Tuesday 18 Nov, 2014

The Natural Wonders of Costa Rica

As any smiling Costa Rican will tell you, Pura Vida is what life is all about. Meaning pure life, Pura Vida is a phrase encouraging you to enjoy life, with appreciation for all that you have. Which is easier, when what you have is natural beauty at every turn. We put together seven of Costa Rica’s breathtaking natural wonders—each one offering a distinct twist on living Pura Vida.

Rio Celeste

Not all blues are created equal. One visit to the Rio Celeste will make that perfectly clear.

Its light blue color is due to the water mixing with sulfur and calcium carbonate from the nearby Tenorio Volcano. Local belief however, is that God painted the sky, and after, washed the paintbrush in the river. Whatever you believe, the Celeste River is a place unlike anywhere else in Costa Rica’s already impressive set of natural wonders.

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Arenal Volcano

This young volcano, formed more than 7,000 years ago, has two sides to its storied history—one of destroyed villages yet another of prosperity and beauty.

As one of the world’s 10 most active volcanoes, its last major eruption in 1968 destroyed three villages. But that’s not stopping locals or visitors from flocking to this “sleeping beauty.” With an abundance of activities, including whitewater rafting, hot springs and waterfall rappelling, the Arenal Volcano remains a must-see for anyone. And with 75% of Costa Rica’s bird species found in the area, it’s a great place to discover rare birds that call Costa Rica home, including the endangered resplendent quetzal.

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The Monte Verde Cloud Forest

Trees made of clouds? A pillow-y wilderness to roam through? What exactly is a cloud forest? And why is it vital to Costa Rica’s ecology?

Cloud forests create unique ecosystems in tropical environments around the world due to warm air cooling and forming thick cloud coverage. This allows species to thrive that can’t be found anywhere else. To protect the Monteverde Cloud Forest’s beauty, bounty and great biodiversity, conservation efforts began in the 1970s. Today, the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve maintains 10,500 hectares for visitors to enjoy and hike its numerous trails.

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This “Land of Turtles” is not only beautiful, but is also one of the most important breeding grounds for sea turtles along the Atlantic, including the critically endangered hawksbill and leatherback species.

As a village on the Northern Caribbean of Costa Rica, there are plenty of ways to get in touch with nature: Miles of beaches, wide-open canals and exotic wildlife all waiting to be explored—with plenty of hiking, canal and sightseeing tours to make sure you can. When it comes down to it though, Tortuguero is all about the turtles. For a unique experience, locals and travelers visit the island’s nesting beaches at night and watch the turtles lay eggs or hatch.

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Chirripo Mountain

Sacred ground. Unique rock formations. Enchanted Waters. The tallest mountain in Costa Rica was also a holy one. Named by the Talamanca Indians the “Place of Enchanted Waters,” the Chirripo Mountain summit was only for shamans and tribal leaders.

Today, it’s lost its religious connection but remains a popular spot for visitors. The mountain offers a wealth of biodiversity and ecological treasure for people to discover, and attracts hikers from around the world to its almost 13,000 foot summit. In Costa Rica, there’s a lot to take in—but there’s nowhere better to see it all than up on the tallest mountain in the country.

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Terraba Sierpe Wetlands

Home to a wide variety of birds, reptiles, mammals and fish, the Terraba Sierpe Wetlands—and its inhabitants—owe a lot to the area’s mangroves.

When you visit the Terraba Sierpe Wetlands, it’s hard not to notice the largest mangrove system in all of Costa Rica. While the mangroves are interesting to look at, it’s what they do that makes them so special to the people and animals of the area. Mangroves help trap sediment and create a soil formation that protects the coast from erosion—not to mention providing a protective environment for various fish species to reproduce and grow after birth.

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Cocos Island

Divers love it. Writers are inspired by it. Cocos Island offers a world of buried treasure, breathtaking marine life, and exuberant tropical rain forests.

In 2009 it was a candidate for one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature and is rumored to be the inspiration for the books Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton and Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe. Scuba divers swarm to Cocos Island to swim with its large population of hammerhead sharks, rays and dolphins, and take in the beauty that lies below.

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