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PURA VIDA!  Irene has just experienced the meaning of these two simple words whilst travelling through Costa Rica. From river-floating to rafting and canopy walkways to zip-lining, fine dining and coffee tasting – this is a country that caters for all tastes and ages. Here’s her report…

‘Much of Costa Rica’s diversity can be attributed to its location between two continents, as well as its numerous microclimates. The country has largely resisted opportunities to exploit its vast natural resources for commodities, instead it has opted for an ethic of sustainable development and a commitment to develop renewable energy.  Costa Rica is on track to become the first carbon-neutral country, with 99% of the country’s energy needs met through a combination of geothermal, hydroelectric, and wind power.  Tourism has grown steadily and although lodges have expended and National Parks are made safe and easily accessible,  with enough time on hand one can escape the crowds.

Travelling by minibus and one internal flight our group covered large areas. Our trip started with an overnight stay in San Jose after a very smooth and relaxing flight on the new direct service by BA, staying at the beautiful and historic Grano de Oro hotel. After an early pick up to meet our road transfer through Braulio Carrillo National Park we boarded an open boat at Caño Blanco pier, slowly meandering on the river and canals spotting crocodiles, birds and several basilisk lizards whose distinctive trick is to escape by running on water,  an ability that gave them the local name “Jesus Christ Lizard”.

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Visiting several lodges en-route our day’s touring ended at Pachira Lodge where some pool time was a real treat after the long journey.

Following a visit to Tortuguero town, the green turtle information centre and the beach area we enjoyed a wonderful 3 course dinner – all lodges are on ‘full board’ basis. We took a short flight back to San Jose with Nature Air the next day, a real treat providing stunning views over Costa Rica’s coastal and central areas.

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From the airport we had a full day transfer to Bajos del Toro and our lodge, stopping at Poas Volcano for a short walk to enjoy clear views of the crater and surrounding National Park.

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Today ended at El Silencio Lodge – surrounded by a unique and exhilarating eco-adventure park set amidst Costa Rica’s cloud forest mountains. All Suites and Villas offer mountain views from their private deck areas and a heated outdoor jet pool. The next morning we hiked up to several breathtaking waterfalls.

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You can also plant your own tree, get up to some serious bird watching, enjoy wine-tasting lessons and indulge in chocolate & coffee Tours. If you are up for some thrills try rappelling & canopy zip-lining, horseback riding or river rafting.

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With too little time to try all that is on offer we transferred to Arenal Resort and our next hotel, where all views point to Arenal volcano.

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The resort and most surrounding hotels offer the use of hot springs which are rich in mineral salts and irons as they come straight from underground sources beneath the sides of the volcano. The next morning a short walk at the ‘Mistico Hanging Bridges’ offered unrivaled observations of nature and wildlife from a bird’s eye view.

A 3 hour journey west and then south along the Pacific coast and we arrived at our final stop, the Parador Resort near Manuel Antonio National Park. One of Costa Rica’s most prestigious eco-hotels, the Parador is located on the Punta Quepos promontory in Costa Rica, surrounded by 12 acres of wildlife-rich tropical rainforest with panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and the National Park.

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With such close proximity to the Park the hotel gardens receive a number of interesting visitors on a daily basis, including several species of monkeys, sloths and a wonderful variety of birds.

For a well balanced Costa Rican experience I would suggest visiting both  the Caribbean and Pacific Ocean  shores, include at least two different Nation Parks, for example Monteverde with the chance of finding the Resplendent Quetzal,  Manuel Antonio for its white sand beaches, cliffs, rivers, rain forests and a large variety of animal life including white faced capuchin, mantled howler and red-backed squirrel monkeys, two and three toad sloths as well as a number of species of birds or for remote primary rainforest experiences visit the Osa Peninsula offering unique wildlife and wilderness experiences. And for authentic and relaxing visits go to the jungle waterways of Tortuguero, head to the volcanic hot springs at Arenal or adopt the attitude of a sloth and lay back on a pristine palm-fringed sandy beach.

“Pura Vida – two words with much more meaning throughout the Costa Rican culture then ‘Pure Life’ – travel soon and experience it yourself!