The 7 Natural Wonders of Costa Rica
In 2007 the people of Costa Rica voted in an open poll contest for the seven natural wonders of Costa Rica. This Central American country is one of the top eco-tourist destinations in the world and is considered the number one greenest country in the world by many. Tourism contributes some $2.2 billion dollars a year to the Costa Rica economy and the country has 26 national parks protecting its rainforests, tropical forests, marine areas, mountains, volcanoes and wetlands. Some 2 million tourists visit Costa Rica on an annual basis which is a very high number considering there are only 4.2 million people living in this tropical paradise country.
These are the seven natural wonders of Costa Rica.
1) Cocos Island in the Pacific Ocean
Cocos Island was the inspiration for the fictitious Isla Nublar in the Jurassic Park novels and movies. Located about 340 miles west of Costa Rica in the Pacific Ocean Cocos Island is an uninhabited tropical island paradise that was declared a Costa Rican National Park in 1978. With average annual rainfall totals of some 275 inches and an average annual temperature of 75 degrees Cocos Island is a lush green eco-tourists dream vacation destination. Unlike the Galapagos Islands located further south in the Pacific Ocean Cocos Island has abundant cloud forests and is considered one of the top ten scuba diving locations in the world.
It is believed a number of different pirates buried treasure on Cocos Island and some 300 expeditions have been launched with some minor successes to search for the treasures. Today only park rangers are permitted to live on Cocos Island which was declared "the most beautiful island in the world" in 1994 by Jacques Cousteau.
2) Arenal Volcano
Located in northwestern Costa Rica about 55 miles northwest of the capital city of San Jose is the active stratovolcano called the Arenal Volcano. This is Costa Rica's most active volcano and one of the top ten active volcanoes in the world today. Arenal Volcano is roughly 5,750 feet in elevation and has been active since 1968 when the volcano had a major eruption. Costa Rica created the Arenal Volcano National Park in 1991 to protect the area. Arenal Volcano is a spectacular sight to see especially at night when the volcano provides a magical show of lights.
3) Chirripo Mountain
At a height of 12,533 feet Chirripo Mountain is the highest mountain in Costa Rica. Popular with hikers and mountain climbers on a clear day visitors can see both the Caribbean Sea to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west from the summit of Chirripo Mountain. In 1975 Costa Rica created the Chirripo Mountain National Park which is a popular tourist destination in Costa Rica offering a once in a lifetime experience for most travelers.
4) Light Blue River
Located in the Tenorio Volcano National Park in northern Costa Rica is the amazingly beautiful Light Blue River. Due to the abundance of minerals mainly sulfur and calcium carbonate from the nearby volcano present in the river the water flowing here has a rich magical blue hue to it that makes the Light Blue River a popular tourist destination in Costa Rica.
5) Tortuguero Canals in Tortuguero National Park
The Tortuguero Canals are located in Tortuguero National Park along the Caribbean coastline of Costa Rica. The park is home to an amazing array wildlife including the nesting grounds of endangered sea turtles, manatees, crocodiles, caimans, jaguars, sloths, toucans, parrots, 400 species of trees and over 2,200 species of plants. The Tortuguero Canals provide access to the park for visitors and tourists and even though those visitors must travel here by boat or plane Tortuguero National Park is the 3rd most visited national park in Costa Rica as many tours are available to the area.
6) Poas Volcano
Image Source (Poas Volcano Crater and lake)
The Poas Volcano is a spectacular looking stratovolcano located in the Poas Volcano National Park in the central part of Costa Rica. There are two crater lakes near the peak of the volcano and they are real beauties to see. The summit of the Poas Volcano is 8,885 feet high and there is a cloud forest that surrounds Lake Botos one of the two crater lakes. This area is very popular with tourists as there are paved roads that lead right to the crater and hiking trails that lead to many overlooks. Poas Volcano National Park is only about 30 miles from San Jose and many visitors stay in the capital city hotels though there are 3 mountain lodges for overnight tourists in or near the park.
Image source (Lake Botos in Costa Rica)
7) Monteverde Reserve
The Monteverde Reserve straddles the Continental Divide in the Talamance Mountain range in Costa Rica. The rain forests and cloud forests that make up the Monteverde Preserve make the area very popular with eco-tourists who love to hike and camp inside the preserve. Some 70,000 tourists a year visit the preserve and see the largest number of orchids in the world and an abundance of wildlife including 60 types of amphibians, 100 species of mammals, 2,500 species of plants and 400 species of birds. Especially popular in the Monteverde Preserve are hikes over suspension bridges and tree top walkways. The Monteverde area is home to a large and growing number of hotels and inns to accommodate the growing tourist trade in the area.
For more great travel spots see Beautiful Lighthouses in Hawaii