John Quam Editor in Chief Howler Magazine Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a place of adventure and also tranquility. We can all experience whatever we want as we travel the countryside, from beaches to mountains.

Within an hour’s drive, you can encounter several different climates and drastic changes in landscape. This is Costa Rica: lush rain forests and pristine beaches with powder white sand to black volcanic sand.

The wilder landscapes are largely untravelable due to vegetation density and also steep topography. Rustic roads and leisure drivers can make it difficult to bounce around from place to place very quickly. I think the average driving speed in Costa Rica tops out about 35 miles per hour.

There is something here for everyone, from high-threshold thrill seekers to laid-back nature lovers. All kinds of extreme adventures can be enjoyed, including spelunking, canyoning, whitewater rafting, ziplining, scuba diving, surfing and forest trekking.

The abundance and accessibility of wildlife throughout the country is extraordinary. So many times, I see groups of people pulled over on the roadside observing howler monkeys in the canopy above. Occasionally, a gray fox or coati is spotted scurrying across the road. Costa Rica has strict no-hunting laws that perpetuate the safe and peaceful existence of its animals. This is one of the last places on earth where their future survival is protected to such an extent.

It also seems like not a year goes by without a research biologist identifying a new native species of mammal, insect or bird in Costa Rica’s forests. Whenever driving along any road — at the slow pace described above — please keep an eye out for these amazing creatures; be careful and able to react quickly enough to do your part in protecting their safety.

During several recent trips to La Fortuna, at the base of Arenal, I’ve been fortunate every time to have the clouds part and expose the majestic volcano. I pull over and just take it in … trying to imagine the scare caused by its last eruption and lava flow.

Take time on your travels to meet the friendly people of Costa Rica, who are so ready to help when most needed or least expected. It seems they are always at the ready to give directions or help change those flat tires that inevitably occur as we traverse the rough roads. I always get a laugh or a smile with my loco gringo response. I have met so many wonderful people here and thoroughly enjoy the result of my bungled-or-not efforts to communicate out of respect.

Butchering the language is only natural, and can somehow do more good than harm. Part of the fun and human connection comes from trying to explain what is meant. I have been working on my Spanish a little at a time, and recently reached the point of being able to carry on a bit of a conversation. Getting older and working with an English-language magazine certainly doesn’t aid in my language growth, but I’m trying.

Costa Rica’s natural attractions and hospitality extend to everyone. There’s no end to the amazing things that the locals allow us to partake in. Whether we are guests or expats, it’s our privilege and duty to embrace their culture and enjoy their way of life. Making a sincere attempt to assimilate is what gives us the real experience. Respect the people, the environment and the country.

Pura vida, Costa Rica is waiting for you!