With thousands of acres of rainforest reserves, as well as volcanoes, two coastlines and wildlife galore, Costa Rica makes a brilliant bet for a post-lockdown workation.
Regularly ranked as the safest country in Central America, this vibrant nation takes local motto ‘pura vida’ (‘full of life’) to heart, with its residents some of the happiest people on the planet.
To join them, simply satisfy the entry requirements (a digital health check and adequate insurance) and get ready to balance your working day with the reward of epic outdoor adventures.
What to do in Costa Rica
That ‘pura vida’ mindset includes a healthy respect for the natural environment, which explains why a quarter of Costa Rica is designated as national parks. As a result, ecotourism is the country’s biggest draw.
Hit the rainforest reserves for zip-lining thrills – such as the atmospheric cloud forests of Parque San Luis and Monteverde – or take canopy walks via hair-raising hanging bridges in Arenal or Selvatura Park.
Need more thrills? Take to the water for river-rafting – there are plenty of options, such as the Savegre River, near Manuel Antonio National Park, and the Pacuare River, which runs along the Talamanca mountain range and boasts Class III-IV rapids (ie terrifying). For something gentler, try kayaking on the coast.
Costa Rica may be small but it’s incredibly diverse in terms of habitats and landscapes, providing homes for a huge range of wildlife.
Look out for hummingbirds, monkeys, sloths and the amazing resplendent quetzal in the jungles, plus sea turtles nesting on beaches and Jesus Christ lizards running over the water.
Even the coastlines are distinctly different: the Caribbean side is steamy and sultry (don’t miss Puerto Limón’s carnival in October), while the Pacific offers a drier climate, whiter sand and a surfing scene.
Between the coasts, the land rises up in a series of volcanoes (some dormant, some very much active) where you can bathe in hot springs, visit coffee plantations and – on a clear day in Poás – look down on both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans at once.
Where to explore in Costa Rica
The big name on the Caribbean coast is Tortuguero National Park, which is home to the western hemisphere’s largest nesting ground for green sea turtles.
Leatherback turtles and green iguanas also nest on the dark-sand beach, while the waterways and jungle are home to jaguars, howler monkeys and poison dart frogs. The west coast is more geared up to beach tourism.
Aim for Tamarindo or Playa Hermosa: the latter is a World Surfing Reserve renowned for its consistent waves. There’s a more laid-back vibe on the bohemian Nicoya Peninsula – this region is great for its wellness retreats and a raft of unusual activities.
Fancy a kayak trip? You’ll find it here. Some of the Pacific coast’s loveliest beaches are in Manuel Antonio National Park: this is also the best place for spotting insanely cute squirrel monkeys.
And if beaches aren’t your thing, head inland for La Fortuna’s geothermal scenery or the emerald-green Monteverde Cloud Forest.
What to eat in Costa Rica
The staple dish is rice and black beans served in different guises at every meal. At breakfast it comes as gallo pinto, with onions, peppers and eggs.
At other times it’s combined into a traditional casado, with meat or fish, fried plantains, salad and a side of tortillas – filling and delicious.
Plantains also feature as tasty (if not all that healthy) patacones, a twice-fried snack best dipped in fiery chimichurri sauce. They work well with ceviche, a Pacific Coast favourite.
Caffeine fiends are in for a treat as Costa Rica produces some of the world’s best coffee beans. In fact, it’s illegal here to grow anything other than highest-quality arabica.
Don’t embarrass yourself by ordering a cappuccino – the way to drink it is fresh-brewed in a traditional chorreador. It’s worth the wait.
Where to Stay
Centrally located capital San José is a good base from which to explore the rest of the country.
For easier access to the beach, Liberia in Guanacaste province has a charming old town and handy air links to the US.
For more of a resort vibe, choose Tamarindo for its beach scene and restaurants, or sleepy Santa Teresa, which is great if you’re keen to keep away from any crowds.
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