Not everyone wanting to experience Costa Rica has time to spend two or three nights at every desired destination. Thankfully, an array of one-day trips and tours throughout the country offers something for everyone.
The Central Valley, home to the capital city of San José, offers travelers the opportunity to visit parks, volcanoes and architectural attractions such as the NationalMuseum.
For a great one-day trip from the Central Valley, you can head south to San Gerardo de Dota, a mountain village in the Los Santos region, home to the Savegre Mountain Hotel and its private biological reserve. Here, visitors can enjoy bird-watching (particularly for the resplendent quetzal), take in rivers and a waterfall, fish or go horseback riding around the reserve.
To go on your own, the entrance fee is $5. A guided tour for one to 10 people costs $70. For more information or to make a reservation, call 2740-1028 or visit www.savegre.co.cr.
If you’re in the northwestern Guanacaste province for its famed beaches, a guided day tour of Rincón de la Vieja Volcano offers an interesting contrast to surf and sand. A trip with tour operator Team CRT includes a two-hour walk through unique tropical dry forest, admission to the national park, transportation and lunch for $77 per person. Though the tour doesn’t reach the volcano’s crater, participants can take in a fascinating volcanic landscape of bubbling mud pits, fumaroles and mini-volcanoes.
Team CRT offers free transportation to guests staying in northern Pacific coast hotels. For more information, call 2654-4585.
The Central Pacific region is also well known for its beaches, but if you’re looking for more than just a tan, you can opt for an aerial adventure at the Pacific Rain Forest Aerial Tram near Jacó.
The park, which opened six years ago, offers visitors a spectacular view pretty much every day of the year. Attractions include riding an aerial tram gondola through the treetops, a serpentarium and birding and trekking tours through the reserve, where you can observe a variety of snakes, birds and monkeys. Be sure to take insect repellent and wear covered shoes.
Admission costs $55 for the tram only and $70 for the tram and tours. (The original Rain Forest Aerial Tram is northeast of the capital on the highway to Guápiles, and costs $55 for tram only and $99 including tours). For more information, call 2257-5961 or visit www.rainforestrams.com.
The Southern Zone is probably best known for its biodiversity-rich CorcovadoNational Park and phenomenal beaches such as Dominical and Ballena. But if you’re in the region and want to try something different, take a tour to the Guaymí Indigenous Reserve near La Palma, at the northern end of Corcovado on the OsaPeninsula.
Day-trippers from La Palma’s Danta Corcovado Lodge can take the tour by horse and enjoy the six-kilometer ride to the center of the Guaymí village. On the way, they can observe a variety of birds and nature sites. At the reserve, guests meet members of the indigenous community and learn about their customs, history and way of life, as well as their use of plants for medicinal purposes and their traditional methods of making handicrafts. With an advance reservation, guests can enjoy lunch at the reserve and watch how the Guaymí cook their meals in a fogón, or traditional wood-burning stove.
Prices for the tour vary. If guests opt to ride on horseback to the reserve, the tour costs $82, including a guided tour, lunch, entrance to the reserve and taxes. The other option is a car ride to the entrance of the reserve, from where guests walk three kilometers to the Guaymí village (cars are not allowed in the reserve). This costs $59, including lunch and a guided tour. The tour takes about six to seven hours. For more information, call Danta Corcovado Lodge at 2735-1111.
If you’re on the other side of the country, on the Caribbean coast, a visit to the 10-hectare Cacao Trails property can give you a glimpse into the history of chocolate in the region, as well as a chance to see 70 different medicinal plants, gardens in bloom and a variety of wildlife, including monkeys, sloths, crocodiles, iguanas and snakes.
The Chocolate Tour shows participants every step of the chocolate-making process, from picking and tasting cacao beans to processing them using traditional indigenous methods. Guests can take home freshly made chocolate bars as a treat.
“It’s the perfect activity during a rainy day,” said Leah Kaufman, property manager. “That’s when most animals come out. You can enjoy a fresh-made hot chocolate over a bonfire too.”
The $25, two-hour tour includes a visit to two onsite museums focusing on pre- Columbian artifacts and Afro-Caribbean history.
Located midway between Cahuita and Puerto Viejo, Cacao Trails is open daily from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and offers its last tour of the day at 2 p.m. Reservations are recommended, though walk-in guests are welcome. For more information, call 2756-8186.