By SUSAN FAREWELL
1Photo by Pure Trek

You won’t be in this Central American country more than an hour before you hear the expression–pura vida–which literally means “pure life.” And if you take advantage of all the country has to offer, you will indeed experience life at its purest.

Costa Rica is the answer for families, couples and individuals looking for some serious game-changing travel. While you can travel to the country and just soak up sunshine and beauty, the best take-away is what you get by stepping out of your comfort zone and experiencing some of the adventures the country is so famous for.

You’ll have opportunities to rappel down waterfalls, try your hand at via ferrata, ride the rapids in tubes or on white-water rafts and of course, glide above the canopy via ziplines.  You’ll also have chances to hike in the rain forests and meet indigenous people who live in thatched bungalows surrounded by fruit trees and tropical gardens. And yes…there are beaches, there is sunshine, and all the water sports you could ask for from snorkeling to wake boarding and surfing.

With its jungles, volcanoes and Pacific and Caribbean coastlines, the best Costa Rican vacations include a combination of experiences. Contact us for the very best pairings.

Here’s just a sampling of what you’ll find.

 

Rocking Around Costa Rica

2Photo by Pure Trek

Canyoning (also called canyoneering) is all about exploring canyons and can involve hiking, rafting, rappelling down waterfalls and rock climbing. A basic level of fitness and a can-do attitude is all you need to get started with this sport which immerses you in natural beauty. When you find yourself at the top of your first waterfall, you might be frozen with fear. After that…at least for some people…it’s “Game On!”

Pictured here is a Monkey Drop on one of the canyoning excursions beneath the shadow of the Arenal Volcano. It’s a free fall, dropping off a cliff, but you’re clamped on, in complete control and can descend as fast or as slow as you like.

 

Tarzan Swing

Adventure takes on a whole new meaning at the Rio Blanco Canyon in the Rio Perdido Reserve. Here, you will find a network of ziplines with several of the platforms suspended on the canyon walls, a 50 foot Tarzan swing (see video), a wobbly 90 foot challenge bridge (key is NOT to look down), and via ferratas of varying lengths.

 

Tubing the Rapids

Photos courtesy of Rio Perdido Resort

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Another way to explore the Rio Blanco Canyon is by galloping through the rapids (including a Class IV) in a tube. The key phrase to keep in mind here is “Go with the flow” as it’s fast moving through the narrow rock walls. If you’re comfortable enough to look around, you’re likely to see great birds and some monkeys.

 

Coastal Resorts

Photos by Susan Farewell

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Some of the country’s most beautiful resorts are on the Papagayo Peninsula including the Andaz Hotel, where you can plant yourself on your balcony and soak up the whole scene. From here, you have access to all sorts of water sports including snorkeling, fishing, standup paddle boarding, surfing, waterskiing, wakeboarding, subwinging…the list goes on. Best to get out on a boat for the day where you’re likely to see dolphins and coastal birds aplenty.

 

Living is Easy

6Photo by Susan Farewell

At Pacuare Lodge, which is among National Geographic’s Unique Lodges of the World, you stay in thatched-roofed bungalows with no electricity (candles are lit at turndown). Comfort is not compromised, however. Quite the opposite—with fabulous canopy beds, huge private outdoor showers and porches. Guest arrive and depart Pacuare via white-water rafts, with skilled river guides negotiating Class III and IV rapids through intensely beautiful canyons.

 

Life in the Rainforest

7Photo by Susan Farewell

Costa Rica is home to some 17,000 Cabécar residents, who are indigenous people living in thatched bungalows surrounded by fruit trees and tropical gardens.  From Pacuare Lodge, you can hike through the rainforest to visit a settlement.

 

Night Sounds

8Photo by Susan Farewell

Nothing quite matches the feeling of drifting off to sleep with an all-out symphony of jungle sounds. These little guys—the red-eyed tree frogs—are among the serenaders.

Susan Farewell is the owner of Farewell Travels LLC, a Westport-based travel design firm. For help planning your Costa Rica trip, contact her by calling 203-222-7238 or write here.