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Costa Rica- An adventure in the rainforest

The phrase ‘soft adventure’ generally means any low risk activity in a natural environment and if it has a spiritual home, Costa Rica is surely it.

When it comes to the natural world, this tiny Central American country has more than its fair share a Caribbean and a Pacific coast, an active volcano and thousands of acres of protected mountainous rainforest plus around 5% of the planet’s biodiversity. All this packed into an area that comprises less than a tenth of 1% of the world’s landmass. How you see all this is up to you you can bike it, hike it, raft it or even zip line over its waterfalls and jungle canopy.

Costa Rica is run like a giant national park - there are ambitions for the entire country to be carbon neutral by 2021 and in 2012 recreational hunting was banned. It sits in a region with a turbulent history, but politically, the country is also for softies, as it has no permanent army and is nicknamed the Switzerland of Central America.

From 4th May this year, British Airways will fly you direct to Costa Rica from Gatwick. The flight lands in the capital, San Jose, which is not the prettiest of gateways, mainly because successive earthquakes have destroyed most of the colonial architecture, but BA’s late afternoon arrival means you’ll probably want at least one night here. That’s enough to see what remains of the historic centre and the museums dedicated to jade and Pre-Columbian gold.

But you didn’t come here for that. What you want to see are the natural attractions, among the most obvious being Arenal Volcano, which you can reach on a day trip from the capital. Arenal is one of the most active peaks on the planet that more often than not, will obligingly greet you with a pall of smoke and even a lava flow from its 5,400-feet high summit. A bonus from all this thermal activity is the nearby hot springs in which you can bathe.

Costa Rica’s other main icons also include various members of its extensive wildlife, notably the jaguar and squirrel monkey. Realistically, you probably won’t catch a glimpse of either during your rainforest lodge stay, but you’ll want a good trek through the forest and the foliage is awash with wildlife like scarlet macaws, which aren’t shy when it comes to identifying themselves. Toucans, another national icon, are equally spectacular to look at, if less conversational, while closer to earth, sloths, giant lizards and crocodiles are abundant and racoons will attempt to steal your poolside lunch.

The beaches, needless to say, tick all the boxes, particularly on the Caribbean side and leatherback sea turtles, another Costa Rica icon, obligingly nest routinely throughout the country’s shoreline, particularly during a full moon.

On the Pacific coast, Punta Uvita, a dot on the map, turns out to be spectacular sand spit in the shape of a whale’s tail. Set in yet another national park, it’s almost as if nature was pointing out one of the best places to see the annual Humpback whale migration. Here, show-off dolphins will inevitably get in on an act that will put any theme park display firmly in the dustbin.

Costa Rica is its own theme park, a big glorious natural one; and one that given a new easy air link from the UK, you’d be foolish not to buy a ticket to visit.