Commune with jaguars or experience a once-in-a-lifetime spiritual voyage on an amazing island.
When it’s time to escape, the lush beautiful rainforests of Costa Rica are perfect for a serene vacation. This exotic island destination is the ideal place to lose your inhibitions and scratch a few items off your bucket list. Whether you decide to dine on tasty termites (they taste like carrots!), run naked through the jungle, take a skinny-dip or dance on the wild side, trying something new is welcome here.
Adventure junkies will love the endless options for ziplining, kayaking, hiking and sharing memorable fun, family activities. Here’s a guide to some of the most amazing (and affordable) places to stay, for an ecofriendly, health-enhancing, spirit-lifting getaway.
Where to Stay
Rancho Pacifico, above, offers an intimate and unforgettable experience at its exclusive, adults-only nature retreat. This unique boutique hotel features 10 suites and a one-of-a kind Treehaus Hideaway Villas. The villas are suspended amid the trees, 20 feet above the ground, creating a secluded hideaway perfect for guests looking for a complete digital detox or an escape from it all. No Wi-Fi, televisions or phones exist in any suite, but they are available in the clubhouse area or by request. Each suite offers a wraparound deck with wide views of the ocean below and rainforest-covered mountains as well as a Jacuzzi and hammocks. This is not the best choice if you require modern amenities since you are in a tree house in the jungle. However, you will have no problem finding your Zen here if your goal is relaxation and meditation. Book early as this place is becoming popular with the celebrity set, including Sheryl Crow and Anderson Cooper. Prices start at $250 a night.
Oxygen Jungle Villa is a hidden gem in the Utica region of Costa Rica. The couples-only, boutique resort offers a secluded, sexy respite for lovers amid a tropical backdrop. Expect amazing views of the Pacific Ocean from the pool, clubhouse and villas. Wi-Fi is available throughout the property, but no televisions or phones. All villas are made of glass, offering 360-degree views of the surrounding wildlife. Managers Luis and the multilingual Lena are always on hand to help you customize your stay. If you go, be sure to try one of their signature smoothies — Little Hercules is heavenly. Prices start at $199 a night.
Arenal Nayara Hotel & Gardens is a five-star, luxury boutique hotel in the outskirts of the amazing Arenal Volcano. It offers 50 spacious casitas (bungalows), a secluded garden with an outdoor shower and a beautiful terrace overlooking the volcano with an intimate Jacuzzi for two. Prices start at $312 a night.
Pacha Mama is a unique oasis to rejuvenate body and mind. The focus here is spirituality and healthy living, but it’s not a resort. It is an eco-village on the Pacific side of the island. Think Eat. Pray. Love. during the pray part. Come to detox, master yoga and sit in silent reflection — a lot. It is a wonderful respite if you want to retreat from the rest of the world for a bit. Also for those seriously contemplating running away from home, the retreat offers multiple work options to decrease, and in some cases, cover the cost of your stay! Prices start at $18 a night for a minimum stay of a week.
Playa Conchal — Starwood Resorts first all-inclusive hotel, the Westin Golf Resort & Spa, sits on Costa Rica’s magnificent North-Pacific Riviera, nestled between lush forests and the sparkling azure waters of the Pacific Ocean. Known as Playa Conchal, it’s a great choice for family fun with a lagoon-style pool, gardens, tennis courts, a championship golf course, the Westin Kids Club, fine dining, personal concierge service for guests in the Royal Beach Club, workout facilities, a spa and more. Expect familiar amenities, like television and Wi-Fi. Prices start at $319 a night.
Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge, below, is nestled within the blue-green waters of the Golfo Dulce/Pacific Coast in the lush rainforest of the 14,000-hectare Piedras Blancas National Park. Proprietors Michael and Donna Butler describe the property as solar-powered, jungle chic. They offer kayaking, fishing, snorkeling, rainforest hiking, wildlife viewing, horseback riding and yoga practiced right on their doorstep. Prices start at $185 a night.
Where to Play
Costa Rica’s strikingly diverse terrain, whether you choose to explore the Pacific side or Caribbean coast, is filled with lush forests, wildlife reserves and tropical beaches. Every traveler will find something special.
Beach-lovers staying along the Pacific Coast should head to Guanacaste and the Nicoya Peninsula’s palm-fringed coastline for sun and surf. Nature-seekers staying in the Northern Plains or along the Caribbean coast should pay a visit to Puerto Viejo de Talamanca before venturing inland to zip-line above Monteverde’s Cloud Rainforest and hike Arenal Volcano.
Whether it’s sun, adventure, or nature you seek, there’s much to discover in this forest-and-beach laden paradise. You can stare into the eyes of a jaguar at the Jaguar Rescue Center in the Caribbean coastal town of Puerto Viejo (on Playa Chiquita) — the best place in Costa Rica to see one. The center takes in young jaguars that have lost their mothers, been injured or experienced other traumas. The center cares for other injured animals too, including monkeys, sloths, anteaters and owls. Guided tours are available twice a day, six days a week.
Ever wanted to rappel down a cascading wall of water? You can cross that off the bucket list with the hottest new adventure sport in Costa Rica. Just visit La Fortuna for the chance to strap yourself into a harness and descend a crystal-clear waterfall. Desafio Adventure Company includes six waterfall rappels on its eight-day Costa Rica Pure Adrenaline tour. Pure Trek Canyoning offers half-day excursions that include three waterfalls and one canyon rappel.
Heal in a Volcano
The Arenal volcano is one of Costa Rica’s most famous landmarks. At 5,437 feet, it stands high above the rest of the countryside as one of the area’s most visible and ominous sights. Visitors can enjoy daily tours or soak in one of the many hot springs for a day of detoxing and delight.
Be sure to visit the Baldi Hot Springs and resorts featuring 32-room, deluxe resort features, 25 Natural Mineral Pure Water Pools with 12 different temperatures, exuberant waterfalls and tropical gardens.
Spend a Day at the Park
Tourist-friendly Manual Antonio Park on the Pacific Coast offers white sand beaches, dolphin and whale watching, hiking and more. Live out every adventure fantasy with Superman Ziplining, waterfall rappelling or whitewater rafting.
If the options are too overwhelming, just simply fall to the ground and enjoy the beautiful beaches. While there, be sure to check out Barba Roja. You must experience the absolutely breathtaking sunsets. On the menu, the fresh tuna and the mahi- mahi are both fan favorites. The service is great, but the surrounding scenery is divine. Be sure to hold hands and sneak a smooch or two as the sun sinks into the horizon.
Before You Go You Should Know …
Rain will come … sometimes often. Those seeking bright, sunny days should plan to visit December through April. May, June, July, August and November offer clear mornings and late afternoon showers, but temperatures climb into the 90s. The rainy season occurs in August, September and October.