Tours can be short affairs... a few hours or a day... or weeks in length.
They can cover a variety of subjects from the kick-back-and-relax stuff to very practical or educational tours. Some are geared for adventure! I'll break these down into groupings and tell you a bit about what to expect.
There are a ton of tour operators here in Costa Rica. I have worked indirectly with a number of these organizations as one of the companies I own is travel related. Saying that, my experience has been limited to coordinating my company's services with theirs. That normally means arranging to meet our mutual clients at the airport or other locations and is limited to phone calls, emails, and often hooking up with their drivers at some point. I also get to talk with our mutual client AFTER the tour while impressions are fresh.
One thing I DO know is that these tour operators range from extremely competent and professional to just plain awful.
To be fair, I have never gone on a tourist type tour in CR. However my experience in business for over 40 years has taught me that you can tell a LOT about any company and its services by the comportment and efficiency of its employees and owners.
The vast majority I have worked with here are pros... return calls and emails promptly, have pleasant and knowledgeable employees, offer excellent and trouble-free tours and have drivers who, even if their English is not perfect, make up for it with a fine attitude. A few are just the opposite... disorganized, rude, inefficient, with surly drivers who generally give the impression that the customer is interrupting their "work".
Many US travel agents have working relationships with tour operators in Costa Rica, and this seems to work just fine.
Retirement/Relocation Tours - (by me personally -TicoGrande)
My personal "TicoGrande Tour" has become hugely popular as more and more people are considering retirement to Costa Rica or who are being transferred here. Also, many people simply do not want to pay a real estate person good money to be "sold" on Costa Rica.
As you might imagine, my tours are no-nonsense, exactly like this web site. I teach you everything you need to know, and not just what perhaps only you'd like to hear. This is really important as almost 60% of those moving here leave in a year. I sell nothing. I do not show or discuss real estate. I deal only in facts that can and will make your your international move FAR more likely to succeed.
The tours are 100% custom tours with you and I setting an itinerary of things you want covered., and you get 100% of my personal time. Only you and one other person (i.e. your spouse, child, partner, etc) will be with me. I find this to be very important as most people really do not wish to discuss their personal business in front of 6-12 other people. If you wish to meet other persons considering Costa Rica, that can be easily arranged... just not while we are on tour together.
Here is a brief video of one couple's experience that you might like to view. If you wish more information, please click here.
The eco-diversity of Costa Rica is world renowned, and people travel here from all over the world to see the astonishing number species of wildlife. There are an incredible number of Nature Preserves, Cloud Forests, Rain Forests, and highlands where bird watchers can get their fix while trying to spot as many of the 850 species found here. The sea (marine) turtles are another extremely popular attraction. I believe there are actually three or four varieties of turtles to be found here, the most popular being the Green Turtles that nest along the beaches of Tortuguero from about July through October.
Tortuguero National Park (see map, courtesy Caribbean Conservation Corporation ) covers maybe 21 miles of black sand beach along the North Caribbean Coast and if you really want to see something special, this is the place. The Canals of Tortuguero are incredible and are made up of both man-made and natural waterways (see photo). Go early in the morning if possible and see one of the best spots in the world for wildlife. There are also a bunch of lodges and other accommodations that offer the chance to really immerse yourself in this environment.
The Jungle! Corcovado National Park is in the southern Pacific area, and the areas there such as Drake Bay are a dream for nature lovers. According to National Geographic, Corcovado is perhaps the most biologically intense place on earth. I have visited this are, and it is a treasure.
Some tour operators here specialize in tours that get your heart pumping and your adrenaline pumping.
These may include White Water Rafting (Class III, IV, and V) on many rivers including the Sarapiquí River and the Pacuare River, Bungee Jumping, Duckies, Grassboarding, Paint Ball Wars, Hot Air Ballooning, Horse back Riding, Mountain Climbing and Rappelling, Mountain Biking, Off-Road 4X4 Exploring, Sea and River Kayaking, Mountain Motorcycle Enduros, Scuba Diving, and Surfing.
Want to see a lot but don't have a lot of time time? There are a bunch of one day tours that allow you to visit a volcano or two, a coffee plantation, and maybe a butterfly farm. Add another day and you can discover the Monteverde Cloud Forest, Manuel Antonio National Park, or a zillion other places. Many operators offer a one day trip to Tortuga Island. This lovely little island has beautiful white sand beaches and makes for a great day trip and gives you a feel for the tropical beach Costa Rica. Other excellent day trips may be waterfall hiking, or white water rafting.
On canopy tours, you're up in the trees on a wire... way cool... but not for those fearful of heights as you are really up there... maybe 90 feet or more. This does give you a great view, however, and you'll see stuff never visible from the forest floor. Do it if you can! Note: Costa Rica now requires permits for canopy tour operators. These assure the quality of the lines and equipment. Make sure you are using an operator in full compliance with these laws.
Costa Rica is a mountainous location with several volcanoes, one of which (Arenal) is active just about all the time. The photo at left is a recent eruption taken in May 2008.
There a many Arenal tours from one day quickies to stays of several days allowing you to explore Lake Arenal, the Caño Negro Nature Reserve and the cloud forest around Monteverde. DO THIS, but if possible, extend your time to at least two or more days as the volcano is seen best at night, and it is not the only attraction in the area.
DO get a mud bath massage and sit around in those hot springs for a while. This helps you relax and figure out ways to tell your boss you're not returning home next week.
Just because a volcano is not erupting does not make it not worthwhile visiting! There are several dormant volcanoes here as well, and they are really beautiful. Often one or two are included in those short one day tours. No matter what tour you decide to use, try to make it a point to see at least one of these.
I guess I just do not "get" the concept of these real estate tours. I find far too many people take these tours which so often are simply disguised as "Relocation Tours" or "Retirement Tours" . They are neither. Their main, if obscure, reason is to sell you real estate.
During those tours, you may be shown some nice countryside, but you are also shown lots, homes, and property that are for sale, and you are given information on how to buy property. Why is this necessary?
My two points:
Unless you have LIVED here for at least nine months and know you love the country, why would you even think about buying property (unless for business purposes)? If you have lived here for that time, you already know where you want to live and as you are no longer "green", you will very likely pay less and have no need of a tour. Just find a local real estate agent to get the help!
More important, if you have not lived here, why pay someone to sell you real estate? You certainly can never expect to hear the facts about a country if that tour guide is either a realtor or gets a commission later for showing or selling property shown to you on that tour. How can anyone be 100% forthcoming if they want to sell you something?
I am not saying never take a real estate tour... just do it after you are sure you want to live here.
You want some great sport fishing? It's here. Costa Rica is home to sailfish, sea bass, striped marlin, roosterfish, blue marlin, snapper, and king sized tuna. I know of few ways to better spend a day than to charter a boat, bring friends and munchies, and catch some fine fish and even better sun! Nearly all tour operators can set you up and some ONLY handle fishing tours. These guys are the pros and serious fisher persons (sorry, I had to) from all over the globe make Costa Rica a top spot on their list. Many good charter services are on the Internet, so do a search for those and find yourself a good deal. Prices vary enormously so shop around.
There are also a ton of really excellent fishing rivers here so if fishing is your thing, don't leave that off your list. You'll need a license for inland fishing, but it is cheap and your tour person can handle that. [Back]
There are some really excellent Museums and cultural attractions here, and if this is your thing, search around for a tour that allows you to visit some of these places. The Gold Museum is one of my favorites, but there are many others. Make sure you hit some of the fine art museums as well. These tours offer knowledgeable guides that can make the experience far more interesting.
Now why didn't someone think of this? Oh... someone did!. There may be other motorcycle tour companies here, but as yet I have not run across them.
Here are two!
I am not sure if these are suitable for the whole family, but for those of you who are into biking and want a truly unique way to discover Costa Rica or Central America, take a peek at these web sites:
Costa Rica has become very popular with Gay and Lesbian travelers and thus there are a number of tour companies who cater to Gays and Lesbians. These tours cover a full range of tours here from kick back and relax to high adventure.