There’s a certain amount of risk in any adventure activity, so know your limits. Be prepared for extremes in temperature and rainfall. A sunny morning hike can quickly become a cold and wet ordeal, so it’s usually a good idea to carry along some kind of rain gear, or to have a dry change of clothing waiting at the end of the trail. And if you’re planning a lot of beach time, don’t forget sunscreen. Getting a bad sunburn is one of the easiest ways to ruin a vacation.
Remember that it’s a jungle out there, and venomous snakes are abundant. Avoid touching vegetation as you walk, avoid walking on leafy or brushy ground, and don’t put your hands or feet anywhere you can’t see.
Avoid swimming in rivers unless a guide tells you it’s safe. Most mangrove canals and river mouths in Costa Rica support healthy crocodile and caiman populations.
Bug bites will probably be your greatest health concern in the Costa Rican wilderness, but they aren’t as big of a problem as you might expect. Coastal visitors will have trouble escaping the bites from the purruja sand fleas, especially below the knees. Long pants and sleeves are recommended. Mosquitoes can carry malaria or dengue, but they feed at predictable hours and are easy to guard against with insect repellent. If you are bitten, some cortisone or Benadryl cream will help soothe the itching.
Searching for Wildlife
The best way to see wildlife anywhere is to hire a local guide. Guides have an uncanny ability to spot, smell, hear, or track animals that you would never see otherwise, including sloths, snakes, lizards, spiders, and birds. Guides are also useful for setting up telescopes and taking great pictures using your phone.
A few helpful hints:
* Listen. Pay attention to rustling in the leaves; whether it’s monkeys up above or coati on the ground, you’ll often hear an animal before you see it.
* Keep quiet. Noise will scare off animals and prevent you from hearing their movements and calls.
* Don’t try too hard. Soften your focus and allow your peripheral vision to take over, looking for glimpses of motion all around you.
* Bring binoculars. Some birding tours will provide good binoculars, but it’s always nice to have your own.
* Dress appropriately. Light, long pants and long-sleeved shirts are the best way to protect against insects. Comfortable hiking boots or shoes are also essential, except where heavy rubber boots are necessary. Avoid loud colors; the better you blend in with your surroundings, the better your chances of spotting wildlife.
* Be patient. The jungle isn’t on a schedule. However, your best shots at seeing forest fauna are in the very early morning and late afternoon hours.
* Read up. Familiarize yourself with what you’re most likely to see. Most nature lodges have copies of wildlife field guides, though it’s best to bring your own. A good all-around book to use is Carrol Henderson’s “Mammals, Amphibians, and Reptiles of Costa Rica: A Field Guide.”
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.