Lush Costa Rica boasts of a spectacular range in terrain, climate and biodiversity. With its sandy hot beaches, live volcanos to jungle rain forests, it’s definitely exotic. Its rugged terrain is complemented with an array of fiver star luxury resort hotels all appointed with impeccable interior design, incredible restaurants, and lavish spas. The best way to truly experience Costa Rica is to hit the road and drive through it’s winding rural roads and watch the trees, weather and landscape change before your eyes.
When traveling I prefer to get a feel for the entire region I’m visiting. Often that means I spend a lot of time planning my travels between places. But with Costa Rica, it was pure indecision that inspired my multi-faceted journey. I was torn between it’s lively cities, lush rain forests, and tranquil beaches. So I decided not to decide, and instead, to sample a little bit of each.
I began in San Jose, the capital city of Costa Rica, lured by its old city charm, and by the promise of an exceptional Spanish colonial-style hotel by Marriott with sweeping mountains views. Built on a 30-acre coffee plantation, the yellow and terracotta trimmed hacienda, boasted several restaurants, two courtyard pools, a state of the art fitness centre, tennis courts and full service spa. While my plan was only to stay one night, to get my grounding in Costa Rica, I could have stayed a few more.
From San Jose, I set out on a three-hour drive to the five-star Nayara Springs in La Fortuna de San Carlos Resort and Spa, located in the heart of the rainforest. On route is the Parque Nacional Volcán Poás, an active 2,708-metre stratovolcano that has erupted 39 times since 1839, and also Parque Nac. Juan Castro Blanco—a rugged rainforest park with three volcanoes of its own, and covered in dense vegetation brimming with a variety of wildlife including monkeys, armadillos, coyotes and countless reptiles and amphibians.
Short on time, (and short on courage to face active volcanoes), I quickly drove past the park entrances as the sunny cityscape view morphed into a winding two lane rural road through ever-increasing altitudes of greenery. Before long, the sky had filled with clouds and a light-mist gave way to rain. Wooden bridges, connecting one high point to the next led deeper into the rainforest. Everywhere was overgrown greenery, dotted with the occasional encouraging road signs informing me I was going in the right direction.
Once I arrived at Nayara Springs, it was as if I had been transported to a different country entirely. Not only was the region significantly cooler, it was also dripping with moisture and overflowing jungle. The lush dark green surroundings were accompanied by a choir of wildlife—monkeys, birds, and cicadas—all singing at once.
If ever there was a resort whose website doesn’t do itself justice, it’s Nayara Springs. It’s quite lovelier, more private and more secluded in person. The resort is deeply nestled amongst trees and joins a sister resort by way of a 240 foot raised bridge that allows you to see deep into the jungle. Invariably each day there were bright birds like macaws and cockatoos, and occasionally something less beautiful, even ominous, but fascinating in its own right. On my second day I watched a huge brown-grey thatchy feathered bird, over two-feet tall with strange yellow beak, sit for hours watching his prey before he swooped down to claim it.
The rooms are more like mini-villas, constructed in a self-contained circular structure, all colourfully appointed, with wrap-around verandas that offered endless opportunities for me to enjoy my own little slice of the rainforest. The long list of outdoor activities I had planned—hiking, zip-lining, and cycling, melted away as I bundled up in a sweater and settled in the rainbow coloured hammock on my veranda, reading—with deep contemplation—the sumptuous list of spa menu options.
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