Costa Rica’s unique ecosystem is a direct result of the drastic elevation that changes from a central reef reef that reaches over 12,000 feet to the coast at sea level. On the Pacific side, this fall is so immediate that it is not uncommon to witness a 6,000-foot cliff descend into the ocean at a lateral distance of less than half a mile.
This great variety of elements combined with other factors to optimize growth, such as constant seasonal rains, freezing cold weather and fertile volcanic soil, is no wonder that there are over 3000 different tree species in Costa Rica. Compare that to about 750 different tree species in all of the United States and Canada and it should not be surprising that ecotourism in Costa Rica is a booming industry.
There are many great options for ecotourists in this country. For inland adventurers, there are numerous opportunities for hiking, rock climbing and zip lining across the country. Also the system of rivers flowing down from the peaks to the coast means that the waterfalls are everywhere in Costa Rica, and the crystal clear bathing areas they collect into are a pretty nice sight.
The part of the terrain that is inaccessible to the vehicle can be explored on horseback. Local horse tours are a great way to explore rooftop forests without disturbing wildlife on loud ATVs or races. The canopy is full of wildlife from brightly feathered poppies to intriguing pizchots (an unusual mix of raccoons, anteaters and armadillo).
Coastal areas are also worth exploring for ecotourists. Generally, SCUBA diving in Costa Rica is not really a good idea, as there are very tricky licensing rules to ensure a safe mix of compressed air. Fortunately, most submarines are clearly visible at snorkeling depths, especially around coral reefs. With deep breaths and 25 feet diving, you can tackle hundreds of species of rare tropical fish. Along the Pacific coast, dolphin schools, whale sharks and sea turtles abound.