This eco-paradise is the perfect place to embark on a Central American safari, and if you plan well, you can even have the monkeys mostly to yourself
Author Jacqueline Detwiler Photography Al Argueta
IF YOU'RE ACQUAINTED WITH any budding ecologists, chances are you’ve heard about the many charms of Costa Rica. Visiting this tiny Central American country—which is roughly the size of West Virginia—is like being inside the world’s best zoo: The question is not if you’ll see a wild animal on your travels, but whether it will be a sea turtle, a sloth or a monkey.
Interest in Costa Rica, and in adventure travel in general, has exploded over the last couple of decades, so it’s no surprise that the beaches of the Nicoya Peninsula and the slopes of the Arenal Volcano are seeing the arrival of yoga centers, bars and luxury hotels with golf courses. As these developments have proliferated, there’s concern that they may have tarnished Costa Rica’s appeal as a place of simple pleasures, where the most common response to “¿Como estas?” is “Pura vida,” which translates as both “excellent” and “full of life.”
With almost a third of Costa Rica under some form of environmental protection, pura vida can still be found, of course. The country’s pockets of paradise range from the breeding spots of precious turtles on the Caribbean coast to the depths of unpopulated rainforest near the Panamanian border. The Osa Peninsula, a tropical lowland bordered by mangrove swamps, reefs and lacy caves, is a fantastic place to start looking. Here, at breakfast, you’ll be just as often disturbed by a toucan on your table as by your waiter.