First appeared as “If One Can, Toucan” in the December 2014 issue of Air Canada enRoute.
As a golf cart ferries me up the gentle slope toward my villa at Nayara Springs, the foliage almost swallows me whole. Heliconia flowers dangle to the left, ferns with gigantic leaves form a bridge over the path and, in the distance, a hint of steam rises from the picture–perfect cone of the Arenal Volcano. I feel like I’m in Jurassic Park. I wouldn’t be surprised if a T. rex suddenly appeared – terrified, yes, but not surprised.
This region of Costa Rica is one of the most biodiverse in the world, and I’m here with a mission: to see the greatest number of animals possible. My hotel, a series of villas with private plunge pools fed by natural hot springs, is nestled deep within Arenal Volcano National Park. With its softly lit restaurants, walkways strewn with rose petals and lavish bird of paradise arrangements around every corner, it’s an idyllic retreat for lovebirds. But beyond all these romantic trappings, it’s also a place for bird lovers. With dozens of species of wildlife criss–crossing the property daily, even the lazy naturalist will be rewarded. The birds here practically make house calls: You can watch hummingbirds while sitting on your patio, parrots while lounging in the infinity pool and motmots as you drift from patio to pool.