Beautiful Costa Rica
As destination appeal goes, I have to say beautiful Costa Rica is right up there. A country that is leading the way in climate change with plans to go carbon neutral in 2021….. yes that is right … next year!
Further reasons to love this Central American gem is that it is a peace loving nation having ditched their army back in the late forties. You can also stay in a converted 727 airliner, you can witness sea turtles hatching, you can enjoy white water rafting, it is home to incredible wildlife, beautiful beaches, rainforests, coral reefs and if that is not enough, they can also serve up one of the best cups of coffee in the world.
With direct flights from the UK now on offer it is easily accessible as Victoria Jones from Kinver Travel in the West Midlands discovered last year on a weeks tour of the country with tour operator Mercury Holidays.
I am already sold but if you need to be convinced further then here is her blog summarising her wonderful adventure
Paradise On Earth
Last year I had the pleasure of visiting one of the most ecologically diverse places on earth and a nature-lover’s paradise – the stunning country of Costa Rica.
This natural, rugged country enjoys the unique natural gift of coastlines on both the Caribbean and Pacific oceans. It is best known for its beaches, volcanoes and biodiversity with roughly a quarter of its area made up of protected jungle which is teeming with wildlife.
With a time difference of – 7 hours, San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica is an 11 hour flight from London Gatwick on British Airways and one of the most popular destinations in Central America. The best time to visit tends to be when it’s driest and brightest; between December and April on its Pacific coast, and between March and September on the Caribbean side. If Costa Rica’s abundant wildlife is a must-see during your trip; avoid the heavier rainfall in September and October. As a little tip it is always best to carry bug spray and suntan lotion.
Costa Rica’s food embraces a world of flavours; the unique dishes are simple but nonetheless delicious. The Casado is the most traditional meal; it includes white rice, beans, plantains, picadillo, salad and meat. The gallo pinto is a favourite breakfast dish and comprises rice and beans prepared with onion, celery, spices and is sometimes accompanied with scrambled eggs.
San José provides a wonderful array of activities and attractions including beautiful architecture, a bustling nightlife and a wealth of history and culture to enjoy. These include museums such as the pre Colombian Gold museum and also the Jade museum. As well as this there are art galleries, parks and some excellent restaurants.
Our first night was spent at the Radisson Park Inn in San Jose with stunning views over the vibrant city.
Tortuguero National Park
On our first full day we travelled by road and boat to Tortuguero National Park on the Caribbean coast staying at Pachira Lodge. This is an ideal base to get out and experience the diverse range of flora and fauna. A fantastic way to throw yourself into Costa Rican life and to start exploring is to book a canal trip with the chance of seeing monkeys, iguanas, sloths, crocodile, macaw wild orchids and more.
We were lucky enough to add on a visit to the beach at night to look for nesting turtles. This is strictly governed and numbers limited but definitely so worth it. We saw a green sea turtle making a nest and laying her eggs, and newly hatched baby turtles making a mad dash to the sea. A truly remarkable experience that I will never forget. Sadly but understandably no photos are allowed as this would disorientate the sea turtles but what a memory.
After a full day of exploring, your bed is so welcome but prepare yourselves to be rudely awoken in the morning by the howler monkies!
We travelled on to our third hotel the Buena Vista Hotel in Alajuela overlooking the mountains and volcanos of Poas, Barba and Irazi en route over to the Pacific coast This is a really lovely property nestled on the hillside set in the mist of a coffee plantation.
We spent the morning at La Paz Waterfall Gardens which is the number one most visited privately owned ecological attraction in Costa Rica. It is not a zoo, as these are forbidden here, but an animal sanctuary and rescue centre for wild animals, with over 100 species and an environmental education program.
Our next destination towards the Pacific coast was to be Arenal but on our way we visited the Arenal 1968 trail which is a private reserve where you can see the lava flow remains that has been there since 1968. Also here there are various opportunities to see wildlife as well as the beautiful Los Patos Lake with the best view of the Arenal Volcano.
We stayed at the beautiful “Springs Resort and Spa Hotel” which as the name suggests boasts hot spring pools, rich in minerals and irons.
We then travelled onward to Monteverde to the El Establo Mountain Hotel for what was another amazing day. This hotel’s story is one of a family who changed their cattle farm business to tourism.
We visited an organic coffee farm on the way, and I did my first ever zip wire over the jungle canopy (O.M.G!!), then the next day another amazing experience visiting the cloud forest and walking across hanging bridges.
Our last few nights we stayed at Punta Leona Hotel which has a spectacular location, right on the beach in the district of Tárcoles, just 60 minutes from the city of San José. The wildlife is once again abundant here with regular sightings of macaw parrots, parakeets, monkeys and raccoons.
Not far is the Manuel Antonio National Park. Nearly 700 hectares in size and boasting a coast with white sandy beaches, coral reefs and mountains with rainforests. There are great opportunities here to hike and explore an area that is renowned for its vast diversity of tropical plants and wildlife.
If you are planning a Costa Rica holiday, one term you should be familiar with is “Pura Vida” (pronounces poo-rah vee-dah). Simply translated, it means “simple life” or “pure life”, but in Costa Rica, it is more than just a saying—it is a way of life.
What To Pack
We were touring the country staying in multiple locations so as an indication of what to pack I would suggest :
Sunscreen, Insect Repellent and a hat
Waterproof lightweight jacket
Comfortable walking shoes
Lightweight clothing (jeans are not recommended)
Camera and charger
Small day pack for hikes/treks
A plug adaptor – the electricity supply is 120 volts and 2 or 3 flat pin plugs
Personal first aid kit containing travel pills, re-hydration powder, plasters, stomach settlers, antiseptic creams, aspirin etc
Kinver Travel are an awarding winning travel agency based near Stourbridge in the West Midlands.
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