Having travelled much of Africa, explored parts of South East Asia, I decided this year that it was time for something just a little bit different. Costa Rica was on the radar and I was determined to spend as much time there as possible to make sure I got to see as much as possible. Now that I’ve returned from 3 weeks of travelling through both Costa Rica and Panama I have been ploughing through the hundreds of photos taken and wanted to share some of the highlights with everyone…
There were a few highlights that were really important for me and looking through all of our itineraries I decided that with just a couple of tweaks, ‘From Wildlife & Beaches to Coffee & Canals‘ was just the right trip for me! You’ve got wildlife, volcanoes, cloud forests, local culture, coffee and that all important beach relaxation time.
On one of my first days after leaving the bustling city of San Jose I saw my first sloth. They can be really difficult to spot depending on the angle but this cutie was quite a poser. Lucky me!
My first time on a zipline and the best bit for me had to be swinging from the ropes high above the Rainforest Floor. There are zip lines in many different places in Costa Rica with Monteverde laying claim to the country’s first zip line. Costs vary quite a bit from $30-$65 depending on where you go.
The big highlight of Tortuguero for me was the turtles. I specifically planned my trip in the wet low season to make sure I had a good chance at seeing the enormous Green Back Turtle – and to my delight we did! Sadly you aren’t allowed to take photos because you’d need a flash at night and special torches are allowed on the beach. However, I thought the fresh water turtles we saw on an afternoon boat trip were just as fascinating and these I could get snaps of.
This little cutie was part of a playful yet naughty troupe of monkeys who have made the area around the Rainforest lodge their home. They particularly like visiting after meal times!
While in La Fortuna a big highlight for me was heading out on a night walk in the grounds of the Eco Lodge where I was staying. The walk ended in at the Frog Pond where we saw all sorts of frogs, snakes, birds and much, much more. My favourites were this amorous pair of Red Eyed Tree frogs.
Being a typical Geography nerd I was most excited about visiting Arenal National Park and its famous volcano. We learnt all about the history of the volcano and walked 2km through the forests that make up the national park. Although I couldn’t get a good picture while on the trail (due to it bucketing with rain) I did manage to get a good shot afterwards while checking in at the Ecothermales spa for the evening.
Monteverde Coffee tour
Here at Rickshaw Travel we love our coffee and in Monteverde I visited a coffee plantation that is family owned and run. They also grow sugar cane and in lower regions of Costa Rica they also have a cocoa plantation. During the tour we got to see the whole process from berries to roasted coffee beans, we learnt how to make chocolate and got to make fudge from scratch! Here’s one of my favourite shots of the final product – roasted coffee beans!
Monteverde, being high up in the mountains has some incredible countryside to explore. Having ridden a lot as a child growing up in South Africa I was keen to get back onto a horse (after about eleven years!) and booked onto a trail as soon as I arrived at my guest house. The owner, Marvin, is passionate about horses and you can tell how well looked after his babies are! Your horse is chosen based on your ability but be prepared to be challenged to try different skills. Marvin eventually convinced me to try galloping and I loved it.
Monteverde Cloud Forest
Walking through the cloud forests of Monteverde is a truly magical experience with the low hanging cloud giving a mystical atmosphere to the forests and to the town of Santa Elena itself. While on an early morning walk we were lucky enough to spot this Keel-billed Toucan.
Homestay with the Bribri
One of the biggest highlights for me was spending a night out in the middle of the rain forest in a Bribri village. This is definitely not for the faint hearted and if you’re not keen on being wet or perhaps you’re not a fan of bugs then you may consider sharing a room with a bat, cockroach and a spider your worst nightmare. I absolutely loved it, and thoroughly enjoyed getting to know more about this indigenous tribe who live on the Panamanian border. You get to learn about the medicinal properties of various plants, try a termite (no, I didn’t quite go that far) and learn about the women’s cooperative who are working to conserve both the natural habitat, the traditional culture and provide jobs for the community.
Bocas del Toro
By the time I reached Panama it was definitely time for some relaxation and Bocas del Toro and its many islands was the ideal place! During my stay I booked onto a boat trip for the whole day where we got to see dolphins, starfish in the clear waters of the mangrove channels and fantastic coral reefs. We spent a good 3 hours on the beach of Zapatilla Island where we tried to head out to the first of the coral reefs but try as we might, the currents were just too strong. We had to wait until later in the afternoon for the delights of Cayo Coral.
While in Panama city I headed off on a city tour which included a couple of hours at the Miraflores Locks. It was fascinating to watch the boats be guided into the locks and to see how it all works. It was particularly special since 2014 is the centennial anniversary of the Canal’s opening.