By Jane Finn as published in the Summer 2018 Issue of Travel Life Magazine
¡Pura Vida! ¡Pura Vida! In Costa Rica, whether you’re traversing a mountain range, hiking in the jungle, relaxing by the water or ordering shi-frijo for lunch, you’re bound to be the recipient of this distinctive Tico greeting. Two simple words that translate as “Good Life” but how do you define it?
Is it dangling on the precipice of a volcano, zipping above the treetops, hearing the roar of a waterfall or playing a round and spotting an animal in their native habitat? Is it meeting new people, savouring the flavours of a region, volunteering or a combination of all or some of these pursuits?
Whether you’re traveling solo, as a twosome, ‘fore-some’ or family, in Costa Rica you can immerse yourself in nature, get grounded and rediscover the essence of who you are.
For me, ¡Pura Vida! means doing more of what you love to do. Walking your happy path, wherever it may lead. For now; we’ll focus on the magical, mystical Pacific Coast.
25% of Costa Rica’s land mass is dedicated to parks, marine reserves, and wildlife refuges. So, no trip would be complete without getting to know its inhabitants.
You can walk across the Crocodile Bridge and count their numbers from above or get up close and personal with a safari cruise. We did both and were glad we did. Winding our way along the Rio Tarcoles, we encountered tiger herons, mot mots, pelicans, howler monkeys, and more than a dozen crocodiles, the largest weighing in at 1900 pounds. The highlight was what I could only categorize as a ‘National Geographic’ moment when a mother crocodile had to make a difficult choice between saving the one or protecting the many. A real-life lesson in how fragile life can be.
Manuel Antonio is the smallest of Costa Rica’s 27 National Parks, but it contains several ecosystems within a compact area. Geographically and biologically complex, you could explore on your own, but engaging a guide makes for a much richer experience. Tee Times Costa Rica hooked us up with a local who was not only a certified ICT naturalist but also a photo enthusiast. Danny had a trained eye and a keen ear, not to mention a big ass telescope. On every one of the eight trails, he pointed out sloths, birds, frogs, flora, and fauna that we would never have observed. We did not see the elusive, and endangered squirrel monkeys, but the howlers made their presence known, and the white-faced capuchins came out to play. Danny’s connection to nature helped me capture some stunning images through his lens.
Here’s a fact that even the savviest of golf travelers may not know. Costa Rica boasts eleven golf courses that are as unique and varied as the landscape. Five are Audubon certified, and all are committed to preserving the country’s natural heritage.
You could choose to dream the day away at the Los Suenos Beach Club, but why not carve out a few hours to enjoy the sheer bliss of playing a round where the rainforest meets the ocean and the rallying cries of macaws are replaced by the sighing of the surf?
In 2017 La Iguana was recognized by IAGTO as the Golf Destination of the Year and received the IAGTO Sustainability Award for Nature Preservation. After speaking with José Quesada, the PGA Director of Golf at the Marriott resort, I understand why. Every day he inspects a section of the course to ensure that it is easy to walk, fun to play and friendly to the environment but there’s more to the story. José’s Challenger and Junior Golf programs make the game accessible to the local families and players with disabilities, another reason why La Iguana will appeal to golfers of every caliber.
Two more courses you must play are Reserva Conchal and Hacienda Pinella both located in Guanacaste, Costa Rica’s driest province.
Reserva Conchal prides itself on having a green heart. Since it’s inception, the developers have been committed to building a sustainable community. Through the untiring efforts of the staff and the management team, not only is the hotel and golf course carbon positive, but the resort’s ecological footprint remains very small, occupying less than a tenth of the property.
The 7021-yard Robert Trent Jones, II layout consists of two distinctive returning nines that meander through native forests, along 1.6 miles of Playa Conchal and around lagoons, riverbeds, and reservoirs that capture precious water. The turf is being replaced with paspalum grass, and a new desalinization plant has been built to reduce dependency on fresh water. Not only is the scenery here enough to keep you entertained, playing this course is an eco-golf experience.
One other little-known fact is that Reserva Conchal was instrumental in establishing Guanacaste’s first food bank which sits outside the resort’s front gate, one more example of how we improve our own lives when we consider the needs of others.
Hacienda Pinella may not be as technologically advanced, so the fairways were a little hard and the grass brown, but balancing human wants with nature’s need is the key to coexisting in harmony. Pinellas’s championship layout is superb featuring subtle rolling fairways, undulating greens, and sharp-edged, deep-faced bunkers. The par 5, 14th finishes directly on Langosta beach, but my favourite hole in all of Costa Rica is the 15th, a short par 3, framed by the rugged coast and pounding waves.
Leave your itineraries and ‘to-do’ lists behind if you want to immerse yourselves in the magic that is Villas Caletas. Perched on a secluded, rain-forested headland, 1150’above sea level, this charming 52-room boutique hotel serves up unparalleled views of the Nicoya Peninsula, the gulf islands, Jaco and Playa Herradura. Throughout the property, there are secret places and enchanting spaces that beckon you to get lost together. Imagine dining al fresco on the terrace then slipping away for a dip in your private infinity pool, serenaded by the sounds of the jungle before retiring for the evening. That’s my definition of a world meant for two.
Love is always in the air at Panga’s a casual but elegant beachfront restaurant in Tamarindo. Rustic chairs and tables appear to be randomly strewn across the white sand shore, but they have been strategically placed to ensure you have a front row seat, and privacy to observe the sky splashed with pink, orange and purple as the sun sets. Be sure to try the beef that will be cooked to perfection, since it’s served atop a volcanic rock that’s heated to 500° that you can finish it off to the degree of doneness that suits your taste. An idyllic spot to celebrate your last evening in paradise.
Costa Rica is a place where you can raise your consciousness and be in the moment. Life is continuously manifesting itself around you, and if you close your tablets, turn off your cell phones, stop worrying about your number of likes and engage, you can’t help but feel alive.
If you’re ready to reconnect not only with your surroundings but also with yourself, Costa Rica awaits. Isn’t it time to write your own story?
Photographs by Jane and Dave Finn of www.golftravelandleisure.com
To see the entire article in the Summer Issue of Travel Life Magazine click on the icons below:
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