Costa Rica – A Different Adventure

Volcán Arenal - Arenal VolcanoCosta Rica is a rugged land of mountains, volcanos and protected jungles teeming with exotic flora and fauna, with coastlines on the Caribbean and Pacific.

The thought of being immersed in such an environment was intriguing. But as we have become of a certain age, some of the challenges of independent travel have become more apparent to us. So, we decided to try something different, a tour.

CR_MAPOur first “tour” was with Gate1 Travel, when we cruised along the Croatian coast in 2018. The experience was outstanding, although it was a cruise and not land-based.

Additionally, according to reviews from well-travelled friends and others, Gate1’s land-based tours were first-rate.

Still, we had never done a land-based tour.

The 3.5-hour flight to San José was uneventful, and we arrived at our hotel with enough time to take a stroll around La Sabana Park

Former Air Traffic Control tower, now the Costa Rican Museum of Art at La Sabana Park, San Jose, CROnce the site of San José’s airport, this 72-hectare (177 acre) green space contains trails, forests, open grassy areas, a lake, monuments, sports fields, as well as The Museum of Costa Rican Art.

Day 1 departure was scheduled for early the next morning, and after a good breakfast we boarded the large bus to go to our lodgings for the next two nights at Volcán Arenal or the Arenal Volcano.

MG_6564.jpgAfter a brief stop in a small town for comfort and to admire the wares of a local artisan cooperative, we drove on.  Passing farm fields, small rivers, and patches of forest, José, our tour director explained all about the area, its history, and its people.

Agriculture in Costa Rica is well diversified: coffee, bananas, short cycle crops, cattle for beef and dairy, and forest plantations account for most agricultural land use. Yet, in terms of value of production per hectare, other crops, including fruits, vegetables, flowers, and ornamentals are more important.

MG_6534.jpgThe bus generally remained in the valleys where the roads were flat and  in good condition as we wound our way to the town of La Fortuna, a gateway to Parque Nacional Volcán Arenal (Arenal Volcano National Park).

Since 2010, however, the volcano’s seismicity, explosions and lava flows have decreased significantly. But Arenal is still alive; he’s just sleeping. As evidence, hot springs dot the land around the foot of the volcano, including the resort where we were staying.

MG_6545.jpgAfter arriving at our lodgings, there was a brief opportunity to wander the grounds of this beautiful property in the shadow of a volcano before boarding the bus again to go into La Fortuna for a group dinner. The clouds hid the mountain’s summit, but the presence of the massive base attested to its size.

The next day we traveled north to the Refugio de Vida Silvestre Caño Negro (Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge) near Costa Rica’s northern border with Nicaragua.

MG_6569.jpgArriving in the small town of Los Chiles, located on the edge of vast wetlands that surround the Rio Frio (Cold River), we boarded a covered pontoon boat for a guided tour on the river. Our guide was very skilled at finding things for the entire boat to get excited about. The wetlands expand and flood during the wet season and are reduced to small lagoons, channels, and beaches during the dry season. The forests, grasslands and marshes provide habitats for endangered species such as cougars, jaguars, tapirs, MG_6621.jpgocelots, peccary and several species of monkey, as well as others. In the dry season the river provides home to thousands of migratory birds of many species such as storks, spoonbills, ibis, anhingas, ducks, and cormorants.

A number of the birds we saw were familiar to us, either as the same species or relatives of birds in Florida. But we also saw white-faced capuchin monkeys, iguanas, and bats. And the most curious sighting was of severalMG_6611.jpgBasiliscus basiliscus, whose nickname, Jesus Christ lizard, derives from its ability to dash across the surface of the water.

When we returned to our lodgings that afternoon, the views were stunningly beautiful. The partly-cloudy sky was enhanced by the low angle of the warm, tropical sun,  and  Señor Arenal stood out handsomely, wearing a cloudy cap, doffing it only occasionally to reveal his peak. Later that evening we boarded the bus again to go for a dip in some hot springs, followed by a group dinner.

In all, it was a beautiful evening, … but tomorrow is another day.

This Post Has 20 Comments

  1. I am impressed how many beautiful pictures you were able to share despite having to cut your trip short. Thanks for sharing

  2. Beautiful pics! It reminds me a lot of memories with Lucie 15 years ago. Costa Rica remains an amazing ecosystem in a small country. You can meet wild animals like sloths in the middle of a lush nature with a Volcano in the background and the beach is never too far.

    1. Glad to hear you’ve been to Costa Rica, sounds like you probably saw more than we did. We’ll need to plan another trip to see one of the beaches. So many places but limited time!!

  3. Hello Chris & Jeannie,

    We met you on the delightful Croatia tour and just read about your Costa Rica adventures. We have been to CR 3 times now, even rented a small home near Flamingo Beach on the Pacific side for a month. CR is a lovely place – Pura Vida! – and yes, takes forever to get anywhere! We had a fantastic taxi driver who drove us from SJ to Los Sueños, a Marriott property to die for. But after having explored a lot of CR, we are contentedly parked in Sarasota.

    Enjoy your future travels. Carole & Don Warner
    (ex Kalkan, Turkey, Marbella, Spain, Rome, Italy and more)

    1. It’s always great to hear from someone we met on one of our adventures. And we’re glad you’re still traveling. Maybe we’ll cross paths on a future adventure!

  4. Great pictures. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Glad you enjoy our travels!

  5. Very beautiful photos and I’m so glad that you had a great time visiting such a beautiful destination.

    1. Glad you enjoyed the photos and story!

  6. Great photos, as usual!

  7. Great photos and write up, It was so nice to meet you both! Who knows…… maybe we’ll all meet up on another adventure someday!

    1. Glad we had some time together before our great fade out. When you want to escape the cold north, come visit us in Florida (maybe not summer!). We have great flora and fauna for photography too!

  8. Beautiful photos! So glad you enjoyed the tour.

    1. Hi Pat, thanks for your comment. Hope we’ll see you in the future! Let us know if you’re traveling.

  9. … waiting for the details of the next day!

    1. don’t you love cliffhangers!!

  10. Great recap of such a wonderful trip. It was such a pleasure meeting both you and Jeanne.

    1. Wish we could have completed the tour, and spent more time with you and the other great travelers!

  11. Wow! Thanks for sharing!! Now I’m waiting for the next day!!!

    1. Hope we didn’t make you wait too long for the second part!

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