April 6, 2021 | By Jamie Jackson
“Pura Vida”. The saying and motto of Costa Rica. One of Central America’s most prosperous and progressive countries. Travelers have flocked to Costa Rica for decades to experience Pura Vida, which is defined as a way of life of the people. Live life to the fullest and connect to the essential values of life. That’s something pretty powerful that many of us could adopt right now.
After just returning from a visit to the country exploring three unique regions, I am relaxed, rejuvenated, and already desiring to go back. As many say the same about Hawaii, there is just too much to explore that you can’t tackle everything in one trip.
Costa Rica is a place where the sun rises early and sets early (5:45 pm year-round). So, it’s best to start your day at a decent time, and at 5:30 pm you can ease into the tradition of taking in the stunning sunsets that welcome the evening.
Roughly the size of West Virginia and containing over 5 percent of the world’s biodiversity, Costa Rica has coastlines on both the Caribbean and Pacific that offer top fishing, snorkeling, and surfing. Inland you have rainforests, mountains, and volcanoes that allow for hiking, zip-lining, river rafting, and countless other adventures. For those looking for less strenuous activities, there is bird viewing, coffee farm or chocolate tours, cooking classes, and more. The Costa Ricans are honored to share their culture with visitors who can much from their traditions and sustainability practices.
You won’t find many large hotels here. Part of the charm of Costa Rica is the boutique properties. Something that many travelers are looking for right now. In all three properties I stayed, my rooms were individual units with a private outdoor entry. And yes, there is luxury lodging in Costa Rica, and these properties are jaw-dropping attractive. Some might compare these properties to those of destinations such as Bali, Australia, Hawaii, or an African safari. The added splendor is Costa Rica’s proximity to the U.S. and often a better value.
Costa Rica was one of the first countries to develop guidelines and receive a Safe Travels stamp with the WHO and CDC. The country has been aggressive in its approach to curbing the spread and remains committed to bringing travelers back as safely and responsibly as possible. With most tourism options being found in nature, it makes being physically distant easy for travelers.
The tourism board has done a great job making the entry and exit process manageable. As your travel advisor, we will walk you through the necessary steps to be prepared. From how to find the right medical insurance (a current requirement for travel here) to what hotels and tour operators are doing to ensure your safety, to providing accommodations where social distancing is actually built into your stay, we can plan a safe and successful trip to the land of Pura Vida.
A vacation to Costa Rica should never be duplicated from a friend or online review. Everyone’s journey should be customized to their individual desires. Whether you are looking for romance, family adventure, or a gathering of friends there are activities and properties for all travelers and budgets.
My March 2021 visit to Costa Rica led me to three unique regions: volcanos, northern mountains, and the coast. The tour company we partner with for Costa Rica is very particular about the transfers, tour guides, and hotel standards for travelers. Traveler safety is always top of mind and I was comfortable throughout my journey.
Arenal is one of the most widely visited areas in Costa Rica. While the volcano has been dormant for about a decade, the Arenal Volcano National Park, Lake Arenal, and the surrounding areas offer a tremendous diversity of outdoor, eco, and nature-centric activities for all to enjoy.
Each of the 25 tents at Nayara is an eco-friendly suite standing on its own platform. Space is arranged around the master bedroom, boasting a private plunge pool fed with natural hot springs, an outdoor shower, an en-suite bathroom with toiletries and tub, and an al-fresco sitting and dining area. The camp provides a ‘welcoming tent’ that serves as a lobby, a family-friendly pool, a swim-up bar, and a gourmet restaurant. Everything is designed to blend into the tropical rainforest in the area. Daily yoga classes and an early birdwatching tour are complimentary. A choice of breakfast is included daily served a-la-carte in your room or as a buffet at the restaurant.
We set out for a canyoneering adventure in Lost Canyon. Our guides ran us through safety protocols regarding rappelling & down-climbing techniques and outfitted us with a harness, helmet, and gloves en route to an adrenaline-packed day. We made our way along the river by down-climbing, river-tracing & rappelling a series of four waterfalls that get gradually bigger with the largest waterfall being 200ft. On the short return hike, we enjoyed the amazing scenery.
When transferring from one region to the next (est. 2-4 hours) we recommend including an excursion in your transfer to further your experience. We stopped for an easy hike with hanging bridges, flora and fauna, and lunch at the park lodge that served a traditional Costa Rican Casado dish of either chicken, fish, or pork with rice and beans, plantains, and cheese.
The Bijagua Valley is one of the most amazing, tranquil, and less-visited locations in all of Costa Rica. This is the place to get away from it all.
Origins is an upscale boutique hotel set high up on a mountainside that tells a story of Costa Rica’s pre-Colombian architecture, featuring a unique circular design, echoing throughout the property. All seven rooms offer amazing views of the rainforest and Lake Nicaragua and are equipped with modern furnishings and fine touches. Every room comes with an en-suite bathroom, terrace shower, and a wardrobe. From hiking to horseback riding to cooking classes and more, Origins offers guests all sorts of memorable day trip experiences both on-site and nearby. In addition to its unique and healthy cuisine, Origins is known for its wellness offerings. After a laid-back morning enjoying coffee and breakfast, spend the day experiencing a host of activities.
You don’t have to leave the property to enjoy a hike with one of the on-site guides that will point out flora and fauna, lead you to a waterfall and consider gentle horseback ride back to the main lodge. Sign up for a private yoga session in the beautiful pavilion. Their yoga instructor will guide you through a flow at your level in the most peaceful and scenic setting.
This secluded resort is perched high on the hilltop above Las Catalinas, a town loved for its cosmopolitan atmosphere. If you look to the sea from Las Catalinas, the Pacific stretches in every direction and beckons with countless activities. Beaches with warm water make for fantastic swimming, snorkeling, diving, kayaking, and more. Turning your gaze toward land, you’ll find over 1,000 acres of tropical forest, hills, and valleys to explore on foot, bike or horseback.
Our final stop was to Casa Chameleon, an adults-only boutique hotel in Costa Rica’s northwestern Guanacaste province. Guests immediately notice the incredible views that dominate the landscape as the entire hotel sits on a beautiful bluff overlooking the ocean. The hotel is comprised of 21 private villas. Elegant, modern furnishings keep guests comfortable while enjoying the ocean views. Each villa has a private saltwater plunge pool, a fully stocked minibar with local products, a private terrace, and a 24-hour concierge service. Besides water activities, guests can enjoy land-based wellness such as yoga, running trails, and a mountain bike route
Prep for a warm, sunny, lovely day exploring Costa Rica’s Guanacaste coastline on a catamaran where you will cruise around Culebra Bay looking for whales, dolphins, and rays. Toss a fishing line in the water for a chance at catching something fresh. At midday, the crew selects a hidden beach only accessible by boat for some snorkeling, stand-up paddling, and a delicious lunch.
At Casa Chameleon gather by the main pool or on one of the three floors of the open-air restaurant at 5:30 pm to be dazzled by the Costa Rican sunset. One guest gets chosen each night to bang the gong and welcome in the evening. From Casa Chameleon, it’s less than an hour to Liberia airport for your flight back to the U.S.
After a week of Pura Vida, you will be recharged and longing for your return to this very special country.