Adventure Overload: Multisport in Costa Rica

For a country smaller than West Virginia, you'd think your adventurous options would be exhausted after a few weeks. Not when it comes to Costa Rica—a dizzying array of underwater environs, board-bending surfing, Class IV+ whitewater, hardcore mountaineering, and grinding single track await on this narrow strip of tropical rainforest sandwiched between the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean.
Given the limited time of most vacations, the real challenge is to narrow your options and plan accordingly. Those in search of surf-inspired adrenaline rushes should head to the southern half of the country. Jacó and Playa Hermosa may be the traditional spots for mainstream beach junkies, but Playa Zancudo and Pavones, home to one of the longest lefts in the world, are where the real shred heads hunt out the curling challenges of 1,000 Endless Summers. The surfing here is top-notch, with the beaches well removed from the tourist hordes. Scuba divers and snorkelers, meanwhile, should head to Cahuita on the opposite side of the country, which boasts the only mature coral formation on the Caribbean coast. Elkhorn coral, Venus sea fans, and French angelfish are but a few examples of the region's vast marine population.
The 123,921-acre Parque Nacional Chirripó in the south is home to Cerro Chirripó, the country's highest peak. Traverse the 12,530 feet to its summit, an ascent that involves more climbing than hiking, and see both the Caribbean and the Pacific on a clear day. Alternatively, trek to the mouth of the active Arenal Volcano before descending to explore the habitat along Lake Arenal's shores. Rainforest treks and jungle exploration can also be found in Golfito National Wildlife Reserve and Tortuguero and Corcovado National Parks, the latter two being more remote, dense, and challenging destinations. Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve, in the Tilarán Mountains south of Lake Arenal, will give you the full-on jungle experience, including zip-wire traverses and treetop views of the surrounding rainforest.
The Chirripó and General Rivers in Costa Rica's southwestern corner offer huge water and enormous waves. The Pacuare and Reventazon in the Turrialba region, meanwhile, are examples of true whitewater perfection: Some of the best Class IV+ rapids in the world combine with calmer stretches to allow full exposure to a jungle alive with scarlet macaws, capuchin monkeys, and green iguanas.

Published: 29 Jul 2002 | Last Updated: 14 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

Best Hotels in Costa Rica

$96
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Volcano Lodge and Springs
$193
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Costa Rica Marriott Hotel San Jose
$408-$434
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The Westin Golf Resort & Spa, Playa Conchal
$128-$171
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Pumilio Mountain and Ocean Hotel

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