Costa Rica – Sea to Shining Sea

Costa Rica Costa Rica

Because tourism is so important to Costa Rica’s economy, the country has worked hard to be one of the most effective in dealing with COVID-19. After a strict four-month lockdown, Costa Rica opened in the summer of 2020, and has managed well through the treacherous twists and turns of COVID.

The government and the private sector have stepped up to maintain a safe environment and make it easy for Americans to get the tests required to re-enter the U.S., without even having to leave their hotels.

Contributing to the safety is the fact that Costa Rica is primarily an outdoor destination. Most of the extraordinary things you can experience in Costa Rica are in open-air environments, which are the safest in regard to spreading the Coronavirus.

I have been to Costa Rica, but I would love to return. I feel that I have barely scratched the surface. Costa Rica is an ideal first international destination as the world begins to re-open.

The Rich Coast
I flew into Costa Rica from Newark via Miami. It was winter in the Northeast, and bone-chillingly cold. When I crossed the threshold of the airport in San Jose and walked outside, a sense of well-being descended over me.

Experiencing the benign weather, I was enveloped in a feeling of comfort and luxury. It made me feel that I was where I ought to be, back to my own source, where life is good and rich.

That is Costa Rica. No place could possibly be more fertile, more conducive to life. They call that feeling Pura Vida, which means “pure life,” or “simple life.” It’s the foundation of the culture and lifestyle of Costa Rica.

I had read about it in many statistics, how a tiny country the size of West Virginia hosts five times as many species of animals as the whole continental United States. But standing outside the airport in the balmy atmosphere, I didn’t need numbers to understand. I was in a place where life is good.

The people of Costa Rica are as shining as the place itself. In many ways they seem to be decades ahead of most of the world. They have adopted some of the world’s most forward-looking policies for taking good care of a paradisiacal part of the earth. They recognized long ago that tourism can support their country, and they moved to protect it with policies promoting sustainability so it would continue to be attractive to visitors.

People travel to Costa Rica to experience nature and adventure. You see some of nature’s most spectacular phenomena there, and experience the life force in its most concentrated form.

The potential for adventure is endless, from hiking, mountain biking and rafting to kayaking, ziplining, bungee jumping and horseback riding. Wildlife viewing is an adventure itself.

Small but Mighty
The power and drama of nature is not limited to the organic world. It manifests in the earth’s crust itself. Costa Rica has 11 volcanoes.

Though Costa Rica’s land area is less than 1 percent of that of the U.S., it has 500,000 animal species, versus 100,000 in the U.S.

It has a great variety of geographical landforms, from coastal plains, to mountain ranges, misty cloud forests, to the dense jungle of the tropical rainforest, the beach and the city. And it’s all close together. You can drive from the Caribbean to the Pacific in six hours.

It seems that nearly all life thrives in Costa Rica, and I observed a lot of it. Crocodiles grow to 25 feet in length. Sea turtles grow to six feet and 1,000 pounds. There are capuchin, spider, squirrel and howler monkeys, iguanas, margay cats, and countless varieties of flagrantly colorful butterflies, such as the morphos, which are practically the size of your hand, and adorned elegantly with iridescent blue, velvet-like wings.

Scarlet macaws, parrots nearly three feet tall, flock freely in the trees. They flash an intensity of red that practically screams, with wings that are bright blue and yellow. Thinking in terms of Darwinian principles of adaptation, I wondered what kind of survival necessity could have produced such extreme, flamboyant beauty.

I visited a hummingbird farm with many colors and sizes of hummingbirds that come within inches of you to feed. They range from the size of insects to the size of sparrows. They can dart through the sky, but they can also hover, stand still in space, or move in any direction with minute control. And they come in many different colors and patterns on their bodies. It was entrancing.

At Carara National Park I saw a sloth climbing a tree in ultra-slow motion. The sloths’ metabolism is so slow that they only come down from their treetop homes once a week to relieve themselves.

Speaking of wildlife, Costa Rica produces some of the world’s best coffee. At a coffee farm I learned that coffee is a fruit and I saw the stages of its production.

The variety extends to the weather. Costa Rica has five major climate zones, from sea level to the 12,532 feet elevation of Mt. Chirripó.

Costa Rica has its urban element too. San Jose, the capital city, is a substantial center, with a population of 300,000 in the city limits and more than 2 million in the metropolitan area. It provides a window into Costa Rica’s human culture, with places such as the National Museum of Costa Rica, the Pre-Colombian Museum and the Gold Museum.

My trip was a constant series of fascinating, enlivening experiences. Among the high points of my trip, I would have to include Arenal Volcano.

As we drove toward Arenal it first appeared on the horizon as a perfectly shaped pyramid, then loomed larger and ever more commanding. A plume of steam came out of the crater on top. Clouds gathered at its peak, at times drawing a veil that hid the crater on top.

Arenal was thought to be extinct because it stood quietly for 400 years. Then in July 1968, it blew for several days, covering six square miles with volcanic rock, lava and ash. It killed 87 people and buried three villages, affecting an area of 90 square miles. The eruption threw rocks that weighed tons almost a mile at 600 miles an hour.

We went to a zipline operation where the lines crossed a forested valley with the great Arenal Volcano looming above, and the sparkling Lake Arenal below, a 32-square mile lake created after Arenal’s 1968 eruption.

We were harnessed and helmeted and taken to the top of a series of platforms connected by steel coil cables. Then we rode the cables on pulleys across the top of the forest canopy from platform to platform till we reached the last one.

While we were there, we visited one of the resorts and took a dip in the thermal waters. Sitting in the steamy water is something you never want to quit, until your skin is so soggy it feels like it’s about to drop off.

In Costa Rica you can feel the extreme fertility of life. It’s palpable. If there is a model of Eden in the world today, it’s Costa Rica.

We are all part of nature, whether we recognize it or not. So, it’s a good idea to maintain an acquaintance, if not intimacy with it. If you are not in love with nature, you will neglect the natural needs of your own body, and that can’t be good.

If you lack enthusiasm for nature, I suggest a trip to Costa Rica. It gave me a shot of new appreciation that made me more aware of the presence of nature in my own environment back home.

I can’t wait to go back.

Your humble reporter,

Colin Treadwell

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