Wheelchair accessible vacations in Costa Rica

“When it comes to developing wheelchair accessible vacations, Costa Rica has one big advantage,” says Natalia Vindas of our specialist operator Il Viaggio. “People here are always really eager to get together and solve problems. We love to help and find solutions. And so improvements for wheelchair users are starting to snowball across the country.”
Il Viaggio pioneered the Costa Rica Accessible Tourism Network, which works with local people, hotel and tour operators, as well as activity providers and civil engineers, on accessibility initiatives developing inclusive vacations for people with different kinds of disabilities. One such initiative is to collect plastic bottle caps, which are turned into ‘plastic wood’ to make retractable pathways on the beach for amphibious wheelchairs. A lifeguard tower is another innovative product that has been made from the same recycled material, while an ongoing project is to create Costa Rica’s first 100 percent accessible beach.
Unfolding like a retractable plastic pathway is a vision of Costa Rica as a country where adventure is accessible to everyone. “There is still work to do,” says Natalia, “but now we’re seeing popular tourism places such as Monteverde develop better infrastructure, and they are hiring the right staff. Accessibility is an area people are really getting interested in.” And of course the more wheelchair-using travelers arrive, the more progress will be made as a clear market develops.

Our top Wheelchair accessible vacations Vacation

Wheelchair accessible vacation in Costa Rica

Wheelchair accessible vacation in Costa Rica

Accessible, Classic, Sustainable, Nature Lover, Adventure

From US $2500 to US $3600 12 days ex flights
Tailor made:
This trip can be tailor made throughout the year to suit your requirements
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What do wheelchair accessible vacations in Costa Rica involve?

Natalia Vindas and Il Viaggio are at the forefront of Costa Rica’s push for accessible tourism. “Our big challenge has been to make the tourism industry understand that people with disabilities want to travel and experience the same things everyone else does.” To that end, you’ll be on a completely tailor made vacation, with an itinerary arranged according to your needs and interests. The operator will suggest suitable locations and activities based on their extensive knowledge of the situation as it is. And, if you want something different, then they’ll go the extra mile to help you achieve it with experienced staff and personalised travel arrangements.

A typical wheelchair accessible tour would get underway in the capital, San Jose, where you might take a city tour, visit a wildlife rescue project or a coffee farm. From San Jose you head 200km north to Arenal Volcano National Park and a relaxing soak in the hot springs – Arenal is well-known not only for its thermal activity, but also for being ahead in the accessibility stakes. There are some long transfers involved in a Costa Rica tour. It’s three hours from San Jose to Arenal, but driving is usually more convenient (and eco friendly) than flying, and of course arrangements are in place to ensure your comfort.

In Arenal you’ll also venture across the famous Hanging Bridges, a series of suspended walkways through the rainforest, and even get to strap in for a zipline flight. “Something that surprises people is just how many activities you can do even with a wheelchair, such as a zipline,” says Natalia. “It’s like for a short while you don’t have a disability.” Later on expect even more excitement, as you try rafting on the Sarapiqui River.
Tortuguero National Park, on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast, is usually explored by boat. It’s most famous for the sea turtles that come to nest on the beaches between August and November, but you might also see caimans, crocodiles and manatees. The rainforests are home to jaguars, pumas, monkeys and an incredible cacophony of bird species. There is a way to go on making Tortuguero as accessible as places such as Arenal, but on a tailor made tour with a specialist operator, you can be confident that you’ll be able to get the most from a stay here.
Another possible visit, and a location seeing improvements, is the Monteverde Cloud Forest, southeast of San Jose. Here, there are growing numbers of accommodations adding accessible rooms, and the paths and roads on coffee, chocolate and sugar cane plantations are also being made accessible, expanding the number of tours available.
You’ll also visit small artisan communities such as Sarchi, famed for its colourful carretas (ox-carts), and a rural workshop in the Sarapiqui area where ladies create handicrafts from recycled materials. Purchases here, just as with a cookery lesson with the farmer’s wife on an organic farm, pump tourism money directly into the local economy. And of course these experiences have been evaluated beforehand to ensure they are perfectly accessible for wheelchair users.

Surf’s up

A major highlight is likely to come at the end of the tour, on Jaco Beach, a lovely spot just a few hours from the capital on Costa Rica’s Central Pacific coast. Here professional surf instructors trained to assist people with disabilities will help you onto specially adapted surfboards for an exhilarating session in the waves. Just as with the zipline at Arenal, previous travelers have reported feeling completely safe and free while on their boards.
Progress in accessible tourism to Costa Rica has already opened up the country’s culture and nature to wheelchair users. Now adventure is on the menu as well.
Written by Rob Perkins
Photo credits: [Page banner: Il Viaggio Travel] [All photos: Il Viaggio Travel]
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