With more than 800 miles of coastline bordering the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, Costa Rica -- sandwiched between North and South America on the narrow isthmus that connects the two continents -- seems like a natural candidate for a cruise adventure. Costa Rica is, of course, known for its eco-diversity and active adventures, from zip-lining among the treetops to boating through the monkey-packed mangroves.
Most stop in just one of the "greatest hits" ports -- Puerto Limon, on the east coast of the country, or Puntarenas or neighboring Puerto Caldera to the west. Plus, this isn't the kind of trip you can (or would want to) do on a big ship because the nooks and crannies of the country -- the fishing villages, remote communities and pristine rainforests that make Costa Rica one of the most eco-diverse places in the world -- simply wouldn't be accessible.
That's where cruise lines like Windstar and Star Clippers come in. I was particularly intrigued by Wind Star's Costa Rica-intensive itinerary, calling on ports like Bahia Drake and Quepos, where you'll find some of the best coffee in Costa Rica (and maybe the world). There's even a stop in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, where the main attraction is an active volcano that could blow at any moment; the tour buses actually park facing the exit.
Join Cruise Critic's Melissa Paloti on an adventure-packed, "luxe-lite" cruise with our virtual slideshow.
Day 1: Arrival in San Jose, Embarkation in Puerto Caldera
Because there aren't a whole lot of flights in and out of Costa Rica's capital city, San Jose, this is a cruise for which we definitely recommend flying in early. First and foremost, you'll ensure that you're in town in time...
Click to Launch Day 1's Slideshow.
Day 2: Cruising Under Sail, Nicaragua
Our seven-day cruise may have been port-intensive overall, but our first day was a sea day, promising a leisurely beginning to our vacation. Wind Star would travel northbound along the Pacific coast of Costa Rica en route to our first stop in Nicaragua...
Click to Launch Day 2's Slideshow.
Day 3: Playa del Coco
Every port on this itinerary required either tendering ashore or a wet landing via Zodiac, a type of inflatable, motorized raft common on expedition ships in exotic locales like Antarctica; riders sit along its perimeter…
Click to Launch Day 3's Slideshow.
Day 4: Quepos
Because of the wet landings on remote beaches and calls to out-of-the-way ports, much of the itinerary is not conducive to simply walking off the ship or tender pier and exploring independently...
Click to Launch Day 4's Slideshow.
Day 5: Bahia Drake
I was glad to be wearing bug spray. Our naturalist guide in Corcovado National Park told us that a half-million animal species can be found in Costa Rica -- a staggering 300,000 of which are insects! ...
Click to Launch Day 5's Slideshow.
Day 6: Spa, Curu Nature Refuge and Beach BBQ
Lunch is followed by hours and hours of whatever-you-want time -- sunbathing, splashing and working up a sweat playing beach volleyball.
We even saw the captain, in his Speedo, taking a dip in the bright blue Pacific....
Click to Launch Day 6's Slideshow.