ADVERTORIAL • January 2019
Lush jungle, deserted beaches and extraordinary wildlife (oh, and year-round sunshine)... For a small country, Costa Rica certainly packs an ecological punch. And now, with British Airways flying direct, this Central American country is more accessible than ever. Here’s why it needs to be on your tropical holiday hit list
Of course, a spell away from the cold weather and dreary skies sounds enticing but Costa Rica, a Central American country which stretches between the Pacific and Caribbean coast, isn’t just for Christmas. It has a warm, tropical climate year-round, making rainforest hikes, white-water rafting and surfing adventures just as pleasant in low season as they are in high.
Costa Ricans - known as Ticos - often cite the mantra ‘pura vida’ which, simply translated, means simple life or pure life. But it’s more than just a saying... it is their way of life. Consequently, Costa Rica has been recognised as one of the most positive and peaceful countries in the world - there’s been no army there since 1948. It is welcoming, safe and thoughtful (the country has long been celebrated for its leadership in environmental policy)… what more could you want?
It’s not surprising everyone’s smiling - you would be too, if you lived in such a bio-diverse hotspot. Costa Rica is swathed in protected rainforests, mangrove swamps, verdant plains and reserves, all bursting with natural wonders - indeed, over half a million species consider the country their home (that’s around five percent of all plant, insect and wildlife species on Earth). The 28 National Parks are where to head for a wildlife fix, especially those off the tourist track: try Corcovado for rarer species (jaguars, scarlet macaws, red-backed squirrel monkeys, hummingbirds and the like), while Cocos Island is the most extraordinary spot in the world for diving.
Once you’ve had your fill of high-octane adventuring, Costa Rica’s 800 mile-shoreline offers a mellow antidote. Costa Rica means the ‘rich coast’ and it certainly lives up to its name: sun-drenched beaches on both the Caribbean and Pacific sides are a magnet for surfers, who appreciate the warm waters and excellent surf breaks - Witch’s Rock, or Roca Bruja, in the Santa Rosa National Park is one of the more famous. Coral reefs offer superlative snorkelling, while seeing the olive ridley sea turtles arrive on the soft, white sands to lay their eggs is a memory maker.
Don’t just stick to the tourist trail - the true beauty of Costa Rica lies in its small, off-the-beaten-track secrets. Hire a car and plan a road trip - whether you’re into mountains or beach, coffee plantations or cloud forests, the path less travelled couldn’t be easier, and it can be excellent value for money. Especially if you opt for a campsite in one of the National Parks (it’s thrilling to be there after dark) or one of the many locally-owned B&B style properties. Though there’s no shortage of boutique lodges and five-star properties, many of them sustainable, for a little slice of eco-luxe.
All that outdoor beauty making you hungry? Breakfast on tropical fruit and the ever-popular gallo pinto, a dish of rice and beans, or for something more substantial, casado has every base covered - rice, beans, salad, tortillas, fried platano maduro and meat; though eating ceviche (aka marinated seafood) on the beach with an ice cold beer is hard to beat. And, of course, where better to get the perfect cup of coffee than Costa Rica? After all, its beans are some of the best in the world.