There’s a whole new world out there, and it’s all around you—all you have to do is wait until dark. After the sun sets and darkness descends, thousands of creatures great and small end their daytime naps and come out to hunt, to search for mates, to feed, and to send shivers up and down your spine with their nocturnal screeching and scurrying. Think you’re brave enough to wander through the wilderness armed only with a flashlight and some night goggles? Then come to one of the world’s greatest animal sanctuaries, Costa Rica, for a night hike.
There are a number of national parks around Costa Rica where one can take in a nocturnal hike. After flying into San Jose, the nation’s capital and largest city, consider hightailing it to the areas around Manuel Antonio (www.manualantoniopark.com), Monte Verde (www.monteverdeinfo.com), or Corcovado (www.costarica-nationalparks.com/corcovadonationalpark.html) national parks. Each of these areas (and dozens of others) offers unparalleled opportunities to see an immense and colorful menagerie unlike any on Earth.
Many of the largest and most iconic animals in Costa Rica are most active at night. The jaguar, for example, and other native cats like the ocelot, the caucel, and the tigrillo are notoriously elusive and are best seen—or only seen—after dark. Leatherback sea turtles, endangered throughout most of their habitat, emerge at night to lay their eggs on sandy beaches. On an evening kayak trip through the lush mangrove forests along the coast, paddlers can expect to come face-to-face with sloths, crocodiles, and squirrel monkeys.
Beyond night hikes, Costa Rica enjoys a well-deserved reputation as an eco-tourist’s dream destination. With miles of tropical beaches, active volcanoes, mountain cloud forests, and plunging waterfalls, opportunities are limitless to explore the natural history of this country—even during the day. But why see only half of this gem of a country, when the other side is waiting for you after dark?
Costa Rican Tourist Board ( 866/COSTA RICA [267-8274]; www.visitcostarica.com).
When to Go: June–Feb.