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 (
Photo by Río Perdido Hotel