Strung between Nicaragua and Panama like a pendant on Central America’s isthmus chain of countries, Costa Rica has long been the region’s most popular destination for travellers from the USA. But if you’ve noticed your Instagram feed increasingly full of friends geo-tagging Costa Rica and returning home with tales of its tropical climate, endless coastlines, extraordinary encounters with wildlife and epic adventures, you’re not alone. With its abundant biodiversity, vast protected areas and emphasis on education as a damage prevention tool, it’s not just a pioneer of ecotourism but an industry leader. Here’s why it’s become the perfect antidote to pandemic-induced ennui.
1. It’s doing its bit for the planet
Costa Rica works hard to protect its environment: not least because it’s why so many bird-watchers, adventure-seekers and whale-spotters visit in the first place. In 2019, the country launched plans to decarbonise its economy (with tourism alone representing 13.5 percent of GDP) by 2050. In 2021, the protected marine reserve of Cocos Island National Park grew 27 times in size. And in 2022, the suburb of Curridabat gave citizenship to bees, trees and plants. Around 98 percent of Costa Rica’s energy has come from renewable sources since 2014, and its well-rounded approach to protecting the environment has attracted tourists who want to have a positive impact as well as a positive experience.
2. We’re craving a sense of adventure
Getting out of your comfort zone doesn’t have to mean taking the longest zip line in Latin America (although you can, at Monteverde’s Aventura Canopy Tour). Post-pandemic, our comfort zones shrunk to the size of our living rooms – so it could just involve talking to a stranger or practising your Spanish. With many dirt tracks and some tricky terrain, even driving a car can feel like an adventure here, but there’s also a phenomenal range of landscapes that offer up opportunities for hiking active volcanoes in La Fortuna (we recommend the Arenal 1968 Trail), surfing the country’s best breaks in Santa Teresa (beginners should head to Playa Hermosa) and scuba diving on the Caribbean coast (join Diving with a Purpose for a truly eye-opening underwater experience).
3. You can get stuck in with locals
It’s increasingly clear how much we can learn from indigenous cultures and communities that live in harmony with the land, and travel itineraries reflect that growing curiosity. From Cielo Lodge’s craft workshops, where you can learn to make a traditional Boruca mask, to restaurant Sikwa’s kitchen, which sources its ingredients from Bribri farmers, there are plenty of ways to connect with native communities. Montana Tours offers an immersive day out in a Maleku village, where you can watch dance performances and learn about medicinal plants, while hotel Olas Verdes’s Pack for a Purpose programme invites guests to bring much-needed school supplies.
4. It’s made for longer, slower trips
The most intuitive way to travel in 2022 is longer, slower, smarter. Post-Covid, people are prioritising authentic experiences over instant gratification: from beach clean-ups with the local community in Puerto Viejo to volunteering on a permaculture farm in Puntarenas, many experiences in Costa Rica allow you to aid conservation, connect with nature and meet locals lifting up their community. Restrictions on our movement during the pandemic has also inspired ‘revenge travel’, whereby we want to make the most of our annual leave and the ability to work remotely. Time your trip so that you can minimise flights – British Airways operates direct flights between November and May – and make the most of public transport when you arrive.
5. Remote working is the new normal
Ever wanted to run your business from the beach? Last year, Costa Rica launched a new digital nomad visa that allows remote workers, business owners and freelancers to spend longer in the country than a standard tourist visa. The longer a traveller stays in one place, the better their spending is distributed throughout the community. Hostel-hotel hybrids such as Selina, which has six locations in Costa Rica, offer networking nights, co-working spaces and social events for digital nomads. Meanwhile, a handful of new spaces that are angled towards remote workers who want a residential community are springing up, such as Santa Teresa’s Yoko Village – launching next year – which aims to help inspire balance between productivity and wellbeing.
Planning a trip? Here are 10 ways to make sure you avoid holiday hell this summer.