Inland Costa Rica: Volcanoes, forests, mountains & more

Luke Waterson

Luke Waterson

For a small nation blessed with a huge swathe of Caribbean and Pacific coastline (only six other countries in the world can claim that), Costa Rica also conjures some mighty sights to make your eyes stay trained firmly away from the sea. From sleepy volcanoes to lively rainforests, Costa Rica's interior is full of incredible landscapes, wildlife, and things to do.

Inland Costa Rica adventure holidays © Dan Nevill - Flickr Creative Commons
Inland Costa Rica adventure holidays © Dan Nevill - Flickr Creative Commons

Inland Costa Rica: top attractions away from the beaches

While the beaches - deservedly - attract those keen for some sun, sea and sand, if you like your holiday to be packed with action and adventure, inland Costa Rica is the place for you. You can even plan a tailor made trip with Explore!, ensuring you get the most out of your visit with expert guides and holiday planners on hand to help with every step. Read on to find out more about Costa Rica's inland treasures.

Costa Rica's volcanic vistas

Diminutive Costa Rica might be, but it's not short on drama: drama that regularly, quite literally erupts. It sits on a veritable volcanic hotbed, with some 60 currently dormant volcanoes and six spectacularly active ones.

Arenal volcano at sunrise, Costa Rica © photodiscoveries - Flickr Creative Commons
Arenal volcano at sunrise, Costa Rica © photodiscoveries - Flickr Creative Commons

The most famous of these is Volcán Arenal (1,657 m), the country's most explosive volcano of the last half-century, but in a comparatively quiet phase since the last major magma spew in 2010. This striking summit near the northern city of La Fortuna crowns a national park, the fittingly named Parque Nacional Volcán Arenal, and whilst clambering up the volcano itself is officially out-of-bounds due to safety concerns, four short trails traverse the park and offer fabulous volcano views.

In the Guanacaste province in northwestern Costa Rica, the Rincón de la Vieja National Park also has a trail that leads right up to the Santa María volcano at 1,525 m, one of several volcanic craters in a park boasting no fewer than nine (!), including the still-active crater of Von Seebach.

Costa Rica's cloud forests

No trip to Costa Rica would be complete without an immersion in the mesmerising splendour of its cloud forests. Mist-swathed Monteverde, in the north between Punta Arenas and La Fortuna, is the best place to embark on an exploration.

Skywalk through the Monteverde cloud forest, Costa Rica © Dirk van der Made - Wikimedia Commons
Skywalk through the Monteverde cloud forest, Costa Rica © Dirk van der Made - Wikimedia Commons

This eco-friendly community, sitting at an altitude of 1,440 m, is ideally poised to offer trips into the fog-blanketed, unusually moist, forest above the town. Here, lucky visitors can trek to spy the elusive quetzal, a bright red-and-green bird, as well as 400 other varieties of bird, a mind-blowing 425 species of orchid, and a fair few types of cavorting monkeys.

Besides the hikes, there is also the opportunity to set foot above the forest canopy on the impressive Skywalk, a 2.5 km trail on hanging bridges suspended in the treetops, which allows a bird's eye view of the diverse birdlife. There is also a canopy zip line, which whooshes you through similar scenery in a more heart-in-mouth manner.

Costa Rica's coffee plantation tours

For a quality caffeine fix, Costa Rica is top dog in Central America. That's not just due to the fact that of all the coffee-producing nations in this part of the world, Costa Rica sets the highest standards in terms of what is actually on offer in the cafés, rather than simply reserving the best beans for export. It's also because the country has had the foresight to see that its history of coffee growing might actually interest visitors.

Horse-riding on a plantation 'coffee tour', Costa Rica - photo coutesy of www.fincarosablanca.com
Horse-riding on a plantation 'coffee tour', Costa Rica - photo coutesy of www.fincarosablanca.com

Costa Rica's first gourmet coffee roaster, the now renowned Caffé Britt, takes tourists on various tours of its highland plantations with tastings and, on occasion, waterfall visits thrown in for good measure. Just 15 minutes shy of San José International Airport in Jesús, the beguiling boutique inn of Finca Rosa Blanca is set within a working coffee plantation. Its comprehensive "coffee tour" even has you out amidst the plants, being instructed in the art of how to pick the quality beans.

The highest mountain in Costa Rica

Cerro Chirripó, the highest peak in the country at 3,820 m and accessible from the central southern village of San Gerardo de Rivas, is your big opportunity for a serious, two-day trek combined with some of the most jaw-dropping views in this area of Central America. It reveals another side to sultry, steamy, forested Costa Rica, as the hike ushers you up out of the thick foliage onto páramo: exposed, vegetation-bare rocky highlands which evolve into precipitous peaks. Climbing Cerro Chirripó is a rite of passage for Costa Ricans, and it should be for tourists, too.

Costa Rica's capital architecture

By far the most populous city in Costa Rica, and the country's Capital, San José does not appeal as much as the outdoor attractions for which the nation is best known. But the city is safe, well kept by Central American standards, and rather suave, too. It benefits from some bombastic neoclassical architecture: ripe for reconnoitring during a cosmopolitan break from the national parks.

Interior of the National Theatre in San José, Costa Rica © Adam Jones - Flickr Creative Commons
Interior of the National Theatre in San José, Costa Rica © Adam Jones - Flickr Creative Commons

The imposing Teatro Nacional, Costa Rica's key theatre, with its wonderful café, is worth visiting even if you are not catching a performance. Coupled with a museum like the Museo de Oro Precolombino y Numismática, showcasing one of Central America's most important collections of pre-Columbian artefacts, or the castellated Museo Nacional with its charming butterfly garden, the city's man made sights certainly make for a day's diversion.

As you can see, there's far more to this enchanting Central American country than its extensive ribbons of sand. From monkey spotting to zip lining, there's a world of excitement and intrigue just waiting for you in inland Costa Rica. Fancy booking your own trip? Check out the latest deals from Explore!, a leading adventure travel specialist with great online offers. You can also keep an eye on the weather forecast and see when to go for the best weather with our Costa Rica weather guide.

Luke Waterson

Luke Waterson
Posted on Thursday 1st September 2016 in: Adventure Central America Nature

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