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  About Costa Rica > Top 10 touristic destinations  
Since bursting into the sky in 1968, the Arenal Volcano of Costa Rica has been constantly active, glowing in the night and sending lava flowing down towards the north. The area around is filled with prime opportunities for tourists, like the Tabacon Hot springs, whose geothermal pool are warmed by hot streams which flow from the base of the volcano. Lake Arenal is a great drive as well. A road runs from the town of La Fortuna past a lookout point facing the northern side of El Arenal and continues around the lake and down to the Monteverde Cloud Forest. You could spend days exploring this part of northwestern Costa Rica.

Nowadays, places like Tabacon Hot Springs, the Arenal Lodge, and other tourist's haven have sprung up around the volcano. There is something thrilling about seeing the fiery red glow from the summit in the blue skies of the tropical dusk. And even though this country is filled with volcanoes, the Arenal Costa Rica is without doubt the most picturesque of them all. Daily there are at least five small explosions, and some can even be heard, the lava flows easily visible. 10 hours before its 1968 explosion, there was 10 hours of earthquakes in the area, so the residents here remember this and don't panic when there is a small eruption.

There have been major events in El Arenal, some as recent as 2000. Areas around the volcano are evacuated and extreme precautions are taken. This area is carefully monitored to avoid the catastrophe that occurred in 1968. Arenal Costa Rica is s highlight of any visit to country, and for visitors who have never experienced an active volcano, it is an experience that will rock you to your very core.

Tortuguero National Park
This rainforest preserve is on the Atlantic coast. This is where the rivers spill out into the ocean. Great fishing and wildlife viewing of crocodiles of other animals can be had at this, one of the most well-known Costa Rica national parks.
Lush green hills meet the Pacific Ocean here at the Nicoya area, in northwestern Costa Rica. This combination makes for scenic beaches, and the Nicoya Peninsula has miles of them. The Gulf of Nicoya is in the protected area of the peninsula. These slow moving waters are is dotted with small islands and is a haven for a variety of marine life.

The pace here is slow and relaxed, and unlike Tamarindo, which is also on the Pacific coast, not as many visitors make it here. So this is a great place to truly escape it all, even in Costa Rica. The part of the Gulf of Nicoya that meets the land turns into the Tempisque River. Slow moving currents make this area shallow and muddy, perfect habitat for nesting birds and an ideal environment for the mussels, crabs and shrimps that nestle in the roots of these federally protected mangroves. These smaller animals thrive on the abundant algae, which grows in the water in Nicoya.

The thick woods that cover the hills at the lower part of the Gulf of Nicoya hide secret bays, which are hidden from view. Deeper, saltier water and even less civilization make this a distinctly different experience from the upper part of the gulf. There is a lot of marine life but it is in the form of larger fishes. Different types of monkeys, armadillos, anteaters, jaguars, mountain lions, and giant turtles make this marine sanctuary part of their habitat.

Tortuga Island Nicoya Gulf is a small island of 112 hectares that is leased from the government by the 12-member Cubero family. They allow eco-friendly tourism activity such as small cruise ships and tours to be conducted here. The environment here is a dry tropical forest, so it is often dry and has an extended summer season. Tortuga Island Nicoya Gulf gives you a distinct tropical island feel that is different from the rest of Nicoya. Immaculate white sand beaches, turquoise water and coral reefs make this spot an irresistible lure.

The town of Nicoya, further to the north, is the first Spanish settlement in Costa Rica and is a center for activity and a great place to explore the different companies offering Costa Rica fishing and other types of excursions to the Nicoya Peninsula. A trip to this area takes extra planning and effort, as it is off the beaten path. But when you stand on an unspoiled beach with the cries of exotic animals filling the air as you gaze into the deep blue horizon, you will be so glad you came here, to the Nicoya Penisula Costa Rica.

47 miles and roughly an hour drive from the capitol of San Jose is the Poas Volcano. This is one of the most visited areas in Costa Rica, and the weekends here sees a lot of tourists who come to see the streaming, sulfurous lake in the center of one of the two explosion craters on Poas. Take the highway near the airport through Alajuelas, and continue driving. You will pass through Pilas, Poasito and then you just follow the signs until you get there. You will notice that the temperate begins to drop as you drive up the smooth paved road up to the Poas Volcano National Park.

The summit area of Poas Volcano is covered with ash and has little vegetation. Explosions still occur regularly, and the activity like the steam, is often caused by the interaction of the lava with the water. While the water in the lake may seem inviting, it is extremely acidic and can be as hot as 185 degrees Fahrenheit, so it is definitely not for swimming. There is mild activity occurring frequently, and 39 eruptions have been recorded since 1828. In 1989, high gaseous emissions caused the part to shut down temporarily, but usually the eruptions are of steam and muddy water, giving Poas the distinction of being the world's biggest geyser. There is an animal that is unique as well. It is the Poas yellow-green squirrel, and it is only found here in the part. Aside from this 79 species of birds live here, like hummingbirds and the resplendent Quetzal.

Aside from the visitor center and the wooden viewing platform, there are trails in the forest that lead to the craters of Poas. The main one is the 750-meter Crater Overlook trail. It is paved, and goes around and directly to the crater. A side trail will take about half an hour to hike, and takes you to Botos Lake. Another 30 minutes hike is the Escalonia trail, which winds through the forest. The combination of cool temperatures and humidity makes dressing comfortable a must. Solidly built comfortable shoes are suggested, as well as a sweater to keep you warm and a raincoat to stay dry.

The blue lake that used to be here drained away in 1989. What remained was the first scientifically observed sulfur pool on the surface of this planet. Io, Jupiter's moon, has sulfur volcanoes. So you can visit this otherworldly setting and experience something that is truly out of this world. Reflecting the climactic diversity of the rest of the country, a number of different habitats are within the Poas Volcano National Park. There is a cloud forest, a stunted forest, and inhospitable areas with little vegetation due to the acidic rain.

Mountainous terrain and a long rainy season make Costa Rica Rafting an activity that draws tourists here from all over the world. 6 of the major white water rivers can be the setting of an invigorating leg of your next spectacular Costa Rica tour, taking you through some of the best scenery in the whole country. Olympic teams practice kayaking here alongside tourist experiencing whitewater rafting in Costa Rica for the first time.

If you're trying Costa Rica river rafting for the first time, or are on a family vacation, there are gentle rapids and lovely places to just float through. Whichever type of experience you have, you will be paddling through prime nature viewing areas, and so you will likely see otters, herons, parrots and iguanas too.

The Corobici is such a relaxed ride you won't really need to paddle much and can take in the scenery, whereas the Reventazon will hardly give you a chance to catch your breath before you hits the next set of rapids. The best Costa Rica rafting trips will give you a combination of both of these elements.

Most of the rivers in Costa Rica flow towards the Caribbean. After a heavy rain they come to life, going from being a reasonable river to become a place to enjoy the best whitewater rafting in Costa Rica. The waters of these rivers are fairly warm so you are not at all uncomfortable unless you are nervous about trying Costa Rica rafting. Experienced water goers can also try their hand at kayaking the rivers as well.If you would like your trip to center around this activity, you might opt for a tour package. This would include transportation, lodging at a riverfront cabin, and a picnic. You will be asked to wear a life vest and a helmet by your guide.

A Cloud Forest is a specific type of rainforest in which cloud covers the foliage and deposits moisture directly onto the leaves. The Monteverde Cloud Forest is the place in Costa Rica where visitors come to experience the unique environment. Even though the clouds don't actually rain onto the canopy, the humidity is so high that the moisture that does make it onto the leaves often drips to the rainforest floor.

Monteverde is a protected biological reserve that is home to hundreds of species of plants and animals. Howler monkeys, snakes, and colorful birds fill the rainforest canopy with sound.

Skywalking and rappelling are two ways you can explore the Costa Rica rain forest and the animals that live in its upper reaches. The Skywalk is a series of bridges and platforms that are perched high up in the trees. Cable ranging in length from 195 to 650 feet let you fly at high speeds through the rainforest canopy to get a birds' eye view of this exotic environment.

There are a couple of different ways to get to the cloud forest from the capitol of San Juan. You can take the scenic northerly route, which is a full day's drive but it allows you to see the city of La Fortuna, and you will get to drive around Arenal Volcano and Lake Arenal. Or, you can opt for coming from the Southwest, going through San Ramon and Sardinal before turning at Lagarto for the last leg of the journey. Either way, plan for at least a four-hour drive, although the northern route is going to be a great deal longer, so take a full day to make this drive. It is a great way to get a feel for this part of the country before arriving at the rainforest.

Eight different trails crisscross the reserve. This protected part of the rainforest is open from 7am to 4pm, to allow you to have the best light in which to see animals in the dense canopy. Admission is $12 for adults, $6.50 for students that have ID, and it's free to visit for children 10 and under.

400 types of orchids live in this part of the rainforest Costa Rica. 30 types of hummingbirds are part of the 400 species of birds that call the rainforest canopy home. Over 5000 species of moths are included in the ten of thousands of types of insects that make this their home. You might be able to see the regal Quetzal, an animal that lives here and that was considered scared by the Mayan throughout the life of their empire.

Rainforest Costa Rica is filled with life and natural beauty. Even if you bring a poncho, a warm jacket, and comfortable hiking shoes, nothing you can do will prepare you for the experience of the Costa Rica rainforest.

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