Many tourists come to Costa Rica hoping to spot a sloth, says Kate Wickers in The Mail on Sunday. It’s certainly a good place for that, but it has lots to offer besides. “Sandwiched between Nicaragua and Panama”, the country is home to a remarkable array of “unusual mammals, reptiles and birds”; it regularly scores highly on happiness indexes; and is best explored at an “unhurried”, if not sloth-like, pace. Flights from Europe tend to arrive in San José in the afternoon, so it makes sense to spend a night in the capital. Hotel Grano de Oro is a good option, with its palm-filled courtyards and “refined” restaurant.
From there, you’d do well to visit the Tortuguero National Park, which consists of 11 habitats, including rainforest and swamp. You can fly or drive, but ideally you’d arrive by boat on the river, as this will give you the best chance of seeing green iguanas, sloths and anhingas. For a “real treat”, stay at the Miss Florentina Villa in Tortuga Lodge & Gardens, which offers kayaking trips deep into the park “where glimpses of otters and sleeping spectacled caiman (of the alligator family) can be caught amid the dense mangrove, ferns and palms”. Across the river from the lodge is a protected beach that is the world’s most important nesting site for green sea turtles. From July to October, more than 22,000 of them “lumber across the sand” to dig their nests and lay eggs. Tickets to see this “miracle” are limited, but worth seeking out.
For a more active holiday, head on to La Fortuna – an “epicentre for ziplining and rafting”, and home to Costa Rica’s most active volcano. But really, Costa Rica’s charms lie in its more simple pleasures. “Savour breakfasts of egg with plantain, cheer on the great frigatebird as it fishes for its lunch” and daydream in a hammock strung between almond trees, before the evening sky turns “from tangerine to violet”. Fullboard doubles from about £390 (tortugalodge.com).