King Of The Swingers
San Jose, Costa Rica
Have you ever felt like being Tarzan? Or Jane? Or maybe even
Cheetah? The tropical paradise of Costa Rica could be just the place to have
these dreams come true…
But first you have to find somewhere to stay. The tiny Central American country
is full of excellent resorts for vacations, and many US tour operators and
vacation providers offer all-in-one packages to suit all kinds of budgets.
Typical of Costa Rican Resorts is the Grand Papagayo, on the coast of the
central San José province. The Grand Papagayo is typical of Costa Rican mid- to
up-market all-inclusive resorts. Its exquisite Mediterranean architecture and
quiet location on Culebra Bay conceal a real palace of varieties for the
vacationer intent on fun and relaxation. The resort features three restaurants,
two bars, an adult pool, a kids’ pool and a beautiful crescent of private,
The Grand Papagayo also offers a range of activities far beyond
the scope of what might be considered normal. Golf is nearby; you can play
tennis on an indoor court; relax in a fully-fitted health club and spa; go sea
fishing; scuba dive; snorkel; learn to drive a powerboat; Jet ski, water-ski
But there’s far more to see and do in Costa Rica than simply
lounge by the pool for the duration of your stay. Costa Rica, although small,
is a country of trees. The Grand Papagayo resort is surrounded by ‘dry’ forest.
But much of the country is made up of that landscape which is so essentially
Latin American: rainforest.
One of the impressions that first time visitors to rainforests often come away
with is how empty it all is. If that seems strange – surely the rainforest is a
lush, dense jungle? Well, it may be up above, but the forest floor can be
strangely dull. Because the canopy overhead is so thick and lustrous, there are
many areas where little grows around the bases of the trees. In a strange
sense, it’s a desert.
But get up into the canopy and you’re in a different place
altogether. The rainforest canopy is a unique ecosystem. It’s an exaggeration
to describe somewhere like that as ‘a different world’ – but the canopy really
is. It’s a weird halfway point between the earth and the heavens, which seems
so solid you could almost walk over it – though you’d be very ill-advised to do
But how do you get up there? Peering up from the ground or
hovering above in a helicopter would be little use: you can’t appreciate the
canopy without getting right up close to it. Surely that’s only for the birds?
Well, it isn’t. A local company, run by Canadian entrepreneur and ecologist
Darren Hrenluk, has taken over 400,000 people up into the high branches since
it was founded in 1994. The Original Canopy Tour conveys its guests around a
system of ropes, slides and platforms built into the very center of the
rainforest canopy itself. It has a reputation for being super-exciting, but at
the same time super-safe. "I could not live with myself if anybody got hurt, so
every step of the way I have double and triple redundancy on all systems," says
Hreniuk. "To a point it is a little ridiculous, but I would rather be
ridiculous and be safe."
The Original Canopy Tour also employs local people as guides,
and makes huge efforts to protect the delicate rainforest ecosystem. In short,
if you’re vacationing in Costa Rica, you really can’t miss the Tour – although
still a relatively young enterprise, it’s one of the defining experiences of
When you’ve finished playing Tarzan, you might like to spend some time
exploring San José itself. The city has a delightfully relaxed ambience – to
the point where younger travelers may find it a little sleepy. Most of the real
fun in Costa Rica is to be had on the coasts and in the forests. For all that,
it’s a friendly city – reflecting the fact that Costa Rica is by far the most
politically stable of the small Latin American countries. From the point of
view of the traveler, it’s also the safest, with a relatively low crime rate
for the area. On a managed vacation, staying in a resort, crime is not going to
be a problem for you, and you can have satisfaction of knowing that your
foreign exchange dollars are contributing to the economy of a country whose
people have really worked hard to keep their democracy stable and intact.
Costa Rica still has the atmosphere of a young, upcoming
country. Perhaps because of that apparent youth it attracts very many US and
European travelers in the 18-35 age range, who help to give the place that
special vibe. But it’s a great place for families too – especially the ones who
like to play Tarzan!