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

27 01 2009

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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

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Destination Spotlight: Costa Rica

3 02 2008

Costa Rica is high on the list of places to visit for many people due to it’s peaceful reputation, abundant wildlife, beautiful beaches, and amazing scenery. It is also one of the least expensive foreign countries to fly to from the United States, which makes it even better.  Located in Central America between Nicaragua and Panama, Costa Rica exists at the convergence of two continents and two huge bodies of water, making it a geographic bottleneck which produces great ecological diversity illustrated in the abundance of flora and fauna that awaits the traveler, including many endangered species. Howler monkeys, jaguars, pumas, poison dart frogs, toucans, tapirs, anteaters, sloths, macaws, turtles and crocodiles are just a few of the animals you may encounter during your visit to the pristine forests and tropical jungles. A true nature-lover’s paradise, Costa Rica has set 25% of its land aside as protected reserves, the highest percentage of any country in the world and an example to many of its neighbors who are struggling with land-use management. 6% of all the world’s known species can be found in Costa Rica, which represents just 0.03% of the world’s land- giving some idea of the rich diversity of flora and fauna in the country.

HISTORY: This region of Central America has been inhabited for over 10,000 years, proved by many artifacts left behind including most impressively dozens of perfectly shaped granite spheres, from the size of a baseball to a Volkswagen bus. The first European to set foot on Costa Rica was Christopher Columbus, who arrived in 1502 on his fourth and final journey to the Americas; however the name of “Rich Coast” was given by the Spanish explorer Gil Gonzalez Davila who was impressed by the gold bands worn in the noses and ears of the natives. Costa Rica has been a democratic nation since the 19th century and has the highest literacy rate in Latin America, 95%. Many of Costa Rica’s inhabitants are descendants of white European settlers, though there are African and indigenous peoples as well- some say over 90% of Costa Ricans have a little mestizo, or mixed blood. Today this vibrant cultural heritage comes through in the cuisine, communities, and way of life in the stable country which the traveler will appreciate as she journeys through the country. The main language spoken is Spanish and the currency is the colon.

GEOGRAPHY AND CLIMATE: Costa Rica has a wide range of geographic features as well. A string of mountains, offshoots of the Andes-Sierra Madre chain, form a backbone down the middle of the country from low hills in the north to high, rugged mountain in the south which offer incredible views of the diverse landscape. The eastern, Caribbean coast stretches for 132 miles and is known for its magnificent turtle habitats and heavy rainfall (300+ days a year), while the western, Pacific coastline is 780 miles long and boasts warmer weather and long, sandy beaches. There is no spring or fall in Costa Rica, just verano (summer) and invierno (winter), but the temperature often has a greater variance between night and day than between winter and summer! The average daily temperature is 80 degrees, the warmest months being March, April and May and the wettest months are September and October, and each season brings it’s own colorful flowers and plants.

HOW DO I GET TO COSTA RICA? Most flights will have one stop in the United States before continuing on to San Jose, Costa Rica’s capitol and economic center. From there, rent a car and head towards one of the many national parks or take a bus and hit the beach, or another option is to join a small group adventure tour that takes care of all of your accommodation and transportation and arranges activities for you.

posted by: Shilo