Costa Rica is every first love.
It’s intoxicating and you want to shout about it from the rooftops.
For me, it was like walking through a zoo that had lost all its glass barriers. Monkeys, birds, coatis and iguanas come as close as they please. Ferns, flowers and huge textured leaves grow like weeds to turn ordinary road verges to vivid life.
Perhaps most surprisingly of all, everyone makes a conscious effort to reduce their impact on wildlife and help it flourish.
My first-sight, butterflies-in-stomach moment was Manuel Antonio; a watercolour of greens leaking into a blue sea and sky. The hotels near the national park are tucked into the hill. It felt like my husband and I were explorers in an undiscovered corner of the world.
This is quite far from the truth as Manuel Antonio is one of Costa Rica’s most popular national parks, with 475,000 visitors annually. Two squirrel monkeys joined the hotel’s welcome tour (or maybe they were just investigating the pineapple in my cocktail).
The nature in Costa Rica spills out of its national parks. On a short walk from the hotel I was surrounded by guttural chokes. My steep path down to the beach had met a crossroads with a howler monkey path through the canopy. My skin was so slick with a layer of water it was difficult to know where my sweat ended and the humidity started.
Costa Rica is only one-fifth of the size of the UK, so a multi-centre trip is worth the driving time and next on the itinerary was Monteverde. Our guided tour around the cloud forest was more of a chase. We rushed with a bird-watcher’s telescope after the light squeaks of a resplendent quetzal.
That night electricity lines were brought down by gale force winds and we were without power for 24 hours. Hummingbirds abandoned their sugar water feeders, and coatis and their snuffling noses mopped up what was being spilt by the wind.
Costa Rica is a patchwork of micro-climates and we quickly left behind Monteverde’s mountainous, chilly winds on the way to Pacific-coast Tamarindo.
Again, the hotel was set amongst the trees, underneath another howler monkey highway which had its peak commuter time at 6am.
The hotel staff didn’t encourage the animals to visit, in fact, one person had to spend all day clearing up the droppings the monkeys left behind. People and wildlife naturally occuped the same space.
Humans make way for birds and mammals and at dusk they make way for armadillos and the clicking bell frogs. Costa Ricans have realised that they need to co-exist with their incredibly biodiverse country. Not every single citizen is an eco-warrior, but they recognise that protecting their landscapes is key to the future of their country.
And, just like first loves, it will be heart-wrenching to say goodbye, but it will leave you a little bit more alive.This entry was posted in Inspiration