Adventures Made Easy in Costa Rica
Are you a 'zip-lining through the rainforest' kind of traveller? Or do you prefer your explorations to move at a more sloth-like pace, with walks on hanging bridges in the treetops and dips in mineral-rich volcanic hot springs?
Either way, you can do it all in Costa Rica. The small, lush country is perfect for adventures, courtesy of its sultry rainforests and cool cloud forests, and shires lapped by both the glistening Caribbean Sea to the east and the surf-friendly waves of the Pacific Ocean to the west.
Costa Rica contains a phenomenal five per cent of all the world's biodiversity, yet is just half the size of England. And with good roads and ferries connecting its most remote corners, the country is easy to explore, with adventures to be had at every turn.
A quarter of the country is protected, either as national parks or nature reserves. Because of this, its rainforests, volcanoes, mangroves, coral reefs and beaches are a pristine natural playground for visitors.
Take Poas National Park, just 90 minutes from the capital, San Jose, and crowned by the highly active Poas Volcano. Laced with beautiful hiking routes, it is also a place where you can see steaming geysers erupting and an otherworldly aquamarine crater lake.
Fancy some whale spotting? Ballena National Park encompasses an outcrop of land shaped like a whale's tail, so you won't be surprised to learn that it is from here that you can spot majestic humpback whales during the longest whale-watching season for this species in the world. Alternatively, you can dive underwater to swim among hammerhead sharks, colourful parrot fish and elegant manta rays.
Don't miss Corcovado National Park and its cloud forests, wet forests and mangroves. It is home to 500 different types of tree, 367 bird species and 140 different species of mammal. You might catch a glimpse of endangered red-backed squirrel monkeys, maybe even tapirs and jaguars, or scarlet macaws and harpy eagles.
There really is a national park for everyone. Fancy experiencing one of the richest scuba-diving sites in the world? Head to beautiful Cahuita. Want to hear the haunting cry of the howler money? Try Santa Rosa. All you have to do is decide which route to follow to take them all in.
Sometimes, the best way to see wildlife is to join it in the canopy. In Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, walkways are suspended up among the leaves, taking you closer to the sloths, monkeys and many of the country's 850 bird species.
To see the rainforest from a different perspective, take an aerial tram tour in Braulio Carrillo National Park, or, if you really want to get the adrenaline pumping, why not fly through the forest on a daring zip line in Arenal National Park? Some of the best zip lines in the world are found in Costa Rica.
The lush landscape is also interwoven by thundering rivers, perfect for a white-water-rafting adventure, while mountain and volcano trails can be explored on energetic hikes or even on horseback.
Head into the cool highlands and you can visit elegant plantations cultivating rich Arabic coffee, or hit the Pacific coast for a boat trip to spot whales and dolphins.
In Tortuguero National Park, on the Caribbean Coast, you can see leatherback, hawksbill and green turtles lay their eggs on the beaches at night, while the charming beach towns of Guanacaste province are the perfect spot to learn to surf.
Venture underground in Barra Honda to discover vast cave networks with stalactites and stalagmites, or slip below the sea surface on a scuba-diving excursion to explore coral reefs and spot everything from whale sharks to turtles.
Relax and recharge
If you prefer your adventures to be a bit more leisurely, then aim for the bohemian surf towns that dot the Pacific coast. Here, many places offer yoga classes on the beach and easy-going stand-up paddle boarding sessions in the surf.
On the other side of Costa Rica, laid-back Caribbean towns are as much about good food and lazy hammock days as they are about the coast's pristine beaches and hiking trails that wend their way through wildlife-filled Cahuita National Park.
For more than 200 years, the mineral-rich hot springs of Costa Rica have been hailed for their therapeutic properties. Heated by the country's geothermal activity, they are often surrounded by tropical rainforests, making the spring-fed pools the perfect spot to relax weary muscles and enjoy the verdant scenery.
That's not all: you can also take a leisurely horse ride through cloud and rainforests, bathe in crystalline waterfalls, kayak through mangroves or snorkel off the Pacific coast to swim beside manta ray and even dolphins.
However, you like your holidays, you're sure to find some of what you're looking for in Costa Rica.