Brace yourself: The hanging bridges in Costa Rica's Arenal National Park are not for the timid. Photo: iStockphoto
Brace yourself: The hanging bridges in Costa Rica’s Arenal National Park are not for the timid. Photo: iStockphoto

It’s that time again to reveal our monthly travel bucket list destination, and in March, as winter hangs on until the chilly bitter end, our hearts yearn for the tropical, lush confines of that tiny South American country we call Costa Rica.

Known for its multitude of diverse ecosystems and wonders (Cloud forests! Beaches! Volcanoes!) as well as its peaceful, laidback lifestyle, Costa Rica is the dream found on every outdoor adventurer’s bucket list. It’s also a destination sure to catapult the average traveler’s vita into a more respectable caliber of intrepidness. Exotic and lush to the extreme, natural and wild, still somewhat hidden but certainly gaining in popularity (and tourism with 1.5 million visitors yearly), Costa Rica’s offering are still irresistible and pristine.

Here’s why you should knock this one off your bucket list this year:

Natural wonders are what it’s all about in Costa Rica and, despite its small size, the country offers a rich slice of South America’s amazingly varied topography. Most famous for its rainforests, fog-shrouded cloud forests and wildlife refuges, Costa Rica also delivers with abundant beaches fronting the Pacific and a list—yes, a LIST—of active and dormant volcanoes. Wildlife is abundant in every direction with over 500,00 species (four percent of the world’s total estimated species), including howler monkeys, macaws, butterflies, lizards, poison dart frogs and the endangered Atlantic green sea turtle.

At the 26,000-acre Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, you can zipline through the canopies or strap on rain boots to explore totally-worthwhile trails. In Arenal, speed down white-water rapids or stand in awe of the 5,357-foot Arenal volcano, now dormant since its last eruption in 2010. There’s also Corcovado National Park, kayaking Cano Palmo in Tortuguero National Park, the world-famous Sloth Sanctuary and more.

Did we mention the beaches and world-class surfing? There’s Playa Arcos fringed by steep bluffs, Playa Ventanas near Ojochal, Playa Barrigona north of Samara, and countless others. No matter where you go, the smattering of blue water, crested white and beach sand framed by tiered jungles of green are spectacular.

Another reason to visit; boutique hotels are hot and found everywhere from the jungle to the beach. A long-time favorite is Lapa Rios Ecolodge & Wildlife Reserve with its 16 treehouse bungalows near both Corcovado and the ocean, but newer accommodations include Oxygen Jungle Villas with its 12 all-glass rooms, Nayara Hotel, Spa & Gardens in Arenal (Fortuna) with incredible views of the volcano from your own private deck, and the recently reopened Cala Luna on the coast in popular Tamarindo.

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Tagged: The Bucket List

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