Costa Rica is an ecotourist’s paradise – a beguiling land of unending sun, an oasis of calm.
Whether you’re looking for city nightlife, jungle adventure, the excitement of watching volcanoes erupt or relaxation on white, sandy beaches, this country has something for every traveler, from honeymooners to families to individuals looking for an ideal vacation.
Costa Rica packs a punch in a small package. The whole country is only 150 miles wide from Atlantic to Pacific and 250 miles long from border to border, about the size of the state of West Virginia. San José is the capital city of Costa Rica and is by far the largest city in the country. Its main attractions include the National Theatre of Costa Rica, casinos, shopping malls and fabulous restaurants.
But for a really hot time, you’ll want to get up close and personal with Costa Rica’s active volcanoes. At Poás Volcano National Park, you can walk through a cloud forest sculpted by volcanic emissions or gaze at Poás’ enormous crater and its deep, green lake.
Just as spectacular is the Arenal Volcano, site of thermal hot springs. Long dormant, the 3,000-year-old, 5,500-foot Arenal erupted in July 1968 and has been active ever since, putting on an unforgettable smoke and light show nearly every day. Nighttime viewing is the most spectacular, with glowing lava and mini-explosions illuminating the sky.
Further thrills await there when you take the zip-line tour. Soar from treetop to treetop through the jungle canopy, 275 feet up on the Sky Trek, a 3,280-foot-long zip-line. For a slower pace, you can go on the Sky Tram for a 15-minute aerial tour of the rainforest that takes you to the Miguel Angel Observatory, where you’ll have panoramic views of the Arenal Volcano. Recommended hotels there – The Tabacon Grand Spa Thermal Resort and The Springs Resort & Spa.
A walk amid the clouds
Enhancing the country’s natural beauty is the Monteverde Cloud Forest, nestled high in the Tilaran Mountain Range. You need to stay two days in the cloud forest to take a guided tour on the Skywalk, which combines trails and suspension bridges through the forest canopy in search of flora and fauna. Tiny Costa Rica, home to more than a half-million species, is ablaze with candy-striped toucans, scarlet macaws and resplendent quetzals. Monteverde hosts the largest variety of butterflies worldwide, while the companion Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve is a 765-acre haven for jaguars, ocelots and monkeys. Recommended hotel there – Peace Lodge, which is within the private wildlife refuge of La Paz Waterfall Gardens Nature Park.
There is a certain atmosphere that permeates Costa Rica’s mid-Pacific region. It wraps itself around you and frees you from stress and troubles. The wildlife is abundant and you are likely to spot scarlet macaws, toucans and monkeys. The Quepos area is the home of the Manuel Antonio National Park, combining rainforest and white sand beaches. It’s also a mecca for Hollywood celebrities, who come to enjoy the serenity of the place combined with an active nightlife that includes restaurants, bars and discos. From Manuel Antonio, you can experience white-water rafting, guided rainforest waterfall walks, horseback-riding, snorkeling and sports fishing. (Recommended Hotels there – Los Altos Beach Resort & Spa; Arenas Del Mar Beachfront & Rainforest Resort; Gaia Hotel & Reserve.)
Guanacaste is also in the Pacific region of Costa Rica. This picturesque area offers hundreds of unspoiled tropical beaches lining its shores. Guanacaste offers rainforest canopy tours, horseback-riding, river-rafting and even just floating down the Corobicí River. It’s the ideal place if you want to enjoy water sports such as surfing, fishing, snorkeling or scuba-diving. This area has some of the best deep-sea diving and fishing in the world – and some of the best relaxing as well.
Recommended hotels there – Four Seasons; JW Marriott Guanacaste Resort & Spa; Westin Playa Conchal; Hilton Papagayo Resort & Spa; Hotel RIU Palace Costa Rica.
Travel tips: To fly to Costa Rica, I recommend going from Newark Liberty International Airport for a direct flight (and less money) on United Airlines to San José and departing Costa Rica from the Liberia International Airport on United Airlines for Newark on a Saturday or Sunday. This gives you the opportunity to have your great adventures and a few days of relaxation in the Guanacaste area. During holiday seasons more direct flights are added.
For more, visit Cappy’s Travel at 195 N. Bedford Road, Mount Kisco, call (914) 241-0383 or email Cappy@travel-by-net.com.