You've been selected to participate in a beta for a new release of our website. If you do not want to participate in this beta,please click here >
Off the coast of Costa Rica’s remote Osa Peninsula, spend your days at sea counting humpback whales, identifying them by their markings, plotting their movements, and recording their sounds. Your work will help to determine if the same whales return each year and whether the area should be designated as a marine sanctuary. —Kellie Schmitt Humpback Whale Research: $2,690 for one week, including food, lodging, and airfare from San Jose, Costa Rica. (800) 326-7491, oceanicsociety.org. Other Trips to Help AnimalsSnow leopards in Central Asia Orangutans in IndonesiaMeerkats in South AfricaElephants in Thailand Horses in California Photo by “Mike” Michael L Baird, flickr.bairdphotos.com. This story appeared in the November/December 2011 issue.
One of the most amazing places I have stayed, and would stay again in an instant, is the Pacuare Eco Lodge in Costa Rica... I stayed in the above cabana high in the rain forest canopy above the ground. The cabana has its own private bridge and hot tub.... You can walk out on the bridge and see monkeys and toucans and feel like you are atop the trees. The lodge sits on the Pacuare River and is only a few hours from capital city San Jose. You can raft the river and take treks up to Cabecar Indian villages. The whole property is run on renewable energy via solar, wind and water turbine power. The staff is great, huge community area for dinner/breakfast and drinks.... There are a many different size cabanas and shared hammock areas... Each cabana feels like it is your private rain forest high in the canopy... Yes, there is a honeymoon suite too!! http://www.pacuarelodge.com/ Enjoy!
On my recent road trip through the provinces of Costa Rica, one of our stops was the Monteverde - Santa Elena cloud forest reserves in the province of Guanacaste. One of the most popular activities here is zip lining as you get to zip through and above the canopy of the cloud forests. They're called cloud forests for a reason. During the wet season and often times even throughout the rest of the year the surrounding mountain ranges trap the clouds within the forest such that walking through it can feel like you're walking through mist and clouds. The result is the verdant beauty that is evident even during the dry season, as the photo shows. This shot was taken off of one of the hanging bridges of Selvatura. Walking across it and gazing out at the seemingly never ending expanse of trees is a wonderful feeling. Zip lining through it, on the other hand, is a 'OMG! I'm flying!' sort of feeling that although can not be captured on camera, is also one of the things in life best experienced firsthand!
The original farm-to-table eatery in the area, Mary’s Restaurant, lies just down the road from the fishing harbor in Mal País village. With its pool table, polished concrete floors, and chalkboard menu, it feels like a pub. But along with such comfort foods as pizza and fish tacos, you can enjoy Thai lobster tails drizzled in raw honey. 506/2640-0153. Photo courtesy of Mary's Restaurant.
Anamaya is located in Montezuma, Costa Rica. This image is taken from their extremely tranquil yoga deck, where guests practice twice a day. This hidden gem is affordable, has gorgeous cabanas, and serves the best vegetarian food I've ever had. Originally built to be a celebrity destination, the owner, frequently seen on the grounds conversing with guests and attending yoga classes, decided to follow his vision of creating a tranquil oasis for detoxification and health. The experience also includes an infrared sauna, workshops, surfing, and whatever services guests and friends want to offer. For example, this week we have an amazing musician that plays during morning and evening yoga sessions and gives free astrology readings :) This place is truly special, combining health, community and a sense of tranquility in a breathtaking setting. Check out their website here!! http://www.anamayaresort.com/
A few hours North of San Jose, Costa Rica are the small towns of La Fortuna and Arenal which are known as the basecamp for many adventures such as rafting, mt biking, trekking, bird watching, hot springs and watching lava come off of Arenal Volcano at night. One of the coolest day trips is to zipline through old-growth rainforest 600 feet in the air. You'll see and hear howler monkeys, see toucans and more... You'll take a safety class with SKYTREK, get outfitted with helmets, gloves and a harness before you take a tram up to the first of ten ziplines.. You hook up and the ride is breathtaking through the upper canopy of primal rainforest! Very safe and reputable company with a spotless track record. (506) 2479 9944 - email@example.com After your zipline adventure, have dinner at small town of Forutuna at one of the many small travel restaurants in the backpacker-esque town.... Then hit one of the famous natural hot springs just on the edge of town. A great one I have spent many a night soaking in is Tabacon hot springs. The springs will set you back about $40usd, dinner included, but the quality is excellent compared to some of the other hot springs in the area. www.tabacon.com -Remember to take a little camera/video to strap to your arm or chest while zipping down the lines!
A luxury hotel in the shadow of Arenal Volcano features a series of pools—one equipped with slides—and waterfalls set amid tropical gardens. Lava streaming from the volcano may provide an after-dark show. Tabacón Grand Spa Thermal Resort, (877) 277-8291, from $245. Photo courtesy of Tabacón Grand Spa Thermal Resort. This appeared in the December/January 2010 issue.
Viewing Arenal Volcano from the thermal hot springs at the base of the mountain. The peak is rarely clear but when the clouds break it's an awesome sight.
Montezuma was a must-stop recommendation of all the beaches, so when we two Floridians finally arrived on the miniature, desolate coast in this small town we were confused. The communal bonfire atmosphere described seemed unlikely and the view was dreary on the cloudy days we were there, but our uncertainty was stifled when a gruff looking man came running to shore mid-catch (translation: bloody fish in hand) to show us his hostel rooms. We took one to end the awkward pressure of the circumstance and headed to the highly anticipated beach to relax. Having fulfilled this trip's bucket list, we saved laying in the sun and doing nothing for last, but a few hours of being the only two people on the beach under the clouds proved disappointing. Holding on to hope that this town would measure up to its reputation, we searched for the known waterfall to redeem it. Looking up the creek I worried the trek upstream might add to the discouragement, but when our luck brought on rain as well, we gave up on forcing this portion of the trip, packed up our clothes, and jumped in. Feeling the rush of the refreshing water and playing like no one was watching was all it took. I jumped off a rock that looks much smaller in photos and took a potentially homeless, bearded man's directions to swim deep enough to see the limestone below. We consequently had a blast, by ourselves--no parties, bonfires, or beach tans necessary. I mean we found those eventually, but after a day playing in the water.
"You get to the end of the road . . . make sure you lock your car. Follow the beach down to a bunch of white tents. You can’t miss it.” We’d heard those words before, and we’d proved our inalienable right to, indeed, miss what could not be missed. But after a long walk, we saw someone hailing us from a tented area. “You’re just in time--we’re about to release the turtles.” Not many visitors go to Playa Caletas to find Pretoma Turtle Sanctuary. Situated on one of the more remote beaches of the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica, and often moving between beaches, it’s a place you’ve got to know is there and want to find. Fortunately, we did. “The people who make it here are the people we want to come,” summed up our makeshift tour guide from Barcelona. We met young people from all over the world there for one cause--to safeguard enough turtles between egg laying and hatching into the sea to keep the species viable. As the Pacific sun set, our three kids got the experience of holding a baby Olive Ridley sea turtle gently in their hands and releasing it onto the sand. We all cheered them on in their dangerous scamper to the sea, and we all felt a little like turtle parents, swelling with pride at our offspring and thrilled for their safety. Not the way we’d ever spent a Christmas Eve before. But caring for the helpless felt like a good fit, as we returned back down the long moonlit beach.
Belly breathe some ocean air into your sun salutation at Pranamar, where resident teachers and visiting experts lead flow yoga classes in the teakwood chalet just steps from the sand. If you book a room, one class a day is included with your stay. There’s also a restaurant where students sip from coconuts after class. 506/2640-0852. Photo courtesy of Pranamar Villas.
The thermal hot springs in Rincón de La Vieja at Rio Negro (Black River) may not be as well known as those in the Arenal area, but we had the pools and surrounding forest to ourselves. From where we stayed at the Hacienda Guachipelin Rincón de La Vieja, the springs were accessible by horseback or vehicle, followed by a short hike and crossing a rather dubious hanging bridge. The pools are heated by the Rincón de La Vieja Volcano, so you definitely want to test the steaming water. There are seven pools to sample of different shapes, sizes and temperatures. The first pool was too hot to plunge more than our toes into. And the pool that was "just right" was the last one, which happened to be ideally situated next to the churning river. After two days of horseback riding, hiking, canyon ziplining and rappelling, it was great to unwind at this private oasis. If a rainforest/volcano adventure beckons you, I recommend staying at Hacienda Guachipelin Rincón de La Vieja and getting an adventure pass from Adventure Tours--both are at Rincón de La Vieja National Park. Rooms at the Hacienda are about $79-$96. The adventure pass combines four activities and is about $85 per day. Stay AND Do: http://www.guachipelin.com/en/tours.html
Not far west of the Pan American Highway, just off of Hwy 21, if memory serves, in the city of Liberia, Costa Rica, sits a nondescript abode. It doesn't stand out much from the surrounding homes with its white walls, tin roof, and leaning wooden wagon wheels. The only indication that it's anything more than another family home is the hand painted sign that reads, "Tacos" -- almost as though it's ashamed. It looks lost, this house, trying to pose as a restaurant. You see, Tacos aren't typical Costa Rican cuisine. But after nearly 2 months in this country, we were ready to pay anything for something other than rice, beans, or fried plantains -- including the surprisingly steep prices we saw scrawled across the chalkboard menu. The place was empty. With a couple of wire racks, a flat-top gas griddle, and a charcoal grill as its only accoutrements, the kitchen was questionably equipped. But when the owner, a Mexican transplant, brought out a selection of the freshest white cheese, yellow pineapple, onions, red beef and chorizo we'd seen in months, all questions ceased and we sat back to enjoy the smell of our sizzling Mexican tacos mingling with the flavor of our cold, Costa Rican beer. Sometimes, it seems, we need a taste of the exotic *within* a foreign land to rejuvenate the thrill of an extended stay. And it turns out that little lost restaurants are just the places to do it. Word to the wise: One menu item is enough to serve 3 people here. We were not so wise.
Florblanca offers two kinds of holidays in one place. Scattered along white-sand beaches, nine villas with open-air living rooms were built for relaxation. But a personal itinerary of surf lessons, sport fishing excursions, and yoga classes will keep adventurers busy. From $400. 506/2640-0232. Photo courtesy of Florblanca Resort
While we were staying in a really great cabin down off of Matapalo Beach on the Oso Peninsula in Costa Rica (Sueño Verde), we were often visited by families of Capuchin monkeys who would go foraging for insects and coconuts in the trees right around our bungalow. They would meticulously climb through each coconut tree and check each palm frond from the top side to the bottom side. I was able to time it and catch one as he was peeking through the fronds to look underneath.
After a morning surf session on perfect 2-3 ft. curlers, the wind picks up and turns the break into something else. That's when it is time to stretch the legs and take a stroll along the peaceful Playa Guiones. Each day here starts this way, and there's nothing wrong with that. The perfect little hotel to experience this each morning is Casa Romantica. www.casa-romantica.net, (506) 2682-0272, firstname.lastname@example.org. Simple rooms, wonderful breakfast, great price and best location and dinner restaurant in Nosara.
Guests at this 13-room retreat in Costa Rica’s central highlands can tour the estate’s 36 acres of coffee fields. After the walk, try a “cupping,” or tasting, of the shade-grown organic blends. End with a soak in your suite’s jungle-view tub. From $250. (305) 395-3042, fincarosablanca.com. Photo courtesy of Finca Rosa Blanca. This story appeared in the January/February 2012 issue. See more agritourism hotels: Hotel Chocolat in St. Lucia Glenburn Tea Estate in DarjeelingDalabelos in CreteLos Poblanos in Albuquerque, New MexicoEstancia Nipebo Aike in El Calafate, ArgentinaVilla Campestri in Florence
No cage...just a perch under the forest canopy at the "Zoo Ave" bird sanctuary, just west of San José, Costa Rica. Several of the parrots and macaws do "speak," but most of these splendid creatures are not pets; tame enough, though, so you can safely get very close... ...unflinching eye contact from an animal whose intelligence can equal that of a 5-year-old child, whose life-span can equal that of a human. Many of these birds are going extinct in their traditional habitats—from deforestation, poaching... For more information: http://costarica.com/attractions/zoo-ave/
With Volcan Arenal nearby La Fortuna has several hot springs perfect for relaxing those tired muscles of yours after a day of hiking. There are a handful of options including ritzy all inclusive spa resorts but when my friend and I were traveling through the area we opted for the low key Eco Termales, pictured above. Eco Termales has a limited entry policy so make reservations if possible. I loved this spot because of it's minimalist elegance. Even the entry from the main road is obscured as opposed to the flashy facade of another hot springs across the street. The naturally-fed pools are nestled within the woods and it gives you the feeling of bathing in a secret spot in the woods. Temperatures differ from each pool and there are unexpected nooks and seats where you can just sit, relax, and stay for hours.
Drivers can pull over near this bridge outside of Jaco to observe these large beasts bathe in the river. The crocodiles can grow to be up to 11 feet long. Rumor has it that an occasional crock has made its way to the ocean and attacked surfers.
Visitors who are making a day trip to the Arenal Volcano National Park have plenty of options for activities beyond seeing the volcano itself. Hot springs and mud baths are other popular natural attractions, and are particularly welcome experiences after a day of strenuous hiking in the national park. Several tour operators and sites offer access to the hot springs and mud pools; one of the most popular is Tabacón. Day passes or visits with a tour outfitter allow visitors access to the property's three thermal springs. Photo by Jennifer Morrow/Flickr.
I volunteered here for almost a month and had an amazing time. You can also just stay as a guest, but staying a little longer to participate with other volunteers made for an incredibly rewarding experience. Described as a "rustic yoga center and sustainable living project" it aims to help people "reconnect with mind, body, and nature" and that's exactly why I went there. However, I will say that if you're of the faint at heart, this isn't for you. Located at the top of a very challenging hill, the farm is nestled in the tropical jungle and when you're on the open air yoga deck you can see the ocean through the trees and hear monkeys jumping around. Composting toilets, rainwater showers, fresh fruit and only a little bit of electricity from solar panels, it really is a place to reconnect with the basics. As volunteers we prepared mostly vegan meals and I've never eaten so well. And with yoga in the morning or afternoon, as well as hiking up that hill, I've never been so fit. This place attracts the best kind of people and will make for some unforgettable memories.
One of the more popular activities near the Arenal Volcano in central Costa Rica is the Sky Trek zipline and for good reason. Your adventure is a series of 8 ziplines with the highest being 700' above the ground and the longest ride being nearly 1/2 a mile long. You get over your initial fear after the first 5 seconds when pure exhilaration takes over as you view the mighty Arenal volcano on one side the beautiful Lake Arenal on the other. I can't imagine there is a more stunning place to zipline in the world.
The yoga deck at Anamaya is an ideal setting for dropping your bags, winding down and draining city life cares away. At dawn, the silent darkness unveils itself to the sounds of howler monkeys, birds and chirping insects waking with the sun. The deck is only one part of the estate. Complete with a communal dining room and separate, open air cabinans for guests, Anamaya stays true to their original intent of a serene and comfortable yoga retreat villa. Their friendly staff makes every effort to ease one into that coveted feeling of a home away from home. This spot should definitely not be missed and, if you have the time... stay awhile.
I might be biased because I became engaged on the beaches of Playa Guiones, in Nosara Costa Rica, but this place is heavenly. I spent the month practicing yoga at Nosara Yoga Institute and when I wasn't doing yoga I spent the rest of the time on the beach, eating ice-cream at Robin's, and exploring the area on ATV's. Every evening when the sun sets, instead of staying home, locals and tourists come out to the beach, sometimes with wine and usually with their dogs, and sit on the sand watching the stunning sunsets and surfers catching the waves.
One of the great highlights of traveling through Costa Rica, is meandering through the streets of the capital city San Jose. Yes, everyone wants to hit the beaches and rain forests, but a day or two spent in the capital gives a little foundation to the adventure. A ton of markets on the streets to shop in, with anything you can think of! Some markets are formal and ongoing, but most are Pop ups where haggling is the norm. Vibrant colors, wafts of food and warm characters line the streets around the plazas and parques. Highlights here are the archealogical museum, the national theatre, plaza principal, Central market...... Gran Hotel is a great place to stay in the center of town too... In the historic area, the hotel sits right across the street from the national theatre, where you can catch great symphonies and ballets.... The old feel to the hotel makes you think you are sitting at the bar or outdoor restaurant, waiting for Hemingway to join you about his latest Latin American Adventures!
Get half off your stay when you book three nights or longer, just because you're a friend of AFAR! Unlock the URL here. Kurá hotel in Uvita has the perfect hotel pedigree: a husband-and-wife architect and biologist decided to open their idea of a perfect, sustainable, stylish getaway. The resulting six suites are the stuff of sleek design mags: contemporary, open-plan villas with floating beds, exposed showers and a balcony that leaves little between you and sweeping views over the jungle to the Pacific Ocean. The ocean-facing spa offers facials, massages, wraps and scrubs using local products. Beauty treatments and yoga classes can be arranged. Certified divers should head straight for Isla del Cano, an hour from shore, which is one of the world’s best spots for swimming with manta rays, as well as turtles, dolphins and a rainbow of tropical fish. The hotel can arrange a day trip. On land, rappel down the nearby waterfall, accessible by horse or 4x4. The hotel can also arrange surf lessons, white-water rafting and a boat trip through the Sierpe River’s mangroves. Ballena Marine National Park, a 25-minute drive down from the hotel, is a sandy, seemingly ideal beach that is excellent for paddle boarding or a swim.
This eclectic cafe offers delicious fresh food, great people watching, an up close look at Canadian artist Margriet Zwart's studio (owner of the studio / cafe), and a fun community of locals and travelers soaking up the "pura vida" lifestyle. If you're lucky enough, you can experience the great energy Margriet exudes as she works alongside the cafe in her open air studio. She's a beautiful mix of surfer and artist living the dream. When I walked in, I immediately felt like picking up a paint brush and releasing my creative energies. There's nothing quite like a captivating vibe. This cafe is the perfect environment to call your local hangout spot away from home. It's easy to find off the main road, so don't miss out!
© 2013 AFAR Media