Manager of our Bury St. Edmunds travel agents, Mark Scrivener, has just returned from a fantastic trip to Costa Rica. After some amazing wildlife sightings and thrilling outdoor activities, he explains why the country is a great choice for an adventure holiday.
Destination: Costa Rica
Airline: British Airways
(Hotel names/Ship name): Doubletree by Hilton Cariari, Evergreen Lodge, Arenal Springs Resort
Duration: 7 days
Think Costa Rica and you automatically think of tropical rainforests, toucans, parrots, red-eyed tree frogs and, of course, Costa Rica's poster boy - the sloth! This country boasts 290 volcanoes, 28 national parks,900 species of bird and more butterflies than Europe. Now, that's impressive.It has two distinct coastlines, one on the Caribbean Sea and one on the Pacific Ocean. I saw all of this and more during my week’s Collette Tour.
Arriving into San Jose, the capital, on a British Airways direct flight from Gatwick, I was more than excited for what was awaiting me.The tour was due to start the day after my arrival, so I had booked an extra night before to get accustomed to the climate and to ensure I was there in plenty of time for the start.
I negotiated my way to the hotel shuttle bus area and everybody was keen to help with a smile. The hotel was the Doubletree by Hilton Cariari, used a lot by the airline crew. This was a great hotel with huge rooms and good air-conditioning. It’s just two storeys high, but I would recommend an upper level room as all the floors and paths are tiled and therefore very noisy.Wheeled luggage and clip-clopping of heels may cause some disruption if you happen to be in a ground level room like myself. There was also a nice pool and plenty of greenery.
Collette Tours are an American company, so the majority of guests were American or Canadian on the tour. Everyone was very sociable and we all bonded very quickly. The tour coaches were of a very high standard;air-conditioned with Wi-Fi, and water and soft drinks supplied. The seats are rotated on a daily basis so that you get a good mix of viewpoints. The tour guide and the driver joined us from day one, stayed in the hotels and joined us for meals, so they really felt part of the tour and had a vast amount of knowledge to share. The food was excellent throughout and Costa Rican cuisine was always offered for us to experience.
We set off for the Caribbean side, heading to the Tortuguero National Park rainforest, famous for its sea turtle studies. Here we would stay in an eco-lodge right on the river (Evergreen Lodge). There are no roads here so, to access the area, we took a small boat, leaving behind the majority of our luggage which would catch up later in the week at a hotel. The feeling of pure adventure kicked in as the boat sped along, spraying water mist in our faces. It was extremely hot and humid – it’s a tropical rainforest after all! We arrived all too quickly, stopping on the way whenever the guide spotted wildlife. We saw 10 pairs of green squawking macaws flying overhead at one point and this was an amazing experience for me.
The rooms at the lodge were well-equipped, but the most notable realisation was that there were only big gauze windows in the walls, no glass. The temperature was high and even with a slow ceiling fan it was like a sauna. With the incredible noise at night from insects, birds and wildlife, I knew I had no chance of sleeping. Even when I did manage to sleep, I was woken up very early in the morning with the booming calls of the howler monkeys, the second loudest call in the animal world.
This was a real life adventure and, over the three days, the guide showed us the wildlife to the extreme – white-faced monkeys, crocodiles,tree frogs, sloths, otters, snakes and so many birds. Yes, it was hot. Yes, all my clothes were damp. Yes, it rained. Hard. But, what an experience!
The second part of the tour was in the Arenal Volcano National Park. Here we were reunited with our luggage and had a chance to feel refreshed again in a cooler environment. We stayed in a stunning hotel for the next two nights, the Arenal Springs Resort. This hotel gave full views of the volcano and had natural hot spring pools to bathe in; the water being heated from the volcano itself.
There were huge gardens filled with flowers. The standard of food was extremely high and there was a choice of restaurants.
This is the perfect base for adventures. Collette gives you a choice of excursion here on the tour – either a volcano hike or ziplining through the forest canopies. I chose the ziplining, a series of eight ziplines at incredible heights. We headed up by cable car and descended gradually on the lines. It was good exercise and I could feel it for days after. It was fast and not for the faint-hearted! A good bonding experience though.
In the afternoon, we took an excursion to the hanging tree canopies. It was trickier than it looked as they move and sway - a lot.The whole area was teeming with wildlife and birds; I spotted, at close quarters,wild pigs, coatis, snakes and toucans.
Back at the luxurious hotel, we had dinner and, after a well-deserved soak in the hot springs, a perfect sleep.
In the morning, just to remind me that I was still in a tropical country, I found a snake in my shoe! Luckily, it was a non-poisonous one, but it still made me jump just the same. After that, it was all too soon to head back to San Jose for a final night at the Doubletree and the Collette farewell dinner.
I thoroughly enjoyed my adventure out in Costa Rica and these memories will last far longer than any beach-based holiday.
For more information about our adventure holiday options or to book a trip to Costa Rica yourself, call us today or drop by your nearest store. We have travel agents in Bournemouth, Lymington, Dorchester, Christchurch, Westbourne and across East Anglia.