Exploring Costa Rica by charter yacht

22 January 2015

With the Caribbean and Mediterranean getting more and more popular, and more and more crowded, many charterers are looking for alternative locations off the beaten track. For those looking for a more adventure-oriented cruising destination, Costa Rica is easily accessible and offers an excellent climate, great beaches, and abundance of wildlife/marine life.

Fabulous dive sites abound in Costa Rica, and there are many to choose from Robert Harding


With 41 charted dive sites to choose from, scuba enthusiasts of all abilities will be able to explore and enjoy the calm, warm waters of the Gulf of Papagayo. Famous dive sites such as Mango, Monkey's Head and Fantasma are all within easy reach of the marina, with many spots no more than a 30 minute boat-ride away. The area is renowned for its abundance of marine fauna as it is home to seahorses, stingrays, tropical fish turtles, sharks, octopus, and eels, amongst others.

Diving is a year-round activity in the Gulf. During the wet season, the strong counter-equatorial current reaches the Cocos and Malpelo Islands, bringing with it nine different species of sharks including schooling hammerheads and whale sharks. Cocos Island, in fact, is a World Heritage site and considered to be one of the best diving locations in the world due to its abundance of large pelagic species. The uninhabited island is often referred to as the 'Jurassic Park' of diving destinations, as it is thought to have been the inspiration for the setting of Michael Crichton's famous novel.

Other diving spots include the Bat Islands and Las Catalinas, which offer the opportunity to dive with bull sharks and giant Pacific mantas, along with numerous other species of tropical fish and marine creatures. These areas are also home to many species of stingray including devil rays and spotted eagle rays, and the most common type of shark found here is the White Tip Reef shark.

Hiking in Costa Rica's National Parks offers a chance to enjoy the local flora and fauna Robert Harding

National park hikes

Miravalles (Waterfalls & Hot Springs):

Discover three impressive waterfalls on this 20-minute hike through the depths of the beautiful rainforest beneath the active Miravalles Volcano. During the hike you will be able to walk through bubbling mud pots and fumeroles, as well as relaxing in the thermal mineral hot springs and volcanic mud.

Arenal (Volcano & Rainforest)

A scenic drive around the largest lake in Costa Rica will bring you to the Arenal volcano and the mountains and countryside surrounding it. The El Silencio Private Reserve, set in the heart of the rainforest, provides a fantastic spot for wildlife spotting. Arenal is one of the ten most active volcanoes in the world, as lava runs down its slopes and columns of ash are produced on an almost-daily basis. After the hike, there is also the opportunity to visit thermal mineral hot springs surrounding the crater.

Stand-up paddle-boarding is a great way to experience Costa Rica's coastline Robert Harding

Stand Up Paddle

The stand-up paddle is a fantastic way to explore the Papagayo coastline, as there are endless routes to take. Paddle along the dramatic southern coastline of the Peninsula while keeping a lookout for sea turtles, eagle rays and dolphins in the water beneath. Alternatively, journey into the ancient estuary and the mangroves, which are home to parrots, osprey, egrets and the elusive toucan. This exploration concludes with a relaxing swim in the clear waters of the secluded Playa Palmita.

Surf's up! Costa Rica's coastline has some very fine surfing locations Robert Harding


Another activity growing in popularity in Costa Rica is surfing, as Guanacaste sees growing numbers of visitors from around the world searching for the perfect wave. Surfers of all abilities can find a wave to suit reef breaks, sand breaks, and open water. The two most well known surfing destinations are Ollie's Point and Witch's Rock, which are both located just minutes away from Marina Papagayo. Ollie's Point is famous for its fast shallow right, a wave that holds mythic status among die-hard wave-riders. The second, Witch's Rock, is another fantastic spot for surfing. When the south-swells roll into Santa Rosa National Park, the rock pitches smooth overhead tubes, one after the other, which provide a great challenge even to the most experienced surfers.

Both the Colorado and Tenorio Rivers provide superb conditions for white water rafting iStock

White water rafting

Challenge your desire for adrenaline and adventure with the Class I-IV rafting that will take you through exciting water breaks, rapids and beautiful natural river pools. Both Colorado and Tenorio Rivers provide superb conditions for white water rafting, as well as being areas of stunning natural beauty and home to plenty of wildlife.

Reliable wind conditions and great beaches make kite-surfing a popular sport iStock

Just north of Papagayo is the Bahia Salinas, one of the best spots to enjoy kite surfing with its windy conditions. The Papaturro and Copal kite beaches are almost 2km long without shore break waves, providing plenty of space, as well as having half a mile of reef with completely flat water. The side on shore wind allows both beginners and experienced kite surfers to enjoy the water.

Non-surfers will also be able to enjoy the beach, as it is a quiet spot in which to relax. Bolaños Island is located in front of the kiting spot, with its calm turquoise waters and beautiful surroundings

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