Costa Rica: Main Sights
Where the sun always shines
Costa Rica is popular for many different types of tourists but especially those wanting adventure, unspoilt natural wonders and hours of sun. The best way to enjoy the “jewel of South America” is to make sure you pack some serious amounts of suntan, lots of camera film/memory and leave your inhibitions firmly at the door. Most popular destinations can be visited via bus tours, though you can find your own way there from the tourist office.
Corcovado National Park (from San José or Limon)
The more than 47,800 hectares of thick rainforest of the Corcovado National Park are home to 400 species of birds and 139 different types of mammals. To appreciate the density and diversity of the foliage and fauna here, consider this – Corcovado contains 10 percent of the mammals found in the Americas, on just 0.000101777 of the total landmass. Poison arrow frogs and squirrels bask in the sunlight that streams through the gaps between the leaves of the 50 meter trees around. And the beach at the edge of the park is home to four species of sea turtles. There is also a sizable population of jaguars and crocodiles.
Arenal National Park (Central Pacific)
Established in 1994 and encompassing the area around a perfectly conical and active volcano, Arenal National Park is the biggest tourist attraction in Costa Rica. The mountain still spews molten ash and lava rocks. Schedule a trip during night time on your medical tourism holiday when the sight is especially splendorous - little red jets of lava shoot up into the air to fall down the side of the mountain and die. The vicinity of the volcano is still stark and desolate, a reminder of the devastation wreaked by the destructive eruption of 1968.
Biological Reserves (all over the country)
Many tracts of lands in Costa Rica have been set aside for wildlife conservation – nesting beaches for sea turtles, for instance, and marshlands for migrating water birds. The Lomas Barbuda Biological Reserve is set aside to protect insects and holds at least 240 species of bees alone. Las Baulas Marine National Park was set aside to offer sanctuary to Giant Leatherback Turtles during their breeding season. These and numerous other such eco-reserves make Costa Rica a paradise for the nature-loving medical tourism traveller.
Cartago Cathedral (from San José)
The town of Cartago was founded by the Spanish in 1563, and it was an important site until the 19th century, when earthquakes destroyed most of the old buildings. Today, the small city is a provincial capital, but parts of it preserve a little of the colonial atmosphere. Note the Basilica de Los Angeles and the Ruins of Cartago. Volcán Irazú and the Ruins of Ujarras also lie nearby. The Costa Ricans are highly religious (over 90% follow Christianity, though it is not the state religion) and this is as a historic and mighty a cathedral as you will find). A short distance from the capital, Cartago is easily reached by bus or other public transport.
Spirogyra Butterfly Garden (San José)
Located downtown, a few meters from the Commercial Centre El Pueblo, this garden was established eight years ago, in a garden of a residential house. Without leaving the city, you can learn the beautiful relationship among the butterflies, the plants and the hummingbirds, their survival strategies and reproduction techniques. Specialized personnel give an excellent introduction to the natural history of Costa Rica, and they show the techniques they use to preserve its natural resources.
Pueblo Antiguo (San José)
This singular theme park offers an unforgettable experience of colour, music and amazing food. It presents three important aspects of great cultural and historical relevance, recreated in a very realistic setting: the city at the turn of the century, the countryside and the Caribbean coast. Something like magic occurs through the architecture, live folklore dances and songs, carnivals, fireworks and boat rides. One for the family and what better a climate to experience a South American theme park?
Aventuras Naturales (rafting in Costa Rica)
If you are a sporting kind of person, you probably enjoy rafting. In Costa Rica, the sheer numbers of rivers and canals offer exciting opportunities to experience this sport. Aventuras Naturales can arrange trips for you to various parts of the country at a reasonable cost. They can also help with directions if you still plan to go it alone, but it is certainly not an activity to be missed.
Juan Santamaria Historical Museum (Alajuela)
This is a museum founded in 1974 to honour Costa Rica's national hero, Juan Santamaria, who lost his life defending Costa Rica against William Walker. This occurred in 1856 when the Americans invaded Costa Rica in hopes of setting up a slave state, with an army of "Filibusters". If you want to learn more about this part of Costa Rica's history, this museum is the place to visit. See weapons and read battle stories. Admission is free.
Barva de Heredia Village
If colonial architecture and history interest you, you will definitely enjoy a visit to this small town, where most of the buildings are old and the environment conserves some of the peacefulness of times past. Bring your camera. There are various restaurants and cafes here, and the village is considered a national monument. It has even been compared to the set of a Wild West film, so expect remnants of past times by the plenty.
Lankester Botanical Garden (Cartago)
Since 1952, this garden has been promoting Costa Rican orchid conservation. As part of the University of Costa Rica, the garden organizes open courses where you can learn to grow orchids, use medicinal plants, or learn to identify birds, insects and butterflies, which you can also listen to and watch.
Museo Bioplant (San Rafael)
Conservation is hot in Costa Rica and the country is proud of its green reputation. This museum exhibits more than 50,000 insects and arthropods. It is the first step towards the creation of the Bioplanet Biodiversity Institute. This permanent exhibit is part of the collection that biologist Richard Whittem has accumulated throughout the past 30 years.
Known as the most important crafts centre in Costa Rica, this site welcomes locals as well as foreigners, who come to browse and buy. The local specialty is the painted ox cart, which can be used to decorate your house or garden. There are also wooden items of every other kind here, and you can visit the workshops to see how the products are made. There are also various small restaurants in the area.