Where the wild things are in Costa Rica

Chill­ing out among ca­puchin mon­keys and caracaras in Costa Rica

The Daily Telegraph - Telegraph Magazine - - Content - Amy Bryant

AR­RIV­ING IN COSTA RICA at the tail end of the rainy sea­son, one would hope to tick off the coun­try’s Top Trumps wildlife with­out the crush of tourists: the scar­let macaw that’s the cover star of the Lonely Planet guide; the gre­gar­i­ous white-faced ca­puchin mon­key; and twoand three-toed sloths. But hav­ing landed in a trop­i­cal storm, which al­most brought our hire car to a halt thanks to zero vis­i­bil­ity, I was fear­ful of look­ing at any­thing other than fran­tic wind­screen wipers on the three-hour drive from the air­port to the town of Que­pos.

What re­lief, then, to find the sunshine win­ning out in the end – per­fect con­di­tions for ex­plor­ing Manuel An­to­nio Na­tional Park, whose 1,680 acres of rain­for­est and beaches first en­ticed us to Costa Rica’s Pa­cific west coast. We had booked a day with a lo­cal guide, Jo­han Chaves, and thanks to his ex­per­tise in bird­ing and pho­tog­ra­phy we spot­ted and snapped more species than I thought pos­si­ble dur­ing our time in the park. Driv­ing our­selves meant we could then skip along the coast at our own pace, stop­ping wher­ever we fan­cied, for stand-up pad­dle­board­ing, swim­ming in water­falls and bird­watch­ing.

We were stay­ing at the bud­get­friendly Vil­las Rio Mar, just out­side Do­mini­cal, a bo­hemian beach town that surfers flock to. The re­sort is set in trop­i­cal rain­for­est and the gar­dens were a play­ground for yel­low-throated tou­cans, fire-red sum­mer tan­agers and hum­ming­birds. Home for the next few days was one of the sim­ple, white­washed bun­ga­lows dot­ted around the grounds, and we watched in­cred­i­ble sun­sets from our pri­vate pa­tio. Sur­rounded by sway­ing palms, the ho­tel also has a large pool, spa treat­ments and a tennis court.

Head­ing 30 min­utes south to Uvita for more surf, sand and an­other na­tional park (Marino Bal­lena, where the fa­mous whale-tail beach for­ma­tion is re­vealed at low tide), we then checked into Kurà De­sign Vil­las, a stylishly modern ecofriendl­y moun­tain­top re­treat I never wanted to leave. The phrase ‘bou­tique ho­tel’ doesn’t do this se­duc­tive Bond-es­que lair, 3,250ft above sea level, jus­tice. We chose to drive, but the ho­tel can col­lect you for the 15-minute off-road as­cent into the cloud layer. Adults-only, each of its six vast, open-plan suites has 180-de­gree views of the ocean thanks to ex­pan­sive bal­conies and glass walls (not to men­tion glass show­ers for two).

This is a hon­ey­mooner’s heaven what­ever the sea­son. And on top of fresh fu­sion seafood at the ho­tel restau­rant, cock­tails at its rooftop Sky Lounge and the friendli­est staff imag­in­able, there were fur­ther sight­ings of para­keets and yel­low-headed caracaras from the emer­ald-green, salt­wa­ter in­fin­ity-edged pool that juts out over the rain­for­est.

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