A trop­i­cal par­adise

GA Voice - - Summer Travel -

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

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