Looking for a fun, deeply enriching cultural experience without breaking the bank? Consider Costa Rica! This amazing destination has so much to offer, welcoming you with a friendly smile and exclamation of “Pura vida!” to boot! I recently had the opportunity of returning to this lovely country for my second visit and after a week of volcano viewing, monkey spotting, and beach combing, I departed feeling just as charmed as my first.
Here are some highlights from my trip that I would recommend to include in your next tour:
Nature Hike/Aerial Tram/Canopy Tour
Board a gondola with five of your friends and ascend high up into the canopy of the rainforest! You’ll be entertained the whole way by a witty and informational guide and you’ll have the chance to see a whole slew of different species of trees, plants and wildlife. Throughout the tour we learned all kinds of interesting facts. Do you know why the newly sprouted leaves on many trees are a reddish orange color? Red color in the forest signals danger and poison, which means it’s a self-defense mechanism to ward off any predators looking for a good lunch. Once they mature and more new leaves start sprouting, they eventually turn green. Did you know that having an anteater show up on the doorstep of a pregnant woman ensures good fortune and health? The jury’s still out on the validity of this one, but it was a fun wives’ tale to learn!
Don Juan Organic Farm
Located about five minutes outside La Fortuna, there is a family-run organic eco-farm founded by Don Juan and is a wonderful learning experience to be had. They pride themselves on three main principles: preservation, conservation and education. Being environmentally sustainable, there is very little waste in their daily production. The plants are all placed very carefully and routinely rotated around the farm to ensure the nutrients in the soil are never fully depleted and pests are kept at bay, they create useable bio fuel from the methane gas produced by their own cows, and the delicious and fresh foods grown there are the ingredients for all of the meals prepared and served. The end of the tour is the sweetest by far – a taste of delicious agua dulce made from fresh sugar cane! While the farm is a small two acres, their impact made on their guests and the surrounding environment is mighty.
Tabacon Thermal Resort
Everyone needs some time off to relax once and a while and a thermal spa is the perfect place to take respite! Tabacon Thermal Resort, near the Arenal Volcano, is one of the highest acclaimed thermal spas in the world offering different temperatures, flow volumes and mineral content for their naturally occurring hot springs. Just walking through this zen garden left me breathing easier and more at peace.
Pueblo Antiguo Theme Park
Experience a living tour of history and see what life was like in Costa Rica at the turn of the 20th century. Several buildings over 12 acres make up the reconstructed Costa Rican village fashioned after the major towns of Heredia, Cartago and San Jose. The park employees are fun and animated actors, who complete the experience with their period costumes and energetic commentary. You may even see a modern day wedding taking place in the village chapel! During your visit, take in the folkloric dance show to enjoy the authentic music, colorful billowing dresses and occasional cowboy yelps while they play out a story with each song.
Doka Coffee Estate Tour
I’m not sure about you, but I have a little love affair with coffee. The delicious and potent aroma is enough to get me jonesin’ for a strong espresso and lots of warm rich milk. If you can relate, then the Doka Estate Coffee Tour is a must. Even for those who prefer tea to joe, it’s a great way to learn about one of Costa Rica’s most important exports and the care that goes into making such a beverage mainstay in the world. Located on the fertile slopes of the Poas Volcano, three generations of the Vargas family have been cultivating the land since 1940.
Some of the most welcoming and wonderful venues that Encore offers are located in Costa Rica. I had the honor of attending three performances given by the New England Conservatory String Orchestra, led by a very charismatic Mr. Steven Karidoyanes. We couldn’t have asked for more enthusiastic audiences and the students had several invaluable opportunities to interact with local musicians. The images below were taken at their first performance at the National Institute of Biodiversity, the INBIOParque Ampitheatre, located 20 minutes from downtown San Jose.
One thing is for sure, Costa Rica is a fabulous alternative to European tours. Contact us to learn more about this wonderful travel opportunity!
All images copyright of Cindy Esquibel
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