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Kayaking Costa Rica

With plenty of coastline on two oceans, kayaking Costa Rica's beautiful waters is an excellent way to see the country. Two gulfs, numerous national parks, and plenty of mangrove estuaries beckon coastal explorers, not to mention all the whitewater opportunities that I've covered in my whitewater guide.

Sea kayaking Costa Rica's coastline is one of the best ways to view wildlife. The quiet and stealthy kayak will allow you to get much closer to birds, sea turtles, and other wildlife than you would in a noisy motorboat. Even dolphins have been known to investigate people sea kayaking in Costa Rica.

Another advantage is that sea kayaks, much bigger and more stable than regular kayaks, allow both beginners and paddling experts to access remote areas that may be unreachable by other methods. For instance, many parts of the mangrove estuaries are too shallow for a regular boat to pass through. Just imagine sliding noiselessly up to a surfacing turtle and capturing the perfect photo to bring home to your friends and family.

There are many outfitters that can offer guided tours with bilingual naturalists to point out all the flora and fauna you encounter while kayaking through Costa Rica's oceans, gulfs, and mangroves. Or you can choose the self-guided method - just rent a kayak and go!

The Nicoya Peninsula's Refugio Nacional de Vida Silvestre Curu is a great place to go sea kayaking in the Northwest of Costa Rica. There are palm tree studded beaches, dramatic rock arches and formations, and estuarial waters that are home to a multitude of birds and brightly colored crabs. I bet you could catch some fish too, if you decided to bring your fishing pole with you. Estuarial waters offer some excellent snook fishing.

Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio and Isla Damas are other excellent places to go sea kayaking in Costa Rica. Located on the central Pacific coast, these two locations offer excellent kayaking and chances to see wildlife in its natural habitat. Isla Damas features a particularly nice mangrove system where you'll find lots of different birds, crocodiles, white-faced capuchin monkeys, and even boa constrictors if you're lucky. Again, there are tours here, so you can get a guide to show you around and give you the proper names for the animals you encounter. Manuel Antonio is another beautiful spot with loads of things to see while you're kayaking, including gorgeous beaches.

If you want to spend some time kayaking Costa Rica's Caribbean side, you definitely need to check out Parque Nacional Tortuguero. With 192 square kilometers of coastal land and waterways, there are amazing opportunities to spot wildlife and get fully absorbed into nature. The network of canals, lagoons and marshland are home to manatees, monkeys, anteaters, sloths, peccaries, numerous birds, kinkajous, tapirs, and reptiles. Tortuguero, as its name implies, is also the most vital breeding ground for the green turtle in the Caribbean. While kayaking Costa Rica's Tortuguero park is breathtaking in itself, to truly take advantage of the wildlife viewing opportunities you need to hire one of the many local guides here who are experts at spotting animals that you and I wouldn't have a chance at seeing otherwise. If you're into fishing, this also is a great chance to scope out some places to catch massive Tarpon.

Make sure that you spend at least one day of your vacation kayaking Costa Rica's coastal waters. The peacefulness, solitude, and chances to see wildlife are truly unparalleled.

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