Wet ’n Wild

Costa Rica’s rainy off-season won’t dampen your spirits.

The rainy season makes Costa Rica’s Pacuare River a thrill ride for whitewater rafters.

Exploradores Outdoors

The temperature might not fluctuate much all year long in Costa Rica, remaining in the 70s most days, but the amount of rain does. Visit during the “green season,” a clever euphemism for the Central America country’s rainy off-season, and be sure to pack a poncho. 

From May through November you can stay and play here for a lot less than in the high season, but you’re taking a chance on rain clouds interrupting an activity like golf or sunbathing. Avoid October, the wettest month, and you’ll probably manage to stay mostly dry while experiencing Costa Rica’s outdoors. That is, unless you’re zip-lining through a rainforest (it does rain in a rainforest), surfing in the big waves off the Caribbean or Pacific coasts, reef diving, or whitewater rafting down the rushing Pacuare River. Then getting soaked is part of the fun. 

Only a three-hour direct flight on JetBlue (jetblue.com) out of Orlando International, Costa Rica’s centrally located capital, San Jose, is an excellent starting point for travelers. Both coastlines, the active Arenal volcano to the north, wildlife refuges and river rafting excursions are only a few hours away. Leave the driving to tour agencies like Swiss Travel (swisstravelcr.com). Its guides are human encyclopedias, dispensing fun facts about their homeland’s flora and fauna while pointing out wildlife like crocodiles, red poison dart frogs and tree sloths that you would miss if not for them.

What to Do

How does everything sound? Golf, deep-sea fishing, surfing, zip-lining, whitewater rafting, whale watching and touring volcanoes are just the obvious fun things to do while in Costa Rica. While staying at the Los Sueños Marriott in Herradura on the Pacific side, I HIKED MANUEL ANTONIO NATIONAL PARK (manuelantoniopark.com) one day and ZIP-LINED IN RAINFOREST ADVENTURES PARK (rainforestadventure.com) the next. Alive with tree sloths, capuchin monkeys, exotic birds and “Jesus Christ” lizards (so named because they can scamper across water), Manuel Antonio is best traversed with a guide. The zip-lining excursion was a fast-paced descent above a Pacific rainforest (above right), and I screamed my head off while traveling on a series of 10 steel cables (three more than 900 feet long) in a tropical downpour. It was wild, but the adrenaline rush came on a half-day RAFTING TRIP DOWN THE PACUARE RIVER, one of the top whitewater runs in the world, with outfitter Exploradores Outdoors (exploradoresoutdoors.com). During the placid stages of the trip, you can relax and marvel at the scenic gorges. But when you enter boulder gardens churning up Class IV rapids that can easily sweep you out of the raft, you put your head down and paddle for dear life!

(From left to right) Los Sueños Marriott's exterior facing the ocean and the grand lobby of the Los Sueños Marriott sets the tone for a luxurious stay on Costa Rica's Pacific Coast.

Where to Stay

In San Jose, where I ventured from to go whitewater rafting two hours southeast of the capital, a RESIDENCE INN BY MARRIOTT (marriott.com/sjori) provided a comfortable base. It’s a modern downtown business-class hotel, with efficiency apartment-style rooms and laundry facilities, which were put to good use by everyone who went on the rafting trip. Also in San Jose is the COSTA RICA MARIOTT (marriott.com/sjocr), a 300-room luxury property built to resemble a Colonial hacienda. Set on a coffee plantation, it’s isolated from the bustle of the city. The Costa Rica Marriott’s restaurants and spa, Kuö Spa, are worth a visit if you stay elsewhere in town. For a luxurious beach stay, the LOS SUEÑOS MARRIOTT OCEAN & GOLF RESORT (marriott.com/sjols) on the Pacific Coast offers a picturesque setting and a convenient base for launching out on day trips. Only a five-minute walk from the resort is a marina full of fishing boats for hire. Sport fishermen come here to try to land marlin and Pacific sailfish. The resort’s championship golf course was too soggy to play on, so I decided to visit the Sibö Rainforest Spa & Retreat. I am not a “spa guy,” preferring activities over listening to Enya while getting my back rubbed. But a facial at Sibö changed my thinking. I felt like a new man, and he likes spas. The hotel also has several restaurants, serving from casual to superb gourmet cuisine, and a small casino.

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