A to Z of Adventure Travel: C is for Costa Rica

27 01 2009


A rare image of a deadly sin caught in action.       (Costa Rica)


Whether your idea of adventure travel is sharing a pristine white sand beach with a herd of cows, or trekking the side of an active volcano, Costa Rica will satisfy everyone’s tropical wanderlust.


Situated between Nicaragua and Panama and bordered by both the Caribbean and Pacific, this Central American country has long been a success story in a region that has seen more than its fair share of trouble. While its neighbours were struggling with war, despots and upheaval, Costa Rica was boasting one of the highest literacy rates in the world, regularly topped United Nations lists for quality of life and environmental protection and became the first country to constitutionally abolish its army… although with border guards as heavily armed and intimidating-looking as theirs, who needs an army?!


Needless to say, the residents are justifiably proud of their nation and that is evident in the warmth and friendliness they show travellers.


Although a small country, Costa Rica satisfies both would-be adventurers seeking a gentle initiation to something a little more exotic, and more experienced hardcore veterans looking for new challenges and plenty of local culture. The Pacific coast offers superb beaches, fringed with palm trees and forests teeming with monkeys and colourful birdlife. The water is warm and clear and whether opting for a small locally-run hotel in a quiet fishing village or using a large international resort as a base for exploration, the west coast is a wonderful alternative to more crowded destinations like Mexico.


Whether hiking tropical rain forests in search of enormous morpho butterflies, resplendent quetzals or elusive ocelots or standing in a meadow after sunset and watching lava spew from an active volcano while fireflies flit about your head before retiring to your comfortable hotel room, Costa Rica is one of the easiest destinations in the world to satisfy your need for rejuvenation and relaxation.


The more diehard can try white water rafting on wild jungle rivers, zip-lining through the lush canopy, horseback riding or gruelling hikes through thick forest. The more sedately adventurous can opt to explore calmer rivers by motorised canoe in search of crocodiles, enormous iguanas or troops of noisy howler monkeys. If you enjoy soaking up the sun but only in small quantities, you can alternate your sun-loving with snorkelling or scuba-diving from white or black sand beaches with pelicans flapping gently overhead.


To properly explore Costa Rica from its urbane capital and historic sights to its steamy Caribbean coast and jungle-clad mountains would take several weeks. But Costa Rica is also a perfect destination for those with just a week who either want to fill every moment with activity and adrenalin, or just crash on a beach with a fancy drink and perhaps embark on a couple of day trips for a hint of adventure. Whether for a week’s break in the middle of a bleak winter or a longer exploration, Costa Rica is an ideal adventure destination for veterans and virgins alike.



Photo and post by:  Simon Vaughan