Around the San Jose region and the Osa Peninsula, home to Corcovado National Park
Our primary target in Costa Rica was Corcovado National Park. My James Kaiser travel book described it as the crown jewel of the Costa Rican national park system, and it definitely lived up to that reputation!
We flew in to the capitol, San Jose, and enjoyed spending a day at La Paz Waterfall Gardens, a beautiful, cascading tropical oasis, where we got to hand feed toucans and actually go behind a waterfall! We also toured the Doka Estate coffee plantation, learning so much about how coffee is grown, harvested, sorted, dried, roasted and shipped. And we spent a day exploring historic downtown San Jose, where we purchased a locally made souvenir boruca mask.
Next was Drake Bay on the Osa Peninsula, the location of Corcovado National Park. We lodged at Aguila de Osa Inn, an all inclusive resort with meals and activities provided. We enjoyed hiking through the rainforest at Corcovado from the Sirena Ranger Station, where we spotted howler, spider, and squirrel monkeys, coatimundi, a tapir, peccaries, toucans, a three-toed sloth and a tamandua! We also hiked to secluded beaches and to the town of Drake Bay, kayaked up the Rio Agujitas, and snorkeled at Cano Island.
We enjoyed a mangrove boat tour of Rio Sierpe, where we saw scarlet macaws, boa constrictors, iguanas, crocodiles, howler and squirrel monkeys, a three-toed sloth, and many wading bird species as well. If you only have the time or funds for one activity, definitely take the mangrove tour. You're much closer to wildlife here as the mangrove trees tend to be much shorter than the trees of the rainforest, and the river provides a wall of sorts, opening up the dense jungle.
Costa Rica has much of the same wildlife as the Amazon, but at a fraction of the cost. The warmth and hospitality of the people was comforting, and the food was delicious. For us, traveling to Costa Rica was cheaper and faster than traveling to Hawaii, and much, much more exotic. You absolutely must go!