Introduction to Sarapiqui
Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui in the lush Caribbean lowlands is known for its natural environment filled with tropical flora, and for the broad Sarapiqui River that flows through it. The region is covered with thick lowland rainforest, home to many species of birds, including tanagers, jacamars, motmots, parrots, toucans and the loud oropendola with its long golden tail. Just an hour and a half drive from San Jose, the area is humid and hot year-round and life revolves very much around the river, the entry and exit point for most goods and cargo. Aside from tourism, banana and pineapple plantations are the main source of income in the region and the town is an important hub for the surrounding plantations and their workers.
The nearby Braulio Carrillo National Park offers a pristine expanse of virgin cloud forest and rainforest and is a very important primary forest, one of the few areas in Costa Rica where the jaguar still prowls. Verdantly green with brightly colored plants and butterflies creating a feast for the eyes, the region is also home to a very particular set of animal species, including monkeys, sloths, ocelots and snakes. It also has many opportunities for adventure, and visitors can try whitewater rafting, kayaking and ziplining among many other adrenaline pumping activities. The Sarapiqui River offers gentler whitewater rafting rapids than many of the wilder Costa Rican rivers, so it is ideal for those who are new to the sport.
What not to miss in Sarapiqui
Rafting down the whitewater rapids of a jungle river is an unforgettable and exhilarating experience. In the calmer stretches you’ll see monkeys swinging through the overhanging branches, kingfishers darting from bank to bank and basilisk lizards running across the surface of the water.
Tirimbina Reserve is a beautiful protected stretch of forest where you can spot all types of tropical birdlife and mammals, as well as rare orchids and other jungle flora. At the reserve they also offer workshops on how chocolate is made.
Zip lining is a very popular way to experience the jungle around Sarapiqui and there are also opportunities for rappelling down jungle clad canyons and through cascading waterfalls.
River cruising is a more tranquil option for experiencing the nature of a jungle river. Floating calmly downstream you’ll be able to see monkeys playing in the trees, colorful iguanas relaxing, tropical birds and bats flying overhead, as well as caiman and sloths along the river banks.
What you need to know
When to go
Sarapiqui is a tropical rainforest and there really is no dry season here, although from May to October there is marginally less rain. This is the tropics after all, so short, heavy downpours are just a part of everyday life and things carry on regardless.
How to get there
Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí has been a transportation hub longer than Costa Rica has been a country! It is easily reached by paved major roads from the country’s capital of San José, from the Caribbean Coast and other major cities in the country.
If you’re taking the public bus to Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui, the bus terminal is right across from the National Park.
Where to stay
There are not that many accommodation options in Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui, the lodge we recommend are small jungle lodges surrounded by the verdant rainforest where you’ll enjoy waking up to the sounds of the wildlife around you. There are no luxury lodges or hotels in this region.