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Two wheelchair users with their back to the camera on a tropical beach

Exploring Costa Rica: The ‘World’s Best Accessible Destination’


Wheelchair users explore Costa Rica.

From its lush jungles and colorful wildlife to its white-sand beaches and colonial architecture, Costa Rica has long been a paradise for adventurers. What’s even more exciting, however, is how accessible this paradise has become, most recently earning the title of The Best Accessible Destinationon Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel list for 2021.

Here, explorers who use wheelchairs can enjoy a wide range of adaptive adventures, including ziplining with a special harness over tree canopies and catching a wave on an adaptive surfboard in coastal towns like Puntarenas.

In fact, thanks to the nation’s strict accessibility laws, travelers with disabilities can navigate even the wilderness with little to no hassle. Paved accessible trails cross through the rainforest, and universal walkways make for smooth journeys at many national parks, including Carara National Park and Poás Volcano National Park.

In celebration of the tropical country’s exciting new title, we’re covering all the best things to do and places to stay at in this incredible travel destination.

Here is some information to help you get started:

Getting Around in ‘The Perfect Wheelchair-Accessible Destination’

Costa Rica is the only Central American country to include tourism requirements in its accessibility law. What this national guideline means for you is that there are great public wheelchair accessible facilities everywhere, making for smoother, more seamless sightseeing experiences.

Earlier this year, our own Alvaro Silberstein wrote on his experience exploring Costa Rica by wheelchair. Not only did it live up to the hype, he said, but impressed him so much that he called it “the perfect wheelchair-accessible destination.”

One major reason why? Costa Rica’s public spaces and buildings, like parks and museums, have fantastic public accessible facilities — restrooms and parking spaces equipped for wheelchair users are everywhere. 

A particular highlight for Alvaro was his trip to Jacó beach — its wheelchair accessible restrooms and wheelchair-friendly paths made for a fun and stress-free day at the coast.

Transport was easy during his trip, too. Alvaro used both group buses and smaller van services, all which were equipped with ramps or elevators to accommodate all kinds of wheelchairs — even powered ones. Meanwhile, the chairs could be anchored to the bus or people could be transferred to a seat, making for an easy journey to his itinerary’s must-see spots.

Accessible transportation in Costa Rica

Wheelchair-Accessible Costa Rica Tour Packages

Knowing how accessible the country’s attractions are opens up a world of possibilities! Are you looking for a more active experience, jam-packed with once-in-a-lifetime activities? Or do you view vacation as a time to relax and look forward to spending more calming time in nature or at the beach? 

Whether you have a few days or a few weeks to explore this utopia, we have some great recommendations for how to get the most out of your stay in the way that’s most meaningful to you.

  1. For those who have at least a week and a half for their trip and are keen for a comprehensive experience, we recommend: The best of Costa Rica (12 days/11 nights) ← full itinerary and details here!

Highlights:

  • Tour San Jose’s must-see gems and visit the Zooave rescue animal center
  • Explore the small Caribbean town of Tortuguero and enjoy a boat ride
  • Watch the sunrise as you observe the exotic animal world waking up
  • Venture into the wilderness in Tortuguero on a wheelchair-accessible hike
  • Discover the scenic Sarapiqui by night on a guided tour
  • Observe the tropical flora and fauna on a tour of the La Selva Biological Station
  • Go accessible kayaking at the peaceful Arenal Lake
  • Get your heart racing as you fly through the sky on an Arenal zipline adventure 
  • Relax with a delicious cooking lesson
  • Learn to catch some waves with an adaptive surfing lesson

What’s Included:

  • Accessible transportation between sites
  • Accessible airport transfer
  • Accommodation
  • Adaptive equipment
  • Guides and assistants
  • Park entrance tickets

Accessible Equipment We Provide:

  • Jöelette wheelchair
  • Amphibious wheelchair
  • Tandem kayak
  • Kayak stabilizer

2. Have less time for your trip? Why not get the most out of it by checking out the nation’s iconic natural sites? If this sounds more your style, we recommend: Quepos, Manuel Antonio & Jaco tour, Costa Rica (5 days/4 nights)← full itinerary and details here!

Highlights:

  • Soak up the sun as you enjoy a boat tour of the River Tarcoles 
  • Explore the stunning Manuel Antonio National Park and beach 
  • Learn how to ride the waves with an adaptive surfing lesson at Jacó Beach

What’s Included:

  • Accessible transportation between sites
  • Accessible airport transfer
  • Accommodation
  • Adaptive equipment
  • Guides and assistants
  • Park entrance tickets

Accessible Equipment We Provide:

  • Jöelette wheelchair
  • Amphibious wheelchair

3. Another option for travelers who want to get the most out of a shorter stay but have their heart set on action-filled days: Adaptive adventures at Arenal, Costa Rica (4 days/3 nights)← full itinerary and details here!

Highlights:

  • Go accessible kayaking through the calm waters of Arenal Lake
  • Fly above the tree canopy on an Arenal zipline adventure 
  • Relax with a delicious cooking lesson

What’s Included:

  • Accessible transportation between sites
  • Accessible airport transfer
  • Accommodation
  • Adaptive equipment
  • Guides and assistants
  • Park entrance tickets

Accessible Equipment We Provide:

  • Tandem kayak
  • Kayak stabilizer

Where to Stay

While the tour packages linked above all include accessible accommodation, there’s no shortage of quality hotels in wheelchair-accessible Costa Rica if you’re interested in options.

Many, like this tranquil Arenal Kioro Suites & Spa offer an experience complete in itself. This green luxury hotel boasts panoramic volcano views in a striking rainforest setting for the ultimate relaxation-filled stay.

Ready to fully indulge? Take a soak in the facility’s private thermal water spa or get some fresh air in the ground’s vibrant gardens. Keen to venture out? The suites are conveniently located just minutes from La Fortuna for easy trips into the nearby seaside town as well as the Titokú hot springs, where guests of the hotel can enter free.

If you’re more of a beach bum, be sure to check out the Best Western Jacó Beach All-Inclusive Resort. The shoreside resort looks out onto the Pacific ocean for those ready to enjoy time on the coast. What’s more, its prime location on Pastor Díaz Avenue means it’s just a few minutes from downtown Jaco’s buzzing attractions, shopping, and dining. 

Of course, as an inclusive resort, staying in can be just as fun. Enjoy unlimited, delicious dishes and premium drinks with an ocean view or soak up some sun at the pool.

You can book a stay at one of these hotels here, and if you can’t find what you’re looking for, fill out the form at the bottom of the accommodations page.

Checking Costa Rica Off Your Bucket List

smoke comes out of a volcano that emerges in the middle of the cloud forest
Arenal Volcano

Alongside Costa Rica’s Lonely Planet accolade, our hardworking team at Wheel the World earned the Best in Travel title for our Inclusive Tours. This honor is also our commitment to you — we’re dedicated to making sure you can enjoy enriching experiences that are as fun and accessible as they are safe. 

As health and safety remain priorities, we’ve only linked packages and hotels in this blog that strictly adhere to Covid safety policies to help make your trip planning easier. We’re also available to help out with any questions or concerns you might have as you plan your next adventure! 

With the idyllic wheelchair-accessible Costa Rica recently reopening its borders for tourism, which of its exciting experiences are you ready to check off your bucket list?

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