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Costa Rica:

a week amidst nature

Victor Gouvêa

Fernanda Frazão, Getty Images

Between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean, there’s a small paradise on Earth. In Costa Rica, 25% of the territory is comprised of natural reserves with beautiful spectacles that present themselves without any warning. With a well-planned tour,  it’s possible to cross the country in a week and discover everything it has to offer

 

Day 1 • San José

If it weren’t for the flags in front of the embassies, no one would say that the unique San José is a country’s capital. Small (with barely over a million Ticos, as Costa Ricans call themselves), clean, and orderly, the city is a transit point on the way to rural destinations, but it has its own charms.

 

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One of them is the Museo del Oro Precolombino, sheltering a collection of 1,586 pieces from 500 B.C. to 1500 A.D. Making a time leap, the National Theater, built in the late 18th century by coffee barons, serves as a witness to the bean’s importance to the local culture. Treat yourself with a delicious part of this culture in one of the excellent coffee houses, like La Mancha, located in the old Steinvorth market in the central district. “It’s hard to find someone who doesn’t like coffee,” says Diana Graeff, owner of Café del Barista,  a simple place in its presentations but with a brew worthy of the gods.

 

Museo del Oro Precolombino: Entre Avenidas 0 & 2, Calle 5

La Mancha: Entre Avenidas 0 & 1, Calle 1

Café del Barista: Entre Calles 19 & 21, Avenida 9

 

Day 2, 3 and 4 • Tortuguero National Park

To focus on preserving nature, Costa Rica has narrow roads, and each displacement can take hours (compensated by the richness of the sights). That’s why, by the end of the second day, you’ll arrive at your next destination, Tortuguero National Park. This beautiful estuary in the country’s northeast, where you can only travel by boat, is a true immersion in the jungle. The only sounds you’ll hear come from the forest and some motors up-river.

 

 

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The place is a sanctuary for sea turtles. One of the best ideas is to see, between July and October, the spawning on the volcanic sand beaches, the hatching of the eggs, and the run of the baby turtles to reach the salt water.

 

In addition to the turtles, this coastal and humid park is also home to other reptile species, such as snakes, caimans, and the basilisk lizard. It isn’t hard to spot otters, monkeys, and other animals on the exploratory tours through the canals and lakes. But, for great satisfaction of birdwatchers, there are 442 bird species flying around Tortuguero in perfect harmony. The journey to the next destination starts early, on the fourth day.

 

Day 5 • Arenal National Park

In Costa Rica, there are more than 100 volcanoes. One of the most famous is Arenal, in the north of the country – a volcano that entered its dormant stage in 2010 after years of eruptions. Walking the 3-mile [5 km] trail, close to its base, in Arenal National Park, you can see the vegetation covering the cold black lava, on an organic journey to restore balance. Along the hike, there are overlooks to contemplate the majestic Arenal reaching to the blue skies.

 

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Volcanic action increased temperatures in surrounding waters and today the zone is famous for its natural pools and warm cascades. There are abundant park options with hot springs. Some are perfect for families, with sleds and pools for children, others are the ideal place to relax, close to hotels. In the private Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park, 10 hanging bridges will help you enter the rainforest. Juan Pablo, a local guide, imitates the sounds of birds to attract animals. “It’s like a language you can learn,” he says. Some birds come out after they’re called in their own language. If you think it’s an exaggeration to call Costa Rica a paradise, you must visit this park.

 

Day 6 and 7 • Manuel Antonio National Park

The day starts early, and for good reason: traveling to Manuel Antonio  National Park, on the west coast of Costa Rica, on the Pacific Ocean.  The remaining time of the day will be well spent stretching your legs  strolling on the beaches out of the park’s perimeter.

 

Playa Biesanz, for example, is a treasure only locals know of. Almost deserted, this tiny bay can be reached by taking a 10-minute walk from the road. A stand rents kayaks, snorkels, and stand-up paddles to explore the surroundings, free as the monkeys welcoming you everywhere you go.

 

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The next day you’ll finally visit Costa Rica’s most famous postcard sight, Manuel Antonio National Park. The difference between this park and the others is the amount and the diversity of its wildlife: it’s home to 109 mammal species. Sloths, snakes, dwarf frogs, among others, demand these seven trails to be covered slowly.

 

Those arriving at 7 a.m., the opening time, are rewarded with absolute silence and the sight of animals stretching to start the day.

 

After these long walks, you can choose the best beach to rest. Espadilla is the most popular; Espadilla Sur, a bit farther, and La Mancha, practically empty, and many others. They’re all adorned with white sands, palm trees providing shade, and rocks where waves break. The rich coast of Costa Rica, whether on the Atlantic or the Pacific, never lets anyone down.

 

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Buy a complete package with accommodations and tours in the destination with LATAM Travel or at latam.com

LATAM has direct flights to San José from Lima.