Wild Frontiers always champions off-the-beaten-path travel. That is a core value – our name says it all. However, there are some destinations that aren’t exactly new discoveries or emerging destinations that can still be fun to visit.
Costa Rica is a prime example. If you really want to get off the beaten path, skip it. We have lots of untrodden lands to offer – think Nicaragua or El Salvador. Yet Costa Rica is a beautiful country, easy to get to, and if your trip is planned with care, the country can still offer a very rewarding experience for those who wish to see what all the fuss is about.
Rule #1 – Pick the right time of year
Let it rain. To escape crowds at one of the most popular nature destinations on the planet you will need a poncho. The rainy season, euphemistically called the “green season” by the Costa Ricans, runs from May through November; and except for the monsoon-like stretch from September – October (when you need a snorkel to hike the rainforest), it may be the best time to visit.
In truth, a country covered by rainforest can have rain at any time of year, but what few realize is that the duration and frequency of the rain diminishes progressively the further you are from the Caribbean Coast in northern and central Costa Rica. In addition, unless there is a tropical storm off the coast, rains are normally intense but brief. And yes, it is really, really green.
Rates at hotels are much less, crowds are cut in half, and those impossible-to-get bungalows and rooms are much easier to book at this time of year. July, August and November are the best months of the rainy season weather-wise.
Rule #2 - Go Upscale
The best thing about exclusive lodges is just that. Whereas exclusive, boutique lodges might be a luxury in some destinations, they are worth their weight in cocoa in Costa Rica.
Few countries in Latin America have taken so well to the idea of upscale ecolodges, and many include access to private nature reserves in their healthy day rate. Based loosely on African luxury safari camps, Costa Rica has excellent lodges that help you feel at one with the outdoors, while still succeeding in keeping the outdoors outside.
Rule #3 – Seek out family-owned nature reserves
Costa Rica has some of the best-managed National Parks in Latin America, but many of them are flooded with tourists. Whilst many upscale ecolodges have carved out their own swatch of forest (see Rule #2), some of the family-owned nature reserves have lodging that is much more affordable with natural beauty that is amazing.
Combining family-owned reserves with upscale lodging can moderate costs and effectively keep you away from the tourist hordes.
Rule #4 – Hire private guides
Some places, like the only lodge located right at the base of the spectacular Arenal Volcano, are not all that exclusive. But even so, the experience they offer is such that it would be a pity to miss out. The key at a none-too-exclusive destination like this is to visit offseason and take advantage of one of our private guides to help you explore the forest near the lodge – like an early climb of the nearby Cerro Chata Volcano, this 1,500 feet ascent makes for a 4-5 hour round-trip and is a great way to experience tropical flora and fauna and visit a pristine lagoon on this dormant volcano’s summit.