Costa Rica is Wanderlust’s Best International Destination of 2022!

The renowned UK magazine gives the gold position to this small Central American nation due to its biodiversity and authenticity.

For many decades Costa Rica has made an active effort to grow its tourism infrastructure and develop its conservation initiatives as a way to cement its place as perhaps the quintessential tropical destination. Many Caribbean countries might equal some of Costa Rica’s pristine and secluded beaches, but what this small Central American nation offers is a truly immersive, ecological experience that goes beyond luxury resorts and high-end hotels (despite also having those).

Visiting Costa Rica is both a time for relaxation in a tropical oasis, as well as an opportunity for adventure. Within its small area, the country offers visitors magical volcano trips, involving jungle hikes, magnificent natural spectacles and exorbitant flora and fauna. Most of the tico’s policy is built around sustainability, and safekeeping their blessed corner of the globe, and this commitment has rapidly drawn many to its unparalleled environments.

One of the most recent accolades has come in the form of Wanderlust Magazine’s 2022 Travel Awards. This UK publication is the country’s leading travel magazine, ever since it was established in 1993. For the English speaking world, Wanderlust is one of the most trustworthy and serious publications around, alway maintaining a particular focus on conscious and sustainable travel. It should come as no surprise then, that Costa Rica was highlighted by its readership.

The tico country was chosen as the magazine Gold winner for the “Rest of the World” Category, beating Silver and Bronze medalists Canada and Australia. Wanderlust readership’s rationale highlights Costa Rica’s role as a pioneer in eco-tourism, its extraordinary rainforest and coastal environments, and its vast biodiversity, including 500,000 species ranging all the way from sloths and toucans to sea turtles and howler monkeys. The rest of the top 10 is rounded off by the USA, Japan, Peru, South Korea, South Africa and Jordan, in that order.

Given Costa Rica’s post-pandemic blow-up as one of the world’s premiere destinations, recognitions like this only help strengthen the country’s appeal to UK tourists, who already compose the second largest visitor market after the US. Let’s hope more people get to experience the magical setting that is this tropical paradise!

New Atlanta-Costa Rica connections! The Central American nation expands its link with the United State’s most important airport

As global travel continues to compensate for its down years during the Covid-19 pandemic, Costa Rica remains in the spotlight as one of the most sought after destinations. After all, who wouldn’t want to relax in tropical paradise after a couple of tense years? 

With Covid restrictions giving way to the new normal, and airlines returning to full strength, Costa Rica has seen an important growth in terms of daily and weekly flights. The latest announcement comes from Frontier airlines.

This low-cost airline announced that it’ll start operations on a San Jose-Atlanta connection as soon as November 17, 2022, and an Atlanta-Liberia flight from December 17 of the same year. 

Atlanta is one of the United State’s main flight harbors, widely considered to be one of the busiest airports in the world. It serves 150 U.S. destinations an more than 75 destinations in 50 countries all around the world. Data shows the airport handles around 2,500 flights and 275,000 passengers a day, making it a strategic location for furthering the link between U.S. tourists (by far Costa Rica’s main source of visitors) and Costa Rica. 

With a direct link to the United State’s main hub for connection flights, Costa Rica seeks to expand on the more than 800,000 US tourists that have visited the country during the first seven months of 2022. The Costa Rican Institute of Tourism (ICT) considers the news as a big positive for the nation’s economic reactivation, while the National Chamber of Tourism (CONATUR) sees this as a great opportunity to continue moving forward with more connections and market penetration in the United States. 

Experience the highlights of nature documentaries in real life

For many years now, Costa Rica has been one of the preferred locations for scientists, filmmakers and TV producers that focus on biodiversity and natural history. 

Be it the legendary voice of British natural historian and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough, or the iconic baritone of former United States President Barack Obama, Costa Rica’s natural wonders have been praised and examined in an almost immeasurable amount of ways over the years, and perhaps the most engrossing of all of these have been nature documentaries. 

From a vast back catalog of Natural Geographic specials fully devoted to some of Costa Rica’s most impressive biodiversity hotspots, to the new advent of the format via streaming services, this Central American nation has fully cemented itself as one of the most visually and aurally enthralling corners of the globe for some time now. And as technology in video recording advances, the country’s wide array of motions and textures have never been better depicted. 

In the BBC-Netflix joint production of Life in Color, cameras with revolutionary color-capturing technology were created specifically for the project, in order to depict some of the colors invisible to the human eye and how they play a vital part in rich ecosystems such as Costa Rica’s rainforest. 

Netflix’s Our Great National Parks plays with slow motion and breathtaking drone shots to contrast the beautiful and vast landscapes of the natural world with some of its stunning inner secrets, such as the infamous habitat that is the Costa Rican sloth’s fur. 

The locations and species featured on these works have become so popular that many of the country’s tourist offers have incorporated them into their repertory. From night tours to live first hand the miraculous turtle nesting, to fun trips to sloth reserves, the great thing is that Costa Rica’s natural attractions are so vast and varied that there’ll always be something new to discover. 

So if you’re a fan of nature documentaries, there’s no better time to create your bucket list, search for a comfortable rental option, and see for yourself what has enamored scientists, filmmakers and TV producers for decades. 

What to do in Quepos/Manuel Antonio on a Pandemic Friday?

The pandemic has changed life for us all in many ways, from the way we travel to the way we shop and socialize. Since the pandemic started, Costa Rica has been working hard to prevent the spread of the disease from large vaccination campaigns (with so far 67.21% already vaccinated [1] ) to migration of certain services into online systems. Restrictions for driving and business operation times have also been imposed, currently restricting cars to drive one day during the weekdays and one of the weekend days, and for driving and places only being able to do so between 5am and 9pm. Driving restrictions do not apply for rental cars. So what do you do on a Friday now?

Don’t worry! There are still many things to do in the area that will allow you to enjoy the local scene, gorgeous views and overall beauty that makes Manuel Antonio the magnificent place that it is. Here are a few of our favorites places to hit this coming Friday:

Farmers Market

One of the nicest things to do on a Friday afternoon is to visit the local farmers market. It’s held in downtown Quepos and you can go as early as 3pm. Here you can spot many tropical fruits and vegetables that are endemic to Latin America, and the best, they taste incredible! Forget the bland flavors of the fruit you might have encountered back at home, here you can find the fruit freshly picked and naturally ripened, it will be like nothing you have ever tasted before.

The produce is available depending on the season, and so even when having visited the market before, you might encounter on your next visit a fruit or vegetable that you might have not tasted or even seen before.

There are many shops that sell products other than produce, like the Menonite stand that sells the traditional Pennsylvania-Dutch whoopie pies, apple pies, granola, goat milk’s yogurt and homemade peanut butter; the German butcher stand who sells grass-fed-hormone-free meats like ribeye, prosciutto and wursts, and you can even buy a freshly made German hot dog with horseradish mustard right from the butcher; the cheese stand that sells locally made cheese and many souvenir jewelry and clothes.

Make sure not to miss this experience and don’t worry if you can’t make it on Friday, it’s held until Saturday morning, but make sure to get there early so you don’t miss some of the stands who run out of product or leave earlier.

Cafe Agua Azul

This spot is worth visiting for either lunch or dinner. Our recommendation since the pandemic, is to go here for lunch. One, it’s less busy than their dinner service so you won’t risk not being sitted or having to wait too long (they do not take reservations) and two, you can spot the incredible view that the place has to offer and eat some of the best food in Manuel Antonio.

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Make sure to try their calamari appetizer, the tuna or shrimp tower or their delicious pollo napolitano.

If you’re not in the mood for food but some good drinks, make sure to try their amazing passion fruit margaritas or Paige’s monster drink. They also have happy hour specials so make sure to ask them for those.

Ape Bar

This chic and eclectic bar has an amazing atmosphere and even better food! It’s just a short walk from Café Agua Azul and so you can easily move from one place to another. Most Friday nights they have a DJ (or great music) and it’s open from 6pm on to 9pm (in non pandemic times it was 2am -oh the good old times!).

If you’re a fan of decadent yet affordable food, you are going to love this place! Make sure to try their cheese bourekas, vegetarian carpaccio, dolmas (rice stuffed grape leaves) or Moroccan cigars. All the dishes are designed for sharing so you can start with at least a few and go from there.

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Drinks here are also tasty and they have plenty of options, from top shelf whiskey to whiskey sours and delicious mojitos.

Yes, the pandemic has certainly made the nightlife of Manuel Antonio a bit slower and earlier but certainly not dull, there’s still plenty of cool fun things to do in town. Make sure to give these recommendations a try.

1 As of October 4th, 2021

Costa Rica’s Best Waterfalls

When people ask me about Costa Rica they often ask for the best beaches, best ecolodges or most thriling ziplines. For some reason they rarely ask about the best waterfalls. Here is a stunning collection of waterfalls to be one of the country’s highlights.

Costa Rica’s rugged mountains and abundant rainfall create a geography that’s literally overflowing with rivers. By some estimates only New Zealand has more rivers per square kilometer. As water races down Costa Rica’s mountains on its way to the sea, it often leaps over sheer drop-offs, resulting in dozens of world-class waterfalls.

No matter where you go in Costa Rica, there’s a waterfall nearby. But seek out the very best and you’ll be glad you did. Some are great for swimming, others are famous for jumping. Others are simply drop-dead gorgeous. Some waterfalls are located on private land, others in national parks, but all have the power to transform you. The combination of thundering water, cool spray and lush vegetation washes away the outside world, placing you squarely in the moment and inducing a deep state of pura vida.

Rio Celeste

That’s not Photoshop—the Rio Celeste really is that blue. According to local legend, when God finished painting the sky he dipped his brush in the Rio Celeste. Or maybe it’s all those aluminosilicates that naturally occur in the water. Quien sabe, mae? Thanks to social media Rio Celeste is no longer a secret, but its remote location in Tenorio National Park helps keep down the crowds. The waterfall is reached via a 1.5-km (1-mile) hiking trail, so plan on spending at least half a day in the park. Although tour companies run day trips from Arenal, I prefer spending the night at one of the wonderful ecolodges just outside the park. Note: The river often loses its brilliant blue color during the rainy season when the water runs muddy, so it’s best to visit during the driest months (Jan – March).

Nauyaca

Located a short drive from the Pacific beach town of Dominical, Nauyaca is one of the biggest waterfalls in Costa Rica. Divided into two stunning tiers, it tumbles down 65 meters (215 feet) into a large pool that’s perfect for swimming. Guided horseback tours of Nauyaca are offered by the local family that owns the surrounding property. Some guides thrill in swan diving off the tall ledges. Mere mortals should stick to the pool at the waterfall’s base.

Llanos de Cortes

Llanos de Cortés is a broad curtain of water that tumbles into a large, shallow pool. Although big, it’s more delicate than powerful, with silky ribbons of water flowing over hanging plants. Located just 22 km (13.7 miles) east of Liberia, it makes a terrific day trip if you’re looking to escape the clutter of downtown. The turnoff, marked by a small wooden sign, is located about 4 km (2.5 miles) west of Bagaces on Highway 1 (The Inter-American Highway). From the turnoff, head 600 meters down the road, turn right at a small gate and drive five minutes to the large parking area. Admission, which benefits the local school, is $2 per person.

Montezuma

Most of Costa Rica’s famous waterfalls are tucked away in the mountains, but this three-tiered stunner is just a short stroll from the mellow beach town of Montezuma. The waterfall’s lowest tier is the most accessible. To get there walk west on the main road from downtown Montezuma, and after about 10 minutes you’ll cross a short bridge in front of La Cascada Restaurant/Hotel. Just past the bridge a rocky trail heads to the base of the waterfall. If you’d like to reach the waterfall’s upper tiers, you have two options. The first, and most dangerous, is to follow the rugged path set back from the base of the waterfall. A better option is to head to Sun Trails, located up a steep hill just west of the parking area. Sun Trails charges a ₡2,000 entrance fee at the front desk to access their well-maintained trail system, which leads to the top of the waterfall. Although people do jump from the upper tiers, it’s definitely not for the faint of heart.

La Fortuna

This 70-meter (230-foot) waterfall, located just 5 km (3 miles) from downtown La Fortuna, is one of the most dramatic waterfalls in Costa Rica. From the entrance ($10 per person, all proceeds go to the town of La Fortuna), a steep trail descends nearly 600 meters (1,969 feet) to the base of the waterfall, a hike that takes 10–20 minutes depending on your fitness level. There are two observation platforms overlooking the waterfall, and swimmers can take a dip in the lovely, chilly pool. From the lower observation platform a short trail heads to a series of smaller, calmer pools located downstream. During peak season the waterfall can attract over 1,000 people per day, so visit early or late to avoid the crowds. Open 8am–5pm. Note: A free swimming hole, popular with locals, is located just below the bridge crossing the Río Fortuna, just south of the turnoff to the waterfall on the main road.

La Paz Waterfall Gardens

This privately owned property features 5 waterfalls, 3.5 km (2.2 miles) of hiking trails and a large wildlife refuge filled with over 100 Costa Rican species. A long descending trail heads from waterfall to waterfall, and guided tours are available. Located just 30 km (18.6 miles) north of Alajuela, the La Paz Waterfall Gardens makes a wonderful day trip if you’re looking to get out of the urban jungle and visit the real one. It’s also great after a morning trip to Poás Volcano, which is located nearby.

Osa Peninsula The most biologically intense place on Earth

Costa Rica has long been renowned for its incredible biodiversity; a small, yet environmentally rich country that is home to over 5% of the entire world’s animal and plant species. Lying along its south-western coast is the Osa Peninsula, a tiny strip of land measuring just 35 miles long and 20 miles wide and covered in magnificent, unspoiled rainforest. The Osa Peninsula is itself home to half of all the species in Costa Rica, that’s a staggering 2.5% of the entire biodiversity of the planet, living on a mere 0.00000085% of the earth’s total surface area.

Formed geologically by the same faulting system that extends to California, this patch of Costa Rica’s last remaining tropical humid rainforest embraces a complex system of freshwater and marine systems; there are 13 major ecosystems, ranging from sea level to 745 metres and encompassing mangroves, sandy beaches and elevated primary forests. As a result, the Osa Peninsula is home to over 700 species of trees, which is more than all the North temperate regions of the world combined. Trees that are comparable in grandeur to the best that the Amazon Basin and the South East Asian forests have to offer, with 80 endemic species and the largest tree in Central America, a giant Silk Cotton tree some 77 metres tall.

There are 117 species of reptiles and amphibians, 365 species of birds and over 120 species of mammals, (all with varying degrees of endemism). Its forests are home to endangered species such as Baird’s tapir, the white-lipped peccary, the American crocodile, the harpy eagle and the Central American squirrel monkey. It’s a place where jaguars still roam the jungles, scarlet macaws fly freely about the town and the enormous humpbacked whales swim close to its shores. The Osa Peninsula holds possibly the highest natural diversity on the planet, inspiring The National Geographic magazine to describe it as “the most biologically intense place on earth”.

Protecting this unspoilt wilderness

At least half of its rainforest and swamps are protected by Corcovado National Park and numerous private reserves, yet sadly, like the majority of the world’s most delicate ecosystems it is under threat. In addition to the challenges posed by climate change on delicate bio-systems, there are also the added threats of poaching and unregulated construction in an area that lacks adequate infrastructure to deal with the resultant rubbish, wastewater and sewage.

The good news for its future is that it also home to an active and committed community who work tirelessly to counter the negative effects of human impact. In addition to the establishment of recycling programmes and supporting the role of local producers, the Osa community also provides strong opposition to any proposals that might cause further damage to this fragile ecosystem. It is with some irony that tourism is also playing a major role in the protection of the Osa Peninsular. Many hotels and businesses are adhering to the standards set out by the Certificate for Sustainable Tourism and have even bought tracts of land with the sole aim of increasing the protected forest land

As a result, there is genuine hope that the Osa Peninsular will remain a beautifully wild and unspoilt wilderness; a unique and quite beautiful oasis in an increasingly over populated planet, a place where animals can roam freely with little or no fear of their human neighbours.