds and explore a more authentic side of Costa Rica! Tucked away in the ecological heart of Central America, the country's pristine landscapes offer the perfect opportunity to leave the hustle and bustle behind and bask in the serenity of a place where ecotourism reigns supreme. While its golden-sand beaches, turquoise waters and rainforests bursting with wildlife are most regularly-featured on postcards and images, Costa Rica has even more to offer travellers that are willing to venture off-the-beaten-track.
So, here they are, five unique and unusual experiences that will turn any trip to Costa Rica into lifelong memories, selected and organised by hand-picked local travel agents based in the destination.
Set off in search of the mythical quetzal
Strap on your walking boots and venture into the wilderness to catch a glimpse of the quetzal, the mythical bird worshipped by the Maya. Boasting a vibrant green, red, and blue plumage, this Neotropical bird is a rare feast for the eyes for any traveller lucky enough to pass its way. Your best chances of seeing it are in the Savegre Natural Reserve, home to many of Costa Rica's colourful bird species. Hidden among mountain scenery scattered with cascading waterfalls and centuries-old oak trees, the reserve is situated at 2200m altitude above Trogón Lodge and its picturesque gardens. As well as providing the ultimate relaxing, romantic getaway, the lodge is the perfect entry point to explore the reserve before heading back to the capital, San José.
Travel tip from Alex, Evaneos' local expert in Costa Rica: “If you have time, take a walk down one of the two paths in front of the lodge to explore the surrounding nature.”
San Gerardo de Dota, San José
+ 506 2293 8181
Swap a hotel for a glamping experience on a Costa Rican island
The small, quirkily-named Isla Chiquita is Costa Rica's only island-hotel, and it is one synonymous with tranquility, intimacy, and that much sought-after feeling of being the only two people on the planet. Think Robinson Crusoe meets chic; a heavenly beach where you can discover the art of glamping – ‘glamorous camping' – in luxury tents or hammocks suspended in the trees. Bordered by the shimmering waters of the Gulf of Nicoya, the protected wilderness and rich biodiversity of Isla Chiquita leaves a lasting impression on every traveller that comes its way. Kayaking, paddle-boarding, and bird-watching at dawn are among some of the many activities you will be able to sign up to there.
Travel tip from Lateicia, Evaneos' local expert in Costa Rica: “Hop in your kayak when night falls to observe the fluorescent plankton lighting up the water – it's a rare natural phenomenon that'll leave you speechless.”
Isla Jesusita, Puntarenas
+ 506 2231 6122
Try your hand at botany in the middle of the jungle
Picture a retreat surrounded by the sounds of the rainforest and the idyllic, turquoise waters of the Pacific, and you will get the Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge. Sitting on the edge of the Golfo Dulce, this luxurious eco-lodge blends perfectly into its verdant backdrop, and is popular among families, couples, and honeymooners alike.
One night here promises charm and serenity along with the chance to switch off from the outside world, from napping in a colourful hammock to waking up amid fruit trees and tropical flowers. The lodge offers a range of activities allowing travellers to get to know the lesser-trodden paths of Costa Rica; nature trails, fishing excursions, and meeting the dolphins and whales of the Golfo Dulce to name a few. A friendly atmosphere and attentive staff are just an added bonus!
Travel tip from Veronika, Evaneos' local expert in Costa Rica: “Take away some local knowledge through a botany lesson by the lodge's chef in the garden.”
Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge
Punta Nicuesa, Osa Peninsula
+ 506 2258 8250
Experience a day in the life of the Bribri community
If you are looking to immerse yourself in local culture during your trip, opt for an unforgettable three-day excursion to meet the Bribri people. The Bribri are Costa Rica's second-biggest indigenous community and can be found in the south, on the border with Panama.
The visit begins with a gentle, two-hour trip up the river in a dugout canoe, at the end of which you will find a Bribri village surrounded by lush forests. Next, you will have the opportunity to meet the community, accompanied by a specialist, English-speaking guide who will help you communicate with them as you learn about their fascinating traditions and customs.
This unique experience can be booked through Sonia's local agency in Costa Rica and guarantees souvenirs that will stay with you for life.
Grab a front row seat at the ballet of the Pierella butterflies
Get ready to enter a lively, ephemeral new world! A few miles from Sarapiqui reveals a hidden gem little-known to tourists: Pierella Ecological Garden. After falling in love with the local flora and fauna, its owners and conservationists Cristal and William created the sanctuary and butterfly farm from scratch. Tree frogs, white bats, and sloths also call this place home, and the reserve serves as a perfect example of the sustainability efforts of the local people to preserve Costa Rica's delicate biodiversity. For visitors, it has all the makings of a day trip that will be as loved by adults as it is by little ones.
All visits of the gardens are conducted by the reserve's welcoming owners themselves, making it the best way to learn about the secrets of raising and nurturing Costa Rican butterflies. What is more, it is now possible for travellers to stay in one of the three cosy bedrooms in the refuge's eco-lodge.
Our travel tip: join William and Cristal around the table for a hand-cooked local meal after your visit, all available to be booked through Veronika's local agency in Costa Rica.
Jardin écologique Pierella
Cuatro Esquinas, Horquetas
+ 506 8560 6504