An insider’s guide to Costa Rica

There aren’t many places in this world where you can hike a volcano, paddle a river rapids, surf a breathtaking beach, trek through a rain forest and have a monkey steal your lunch—all in one day. Costa Rica, Alaska Airlines’ newest international destination, is a tropical paradise and mecca for eco-tourism, and now it’s just a nonstop flight away from Los Angeles.

Ready to book your trip? Flights will be available for purchase for the new Costa Rica routes soon, pending approval by Costa Rican civil aviation authorities.

Christian Ramirez, a former employee of Alaska’s sister carrier Horizon Air, who now lives in Costa Rica, shares a few must-do’s with adventure-seeking travelers:

Float into a jungle

At Tortuguero (the “small Amazon” of Costa Rica) paddle into the jungle to see a huge variety of flora and fauna.

Meet the natives

See leatherback turtles nesting (from October through May) at Las Baulas National Marine Park or get up close and personal with sloths, iguanas, turkey vultures, parakeets and monkeys at the bio-diverse Manuel Antonio National Park.

Get volcanic

Visit Volcan Poas and Irazu, two of the country’s many active volcanoes. See the famous, perfectly cone-shaped Volcan Arenal and enjoy the hot springs nearby.

Hoof it

Visit Rio Celeste at Tenorio Volcano National Park, hike around the amazing baby-blue river and visit stunning waterfalls. Or trek through Corcovado National Park on the Osa Peninsula (named by National Geographic as the most “biologically intense” place on Earth.) Rincón de la Vieja National Park is another beautiful park set at the foothills of a volcano with activities such as hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding.

Feel the rush

White-knuckle raft the deep gorges and class IV level rapids of the Pacuare River or go zip lining from tree to tree in the breathtaking Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve.

Just kick back

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Can’t miss the Guanacaste area for its miles of beaches for sunning, surfing and sport fishing.

Eat local

Head to Puerto Viejo for its colorful Afro-Caribbean culture, food and nightlife. Enjoy fresh seafood or try the local dish “casado,” (translation, “married man”) an overflowing plate piled with rice, black beans, fried plantains, fresh cilantro and onion and an optional entrée of chicken, beef, pork or fish. Yum!

Ramirez says the best time to visit is during the dry season (from December through April), but those who don’t mind a little rain in the afternoons can take advantage of special prices offered by resorts for the low season, also called the  “green season” because of its gorgeous foliage (from May through November).

Have you been to Costa Rica? What’s your best travel tip?