We’ve all heard the radical right expression, “God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” Well, anyone who has been to Costa Rica lately can tell you that in this tropical paradise, “Adam and Steves” are everywhere, and welcomed with open arms!
In the past ten years Costa Rica has emerged as one of the world’s premier vacation hot spots. And in disproportionate numbers, gay travelers have descended upon this eco-friendly destination with full force.
New Yorkers are abandoning The Rambles and embracing the jungle. San Franciscans are finding new uses for their old harnesses—Zooming through the trees on a canopy safari. And South Beach Boys are exchanging Lincoln Road cruising, for a little cruising on a white-water rafting adventure.
Unless you despise nature, it’s hard to have a bad time in Costa Rica . But why has this country become such a haven for the gay tourist?
Is it the gay man’s ever-present desire for beauty that leads us to the pristine land of Costa Rica , where 25% of the country is designated as protected wilderness? Are we trying to prove our masculinity through rugged rafting and volcano trekking adventures? Do we yearn for intellectual conversations with locals whose country boasts the highest literacy rate of any Latin American country? Or, perhaps we simply feel safer in a country that has no military! Whatever the case, gay people love them some Costa Rica !
This is a rare country where you don’t have to flock to the main cities to experience a “gay scene.” In fact, while San Jose certainly has a vibrant gay nightlife with hip, happening bars and discos, most travelers would agree that San Jose is not Costa Rica ’s best feature. In a country known for its lush beauty, San Jose falls pretty short of the mark.
However, it is making positive strides, and every year witnesses the birth of new fabulous restaurants and hotels. The city could still use a bath and a healthy coat of paint. Perhaps the best reason to stay a night in San Jose is actually its close proximity (2 hours) to the Pacuare River, considered one the top 5 white-water rafting rivers in the world!
No matter where you go in Costa Rica , you’re going to run into many gay tourists. However if you’re looking for that “gay ghetto” feeling, seek no further than the area known as Manuel Antonio, not far from the costal town of Quepos. The area boasts a stunning, secluded gay beach called La Playita (the little beach) and gay bars such as the Bar Tutu with a fantastic roof deck, and the stylish Bar Tutu, both with excellent views of the Pacific Ocean. For those with more eclectic tastes, you may wish to try the Bat Cave; a small, funky bar that resembles its name.
Virtually every hotel in the area is gay friendly, and most feature views of the ocean or rainforest. Surrounding activities include nature-trekking through the preserve of Manuel Antonio, white-water rafting, and numerous canopy safaris. Canopy safaris are to Costa Rica what Baseball is to America . Essentially, you are strapped into a harness (already sounds interesting) which is hooked to a pulley. That pulley is hung on a wire that is suspending high above the ground among the jungle canopy, and you zoom from platform to platform like Indian Jones.
North of Quepos is the beach town of Guanacaste, more secluded and less developed perhaps than other Costa Rica beaches, and it is most easily accessible from Liberia Airport , just under an hour away.
Also on the coast, and not far from San Jose is the surfing town of Jaco, which also boasts several resorts and a few very stylish hotels. While still gay friendly, neither Guanacaste nor Jaco have that “gay enclave” feel like Quepos and Manuel Antonio.
One of the things for which Costa Rica is best known is its active volcanoes! Arguably the best is the Arenal Volcano, located about 3 hours from San Jose amongst dense rainforest. It has been constantly active since it erupted in 1967 and destroyed the small village of Tabacon , killing almost 150 people. Today it is one of Costa Rica’s most popular tourist destinations, and thousands flock to the area’s abundant hot springs to relax and listen to the Arenal volcano grumble in the distance. On clear nights, one can actually watch lava bubble down the side of its peak.
Besides igniting the sky, Costa Rica can certainly help heat up one’s love life, and many gay couples come to Costa Rica for romantic getaways. From costal interludes to escapades in the cloud forest of Mount Verde, gay couples can travel openly with as little or as much privacy as they desire.
No mention of Costa Rica is complete without talking about its most famous expression is “pura vida” (pure life) and it is its national slogan as well as a greeting, farewell, and expression of gratitude. It is generally hollered, not simply spoken.