Where is Sarapiqui located in Costa Rica?
Located in the northwestern region of Costa Rica, Sarapiquí is the largest county in the province of Heredia. The town of Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí (not to be confused with the Caribbean beach town of Puerto Viejo in the province of Limón) is located about 86 kilometers from Costa Rica’s capital, San José, approximately a two hour drive north and slightly east of the Central Valley. Sarapiquí is just over 74 kilometers, about an hour’s drive, to the tourist hub of La Fortuna at the foot of Arenal volcano.
Driving from San José there are two main routes, either through Vara Blanca passing Poás Volcano or on route 32 through the Zurquí tunnel and Braulio Carrillo National Park, which protects 47,500 hectares (183 square miles) of virgin tropical cloud forest and rainforest habitats. The highway is bordered on both sides by lush green foliage, impressive views of mist rising over the canopy and emergents, small waterfalls along the side of the road, and the easily recognized Giant Rhubarb (Gunnera Insignis) plant locally referred to as the “poor man’s umbrella”.
Why Go to Sarapiqui
Sarapiquí is known for ecotourism, birding, wildlife, and adventure travel. Visitors go to Sarapiquí for thrills as well as relaxation and nature immersion in tropical rainforest tours. It is an excellent place for family rainforest excursions due to the range of activities for all ages, for honeymooners looking for a romantic getaway in nature, and for adventure travelers craving adrenaline-charged experiences in the wild. Sarapiquí has a long history of conservation, research, and environmental education as well as opportunities to enjoy exciting outdoor adventures.
What to do in Sarapiquí
Explore Tropical Rainforests
The tropical rainforest of Sarapiquí astounds the senses with an abundance of exotic smells, sights, and sounds. From the unforgettable call of the howler monkeys at dusk or before a rainstorm, the frogs singing and birds calling out at night, to the indescribable smells of tropical hardwood tree species, to the diverse textures, shapes, and shades of leaves, lianas, and foliage, the rainforest never fails to impress. Staggering numbers of plant and animal species live in Costa Rica’s rainforests, comprising 5% of the world’s biodiversity.
Sarapiquí offers beautiful rainforest vistas. For early risers, catching the sunrise over the mists and the verdant canopy is worth setting the alarm. Those who prefer to sleep in can enjoy a leisurely and romantic sunset to the sound of chirping cicadas and birds settling down for the evening.
Enjoy Wildlife Hikes
A cradle of tropical biodiversity, Sarapiquí offers world-class rainforest hiking amid unique plants and animals, from strangler figs to capuchin monkeys. Sarapiquí draws expert birders from around the world. It is also an ideal destination for amateurs to spark a lifelong passion for wildlife watching. The county of Sarapiquí is home to several world-renowned private wildlife reserves and field stations where visitors can learn about conservation, ecotourism and current biological research.
Guided day hikes can be arranged to observe species including birds, sloths, and peccaries (boar-like mammal). Guided night walks provide opportunities to spot nocturnal creatures such as kinkajous (arboreal mammal), tree frogs, and owls. It is very important to go with a certified naturalist guide who has the knowledge, training, and equipment, such as scopes and special flashlights, to provide an informative, engaging and successful tour while respecting wildlife and the natural habitat.
Take Adventures with Hanging Bridges & Zipline Canopy Tours
Taking advantage of its lush rainforest environment, you can find some of the most amazing zipline canopy tours and hanging bridges in Costa Rica in Sarapiquí. For those who are looking for a rush, zipline tours allow you to soar through the canopy on a series of cables and platforms with a special harness, safety gear, and trained guides. For a slower-pace and time to enjoy wildlife, hanging bridges suspended through the canopy provide the opportunity to soak in the biodiversity of the layers of the rainforest.
Make sure to bring proper footwear such as hiking boots or rubber boots to protect from snakes and insects, as sandals are not recommended on most rainforest trails. For zipline canopy tours, lightweight pants are recommended rather than shorts. Always wear natural insect repellent to protect yourself from bites while also protecting wildlife from harsh chemicals. Learn more in our article on what to pack for Costa Rica.
Go on a White Water Rafting Trip
The Sarapiquí River is a tributary of the San Juan River, which forms part of the northern border between Nicaragua and Costa Rica and eventually flows out to the Caribbean sea. It is a destination river for white water rafting, providing both class 3 and 4 rapids, which are ideal for both first-timers and experts.
It is very important to raft with a reputable company with trained and experienced rafting guides, proper equipment, safety talk, a detailed evacuation plan, and first aid protocol. Keep in mind that for safety it is best to avoid rafting or river activities during or after significant rainfall, which is common in the months of the rainy season. This is due to the possibility of flash floods and the danger of debris like tree trunks or rocks that can be uprooted dislodged and move downriver. Also, beware of thundershowers and lightning.
Take Farm and Food Tours
Sarapiquí offers delectable and educational farm and food tours for travelers who are curious to know the ins-and-outs of the production of tropical exports such as pineapple, chocolate, and coffee. There are also organic and family farms who open their operations to visitors to share about their personal connections to the land and products that often make their way all the way from Costa Rica to consumers around the world.
When to go to Sarapiquí
Sarapiquí provides the opportunity to experience the beauty and overwhelming biodiversity of the tropical rainforest, which of course, by definition receives significant rainfall year-round.
Alternating between the warm tropical sun and dramatic tropical downpours, the ever-present possibility of precipitation is what keeps the forests lush and verdant year-round. Temperatures year-round hover between the mid-60s℉ (15℃), to high 80’s℉ (27℃). There tends to be more humidity and rainfall during the peak months of Costa Rica’s “rainy season” from May to October, with slightly lower temperatures, lower humidity, and less rainfall during the peak of the “dry season” from December – March.