Seven steps to the perfect Costa Rica experience
Are you looking for inspiration for a Costa Rica trip? You're not alone, as a record 2.7 million tourists visited Costa Rica in 2015 and buoyed by its growing reputation and new direct British Airways flights from London Gatwick to San José, it is set to smash the record again in 2016. Known as the Switzerland of the Americas (it hasn't had an army since 1949), Costa Rica enjoys a reputation as a safe and stable country offering the perfect mix of adventure, discovery and relaxation for singles, couples and families alike. Bursting with lush rainforest, colourful wildlife and crackling volcanoes, and lined with remote unspoilt beaches on both sides, it's no wonder Costa Rica is appearing on the bucket lists of travellers the world over. Here's our seven step guide to the perfect trip to this extraordinary country.
Step 1: Explore a wildlife paradise
Perhaps the biggest attraction for travellers heading to Costa Rica is the astonishing abundance of wildlife packed into this relatively small country. Fabulous national parks such as Corcovado, Arenal, Tortuguero and Manuel Antonio afford frequent sightings of sloths, monkeys, colourful frogs, toucans, ocelots, margays, crocodiles, caimans, manatees, turtles, otters and much more, as well as the occasional glimpses of jaguars and pumas.
Step 2: Go wild (or not) in an adventure playground
For the adrenaline junkie in you, Costa Rica has it all; from high-octane zip-lining and whitewater rafting, to waterfall rappelling, kayaking and mountain biking. There are more sedate options for those who like to get active but at a slower pace, such as the hanging bridges of Arenal, hiking or horse riding through breathtaking scenery or diving and snorkelling with colourful marine life in crystal-clear waters.
Photo Credit - dconvertini
Step 3: See fiery volcanoes up close
Located close to the capital San José, a visit to the lookout at the Poás Volcano is a highly accessible and must-do experience. Looking down at the huge puffs of steam and smoke emanating from small holes along the bubbling surface of the turquoise lake brings the power of Mother Nature into sharp focus. Poás is one of five 'active' volcanoes in Costa Rica and another of these, the Arenal, is an essential part of any trip. Set amongst verdant forests and shimmering lakes and lagoons, this perfectly conical peak is one of the most active in the country and can often be seen spitting out lava after dark. Stay at the Arenal Lodge for a panoramic (and safe!) view.
Step 4: Discover perfect Pacific coast beaches
Whilst the allure of the Caribbean coast might at first capture the attention of travellers, it is on the other side of Costa Rica where you'll find some of its finest beaches. Of these, Manuel Antonio, Playa Esterillos and Guanacaste offer the perfect mix of accessibility and exclusivity; serene and unspoilt paradises that don't require multi-day treks through thick rainforest to arrive. Whether you are a surfer, a sunbather or a stroller, your perfect beach awaits.
Photo Credit - Martin Garrido
Step 5: Drink some of the finest coffee around
Play word association with Costa Rica and it won't be long before the black stuff comes to mind, perhaps just after volcano peaks, colourful frogs and those adorable sloths. Costa Rica produces some of the world's very best coffee and there is no better place to experience it for yourself than at the Doka coffee estate. See the coffee plants growing in the ground, understand the roasting process and learn just what makes the beans so special, before the best part of all - the tasting!
Step 6: See colonial gems in San José
Once passed-over by tourists who used the capital as little more than a transport hub, San José is emerging as a credible destination in its own right. Nowhere is this better embodied than in the historic Barrio Amón - a small and resurgent neighbourhood full of beautiful colonial buildings, being re-purposed today as popular art galleries, cafes and museums. Spending a lazy morning here is the perfect way to get to know the modern day city and recover from another important facet of today's San José - its nightlife. With enough lively clubs and fashionable bars to keep you dancing until dawn, the following morning is where the aforementioned coffee comes in handy. The city lies in a deep bowl within the surrounding mountains and is within easy reach of the Doka coffee plantations, the Poás Volcano and the La Paz Waterfall Gardens (below).
Photo Credit - Don Henise
Step 7: Unwind at a luxurious eco-lodge
After a day spent exploring rainforests, spotting wildlife and zip-lining through canopies, what better way to relax and unwind than at one of Costa Rica's famed eco-lodges? These secluded sanctuaries are often surrounded by jungle and overlook sandy beaches, glowing volcanoes, glistening lakes or spectacular mountains. Some of the very best include the Arenal Lodge, with panoramic views across the lake to the active volcano, Lapa Rios on the Osa Peninsula, set in 1,000 acres of tropical rainforest with views to the turquoise waters of Golfo Dulce or the remote El Silencio in Bajos del Toro for the ultimate luxury nature retreat.
Better with experts
Travelling in Latin America can sometimes be a challenging and unpredictable undertaking for even the most well-versed globetrotters. With our vast experience and expertise, Veloso Tours will carefully create the perfect itinerary for you, handling all the tricky logistics, negotiating the best prices, liaising with local suppliers and ensuring everything flows perfectly during your time in Costa Rica. All you have to do is decide where to go! Our collection of expert local guides will help bring these wonderful places to life. They'll give you their insider knowledge and offer an authentic and personal perspective that will leave you informed and inspired.
See our range of carefully crafted Costa Rican tours to get you started on your adventure. Should you wish to personalise any aspect of these, our expert staff would be delighted to work with you to craft an unforgettable journey, full of memories that last a lifetime. Get in touch today and start planning your dream trip with Veloso Tours.