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In Costa Rica, some days you’re the monkey, some you’re the sloth. Credit: AlphaTangoBravo/Adam Baker.

By Amy Drew Thompson

When it comes to all-inclusive resorts, your inner passive vacationer—plied by luxury (and, let’s face it, laziness)—has a distinctive advantage in the war for your getaway over your inner Animal Planet host. You know, that ballsy little voice that surfaces while you’re on the couch watching some fisherman-cum-biologist battle an epic monster in a primordial lagoon. “I’d totally do that,” it pledges, fearless, “… if I could just get to the rainforest.”

Well, it’s time to put up or shut up, because Costa Rica vacations deliver both. Explore the lush wonders of the canopy all morning. Have three desserts and a massage that night. It’s the ultimate in dichotomous vacationing.

The region of Guanacaste comes equipped with a stunning shoreline that climbs into dense rainforest and mountain ranges culminating in a chain of volcanoes, many of which are open for closer inspection via the nation’s superb national park system. And although zip lines were initially developed by scientists interested in studying the canopy without disturbing its wildlife, they’ve since become the most popular means by which tourists can do the same, whizzing happily from platform-to-platform. Those less enthused by carabiners can opt for tours via sky-walk where available.

Even in the wild, comfort abounds. Guests at the Barcelo Langosta Beach can enjoy “nature” while lounging in the company ofiguanas, coatis and a small contingent of howler monkeys who respectfully share their space. Venture to the surf town of Tamarindo to hang ten (or chill and absorb the laid back vibe, sans risk). A stone’s throw away, the sumptuous Westin Resort and Spa – Playa Conchal boasts a location on one of the region’s most exotic beaches. Costa Rica’s northwest Pacific is primo for divers, and patrons of the Occidental Grand Papagayo can opt for scuba clinics in the safety of the pool before venturing oceanward.

Little voice still taunting? No worries. Area sportfishing is unparalleled (particularly from May to September) and skilled locals will help you hook the big one for a photo-op. In keeping with the nation’seco-tourism policies, Animal Planet rules apply: catch and release is the rule.

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Freelance travel writer and former PLAYGIRL editor Amy Drew Thompson has seen London and France (and a bunch of other places). Visit her compendium at

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