There are many things you could do thinking of the Pura Vida Hotel as a base camp - here are a few:
TORTUGUERO OVERNIGHT - COMMUNE WITH THE CARIBBEAN
The Tortuguero National Park is especially famous for the summer turtle hatching. But please tread lightly here. Tortuguero is the place where the four turtle species of the come to nest - the giant Leatherback, the Green turtle, Hawksbill and Loggerhead turtles (threatened around the world due to the value of its shell used to produce crafts). This area also contains approximately 50% of the birds and reptiles species of Costa Rica.
One of our favorite trips starts around 5:30am with a pickup from the excellent folks at the Turtle Beach Lodge. With a stop for breakfast a couple of hours later we are looking at the entrance to the Tortuguero canals. The best part of the trip is perhaps the ride through the canals and rivers until we reach the Tortuguero park area . . . there are no roads and few people so the flora and fauna is both unique and one of the top 3 jungle areas in Costa Rica.
And yes this guy was sitting on a sandbank in the river on our way up to Turtle Beach on one of our trips.
You will stop in Tortuguero village on some trips and then take the boat north into deeper jungle and the Turtle Beach Lodge. From the remote Turtle Beach there are hikes, kayaks, river explorations, the beach and of course the famous turtle walk late at night near Tortuguro village. The local population, in the main, is doing a very good job of conservation and protection so no lights on the beach and wear black or dark clothes. We'd recommend at least the two night trip to really get a feel for the area and one day you will want to come back.
Turtle Beach will organize everything you may want and of course will drop you off back at the Pura Vida at the end of the trip. This trip would work very well at the beginning of your "tour of Costa Rica". Most folk arrive late, stay the night and take off early with the bus from the back gate of the Pura Vida. Remember if you book this you get 10% off the double room rates with Pura Vida, but remember to ask. Also you can leave your baggage, mother-in-law or stuffed dogs here until you get back 1, 2 or 3 nights later.
LOCAL TIP: Maybe you'll get to stop off at COTERC research station on the way. This is a research station with a few volunteers and a biologist and they don't mind curious visitors one bit. If you contact them ahead of your trip you may be able to volunteer your support for turtle protection tours a few nights.
ARENAL VOLCANO OVERNIGHT (WELL NOT REALLY :-))
What is a volcano supposed to look like? Arenal volcano, a perfect cone of 1633 meters or 5.307 feet. It was in constant activity that until recently included red hot rocks thrown out the top and sometimes red streaks of lava and often some smoke. Actually this volcano was growing every day with ash and rock changing the shape of the cone.
Arenal has gone quiet now for the last few years but is still considered active. The surrounding area is definitely worth a visit.
There is so much to do in the local area and, as this trip takes 3 1/2 hours to get there, we really do not recommend this as a day or two trip. But some people really want to do it soooooo heck why not - there's room for Type A people (I think?).
We like the Leaves and Lizards hotel or more realistically "farm" situated a few km north of La Fortuna with a perfect view of the volcano, a lovely place to stay. The trouble is you will want to stay longer and see places like the excellent Cano Negro national park - a huge water logged bird migration zone accessible only by boat. Or you'll want to take some horses out for the day near Leaves with their excellent guides. OK, so we love the place and this is where we go when we need to take a few days off.
We took this photo on a horseback ride with the excellent Enrique as our guide.
A TOUR OR A TRANSFER (SOMEWHERE, ANYWHERE)
If you only have a few days in Costa Rica and you need to head for the coast, Arenal or Monteverde, consider turning your transfer into a tour. 7 or 10 days in Costa Rica with 2 or 3 days of travel time OR 2 or 3 days of touring? Your choice.
We have excellent English speaking driver/naturalist guides who can turn most transfers into tours. Our guides are certified naturalists (a Costa Rica requirement so why ever not eh?). You will find many great reviews of our guides on TripAdvisor.
The driver/guidesuse 15 or 12 passenger air conditioned van, are fully insured with a CD and DVD player to keep the kids amused and you can request a cooler in the back which we can fill with whatever you like.
Make your trip more memorable with your own personal guide to your next destination. Pickups are included for all hotels near the International airport or San Jose area. We can organize one way transfers or multi-day tours anywhere in the country. If you need some ideas about particular destinations be sure to email us through the reservations or contact "button".
On the right you'll see our "main man", Sterling, his tall 15 passenger Toyota Hiace van and in front are some of the kids from Escuela Tuetal Sur ready to head off on a freebie trip to the Pacific for "good performance". Let us know if you'd like to visit the school, it is one km away from the hotel.
TO THE BEACH!
It takes 1.5 to 6 hours to get to most beach destinations. About 1.5 hours to Jaco, 3 hours to Manuel Antoonio, about 4 to 5 hours to Samara/Nosara, about 5 plus hours to Tamarindo and so on.
A tour to Tamarindo, for example, with your own bi-lingual Tico driver could drop by Grecia and the wood crafts town of Sarchi, then meander along the Pan American highway stopping for lunch at the White Horse perhaps. Then up to a turn off near Bagaces and a digression to a natural forest lodge run by Ticos and a walk in the forest, then up and across to Tamarindo on the Pacific coast and direct to your hotel.
Or perhaps you are going to base yourself at the Pura Vida for a few days and need a beach break. Our favorite "close beach" is still an hour and a half away at Bejuco. Long sands, great waves and we'd be happy to send along a cooler for the day trip. You may want to stop off along the way and visit Carara park, home of many scarlet macaw pairs or maybe the crocodile tour in a boat by the Tarcoles River.
OK so this pic is not from the beach . . . this is actually the nutjob of a boat driver from the Tarcoles river trip we took - you drop off in Tarcoles between the Pura Vida Hotel and the beach for a couple of hours and take a ride up the river - all the crocs have names - this is Angelina. I don't condone feeding chicken to wild crocs but it sure amuses everyone. We didn't meet any old guides on this river.