Experiencing Costa Rica’s wildlife and cocktails for a similar worth as a visit to Spain’s Costas


Night time-time within the forest and I’m surrounded by the squawks, rattles and chirrups of the jungle.

My coronary heart is pumping as my torchlight scans the mass of foliage, then the beam descends on the pink and purple sheen of the strawberry poison-dart frog.

So poisonous are its pores and skin secretions that it might kill a human — but right here it’s, only a yard away.

Walk on the wild side: Sian Boyle goes on a tour of Costa Rica, a country that's 'full of waterfalls, one of the most spectacular of which is Catarata del Toro (pictured)'

Stroll on the wild facet: Sian Boyle goes on a tour of Costa Rica, a rustic that is ‘filled with waterfalls, one of the spectacular of which is Catarata del Toro (pictured)’

This journey is made all of the extra thrilling as a result of that is my second try at being in Costa Rica. Again in December 2020, amid the hell of the pandemic, I used to be tantalised by this Central American nation between the Caribbean and the Pacific, house to six per cent of the world’s biodiversity. That is the nation which, due to its dedication to wildlife, just lately gained the inaugural Earthshot Prize — probably the most prestigious international surroundings prize — launched by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. I eagerly booked what I believed could be the journey of a lifetime.

However in the previous couple of days of 2020, the Delta variant surged and in fast succession 40 international locations closed their borders to the UK, the portals to those faraway locations slamming down like guillotines. My Costa Rican oasis was nothing greater than a mirage.

Within the occasion, Costa Rica was badly hit by coronavirus, however now it’s welcoming again vacationers with open arms and there are not any Covid-related entry restrictions.

And sunning myself at Tui’s all-inclusive Resort Riu Palace, giddily day-drunk on daiquiris within the 35c warmth, I realise I’m not the one one who has chosen this vacation spot for his or her post-pandemic vacation debut.

Sian stays at Tui’s all-inclusive Hotel Riu Palace (pictured), where she finds that she gets 'giddily day-drunk on daiquiris in the 35c heat'

Sian stays at Tui’s all-inclusive Resort Riu Palace (pictured), the place she finds that she will get ‘giddily day-drunk on daiquiris within the 35c warmth’ 

Hotel Riu Palace, a 40-minute drive from Liberia airport, is in Guanacaste province on the Pacific coast

Resort Riu Palace, a 40-minute drive from Liberia airport, is in Guanacaste province on the Pacific coast

During her stay at Hotel Riu Palace, Sian encounters 'several canny Britons who’ve all had the same idea about which Costa to visit: Why choose the Costa del Sol when for the same price you can experience Costa Rica?'

Throughout her keep at Resort Riu Palace, Sian encounters ‘a number of canny Britons who’ve all had the identical concept about which Costa to go to: Why select the Costa del Sol when for a similar worth you possibly can expertise Costa Rica?’ 

Local: Model Gisele Bundchen (above) has chosen to have her luxury second home in Costa Rica

Native: Mannequin Gisele Bundchen (above) has chosen to have her luxurious second house in Costa Rica 

Out listed here are a number of canny Britons who’ve all had the identical concept about which Costa to go to: Why select the Costa del Sol when for a similar worth you possibly can expertise Costa Rica?

In spite of everything, that is the place supermodel Gisele Bundchen (pictured) has chosen to have her luxurious second house, on the coast in Santa Teresa. And if it’s adequate for Gisele, it’s adequate for me.

Our resort, a 40-minute drive from Liberia airport, is in Guanacaste province on the Pacific coast, with the volcanoes of neighbouring Nicaragua looming within the distance. It’s dry season and this space is cowboy nation; its arid plains pockmarked by roadside stalls promoting thirst-quenching juices squeezed from piles of bulbous melons and the sweetest natural pineapples, double the scale of these in Sainsbury’s.

We’re guided by Adrian, a big, bombastic 38-year-old grandfather whose each day litre of espresso rolls round his van in a keg, and whose innumerable associates of their automobiles are regularly honking their horns by means of good day as we tour his house province.

He goes by the nickname ‘Chino’ (which fits him much better) and tells me that ‘everybody in Costa Rica has a nickname’ earlier than awarding me the moniker ‘Miss Dimples’.

Above is Playa Conchal, one of the picturesque beaches that lies along the coast of Guanacaste province

Above is Playa Conchal, one of many picturesque seashores that lies alongside the coast of Guanacaste province 

During a rainforest walk Sian spots a strawberry poison-dart frog (stock image above). They are so toxic their skin secretions can kill a human

Throughout a rainforest stroll Sian spots a strawberry poison-dart frog (inventory picture above). They’re so poisonous their pores and skin secretions can kill a human

To get our jungle juices flowing, we drive for 3 hours to Alajuela province, house of the energetic Arenal volcano, which spews threatening columns of water vapour into the air.

On the evening tour at Danaus Organic Reserve, I’m handled to extra than simply the poison-dart frog. ‘These animals are filled with tales,’ says our information Elias, an earnest younger biologist-turned-wildlife photographer, as he caws the ‘ha ha — haw haw’ of the boat-billed heron, which solely comes out after sunset.

We see the venomous cat-eye snake, the Jesus Christ lizard (so referred to as due to its capability to run on water), fireflies with neon inexperienced derrieres and twilight bats which scoff 6,000 mosquitos an hour. I come head to head with the acid-green red-eyed tree frog and am captivated by its big goggly eyes and massive, splodgy pink arms and ft to match. ‘Discovering it requires an excellent pair of ears,’ says Elias, whose double-squelch name sounds are duly replied to.

Natural wonders: Sian gets a close look at the active Arenal volcano, pictured, 'which spews threatening columns of water vapour into the air'

Pure wonders: Sian will get a detailed take a look at the energetic Arenal volcano, pictured, ‘which spews threatening columns of water vapour into the air’

The three-toed sloth, one of the official national symbols of Costa Rica. The position of sloths in the trees at night can indicate the next day’s weather, Sian reveals. Apparently, if they're high up, it'll be cool and wet the next day

The three-toed sloth, one of many official nationwide symbols of Costa Rica. The place of sloths within the bushes at evening can point out the subsequent day’s climate, Sian reveals. Apparently, in the event that they’re excessive up, it will be cool and moist the subsequent day

Then there’s the star attraction, the three-toed sloth, one of many official nationwide symbols of Costa Rica. However she is hidden and predictably sedentary on the prime of a tree, conscious of her VIP standing and an excessive amount of of a diva to present us an excellent present.

The place of sloths within the bushes at evening can point out the subsequent day’s climate — her excessive place in the present day means tomorrow can be cool and moist. ‘Folks right here belief the birds and animals greater than they belief climate forecasters on TV,’ says Elias.

I’m advised the shiny marble throughout the water is the attention of a lurking cayman, whereas different beasts that frequent the reserve embody anteaters, boa constrictor snakes and even wild cats, as ‘it’s like a fast-food takeaway for them right here’.

However don’t fear about having to hack by means of perilous jungle to see the wildlife: this half-mile path is tame and accessible sufficient for an expertise through which you’re much less like Steve Irwin and extra like David Attenborough.

Prior to now 5 years, Costa Rica has turn out to be a mecca for bird-watchers worldwide. And it’s not laborious to see why — this can be a twitchers’ utopia.

They arrive for the caracara raptors hovering overhead and the sprightly red-breasted meadowlarks, for flamboyant macaws, iridescent kingfishers and banana-beaked toucans.

During a lazy boat cruise along the Playas del Coco, pictured, Sian sees 'dolphins traverse the bows'

Throughout a lazy boat cruise alongside the Playas del Coco, pictured, Sian sees ‘dolphins traverse the bows’

Sian pays a go to to Monteverde Cloud Forest, a mystical forest the place 140ft bushes are swathed in primordial vines and mosses

According to Sian, walking across Monteverde Cloud Forest's hanging bridges is a 'serene experience' - until she spots a tarantula

In accordance with Sian, strolling throughout Monteverde Cloud Forest’s hanging bridges is a ‘serene expertise’ – till she spots a tarantula 

COSTA RICA’S ‘PURA VIDA’ 

The nation, which has the Caribbean Sea to the east and the Pacific to the west, has a inhabitants of about 5 million. 

Nicoya, on its west coast, is a Blue Zone, which suggests its inhabitants generally reside previous the age of 100.

Christopher Columbus found Costa Rica in 1502 and gave it its identify, which means ‘wealthy coast’. 

A purple-throated hummingbird in Costa Rica - the country is home to 50 different species of the bird

A purple-throated hummingbird in Costa Rica – the nation is house to 50 totally different species of the fowl 

It accommodates 6 per cent of the world’s biodiversity, with 50 species of hummingbird and 18 per cent of the world’s butterflies. And it generates greater than 99 per cent of its electrical energy from renewable sources. 

There hasn’t been a military right here since 1948 — it was abolished following a civil warfare. 

And it’s one of many happiest international locations on this planet. Maybe that’s all the way down to the reassuringly optimistic motto, pura vida, ‘the pure life’.

As I’m quad biking on the seashore, big brown pelicans dive for tuna within the sea. And on a lazy boat cruise alongside the Playas del Coco we’re chaperoned by effortlessly hovering frigate birds as dolphins traverse the bows — all towards the backdrop of a flaming sundown torching the sky from burnt ochre to neon pink.

The flora right here is simply as spectacular because the fauna. We go to the Monteverde Cloud Forest the place the climates of the Caribbean and Pacific sides of the nation coalesce, creating hanging clouds in a mystical forest the place 140ft bushes are swathed in primordial vines and mosses.

Costa Rican bushes don’t have any rings of their trunks — due to the nation’s distinctive rotating microclimates as an alternative of seasons — so it’s unattainable to inform their true ages.

Strolling throughout the forests’ hanging bridges is a serene expertise — till we spot an orange-kneed tarantula in its burrow. Only one glimpse of its thorax and an enormous bristly leg is sufficient for this lifelong arachnophobe to make a mighty fast sprint for it.

This nation is stuffed with waterfalls, one of the spectacular of which is Catarata del Toro. However we head to Celeste River, the place I see water so phantasmagorically blue it’s like one thing from a Disney princess movie. It’s not magic however it’s alchemy: the convergence of two rivers has created uncommon mineral deposits that are mirrored within the solar’s gentle to create the river’s mesmerising electrical hue.

You’ll be able to’t swim right here, so we head to the Baldi Sizzling Springs, the place 25 sizzling mineral swimming pools are heated by the Arenal volcano.

The one drawback with Costa Rica is that it’s such a well-oiled tourism machine, it will probably veer from authenticity to a form of Truman Present façade of what it believes guests need. I used to be anticipating to soak in effervescent volcanic water so tranquil that it will be like bathing in a crater of the Moon. As a substitute, I’m greeted by polystyrene ‘waterfalls’, disco lights and even a sports activities bar.

However I can’t maintain an excessive amount of towards ‘The Wealthy Coast’. That is the infectious nation the place the faith is ‘soccer’, the music is merengue, the cocktails zing with jalapeños and ‘when you lower us, we bleed espresso’.

It’s truly unlawful right here to provide any kind of espresso besides 100 per cent Arabica — the highest-quality espresso beans — and on the Don Juan espresso farm in Monteverde we find out how it’s produced from fruit to steaming cup, recognized on this space for its floral notes.

Sian heads to Celeste River, where she sees water 'so phantasmagorically blue it’s like something from a Disney princess film'. Above is the Rio Celeste Waterfall

Sian heads to Celeste River, the place she sees water ‘so phantasmagorically blue it’s like one thing from a Disney princess movie’. Above is the Rio Celeste Waterfall

Later, after a raucous day spent zip-lining, laughing and consuming fish tacos, I study that Costa Rica is likely one of the few international locations on this planet and not using a navy.

I really feel responsible for happening vacation when there are such atrocities happening elsewhere on this planet, and ask Chino how Costa Rica views the Ukraine invasion. He jogs my memory of pura vida, this nation’s inescapable catchphrase, which suggests ‘the pure life’.

‘Not simply pure life however the constructive life,’ says Chino. ‘Trying up, wanting ahead. The world will at all times have issues, however what’s your perspective to them? That’s what makes an excellent life, being constructive.’

I depart Costa Rica grateful for the allure of those individuals and their heat, optimistic and exhilarating nation.

TRAVEL FACTS

TUI presents seven nights on the 5T Riu Palace Costa Rica on an all-inclusive foundation from £1,089pp (tui.co.uk). Excursions such because the Danaus Organic Reserve evening stroll, Hanging Bridges Monteverde Tour and Don Juan Espresso Tour can be found from £29 pp.



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