It’s so easy to see why Costa Rica has been named one of the happiest countries in the world multiple times – it’s an absolute paradise. And, with over a dozen microclimates, coastline on two different oceans, idyllic beaches, rainforests, cloud forests, waterfalls, volcanoes (active and inactive!) …, unless your definition of “paradise” involves snow or a desert, chances are, you can find it in Costa Rica.
Before I left on vacation, I kept saying that Costa Rica was going to be an adventure. I don’t usually tend toward trips that include hiking, ziplining, and kayaking, but I was willing to try something different. And, I can honestly say that I am so happy that I went beyond my comfort zone! What an amazing experience!
There are no words – and, because I was too afraid I’d lose my phone, no pictures – to describe ziplining through the cloud forest. What is a cloud forest, you ask? I had no idea until I was there, but I learned that a cloud forest is different from a rainforest in vegetation, rainfall, and elevation. Costa Rica has both – as well as “transition forests,” which have elements of both. Our zipline adventure was through a cloud forest – and it was amazing. If you’ve never been ziplining – I hadn’t – my best advice is to embrace it. Yes, it’s terrifying, but it’s utterly exhilarating! One of my fellow zipliners, who had been terrified to even try, hit the end of the first run and yelled, “I feel so alive!”
Kayaking and hiking were two other activities I would not have previously listed among “things I need to do on a vacation,” but wound up being amazingly fun. We kayaked on Lago Arenal – it is a manmade lake that was created to discourage people from living within the danger zone of the Arenal Volcano (which last erupted in 2010). The lake is beautiful, peaceful, and utterly relaxing. The views are unreal – again, I don’t have pictures because I was worried about losing my phone – but the mountains you can see in the distance while you kayak are the tail end of the Rockies. Knowing that you’re looking at the same mountains that run through the United States make you realize how big and small the world is all at one time.
Hiking through the rainforest (oddly sunny…) and the cloud forest (raining…clearly) is one thing…hiking to the bottom of a waterfall is quite another! We hiked down to the bottom of La Fortuna waterfall to go for a swim. The water was freezing! But, welcome after a long walk. It’s such a gorgeous sight – I highly recommend it! The swimming is wonderful, the views are beautiful…it’s worth the hike back up out of the bottom.
But maybe you’re not an adventure traveler. I can completely understand – like I said, it’s not my usual comfort zone either. Costa Rica has plenty to offer for you, too! Would you like to relax on the beach? Costa Rica has beachfront property on both the Caribbean and Pacific sides of the country. A word of caution, though – not all beaches are safe for swimming, due to dangerous rip currents. Talk to us at Upon A Star about it - we can definitely help you find your perfect beach! Or, find utter relaxation in the hot springs – a perfect way to unwind at the end of the day…or to spend the entire day.
If you love wildlife, Costa Rica is teeming with it! Bird watching goes to another level when you can spot toucans. Exotic birds share tree space with napping sloths and swinging monkeys. The national animal of Costa Rica is the whitetail deer – a much smaller variety than you see here in the US. They are highly endangered in Costa Rica – a big change from the deer who are everywhere here in the greater Pittsburgh area!
If you’ve made it this far in the story, and are thinking that you’d love to go to Costa Rica, but you don’t speak Spanish, please stop worrying! I do speak Spanish, but, really, it wasn’t as necessary as I had expected. Most children learn English in school, and the vast majority of those Costa Ricans who work in the tourism, hospitality, and service industries speak it. In fact, most people in shops and restaurants wouldn’t speak Spanish to me. To me, it was annoying. To a non-Spanish speaker, I’m sure it would be a relief.
Costa Rica is roughly the size of West Virginia, but, as stated above, its topography and climates are diverse. It’s best to decide before you go exactly what kind of a vacation you have in mind. Are you looking for adventure? Ziplining through the cloud forest and kayaking on Lago Arenal should be included on your itinerary. Are you more in the mood for relaxation? A trip to the Baldi Hot Springs Resort is a must on your agenda. Looking for a little bit of both? We can put together a vacation that hits everything you’d like to do!