If your clients are looking for wild nature and experiential soft adventure then Costa Rica’s ‘Pura Vida’ (meaning pure or simple life) tourism offering, including rich rainforests, idyllic beaches and world-class wellness retreats, is hard to beat. It’s also supremely family-friendly, with a proven record in sustainability and, thanks to its regional microclimates, can be enjoyed year-round.

“Costa Rica received UK visitor numbers were up 8.8% up on last year in the first quarter of 2018 and with the addition of new itineraries and packages from the trade we are confident this upward trend will continue. Together with nature and wildlife, other key themes we will be promoting in 2018/19 include luxury and wellness”

ROB WILSON, UK REPRESENTATIVE FOR THE COSTA RICA TOURISM BOARD (ICT)

Really wild show

Many first-timer tours take in inland areas such as Arenal and Monteverde, with its cloudforest and ziplines. On its two coastlines Tortuguero and Cahuita are standouts on the Caribbean side while the Pacific is home to spectacular national parks such as Manuel Antonio, Corcovado and the biodiverse Osa Peninsula.

World-class eco-lodges such as Heliconias Lodge; Lapa Rios in the Osa; and Esquinas Rainforest Lodge are another highlight, with Pacuare offering the chance to raft in and out. Chimu Adventures is among those advocating the panoply of smaller properties such as the stunning Hacienda Altagracia, set among the hills and mountains of Pérez Zeledón.

Meanwhile the northern Pacific resorts such as Tamarindo and properties like the Westin and Four Seasons are a focus for winter sun operators Caribtours and Thomson, backed by TUI Airways’ Gatwick-Liberia service.

Self-drives such as Pura Aventura’s 11-night Costa Rica – Osa Uncovered are another good bet while operators noting increased demand for tours mixing Costa Rica with other countries include Journey Latin America, whose new 13-day ‘Explore and Relax’ tour blends the Osa Peninsula with Panama’s Bocas del Toro. It is priced from £2,721pp, excluding flights.

Top experiences

Surf’s up: Costa Rica’s Pacific coast has some excellent year-round waves and surf schools. Top spots include Dominical, to the south, while the resort of Tamarindo is among the north’s most accessible options, with great surf spots such as Playa Langosta within easy reach.

In the saddle: Pedal off on a cycle trip with the likes of Explore, Exodus and Intrepid Travel, whose options include the 16-day ‘Cycle Nicaragua, Costa Rica & Panama’ (from £2,062).

Paddle time: Kayak through mangroves at eco-lodges such as Lagarta, near Nicoya, or along the inland waterways of Tortuguero, while spotting the wildlife. See turtles nesting between April-May and July-October.

Feast on the east: Cahuita National Park combines reef snorkelling and idyllic tree-lined Caribbean beaches with nature trails.

Seek sanctuary: Popular picks among Costa Rica’s wildlife refuges include Aviarios del Caribe Sloth Sanctuary near Cahuita; The Jaguar Rescue Centre near Puerto Viejo and Eco Centre Danaus.

Nature spots: Rack up wildlife sightings from toucans, tree frogs and tapirs to Costa Rican classics such as sloth and resplendent quetzal. Good spots for the latter, best seen during the breeding season from mid-February to May, include Los Quetzales National Park, San Gerado de Dota and Savegre Cloud Forest.

Caño believe it: Caño Island, accessible by boat from mainland Drake Bay, is home to mysterious man-made spherical stones and its waters are a haven for dolphin, orca (December to April) and Humpback whales (July to November).

What’s new

Tours: Airlines: Elegant Resorts is launching Costa Rica in Autumn 2018 while the country features strongly in Wendy Wu’s (wendywutours.co.uk) new South America programme, which includes two 16-day options — ‘Colours of Costa Rica’, from £3,490pp, and ‘Costa Rica & Panama’, from £3,590pp – and a five-day Manual Antonio National Park beach extension option.

Rainbow Tours is to offer its first ever small- group escorted tour to Costa Rica in late 2019 while parent brand ITC Travel Group is to add a number of small luxury hotels such as Aguas Claras in Puerto Viejo, and Three Sixty Boutique Hotel in Ojochal.

Accommodation: Sunvil has added Piedras Blancas National Park and two Pacific coast lodges: the eight-room Playa Cativo in Piedras Blancas, accessible only by boat, and the 26-bedroom Lagarta Lodge, set in a private 90-acre biological reserve near Nicoya. Seven-night B&B breaks start from £1,566pp, including British Airways flights from Gatwick to San José.

Journey Latin America has also added Isla Chiquita, offering ‘glamping’ in the Nicoya Gulf.

Cruise: One Ocean Expeditions has a new 10-day Central American Adventure on its new ship RCGS Resolute. It will depart San José on April 23, 2019).

Alternatively, National Geographic Expeditions’ new nine-day Private Expedition promises wildlife spotting in three separate rainforest areas, including Arenal and Osa, in the care of expert naturalists (from £3,656pp, excluding flights.

What the experts say

“We have re-designed our online training portal, Pura Vida University, and will launch a new UK-focused section on our main website (visitcostarica.com). September will see ICT Travel Group take 18 UK travel agents — winners of its 2017 UK sales mission, carried out in partnership with Selling Travel — on a Costa Rica fam”

ROB WILSON, UK REPRESENTATIVE FOR THE COSTA RICA TOURISM BOARD (ICT)

Where to book it

Among Cosmos’ new guided tours is the eight-day ‘Gateway to Costa Rica’, covering San José, Arenal and Monteverde and experiences such as a tour of Doka Coffee Estate. From £1,792pp based on an April 27, 2019 departure from Gatwick.

Great Rail Journeys’ 15-day Enchanting Costa Rica & Panama combines parks such as Arenal, Monteverde and Corcovado with time on the Panama Canal and Railway. It’s priced from £3,995pp, including flights, with departures in March and November 2019.

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