We all look for different things when we travel. Adventure, relaxation, natural beauty and the excitement of city life can all appeal. Costa Rica provides incredible variety in a country about the size of West Virginia. With just a six-hour plane trip from Los Angeles, you can get away from it all and see volcanos, watch turtles hatch, zip-line through a cloud forest canopy or relax at the beach. Costa Rica has over twenty national parks and 8 biological reserves ranging from volcanic peaks to coastal wetlands and beaches. From exclusive luxury resorts to back-country eco-tours, Costa Rica has an adventure for any budget. I’ve seen cultural, eco, wildlife and even coffee-themed tours.
Costa Ricans or “Ticos”, so called because the normal Spanish diminutive –tito (as in momentito) is -tico in the local dialect, have a laid back attitude toward life. Pura Vida (“Pure Life”) is the national motto and can be used as a greeting or farewell, to mean things are going well or to express agreement. It expresses an optimistic view and is more than a motto. It’s a way of life.
Costa Rica is generally safe and peaceful and is the most stable democracy in Central America. It is considered the home of eco-tourism and is on the forefront of the sustainable tourism movement. With a little effort you can connect with the local culture in a sustainable and meaningful way.
Don’t try to fit everything into the time you have. Many travel professionals suggest visiting three locations in a week. Staying several nights in each place allows you to spend less time packing and unpacking and more time seeing the country. Pick the places that most appeal to you, and leave the rest for a later trip. Start in San Jose, check out the nightlife and cultural events, then go to Arenal for a few days to explore the most active volcano in Costa Rica and enjoy hot springs in the area. Spend a day or two in Monteverde at the Cloud Forest Reserve on a canopy tour enjoying the huge variety of native plants and animals. Look for any of the 900 species of birds that live in or migrate through the area, including the exotic quetzal bird. Move on to Manuel Antonio National Park with its rainforest and coastline of white sandy beaches. When you‘re ready to recover, head for the beach resorts of Guanacaste, with excellent deep sea diving, surfing and SCUBA for those still raring to go.
If the thought of hiking, diving, zip lining and paddling your way across the country just makes you tired, retreat to an all inclusive resort or enjoy a blend of familiar and traditional indigenous techniques at a spa.
A once in a lifetime event is a night time visit to Tortuguero National Park on the Caribbean coast between June and October, watching thousands of sea turtles returning to their natal beaches to lay eggs. Or go to Corcovado National Park, home to an estimated 250,000 species and called “the most biologically intense place on earth” by National Geographic.
Travel to gain a new perspective, feel invigorated and come home refreshed and ready to face life again.
Leigh Tacker is a life-long traveler and can currently be found at Gulliver’s Travel of San Luis Obispo.