Costa Rica for the Second Time Visitor (And 3rd and 4th…)

You’ve been to Costa Rica once, and when you got there you hit the ground running. Maybe you zip-lined through the jungle, saw some volcanoes, rafted down a river and surfed the Pacific waves. You find yourself wanting to return but are wondering what to do this time. You ask: What should I do? Where should I go? What haven’t I seen, done or visited?

The answers to these questions really depend on your travel style and how much you did on your first visit in Costa Rica, whether you want to slow it down or amp it up.  Here are a few of our suggestions for things to do on your second (or third or fourth) visit to Costa Rica based on the type of visit you may have had the first time you were here.

Jam-Packed Adventure Trip

Now that you need a vacation from your vacation, you can return to Costa Rica and just take it all in at a nice relaxed pace. You did all that outdoor stuff, but how much did you learn about the biodiversity in those areas? If it wasn’t much, don’t worry, you’re not the only one. But on your second trip to Costa Rica, you can do some guided hiking tours where you will learn more about the environment you’re in, than you would just seeing it from above at high speeds. Most of the national parks offer naturalist guides which many people opt out of because the trails are usually very good and many people choose to save money by hiking on their own, but you get so much more out of it with a guide to tell you about all the animals, plants and ecosystems you see. Also check out nature tours on privately owned trails as they’ll usually offer a more personal feel to the experience.

You might also consider spending a few days volunteering at one of the many nature conservation sites all over Costa Rica. It may not offer as big of an adrenaline punch, but it will be very rewarding to see baby turtles hatch or just take some time to speak with organizations to learn about the animals and their habitats.

Costa Rica for the Second Time Visitor

ASVO – Turtle Conservation – Montezuma

Relaxing All-Inclusive Resort Vacation

Vacation should definitely be about relaxation. But if you’re visiting Costa Rica for a second or third time, chances are you want to do a little more than hang out by the pool all day. One easy way to combine both getting a better feeling of the country you’re in is to book your stay at an eco-lodge. It’s an easy way to get outside and explore nature a bit more while still enjoying comfortable accommodations. If you’re with the family, some great yet still easy going activities good for everyone include bird watching, and rural tourism where the activities are interactive for kids and they can learn about local culture and lifestyles.

Resort style vacations often mean that you were pretty much in one area for your whole vacation. So for a repeat visit, consider a different area with a different environment from your first stay so you can learn about a completely different area. For example if you were at a beach resort the first time, try a rainforest the second time, and so on. It will give you a new perspective of a different area without having to pay for expensive and time consuming excursions from your hotel. If you opt to stay in the same area, you can still get outside and see a bit more of your surroundings by hiring a local guide for a day tour. (See more below)

CostaRica for the Second Time

Bird Lover’s Morning Tour – Rio Lajas – Cabuya

Been There, Done That

Maybe you did it all on your first trip, or at least it seemed that way. Many larger tour companies will offer ‘best of’ types tours where you visit the most popular places and do the most popular activities in a 1-2 week long trip. If this was what your first visit was like, don’t worry, there’s still plenty you likely did not see or do and you may find yourself wanting to return for a more authentic and down-to-earth experience.

Since you probably went all over the country on your first trip, we recommend finding the place you liked best and going back there for the duration of your repeat Costa Rica visit. This way you can have time to visit markets and local villages (like the fishing one pictured below), walk around more, interact with residents and feel like you’ve actually been to a different country (instead of like you just spent two weeks inside a travel brochure!). We think one of the best ways to do this is to hire a local guide who can take you off the beaten path and show you more local sights. Depending on your interests, this is also a great idea because a private guide can tailor your tour to things you will find most interesting on a personal level as opposed to things that are on the ‘must-see’ checklist for most tour groups.

You might also do a little digging and find different ways to see the country rather than from the inside of a shuttle bus, like bicycle tours, kayaking tours and other eco-tours that are becoming more popular. These can get you a closer look at different areas and make sure that you are experiencing a more authentic Costa Rica.

Costa Rica for the Second Time Visitor

Local Fishing Village – Tambor

Road Trip to Rio Celeste, Costa Rica

We recently took JC’s Journeys on the road for a few days to explore some other areas and share what we found with our followers. One of our planned stops: Rio Celeste. This was an enticing place to start our journey as all we really knew about it before arriving was that the turquoise colored water flowing through this river was a sight not to be missed. Here are 3 points we’d like to share for your visit to Rio Celeste.

Where to StartRoad to Rio Celeste

There are a few ways to get to Tenorio Volcano National Park. Rio Celeste is in this park which is fairly easy to navigate. We started out from Florencia in San Carlos and headed northwest. A popular route for most tourists would likely be starting out from La Fortuna, the town near Arenal Volcano. Taking Route 4 leads you to an entrance after about an hour and a half, which becomes a dirt road for several (around 20) kilometers. You’ll pass pineapple plantations and lots of other fields of fruit along the way. A 4×4 vehicle is recommended as this part of the road was pretty bumpy and a little steep and rocky in a couple parts. Continue along this road and you’ll reach the entrance where there’s parking, a restaurant and souvenir shop.

What to Take

Rio Celeste is located in a rainforest, so… take rain gear! We arrived when the park opened early in the morning and there were downpours just hours before. Needless to say, the trail was a little muddy. But nothing a good pair of closed tennis shoes or hiking shoes can’t handle. Rubber boots are offered for rent at the entrance, but small children’s sizes were not available, and boots actually seemed to make the hike more challenging anyway. A rain jacket or quick drying clothes are a good idea, as well as an extra pair of shoes or flip flops for when your shoes are muddy and wet.  Also take a hat, mosquito repellent as always, and lots of water, even though it’s wet it can get very humid, so be sure to hydrate! Always a good idea to pack a snack or lunch also, even though there are places at the entrance to eat, as well as small sodas (restaurants) on the road leading to the entrance.

Steps to WaterfallHikes and Guides

At the entrance you’ll probably be offered a guide for about $30. If you’re not an experienced hiker, never been to Costa Rica, or just would like some extra guidance and learn about nature and the area, this is a great idea. However, if your main goal is to see the cool blue river, you can probably do OK on your own. If you have small children or elderly members in your group, there’s a beautiful waterfall maybe just 1 km from the entrance and down a great deal of stairs. This is a great option as there’s not too much ‘hiking’ involved, and the waterfall is still a beautiful sight (however it is a steep climb back UP the stairs). To see the point where two rivers merge to create the chemical reaction that turns the water the deep blue hue, you’ll have to hike a bit longer. From the waterfall, it’s about another 45 minute hike, moderate incline, through some pretty deep muddy spots. Don’t be afraid to just tread through the mud, it’ll make your hike a lot faster, and you can hose off your shoes at the entrance. Do be careful along the edges, as some spots can drop off pretty steeply and there are no ropes or railing.

Here’s a peek at our experience. We hope you’ll make it there on your next trip to Costa Rica. If you need any other advice, feel free to post in the comments below and we’ll share our knowledge. 🙂