Beyond the Rainforest: The Editor’s Guide to Costa Rica

In Destinations, Editor Picks by LA Travel Magazine

14892673_smThe Rich Coast- An Eco-Friendly Oasis

Costa Rica is world renowned for its lush rainforests, epic surf spots, and adorable three-toed sloths but be warned, planning the perfect itinerary needs some much needed attention. With a plethora of adventure and luxury to be discovered at every turn some valuable research is highly recommended. Costa Rica (which directly translates to “rich coast”) is deep in culture, has some of the world’s best topography and an abundance of diverse wildlife that will make your head spin.

Located between Nicaragua and Panama, millions of people visit this adventure paradise every year and for very good reason. Costa Rica is an extremely rare travel destination because of its variety of microclimates; you literally could drive through three different types of forests in just a few hours ranging from rainforest, dry forest and cloud forest.  Each climate offers something new and exciting to see and do giving tourists endless adventure and culture for their life changing vacation. Besides the ranging climates the country showcases many regions providing visitors with several vacation types. If you are searching for adventure and eco -tourism a hotel based in San Jose would be ideal with several day trips planned to take in all the area has to offer. Be prepared to drive at least 1-3 hours every morning to your activity for the day, nothing good comes easy as they say. Most of the amazing excursions and attractions are deep in the jungle. If rustic, tranquility and turquoise blue water are more your style than a trip to the Caribbean side of the country would be more of a solid choice for you to get the most of your escape. There are no large hotel chains here or even resorts, expect to come here to completely get away from the hustle of life and immerse yourself into the Caribbean culture that the area serves up on a platter.

SURFS UP

Another major draw is the world class surfing. Surfers travel from all over the globe to catch some of the longest, most pure breaks that the North Pacific Coast provides year round. Tamarindo is a hot spot for surfers and provides a laid back beach community for travelers to spend endless days catching consistent swells.  It is such a popular surf destination that many travelers never leave, making it their new home.

35577251_xlTHE WILDLIFE

Animal lovers are literally in Nirvana when they visit; the country harbors 210 species of mammals, 878 species of birds, 218 species of reptiles and over 35,000 species of insects. There is something very magical about seeing a three toed sloth, flocks of scarlet macaws, toucans and venomous snakes all in their natural habitat within minutes of arriving to your destination. Besides Africa there is not a country in this world that provides these types of wildlife encounters and a large reason is due to the government’s strict conservation laws. It is so touching to know there is absolutely zero hunting allowed in the entire country and all of the species are closely protected.

ACTION PACKED ADVENTURE

Adrenaline junkies and adventure seekers flock from all over the world to tackle some of the most thrilling tours and attractions that Costa Rica has to offer. It would be impossible to try every thrill seeking adventure the country offers as your options are endless. Some of the best zip-lining in the world is found here and for good reason, this is after all where this action packed activity was invented. Fly 2000 feet across the jungle upside down or superman style while flocks of Toucans paint the forest backdrop with their stunning colors, it truly doesn’t get much better than this! Waterfall rappelling, canyoneering, horseback riding, white water rafting, tubing, rock climbing, rainforest aerial trams, sport fishing, hot springs, the list is literally endless of the things to do here.

La Paz Waterfall Gardens

La Paz Waterfall Gardens is arguably the most popular tourist attraction from San Jose and for good reason. Prepare to have your mind blown by the exquisite display of indigenous mammals, insects, birds and reptiles as well as take in the beauty of a vibrant tour of color with all of Costa Rica’s plants, flowers and overall breathtaking landscape. The trek is filled with exercise as there are many steps up and down to secure the perfect bird’s eye view of the iconic waterfalls here. The area is rich in biodiversity thanks to an altitude of 4000-5000 feet where both cloud and rainforest coexist.

aerial tramwayRainforest Aerial Tram

One of the most exhilarating trips to do while visiting Costa Rica is at Rainforest Adventures where you get as close to the local rainforest as humanly possible! The aerial tram takes you on a private tour slowly climbing through the rainforest for an hour and twenty minute ride and it is worth every single second. Take in the peace and quiet on top of the lush green landscape and witness the indigenous wildlife and fauna coexisting right before your eyes. Take a guided walking tour after your aerial tram ride to be able to be that much closer to all things wild on the ground!

The Tabacon Hot Springs

For the perfect blend of beauty, relaxation and luxury take a day tour to Tabacon Grand Spa Thermal Resort.  With all the action and adventure you will be exposed to while visiting Costa Rica there couldn’t be a better place to pay a visit for some much needed R&R. Located in the northern region of Costa Rica at the base of the famous Arenal Volcano, Tabacon provides the perfect backdrop for a jungle oasis. The thermal hot springs emerge from the volcanic springs providing the ideal combination of hot water therapy and pure bliss. Don’t miss an opportunity to enjoy a massage while visiting the hot springs, they offer one of the most invigorating spa experiences you will find in the area. A must try is the Honey Temptation massage where a honey infused lotion is rubbed all over the body with medium pressure in a purely serene setting.

Tortuga Island

Those looking for an island adventure should be sure to flock to Tortuga Island for the ultimate beach escape. Located 90 minutes by boat departing either from Puntarenas or Jaco the island ensures a fun filled day in the sun with beach volleyball, jungle hikes and more.  Tour operators from all over offer either Catamaran or yacht charters that include a beachside lunch. Snorkeling, snuba and scuba are all offered here and the water is clear and filled with marine life. If relaxing is on the menu for the day, pull up a beach chair and simply soak up the sun. Sightings of scarlet macaws, monkeys and wild pigs are quite normal here in fact a few of the animals love to pay a visit to the tourists each day so make sure you have your camera ready!

Ram Luna

When staying in San Jose, a great option for dinner is the Ram Luna dinner show. Set up on a cliff overlooking the city, Ram Luna is a very popular location for tourists to experience a true Costa Rican night out with entertaining cultural performances and local Costa Rican Cuisine. Treat yourself to a luxurious evening of local local fare, live marimba music and traditional dance with a stunning view you will never forget. Make sure to bring your camera as the combination of shimmering city lights mixed with bright colored electric performances make for some excellent photo memories.

Guanacaste Region

Borinquen Mountain Resort

For those looking for a more peaceful retreat yet still looking for some action packed adventure Borinquen Mountain Resort is the perfect escape for the day to combine tranquility and fun! The hot springs spa resort is tucked away in the hillside of the Rincon de la Vieja region and is fed volcanic thermal water offering guests rejuvenating therapeutic mud baths, steam and more! The resort is built into the beauty of the land and a day here will give you everything you need to relax. Zipline through the picturesque countryside, go horseback riding or simply chill at their tropical pool built right into the jungle. Make sure to cover yourself in the therapeutic volcanic mud for the ultimate facial and a lunch at their open air restaurant is an absolute must.

Hacienda Guachipelin

Another adventure filled day trip if staying in the Guanacaste region is located on the grounds of Hacienda Guachipelin.  A great combination of zip-lining, horseback riding and white water tubing will give you the best mixture of Costa Rican adventure you can possibly fit in one day. Start off with an exhilarating zipline course through the jungle and after a few thrilling lines you have the chance to rappel, rock climb and rope swing to get you back to the course which is an exhilarating challenge to say the least. After the course jump on a horse and ride through the countryside until you reach your final destination, tubing down a roaring river through the jungle, it doesn’t get better than this after a long challenging day of being pushed to your limits!

mangroove_2_02138Stay

Since the San Jose area has such a multitude of adventure activities to see and do a good home base is the Studio Hotel. Whether traveling for business or pleasure this artistic boutique hotel is centrally located central to the city and surrounding areas. Decorated with unique art throughout, the Studio Hotel displays more than a hundred works of art from local Costa Rican artists.

El Mangroove

If staying in the Guanacaste area for a relaxing beach vacation El Mangroove provides just what the doctor ordered to lay back and soak up the sun. This brand new beachfront resort is close to Liberian International Airport and endless adventure activities. With such an outstanding gastronomical culinary program at the resort you may want to spend your days close to home enjoying all the dining experiences on property with the farm to table and sea to table menu options. The spacious, modern suites are designed for pure comfort and make it easy to want to sleep in.

Four Seasons

A property that comes highly recommended for those looking to relish in pure luxury is none other than the Four Seasons at Peninsula Papagayo. As you drive through the grounds you will notice immediately the outstanding views of the beautiful Pacific Coast, white sandy beaches and upon arrival a manicured property that will take your breath away. On any given day you may be lucky enough to spot indigenous wildlife such as howler or white faced monkeys playing in the trees.

After check-in walk the grounds to take in all the beauty that the Four Seasons offers. A very rare position on the ocean provides guests with two beaches. The hotel sits on a peninsula so there is a bay side and an oceanfront side which showcases an unlimited amount of options for daily activities. Complementary kayaks, snorkeling equipment and stand up paddle boards are always offered if staying active is on the itinerary. Tennis, golf, jets skis, 4 swimming pools and an outstanding fitness facility will keep you busy throughout your stay. After all that moving and shaking it is easy to build up an appetite fit for a king. The resort offers endless culinary options from Italian, to Costa Rican, to sushi and a phenomenal steak house, whatever you desire your wish will be granted. The Four Seasons at Peninsula Papagayo offers the best possible scenario to have an incredibly memorable Costa Rican getaway!