During tumultuous times for travel, the most pressing question prior to heading overseas on holiday is no longer what there is to see and do and where one can stay, but whether it is safe to travel? Travellers may feel an understandable concern about the potential transmission of the virus during travel, with pitfalls including the act of flying itself and encountering virus hotspots overseas.  

Costa Rica was my first long-haul destination since late Spring’s national lockdown. But not my first trip overseas. I have already got into a routine of travelling safely, wearing my mask at all times and following sanitary procedures. Statistically the odds of contracting coronavirus on a flight are infinitesimal. And those remote odds seemed worthwhile accepting given what waited ahead: Costa Rica, the world’s only true ecotourism paradise, possessing 30 national parks and hosting 6% of global biodiversity throughout its volcanic landscapes and tropical forests, framed by unspoiled coastlines. 

Arenal Volcano Arenal Volcano
Corcovado Howler Monkeys Corcovado Howler Monkeys

For the time being, Costa Rica remains off the UK government’s corridor list, thus requiring 14 days of quarantine upon return. But the Foreign & Commonwealth Office advisory against travelling to Costa Rica is a reflection of the government’s inflexibility currently paralysing the travel sector and in no way a reflection of how safe Costa Rica is. Such negative advisories psychologically ramp-up fear that it is dangerous to travel yet once I boarded a half-empty Iberia flight, these anxieties dissipated quickly. This was reinforced in Madrid. The check-in staff for the flight to San Jose scrutinised every passenger for the mandatory negative PCR-coronavirus test certificate that must be undertaken 72 hours before travelling. Just knowing you are boarding a flight where all passengers have recently tested negative is instantly calming.

But what about Costa Rica itself? Upon arrival in San Jose I found the international airport a far cry from Heathrow in how it is tackling the coronavirus transmission effectively. There was an abundance of visor-wearing staff that allowed a smooth and well-spaced flow of passengers out of the airport to where my driver was waiting for me. Thereafter, throughout my 12-day trip around Costa Rica I would remain in the bubble of the same vehicle with the same driver.  

I was of course looking for encounters with animals and less so with fellow human being, and, at the risk of sounding anti-social, Costa Rica did not disappoint on both fronts. Barring a small influx of Americans to the beaches around Guanacaste, for the most part Costa Rica is devoid of visitors and the lodges I stayed at almost empty. My driver, Walter, told me this had led to even better wildlife sighting than before as nature less disturbed by human presence.  “A young woman surfing in Guanacaste recently managed to photograph a jaguar walking along the beach. You’d never see that with visitors around,” said Walter. 

During my stay we drove between some of the country’s finest eco-lodges for immersive wildlife experiences along the Pacific coast and high into central volcanic cordillera. Every property I stayed at followed impressively strict anti-coronavirus protocol. Take one, the Hotel Arenal, where we were greeted outside for check-in with a temperature check and given a small kit of mask, gloves, and antibacterial spray. At the restaurant, tables were safely spaced apart and waiting staff wore visors and gloves. It was possible to order the meal by scanning a QR code on the table.

Pacific Ocean drive towards Tiskita Pacific Ocean drive towards Tiskita
Arenal view Arenal view
Arenal Manoa waitress Arenal Manoa waitress
Arenal Manoa waitress service Arenal Manoa waitress service

But doesn’t, you might be thinking, this create for a rather restrictive experience, spoiling your holiday? Actually, on the contrary. Feeling safe and comfortable provided a base to enjoy an outstanding display of nature as I let Costa Rica’s wildlife do the talking.  

On the black sand Pacific beach at Tiskita Lodge, close to the southern border with Panama, I watched local volunteers release olive-Ridley turtle hatchlings that had been protected from egg-poachers. I was the only guest marvelling at this emotionally charged spectacle. 

From Tiskita I crossed Golfo Dulce by boat to the Osa Peninsula, and encountered humpback whales and their calves, crossing our path. Osa is home to one of Costa Rica’s most biodiverse national parks, Corcovado, and also the marvellous Luna Lodge, run by the very spiritual American, Lana Wedmore, who taught me meditation and forest bathing, reemphasising the spiritual nourishment nature can offer during these stressful times. 

Crossing Golfo Dulce Crossing Golfo Dulce
Golfo Duce humpback whale Golfo Duce humpback whale
Corocavdo turtle volunteers Corocavdo turtle volunteers
Corcovado National Park entrance Corcovado National Park entrance
Luna Lodge Luna Lodge
Luna Lodge Luna Lodge

I completed a long-held ambition a few days later in the cloud forests at Hotel Savegre in sighting Costa Rica’s showiest bird, the resplendent quetzal, a dazzling creature of green, turquoise, and red plumage, with males possessing a meter-long tail. Further ornithological wonderment continued at Rancho Naturalista near Turrialba Volcano, delighting in the charming choreography of some of their 23 species of hummingbird flitting about their nectar feeders.

Rancho Naturalista Rancho Naturalista
Rancho Naturalista, Garden Emerald Rancho Naturalista, Garden Emerald
Rancho Naturalista, Hummingbird Rancho Naturalista, Hummingbird

Finally, Walter and I drove through the central cordillera and ended the tour in explosive fashion. Costa Rica has a number of striking volcanos. Some active. We walked inside Irzazu’s crater, circled the base of Arenal, crossing its jet-black lava flow from 1968, and ended at the fiery Poas Volcano, still bubbling away, its eerily turquoise crater lake quite literally a sight for sore eyes as when the wind changes the sulphur emissions are stinging.

Irazu Volcano Irazu Volcano
Poas Volcano Poas Volcano

With few crowds and even denser sightings of wildlife than ever, there’s never been a better time to see Costa Rica. Perhaps the greatest step required if you are at all in two minds, is that first step. Once you’ve overcome this, Costa Rica is a quite wonderful escape away from the troubles currently afflicting this world.

For more information and to book, contact Sunvil’s travel experts today on 020 8758 4774.

The Sunvil Family

By The Sunvil Family

27th October 2020



The Sunvil Family
The Sunvil Family
The Sunvil Family

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