You’ve heard stories and you’ve seen pictures. Yes: Costa Rica is that life-changing. Nestled between Nicaragua and Panama, the Pacific Ocean on one side and the Caribbean Sea on the other, Costa Rica will sate any adventurer’s travel lust. Though tourism is well-established, particularly in the larger ports along the Pacific coast, there is a greater percentage of protected land here than anywhere else in the world – nearly a quarter of the country is composed of national parks and wildlife reserves. Here you will find volcanoes, jungles spilling onto hidden beaches, chattering monkeys and scarlet macaws swooping overhead – brief hints of movement and sound in the dense canopies. A place where time stands still, where in the quiet of the rainforest it might be today or a millennium ago.
Far away from the tourist cities of Jacó and Tamarindo, Windstar’s Puerto Caldera sailing takes guests into secluded beaches, accessible only by boat, and into the forest of the Curu National Wildlife Refuge where capuchin monkeys banter and sloths lazily doze in trees. We asked our CEO, Hans Birkholz, who recently returned from Windstar’s 7-day Costa Rica sailing, to share some of his experiences and tips with us. Who better to offer insight than the person who knows Windstar best?
What was your favorite activity in Costa Rica?
I hadn’t been diving in a number of years, so I took Windstar’s diving program to brush up my diving skills. I took the class on board and practiced in the yacht’s pool before diving at Tortuga Island, Costa Rica. Tortuga is a popular diving site, for good reason. I saw an array of colorful fish, lobsters, manta rays, and moray eels. There were some neat gullies and channels to swim through which was very cool. Diving with Windstar is very convenient and is a wonderful experience. Our dive instructors take care of all the details and the dive group is small—only two of us with the dive leader.
What were some highlights of your Costa Rica voyage?
- I have cruised on the yachts many times, but what gets me every time is our sail away – guests gather on deck, the sails unfurl, music plays and you experience this magical feeling as you sail out of port.
- Our first day was a day at sea and it was incredible with the yacht sailing along at 11 knots. Simply being out on the deck was wonderful, as the yacht sliced through the Pacific Ocean, sailing in perfect day weather conditions. Spotting whales only added to the experience.
- Zip-lining was unforgettable. There’s simply no better way to view the rainforest – you are literally swinging through the canopy. Lots of fun.
Did you spot wildlife?
It’s impossible NOT to see wildlife in Costa Rica — the biodiversity there is incredible, particularly for a country slightly smaller than the state of West Virginia. I saw lots of monkeys, a sloth and macaws. I also saw whales, dolphins and turtles while at sea. The whale watching excursion was great. We saw humpbacks breach twice, pilot whales crisscrossing in front of our boat—it was incredible!
What about local knowledge?
We have our naturalist Carlos on board every Costa Rica sailing. He is a native of Costa Rica, and has intimate knowledge of the country with an insider’s perspective. Carlos knows where the best restaurants are in the ports and what fun things to do. He gives talks on the natural history, flora and fauna of Costa Rica during the sailings. Carlos always takes the time to mingle with our guests, pointing out interesting plants and wildlife and offering valuable insight into his country.
What was your favorite night on the ship?
The Windstar Barbecue Night – we call it a barbecue, but it really is a fabulous party. It takes place on the pool deck and sky deck. There’s an assortment of delicious food including lobster tail, crab legs, grilled fish, shrimp cocktails, lamb, pork, fresh vegetables, a variety of salads, side dishes—you name it. And of course, a decadent dessert selection. The crew performs a show and then we all dance under the sails and stars. It is just a lot of fun.
If you could offer other guests a couple of quick tips for when they travel to Costa Rica with Windstar, what would they be?
Try Imperial, the Costa Rican beer. It’s simply refreshing. Also, pack lightly and take advantage of Windstar’s laundry service package onboard – it is a great value
Now that you’ve heard about Hans’ recent trip:
- Have you been to Costa Rica with Windstar?
- What were your fondest memories of that voyage?
- What tips would you give others traveling to Costa Rica?