Central / South America

Costa Rica: The sporting Life!

Scuba diving is just one of many great ways to get wet in Costa Rica

Seventh Heaven found on and under water

If Co2 is your thing, then you will want to consider a trip to Costa Rica. An ideal destination for adventure travellers, Costa Rica can boast of many water-related adventures that are sure to appease … A tropical haven for those who enjoy the water, Costa Rica, because of its world-famous biodiversity, is fast becoming one of the hottest visitor destinations on the planet. Biologically extreme on land as well as the waters off shore, the country offers nature lovers a “made in heaven” milieu to view a plethora of marine life in their natural habitat.

Scuba Diving

If you have dived under the seas off the shores of Costa Rica, you may think you have found the proverbial “Seventh Heaven”. And if you haven’t dived in Costa Rica, prepare yourself to see heaven beneath the waves.

With a marine surface that is 10 times larger than the terrestrial and an immense biodiversity, Costa Rica is an ideal locale for diving enthusiasts. Scuba diving here has reached new heights of popularity, and diving facilities in Costa Rica are now world class. A number of dive companies can be found across the country, many offering PADI instruction courses as well as top quality dive shops with equipment rental services.

While the Caribbean coast has yet to develop a diving infrastructure, diving off the Pacific Coast is nothing short of spectacular. Plan to visit Isla del Caño, said to be the best place to scuba dive in the country, and the Isla del Coco (The famous oceanographer Jacques Cousteau deemed Cocos Island “the most beautiful island in the world”) and you will be treated to some astonishing underwater sights. These two islands have an abundance of marine life.

On the Caribbean Coast, scuba diving is still a real treat. Unfortunately, this area has not as yet been well developed and the facilities for scuba diving here are not as good as on the Pacific Coast. However, scuba diving on the Caribbean Coast of the country is still well worth one’s time, as this area is home to the country’s only coral reef off the coast of the Parque Nacional Cahuita. Though seriously damaged by an earthquake in 1991, the reef here is home to over 123 species of fish, 140 species of mollusk, and 35 species of coral.

The majority of Costa Rica’s diving sites are wildlife protected areas, such as the Cocos Island National Park, which is also a World Heritage Site. Costa Rica´s Pacific coast was even considered by Rodale’s Scuba Magazine as one of the best 5 destinations around the world for advanced scuba diving.

Whale Watching

Every year a humpback whale swims from Antarctica to mate in Costa Rica. And another swims all the way from the Arctic Ocean to breed here as well. And you think you came a long way?

On the brink of extinction four decades ago, the humpback whale population has partially recovered to somewhere between 65,000-75,000 animals. But, perhaps you also did you know that thirty-five percent of all whale and porpoise species on earth are found off the coasts of tiny Costa Rica.

Off Costa Rica’s Southern Pacific Coast lies a huge shelf called the Dome (its longer name is the Costa Rica Thermal Convection Dome). It’s like no place else in the world. Shallow warm waters lie atop low-oxygen cold water that wells up, creating a perfect ecosystem for an enormous richness and variety of marine life.

These warm waters are just what these whales are looking for when winter arrives in their places of origin. Northern humpbacks are normally seen from December to April and southern humpbacks from July to October. Hence, Costa Rica has the longest humpback whale watching season in the world.
The spectacle is startling, taking into account that these whales can measure up to 16 metres in length and weight up to 40 tons. The name humpback is due to a small hump in front of their dorsal fin that is noticeable when they double over to dive into the water: So, when you visit Costa Rica, be sure to include whale watching in your list of activities! Definitively something to remember; especially when you are lucky enough to watch a female with its little calf.

White Water Rafting

Every adventurer, or adventure wanna-be, should take the opportunity to experience white water rafting in Costa Rica. And the reason is simple: you will not only have world-class rapids, but also a stunning tropical landscape, where you can see a great variety of wildlife while running the tranquil stretches and getting ready for more action.

Turbulent waters can be experienced by people of all ages starting from 12 year-olds and who can choose between rapids of class II for beginners, to class IV for the more experienced or adrenaline junkies. This feat involves the ability to keep a raft afloat, led by a guide, as the rest of the crew rows in synch with the rapids.

If you are a novice at this sport, you can try the Sarapiquí or Corobici rivers. Other rivers like Reventazon have areas for beginners and stimulatingly turbulent waters for the experienced, while if you are looking for a robust trip, you can play on the Naranjo and the Pacuare rivers. The Pacuare River, located on the Caribbean side, is certainly a more spectacular experience. You can camp in the middle of the forest and explore waterfalls, and likely see herons, toucans, sloths and howler monkeys.

Surfing

Surfing at Witches Rock | Photo credit: Flickr user dog4aday

Less crowded than places like Sydney, Hawaii or Southern California, the beaches of Costa Rica have a lot to offer like inexpensive accommodations, hotels and resorts, top notch breaks, local clinics and surf rental shops with all the amenities. It seems like every surfer who visits the country agrees that Costa Rica it is one of the best places in the world to surf; so it’s not by chance the country is the third most popular destination for this sport after Hawaii and Indonesia. The reasons are simple: beaches with excellent year-round waves, pleasant weather, warm water, friendly people and reasonable prices.

Costa Rica is also one of the few countries in the world where two great oceans are within a 6-hour drive of each other. This makes it possible to wake up for surf in the Pacific and finish the day riding the Atlantic waves in the afternoon.

The point breaks, beach breaks and perfect lefts and rights found here, all make this country a leading surfer hotspot. And with beaches that are usually very clean and rarely crowded, Costa Rica has indeed become a favourite surfer hangout, especially for those who want to take on some of the more challenging waves found on the planet.

Costa Rica features well over 50 famous surf breaks along its shoreline. Legendary and truly spectacular, the waves here are big and surfer’s here are in for hollow and fast rides. Some breaks like Pavones have the longest rides in the world and is definitely worth the long trek to get here. While the top five surf destinations are at Playa Hermosa, Playa Grande, Pavones, Witches Rock and Salsa Brava, some other popular surf points in Costa Rica are Dominical, Santa Teresa/Mal Pais, Playa Negra, Playa Junquillal and Playa Avellana. The surf at Playa Naranjo or Witches Rock is many surf scenes from the movie Endless Summer II filmed.

Major swells can be found on the Costa Rican coast between the months of April and October, but it is from December to April that the surf is at its cleanest.

Fishing

Looking for Sailfish, Marlin, Dorado, Tuna, Wahoo, Roosterfish, Snapper, and “the big catch”?
If so, and you are planning a fishing vacation, you may have heard that Costa Rica is a sport fishing mecca, and amongst the best in the world. This is absolutely an opportunity of a lifetime to ‘hook’ up with the catch of your dreams.

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