In the rumbling and bubbling Arenal volcano area, we recommend a good long soak at the Tabacon hot springs, a hike on the challenging Cerro Chatto or the more relaxed Relais Silencio, and climbing down the 480+ steps to La Fortuna waterfall for a swim. The area’s best digs are at the new Arenal Nayara.
Over on the Atlantic coast, the beaches around Tortuguero feature the reproduction efforts of thousands of green turtles—an amazing process to observe. The outstanding Tortuga Lodge is accessed via car and boat through the lagoons…or by a private charter flight that we heartily recommend!
For the beach experience, head to either the Nicoya Peninsula (top hotels are the Four Seasons and Punta Islita), or the more southerly Osa Peninsula. Explore whale–shaped Uvita beach, take a surf lesson in funky Dominical, or do a snorkel tour in Marino Ballena National Park. Outside Puerto Jimenez lies the excellent jungle lodge Bosque del Cabo, located in a 750-acre reserve straddling both the Golfo Dulce and Pacific Ocean. Nearby Corcovado National Park is an intensely biodiverse area that is home to such “tough to spot” creatures as tapirs, caiman, and jaguars.