Autumn has definitely arrived and winter is blasting its way quickly towards our shores.
If you’re looking at the forecast and seeing the temperature quickly fall with grey skies ahead, it’s time to start thinking about how to brighten things up.
Well, how about letting British Airways jet you off from London Gatwick to enjoy some winter sun in Costa Rica, where temperatures are mid-to-late twenties?
Whether you’re looking for a relaxing beach break, a foodie trip or something a bit more adventurous, this Central American country has it all.
There are many reasons why Costa Rica has been found to be the world’s happiest country, so here’s a selection of some of them for you to enjoy.
Climb a volcano
There are many volcanoes throughout Costa Rica, but perhaps the most famous is Arenal. Some would consider it a travesty not to visit here when you go on holiday to Costa Rica.
It stands high above the surrounding countryside at 5,437ft tall and it symmetrical shape on the horizon makes it pleasing to look at. It was active until 2010 and nobody knows when it might erupt again.
In the meantime there are plenty of hiking routes all over the volcano and around its base for visitors to enjoy. There are guides that can take you to see the best views and point out some of the region’s flora and fauna.
Relax in a volcanic spring
After all that hiking you’ll probably want to relax a bit. Arenal Volcano’s geothermal activity means that there are numerous hot springs that you can take a dip in.
Some of them even have waterslides and bars that you can swim up to as well as hot and cold pools. Truly rejuvenating!
Be a cowboy for a day
Yes, you can be a cowboy in Costa Rica. Several places offer the chance to saddle up your own horse ready for a day of riding through back roads, agricultural lands and rain forests.
There are guides who can tell you about the crops of the local area – usually coffee, banana and sugar – while you look out for a variety of animals on your route.
The great thing about seeing Costa Rica by horse is that you’re higher up so have a better view of everything around you.
On top of all that you don’t necessarily have to have riding experience. There are rides for absolute beginners as well so those for people with a bit more know-how.
Be a nature-spotter
Costa Rica has a ridiculous amount of nature roaming around. At the Rio Frio Wildlife Refuge you’re pretty much guaranteed to see iguanas, caimans, numerous species of monkeys and turtles.
Monteverde Cloud Forest reserve has 120 different species of reptiles amphibians along with 3,000 species of plants and 500 species of birds.
Then there’s the Cabo Blanco Nature reserve which is one of the most beautiful areas of the country. It has an impressive number of birds including brown pelicans, brown boobies, and laughing gulls as well as being a sanctuary for fish, lobster, giant conches and oysters.
Be a kayaker
It’s often said that the best way to view a city is on its river. The same can be said about the countryside, with no cars or lorries obscuring your views.
There are more than 20 rivers waiting to be explored in Costa Rica and a great number of kayak tours on offer to help you on your way.
They range from whitewater kayaking down the Rio Savegre to the more gentle paddle through mangroves and channels at the Damas Island estuary in Manuel Antonio.
You can also kayak or paddle on Lake Arenal in the shadow of Arenal Volcano – the calm waters make this perfect for beginners.
Be a surfer
On one side you’ve got the Caribbean Sea and on the other you’ve got the Pacific Ocean so there’s no shortage of surf spots along Costa Rica’s 1,000-mile coastline.
Most notable is Playa Tamarindo which offers surfing for all skill levels from expert to absolute beginner.
There are natural wave banks pretty much everywhere you look creating surf that is either dramatic and rolling or nice and gentle for you to learn how to balance on your board.
Then there’s Santa Teresa on the Nicoya Peninsula where the town is just as chilled out as you would expect for a place popular with surfing.
There’s a surf camp, surf schools and plenty of shops to get kitted out.
Be a ‘little five’ spotter
Looking for the Big Five is something you do when you go on safari in Africa. So Costa Rica has its own ‘Little Five’ for you to look out for – and some you might not have heard of.
They are the jaguar, quetzal, sea turtles, harpy eagle and baird’s tapir.
Sightings of the jaguar, an endangered species, are so rare that even finding a paw print or hearing its distant roar (more like a cough than a lion’s roar) is considered to be incredibly lucky. The best places to see them are Parque Nacional Corcovado and Parque Nacional La Amistad.
The resplendent quetzal is a beautiful bird worshipped as a god by the Aztecs and Mayas found in some of the national parks.
Sea turtles thrive along the coast and can be found in most of the coastal national parks. Hawksbills and leatherbacks are around from February and March respectively so that’s the time late winter sun worshippers should visit.
The harpy eagle is considered one of the most powerful bird of prey on the planet. They’re relatively rare, but if you’re quiet and keep you eyes peeled you may spot one at the Parque Nacional La Amistad where there is a decent nesting population.
They might look like pigs, but Baird’s tapirs are actually more closely related to the rhino. They almost became extinct as a result of hunting and the loss of habitat. However, they are often seen at the Parque Nacional Corcovado, particularly around dusk at the Sirena ranger station.
Take a trip to San José
Practically at the centre of the country it’s hard to avoid travelling around Costa Rica without ending up in San José at some point. Steeped in history there’s plenty to do including learning about the indigenous and Spanish influences.
There’s the Museo Nacional, National Theatre, a wealth of art galleries and the brand new museum, which houses one of the largest collections of jade in the world.
When it comes to eating out there are walking tours taking in the food, history and architecture of San José – there’s even a cultural and gastronomic tour of Carpe Market where you can take in and taste the 140-year history of the central market – a great place to sample some of the local tropical fruit.
With its indigenous origins and Spanish influences, Costa Rica is a fascinating cultural melting pot. In the capital San José in the Central Valley region, enjoy a history lesson at the Museo Nacional, take in opera at the opulent National Theatre, learn about emerging art trends at one of the art centres and discover traditional indigenous artwork at smaller, fair-trade galleries. Then finish your day of immense culture with some live local jazz, soul and vinyl-only DJs at a local café.
Rest and relaxation
It doesn’t all have to be go, go, go. There are hundreds of beaches to chose from so if all you want to do is top up your tan, then that’s up to you.
The sea is warm all year round, there’s reef snorkelling at Cahuita National Park and if you’re into yoga and meditation there is Santa Rosa National Park.
British Airways operates all year round flights directly to San José, Costa Rica. To find out more and book today, visit ba.com/wintersun
Win the holiday of a lifetime!
We’ve teamed up with British Airways to help you add a little colour to your winter with an incredible prize.
One lucky person could win a holiday for two in Costa Rica, with flights, transfers accommodation, tours and a whole host of activities included.
This seven-day adventure will include a journey of this Caribbean paradise, with visits to Arenal Volcano National Park, Rio Frio Wildlife Refuge and the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve, just to name a few of the destinations.
Plus, during your winter sun adventure, you’ll be treated to open boat tours, a stay in a four-star luxury hotel and much, much more.
Find out more and submit your entry at metro.co.uk/BAwintersun.