Rainforest-rich Costa Rica is number one on the world’s Happy Planet Index, it’s official. What better place to spend your precious vacation than amongst the most positive party people on Earth? They’ve got biodiversity, national parks and UNESCO World Heritage sites coming out of their ears. They’ve also abolished their army, investing in people, place and pensions instead. No wonder the Ticos and Ticas – as the locals call themselves – have one of the world’s highest life expectancies. From catamaran trips to fresh cuisine and from volcanoes to via ferrata, strap in for your show-stopping seven-day trip through Costa Rica: an FFX kind of country.
Seize the day in San Jose
Considering the size of its reputation on the adventure travel stage, Costa Rica is surprisingly compact and condensed. Home to just five million people, it’d fit into Lake Michigan! Its name translates as Rich Coast and with good reason. Surfers and ocean aficionados love the gulfs, beaches and bays of its 1,300km of Pacific and Atlantic coastline. The smart money is on dynamic capital, San Jose, as the best place to start any trip. Eat up the culture at the National Museum, National Theatre and Gold Museum. Roll with the hustle at the multi-coloured markets. Hoover up the street food from fresh fish and fruits to the national staples of gallo pinto (rice and black beans) and sopa negra (black bean soup). Just be careful of context if ordering a classic ‘casado’ as the word also means ‘married man’…
Lava springs eternal
Certain things are absolute must-sees in Costa Rica. Lava-heated thermal lagoons, dramatic volcanoes and dense, animal-packed rainforests spring to mind. San Jose was all about the urban experience and now Costa Rica’s wild nature takes center stage at La Fortuna and one of the country’s signature conservation areas, the Arenal Volcano National Park. Its highest crater at 1,633m is the country’s most active (lava has flowed since 1968). A week wouldn’t be enough in La Fortuna so choosing activities for just one day is a challenge! Options include selfie stops at the 70m-high La Fortuna waterfall, botany and bird-spotting in the verdant rainforest, or a lava-heated soak in the naturally sculpted volcanic pools.
What happens in the rainforest…
Tourism is Costa Rica’s most valuable trade and there are some enlightened people at the top, whose conservation policies are the envy of the world. Over 25% of the country is National Park, and funding and foresight has doubled Costa Rica’s rainforest coverage in mere decades. What better way to appreciate the mystique, wilderness and wonders of this tropical paradise than from within…at night? A nocturnal tour of Mistico Park will leave an indelible impression, as the eyes of curious creatures catch you unawares. Look out for the red-eyed leaf frog, endemic snakes and lizards, mammals such as kinkajous and coatis, and darkness-loving owls and insects. Oh and prepare to crack out your best Indiana Jones impression as you edge across one of the forest’s high-altitude hanging bridges.
Trek the volcanic trails
When Arenal volcano erupted spectacularly in 1968, untold rivers of lava coated its foothills. Unique hiking trails now criss-cross the rich volcanic landscape and hide gems like Los Patos Lagoon. This is the perfect spot to capture panoramic pics of the volcano plus of Arenal’s striking lake. As if you weren’t already on sensory overload with the awesomeness of the day, the trails also dip into a dwarf cloud forest. Its delicate ecosystem is home to myriad hummingbirds plus Costa Rica’s sweetly singing national bird, the clay-coloured thrush or ‘yigüirro’.
Cook, eat, drink and dance like a local
Let your inner Ticos and Ticas out tonight as you learn to cook and dance like a local in La Fortuna. Rather than a quick take-out and trying to find a great club, FFX has lined up a nightful of treats. First, a local chef will demonstrate how to rustle up local favorites in no time. The soiree gets even more social as the wannabe chefs sit down to a shared meal (don’t be the one that gives the crew food poisoning!). Full of fantastic fresh food, head into downtown La Fortuna for some authentic local dancing lessons. Quick learners will nail the salsa and merengue moves and enjoy the cumbia and bachata beats. Costa Ricans wish each other hello and goodbye with the lovely phrase ’pura vida’, or, ‘pure life’ and that is what today is all about, from sunrise to sunset. And possibly until sunrise again, depending on your FFX friends’ energy levels!
Living the zip-line high life
The highs of La Fortuna now make way for new heights: attached to a zip-wire above Rio Perdido (the Lost River) in Bagaces. The phenomenal Canyon Adventure is the ultimate zip-wire experience. It’s a veritable forest playground whose stages, jumps, pendulum cables and via ferrata take you through and above a dwarf forest and back again, on adrenalin. There are 15 rock-embedded and suspended platforms and swings, and roped jumps so impressive you even get a freefall rush. It’s lucky the rainforest’s local monkeys and rare tropical birds don’t have smart phones. You don’t want that terrified expression while suspended on the Tarzan swing to appear online. Anywhere. Ever.
Forest bathing and beach breaks
The reward at the end of today’s Medicinal Spring Hike near Rio Perdido is a taste of the curiously fizzy waters at La Carbonatada spring. If your head’s still spinning from the zip-lines, the waters’ reputed healing properties might help you rebalance. This enjoyably easy hike skirts the Yurro waterfall to plunge into the depths of Miravalles forest, where the bubbling spring is found. Nature’s own magnesium-rich Alka-Seltzer! Feeling restored, team FFX then heads to the laid-back, boho beach at Playa Tamarindo. This is a surf and sunset capital on Costa Rica’s 1,016km-long strip of Pacific coast. If you’re keen to seek out surf, souvenirs and local fun and flavours, check out the bars and boutiques on Tamarindo’s laid-back boulevard.
Gold Coast Catamaran Cruise
Nothing shouts ‘indulgent holiday treat to self’ like a coastal catamaran cruise. That’s exactly how we’ll approach the exotic bays and ivoried beaches of the Pacific Gold Coast around Playa Tamarindo. Iced cocktail in hand, stay alert for sightings of turtles, flying fish, dolphins and even whales. Swim up to sunbathe on idyllic, empty beaches while the sail crew fixes up a deck side dinner of smoky barbecued chicken, fresh salads and piquant pico de gallo. As day kaleidoscopes into Costa Rican twilight, you’ll realize that sunset never tasted so good.
Free to frolic at Playa Tamarindo
For its size, Costa Rica has been overserved with ‘awesome’. This FFX adventure week has jigsawed in so many of its highlights, your final daytime is free time. Chill with the group, book your own surf lesson or sea kayaking tour, or spend the afternoon at an exotic spa. In the evening we’ll host our FFX farewell dinner Free to frolic at Playa Tamarindo at La Senda Farm, a secluded wellness center that sums up all that is good about Costa Rica. It works with its environment not against it. It uses organic methods and encourages biodiversity, cultivating soil that is nurtured instead of exhausted. Surrounded by fresh food and peak positivity, La Senda is the perfect place to celebrate Costa Rica
Discover your inner Tico or Tica – book today
That is how to get up close and personal with Costa Rica. Immerse in the epic rainforests, sail the Pacific coasts, view the volcanoes and create culinary delights – all in great company. Enjoy action-packed days, down time and team-time as part of this small-group adventure experience for like-minded people in their 30s and 40s. As with all FFX adventures, this Costa Rica itinerary is crafted using only the highest quality ingredients. Expect comfortable accommodation, hand-picked restaurants and experiences, and safe, reliable and trained local guides drivers and guides. To book onto an FFX Adventures departure to Costa Rica in 2020, get in touch today.