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Welcome to Costa Rica where nature soothes, restores and connects us!

Did you know that immersing yourself in nature reduces your stress levels and increases your sense of wellness?  Not only does it make you feel better emotionally, it “contributes to your physical wellbeing” according to studies.  So, welcome to Costa Rica where close to nature experiences are part of your holidays.  This is where nature can heal, soothe, restore and connect us!

When a country is fortunate enough to be located in the tropics and have a rainforest laden mountain range that runs down its middle, it is inevitable that these highlands will be graced with amazing waterfalls, great walks and a sense of wellness through nature-inspired wonders.  This is Costa Rica, a country that is small in size but big on possibilities and surprises!

Nature is the underlying theme

Costa Rica is a fantastic travel destination as it checks the boxes for many travellers and their motivations.  The underlying theme always will be its magnificent natural beauties that range from volcano rich mountains to amazing beaches with vibrant lowlands in between.

With its unique natural environment, laid back lifestyle and a sense of freedom, Costa Rica decided to convert 25% of its territory into protected areas. Many of these national parks and natural reserves provide fantastic opportunities to explore the forests and discover it`s wildlife residents and other treasures like waterfalls and hiking adventures!

Hiking Boots, Bathing Suit and you are ready!

So, let`s pack some comfortable walking shoes, a bathing suit and your sense of adventure and get ready for some fun exploring the mountains and the spectacular waterfalls that Costa Rica boasts all over the country!

  1. Rio Celeste / Blue River

This could well be one of Costa Rica`s most iconic landmarks. Not only is it beautiful in colour, it is also tucked into the Tenorio Volcano National Park, located north of La Fortuna and Arenal.  Despite its magnificence, it remains an off the beaten track treasure making it even better!

The mesmerizing blue colour of the water contrasts the lush, green rainforest that you will hike through to reach this amazing post card perfect place. The blue hue of the water is thanks to an unusual natural phenomena product of a chemical reaction caused by the rich, volcanic minerals that are washed in the river.

During this 6km scenic walk, you will delight in the beautiful waterfall, a lagoon and the fusion of hues at one of the intersections of two rivers.  Blue is the color of the day during your visit to this hidden treasure where you can truly appreciate the wonders of nature.

       2.La Paz Waterfall / Peace Waterfall

Thanks to the majestic mountains, abundant rainfall and a love for nature, just a couple of hours from San Jose, you will find La Paz Waterfalls or The Peace Waterfalls.   This could well be Costa Rica`s most visited waterfall thanks to its proximity, not only to the city and the impressive Poas Volcano, but it is also within the Peace Waterfall Gardens Reserve.

This is a five-tiered waterfall spectacle immersed in the dense rainforest and the stairwells that run along the very steep river bank or valley walls give you amazing photo opportunities to showcase them as you follow the paths.   Lookouts have been strategically positioned along the walk guaranteeing perfect viewing and proximity where you can feel the sheer force of the water.

     

3. La Fortuna Waterfall

La Fortuna is most famous for that spectacular sleepy giant or as it is commonly called, the Arenal Volcano.  This area recently took first place in the best place in the world for experiences according to Trip Advisor thanks to its volcano hikes, volcano treks and Sloth Seeing Tour!  It is also a favourite place to enjoy the natural thermal springs that Arenal graces us with.  This is a wellness experience that must be lived!

Nestled into the lush rainforest within a natural reserve that forms part of the Arenal Volcano National Park.   The adventure begins by walking down more than 500 steps to reach the waterfall that welcomes you to have a swim and enjoy the lush, rainforest that envelopes it.

After enjoying this close to nature experience, you are refreshed and ready to work your way back up the canyon and treat yourself to those mineral-rich thermal springs that are also medicinal!  This day of experiences mixes adventure with wellness like no other!

    4. Montezuma Waterfall

This three tiered waterfall is located by the small seaside village of Montezuma on the far southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula and is a must to visit when staying there or at the nearby, trendy beach town of Santa Teresa.

The tallest waterfall of the three is the lowest tier with a fall of 24 meters (74 feet) into a refreshing natural pool.   For some adrenaline, you can jump from the smaller tiered waterfalls which are a couple of meters high into their pools.

The walk to these cascades is about a 20-minute hike along a rough path which includes crossing over the river, crossing hanging bridges, steps and wildlife viewing opportunities.

 

 5. And all the others!

Costa Rica is full of waterfalls that can be found in all corners of this little corner of the world. Wherever your travels may take you during your stay, there will be a pristine waterfall and a hike through the forest close by and that will make the trip all the better.

Holidays are moments to take time out from the daily routine and experience new sensations.  Contact with nature, whether it be a hike through the forest, a dip in a cool waterfall pool or renewal through the thermal hot springs, will all have positive impacts on our sense of wellness.   With direct flights from the major European gateways, Costa Rica is just an airplane away.

Come and connect with nature in Costa Rica!

Sensoria Costa Rica

Catarata Bajos del Toro

 

 

Georgia Atkin.

The seas and rivers of Costa Rica. More than fun!!

Aquatic Adventures

The mix of bumpy oceans and calm bays in Costa Rica offers something to suit your style. We invite you to step out of your comfort zone and try something you have never done before. Whether if in the water or on the water, like scuba diving or canyoning in a waterfall!.

Before starting any of these aquatic adventures in our country, spend the first nights in San José to get acclimatized with the surroundings, and discover some of our capital city jewels. You can choose to stay at either at Palma Real hotelBarceló San José Palacio hotel or Apartotel Villas del Río.

Diving

In Costa Rica, besides the rain, cloud and dry forests, beaches, volcanoes, hot springs, wild rivers, and breathtaking lakes, all surrounded with colorful flora and fantastic fauna, another beautiful world awaits that offers sights that are spectacular as well. Under both the Pacific and the Caribbean ocean scuba divers and snorkelers may have encounters with world-famous marine life forms.

Near the coasts, you can find islands like the Catalinas Islands, the Islas Muriciélagos, on the North Pacific, and Isla del Caño, on the Southern Pacific, which have many excellent dive sites for exploring. For those advanced explorers, worthy of note is Cocos Islands, 300 miles from the mainland, declared a UNESCO World Heritage. The night diving there amongst sharks, hammerheads, white-tipped, or even bull sharks will absolutely thrill you.

No matter what you choose to explore, one way or the other, you will easily merge under the sea to become a speechless witness to the magic of these waters. Here you can be sure to capture unique photos and mind-blowing memories.

For quick and safe access to the different regions of our country, you can contact Aerobell Airlines to shorten distances with a smooth flight. And our affiliated hotels, such as Capitan SuizoPlanet Hollywood Beach ResortFiesta Resort, or Cristal Ballena Resort and Spa, will be more than happy to accommodate your needs.

Surfing

For those a bit more daring looking for one of the best surfing getaways, you have to come to Costa Rica, a world-class destination to hit the beach either on the Caribbean or Pacific coasts, offering white-sand beaches with unparalleled waves. Our country has an abundance of open shorelines and hidden coves, perfect for surfers who want to test their skills.

Across both coasts, beginners and experienced surfers congregate to discover the best and biggest waves at the best spots such as Pavones, Puerto Viejo, or Playa Hermosa, which is home to several national and international surf contests each year. Jaco beach is very appealing to surfers worldwide. Tamarindo, on the Pacific Coast, stands as the most famous surf area providing access to Witches Rock, Langosta Beach, and Playa Negra, just to mention a few. Playa Pavones is excellent for one the longest left- breaking waves in the world. Other popular surf spots include beaches such as Santa Teresa, Mal País, Nosara, Playa Grande, and Avellanas.

So it does not matter if you have not surfed before as there are experts on hand to help you. And, for those experts carrying their own surfboards, there are some excellent surf breaks along the coastlines to master.

Rafting

When it comes to rafting adventures, we have a wide range of options and river difficulties. So, whether you would like to take a leisurely float down the river to spot wildlife, or you are interested in challenging yourself on adrenaline-packed rapids there is a whitewater rafting trip for you.

The perfect time to come and enjoy white water rafting in Costa Rica is during the rainy reason months when the rivers offer ideal water levels. Costa Rica has excellent river systems that produce world-famous whitewater rapids, as well as beautiful scenery along the banks.

If on the Caribbean side, and before challenging yourself in one of the wild rivers, spend a couple of nights at quaint Casa Turire bordered by La Angostura Lake with the imponent presence of Turrialba mountains or at Tirimbina Lodge and Rain Forest Center, where you can live a unique experience in the rain forest.

 Kayaking

If you are looking to enjoy relaxing kayaking days, enhanced by the surrounding natural beauty, and abundance of wildlife around the bodies of water, get ready to explore a few! Kayaking is an outdoor activity that can be thoroughly enjoyed by visitors of all ages and interests, from beginners to more adventurous travelers.

Another excellent destination for tourists looking to kayak or canoe is the river community of Sarapiquí, an ideal place for kayakers to set up single or multi-day trips. Our affiliates offer tours that include equipment, food, lodging, and bilingual guides.

Some of the rivers in the Arenal area, do provide fantastic opportunities to view part of flora and fauna of Costa Rica. With humongous trees hanging over the water, the Fortuna River is a surpassing setting to spy on monkeys swinging in the trees as well as sloths and a large number of noisy birds.

Stand Up Paddle

Stand up paddle turns out to be an effortless and super fun activity, no matter the body of water on which you want to try it, for the first time, when no experience is needed. You will find paddling surprisingly easy!. Some of the most popular areas in Costa Rica to paddle on freshwater are Tortuguero and the wetlands of Caño Negro. Lake Arenal offers besides an incredible view of the volcano, the chance to paddle around the lake’s many bays and coves, which tranquil waters provide visitors with a smooth and comfortable ride. Sitting on top of stable SUPs allow yourself to glide silently under trees, surrounded by the greenery and depths of a rain forest, which is home to chattering monkeys, sleeping sloths, and perching birds.

Feel free to drop an email to any of our affiliates to arrange SUP tours while in Costa Rica, a water sport ideal for people of all ages that include specialized SUP boards, equipment, instruction, guides, and transportation.

 Canyoning

If you have ever dreamed of exploring a tropical canyon and rappel down a waterfall, hike through a rain forest, trek through a river, and end up swimming in the clear blue natural pool…then the canyoning tour is waiting for you. The best area in Costa Rica to enjoy this activity and experience a tropical rainforest, like a true adventurer, is the Arenal Volcano area, where excellent accommodation can be found at the Los Héroes hotelManuel Antonio, Monteverde, and the South Pacific areas are also great locations to make this dream come true while zip-lining through the jungle canopy.

Waterfall rappelling is just the beginning of a canyoning tour; however, the tour starts with a short hike, followed by some easy rappelling to get you started. So, canyoning is something you do not want to miss on your next trip to Costa Rica!

If your adventure takes you near the Rincón de la Vieja National Park, you can choose to stay at among the Buena Vista del Rincón or Hacienda Guachipelín hotel.

On the other hand, if you want to stay away from aquatic activities at the end of your trip, give it a try to immerse yourself into nature all around, booking a tour with Rainforest Adventures Costa Rica.

So start putting your gear together, and contact any of our most reliable tour operators for further details: Ara ToursTAM TravelBella AventuraCast Costa RicaCosta Rica for All, and Swiss Travel. Once in Costa Rica, the best way to save time and explore different places at your own pace is to rent a car with Europcar or Solid Car Rental.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Costa Rica on two wheels

Biking in Costa Rica

Por Juancho Otalvaro (theroversquest.com)

Visiting a small country allows you to go practically all around in a short time.  However, in Costa Rica, with its rugged and mountainous lands, roads are built to meander along every hill, mountain, and river, making short distances last longer than usual.   Road-tripping along Costa Rican roads is a beautiful experience, absorbing all of its constant changing landscapes, getting lost in towns and villages trying out their local food, greeting its friendly folks.

Driving through some of Costa Rican dirt roads, open windows, warm or cool breeze whirling inside the cabin gives you a better feeling of what the environment along the way is like; all the same, you must wonder what’s beyond the side of the road. Sometimes the abundance of trees and plants cover the views, leaving you with a desire to stop and roam through the undergrowth and thick vegetation.

Taking the off-beaten path can bring you spectacular inspiration, and the best way to experience this is through mountain biking.

Costa Rica has an extensive terrain with all kinds of mountain bike routes for the recreational and the most hardcore bikers.   After all, Costa Rica has the “Ruta de los Conquistadores” – “Costa Rica’s premier mountain bike race and one of the most difficult athletic events on the planet.” I recently did a quest, a trip down memory lane, back on my old mountain bike through some ancient routes in which I used to get lost.  Muscles never forget!  Once again, I felt the lactic acid streaming through my leg muscles, making me pedal on an inertia cycle, moving my body without even thinking about it.

Costa Rican weather is constantly changing, no matter where you are.  It is surely a thrill to notice the different kinds of vegetation as you bike up a hill or a mountain.   In just a short distance, you will feel a change in temperature. Thus plants, trees, terrain, and wildlife will metamorphose up and down during the ride, so embrace the weather and enjoy the exercise. Always try to be prepared for anything; ride with a patch repair kit, an extra tube, a first-aid kit, and a cell phone for emergencies.

If you’re not new to Costa Rica, you might know that San José is a hub.  From there, you may get almost anywhere in the country within a few hours.  After all, it’s the Capital City, with plenty to do if you’re planning to stay for vacations. Start by looking at hotels that offer nice amenities, like Apartotel Villas del Río, or the relaxing atmosphere found in any of the Barceló Hotels around the country.  There are always other options like Palma Real that go the extra mile on service.  Outside of San José, Casa Turire, Hotel Cristal Ballena, and the Tapirus Lodge at Rainforest Adventures are excellent choices too.

You can get reasonably easy anywhere in Costa Rica with a car. Still, if you’re on a tight schedule, you can find bike trails, routes, and tours on different parts of the country where you can fly with Aerobell and get in 30minutes or less practically anywhere. I recommend Guanacaste, especially for biking.  Guanacaste is dry most of the year, it is the hottest and usually the driest part of Costa Rica.  If you plan to bike out there, preferably do so early in the morning:  it’s sunny and cooler, and you will be close to the Pacific coast, where beautiful beaches and cold waters await for you to enjoy after a long bike ride! If you’re around, stay at Capitán Suizo or the Planet Hollywood Beach Resort.

You can try out some of the following Tour Agencies to help you find what better suits you on your trip: ARA Tours, Swiss Travel, Cast Costa Rica, Costa Rica for All, and TAM Travel.

Jungles, mountains, green valleys, low and high forests, rivers. All of them are colorful landscapes with challenging terrains and demanding climbs that will reward you with scenic views. Most of these available routes are old roads that connect villages.   They still are kept as circuit routes for delivering, selling or collecting goods; so you’ll probably get acquainted with the traditional “Tico”: the “campesinos” (farmers), milkmen, ranchers and a few other characters, that give Costa Rica that unique, friendly and welcoming spirit as they wave hello when you pass them by. You might encounter some traffic along the way; colorful oxcarts and happy horse riders usually transit the dusty, rugged trails.  Time stops along these tracks.  You might recognize the smell of burning wood, meaning there is a “Soda” (small typical restaurant)  nearby.   Here you can stop to get a snack or a big meal cooked on old iron stoves to re-fuel, re-charge, and continue on the quiet dirt roads.

As you go downhill through ridges and rocky turns, enjoy where the “vistas” open up to staggering geomorphic features, large open spaces, and thick forests.  Pedaling through nature awakens something in you; it connects your mind and body with life and makes you focus through stamina, a vigor that drives you out of your comfort zone, making you gain confidence in yourself. There is a moment while biking when you start to feel superhuman; beating a challenge, any obstacle in the way becomes a goal to conquer. You will begin to look at your surroundings differently, and that’s when you’ve started to elevate your connection with nature, a high on inspiration through the quiet scenery.

Live in the moment. Your higher heart rate will only make you feel alive, breath in deeply the environment you’re in, sharpen your senses, and when you reach that point where you have spent all of your strength…stop…feast your eyes live the present in relief and gratitude. Mountain Biking reminds you that going through any forceful effort and discomfort has its rewards. Usually, the best moments in life are after you’ve gone through some difficult ones, and that’s just part of the human experience. The important part is that any experience in life is a hill, a lake, a valley, or a mountain to conquer; a hard one or a joyful one, enjoy the ride.

Adventures in the Trees

Why Ziplining in Costa Rica is a Must! (even If you are afraid of heights)

So how was the world’s first canopy tour?

“I watched the platform recede and felt a sense of ecstatic joy as I glided past branch tips, where only the lightest of jungle animals could venture, and into the airways of butterflies and birds.”  Donald Perry

When you think about Costa Rica, what is the first picture that comes up to your mind? I believe you will easily imagine an adventurous traveler flying through the lush rain forest canopy who sees it all from a bird´s eye view. An adventure once reserved for a select group of researchers and photographers, ziplines above the canopy are indeed, in many ways synonymous with Costa Rica. If you have not done it yet, this is your chance to go for it. Gliding from tree to tree in a tropical rain forest, cloud forest, or even, dry forest, allows you to fly over a waterfall, towards a volcano or facing the ocean.  So start packing and send your request to any of our affiliated Travel Agencies such as Bella Aventura, Costa Rica for All, ARA Tours, TAM Travel, Cast Costa Rica, and Swiss Travel.

Originally introduced during the 1970s, ziplines are made of steel cables and platforms adapted at various heights between trees, that offer travelers unique access to beautiful and remote natural areas.  If there is any must-do activity in Costa Rica, it is ziplining.   You can enjoy different zip line tours all over the territory, easily accessible by driving a comfortable 4×4 vehicle.  Get your car rental with Europcar or Solid Rent a Car and start your engines!

But hey! Have you heard about the history of ziplining? Are you a little bit curious about how ziplines have developed into one of the country’s most popular and widespread activities?  Allow us to go back in time to where it all began, and you may be surprised to discover that this fantastic adventure was, indeed, born in Costa Rica.

Donald Perry, a student from California, fascinated by the mysteries of the rain forest canopy, was dedicated to studying new methods for climbing and moving around it.  In his book “Life Above the Jungle Floor”, published in 1986, the now biologist Dr. Donald Perry, narrated his adventures, back in the 70s, as the first man to study the rich biodiversity of the rain forests of Costa Rica, from the trees very own canopy.   He discovered that an essential percentage of the species that inhabit the forest, lived right there, in the canopy.  Through the book pages, he described how the idea of ziplining and building observation platforms in the trees came around. The book soon caught Hollywood`s attention, as he ended up as a primary consultant for the movie Medicine Man (1992) starring Sean Connery, who appears collecting plant specimens to cure cancer, roping through the canopy on ziplines.  This media platform put a flag on the history of ziplining and started the ball rolling for the creation of this unusual activity as we know it today.

On the other side, while the movie was on the billboard at theaters that same year, Darren Hreniuk, an environmentalist Canadian, was moving to Costa Rica. He came with a concrete project of creating a unique adventure tour, an exciting tropical experience in Costa Rica’s rainforest. To make the story short, in 1995, Mr. Hreniuk, came up with a fun, exciting, and undoubtedly innovative tour. It would allow tourists to access the canopy of the rainforest and go back to the forest floor safely. Once this was nailed, he patented the idea in Costa Rica as a system of human transport. Hreniuk’s Original Canopy Tour, as he named it, was born as the first zipline canopy tour open to the public.

Even though, as we know, he did not invent ziplines, he certainly developed the activity and adapted it to tourism. As the years went by, and trees grew taller, more and more places around the country saw this new activity as a leading-edge way of attracting tourists to remote areas. Nowadays, there are many canopy tours in Costa Rica, but not all of them are the same. There are ziplines for every level of adventure!  Some that are not very high or long become perfect for first-timers. On some ziplines, you can go in pairs, feel like superman, go upside down and do other fun tricks for your enjoyment.  Some people even zipline in the dark of the night!

One fantastic source of adventure, where you can feel your adrenaline on as you rise high in the air through the treetops on zip lines, is the Rainforest Adventures Costa Rica. They offer two different parks:  one the very heart of a rainforest, embedded in the magnificent Braulio Carrillo Park in the Atlantic side, and the other one nestled in a transitional forest, home to beautiful scarlet macaws, in the Central Pacific side, just minutes away from the beach.

If you want to try as many zip lines as possible in a few days, and want to shorten distances from one spot to the other, fly Aerobell with no further ado. They operate 11 daily domestic destinations.

As stated before, every canopy tour is, indeed, different. Once you have conquered that primal fear, you may want to do it again and again without hesitating.  Ziplines not only boost the adrenaline of the riders, but allow them to take a peek at some of the jewels hidden in the canopy of the trees.

Some of the best spots to soar over the forests are in Guanacaste, Arenal, and Monteverde. For your first and last nights in our country, and start getting into the Pura Vida mood, we recommend to recover from your jet lag staying at any of these beautiful properties Barceló San José PalacioApartotel and Suites Villas del Río, and Palma Real Hotel & Casino.

 Guanacaste is home to one of the most exhilarating experiences for travelers; the longest double-wire zipline in Central America and the world’s fifth-longest ziplining tour: the “Superman.”  The dual lines let participants share their ride with their families and friends, zipping side by side. This adventure offers highly trained guides and top-notch equipment. All this for a super fun and memorable journey.

First of all, secure yourself a great hotel in the area, if you prefer to be very close to the beach and capture breathtaking sunsets in Tamarindo beach, book your room at Capitán Suizo, or  if you opt to explore the Papagayo Gulf instead, Planet Hollywood Beach Resort is the place where you want to be. On the other hand, if you are more into staying at uniquely situated hotels with the essence of Costa Rica, very close to the foothills of Rincón de la Vieja volcano, make your reservation at Hacienda Guachipelín, or at Buena Vista del Rincón.

Monteverde, a highly recommended stop while in our country, is one of the seven wonders of the province of Puntarenas, a star in Costa Rica ecotourism. Here you can not only experience an exciting zipline tour, but also enjoy the surrounding environment which happens to be the main attraction. Nevertheless, your zipline will literally take you on a ride in the clouds, and if you are lucky, you might spot a quetzal.

So, once you have listened to the call of birds, and smelled the scent of tropical flowers, we encourage to drive all the way down to one of the nearby beaches, stay at the Fiesta Resort, and bask in the sun at the dark volcanic sand beach overlooking the blue Pacific Ocean. If you desire to keep on moving down South to scout more beaches, this is your chance to spend some nights at beautiful Cristal Ballena hotel, around the corner from Marino Ballena National Park.

 Northern Plains of Arenal Volcano is among the most popular tourist hot spots in Costa Rica, with over 100 different options of adventure activities, and with the highest number of adventure parks. There are many ecosystems and species found in this area, such as tropical forests, waterfalls, hidden trails framed with colorful flowers, rejuvenating thermal waters, and the country’s largest lake, just to name a few. This marvelous area is abundant in flora and fauna, and it is beautifully crowned with a perfect cone-shaped volcano.  If you want to step into an unexplored world, come to Arenal, where zip line options are fantastic. Here where you will feel observed most of the time by a colossus in currently-resting phase, while you do the same at unique Hotel Los Héroes, that features an on-property train and a revolving restaurant.

Close to Arenal,  about a one-hour drive, is Sarapiquí, where you will be thrilled to walk over one of the longest suspended bridges in Costa Rica -262m length and up to 22 meters high overlooking the magnificent Sarapiqui River until you reach the majestic rainforest at  Tirimbina,

Tips for Ziplining in Costa Rica

  • Dress comfortably. Make sure you have the right attire. You can wear shorts, but long enough to avoid chafing your legs with the safety equipment.  Closed-toed shoes that tie to the ankle (sneakers, or similar). No flip flops, nor hats, please.
  • For long hair, pull it back in a ponytail.
  • If you wear glasses, use eyeglass strap.
  • Do not put anything in your pockets.
  • Follow your guide, listen to all the instructions, and always follow directions.
  • If you have a GoPro, bring it, and the helmet mount.
  • Bring your sense of adventure and don’t forget to smile!

Even though the most crucial chapter in the history of the ziplining was written by biologists and scientists, today, ziplines are a must-do adventure for those wanting to get their adrenaline pumping.  Plus, Costa Rica’s natural settings  provide us with breathtaking backdrops from way above the ground.

As an epilogue, we can conclude that Mr. Perry invented the jungle canopy zipline; Mr. Hreniuk designed the jungle canopy zipline tour. And, definitely, Costa Rica did not develop the technology for this but certainly figured out how to make it fun.  So, while in Costa Rica, indulge yourself in something unique, soaring through the trees! Ziplining is more than being fastened to a cable and sliding down to the other side. It is about letting loose; about allowing yourself to feel the adrenaline running through your veins. About choosing to scream, laugh, or be speechless while creating a memory that will last forever.

Once that adrenaline goes down after reaching the very last platform of your trip, and before heading back home, you may like to recover your zen status at lovely, quaint,  Casa Turire where you can try some locally produced coffee, macadamia, and sugar cane; or explore the famous Archeological Monument in Guayabo.

As you see, everyone should go ziplining in Costa Rica!  Dare to boost your endorphins, your world will never be the same again.

Marcella Román López

 

Hiking into the Spiritual Realm

Just like our first prehistoric ancestors, our body was designed to be on our feet for most of the day.   Nowadays, most of us are sitting down in our offices for hours on end, with minimum movement; we barely walk just to get to our form of transportation where, once again, we sit-down. We have become sedentary and numbed to what is out there, in front of our eyes.                                                                                                                                                              We need to seek a physical distance from our everyday actions; something that breaks our routine and restore balance in our life. Let our brain relax, go out wondering, daydream and have fun! That is the best way to really restore the connection between our body and mind.

The desire to hike has always been part of human evolution. Even after the first settlers started to understand about farming and animal breeding, which allowed them to produce an abundance of food; hiking still was part of their everyday activities, as they still needed to hunt and gather. Now, with all the different means we have at our disposal, hiking is seen as a form of leisure. We hike for well-being, sport, or just for fun, which is very good, but we sometimes forget what being out in nature really is. Our ancestors were nomads, they knew the importance of nature, they had to walk great distances on a regular basis to find food and specific nutrients to support their needs; they talked to nature, they communicated with plants and animals, there was more of a spiritual exchange between living things. In the modern world, everything is different and we take nature for granted. Every time we go out and see a mountain, hills, a park, or just any scenic place, we should wonder: How will it be like to be on top of that mountain? What is up there? What feelings may I experience being surrounded by so much nature? How would it feel to walk in there? What sights, sounds and aromas will I discover?

Our body was designed to walk and we can go out and enjoy it; let’s take a hike!

I woke up at 4 am and drove a bit over 2 hours to San Carlos, one of the biggest cantons in Costa Rica and home of the Arenal Volcano. This time I wasn’t looking for the colossal Arenal; instead I wanted to explore some of the neighbor inactive volcanoes. Lucky for me I have a friend who lives in Ciudad Quesada, San Carlos most populated city, and he was going to guide me on a hike up the mountain and towards the skirts of the “Platanar” Volcano.

Without much planning or special gear, I put on my cheap rubber boots over my sand socks, a weird combination that has been proven to be the perfect fit for me during long hikes. It is important to wear the right shoes and socks, so do some research beforehand and find what suits you better. On some of my hikes I’ve dealt with terrible blisters on my feet, so pack some blister dressings just in case!

We packed 2 litters of water each, though we knew we had to cross a couple of rivers, so water was covered. We had some snacks and peanuts to boost our energy on quick pauses; it is a good idea during hikes to pace yourself and do regular quick breaks, instead of few long stops.

Shortly after a nice walk along dairy farms, we were deep inside a rainforest; the quick change of temperature was welcomed, as it dropped down some degrees and a nice breeze cooled the surroundings. The weather in Costa Rica can change in just a few minutes, so always be prepared for anything (sun block and a raincoat at least). This time we had a perfect climate, even though it seemed to be a bit cloudy in between the treetop gaps.

We expected to see some monkeys, maybe some small reptiles; but we only managed to see rests of a weak hallucinogenic plant craved by sloths. As we went deeper, the size of the trees became impressively tall and I couldn’t stop thinking of how small it made me feel vs. the vast perspective of where I was hiking. It got me wondering; what is the purpose of the small insects around me? Why do plants and flowers live here? What do animals eat around here…What is our purpose here on Earth? We might not have the answers to that last question, but neither do the other the living things that surround us.  We just know we are organisms living together, and no one is more important than the other, everyone needs everyone else to survive. Maybe the key for us humans is to work as one with nature, so that we can have a better understanding of why we are here.

Nature’s message is loud and clear, but one must listen. That is why I enjoy hiking so much; it keeps our body fit and our mind free, but there is another level on which we can operate while hiking, besides the physical plane. As we all know, exercise helps to develop a fit body, lowers the risk of heart disease, builds strength in our bones and muscles, improves our balance, and also combats symptoms of stress and anxiety. But then there is also the spiritual realm, that can teach us how to be present in the moment; by paying attention to our breath, center in our bodily consciousness, be completely mindful and become aware of our inner intentions to connect with something greater than ourselves.

We could hear we were almost at our destination; soft sounds of small river rapids warned of our arrival, and even though we didn’t get to see any animals, we took our time to enjoy the experience. At that point I was almost in a trance within that green landscape; it was as if I could feel Mother Nature’s knowledge. She was there before us, and she had the healing powers to clear our mind of stress and make us focus on what it is really important. By hiking we sharpen our senses making us one with the environment while our brain produces high levels of serotonin, creating a feeling of  happiness and awareness of the beauty of the landscape we are submerged in.

So, where should you begin in hiking? Start small; you don’t need to be utterly athletic to hike, although it is good to start slow if you don’t feel fit enough. You just need to be open to the experience and be eager to be embraced by nature.

Costa Rica is a really good spot to begin; it has lots of destinations for different levels, with variety in nature, weather and animal sightings.

Some recommendations to start you off with your trip:

First of all, if you don’t know how to get to Costa Rica, here is my list of the most reliable tour agencies in the country: Ara Tours, TAM Travel, Bella Aventura, Cast Costa Rica, Costa Rica For All and Swiss Travel. I’m sure they will help you coordinate your trip so that you get the most of it!

Once in Costa Rica, the best way to save time and visit different places, is to rent a car with Europcar or Solid Car Rental, among some other excellent car rental companies, or if you want to visit farther destinations, you can always fly domestic with Aerobell Airlines.

For accommodation, you might want to start by booking somewhere in San José at Villas del Río Apartotel, Barceló San José or Palma Real Hotel & Casino and then head off to a hiking adventure in the Central/North Pacific (beaches, national parks, volcanoes and dry weather) where you can stay at Capitan Suizo, Planet Hollywood Beach Resort, Fiesta Resort or Hacienda Guachipelín.  You can also try the area of the South Pacific Coast (rain forests and beaches) where you will enjoy staying at Cristal Ballena or also try the Northern Region and stay at Hotel Los Héroes.

Coming back again to the Central Region (cooler weather nature, rain and cloud forests) you would enjoy staying at beautiful Casa Turire Hotel where you´ll experience a quiet and relaxing time.

And finally, if you want to start off with a hiking tour and experience adventure and nature all around, you can book a tour with Rainforest Adventures Costa Rica.

Hiking is not a race, what matters is to enjoy the experience, not hurry to the final destination. Take your time, appreciate the landscape, and try to have some perspective of where you are in the Globe. Free your creative mind by looking into the tiny details of nature. Stop. Breathe.  What scents do you smell around you? Close your eyes. What do you hear and feel? Keep all your senses alert, and you will be surprised by what you find in the way.

Always remember:

“Leave nothing but footprints. Take nothing but photos. Kill nothing but time. Keep nothing but memories”.

By Juancho Otalvaro (theroversquest.com)

10 Days In Costa Rica!!

It’s wintertime in many cities in Europe and the East Coast of the U.S. and as you walk from your office to your house, you must be thinking, I need some Sun. So you look up flights to Costa Rica. You’ve heard it is tropical paradise. The Sun does shine very bright and very constantly. The people are friendly and the best part, the options are very varied and relatively easy to access. Up for some surfing and ocean time? Maybe just jungle walks and birdwatching? Yoga near a waterfall? We’ve got it!

Costa Rica has:

-780 miles of coast in the Pacific Coast and 132 miles in the Caribbean: the beach options are endless, all with warm blue water, white and yellow sand, and plenty of palm trees!

-28 national parks, out of which 3 are UNESCO World Heritage Sites

-158 miles from port to port: From Puerto Limón to Puerto Puntarenas can be a 5 hour drive, depending on traffic. Still, think about this: you are going from one ocean to another ocean in a matter of hours. Costa Rica is one of the narrowest countries in the Americas!

If you rent a car, you can cover a lot of territory in 10 days. Of course, we recommend that you stop and enjoy each place you stay. There is a lot of magic in our forests, mountains and beaches. The more time you spend in each, the more special you will find it.

Guanacaste: at the North has a dryer climate, bigger beaches, and is popular for its golf courses and diving. Towards the mountains, there are beautiful volcanoes and lush rain forests.

Here you´ll find a suggested route that will make you want to come back for more of Costa Rica:

  • Day 1 and 2: Monteverde is the paradise for birdwatching and a cool place to bungee jump. It is a 2 hour and 30 minute drive from San José airport and has all types of lodging available. The hanging bridges are full of life, green and will give you a feeling of being wrapped up in nature.

  • Day 3 and 4: Coming down from Monteverde, go towards Tamarindo. It should be a 3 hour drive. Although it is considered to be ‘touristy’, it is a good homebase if you are trying to do daytrips or get to know the area. Tamarindo has good surf, good parties, good food and in general friendly locals.
    Hang around this surf town and enjoy the beach, the wide diversity of local restaurants and cafés. You have everything from American and Tico food to more vegan options. Tamarindo is also a good place to go out dancing or just for a beer or two at popular sports bars with reggae and other genres of music.


  • Day 5 and 6: Take day trips to other beaches like Playa Langosta, Playa Brasilito, Playa Grande (turtle nesting tours are available from April to October in this beautiful beach!), Playa Avellanas. Pack a picnic and drive 30 minutes to experience these other places and their smaller village feel. Sportfishing is another interesting daytrip that can easily be arranged in the area.

  • Day 7, 8 and 9: Arenal Volcano is one of Costa Rica’s highlights. It is a 4 hour and 30 minute drive from Tamarindo and has hot springs, rafting, hikes, hanging bridges and waterfalls. The Lake is popular for water sports. This volcano is active and is beautiful to look at night. Take one day for exercise, another to relax and the last one to repeat or combine both. The area has so much to offer in terms of nature, relaxation and wellness.

  • Day 10: Drive back to San José. Enjoy the drive down surrounded by the beautiful mountains.

In our next edition, I´ll show your way around our beautiful Caribbean coast.  Wait for it!!

 

Gabriela Mateo

Start practicing Mindfoodness in Costa Rica’s diverse gastronomy

Today, the word wellness is heard more and more often. It is associated with being well, present and healthy. It involves different aspects of our lifestyle. The wheel of wellness includes social, spiritual, financial, environmental, emotional, intellectual, physical and occupational categories. Today we touch on the subject of eating, nutrition and mindfulness. Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive by what’s going on around us.

A play on the word mindful, the new term mindfoodness has started circulating in the health and wellness world. The rushed rhythm that many people live today tends to give us no choice but to multitask. It is common to eat while you check emails or engage in another activity. This has created a disconnection between what we consume, which in essence is what we are, and ourselves. Thankfully, mindful eating, now dubbed mindfoodness, is gaining popularity.

It is defined as the applied mindfulness at the moment of consuming food or beverages with the idea of paying full attention to it. It seeks establishing a healthier and better relationship with our food. By working our emotions and psychologies associated to eating habits, we can develop self-control and self-knowledge. Mindfoodness seeks to teach the respect and the hearing of the body’s internal signals of being satiated and full.

Costa Rica is a place that is perfect for slowing down. If you come from a big city or live a rushed pace, your visit to our country is the perfect opportunity to start practicing mindfoodness. In many places, food is prepared and served with patience. The typical plate casado tends to be colorful: white rice dotted with black beans, tiny pieces of red pepper and green cilantro, a side of green salad, possible yellow French fries, and a meat which can be fish or a brown meat. Before you eat, count the amount of items and colors on your plate. Savor each different element of such a diverse meal.

In San José, some recommendations of places to stay with healthy restaurants are: Apartotel Villas del Río, Barceló San José and Palma Real Hotel & Casino. In the hustle and bustle of a city, it is very important to be present. Use the calm atmosphere of these hotels to indulge your senses in a casado or another meal of your choice. The Wyndham Garden Escazú has an extensive wine selection at Restaurante El Cortijo and a fully international menu. Some of these hotels offer room service, an option that can still allow you to be mindful when eating. In the quiet of your room, enjoy the mountainous view of the Central Valley and connect with your plate.

How can mindfoodness be practiced? It is as simple as being mindful, present, slow and grateful at the time of eating your meal. A food journal is another way you can practice mindfoodness. By keeping track of your foods, you will start being more mindful about them. Not having your phone, or thinking about messages and emails to be answered is a huge step. Avoiding television, music, newspapers, books, computers, screens or other distracting stimuli is another must.

Savor each bite slowly and carefully. Focus on the textures, colors and feelings it gives you. Always be sitting down, calm and not in a rush. Prepare the table and the plate as if guests were coming. Use nice cutlery or flowers to set the mood to enjoy your meal more. Set the fork, knife or spoon down between each bite. Don’t rush! Savor each and every bite. Practice as often as you can!

If you are stepping outside the city, you will find yourself in peaceful environments to enjoy your food. Hacienda AltaGracia, Auberge Resorts Collection in Pérez Zeledón has a restaurant called Ambar that has a romantic and dim lighted restaurant where a variety of local and international dishes are served. Up in the volcano skirts of Rincón de la Vieja at Buena Vista Lodge’s La Montaña Restaurant you will be served organic and sustainable food that is a delightful way of practicing mindfoodness. Casa Turire in Turrialba offers beautifully decorated plates offering authentic Costa Rican food in a friendly environment. Swiss inspired and themed Hotel Los Héroes in Arenal Lake is another recommendation of places to relax and fully enjoy a great tico meal. Lastly, make sure you check out Río Celeste Hideaway Hotel’s restaurant Kantala, also in Arenal Lake. The space is surrounded by gardens and the open air dining experience is unique.

You might be visiting the beach during your stay in Costa Rica, were often restaurants offer a beautiful view, offering a chance to relax even more when eating. Don’t get completely distracted! Continue focusing on connecting with your plate and all the elements in it, but also enjoy the amazing view. It is possible you are served a mix of tropical fruits, another colorful dish: vivid amber orange papaya, bright yellow mango, fresh red watermelon and white yellow banana. It is also likely that you are surrounded by the trees that gave life to these same fruits you are eating. Be present.

In Uvita Beach, Hotel Cristal Ballena’s bar and restaurant Pura Vida serves international dishes and fresh cocktails right in front of the ocean. It provides a sunset view that is unique. Karahé Beach Resort in Manuel Antonio has a restaurant called Canto del Mar which serves beautiful arrangements of seafood and other typical dishes which will delight and enhance your mindfoodness experience.

Capitán Suizo is one of the first boutique hotels in Tamarindo located in front of the bay. It restaurant El Barco is surrounded by tropical gardens with exotic trees and the sound of ocean waves. Mondays and Wednesdays they have marimba music to create a unique ambience. The Asturian chef is always updating recipes with his European influence.

At Místico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park or Rainforest Adventures Costa Rica you can enjoy a nice lunch in the middle of a huge biological corridor that has hundreds of birds, insects, trees, flowers and plants. Visiting any of thiese two regions, you can easily start to practice mindfulness. The lush nature is everywhere. You are surrounded by green in all its shades and forms and your mind will start to wind down little by little. Take a long hike in the rainforest! By the time you sit down to eat, you will naturally find yourself grateful for the food in your plate. Make sure to enjoy every bite.

Last but not least, to make the most out of your wellness trip, make sure you rent a car. If you are looking to explore the different corners of Costa Rica, we recommend Europcar and Solid Car Rental for your adventure to be more comfortable and entertaining.

Additionally, we also recommend several travelling agencies: Amadeus Travel Agency, Cast Costa Rica, Costa Rica For All, Discovery Travel, Just Travel  Costa Rica and Vacation City. Ara Tours, Tam Travel and Swiss Travel offer tailored packages which can be wellness and gastronomy oriented, including a combination of nature, yoga, healthy home made meals, thermal waters, spa treatments, and meditation areas.

Costa Rica is a great destination to start mindfully eating. Not only does the view slow you down, but also the majority of cooks and chefs put a lot of passion and healthy ingredients into the plates being served to visitors. Costa Ricans are proud about serving and giving the best to the people who visit the country and food is a big element. So go ahead, take your time to enjoy every bite of your casado!

Gabriela Mateo

Living on the edge of balance: Eco-Adventure meets wellness

Living on the edge of balance:

Eco-Adventure meets wellness

By Juancho Otalvaro (theroversquest.com)

Disclaimer: In an effort to be completely transparent, I want to let you know that I have a partnership relationship with Travel Costa Rica-Futuropa. You can assume that any link that you click on this post is an affiliate partner to Travel Costa Rica-Futuropa.

Today I’m taking you 3 hours outside of San José, through a road of microclimate vegetation, rainforests, and pasturelands. This trip proved to myself that I can I still feel alive!

 

You can start your trip in San José to settle in and become acclimatized with the weather after you land at the airport.

Some hotel options I would recommend are: Barceló San José, which is has an easy access and is mid-point between San José and the Airport. Palma Real & Casino is another great option if you want to be closer to the San José area. If you want to be in a district with some nightlife and restaurants, then you can stay around Escazú, at the Wyndham Garden Escazú. If you’re traveling with kids and family or just passing by for business, Apartotel Villas del Río is a great option that complements your stay with a business center, kids playground, and pet friendly facilities!

Now that you’re settled in, let’s get deeper inside the Costa Rican province of Alajuela, more specifically to the area close to Arenal Volcano. It’s time to learn the ancient secrets hidden inside the dark magical “Cavernas del Venado” (Deer’s Caverns or Venado Caves). Centuries ago, these caves served as home to the indigenous god “Toku”, worshiped by the “Maleku” tribe. The caves were believed to be a sacred place; but most importantly, they were kept untouched because of its beauty and natural mysterious formations, that even today, scientists and geologists can’t agree to about how old they are.

There is something about darkness that intrigues us humans and pushes us to explore incredible corners of the World.  The Venado Caves is one of such corners, offering plenty of adventures and emotions through its natural sculpted treasures, that display the history of how Costa Rica was formed and created from the deepest places under the ocean.

Getting here is easy, and yet another route that I love to drive in Costa Rica, so if you want to follow my steps and enjoy some amazing views with the freedom to stop anywhere along the ride, your best bet is to rent a car. Among the most trustworthy are Europcar and Solid Car Rental, but if you are under a tight schedule and want to visit some other places during your trip in Costa Rica, I would recommend several of the following travel agencies and tour operators that will make your life easier with the same adventurous experience.

Amadeus Travel Agency, Ara Tours, Cast Costa Rica, Costa Rica for All, Discovery Travel, Swiss Travel, TAM Travel and Vacation City. There is also Just Costa Rica Travel who offers beauty, medical and mental-health services combined with adventure, marine and cultural tourism.

The Venado Caves were discovered by accident, when a hunter got lost in the forest near the village of “Venado”, where deer hunting was permitted decades ago. Amazed by his discovery, he mapped a way out. On his following visits he went deeper and deeper inside the caves, until he managed to explore almost all of the vaults and corridors. Nowadays this passageway to the bowels of Costa Rica, is open to everyone: even kids are encouraged to take a leap into this ultimate adventure!

“Venado” inhabitants don’t mind our intrusion inside the caves; and I’m not talking about its people. I’m talking about the cave’s wildlife ecosystem, where you can see different bat species, even the bloodsucking ones! But don’t be afraid, they are all busy minding they’re own business, nesting on the darkest spots, pollinating and mating. There are also spiders that feed from other insects, and some of the most interesting frogs I’ve ever seen, with completely transparent skin, a rare find as they have great camouflage.

Entering through the cave’s “main entrance” is just a couple of steps from the place where you can park your car securely and get your gear (boots, helmet and flashlights). A guide will briefly introduce you to what you might expect inside the cave. Once at the cave’s mouth, you’ll see the brook that flows almost through the whole trail. As soon as you step inside, you can smell the freshness of the damp rock walls, while feeling the slight breeze which keeps the air flowing inside. The adventure begins, as soon as you turn on your flashlight: the darkness inside is pitch black, at points you can’t even see your own hand in front of your face. Walking inside, through the brook, the architecture of the rocky formations amazes with its grandeur, shaped by the water that has been running through them for centuries.

Soon you find yourself further from the entrance, and the sound of silence drums in your ears with nothing else but your breathing and the water splashing with your every step. You are now deep inside the Earth, underneath the soil and possibly rivers and lakes, what a magnificent feeling to be here! Anxiety turns into a rush of emotions when your guide tells you that you have to crawl inside a small hole to get into a rock vault, you can barely fit inside, but the flow of adrenaline in your body, pushes you to advance using your forearms against the clay tunnel, to move forward into an empty semi-dome. “Turn off your flashlight” your guide requests. As you do so, true blackness engulfs you, and it’s even darker than closing your eyes! A whole world of dreamlike silhouettes crosses your mind, almost like hallucinating, you get lost on your thoughts, until your guide breaks the silence; “Ok let’s move on, shall we?”

Your senses are fully awake, you feel that you can almost see in the dark, the sounds are now familiar, your primitive brain is in control and your instincts are put to the test. All of a sudden you’re face to face with a small waterfall inside the cave. Its sound is almost deafening as your senses are acute now, and the feeling of the mist against your skin gives you goose bumps, refreshing you after the struggle inside the clay tunnel. You can jump from rock to rock until you reach behind the waterfall, or you can choose to slowly walk in-between the rocks and step right underneath. Either way, you will feel how the falling water refreshes and invigorates you, as you become fully aware that you’re underground and alive, a key word that resonates with an echo on every stonewall of the cave. As you come back to your senses, you will take in your surroundings: smooth formations with dripping water sculpting a “papaya”-shaped rock, figures covered in glowing white minerals, that shine with the reflection of the flashlight. We take nature for granted, but here you’re able to see the magnificence of how life is shaped out of darkness, no words can describe being present in this slow but perfect event.

 

The amazement doesn’t end here; there is yet another cave, and if you’re “brave” enough you can swim through a dark tunnel to reach it (or you can get there through another path).  As soon as you enter it you’ll be received by what looks like a dormant “waterfall” made of solid rock and minerals from top to bottom. White smooth formations caressed by water and carved by time surround this cavern. Its silky white floor, filled with puddles, offers a ladder to the top that I like to think that these puddles are the footprints of “Toku”, the Maleku God who inhabited the caves, and whose throne must have been this grotto.

A couple of hours later, you’re blinded by the light; recovering from this dreamlike state. The breeze gets stronger and you realize you’re out of the caves; a breathtaking tour through the underground world that will leave you wanting for more.

Adrenaline can be addictive once you try it. But luckily the area around “Venado” village is filled with adventure if you drive a bit further. The small village of Venado is a small place that bases its economy on tour guides, milk and cheese. People grow their own products and exchange meat and milk, which are also exported, to other Costa Rican towns and cities. This is a fascinating system, as are the friendly, hard-working people, who has the privilege to inhabit this area. The cozy small houses await their owners walking back with bags filled with fresh products, to arrive to a warm, wood-oven cooked meal, noticeable by the smoke emanating from the small chimneys over the rooftops. The hills guard the rest of their lands where they keep cattle and enjoy the striking colors of a sunset.

I encourage you to stay more than to do a one day-tour around the area, so you can continue the hunt for adrenaline. If you are able to visit “La Fortuna” you’ll be in for a treat! Driving there you must certainly find the “Great Colossus”, the massive Arenal Volcano. Its magnitude will make you feel so small, that you will want to scream at it just to fail at trying to be heard by its impressive vastness.

There is a huge contrast between the peaceful, easygoing life of La Fortuna and their active entrepreneurship to survive in a competitive tourism place. I think there’s no one in Costa Rica that knows adventure better than as the people in La Fortuna; after all they themselves are addicted to that rush of adventure, they live in the outskirts of a giant volcano!!

Once you get there, there will be tons of things to do that will satisfy even the most adventure-hungry. From walking on the suspended bridges of  Místico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park or resting in the soothing calm of hot-springs, to river rafting or mountain biking, to flying through the air by zip lines, and my personal favorite, canyoning waterfalls. If that’s not enough, try the ATV tours around the volcano and the “Tarzan jumps”. If you stay in the area, most of the hotels, such as Hotel Los Héroes, will provide tour information and reservations, for exciting stay in La Fortuna.

If you decide to stay a bit longer and want to have more than a spoonful of this recipe to eco adventure and wellness, I can give you a few more tips:

You can visit some other incredible areas Costa Rica has to offer, such as Rincón de la Vieja and stay at https://altagracia.aubergeresorts.com/Buena Vista Lodge; go to the Turrialba region and stay at Casa Turire, see the beautiful Rio Celeste and stay at the amazing Río Celeste Hideaway Hotel, travel South, to the area of Perez Zeledon and enjoy the unique Hacienda AltaGracia Auberge Resorts Collection, or immerse into more magical places inside rainforests with a tour by Rainforest Adventures Costa Rica.

Finally, if you would like to have the thrilling pleasures of adventure but want to be near the beach, you will be able to find similar activities and tours on the Pacific Coast. In the North Pacific I recommend you to stay at the beautiful Capitán Suizo Hotel in Playa Langosta, Guanacaste.  In the Central and South Pacific you can check out, Karahé Beach Hotel in Manuel Antonio or  Hotel Cristal Ballena Resort & Spa in Bahia Ballena.

Be safe and grateful, but most important; prove to yourself, that you’re still alive!

Special Thanks to Hotel Arenal Manoa and their amazing staff

And Don Fausto Pérez for the great insight at Cavernas del Venado.

Costa Rica’s natural secret to well being

Costa Rica’s natural secret to well being

The name “Costa Rica” will immediately ring the bell if you haven’t already visited this rich, natural Land of wonders.

Whenever you think “Costa Rica” you picture beautiful beaches and green mountains; Roaring volcanoes and magical tropical jungles that together comprehends 5% of the Global biodiversity, considering that this land represents only 0.03% of the Earth’s territory.

If you haven’t yet visited Costa Rica, I recommend you do. It’s a small country, but with a vast plan of activities around nature for everyone. There are many travel agencies that can help you in the best way possible to book your trip to Costa Rica; these are just a few that I would suggest; Ara Tours, Swiss Travel, Amadeus, Cast Costa Rica, Costa Rica for All and Vacation City.

This colorful country has lots of treasures that are now known by thousands of tourists, but there are still a couple of secrets this paradise holds. Some of these secrets are easy to find with some (not all) tour operators, many of who are focused on a different kind of experience, specifically worried on spreading the rich history of our jungles, forests and everything nature related, like Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park. Others in the likes of Rainforest Adventure Costa Rica try to create awareness in the importance of a sustainable use of the environment and share our Costa Rican culture to maintain a positive impact on our communities.

With all these available options, there’s no excuse to get out there and take advantage of the healing powers of Nature so I’m going to share with you how I discovered Costa Rica’s natural secret to well being.

I woke up really early a Saturday morning and my friend and neighbor was getting ready to go out in his hiking boots. I asked him where he was going. Surprised to see me out of bed so early, he told me he was going to take a “forest bath” up in some mountains. Impressed by the idea and how that sounded, I told him if I could join him! 15 minutes later we were riding my car up the mountains where the Central Valley meets the Caribbean border.

The term Forest Bathing comes form a healing way of a Japanese practice called Shinrin-roku where you “absorb” the forest’s atmosphere to cleanse away stress, or simply elevate yourself to a natural mood that helps strengthen your immune system by meditating. I saw it as a way to do something different and find a link to be more in touch with nature and that alone, heals your soul from your daily routine.

It was rainy season in Costa Rica, so it was a bit chilly, but nice if you’re going to do some outdoor “exercise”. Getting a bit off-road, we drove for maybe a bit more than an hour through a beautiful dark green landscape, covered by thin layers of fog that at points the morning rays of light breached through the clouds.

Costa Rica has a very rough and mountainous landscape that makes the meandering roads longer to drive as one might expect on a small country. But this is also an advantage, as the views are breath taking. For this kind of trips where you want to explore and don’t want to depend on public transportation or share the trip with lots of tourists, the best way to get around is renting a car and for that a good option would be Solid and Europcar, freedom to ride wherever your destination might be is worth it, especially if you can stop whenever and wherever you want to appreciate the views like the ones I managed to admire in this trip.

For me, this exhibition of colors in the sky already made worth the driving. I felt calm and peaceful, but most important, I felt happy for being out of my bed, being exposed to a different surrounding, taking away all my negative thoughts from my day-to-day routine. My mind was in awe.

Stress is a killer. It’s become a sickness that you have to battle with in your daily-basis. For me, it’s like a bug that deteriorates your entire system, making you more vulnerable to diseases and sickness. On a long term, it might even shorten your life.

It’s very hard to fight stress off like an everyday struggle; it probably will give you more stress just to think that you’re stressed out. I’ve been there; feeling tired, lowering my productivity; sometimes I’m angry out of nothing, affecting my family and those that surround me. It’s just overwhelming how fast everything is moving in the World and how technology and communication has reached a frequency we cant keep up with and ends up consuming us.

To fight this, I always try to get away from my routine, at least 30 minutes during the day. I stop everything and walk my dog out, just sit somewhere outdoors to read while my dog plays around. But sometimes this is not enough and luckily this one weekend I left my heavy, tired head at home and freed myself from any attachment.

This particular area I went to explore with my friend is very isolated from everything, but there are some Hotels you can find near to the mountains of San José (Costa Rica’s capital city) without going too far. Hotels like the Wyndham, Apartotel Villas del Río, the Barceló San José and the Palma Real Hotel & Casino are a few that can accommodate you close to everything and still enjoy a natural experience out, near the city center.

By exposing yourself to new, different experiences in life you might find awakening and learn how to balance your work with things that make you happy, this was what I was about to discover. My friend, who knows more about hiking trails and what he calls “contemplative walks” told me to stop the car on a wet dirt road. He got out of the car and opened an improvised gate made with thick wire and wood sticks; it was a “star-gate” to new possibilities.

There was an old lady that had a small house inside the property, so we paid her $2.00 to let us park the car there, after that, we started walking down a hill until we arrived to this magical place. A thick cloud forest with treetops so tall your eyes can’t reach where they ended, an infinite green color scheme continuously changing as the fog slowly consumed the forest. On brief moments we would see an open space between trees, giving a spectacular view of what seemed to be an endless mountain range. A well-kept secret trail that soon will talk to us through its natural beauty.

Everything felt very harmonious, almost as if we were a link within Nature; I mean, we evolved from nature, shouldn’t we feel more connected to it?

I think we use our brains like if it were a mechanical non-stop organ. It’s true the brain is always working, but we over exceed its fast-paced energy. We should slow down and seek out surroundings that inspire us; nature sure knows how to make you feel restored! I proved this theory right. Once we entered this forest, it was time to try its healing powers.

“…the occasional contemplation of natural scenes of an impressive character…is favorable to the health and vigor of men.” – Frederick Law Olmsted

It started raining, but we didn’t mind getting wet, it was part of the experience and part of becoming one with nature. We now were literally “forest bathing” and now that we were reconnecting, we entered a sort of meditation; surrounded by the quiet sounds of trees moving with the short breezes of wind, pushing the fog, creating white veils towards our path. Different bird songs tuned a symphony on a loop, creating a mantra, quieting our mind and relaxing our bodies. At this moment we started walking slowly, taking big breathes…opening our senses.

This was like an out-of-body experience, I just went somewhere else in my head, like leaving my body; I was in some sort of trance. All of these natural elements working together to take you to a place where you felt as one with the universe, what I call my “body’s energy” (or soul) found it’s core and I was in total tranquility.

As we continued the path I will start to see everything with more detail; the textures in different leafs, the organic, strategic patterns of tree roots that stand out of the ground with living organisms all around them. It seemed obvious how all this eco-system worked together for the benefit of every single molecule, being there just felt right, I was energized and felt more vigorous.

We ended up at the banks of a small stream, we washed our faces in its water, and its cold temperature freshened us up. I woke up from this magical dream and I felt like in a new reality; a more relaxed -free of everything- sense that gave me goose bumps, it was almost as being reborn. All my senses were sharply awaken, feeling every drop of water caressing my skin.

That is how I discovered the natural secret of well being in Costa Rica. I learned that our minds and bodies could relax in any natural surrounding. Our senses must be adapted to them; we were once among plants and trees, not traffic and office noises. We shouldn’t think of Nature as going out for a cup of coffee or shopping; we should see it as a way to increase our health, but most importantly to be happy. Happiness is life.

With so many things to do in Costa Rica I recommend you to try and look for this practices, Costa Rica is surrounded by green and there are many accommodations in different areas and in my own opinion, the best are placed around three different regions that changes in landscape and climate, all of them offers beautiful places to stay.

For example, if you like being near the beach on the northern Pacific coast, in Guanacaste you can look for Capitan Suizo, and Occidental Papagayo. Buena Vista Lodge, Hotel Los Héroes and Río Celeste Hideaway Hotel if you’re more of a mountain kind of person, but all these have or are near paths, hikes and walks which shouldn’t be about endurance or physical demand, it’s all about contemplation and making a connection to our original roots.

If you prefer warmer waters on the beach then you would like best the Central Pacific area and here you can expect to find these hidden secrets with Hotel Cristal Ballena Resort & Spa and, Karahé Beach Hotel  But If you really want to get deeper in the Costa Rican mountains I would suggest, Hacienda AltaGracia, Auberge Resorts Collection and Casa Turire, these two last ones are near the area where I encounter Costa Rica’s natural secret to well being.

I encourage you to go out and find different ways to find what makes you happy with healthy activities. Wellness has many options that suite your preferences and it always focus on promoting physical, psychological and spiritual well-being that will help you have a close encounter with your inner peace.

By Juancho Otalvaro (theroversquest.com)
Photo by Río Perdido Hotel

¡Superman! en Monteverde

La primera vez que visite Monteverde, ¡va a querer volver!

Monteverde, situado al norte de la provincia de Puntarenas. A tan solo 2 horas y 30 minutos de nuestra capital, le ofrecen muchas actividades que realizar y, desde nuestra experiencia se las contamos.

¡Superman! Si quiere sentir que vuela dentro de las montañas, le invitamos a realizar el Canopy tour de Monteverde Extremo Park (www.monteverdeextremo.com).Una aventura que dura 2.5 horas donde las vistas, caminatas y adrenalina estarán acompañándole en todo momento. ¿A que llaman Superman? Dentro del recorrido que se hace en el canopy, uno de las emocionantes lanzadas sobre los cables es hacer el Superman. Este es una posición en la cuál sus pies van sostenidos con una cuerda de arnés haciendo la posición del superman. ¡Una experiencia increíble!  No se preocupe de como llegas hasta el fin del recorrido. Los guías le esperan para ayudarte a detenerse y a desabrocharse.

No solo se puede hacer canopy, también  bungee jump, swing extremo, buggy tour.               

Algo que me hizo sentir muy bien, es que, el personal es muy profesional y gentil. Le ayudan en todo momento,  expliquen paso a paso que hacer así podrás disfrutar el cada trayecto.                                                                                                                                                            

Rodearse de la naturaleza: Desde que inicias el camino hacía Monteverde,  todo alrededor es naturaleza. Adentrarse en el, vivir de cerca esos sonidos que solo los da un bosque, las hojas, la lluvia; y qué mejor que hacer una camina en la Reserva Biológica , Bosque Nuboso de Monteverde (www.reservamonteverde.com)   Un lugar mágico donde le permite palmar el moho de los árboles húmedos, escuchar el agua caer, mecerse sobre puentes colgantes. ¡Respira profundo y mira hacia arriba!  Veras los monos andar como las aves  pasar.  En Sky adventures , le ofrecen otras atracciones como Sky trek, Sky walk, Sky tram, entre otros.

Consejos: Llevar zapatos cerrados, capas, repelente para mosquitos, bolso liviano que le permita caminar. El clima en Monteverde normalmente se encuentra entre 19 a 23 grados.

*** Adapto para todas las familias, niños***

Otras atracciones que se realizan en la zona:                                                                                                Jardín de mariposas                                                                                                                                    Montar a caballo                                                                                                                                    Caminatas nocturnas                                                                                                                                                Tours de café

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

Hospedaje: Nuestras recomendaciones:                                                                                                          El Establo Hotel  Ubicado en el centro de la  zona, accesible para trasladarse a todas las atracciones, restaurantes.                           .

Hotel Poco a Poco   Ubicado  en el centro de la zona. Cuentan con un hotel hermano: El hotel Monteverde Country Lodge