Living La Pura Vida

This Christmas holiday our family gathered in Costa Rica for a three-generation family reunion. Arriving from Texas, New York, Toronto, and British Columbia, we all met in Guanacaste province on the Pacific side of the country for seven days of fun-filled, diet-blowing, vacation. Nestled between Nicaragua and Panama, Costa Rica means Rich Coast and more than lives up to its name.

This Central American country is unique in that it has no standing army, a highly educated workforce, free public education, and 100% Ecotourism rules the day; with 25% of its land designated protected national parks. Hear that Trump? Which is why my daughter had to pick up the Reese’s Pieces wrapper that she dropped while happily zip-lining across the Rincon De La Vieja.

Multiple ecosystems exist in Costa Rica, including a central plateau characterized by mountains and volcanoes, tropical rainforests, savannah-like dry forests, pink sand beaches and misty cloud forests (a higher elevation than rainforests), complete with vertigo-inducing hanging bridges.

Exploding with vibrant technicolor, and unique animal life, Costa Rica is home to sloths, pit vipers, jaguars and leatherback sea turtles. The cry of the Howler Monkeys is haunting and surreal; especially coming from your human riverboat guide, who it turns out was just trying to entice one from its tree-top playground.

Staying on Playa Matalpo at an all-inclusive resort, we could let the teenagers roam the grounds unattended. This allowed the adults to appreciate poolside cocktails, the swim-up bar, floor shows, (the Michael Jackson tribute is a stand-out) and the incredible array of food; which is why elastic waistbands are a MUST.

From sea-kayaking, jet skiing, and horseback riding, to volcanic mud baths and hot springs, we tried it all. Highlights included boating along the crocodile-infested waters of the Tempisque River, flying down the longest water slide in Costa Rica, and watching sugarcane production. You get samples (!) and meet a lovely old ox who snorts endearingly while marching around you in a circle, as you feed sugarcane into a mulcher-type machine. Watch your fingers. There are activities galore including sea kayaking, shopping, riding ATV’s, and enjoying the casinos.

The verdant hills are blanketed with coffee, tobacco, sugar, cacao, and banana plantations, and the coffee is to-die-for. Costa Rica boasts adorable sloths, white-faced capuchin monkeys, and 840 different species of birds, along with big cats, and poison dart frogs. Happily, we didn’t encounter any of those!

But believe me, you just haven’t lived till you see your father mistake the six-foot iguana on the adjacent lounge for one of his daughters, ordering it a pina-colada.

New Year’s Eve surpassed all our expectations-from the magical dessert buffet featuring spun sugar trees, chocolate fountains and a life-size gingerbread castle, to the incredible pyrotechnical presentation on the beach at midnight.

Costa Rica is actually good for you, because it is one of the world’s six Blue Zones, (where people live longer), so in the interests of health, I recommend everyone visit at least once per year. No prescription necessary!