Published July 10, 2007
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Still, petty theft is on the rise, as it is in many tourist hotspots, and travelers must be cautious. Never leave your bags unattended, and make sure you park your car in a safe place (most hotels have guarded lots).
If you had to choose 5 unequalled venues in Costa Rica for a romantic getaway, what would they be and why?
1. Lake Arenal and Arenal Volcano
Only a few hours’ drive north of San Jose, the Arenal area is lush and green, thanks to fertile volcanic soil from nearby Arenal Volcano. The volcano woke from a two-century nap in the 1960s, and has been active ever since. For rooms where you can lie in bed and watch the volcano go off, check out Arenal Observatory Lodge, an old vulcanology research station made over into a comfortable lodge with extensive grounds.
If you want to sit in hot springs while the volcano rumbles above you, try the Tabacon Hot Springs, with or without its nearby hotel.
For a peaceful lake view that will make you think you’re in a tropical Switzerland, try the La Mansion Inn, a Belgian-run enclave with deluxe cabins, excellent food and service, and free boating and horseback riding. They also have an excellent hotel in Manual Antonio, on the central Pacific Coast.
2. Northern coast of the Nicoya Peninsula (Guanacaste)
The northern Pacific coast of Costa Rica has the most sun and the greatest variety of lodging options. You’ll find everything from beachfront Bed-and-Breakfasts--the intimate Sueño del Mar near Tamarindo specializes in weddings--to all-inclusive resorts, like the Paradisus Playa Conchal, right on a beach made up entirely of tiny pink and white shells.
For fun, you can take a night tour and see giant Leatherback sea turtles lay their eggs, go on a canopy tour, try your hand at surfing, or just laze on the beach or in your suite. With the airport in nearby Liberia receiving more and more international flights, you can skip the flight to San Jose and the four-hour drive to the coast. Flying into Liberia means you’re less than an hour from the beach.
3. Southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula
There are some great alternative-flavored beach towns here, like Montezuma and Mal Pais/Santa Elena, that have an appealing blend of rustic and luxury. You tale the ferry from the mainland, bounce down a rutted dirt road and end up at a 4-star hotel, like Flor Blanca, with its excellent restaurant and celebrity-studded guest list.
For those who don’t want to spend a 4-star fortune, try Tropico Latino, a charming little beachside collection of well-appointed cabins that, last time I was there, was preparing to host a large wedding party from the United States. Montezuma is easier to get to (the road is paved most of the way) and is slightly more developed, though surfers will better appreciate the breaks at Mal Pais/Santa Elena.
4. The Caribbean Coast
If each of Costa Rica’s seven provinces feels like another country, the Caribbean zone qualifies as another universe. Even the weather is different—with dry season in the early fall, when it’s raining in the rest of Costa Rica. Check out the quirky beach towns of Cahuita or Puerto Viejo, or stay at a riverside lodge overlooking one of the country’s best national parks (Tortuga National Park), where the venerable tour outfit Costa Rica Expeditions runs the Tortuga Lodge. If you’d like your vacation to include the peace and beauty of a yoga retreat with an ocean view, check out Samasati Nature Reserve.
5. The Osa Peninsula
National Geographic calls this fabled land “the most biologically intense place on earth.” It’s Costa Rica’s Amazon, a tropical rain forest where tall trees drip vines, scarlet macaws screech, and the country’s remaining jaguars roam.
There are several luxurious lodges on the coast between Puerto Jimenez (which you can fly into from the international airport in San Jose) and Carate, on the border of Corcovado National Park. It takes some time to get here, but once you arrive, you’ll feel like you’re in the middle of a paradisical nowhere.
On the other side of the Peninsula is Drake’s Bay, near excellent diving and snorkling at Caño Island, and with some very luxurious, isolated lodging, like Casa Corcovado Jungle Lodge, which you can only reach by boat.
Is there anything else you wish to add that we have not covered?
I just want to warn people that they might fall head over heels in love—not just with their partner, but with the country of Costa Rica. A lot of people go down and find they don’t want to leave. If you suffer the same fate, take a look at my book, Living Abroad in Costa Rica (www.livingabroadincostarica.com).