27 Mar Costa Rica – A Garden of Eden

Above: Lapa Rios – with one of the highlights the walking trees …

Costa Rica is a treasure trove of tropical gems with the resplendent Quetzal, stunning Scarlet Macaws, hilarious Howler Monkeys and surreal walking trees some of my favourite.  Though small in size the country boasts natural treasures galore within each diverse ecosystem and unique microclimate.  There are towering primary rainforests festooned with tumbling waterfalls, steamy cloud forest paradises of exotic epiphytes, dry forests with emerald thermal rivers and jutting active volcanoes with gigantic craters, steaming geysers and hot bubbling mud.  Costa Rica is blessed with two coastlines and miles of wonderful beaches.  On the Pacific side the coastal rainforest plunges to the waves and the Caribbean coast boasts turquoise calm.

Above: Hiking the hills surrounding Pacuare

One of the best ways to experience the stupendous flora and fauna is by simply trekking into one of the numerous National Parks to discover unique species in their natural habitat. Horseback or quad bike riding is on offer throughout the country and is an ideal way to explore the foothills surrounding the numerous volcanoes.  Adventure is part of the experience, with a mandatory adrenaline ‘fix’ propelling across the surface of the rainforest canopy on a zip line.  On a par with this is waterfall rappelling which involves following a river hidden deep in the rainforest and then abseiling down cliff-faces attached to a rope and harness!

Above: Whizzing across the Monteverde Rainforest Super Woman style on a 1km zip-line was one of the most exhilarating things I’ve ever done in my life!

On arrival at San Jose we transferred to Finca Rosa Blanca Coffee Plantation and Inn.  Finca Rosa Blanca is a rustic but enchanting casita nestled in the hillside above San Jose with wonderful far reaching views overlooking the Central Valley and the surrounding volcanoes.  We ambled through the rambling tropical gardens to the main building and Restaurant El Tigre Vestido to discover a visiting chef duo on a culinary tour so we partook in a delicious medley of Latino Fusion Cuisine which we thoroughly enjoyed.

Above: Lapas Rio – 5.30am reveille is the norm in Costa Rica to enjoy the morning chorus.

Our driver scooped us up just before sunrise for the first leg of our journey and a fascinating drive through towns with names such as Curridabat, Turrialba and Pacayar, with people and animals busy with their morning routines.  We were on our way to the South of the country to the steamy rainforest in Turrialba.   The vehicle wound its way through the land of volcanoes with views of Barra, Inazu, Turrialba from the window.  We gently climbed higher and higher through the slopes of the Central Valley with plantations of coffee, pineapples, ferns and sugar cane dotted throughout the dynamic landscape.  After a typical Costa Rican breakfast of tropical fruits, black beans and scrambled eggs, we were back on the road.  Eventually the road narrowed and traversed a steep track down towards the Pacuare River to our ‘put in’ point for our journey into Pacuare Lodge. This was the first adventure of the trip as a stay at Pacuare is part of a multi-day rafting tour!

 

Our minimal ‘luggage’ was tightly bound in waterproof stuff sacks and sealed in plastic airtight drums which were loaded onto the ‘baggage’ raft and rowed solo by a guide resembling ‘the incredible hulk’.  Following a long and detailed safety briefing from Jorge our guide (which at the time I thought slightly ‘over the top’ in detail and only remembered the summary which was ‘if all else fails grab the chicken line’!), our inflatable of six passengers was finally paddling gently downstream.

The rafting journey was both sublime and thrilling in equal measures. Stretches of coffee-coloured river rippled as the raft gently ambled downstream allowing time to take in the tranquil surroundings. The rainforest sky-rocketed from either side of the riverbank in a tangle of tropical beauty, with crystal waterfalls plummeting from great heights, as a giant Blue Morph butterfly flashed turquoise blue wings as it flapped past.  Suddenly a dart of iridescent green from a kingfisher and the silhouette of a toucan soaring high across the void from one side of the river to the opposite bank completed the picturesque scene.

Above: Paddling the outstandingly beautiful Pacuare River.

Peaceful daydreaming was interrupted by urgent instructions from Jorge as  we approached a narrow canyon tumbling with alarmingly raging rapids  requiring urgent paddle-power – “left back, right forwards” more orders were fired out in quick succession.  The rapids were much more exciting than we’d imagined and we soon realised that Jorge’s detailed briefing was essential!

Above: Real adventure with unreal style can be found at Pacuare Lodge.

The property comprises a sprinkle of thatched eco-lux jungle lodges set within the backdrop of towering primary rainforest.  The open air design of the villas gives the feeling of sleeping in the heart of the rainforest but with the luxury of crisp white sheets, running hot water and gourmet dining by candlelight.

Above: Zip-lining into breakfast in the tree house at Pacuare

Next stop: Above: Rio Perdido #Heaven and best said in pictures – volcanic mud spas, swimming, tubing, mountain biking and zip-lining – exhilarating adventures galore!

Above: The zip-lining adventure across the forest and river at Rio Perdido

Above: Borinquen spa experience – slathering ourselves with volcanic mud straight from the volcano !

Above : The Glorious tropical gardens at Borinquen so typical of the whole of Costa Rica.

Above: Beautiful ‘Oxygen Hotel’

Above: Punta Islita is a small and intimate resort overlooking a beautiful private beach on the Nicoya Peninsula – one of the finest in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica is blessed with mile upon mile of beautiufl coastline on both the Pacific and the Caribbean sides.

I simply can’t wait to return to Costa Rica one day very soon – adventures by the bucket load away – we enjoyed swimming, surfing, snorkelling, horse riding, mountain biking, zip-lining, and bungee jumping – there is something for everyone and if all else fails to interest you then some serious sun worshipping is always up for grabs.