Pura Vida is Costa Rica's catch phrase and it fits like a sleepy sloth hugging a low-hanging branch.

While it literally translates as pure life in English, it is used as an emotion, in answer to "how are you?" and a life mantra.

This Central American country is lush and green - from cloud forests and rolling hills in the north to rainforest valley in the centre and Caribbean tropics on the west coast.

Lying on a beach in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca listening to reggae beats from the nearby bar, I began reflecting on what must be the adventure capital for this part of the world.

Zip-lining between 19 platforms across tree canopies and valleys in Monteverde, including a superman crossing attached only by the back and a Tarzan swing, is a must.

The latter is entirely terrifying, falling off a suspension bridge for 3-4 seconds before the rope kicks in and you swing 30-odd metres out.

Even though I've jumped out of a perfectly good plane on the Sunshine Coast in Australia and leapt off a mountain in Interlaken in Switzerland, I could not fathom how others did bungee jumping.

Not quite as high on the adrenalin scale, but there's still a great thrill seeing a coati and an armadillo on a night walk near town.

The cloud forest walk is equally fascinating, especially with a guide able to spot incredible birds with the naked eye.

Stunning coastline along Puerto Viejo de Talamanca in Costa Rica.
Stunning coastline along Puerto Viejo de Talamanca in Costa Rica. Rae Wilson

Then being able to view the stunning quetzal bird and toucanets through a perfectly placed scope during a morning hike was beyond incredible.

La Fortuna is just as dynamic - from repelling down waterfalls to white water rafting to mountain biking.

The Caño Negro boat ride near the Nicaraguan border starts with a stop to view huge iguanas and then a boat trip along a river filled with caimans, three types of monkey and countless birds. There's sloths if you're lucky enough to spot one.

To take it down a notch, most people enjoy the hot springs with swim-up bars.

Wildlife abounds at Cano Negro, near La Fortuna, in Costa Rica.
Wildlife abounds at Cano Negro, near La Fortuna, in Costa Rica. Rae Wilson

There's also a cracker massage place just off the main square or to chill out and escape the heat, try El Salta swimming hole just a short walk out of town.

A small waterfall flows down into a deep swimming hole - jump off the rocks, use the Tarzan swing or climb down the rocks further along for a refreshing cool-off.

There's not much to write home about in San Jose - though I didn't go looking much after various friends proclaimed it the "most boring city in the world".

But here in Puerto Viejo, the only thing that could make lying around on the beach better is air conditioning to go home to.

The heat is stifling this time of year and one must come to peace with one's sweat to get by. 

To escape the heat, throw a snorkel, togs and towel in a bag and ride a bicycle to the beaches heading south.

Stunning coastline on one side, forest on the other - Playa Cocles is immediately tempting but keep going to Punta Uva or Manzanillo and you will be rewarded.

The locals recommend riding just further south of Punta Uva to the beach in front of the Arrecife restaurant for stunning beach and corals.

I heartily endorse this suggestion - a slice of heaven.

If you can, get to the Sloth Sanctuary and the Jaguar Rescue Centre.

Be warned that the latter has tours only at 9.30 and 11.30.

If you miss them, even by a few minutes, they won't let you in and the private tours (which jump from $20US to $50US) must be booked well in advance.

El Salta waterhole where the locals hang out to cool down in La Fortuna.
El Salta waterhole where the locals hang out to cool down in La Fortuna. Rae Wilson


Typical Costa Rica food is a casado - which basically means a married man's meal. Rice, beans, salad and your choice of meat. Cheap and good. But when you get sick of it, here's some other great venues.

La Fortuna: Snappers. Try the mahi mahi with shrimps.

Monteverde: Tico y Rico. Anything.

Puerto Viejo: Breakfast at Bread and Chocolate and dinner at Flip-Flops. If you can afford to splash out, head to Koki Beach restaurant. The chicken wings with blue cheese as appetisers are divine and the surf and turf is even better.