A tropical paradise
In the hierarchy of tropical fun-in-thesun vacation destinations, South Central America isn’t typically on top. But increasingly, travelers looking for a unique getaway are turning to Costa Rica, just three hours south of Miami. Spanish for “rich coast,” the country boasts amazing biodiversity, dizzying nightlife and some of the most breathtaking white sand beaches in the region.
Perhaps most importantly, this country of 4.8 million stands out for its growing LGBT travel amenities and culture that has slowly warmed to gays and lesbians—unique in a region rich in conservative, Catholic ideology.
“If you have done ‘Latin Light’ with Mexico, then Costa Rica is the ideal step,” said Colin Brownlee, who has spent a decade welcoming travelers as co-founder of Hotel Banana Azul, an LGBT-friendly spot on the Caribbean side of Puerto Viejo.
More recently, tourism has become big business, contributing $2.4 billion to the nation’s gross domestic product in 2014 alone, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council.
Take a look in any travel brochure and it won’t be hard to understand Costa Rica’s tourist appeal.
Snorkel, jet ski or simply sunbathe at Playa Negra, Playa Avellanas or any of the other more than 300 beaches bordering the sparkling blue waters of the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea. Further inland, zipline or enjoy one of many hiking tours through places like the Tenorio Volcano or Corcovado national parks. The former features misty grottos and picturesque waterfalls perfect for sitting and reflecting, while Corcovado is a sprawling nature reserve that exotic birds, monkeys and even the occasional big cat call home.
Nature is huge in modern-day Costa Rica, which shelters 5 percent of the world’s biodiversity. Roughly a quarter of the country is comprised of conservation and natural protected territory.
The country has more than 20 natural parks, and dozens of wildlife reserves and protected areas. Places like the Tortuguero National Park are legendary for their seasonal sea turtle nesting, as well as for being home to crocodiles, manatees and many oth-
By DIONNE WALKER