The village of Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui itself – a somewhat 1,5 hours drive from capital San José – isn’t the most interesting honestly. But it’s the surrounding areas that matter. Within a couple of kilometers/miles there are a lot of exciting adventures awaiting you. Are you an outdoor lover and want to know what you can do on your trip? Check out these picks below!
If you’re in the mood for adventure, at some point you probably want to do some rafting in Costa Rica. The thrill of crashing through currents, being bucked in the air, and going toe to toe against the elements will cause you the adrenaline you’re are looking for on the water. Sarapiqui is one of the two excellent places to go to for a kick-ass ride in the Caribbean. There’s no need to worry, the experiences guides know every rock and bend in the river. Do reserve in advance and hold on tight!
A beautiful place to stay would be just outside of Sarapiqui at Heliconia Island. The owners are Dutch and some ten years ago they bought a couple of acres within the Sarapiqui river. It’s fun being on an island, even more so because it stars an superb, exotic, botanical garden. After the howler monkeys wake you up in the morning you can take a stroll around the area where you’ll possibly encounter peccaries, agoutis, coatis, sloths, anteater, armadillos and so much more!
Selva Verde / SarapiquiS Rainforest / Tirimbina Biological Reserve / Aventuras del Sarapiqui / La Selva Biological Station / Cinco Ceibas
All of these names above are private owned parks. Sarapiqui has as you can see, a LOT of them. All of those resorts, parks and research stations are situated right on the river Sarapiqui, and offer different tours, with ample opportunity to see mammals, birds, and amphibians.
Of all of these parks, I have only been to Selva Verde and Tirimbina (you simply have to make a choice!). Surrounded by the rainforest, Selva Verde has a good restaurant and some decent lodges too. The focus of Selva Verde is on ecotourism and nature is indeed all around, It could even happen that a bird or squirrel jumps on your table to take away the crumbs of your breakfast.
I liked Tirimbina the best. As with most of the lodges, this is a place where you don’t have to stay if you want to do an activity; tours are available in the rainforest right behind the lodge. We did a chocolate tour (1,5 hours) that was really superb. The guide showed us every stage of the chocolate making process and gave us a taste of everything too. There was actually so much chocolate for the group provided that it almost made us nauseous. So be careful ;). After the tour we did a hike around the area by ourselves. The paths are great and even though it was raining we could still see quite some birds flying around.
The chocolate probably has influenced my judgement. So all I can say is that I’m pretty sure all of them will give you an excellent day, and since their parks are all close to one another, the nature you’ll encounter is probably quite the same too.
So the only thing you can be picky about are the prices and times of the tours offered. If you’re looking for a special place to stay, I saw Sarapiquis has very nicely designed authentically looking circular units, worth to check out. Also, La Selva Biological Station is more focused on research, so don’t expect extreme adventures in here. If you’d like to make a visit to the station you need to make an appointment in advance. It’s worth it to check out when all the activities are scheduled in general, this will prevent you waiting by the entrance for the guide!
Restaurant La Casona
Hungry? Unfortunately there aren’t that many fine restaurants in Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui, but La Casona is a nice one. You could go here for lunch, but your visit will even be more fun at sunset, when the frogs awaken. The staff is very eager to show you around the pond finding the frogs for you that are hiding under the leafs.
A bit before sunset is the time of the birds; many aracari’s, tanagers and toucans fly around in the garden. If you’re not into animals, it’s still fun eating your pizza or filet mignon in a very tropical setting with the sound of frogs everywhere around you.
Some 15 minutes from Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui is this small family business situated. The owners run a big garden with a frog-friendly habitat for its 17 different species. As said, frogs are best to be seen at dusk, so it might be worth it to take the evening tour. Going to this place is an excellent idea if you’ve been trying for ages to capture some close-up photos of Costa Rica’s slimy inhabitants. Apart from frogs you’ll might learn a thing or two about Costa Rican plants and their purposes.
Okay, perhaps you got the taste of it and are in the mood for some extra slimy creatures; then Snake Garden is your place to be! You’ll find the amphibians next to the Tirimbina Lodge.
Not an official site to visit, but this farmland a bit northwest of Sarapiqui is great for a morning of easy birdwatching. The owner has some 30 macaws in his garden that he calls two times a day for feeding. Yes calls. Dinner’s ready! A true spectacle unfolds itself; once the parrots hear his voice, the colourful birds are flying from all corners in the area straight to his arm or head or whatever branch is nearby. And they ain’t shy either, so watch your fingers before they pick it. Other creatures around are white face monkeys (they run free too), paca’s and buffalos. Take some peanuts with you and give the owner a decent reward for his effort. If you need to know where it’s exactly about, let me know below!