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Costa Rica's oasis

By Ashley Strickland, Special to CNN
  • Costa Rica is brimming with opportunity for both adventure and relaxation
  • Zip-lining, waterfall rappelling, surfing and volcano hiking are just some of the adventures
  • Travel through Costa Rica's small towns to round out your experience

Editor's note: CNN's Destination Adventure series takes a look at great places for eager explorers. Each week, we'll feature favorite regional foods, secrets from the locals and the best photos and stories from readers. This week, we journey to Costa Rica. And next week, we'll journey to Munich, Germany, for an Oktoberfest extravaganza. Have you been to Munich? Share your story with CNN iReport!

(CNN) -- From rappelling down waterfalls to zip-lining between mountains, Costa Rica has something for everyone who is adventurous at heart. Beyond the canopied forests, majestic waterfalls and impressive volcanoes, it remains a place full of wonder and magic.

"The country is teeming with so much wildlife and vegetation that you feel like you're stepping into a jungle book that is filled with beautiful pictures," iReporter Anna Berte said. "There are so many things to do in Costa Rica that we left still only doing a minimum."

Road-tripping through Costa Rica

Although a small country, Costa Rica is brimming with opportunity for both adventure and relaxation.

"Costa Rica has it all, from the Atlantic to Pacific coast and everything in between," iReporter James Amerson said. "Rain forests, volcanic activity and the best surf in the world -- very few places have such wonderful views packed into such a small country."

Below, iReporters share their tips for making the most out of your time in Costa Rica.

Get adventurous

Costa Rica is an adventurer's paradise -- where else can you rappel waterfalls, hike volcanoes, zip-line through the forest and surf, all within miles of each other?

"On the east coast, you can find the still-active Arenal volcano where you can zip line next to it through the jungle canopy as it puffs gaseous steam and molten lava," Amerson said. "Take a hike through the tropical rain forest in La Paz and gaze upon tremendous waterfalls."

Berte and her husband went to Costa Rica to have adventures as they crossed the country. They took an ATV ride to a zip-line course through the jungle, made more exciting by an unexpected encounter.

"This was especially fun because you get to experience the countryside and villages of Costa Rica by riding through them on an ATV, and then you cool off by zip lining through the tree tops in the jungle," Berte said. "It's the first time you get really close to the howler monkeys who are lounging around as you zip by them. Choose the right zip course, and you can encounter a small wildlife preserve."

When in Costa Rica, enjoy the fruits of the rainforest

Berte also enjoyed surfing in Tamarindo, filled with plentiful waves, and visited the Arenal Volcano. "It is a majestic mountain overlooking a lush jungle full of animals such as sloths and howling monkeys."

iReporter Jill Thornton had her heart set on zip-lining and went on several tours. She calls it a must-do activity while in Costa Rica.

"It was amazing to be flying so fast over the forest, with the coast off to the horizon -- something I'll never forget!" she said. "As long as you don't think about how high up you are, or about the things that could go wrong, it's one of the most amazing things to do! You just sit back and fly through the trees -- a dream come true."

Exploring Costa Rica

Costa Rica is known for its rainy season, and while it might seem daunting to some travelers, many consider it one of the best times to make your trip. Fewer people visit the country during the rainy season, and the rainfall makes the "whole country lush with vegetation," according to iReporter Matthew Karsten. He also says that the rain isn't as unpleasant as it sounds.

While adventure is always an option, you can also take the slow, scenic route and experience Costa Rica's other offerings.

"If you want to see a ton of animals, Corcovado National Park can't be beat," Karsten said. "If you want to get away from the many tourist traps in Costa Rica, I'd recommend heading for Tenorio Volcano National Park and hike to the magical Rio Celeste Waterfall."

Small towns are also a good jumping-off point for exploring Costa Rica. Starting in these centers will round out the cultural experience of your trip.

"The town of Tamarindo itself is a small jewel," Berte said. "It's teeming with life and is full of little shops and restaurants, enough to fill your souvenir scavenging for days. After exploring the town, we did sign up for several tours to explore the rest of Costa Rica."

iReporter Craig Smith, an avid photographer, was eager to explore Monteverde Cloud Forest, known for its wildlife.

"The beaches of Costa Rica are beautiful, but the Cloud Forest is one of a kind," he said. "We spent 5 days searching for howler monkeys, three-toed sloths, toucans, butterflies and other creatures. The Cloud Forest is an amazing biosphere. The Arenal volcano is close by and erupts continually providing spectacular sights when the clouds permit. Take time to hike through the forest and experience what it has to offer."

Before you go

In addition to the difference in climate, planning the details for your trip to Costa Rica is crucial. Prepare to encounter insects of all kinds, so find a repellent that works for you, Berte said.

"Make sure your vaccinations are up to date before you visit Costa Rica," she said. "Also, try to exchange your money before you get into the provinces, so you walk around with colon -- the Costa Rican equivalent to [dollars]. Always pay with colon first. Otherwise, go and have fun, no matter what your fear is, just let go and go for it, you only live once!"

iReporter Ariel Matias, who relocated to Costa Rica, recommends learning a bit of Spanish before you go, especially for first-timers. "Ticos are very friendly people and appreciate foreigners who try to speak their language."

Perhaps most important of all, prepare for a brand new experience and leave yourself open to opportunity. Soak up the culture, try new adventures and leave with a bit of Costa Rica tucked alongside your heart.

"When you're in Costa Rica, try and immerse yourself in the culture while you're there -- eat food you wouldn't normally eat, walk around a town that doesn't have a lot of tourists, try and have a conversation with the people in their language -- it's a hospitable country, so it will welcome your efforts!" Thornton said.