I recently published a travel article in The Boston Globe about a ten-day hiking and birding trip my family took with visiting grandparents in Costa Rica.
We arranged our travel around three of Costa Rica’s northern regions known for their natural wonders: the stunning turquoise waters of Rio Celeste, Arenal’s impressive volcano and thermal springs, and the cloud forest of Monteverde. For those looking to borrow from our itinerary, below are “If you go” details, highlighting some of the restaurant, guest-house, hiking and birding gems we discovered along the way. Enjoy!
WHERE TO STAY
Casitas Tenorio, Bijagua; 8439 9084, www.casitastenorio.com. A variety of cabins spread around a family farm, complete with a private nature trail and spectacular morning birding. Doubles from $85, including breakfast ($190 per night for a bungalow that sleeps 6).
Hotel Arenal Manoa, Arenal; 2479 1111, www.arenalmanoa.com. Suites with terraces looking out on Arenal Volcano, spread around expansive, beautifully manicured gardens and two swimming areas, one with a thermal pool. Doubles from $200, including an impressive buffet breakfast.
Monteverde Inn, Monteverde; 2645 5156, valleescondidopreserve.com. Lodging that takes “environmentally friendly” seriously. Set on the private Valle Escondido Reserve with hiking trails, a hammock garden, and highly-reviewed guided night hikes. Doubles with kitchen $85/night.
WHERE TO EAT
Soda Las Tinajitas, Highway 6, Bijagua; 2466 8114. Restaurant offering typical Costa Rican dishes, including casados, generously-sized empanadas and a delicious, veggie-filled chicken ranchera soup ($6 a plate).
Chifa La Familia Feliz, Calle 2, La Fortuna; 8469 6327. Though La Fortuna offers abundant dining options, including a nice restaurant at Arenal Manoa, we recommend this family-run restaurant serving up Chinese-Peruvian fusion dishes from scratch (mains average $10).
Rancho de Lelo, Lower San Luis Valley, Monteverde; 8740 9755, www.ranchodelelo.com. Fish for your own lunch in Tilapia ponds after a beautiful drive to this eco-lodge in the valley below Monteverde ($15 per person).
Café Escondido, on the grounds of Monteverde Inn, Monteverde; 2645 5156. Wood-fired pizzas, local beers, and dishes with lower than average prices and lovely home-grown vegetables (mains $7).
Café Colibri, outside the gates of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, Monteverde; 2645 5532. A café with some of Costa Rica’s best hummingbird viewing (snacks $2).
WHAT TO DO
Tenorio Volcano National Park, Bijagua; 2206 5369. Home to the stunning aqua-colored Rio Celeste. Bring shoes that can withstand the mud for a full day of hiking ($12 per person).
Arenal Volcano National Park, Arenal; 2200 4192. Offering several kilometers of moderate hiking trails, right at the foot of the volcano ($15 per person).
Río Chollín, Highway 142, adjacent to Tabacon Resort, Arenal. Free hot river swimming sure to delight.
Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, Monteverde; 2645-5122. The most famous cloud forest in the world, and for good reason. Consider hiring a guide to learn more about the reserve’s amazing biodiversity ($20 per person).
Selvatura Park, Monteverde; 2645 5929. Pass on the ziplines and go straight for the three-kilometer walk along eight suspension bridges hung through stunning cloud-forest canopy ($30 per person).
WHAT TO PACK
To enjoy hiking and to make the most of Costa Rica’s avian wonders, pack a basic birding book (we love The Birds of Costa Rica by Garrigues and Dean), a good pair of binoculars, sturdy hiking shoes, and possibly poles.
If you’re planning to stay at Casitas Tenorio in Bijagua, this region was hit hard by Hurricane Otto. Consider participating in their Pack for a Purpose campaign by bringing hurricane relief supplies.
TO LEARN MORE
Read my earlier, in-depth blog posts about Rio Celeste, Arenal, and weeks worth of visiting suggestions for Monteverde, including the reserves, other hiking destinations, and everything from ficus-tree climbing to fishing for your own lunch.