Pura vida
—purpiedras-blancas-1-resizede life! It’s not only Costa Rica’s unofficial motto, it’s a lifestyle in this country so rich with biodiversity and spectacular natural beauty. No theme park in the world comes close to the wonderland of southern Costa Rica, and especially Piedras Blancas National Park on the Golfo Dulce. With more than 14,000 hectares/35,000 acres of protected rainforest, Piedras Blancas (which means “white rocks”) is the perfect spot for family ecoadventure, echoing with the calls of howler monkeys, chirping frogs, and the hundreds of tropical birds, like scarlet macaws and toucans that make this region a bird-spotting paradise. It’s also one of the few remaining habitats for the elusive jaguar and four other endangered cat species, and even hosts some wildlife species that haven’t been identified yet.

Just arriving in Piedras Blancas is part of the fun, as the best way to reach this remote paradise is by soaring over Costa Rica’s beautiful countryside in a small plane. Once you land, almost limitless adventures await in this vast stretch of unspoiled tropical forest reaching all the way to the sparkling emerald waters of Golfo Dulce (“sweet gulf”), which stretches to the Pacific Ocean.

Time your visit between August and October for a chance to see one of nature’s most magnificent creatures as whalesouthern humpback whales migrate to the gulf to give birth and suckle their newborns. Whale-watching tours will help you spot these impressive mammals, as well as the playful dolphins, rays, and sea turtles that call the gulf their home. You’ll also find amazing snorkeling in the ocean waters beyond the bay, and if you’re ready for a fun challenge, you can even give stand-up paddling a try.

Closer inland, take a mangrove tour in small boats or by sea kayak to surround yourself in the biodiversity of the Costa Rican wetlands. Watch for monkeys, caimans, and marsh birds in the lush woodlands. The Piedras Blanhike-8-resizedcas Park, across from the Osa Peninsula, offers rugged hiking trails beneath the forest canopy, winding past waterfalls and wildlife in a reserve known for 140 mammal species, 350 bird species, and 100 reptile and amphibian species.

After a hot, sultry trek through the rainforest, nothing is more refreshing than coming home to a secluded beachside escape with a freshwater pool overlooking the waves. With its beachfront location within the Piedras Blancas park, Playa Cativo Lodge is an ideal place for families and their children ages six and up to stay and marvel at Costa Rica’s wonders. Poolside sunsets and long cool drinks put the perfect cap on the day, and with only six rooms, each with beach views, you’ll feel like it’s your own private getaway as you drift off to sleep to the sound of ocean waves. A thousand acres of rainforest comprise the grounds and the hotel has its own organic farm, which supplies much of the produce for the chef’s delicious a la carte creations and is open for tours. On your request, your hosts can make your visit even more special with unique touches—like a private picnic by a cascading waterfall in the heart of the rainforest—that turn a special family vacation into a lifelong memory.

*Embedded photos from Instagram belong to the author and have been published with their permission.



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