Central America was one of the loveliest regions of the world I've had the opportunity to visit, and is definitely an area I'd like to return to one day. Kicking off the usual tips posts, here's my advice for a visit to the first of our four countries: Costa Rica.
- Hire guides for the national parks. If you want to maximise your chances of glimpsing the wide range of wildlife that Costa Rica has to offer, then an experienced guide is the way to go. Inexpensive and often loaded up with all manner of gadgetry, our guides helped us spot animals we would have completely bypassed, from well camouflaged vipers resting on leaves barely inches from us, to sloths and toucans high up in trees. And that's without mentioning the passion, enthusiasm and great of humour that comes for free.
- Indulge in some extreme activities. Costa Rica is home to some top white water rafting, suspended bridges swinging gently at the top of forests and fast zip lines that make you feel like a gliding bird. Hikes are filled with wildlife, and if surfing is your thing, the waves are not for the faint-hearted. Conquer your fears and give some of it a go!
- Pack ready for all weather conditions. The coast was hot and humid, the city warm and breezy and the cloud forests cool and extremely wet. Bring light layers and a good set of waterproofs and you'll be ready for any sudden change.
- Only restrict yourselves to the beaches. Sure, the coast is lovely, and the beaches more appealing than most. I'm a big believer in spending time abroad wherever and however it suits you, but I have to admit to feeling a little sorry for the people we met who were restricted to the seaside. Costa Rica is a small and easily accessible country, and a few hours drive can take you high into the cloud forests or deep onto waterfall-filled trails for a day trip to remember.
- Forget to pack a pair of binoculars! (like we did...) Vibrant birds, small rodents, huge lizards, sloths and monkeys are all plentiful around the country, although they tend to sit high in the canopy. If it wasn't for the binoculars and large scopes of our guides, we may well have missed half of them. With the birds in particular, details only reveal themselves once you can observe them up close.
Miss any posts on our time in Costa Rica? Find them all here:
The wildlife of Costa Rica: A photo-blog
A close encounter with a Sloth
The cloud forests of Monteverde
Arriving in Costa Rica and a very active first day