2014 Hyundai Tucson

Weekends: Taking Tucson to Costa Rica

Costa Rica is not a destination that first comes to mind when discussing great driving roads. A conversation such as this typically mentions places like the French Riviera, California, Australia and, of course, Canada’s east and west coastal areas, not a country renowned for its rainforests, volcanos and beaches. But such is the case as I wind my way through twisty mountain two-lanes in the Hyundai Tucson. This too is not your typical vehicle for driving banter, but I am finding it handles the road with relative ease and does allow for the occasional off-road excursion when required.

Newly styled for 2015, my week-long drive of the Hyundai Tucson takes place in a 2014 model. Hyundai claims there are many innovative features in the latest model and this is true, but for the purposes of a tropical drive in a rental vehicle, it really doesn’t matter much. Here the need is for solid, reliable transportation and enough space to carry all the suitcases. In this area the model year makes no difference; Hyundai gets it right.

Power comes in the form of a 2.0-litre 4-cylinder Gasoline Direct Engine (GDI). It produces 164 horsepower at 6,200 rpm and 151 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,600 rpm. This is one of two engines available for 2014, the second being a 2.4-litre 4-cylinder GDI that produces 182 horsepower and 177 lb.-ft. of torque.

Matched to a 6-speed automatic transmission, our vehicle provides crisp acceleration even on tight mountain roads and very good fuel economy. That said, the later does suffer somewhat given the hilly terrain and the need to kick it in on many occasions as we climb higher into the volcano landscape. Seating is for 5, which is perfect for the four of us and all of our gear.

Our asphalt and gravel excursion through paradise starts at Jaco Beach on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica in Central America. A few steps from the sand and surf, we first spent a week at Sonidos Del Mar, an exquisite rental home available on VRBO.com featuring two bedrooms, kitchen and dining room plus a shared swimming pool with a second vacation home. Owner Lauri Koseff has built a stylish rental property staying true to the culture of this rainforest country while offering all the latest amenities necessary for a perfect week in paradise.

The drive from Jaco Beach to Arenal Volcano is estimated at just over 3 hours. Of course, this doesn’t take into account getting lost in the mountains or finding your way on roads that Google maps has no idea they even exist. With many twists and turns, some planned, most not, we eventually see a sign with a Volcano proudly displayed in San Ramone and continue north. Later, we arrive mostly unscathed in the city of La Fortuna, in search of food, fuel and more directions.

Our main stops while in Arenal National Park will be split between Tabacon Grand Spa Thermal Resort and Casa Luna Hotel and Spa. Each property is unique in what it offers, both facing the volcano but from different sides of the mountain.

A member of Leading Hotels and Leading Spas of the World, Tabacon is a multi-award winning destination that offers everything you would expect in a lush, hot springs fed resort. The setting is tropical, with an intimate feel even though the property is spread over 350 hectares. It is a top honeymoon destination in Costa Rica. Accommodations range in size from Superior to a two-bedroom Senator Suite. Ours features an exceptional view towards the volcano. Dining options include meals served pool or spring side, as well as the more formal setting of Los Tucanes. We choose to spend as much time as possible at the hot springs. Even when it rains, cabanas and foliage keep you covered while the warm waters eliminate the cold.

While in Costa Rica, especially near a volcano, it is important to take advantage of all the available activities. Over the course of several days, we swing from the trees at Ecoglide Canopy tour with 15 cables ranging in length from 70-430 metres, a Tarzan swing and exceptional tour guides. The next day is spent dodging the waves and trying to stay afloat on a white water rafting tour. At one point, as the waves recede behind us, the treetops are filled with massive iguanas in a setting that appears to have been taken directly from the movie Jurassic Park.

Casa Luna Hotel and Spa is equally impressive and located next to the famous La Fortuna waterfall and hanging bridges. Designed as a rustic colonial retreat, rooms offer exceptional space and amenities, with large walk-out balconies looking towards the volcano. Leisure time is spent at the grand pool, at Luna Spa or dining in the open-air restaurant.

Leaving La Fortuna behind, the 2014 Hyundai Tucson makes short work of the drive back to San Jose. In just a few hours, we are once again in the middle of traffic, a setting the Tucson is equally capable of dealing with given its midsize frame and agile handling characteristics. It may not be the fastest CUV in the world, but it can certainly handle all that Costa Rica has to offer with ease. Add this destination to your bucket list of places to drive. From beach to rainforest and volcano, it has everything you could want and more.

2014 Hyundai Tucson
Model: GL AWD
Price as tested (before taxes): $25,749.00
Freight: $1,760
Configuration: front-engine/all-wheel drive
Available engines: 2.0 L 4 cylinders GDI
Available transmissions: 6-speed automatic
Fuel (capacity): premium (58L)
Fuel economy ratings (L/100 km): 10.0 city, 7.8 hwy
Observed fuel economy (L/100 km): 8.4 combined
Competitors: Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-5, Nissan Rogue, Toyota RAV4

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