As the sun sets over the mountains in La Fortuna of San Carlos, a world of creatures begin to wake. Eyes flicker open one by one, and deep croaks echo through the tall branches and vegetation that make up Costa Rica’s landscape.
We wait until a heavy rainfall drenches the forest floors before heading out to meet our tour guide, Ana, who works in conjunction with Nayara Resorts, our hosting site during a mother-daughter weekend adventure.
Nayara, which is made of up two sister properties—Nayara Springs (adults only) and Nayara Resort Spa & Gardens—is joined by bridges atop Arenal, one of the country’s most sought-after destinations. The property has gathered a handful of accolades over the years, most recently earning a spot on TripAdvisor’s “Top Luxury Hotels in the World” list.
We set out for the Arenal Oasis night walk in the rainforest, a tour Ana’s been guiding for five years. Flashlights in-hand and a starry sky above, she explains her nightly encounters, happening upon monkeys, butterflies and bullet ants, and some not-so-usual characters: wildcats and even a goat who escaped from a nearby farm. We keep our eyes peeled for the deadly Fer-de-lance snake, whom she spotted slithering around a few days prior. Lucky for us, we only cross paths with calm critters, like red-eyed tree frogs, and head back with some great photos and the Central American bullfrogs’ vocals replaying in our heads.
Costa Rica’s countryside is what entices visitors to return yearly. At Nayara Springs, scenic views abound. The resort is located in Arenal Volcano National Park, so during a calm lunch at Mis Amores, while picking on fresh sea bass ceviche, glimpses of the Arenal Volcano are stunning with steamy clouds rolling through its peaks. It’s a view that never loses its charm. The volcano, which stands at a massive 5,437 feet, is the country’s most active volcano, though now in a resting phase. Its ominous figure can be spotted when walking through the resort’s colorfully planted pathways to get to the private villas.
They come with touches like dual rain indoor and outdoor showers, private thermal water plunge pools, relaxing hammocks, four-post king beds and lavish crystal chandeliers, making Nayara the lush jungle oasis you can return to after a day of adventure.
Off-site, we explore nearby national parks and the likes of La Fortuna. Driving past Lake Arenal, we arrive at Mistico Park, home to Costa Rica’s hanging bridges. Its nearly 2-mile trail features pathways in order to appreciate even more wildlife like spider monkeys, sloths and toucans, with six total bridges of varying heights overlooking the rainforest.
Then there’s the chance to go zip lining. I find it hard to imagine an experience that will trump the one at Sky Adventures with astounding lake, volcano and forest canopy views. I strap in and take a ride up the mountain via tram before taking on seven thrilling cables. (The highest tops off at 656 feet and the longest is 2,460 feet.)
One trip worth making is to the La Fortuna Waterfall. Five-hundred-and-six steps take you down to the waterfall’s grand base. I wade through icy blue waters, which turn out to be shockingly refreshing in contrast to the hot sun.
Costa Rica gives the “Pura Vida” experience, a phrase that has become the country’s unofficial motto. There’s a deeper meaning to it than the literal translation of “pure life.” It’s the way Costa Ricans let each other know everything’s good. It’s a greeting. It can be used at any time. It’s a way of life—to appreciate the simple things. As I swim in the waterfall, enjoying one of Mother Nature’s most magnificent creations, I find “Pura Vida.”
Nayara Springs, de, Alajuela Province, San Carlos, Costa Rica; nayarasprings.com