Costa Rica’s flying sites are as diverse as the country itself. Costa Rica offers a bit of everything: Soar along the cliffs in a warm Pacific Ocean breeze, centre those thermals over the dry, northern flatlands or glide across lush rainforest while a pair of raucous scarlet macaws, wingtip to wingtip, pass by underneath.
Admittedly, Costa Rica does not yet make a major appearance in the international paragliding panorama. However, there are countless sites in this wonderful country where it is highly rewarding to hitch a ride on a tropical breeze. And then, Costa Rica throws various other advantages into the bargain: On the ground, it is just as diverse with remarkably lush nature and wildlife. Costa Rica is a safe country to travel and boasts a solid infrastructure. Moreover (sometimes this comes as quite a surprise), offering far more than beaches and palm trees, Costa Rica is blessed with high mountains that reach altitudes as high as 3820 metres.
There are flying sites all over the country and the small but all the more enthusiastic group of Costa Rican pilots constantly discovers new launch sites. Thus, the list of flyable sites in Costa Rica would indeed be next to endless…. below some of the major sites are detailed:
Caldera is the classic location for flying Costa Rica. First and foremost, the popularity is explained with the location on the Pacific Ocean ensuring stable weather and flying conditions for most of the year. The well maintained launch, toilets, a bar and restaurant and parking facilities are operated by the Swiss pilot Jean-Claude. It is a pleasure to fly Caldera, occasionally for hours on end. However, do take care when the wind picks up!
Launch: 120 metres altitude, easily accessible with any type of vehicle
Flight: Soaring along the cliffs riding the southern wind with views out over the Pacific
Landing: Top landing or alternative landing on the beach
Lush, green pastures, moderate temperatures and a sweeping, grassy take-off are Turrialba’s signature characteristics. Costa Rica’s second most important flying site is located in the foothills of the volcano of the same name. On a good day, Turrialba promises high flights with reliable thermals. However, Turrialba is located in parts dominated by Caribbean weather phenomena; that is to say a little unpredictable. A small local restaurant, a Soda, invites you to take a break and sample the local food.
Launch: 1580 metres altitude, spacious, easily accessible with any type of vehicle
Flight: Predominantly thermal flights with a view of villages, pastures and coffee plantations, cross country flights are possible
Landing: Top landing or alternative landing 200 metres farther down with several pastures accessible only with a 4×4
Hot, full of thermals and dusty, Jacó on the central Pacific coast is something like a playground for paragliding pilots. Jacó’s hinterland hills are a real estate development project that has been put on dusty ice. Today, the levelled building sites and wide open fields below make for perfect launch and landing sites with the beach in the distance, just past a last line of palm trees. The stable, Pacific climate ensures good flying conditions for most of the year. Add to that a couple of scarlet macaws passing by underneath and it becomes magical. However, do take care to bring your sunscreen!
Launch: 220 metres altitude, spacious, occasionally a 4×4 is necessary to reach the launch site
Flight: Thermal flight with a view of mountains and rainforest, the town and the beach, cross country flights possible
Landing: Top landing possible, below extensive fields, occasionally a landing at the beach adjacent to a pub with cold beer possible
The view from the launch site out over the rainforest reaching as far as the glittering Pacific is nothing short of spectacular! Of course, this is partly due to the high elevation. In the case that you should have been unable to discover any thermals, you can also try to soar along the ridge that connects Dominicalito with Dominical.
Launch: aprox. 600 altitude, limited launch space often with little wind, 4×4 recommendable to reach launch site
Flight: Predominantly thermal flying with fantastic views
Landing: On the beach. Plan generously for the glide down to the beach, there are few emergency landing options along the way. Limited space for landing at high tide
Rivas has a lot of potential. Rivas is not that easy to fly. This is the place where the longest cross country flights have been achieved. And this is the place where the strongest thermals have been recorded – it can be turbulent. On the other hand, Rivas lies protected from the northern winds and generally offers stable weather conditions.
Launch: different launch sites at approx. 1000 metres altitude, 4×4 necessary
Flight: thermal flying with a view of the high mountains and the Perez Zeledón valley
Landing: various landing sites of medium size, preferably the soccer field close to the village pub, confident but prudent approximation necessary,
Look forward to sweeping views out over Costa Rica’s dry, northern plains with crazing cattle below and the Gulf of Nicoya in the distance. However, here in Caballito, the view and the flight have to be earned on a one-hour hike up to the launch site. The friendly farmer and launch-site owner Victor can take your glider up on horseback.
Launch: approx. 420 metres altitude, limited space for launching, accessible on foot only
Flight: thermal flying with a view of forested hills, cattle paddocks and the Gulf of Nicoya, cross country flights are possible
Landing: effortless on the grazing grounds in the plain below