From rainforest yoga to spotting incredible wildlife, there are so many transformational travel experiences to be found in Costa Rica. Discover where's best to see 'pure life' and be at one with nature...
'Pura Vida’ can be heard echoing throughout Costa Rica. Translating to 'pure life', the term has been adopted unofficially as the country’s national motto, symbolic of the Costa Rican mindset and indicative of the enriching experiences that await travellers.
With today’s hectic lifestyle, it's never been more important to enjoy an occasional break from the daily grind, take a digital detox from our phones or simply make time to revel in the world around us. If you’re looking to pair all this with an immersion into nature, then Costa Rica makes for a prime destination choice.
Luxury eco lodges are located within or near national parks so you can swap out tweeting from your phone with the tweeting of exotic birds during a morning yoga session in a rainforest. Or, try a midday jungle trek or an early evening’s jaunt to spot wildlife. If you’re looking to be at one with nature, there are several great off-the-beaten-track rainforest excursions that can fit the bill.
Corcovado National Park may be one of the country’s largest but its location off the South Pacific coast on the Peninsula means it's still a hidden destination gem. With shallow lagoons, marshlands, mangrove swamps, rivers, wet forest, low-altitude cloud forest, and sandy beaches, Corcovado is one of Central America’s most unique ecosystems. Costa Rica houses 6.5% of the world’s biodiversity and 2.5% can be found within the park’s territory.
Nearby, a rocky outcrop that resembles a whale’s tail protruding into the ocean makes for a fitting representation of the multitude of marine encounters you can enjoy from Marino Ballena National Park. This is a great spot to watch humpback whales, with July through to October the best months to see migrations from South America. Wander the beaches, snorkel and scuba dive to see a wide variety of marine life, including spotted and bottlenose dolphins, manta rays, parrotfish and hammerhead sharks.
Drive south from San Jose and in just under three-hours you'll arrive at San Gerardo de Dota. This small town is located in a quiet valley and crossed by the Savegre River, making it a natural gem for birdwatchers, especially those keen to spot the splendid quetzal, which can be sighted here year-round. It makes for a much quieter alternative to other areas
of cloud-forest in Costa Rica.
Costa Rica’s luscious surroundings makes it well-suited to wellness, so it makes sense to bliss out at a ‘Pura Vida’ retreat. Many eco-lodges and eco-hotels, especially on the country’s Pacific side, offer rainforest yoga sessions as well as spa treatments that incorporate natural Costa Rican ingredients such as volcanic ash and coffee.
Pack your day with activities such as walking through the clouds in Monteverde, zip lining over the rainforest canopy, surfing on the Pacific coast, biking in the Central Valley (areas such as Turrialba are popular) and white-water rafting on the Rio Pacuare and Sarapiqui. After a day of energetic experiences, reflect and relax in a hot spring. La Fortuna is a great spot to do this; home to Arenal volcano, here you will find several hot spring pools with thermal waters rising directly from under the volcano.
With so much to do, suitably refuelling yourself will be an important aspect of your trip and Pura Vida gastronomy focuses on fresh and organic choices. Many dishes use locally grown fruits, vegetables and herbs, with favourites such as Gallo Pinto and Casado (which both incorporate rice and black beans as their base) making a frequent appearance and, if you’re travelling along the country’s Pacific side, fresh seafood and ceviche.
As you explore, there are plenty of uniquely Costa Rican cultural experiences to found. The north-western province of Guanacaste and town of La Fortuna still retains a strong cowboy culture, so visit here to learn how to horse ride, cook traditional meals and spend a day on a traditional hacienda (ranch).
Coffee is serious business in Costa Rica. So much so, that despite it being a more difficult bean to produce, the country passed a law to produce only 100% Arabica coffee beans, which are considered to be of a far more superior quality thanks to their robust flavour. Coffee plantations don’t just produce the essential ingredients to an incredible cup of coffee, they also play an important part of local communities and so a plantation tour makes for a great way to connect with them and to meet with the coffee farmers who, to this day, handpick each bean.
In fact, you can even choose to stay with a local family to build a stronger understanding of rural culture and the farming traditions of Costa Rica and share in their local customs and traditions. When you incorporate community-based rural tourism into your holiday, you can actively contribute to local economic development and aid in the improvement in the quality of life for local residents – and you can’t get more Pura Vida than that.
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