1. They care and protect their environment – flora and fauna! Costa Rica has devoted an estimated 26% of its land to national parks, wildlife reserves and protected lands making it a top eco-tourism destination. https://www.govisitcostarica.com/travelInfo/ecotourism.asp
2. You can see amazing wildlife from monkeys to boas to anteaters living their normal, happy lives in normal, happy ways – e.g., NOT in a zoo or a cage. #EmptyTheCages Costa Rica’s Manuel Antonio National Park and Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve are viewed as “models for ecotourism and sustainable development. These parks offer critical habitat to various plant and animal species. The major reason of ecotourism’s success in Costa Rica goes to the active participation of the private sector, exceptional biodiversity and the interaction between the comprehensive protected areas network. The international and national NGOs, local businesses, natives and government organizations also play a major part in the success of the ecotourism programs.” Id.
3. The amount and diversity of the wildlife is just, well, stunning. “Costa Rica has been ranked among the world’s best ecotourism destinations on more than one occasion, and became the first country in the Americas to ban hunting in 2012. As a result, its biodiversity is virtually unparalleled.” https://greenglobaltravel.com/ecotourism-in-costa-rica/
4. There is so much to see and do, you just can’t get bored. “Costa Rica encompasses a diverse array of ecosystems, from cloud forests and rainforests to wetlands and coastal marine areas.” Id.
When to Go
I went to Costa Rica at the start of the so-called rainy season in late May and stayed at the incredible Waterfall Villas. Basically, I was in a fancy treehouse in the middle of a jungle in a tiny retreat specializing in local, organic, vegan cuisine. Color me happy! https://waterfallvillas.com
For those of you who like privacy, I highly recommend May because the tourist traffic is low and, although it rained, I loved it. We planned all our adventures (white water rafting, waterfall hiking, national park treks, etc.) for the morning. The sun was always shining and the wildlife is prolific then. The rains start in the late afternoon. It’s still warm so we swam in the waterfalls in the rain, but, honestly, we were so active in the mornings with long hikes and ziplining and rafting, that we were pretty exhausted by the time the rain started. At night, in the treehouse – again, in the middle of a jungle! – the thunderstorms were just awesome. Like, the best ever, and we could see the frogs come out and the air fill with electricity. It was exciting!
Where to Stay
Waterfall Villas was lovely for anyone who wants a private retreat focusing on sustainability, beauty, harmony, and amazing food. There is yoga outside overlooking the waterfalls, a couple of hiking trails among the falls and in the jungle, and about 6 villas which are like little treehouses. The dining area is a gorgeous open-air terrace overlooking the falls and the food is all local, organic and they specialize in vegan cuisine. I have never felt healthier or more energized. You certainly won’t leave hungry. The only downside is sound carries between the villa treehouses, so, if you like it very quiet, travel off-season when there will be fewer people or control the crowd by booking all 6 villas at once for your family and/or friends.
They’ll customize a retreat for you with whatever you want from yoga to detox. Just to give you an idea of what you can do, my significant other and I customized ours to include a mix of adventure, downtime and education:
We went white water rafting, ziplining and hiking (and swimming) through the Nauyaca Waterfalls, hiking through multiple national parks, including the not-to-be-missed MANUEL ANTONIO NATIONAL PARK, which is ranked by Forbes as one of the world’s most beautiful national parks – for good reason! And explored the incredible Hacienda Baru wildlife refuge (where anteaters, sloths, monkeys, and more traipsed by on their merry way while we stared in amazement). We also did our ziplining in the Hacienda Baru wildlife refuge, which was so much fun. Seeing the jungle from above, while whizzing through the air is indescribable and you don’t have to worry about harming the environment or stressing the trees or animals because the staff takes every precaution to ensure the environment and animals are protected above all.
We had incredible massages outside on the banks of the waterfalls, in the middle of a vast jungle. An experience not to be missed. We also did a lot of relaxing in the waterfalls and on the beach. I will say be careful. With the fabulousness of being “in the wild,” comes the need to exercise proper diligence. There are venomous snakes and biting insects, so you do have to just be careful. A bit of bug spray (I used an all-natural insect repellant with rosemary, lavender, citronella, and some other essential oils, which worked well for me) is an absolute must. Also, on the snakes: On my last day in Costa Rica, I hiked into the jungle and rested in the middle of some waterfalls where the water was light and there were dry rocks available in the center between the two banks. I took off my water shoes (Reefs, which, by the way, I bought 20 years ago(!!) in Australia for about $10 and have held up amazingly) and meditated in the sun. I know it sounds silly but I asked a question of the universe and immediately I felt like someone was there and opened my eyes and not three feet away was a Terciopelo (“velvet” in Spanish), about 5’ long. Terciopelos are venomous and, I think, part of the pit viper family. The snake was partially coiled, however, her upper body was straight up in the air (kind of like how one often sees cobras depicted) and she was looking right at me. At first I thought, I am so lucky to see her so close! Then I thought, wait! What is proper Terciopelo etiquette? Do I look back at her or will that be perceived as aggressive? Do I freeze? Move? I didn’t know what to do so I just looked at her. She tilted her head slightly towards me and I decided it might be prudent to leave. I very very slowly put my shoes back on while she watched and slowly, slowly waded to the opposite bank. On the bank, I paused and looked at her. She lowered her upper body and moved to the other bank, wrapped herself around a low hanging vine, watched me another moment and vanished. I can’t help but wonder if she was answering my question.
I took advantage of the fact I was in an awesomely unique place that actually prioritizes the protection of its natural resources and took a class on the medicinal plants of Costa Rica. I’m blogging about some of the interesting things I learned in another blog post. Suffice it to say, my Manhattan kitchen is now full of Costa Rican plants and concoctions!
To sum it all up: Costa Rica is awesome, awesome, awesome. I can’t believe I waited so long to go there. It’s fantastic!!!!!!