Do not waste a single day off sitting at home or at work when you could spend your time in a place like Costa Rica. But when you come, you do not have to visit the same places as everyone else.
Here we present some of the least visited destinations in Costa Rica that deserve more attention:
Montezuma used to be nothing more than a fishing village; those days have already passed into history. Its beaches now host the hippie / bohemian scene, with locals and foreigners.
The town’s location on the southeastern point of the Nicoya Peninsula means that finding your way around is half the fun. You can travel to Jacó by bus, but from there it is a one-hour ride in a water taxi that goes directly to Montezuma beach (the boat leaves from Herradura, north of Jacó).
You can also drive two hours from San José to Puntarenas and its ferry terminal, where you can take the ferry to Paquera. Once in Paquera, you drive one more hour passing through Playa Tambor, Cóbano and finally on a gravel road to Montezuma. (Yes, there is also a cheap 25-minute flight from San José to Playa Tambor, but that option puts the adventure aside.)
Miles of rugged coastline border Montezuma, which also offers a wonderful nightlife -the fun does not stop when you put your surfboard away. A little outside the center of town there is a beautiful 80 foot waterfall with excellent pools for bathing. There are also hot springs nearby. The only problem with Montezuma is coming down from the heights to see what else Costa Rica has to offer.
2. San Gerardo de Dota
With almost 1,000 miles of coastline touched by 2 seas, Costa Rica attracts many people who want to take advantage of its beaches and waves. But not everyone comes to Costa Rica to surf. San Gerardo de Dota, for example, located in the Savegre River valley of the Cordillera de Talamanca, is perfect for bird watching. While its location in the south and center of the country facilitates access to Los Quetzales National Park, mass tourism has not arrived here.
Almost 200 species of birds have been identified in the cloud forests of this region -including a variety of hummingbirds, woodpeckers and tanagers- but the undisputed star of the place is the quetzal, which usually hangs out in the San Gerardo de Dota region all year.
From luxurious villas to mountain cabins, most lodging options here offer Instagram-ready views of rolling mountains and fruit plantations. If you end up in San Gerardo de Dota and the birds don’t appeal to you much, you can fish for trout in the Savegre River, take coffee farm tours, and visit the Naranjo waterfall.
3. Chirripó National Park
Cerro Chirripó is the highest peak in Costa Rica (12,533 feet). This national park was made for hikers and mountaineers. On a cloudless day, from the summit you can see both seas, the Caribbean and the Pacific.
In addition to the challenge of climbing Chirripó, there are numerous trail systems that pass through more ecological zones than exist in most other countries. Climb from grasslands near San Gerardo de Rivas (don’t miss the hot springs there, just a 15-minute walk north from the ranger station) to rainforests, and from 150-foot-tall ancient oak forests to the tundra ecosystem already near the top… All this wealth of diversity keeps armies of biologists busy for life.
The climb to the top is 11 miles, with an elevation gain of almost 10,000 feet. There is a shelter 500 meters before the top where you can spend the night and start going down the next day. Camping is not allowed, and you must make a prior reservation for the refuge with the national park system. Although there are many people during Easter and some weekends in the dry season, there are not many tourists during the rest of the year.
4. Turrialba and Pacuare
There is no better way to see the grandeur of the Pacuare River’s mountains, canyons, and falls than on a whitewater raft. National Geographic magazine named this river one of the 10 best rivers in the world for rafting, and there are tour operators and sections of the river to accommodate any level of experience. Although you will probably be busy driving the rapids, you can also observe numerous birds and monkeys during the excursion.
If you do not like rafting, the city of Turrialba is a good place to visit. Also there you can schedule a tour to the ruins of Guayabo. This place is one of the only pre-Columbian sites open to the public, and it gives you an idea of what life was like in this place between 1000 BC and 1400 AD.
Note: The Turrialba Volcano erupted in October 2014; so, for the moment, the Turrialba Volcano National Park is closed. Still, its Jurassic Park-like slopes can be seen from a distance.
For those really looking for something secluded, the town of Manzanillo will definitely satisfy. This town marks the end of the road that runs parallel to the southern Caribbean coast of Costa Rica and was paved for the first time in 2003.
But you do not have to stop there. There is still 10 miles of pristine shoreline between the end of the street and the Panamanian border. For a true adventure, get a local guide to take you past the town along the coast to the Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge. A half day walk will take you to the beautiful Punta Mona.
Farther to the southeast, deep inside the reserve, you can visit the town of Gandoca, which is accessed from the main highway in a four-by-four car or by boat. This little town is closely linked to the Afro-Caribbean culture. Although you will not find fancy hotels here, there are friendly Costa Ricans who throw parties at the local bar and new friends who might invite you to snorkel or kayak. It is one of those trips under the radar that will give you a new understanding of the ethical spirit and its Pura Vida.