Costa Rica: There’s more to sun destinations than just sun and beaches, there’s nature

The #1 reason three generations of our family spent March Break in Costa Rica this year was because our grandchildren wanted to see monkeys in their natural habitat. They wanted to swim for sure – almost all day every day – and they were more than happy to spend a week without jackets, hoods, boots, mitts, and tuques, but the monkeys were the big draw. It’s hard to disappoint on that front when you spend any time in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica is a nature lover’s delight. Its biodiversity is extraordinary; it is among the most biodiverse countries in the world and, given its relatively small size (similar in size to the state of West Virginia), it is considered to be the most densely biodiverse country in the world. It has tropical rain forests, cloud forests, mangrove forests, coastlines on both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and also tropical dryland (aka deciduous) forests, which was the one Costa Rican ecosystem we hadn’t known about and the one we ended up staying in and exploring.

When we decided to go to Costa Rica we were aware that to do it justice at all, you really need at least two weeks and a plan for going to more than one part of the country in order to experience these multiple ecosystems. But we also knew that we didn’t have 2 weeks, we only had one week, and that when traveling with 6 people spanning 3 generations the best plan is the simpler the better. So we elected to fly to the city of Liberia, in the northwestern part of the country, and stay in a resort in that region, making a few day trips when we weren’t swimming. We knew we wouldn’t be doing Costa Rica the justice it deserved, but we hoped for the best.

The desire to see monkeys in their natural habitat was satisfied within minutes of checking in. The natural habitat of capuchin monkeys, at least, has clearly expanded to include resorts. Why? Because where there are people there is food! These fellows were climbing along our balconies, checking for open doors and leftover snacks.

We were surprised to learn that this corner of Costa Rica is very dry, hence the tropical dryland forest. Of course, we shouldn’t have been surprised; after all, the west of coast of North and South America south of San Francisco and west of mountains is all dry, including some enormous swaths of desert on the west coast of South America. It turns out that this part of Costa Rica, the province of Guanacaste, is cattle country, as we were to see big time. We spent one day viewing birds and animals along a river in one of the national parks, and came across the unexpected treat of perhaps a thousand or more people on horseback, getting ready for Liberia’s annual Horse Parade. Seeing that number of horses and the number of people who could handle their horses so well and so effortlessly, casually chatting (and drinking!) as they waited to line up for the parade, illustrated just how prevalent the cattle industry and associated horse culture is in this part of Costa Rica.

Endless array of magnificent trees along the river bank, hiding lots of wildlife

White-nosed coati enjoying a meal from the termite nest

Croc eying lots of tempting prey on the river bank

Potential Croc prey!

Snowy Egrets, one of many types of heron we saw

Stilt Birds

Gathering and socializing before the Horse Parade

Another day took us into the dryland forest itself, walking up a hillside and then zip lining down again through the canopy, getting to see more of Costa Rica’s wildlife, even the elusive sloth.

On the lookout for animals

The forest floor

When you get lucky and see a sloth, this is what you see. They sleep about 15 hours a day.

Sleeping sloth close up

Spider monkey

Howler monkey

Proof that I zip-lined

Costa Rica offers so much more than we were able to see, and in addition offers sunshine and warmth that we northerners crave in winter – at least for a week or so. As well, Costa Rica has some important social lessons for the rest of the world, which I hope to share in a follow-up post. For example, although most definitely a developing world country with an average wage a fraction of that of western world countries, it ranked 12th in the World Happiness Report, the only developing country in the top 20 except for Chile (at 20th), and ahead of Austria, the U.S., Ireland, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the U.K. I think there are some interesting reasons for this. Stay tuned!

It wasn’t all educational!


Photo credits: Jane Fritz, Adam Fritz

This entry was posted in Sun destinations, Travel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Costa Rica: There’s more to sun destinations than just sun and beaches, there’s nature

  1. smilecalm says:

    looks like an adventurous holiday
    filled with beauty and monkeys 🙂

  2. alesiablogs says:

    you zipped along just fine I see with a smile…I could never do that! You rocked it!!! Good friends bought a home in CR. They just returned after a 3 week stay…They love it, but she fell and broke her shoulder there and is in surgery in CA as we speak….

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Are you blogging from your hospital bed?!! When you and your friend have both recovered from your medical treatments you should go visit her in CR. Just what the doctor ordered! 🙂

      • alesiablogs says:

        I am home…It was an overnight stay. haha Loved that you thought I was blogging from the hospital…That would be me!!! On a Pain Pump writing away!!! Pain meds and weed give me creative liberties and could get me in a lot of trouble..haha Yes. I want to see CR. She wants me to visit..May do it!!! Her home is quite the spread.

        • Jane Fritz says:

          I don’t know; taking all those pics of apparatus and giving advice on surviving hospital procedures could get you in trouble, too!! 😉 So glad you are already home.

  3. Have I mentioned that I just love your blogs; you are a good writer and we share many interests and viewpoints. In this case, you have enjoyed Costa Rica and I want to go there. Would you recommend this dry western part of Costa Rica? Why did you choose it? It sounds and looks lovely; Wayne is particularly interested in birds.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks, Jill. Glad to know that we’re sympatico! We chose this spot because Air Canada (and WestJet) fly to San Jose and Liberia, and Liberia is closer to a good variety of resorts on the coast. But if you have more time than a week, you probably want to check out packages with multiple sites at different ecosystems. Either packages or following a suggested plan driving a rental car (this is common, but apparently the roads are lessons unto themselves). We saw lots of birds, but the majority of parrots and toucans are in the cloud forest and rain forest. Then again, there are grand turtle sightings on the beaches on the Atlantic side. Worthwhile doing some research. For one week only, where we were has plenty to offer and marvellous dry, warm weather.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.