October has truly spoiled us this year but as anyone in the UK will know, the cold and damp days of winter are not far off.
It stands to pass, then, that you might already be dreaming of some winter sun – and youre not alone. But fear not. You can hop on a plane and embark on an unforgettable trip to somewhere warm like Costa Rica – officially the happiest country on Earth!
Costa Rica, the rich coast, is an exotic Central American nation, tiny in size but home to 4.5 million people, 800 miles of coastline, over 121 volcanic formations and 6 per cent of the worlds biodiversity.
An emphasis on protecting natural habitats means exotic wildlife thrives in Costa Rica, making for unforgettable tours around the country and over one hundred protected areas to visit.
With such luscious scenery and rich resources, it has become a hugely popular travel destination, and British Airways offers great value direct and all year-round flights from London Gatwick to Costa Rica. Find out more about flying with British Airways here.
It hardly matters if youre a solo adventurer, a nature lover or pining for some luxury R&R, Costa Rica has something for everyone.
For Nature Lovers
Any visit to Costa Rica would be wasted if it did not involve the incredible natural beauty on display in the country. For such a tiny country, the range of flora and fauna available for tourists to take in is incredible, with Costa Rica able to boast that it has the largest percentage of protected area of any nation on Earth.
A spectacular place to start is Corcovado National Park, the largest of its kind in the country and home to, 150 butterfly species, 500 bird species, 124 kinds of mammal, and more than 5,000 plant types. You might not get to see the wild jaguars that still roam the park, but monkeys, sloths, and anteaters are all very possible to catch a glimpse of.
If marine life is more your thing, then there is superb diving on offer in Costa Rica where you can see anything from the relaxing, colourful coral to the more concerning array of sharks in the surrounding oceans. Bat Islands, Cocos Island and Caño Island offer the chance to see the likes of dolphins, orcas and both bull and hammerhead sharks.
And if that still hasnt satisfied your appetite, consider heading on one of the night time nature walks in somewhere like the Monteverde cloud forest reserve, or overnight jungle stays in an eco-lodge.
Other options include a trip to La Fortuna where you can view the volcano and swim under the waterfall, horseback riding through the Jaco Jungle or spotting turtles at Tortuguero National Park. The choices are endless.
If wandering off the beaten track is your idea of the perfect adventure, youll be enthralled the moment your plane touches down in Costa Rica. Youll find more rugged beaches on the Caribbean side, including the most desirable snorkelling locations, such as Cahuita National Park, while the Pacific coast is the best for surfing.
With its white water rafting ranked in the top five globally, youd be foolish to ignore the thrill of a paddle down the rainforest-enveloped Pacuare River, which starts in the Talamanca mountains and meanders through to the Caribbean coast. With 108km of jade waters to negotiate you can be sure of a challenge when you hit the rapids, and picture-perfect photo opportunities of jungle and waterfalls.
Though itll be tough to stay away from the water, Costa Rica has a number of on-land excursions guaranteed to keep every thrill-seeker entertained. There are currently six active volcanoes that can be scaled and explored, from Arenal Volcano to Turrialba Volcano, a three-hour hike where vehicles arent permitted. The volcanic regions are also notable for their natural hot springs, ideal if after a day of adrenaline-filled activity your body demands a bit of recuperation.
Caving is also a popular activity, while the cloud forest canopy allows for fantastic views from the overhead bridges. In short, if youre seeking adventure, Costa Rica has it all.
Zip-lining has become a major industry in Costa Rica and the prospect of suspending yourself above the trees should be something you endeavour to try.
Though much of the Costa Rican jungle and rainforest is protected, the tourism industry has gone to great lengths to ensure visitors can still see and indulge in it. Zip-lining remains one of the most enjoyable ways to see the best of the country and will undoubtedly keep children entertained as they whizz through the forest canopy.
Beyond seeing Costa Rica from the air, there are a number of boat tours operating up and down the coastline. From fishing trips to chartered sunset cruises, there really is something for all the family.
Taking charge of your own chartered boat makes a sunset cruise even more spectacular, with the snorkelling opportunities ensuring children will be fascinated by the mere sight of turtles and stingrays.
Keep beach activities at the heart of your trip and look into signing up to a surf school or taking a stroll down Punta Uvita Whale Tail with a pair of binoculars. If youre lucky youll spot migrating humpback whales.
In terms of foodie experiences, fine dining can be found in the capital, San José, but it would be remiss to ignore the sodas, small traditional Costa Rican restaurants. With heart and soul pouring into every dish, it will be a memorable experience for the family and a chance to introduce everyone to the locals love of pura vida, the pure life – an attitude that seeps into everything Costa Ricans do.
Kids might be drawn to well-known hamburger and fries restaurant but do try to get them to sample these quintessential Costa Rican fast food restaurants.
For Luxury Seekers
If youre looking for the finer side of Costa Rican life then you will likely be heading to the Gulf of Papagayo, which is right in the north-western region of the country, near to Nicaragua.
There you will find numerous five-star hotels on offer as well as a number of spa retreats to suit your relaxation needs.
Alternatively, you could head to Santa Teresa, down the western coast, which has not always been on the fancier end of things in Costa Rica, but is certainly becoming that way now. A range of spas and opportunities to relax with yoga or pilates are on offer in the chilled out, surfing spot.
Looking for a gastronomic delight? Then you will be spoiled for choice in the capital, San José. There are plenty of luxury dining options which have received incredible reviews, not only for the food, but the memorable décor and atmosphere.
If you feel the desire to go beyond the reaches of your luxury hotel and private beach, you dont need to stretch too far to get a sample of Costa Rican life. Something like a mangrove tour is at a slow enough pace to ensure you never get too flustered (unless youre lucky enough to spot a croc or jaguar!), but ultimately you can be at ease knowing if youre in the right place if rest and relaxation is top of your wish list.
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!
Weve 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, youll 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.