If there were straight roads across Costa Rica, you could go east to west or vv in under three hours; but because the local citizens want to keep the pristine landscape from overbuilding and overcrowding, the roads are two lane country roads, and many are not well marked.
Situated south of Nicaragua and north of Panama, Costa Rica is just about the size of West Virginia. The only “freeway” type of road is the Pan-American roadway that runs north/south along the west coast, and a few sections of road in and around San Jose, the capitol, located nearly smack-dab in the middle of the compact country.
Costa Rica is such a beautiful country, everyone needs to visit it at least once in their lifetime! It's a 4 ½ hour non-stop flight from LAX, so it's very convenient for visitors from all over the US. Alaska airlines now services the two main airports in San Jose and Liberia.
Located on the northwestern coast of the Guanacaste, flying into Liberia cuts down on the three-hour drive time if you were going to fly into San Jose and then drive to the coast. With the new non-stops on Alaska, flying directly into Liberia makes for a great time saving option when visiting the beaches and volcanos of the western coast.
Besides being one of the adventure and wildlife centers of the world, Costa Rica’s eco-friendly traits are something the world has well noted.
“Blue Zone” is a concept used to identify a geographic or demographic area of the world where people live measurably longer lives. Costa Rica enjoys a higher life expectancy than many developed countries despite just spending only 15% of what America does on health care. Studies done of residents of Nicoya Peninsula have pinpointed many ways to live longer and be happier. These include faith, family and “plan de vida,” or reason to live, which helps elders maintain a positive outlook and active lifestyles. They eat plenty of antioxidant-rich tropical fruit and little to no processed foods. Calcium and magnesium rich water wards off heart disease and promotes strong bones.
The government of Costa Rica aims to become the first “Carbon Neutral” country by 2021. To do so, they are “nurturing its forests.” Plans are being developed to begin offsetting all the countries carbon dioxide emissions. Their strategy is to have the label of “C-Neutral” on tourism and certain industrial practices by mitigating all of the carbon dioxide they emit. Easier technological maintenance, quiet rides, clean air and 100% renewable power are the goal. As of 2016, 95 – 99% of the energy piece of this program has been reached, approximately 80% of which is produced by hydropower. Emphasized in this program are ecologically sustainable technologies, such as solar, small wind turbines, and biogas from organic waste.
“Pura Vida” or “Pure Life,” Costa Rica's tag line, has a more profound meaning to the people of Costa Rica than it’s simple English translation implies. The eternal optimism means no matter what your current situation is, life for someone else can always be less fortunate than your own. Costa Ricans feel that the more foreigners truly grasp the concept, the better the world would be.
Arriving into San Jose at 3pm, clearing customs quite fast, we were whisked from the modern airport to Chayote Lodge. Only 50 minutes (25 miles) north of San Jose, up about 5,400 feet in the central mountainous valley and cloud forest, Chayote Lodge is surrounded by green pastures and coffee fields. Chayote Lodge has only 12 bungalows, all with private terraces and breathtaking views of Poas, Barva and Irazu Volcanos! The magnificent sunrise offered unobstructed views of all three!
Our bungalow resembled the traditional Coffee Receiving Station, known as a ‘Recibidore”. Inside, with modern conveniences, the décor featured a historical coffee-inspired theme. Coffee sacks and coffee plant sticks (“cajuelas”) are incorporated into the design, and even the restaurant's chairs were coffee sack covers. Quelites restaurant offered a lovely selection of choices including locally grown and quite popular staple “plantains.” And the coffee! Did I tell you about the most delicious aroma and taste of the coffee?
Our next destination was to the Arenal volcano and rainforest. Our home for the next two nights was at the ultra-boutique Nayara Springs. Located in the rainforest and in the shadows of Arenal, Nayara Springs is the luxurious adult only (16+) sister property of Nayara Hotel: luxury villas surrounded by lush vegetation creating a very romantic and secluded experience. Each villa offers a private terrace with a daybed, table and chairs for al fresco dining, and a plunge pool fed by natural mineral hot springs! Inside, the villa offered a large netted king bed, his/her sinks, a large indoor rain shower connected by 2 doors, and outdoor shower!
Spoiling guests is the expertise of the staff at Nayara Springs! Fine dining in the heart of the rainforest is enjoyed at Amor Loco. Plush purple velvet chairs, exotic lighting and apolished onyx bar top compliment the superb gourmet meals. In addition there's Asia Luna, a mix of Asian and Peruvian menu choices, Nostalgia Wine and Tapas Bar and Altamira Restaurant offering upscale/casual dining.
Activites abound here.. Soar through the rainforest canopy on ziplines, ride a horse to the base of a volcano, cross the jungle below on the hanging bridges, swim in a natural waterfall pond, then return to Tabacon Natural Hot Springs for relaxing natural mineral water experiences in their numerous “pools.” Just walk the paths to find a secluded pool with or without the natural waterfall. You will need a minimum of three days to enjoy all the options! And did I mention the wildlife viewing? Howler monkeys in the trees, lots and lots of birds and butterflies.
Our final home away from home was the Four Seasons Papagayo, located on the Guanacaste Peninsula. On our drive westward through the rainforest and along winding mountain roads and through charming small villages, one stop included Centro de Rescate Las Pumas (www.centrorescatelaspumas.org). Their mission is to “rescue, rehabilitate and ensure good conditions for endangered wildlife in Costa Rica. This is a non-governmental and self-sustainable organization that optimizes environmental education and the rehabilitation of wild animals rescued by citizens in Costa Rica: Capuchin monkeys, jaguars, pumas, tejons and birds of all sorts, including colorful toucans and parrots.
Upon arrival to Four Seasons Papagayo, we find a welcome coconut with fresh coconut milk mixed with a fine liquor, and the incredible staff waiting for us! From the moment we arrived to the minute we departed, the staff made us feel like family. From the front desk to restaurant, bar, housekeeping, pool, spa, golf and beach employees, the warm hospitality here was truly amazing!
Four Seasons is one of the most luxurious resorts in Costa Rica. Located on a picturesque peninsula, surrounded by lush, thick flora and fauna and a pro golf course and two lovely beaches. Traditional deluxe rooms and villas ranging from one to five bedrooms dot the hillsides.
Golf is top notch here! Tee times, cart and equipment rentals and golf clinics can be pre-arranged. Tennis is also available, along with kayaking, paddle boarding and snorkeling. Our sunset kayaking was quite memorable as we paddled out to see “monkey island,” while in the distance manta rays jumped and frolicked as the sun set.
As the Costa Ricans do….eat a light dinner, keep focus on family, maintain social networks, keep hard at work, get some sensible sun, embrace a common history, you will soon find out and embrace living a peaceful, simple, uncluttered life with a deep appreciation for nature, family and friends, just come to Costa Rica! PURA VIDA!
Julie Northington, CTC