The Rough-Edge Corner of Costa Rica

Forget the platitudes about Costa Rica — the “safe” country, the “Switzerland of Central America,” all of that. If you cruise along the country’s northern Pacific edge, in Guanacaste Province, you’ll find nature in the raw, animals that would just as soon sting, maim, or eat you as look at you, hot springs that could melt your old record collection, and a death-defying joy ride bounding along rough seas in nothing-to-hold-onto Zodiacs.

Of course, Costa Rica is also a charming and prosperous country. The unceasingly friendly locals, nicknamed “ticos,” smile easily, often speak English, and whenever something positive happens, shout the national slogan, Pura vida!, meaning “the pure life” or “life is good.”
Before the end of your visit, you’ll shout it, too.

Life in the Tropical Dry Forest

Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic is the only major cruise line that sails regularly to the Guanacaste coast. But an adventure company teamed with a scientific expedition organization is a smart way to visit this remote stretch of wilderness.

“We don’t have poison ivy or poison oak, so you don’t have to worry about them,” said our Lindblad naturalist guide, Carlos Calvo Obando, as he pointed to the ominous expanse of the Vida Silvestre Curú National Refuge, just south of Guanacaste. “But we have … other things.”

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By Mark Orwoll

Photo: Phillip Suddick : Getty Images