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SPIROGYRA BUTTERFLY GARDEN
One of the nicest things to do in the capital is wander the trails of this gorgeous garden that's also a nonprofit working to improve the lives of disadvantaged local women. Commune with around 30 butterfly species, plus hummingbirds, or just linger at the idyllic café. Afterward, stop in for some shopping at the adjacent El Pueblo Shopping Center full of souvenir shops.
Arenal Volcano National Park
After four dormant centuries, this volcano started erupting in 1968, and it's been going ever since. The best way to see it is from this lodge, built for Smithsonian scientists in 1987. Though a gorge protects you from lava, the more extreme flows are quite hairy and thrilling. On the other hand, you could end up seeing very little if you come on a day when clouds obscure the volcano altogether. Tours—by foot, horseback, canopy, and more—leave from here, too.
The Pacific Coast of this Guanacuaste-province peninsula is filling up since Liberia airport started taking direct flights from the U.S. in December 2005. Still, the great white-sand stretches—Playas Hermosa, del Coco, Tamarindo, Montezuma, and so on—among the fishing villages, beach towns, and, increasingly, resort developments, bear close investigation. And if you're surfers, you will be in heaven.
CORCOVADO NATIONAL PARK
Remote and wild compared to most U.S. national parks, this marks the boundary between dry, tropical Guanacaste and the green Central Pacific and is incredibly rich in biodiversity. Among the 400-odd bird species are lots of macaws, and this is one of only two places you might see squirrel monkeys.