Travel to Costa Rica this Winter: Five Outrageous Places to Visit by Rebecca Wildbear
Birds and other animals follow seasonal migration patterns, often heading somewhere warmer in the winter. Historically, many human cultures also migrated with the seasons. Is it any wonder we feel a pull to a place like Costa Rica when the cold arrives? For the past eight years, I have been answering this call, living in Costa Rica much of winter. I teach and study yoga, and enjoy nature and the slower, gentler pace of life.
Why Costa Rica? A definite yoga mecca, it's moist hot climate melts your muscles and increases your flexibility before you even step onto your mat. The relaxed and friendly lifestyle of the "Tico's" as the native Costa Rican's affectionately call themselves, compliments the yogic mentality. "Pura Vida", the Costa Rican "hello", translates to mean "Pure Life". In two words, that describes the feeling of life in Costa Rica. If you have never surfed before, you would likely take it up in Costa Rica. They have many beaches ideal for learning, and the water is warm. Whether you surf or not, I imagine you'd find yourself immersed in the daily ritual of walking to the beach to watch the sunset. Often, you find your friends there amongst the rest of the community, watching the sun melt into the sea, while kids play in orange waves.
Have you ever noticed how the cold winter air tightens your muscles? Your body squeezes in, working hard to stay warm. Oppositely, the lush rainforests and salty ocean breezes of Costa Rica quickly coax your senses wide open. If you have ever been blind to nature's beauty, you couldn't miss it in Costa Rica. Perhaps you will be enchanted by a herd of squirrel monkeys leaping from one tree branch to another? Or by the diverse array of colorful birds, including Tucans and Macaws, or the large blue morpho butterfly? Maybe the rhythms of the rainforest, a natural world symphony that changes every moment of the day, will awaken you, beginning with the howler monkeys at dawn. Whatever draws you in, the magic and intensity of life in the natural world of Costa Rica has a way of opening up the human body, heart, and soul to it's own greater aliveness.
Rainy season in Costa Rica is September thru November and is quite different depending on where you are. For example, the rainforests of the Osa Peninsula are more rainy than the beaches of the Guanacaste Peninsula. Because tourism is a top priority, Costa Rica is one of the safest places to travel in Central America. Yet, I would neither wander in San Jose at night nor some of streets during the day. Theft can be an issue in Costa Rica, but generally only if you leave valuables unlocked and unattended.
NOTE: Rebecca Wildbear is leading a retreat February 4-10, 2012 called: Soulcraft Intensive, with the Animas Valley Institute. For more information, go here.
Five special places to visit.
Nosara Yoga Institute, Nosara, Costa Rica, www.nosarayoga.com
At Nosara Yoga Institute, created by Don and Amba Stapleton, there is almost always a yoga training or retreat happening, and community classes are offered several times a day. The Nosara Yoga Institute teaches "Interdisciplinary Yoga", exploring what is common in the diverse disciplines of yoga and delving into yoga in a way that transforms teachers from the inside out. NYI's mission: "to awaken awareness of the power we have as yoga educators to invent new ways of being together as human beings." Nosara Yoga Institute brings depth and personal inquiry to yoga and invites the natural world to be central to the practice. Walking on the beach is a part of daily practice, and Nosara's beach is one of the most spectacular, excellent for beginning surfers, with it's long surf break and mostly sandy beach. Nosara is on the Guancaste Penninsula, where the climate is considered "desert jungle". Nosara has excellent restaurants, local cultural events, and an international community that feels both creative and healthy. At times, Nosara can feel a bit American-like. You'll even find an organic grocery store and a raw food restaurant. If you want the warm beaches of Costa Rica, and the comforts of home, you'll love Nosara. Wildlife is still plentiful in Nosara, including Pelicans and howler monkeys, and sea turtles in nearby Ostional National Park.
The Yoga Farm, Puenta Banco, Costa Rica, www.yogafarmcostarica.org
The Yoga Farm is a rustic yoga center and sustainable living project on Costa Rica's southernmost Pacific coast, where tropical rainforest meets ocean. There is an abundance of wildlife here, as this is one of the most biologically diverse places in the world. The beach here is wild too; the waves, current, and general mood of the ocean can vary from day to day and month to month. Surfers with experience flock to the neighboring town of Pavonnes, for it's world famous left surf break, one of the longest in the world. Accommodations at The Yoga Farm are simple and lower cost and include daily guided yoga classes with resident instructors, and two healthy, primarily vegetarian meals each day. A simple, local fare lunch is available as well. Life at TYF is communal, and there is an average of 10-20 people living there at a time. The Yoga Farm is working towards developing a more sustianable way of life through permaculture based design and land use; 100% solar powered and off the grid, TYF harvests both rain water and natural spring water on site. The indigineous "Guaymi" people border Puenta Banco and if you ask, they may take you on a backcountry trip to see their way of life.
Luna Lodge on the Osa Peninsula near Corcovado National Park, Carate, Costa Rica, www.lunalodge.com
Of the 150 acres of tropical wilderness that is Luna Lodge, over 75 acres are primary virgin rainforest. Hundreds of rare and beautiful bird species such as the scarlet macaw, red-legged honeycreeper, and slaty-tailed trogon abound. Exotic creatures, such as coatis, tayras, and the four species of monkeys found in Costa Rica, live here. There are year-round waterfalls on the property itself, one with a swift flowing chute and refreshing wading pool less than a ten minute walk from the bungalows. In Luna Lodge, Lana Wedmore actualized her dream, to preserve and protect the rainforest and educate people about it. She and her staff have created a wonderful blend of natural landscaping and organic agricultural abundance surrounding the lodge. Counted among the fruit trees are mango, water apple, papaya, banana, china fruit, mandarin orange, lemon, cacao, avocado, and cashew. The pleasant, intoxicating aromas of ylang-ylang, frangipani, and night-blooming jasmine permeate the grounds. She also grows her own bananas, plantains, and pineapples. Accommodations vary in price and style - bungalows, hacienda's, and tents - and include meals. Guests can participate in week-long retreats and intensives or stay for a few nights and enjoy an eco-tour.
Blue Spirt Retreat, Nosara Costa Rica, www.bluespiritcostarica.com
Perched on a peninsula overlooking the Pacific Ocean and a three-mile long sand beach that is protected as a turtle refuge - Blue Spirit Retreat offers retreats, workshops, and trainings in a deeply nurturing and unforgettable setting. Similar to Nosara Yoga Institute, Blue Spirit is located in Nosara, remote yet accessible, only a two-hour taxi from the Liberia International Airport. Blue Spirit's programs are diverse; some focus on yoga while others focus on personal growth or development of other skills. Accommodations with meals are included with programs at Blue Spirit and lodging ranges from high-end superior to platform tents.
Rara Avis Rainforest Lodge and Reserve, Las Horquetas de Sarapiquí, Costa Rica,
Bordering Braulio Carrillo National Park, Rara Avis (for rare birds) is so deep in the rainforest that you will ride a tractor for 3-4 hours to get there. Different from the above venues, there is no beach and no yoga and lots of rain, even outside of rainy season. Why go then? To live deep in pure nature, deep in the rainforest, with clean and comfortable lodging and home-style Costa rican meals, no electricity, and an adventurous learning experience. There are guided hikes, and Rara Avis welcomes biological research.
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