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National Geographic has named Costa Rica one of the world’s 25 top travel destinations for 2022, specifically in the category of adventure tourism. But we already knew that.
Why is Costa Rica a top travel destination for 2022?
Yet if you think of “adventure” as an afternoon of ziplining, Nat Geo has something a bit more ambitious in mind: hiking across the entire country, from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The magazine highlights El Camino de Costa Rica, a 174-mile trek in 16 stages through remote villages, indigenous reserves and protected natural areas.
National Geographic identified five categories for “unforgettable journeys of discovery” – nature, adventure, sustainability, culture and history, and family. In the adventure category, it included Arapahoe Basin, Colorado; Palau; Seine River, France; New Brunswick, Canada; and Costa Rica.
“Although the pandemic changed when, where, and how we travel,” the magazine says, “we are eager to unleash our wanderlust – and see what wonders we’ll uncover.”
Costa Rica has long been recognized as a global capital of adventure tourism, which might be roughly defined as travel to exotic places to do daring things. There’s a strong argument to be made that Costa Rica actually invented recreational ziplining, and it has perfected the art, with “canopy tours,” “Tarzan swings” and “Superman cables” all over the country.
But beyond flying through the treetops, the adventures this country offers are almost limitless. On either of its two oceans, you can go deep-sea fishing, surfing, scuba diving, snorkeling, stand-up paddling, windsurfing or jet skiing. On its many rivers, you can go whitewater rafting, tubing, kayaking, canoeing, fishing, waterfall rappelling or canyoning.
In Costa Rica’s volcanic regions, you can soak in hot springs, take a mud bath, see geysers and bubbling mud pots, or visit a water adventure park. On dry land, you can go horseback riding, rent an ATV, buggy or mountain bike, go birdwatching, go hiking, go spelunking, climb a mountain or cross a series of hanging bridges. You can go on a coffee tour, a chocolate tour, a history tour.
You can visit a wildlife refuge with jaguars, sloths and monkeys. You can visit pre-Columbian ruins, go to a gold museum, an art gallery or a serpentarium, even go skydiving or bungee jumping.
And you can do all this in one of the safest, friendliest and most politically stable countries in all of Latin America – with some of the best lodging anywhere.
The co-owner of the Desafio tour company once told me that according to a study of Tripadvisor and other travel portals, the Arenal region alone offers 148 distinct activities — more than any other place in the world. The runner-up, Queensland, New Zealand, didn’t even break into the triple digits.
Costa Rica is no stranger to “World’s Best” lists. The country’s Nicoya Peninsula has also been recognized by National Geographic as one of the world’s five “Blue Zones,” where people live extraordinarily long and healthy lives, often surpassing the age of 100.
Costa Rica has frequently been named “the happiest country in the world,” based on residents’ overall satisfaction, life expectancy, equality and ecological footprint. Costa Rica has been untouched by war since a 44-day civil war in 1948, and in fact it has an ex-president who won the Nobel Peace Prize. And Costa Rica has made so many lists of top travel destinations that it’s almost surprising when it doesn’t appear on the next list.
The country comes by its travel cred honestly, with some 25% of its national territory set aside for conservation. One often cited statistic is that although it contains only 0.03% of the world’s landmass, it accounts for 5% of the planet’s biodiversity. Costa Rica is also a world leader in sustainability and the use of renewable fuels.
To be sure, what Nat Geo has in mind for 2022 visitors is not for the faint of hoof. The Camino de Costa Rica, that 174-mile walk from coast to coast, is designed in part to create tourism income for inland communities including “local families, nonprofits, and a network of micro-entrepreneurs.” These include honey producers, sugarcane plantations, a female-owned organic farm and a sustainable coffee mill.
Nat Geo recommends three guided tour operators for this epic trek – Ticos a Pata, UrriTrek Costa Rica, and ViaLig Journeys. So strap on your boots, spray on your repellent and ramble through river crossings, ranches, rainforests and cloud forests. What could go wrong?