Costa Rica will blow your mind. A central American country with unbreakable national pride and progressive rollbackments to its environment and sustainability, it’s an adventure seeker’s dream: misty volcanoes, pounding surf and tangles of rainforest. Life here revolves around its easy come, easy go mantra - Pura Vida: a phrase literally translating as ‘pure life’; don’t dwell on the bad stuff, no worries, no stress, no fuss.
A country that’s appearing on the tourist trail more and more, eco-minded Costa Rica is at the vanguard of environmental policies and sustainable action. Yet arrive in the capital, San Jose, and the picture looks very different: the large city is squished into a narrow valley with anarchic traffic and chaotic roads filled with beeping cars and whizzing motorbikes. Be warned: journeys can take far longer than expected.
A useful fact: in hotels, the beds are usually 140cm and you’ll often find two beds in a double room. But the thing about Costa Rica is it knows exactly how to welcome visitors, and scores of hotels are dotted across the country: there are slick city centre pads with distant views of volcanoes, then there are boho-style beach huts perched directly on the sands. There are all-inclusive resorts that cater to every whim, and there are plush jungle boltholes will all the frills. Essentially, there is every type of accommodation to suit every type of budget.
This is a country that sees a lot of rain, but it’s thanks to this rain that you’ll find verdant rainforests with giant leaves and technicolour flowers dotting the boughs. It can rain for weeks in Arenal or Tortuguero. But over on the west coast, pounded by the Pacific, the climate is far drier. Keep all of this in mind when researching what time to fly out to Costa Rica. You don’t want to book a beach holiday when it’ll be hammering down for 20 hours a day.
Costa Rica’s natural parks are home to countless animals and birds. And whilst sightings of ocelot, jaguars or pumas are very rare – though not impossible – you’re more likely to come across critters and insects scurrying across your hotel rooms or darting down the plughole; try and remember to shake your shoes before slipping them on in case a spider has holed up inside. And waking up to the call of howler monkeys or macaw is commonplace when you head into the hinterland.
The wildly popular Tortuguero National Park – sitting on a rainforest-covered sandbar on the Caribbean coast – draws nature lovers to its beaches, wetlands, canals and thick forests. Explore winding waterways and kayak along canals, watching birds flitting between the trees and monkeys swinging from the branches; visit during turtle nesting season and catch hatchings scurrying over the sands towards the waves; and hike through jungle to stare at wildlife and hulking leaves.
One of Costa Rica’s most popular destinations – and for good reason – is the active Arenal Volcano. Up until recently, there were around 41 eruptions a day, and although it’s currently in a resting phase, hiking up the volcano is not permitted. There are, however, plenty of outdoorsy escapades in its eponymous national park: wallow in thermal pools, zipline through the forest canopy, hike to La Fortuna waterfall, kayak in Lake Arenal, and book a subterranean tour of the Venado Caves.
Costa Rica isn’t dangerous, but theft from cars is an issue so if you have hired a car, refrain from hiding anything in your boot and try to use private car parks when they are available. Another thing to be wary of are officials telling you that car parks are full and directing you to others, which are more expensive.
Respecting Costa Rica
The key thing to remember is to respect the locals and the landscapes. As a travel company, we’ll do the rest and your local guides will be fountains of knowledge, creating unforgettable journeys through this enigmatic Central American country.