Welcome to Insider Out Travel, a blog about LGBT travel written by LGBT tourism professionals. Travel the globe and gain insight into the tourism industry (with a gay twist), brought to you by the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association.

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Monday, July 23, 2012

There's More to Costa Rica















By Sheryl Kay
It is a land of many dichotomies. Costa Rica is home to incredible Atlantic Ocean sunrises, yet just a few hours drive away the sun sinks lazily into the surf of the Pacific Ocean. The land is fertile, perfect for growing cocoa beans, but you'd be hard pressed to find chocolate bars made in Costa Rica.

And while the country is Catholic by law, even to the extent that the priests are government employees, the Costa Rican LGBT community is growing bolder every day. It's true that there are no civil rights laws in place to protect the community, but most locals will tell you their countrymen espouse the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. As long as you don't talk about it, it's fine to be gay.

Of course Manuel Antonio, located on the southwest coast, is well known. Few places in Costa Rica are as open and welcoming. The Hotel Villa Roca is a long recognized icon in the community, gay owned and operated. Nestled on a hillside, it offers stunning views overlooking the rain forest and the Pacific Ocean.

We landed in San Jose, where the nightlife is extensive. Don't miss La Avispa, the oldest LGBT bar and disco in the country; Cafe Mundo, a quiet bohemian spot; Omar Khayaam, where the mid East cuisine meets student life just adjacent to the University; and Castilla, for the younger, less affluent crowd. 

Our tour then took off on an incredible journey, from the rim of the Poas Volcano, bubbling with active fumaroles; to the rainforest canopy of Tortuguero National Park, replete with dozens of monkeys, exotic tropical birds, and rainbow-colored butterflies; to the Northwest coast of Guanacaste where surfers await the big one.  

We learned every step of coffee production at the Doka Plantation, walked 16 hanging aerial bridges in Arenal, dipped in the Eco Termales hot springs, watched an endangered green turtle lay eggs under the starlight, made authentic hot chocolate, rode the Bebedero River beside 10-foot crocodiles, and participated in the ancient Chorotegan method of hand making pottery.

Costa Rica is a place where you can find the rainbow flag, or you can just fly yourself via zip line among the multihued butterflies. Either way, it’s a pallet of adventures.

Sheryl Kay is a freelance photographer and journalist who also serves as the Out In Front editor for CURVE Magazine.  She can be reached at skreporter@hotmail.com  

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