Last Updated on October 17, 2023

If you read my post on my recent cross-country skiing experience, you’ll appreciate that I like to try at least one new experience every year, now I am in my 50s.

The most recent of these trips, and one that you might also want to consider doing, is visiting and staying in a rainforest for a few days. To whet your appetite, here’s my experience below in Costa Rica!

Visiting a rainforest in Costa Rica

Why Costa Rica and Where

After doing a fair bit of research on rainforests around the world, I decided on Costa Rica because:

  • it is meant to be a stunning country for wildlife (and it proved to be as I’ll explain below)
  • I heard about Bolita Hostel which is a backpackers hostel isolated in the rainforest in the far south of Costa Rica, and it sounded curiously interesting.
  • It would be a chance to see both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea on the same trip
  • I’d never been to Costa Rica before
  • and it’d be warm/hot in December/January, a time when I’d otherwise be freezing my toes off in the UK 🙂

What It’s Like in a Rainforest

Before getting down to Bolita, we had to travel by mini-bus from the capital San Jose, down to Puerto Jimenez on the Osa Penisula.

The Osa Penisula, I would argue, is the best part of Costa Rica for experiencing and seeing the wildlife, particularly given that it is more off the touristic track as it is so far south in the country.

Tracking up to Bolita with my backpack
Tracking up to Bolita with my backpack

The incredibly biodiverse area of Osa Penisula is also home to some stunning places including:

Once in Puerto Jimenez, we then had to get a taxi to the village of Dos Brazos and from here it’s a 20-minute track up several paths to get to the Bolita Rainforest hostel.

The path is well laid out and signposted so it is quite easy to get to Bolita and as you walk, you will already hear the sounds of the rainforest.

Expect to hear, for example, the eagles, pumas, numerous species of exotic birds, and wild monkeys.

Bolita kitchen
The kitchen is outdoors in the open, as you might expect in the rainforest

As soon as the sun sets in the evening around 6 pm, the sound of the rainforest changes as the night animals and creatures come out en-masse.

You can save money by staying in Bolita because you can do your own night safari from Bolita by walking around the trails (ensure that you have a good torch each, a rain jacket, and footwear with decent grip).

Sunset in Bolita
As the sun sets, the sounds of the rainforest can be heard en-masse, at Bolita

In Bolita, the beds come with a mosquito net and the rooms are in the open air but the net saves you.

10 pm through to 6 am is also the quiet time in the accommodation areas and this works well as you will want to be up early when the rainforest comes alive early each morning.

Bed with mosquito net
Mosquito net over the bed

There are 6 different walking trails you can try and, in total, they cover 15 kilometers of trails and all of them are clothing-optional hiking trails if you are brave or a naturist.

The ‘Big Banana’ trail was our favorite route but all six routes are worthwhile, with some easier than others.

If you are scared of heights, a few of the routes might be too much for you though.

Hiking trail Bolita Hostel Costa Rica

This is a great opportunity to experience the great outdoors. In fact, when showering each morning, you can enjoy the sounds of the rainforest and the open air, showering with fresh rainwater and with hummingbirds in view.

Hummingbird in Costa Rica

Waking up to the sound and sight of hummingbirds at the end of the bedroom (as happened to us) is quite a way to start the morning!

Outdoor showers in Bolita which is clothing optional
Outdoor showers area at Bolita

Corcovado National Park

If you are visiting the Osa Penisula where the Bolita hostel is, I highly recommend also visiting the Corcovado National Park.

Because this part of Costa Rica is much more isolated than other areas in the country, this also leads to a wonderful opportunity to see an abundance of wildlife here.

You can see an amazing variety of wildlife in Corcovado including:

  • anteaters
  • sloths (must see)
  • macaws
  • jaguars
  • tapirs
  • hummingbirds
  • and dozens of other animals, reptiles, and creatures!
A sloth on the Caribbean coast
A photo I took in Puerto Viejo, on the Caribbean coast, of a sloth

Getting down to the Osa Penisula is more effort than visiting many others parts of Costa Rica, but Corcovado National Park I feel makes it worthwhile.

Manuel Antonio Tour

If you are visiting Costa Rica but do not fancy going so far south, then I highly recommend visiting Manuel Antonio National Park.

In fact, if you can, do both Manuel Antonio and Corcovado National Parks! We did both and both were worthwhile.

In Manuel Antonio, one of the highlights for me was seeing dozens of wild capuchin monkeys on the beach, in the national park.

Like so many animals in Costa Rica, the monkeys are living in the wild but you will find that you get close, as they run around you and up and down the trees.

Wild monkeys in Manuel Antonio
Wild Capuchin monkeys on the beach in Manuel Antonio National Park

You can enter Manuel Antonio National Park by paying at the main entrance yourself or by going through on a guided tour.

The benefit of going on a guided tour is that expert guides tend to be able to point out the animals that are otherwise well camouflaged and hidden.

Whatever you do though, make sure to take swimwear and a towel as the beach is also really quite stunning in the national park!

Manuel Antonio beach
Manuel Antonio beach is beautiful too, in the national park

Going on a Night Safari

One of the most amazing things I experienced on the Costa Rica trip was going on a night safari, in Manuel Antonio.

Many creatures are nocturnal (active at night) and a wonderful way to see them is with a guide.

You can easily book a tour such as with or with one of the other providers locally.

Going on a night safari in Costa Rica
Going on a night safari in Costa Rica, torch in hand. You have to be careful where you step.
Photo using iPhone we got of the frogs at night
Frogs on the night safari – taken with my iPhone
Fluorescent photo of a frong
By using a magnifying lens on an iPhone, you can get great pictures from a distance

Seeing the Mangrove in Quepos

Another thing I would highly recommend that I experienced in Costa Rica, is to go on a Mangoves boat tour.

The wildlife I saw was different yet again, from all the other animals I’d already seen in the first three weeks.

Boat trip in the mangroves in Quepos
Boat trip in the mangroves in Quepos

Alongside the mangroves in the bushes and trees, look out for large snakes!

Boa snake in Costa Rica
Leaning out of the boat and with a zoom lens on my iPhone, a large snake

If you are interested in bird watching, then the mangrove tour can be especially interesting and rewarding.

You will have a chance to see birds that include:

  • Rufous-necked Wood Rails
  • Yellow-billed cotingas
  • Mangrove Rails

Here’s a useful post on the mangrove birds.

Useful Resources

In your 50s or 60s+ and looking for a place and experience? I highly recommend Costa Rica! I LOVED it.

Dr Valeria Lo Iacono