Costa Rica’s friendly people, stable economy and picturesque views continue to attract snowbirds, wilderness enthusiasts and beach lovers alike. This small Central American country offers a diverse landscape with low-key activities for city escapists and high-adrenaline adventures for thrill seekers.
Bridged between the Pacific and the Caribbean, Costa Rica’s “rich coasts” (as the name signifies) are ripe for soaking up the sun’s sweltering rays and braving the crashing waves. With international flights arriving in both Liberia, located in the northwest part of the country, and in San Jose, the central hub of the country, it is a prime destination for foreigners. As a visitor, you can spend as little or as much as you’d like.
Choose Your (Own) Adventure
Personally, I tend to fall somewhere in the middle of the travel spectrum. I enjoy certain luxuries — running water, comfy beds and flush toilets — but don’t need high-end pampering that includes mini bars and turndown service.
So, when my friend and I excitedly signed up for an 8-day adventure trip through Costa Rica, I was expecting the trip would be comfortable, but not flashy. Except, of course, for the one night that would be spent sleeping outdoors. As part of the excursion, we would be spending a night camping along Costa Rica’s Pacuare River… in the middle of the jungle.
If we wanted to conquer the river’s class IV rapids, we needed to forgo our cozy hotel beds for a tent. While the thought both thrilled me (“What a great way to experience the country!”) and frightened me, (“Will there be deadly spiders crawling on me as I sleep?”) I knew I couldn’t let my emotions get the best of me.
With every travel adventure, however, there are surprises in store.
The Adventure of “Roughing It”
That surprise came on our first day of rafting. As our guide steered the raft toward the shore, I gaped in awe at the sight before me. The rustic toilet, leaking tents and makeshift kitchen were nowhere to be found. Instead, clean (although cold) showers, above ground tents, and an open-air kitchen and lounge area greeted us.
We had just stumbled upon camping at its finest. Camping that included small, yet significant touches of luxury.
Although the trip included meals, I was a bit skeptical about what we’d be eating in the middle of Costa Rica’s rainforest. While visions of juicy iguanas roasted over a flaming fire danced in my head, our guides were busy slicing, dicing and cooking a proper meal. Costa Rica’s freshest pineapple, bananas and papayas were coupled with an exquisitely prepared spaghetti dinner. This was far from the hunting and gathering meal I had envisioned.
Unlike the sun-soaked beaches of the Pacific and Caribbean coasts, the weather in the central region of Costa Rica is not always as pleasant. The beginning of March — considered the “dry” season — was anything but. However, instead of huddling inside of our tents waiting for the rain to subside, the magnificent 2-story lounge area enabled use to sink into some hammocks, crack open a book and listen to the sounds around us. It was just the type of relaxation needed after a few hours bouncing up and down on a raft.
Covered, aboveground tents
For anyone who’s ever “roughed it” in the wilderness, you know that Mother Nature’s floor, although beautiful, isn’t always the most comfortable for sleeping. Fortunately, our aboveground tents (with cushy mattresses) warded off a fight between the ground and me. As an added bonus, the waterproof tarps over our tents ensured we didn’t awake the next morning floating in a massive puddle of water.
Although I’ve never considered myself a high-maintenance person, I do like a proper toilet and shower. Holes in the ground and hoses don’t typically suffice for me. Luckily, I wasn’t forced to deal with either of those. While the cold shower made for a quick scrub and rinse, it was a refreshing cleanse after getting blasted by the river’s harsh rapids.
While all of the amenities made this campsite far from a typical wilderness retreat, the most luxurious aspect of camping in Costa Rica was the environment. The lush green vegetation, chirping birds and rushing river created a surreal tropical haven. Even the pounding rain, which might have otherwise hindered the experience, merely added to the beauty.
I may have been sleeping next scorpions, walking past hairy spiders and showering next to slithering snakes. But if I did, I didn’t know it.
Sometimes ignorance really is bliss.