By: Luis Herrera, Certified Travel Agent (Cuba Specialist)
I recently took the 9 Day Natural Wonders of Costa Rica tour with Globus. The first day on the trip was a leisure day, as most flights from the U.S. arrive at odd hours, and my fight from Houston was no exception. I arrived late in the evening around 9pm, and was met by a Globus representative after clearing customs and immigration.
After waiting a couple of minutes for other participants of the tour, we finally arrived at our hotel, the San Jose Wyndham Herradura, shortly before midnight. We met our Travel Director Jorge for a brief explanation of the following day’s activities.
After breakfast on Day 2, all the members of our group met together in the hotel lobby, where we had introduced ourselves, and offered a brief explanation of what we expected to see and why we chose to visit Costa Rica. We had approximately 25 people on our tour, which was a nice, intimate group. Our journey that morning led us through the mountains of Costa Rica and the banana plantations, until we arrived at the banks of the Rio Moin to catch our cruise to our next resort, the Evergreen Lodge. This was located deep in the rainforest of Tortuguero. After lunch in our hotel, we took a cruise to the village of Tortuguero, where we learned about the community and the many immigrants from Nicaragua that help support the economy of the area (and country.) Our little tour of the area ended with a stop at the beach overlooking the Caribbean Sea. Some members of our group booked a sea turtle nesting excursion; however I opted out since there was a storm approaching.
Day 3 of our tour was when the white-headed capuchins all decided to come out and greet us for breakfast. They were just about everywhere, and were waiting for us to offer them our breakfast. Later on, the group took 2 separate boat rides into the Tortuguero National Park, where we witnessed spider monkeys, macaws, crocodiles, Snowy egret, and the infamous (Basilisks) aka the Jesus lizard, named for their ability to run across the water. It was like something out of a Jurassic Park movie, but much better because it was real and all around us. We had a lunch break back at the resort, and had time to swim at the pool, before heading out for a tour that our Travel Director, Jorge, had set up at the very last minute. We were taken to a remote part of the Tortuguero Village by the only airport in town to view the baby turtles come out of their nests. It was a sight to see them try their hardest to make it to the sea. We were told that vultures in the area attack these new born baby turtles, which was evident in the empty baby turtle shells around the beach. A majority of them do make it to the sea, only to face more predators such as sharks and other animals. We were told that approximately 30% make it to maturity, which was sad, but witnessing the entire circle of life made this one of the highlights of our tour.
We were transferred by boat the next morning back to the mainland, where we met up with our driver, Jesus, for our trip to the Sarapiqui area. Our first stop was an organic pineapple plantation tour, for an introduction into the cultivation and harvesting of fresh organic pineapples that we got to taste! We made it to our next destination, Arenal, by late afternoon, and had a brief stop in the city center for shopping and exploring, before heading out to our hotel, the Volcano Lodge and Gardens.
After breakfast on Day 5, our group broke off into those who opted to stay in and relax, and those who wanted to join optional excursions. I had booked a horseback ride through the countryside of the Valle de San Carlos, which eventually ended at the La Fortuna Waterfall. This was worth the extra cost and the horses were very well mannered. Our group reunited later in the day for a trip to Arenal Natura Ecological Park, where we were introduced to a wide variety of animals (many, many frogs,) iguanas, caimans, and plants from the region. The highlight of this day, however, was the visit to the Tabacon Hot Springs, which I recommend to everyone. I’m not exactly sure how many pools there were, but it didn’t matter, as each one took you to a state of bliss and nirvana. The cascading waterfalls, warm pools along the riverbed, combined with the sounds and sights of the native flora and fauna was food for our souls. Dinner was held in one of the restaurants in the Tabacon Hot Springs resort overlooking the grounds. This was a great way to end the day.
Our last destination on tour was the town of Monteverde, a town founded by the Quakers, who opted to leave the United States in the 1960s due to religious beliefs and antiwar sentiments. Our hotel, the El Establo Mountain Lodge, was situated in a private farm adjacent to the Monteverde Reserve. Globus had arranged a skywalk along the hanging bridges, which combined the trails and suspension bridges through a vast area of the Monteverde Cloud Forest, and offered great views of the surrounding area. The following day included a tour of the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve, which is located on the Continental Divide of Costa Rica and is home to jaguars, quetzals and various species of birds. We were provided with a tour of a family run coffee plantation later that day. They showed us how they cultivate the different types of coffee beans in the area and their newest product, cocoa beans. We sampled various types of coca and the final product – chocolate. The family provided us with a nice lunch before we headed back to the hotel for our farewell dinner that evening.
The last full day of our trip was spent driving back to San Jose, with a stop in Sarchi, for a tour of the Fabrica de Carretas to see how the famous ox carts and other items are created. This was also a great place to purchase souvenirs as they had the best quality items for sale. We were provided with one last lunch that day before returning back to San Jose, where our journey began at the San Jose Wyndham Herradura. All in all this tour was a great introduction to Costa Rica and I highly recommended it for the first time visitor. Our Tour Director Jorge and driver Jesus made the experience one that will last a lifetime.
Luis Herrera, CTA
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