In this low-altitude region you will feel the influence of the tropics through the pores of your skin, while the vegetation spreads through every corner and life is found anywhere you look.
Sarapiqui can be explored through its wide net of trails inside protected areas, which are very important for the conservation of many bird species, mammals, butterflies, insects, amphibians and a lot of plants. In this community, the environmental responsibility also reaches the agricultural sector, where some sustainable plantations have been grown for some years now, decreasing the negative impact. Some pineapple plantations and crops of other products display their achievements through tours to their farms, where they explain the successful process of the methods they use.
The Rio Sarapiqui is the main attraction of the region. It begins its flow in the old crater of the Poas Volcano all the way to the mouth of the Rio San Juan, descending more than 85 km through many sceneries of amazing beauty.
In its path it receives some affluents, like the Rio Sucio and the Rio Puerto Viejo, and in this incredible journey its waters represent a longed challenge for rafting lovers. When going through the zone of El Brujo, this sport becomes more exciting as you go through stunning sceneries. Its channel that flows in the northern plains acquires a magnificent splendor of a great natural richness, where you can easily appreciate many animal species like monkeys, beautiful birds, iguanas, sloths, crocodiles and river turtles, among others. There’s also a very dense and picturesque flora.
Accommodations and gastronomy
Sarapiqui offers many places to stay with a common characteristic among all of them: ecotourism. Few zones in the country have developed this concept as well as Sarapiqui, where the hotel sector works very hard along with conservation groups and organizations, in order to promote the preservation of natural areas among all the visitors this region receives every year.
This zone offers more than 20 different renowned places that combine accommodations with many other recreational activities. Most of the hotels have bungalows surrounded by beautiful gardens, which let you be more in touch with nature. Many of these properties have large territories where you can find forests, lagoons and gardens, and where some benefit from the charm and lull of the rivers that cross the region.
The rooms are usually equipped with complete bathrooms, cable TV and a fan or A/C. The standard of most hotels of this zone is very similar, but an important difference lies on whether the rooms are arranged as independent units or if they’re arranged in blocks. Also some hotels offer the experience of using equipped camping tents with bathroom and regular beds, where nature is perceived in a more intimate way.
Due to the warm and humid weather it’s very common to find some hotels with one or more swimming pools, which give the guests a refreshing moment in the hottest hours. Some also offer sport courts, restaurants, or educational experiences, like in butterfly farms, frog ponds, medicinal plant gardens and trails where you can appreciate nature and find some animals like different bats and birds. Other places have entered the field of body care and relaxation offering spas, yoga centers and hot spring pools, all this combined with beautiful gardens and green areas.
In the communities of Puerto Viejo, La Virgen, Tigre, Guaria and Chilamate you can find many restaurants where you can have a delicious meal or a peaceful dinner. Most of these places are specialized in typical Costa Rican food and are managed by Costa Rican families. Some have space for large groups of people and others offer delicious steak barbecues and dishes prepared with fresh tilapia. The hotels of this region are also an excellent choice to enjoy a delicious typical Costa Rican meal or some interesting option of international cuisine.
Many of the attractions of this zone have the Rio Sarapiqui as their main scenery, for rafting tours or for appreciating its beautiful riverbanks as you walk or go horseback riding. You can also take boat tours through the calm and peaceful areas of the river and observe the surrounding flora and fauna. You can access Sarapiqui through 3 different routes, and each one has its own charm. The first route is taking the road that goes to Limon, through the Braulio Carrillo National Park, which is one of the parks with the most exuberant flora and fauna of the country, full of imposing sceneries.
The second route is through the canton of San Carlos, in Alajuela, where you can observe agricultural plantations like pineapple, palm heart and ornamental plants. Finally, the third route, which is the most traditional, is known as “the route of heroes” and goes through Vara Blanca, where you can observe the waterfalls San Fernando and La Paz, mountains of the primary forest, rivers and volcanoes. This route is currently under reconstruction due to the severe damages it suffered after the earthquake in Cinchona, in January 2009.
One of the places that delights its visitors is La Tirimbina Biological Reserve, dedicated to education and natural history, mainly focusing in the relationships of the systems and natural species of Costa Rica and the world.
It has an extension of 350 hectares of tropical rainforest, and in order to get to it you must cross the largest hanging bridge of Costa Rica, which hangs over the Rio Sarapiqui. From here you can observe common kingfishers, cormorants and otters. You can also access an island that is in the middle of the river, which is covered by vegetation and has plain trails. It offers a beautiful introduction to the tropical ecosystems.
Another unforgettable attraction is the trail system, where one trail is crossed by bridge that is 32 m high, from where you can see the treetops and many flora and fauna species of the forest.
Those who like to study nature will find La Selva Biological Station in the middle of two large rivers, with an extension of 1.600 hectares of humid tropical forest and pre-montane forest, having about 73% of its total surface covered by primary forest. It was established in 1994 by the Dr. Leslie Holdridge, who experienced in his farm with mixed plantations for the improvement of natural resources and their management.
In 1968, the property was purchased by the Organization of Tropical Studies (OET), and was also declared station and private biological reserve. Since then it has become one of the most important places in the world for the investigation of the humid tropical forest. About 240 scientific articles are published every year about the investigations made in this place. The combination of protected ecosystems and first quality labs that La Selva offers is unique in the humid tropics.
An extensive trail system goes for more than 50 km and provides access to a great variety of land and aquatic habitats. There are also many companies that offer the visitors multiple options for enjoying the attractions of the zone. These companies are part of the Tourism Chamber of Sarapiqui, and make lots of efforts in the development of strategies and products that will make your stay in the zone as pleasant as possible.