How would you like to play a concert in the middle of a lush ecological park filled with tropical birds, sloths, tarantulas, turtles and a host of other animals? Maybe a historic theater or local music school is more your style? Costa Rica offers all that and more. As an alternative to European trips, it makes a safe, exciting and economical international destination for your performance tour.
Costa Rica is one of the most biodiverse places on Earth with steaming rainforests, waterfalls, volcanoes, beaches, mangrove swamps and a huge variety of wildlife. With a combination of low prices and a welcoming, relaxed lifestyle, this democratic and prosperous nation has become one of the most popular travel spots in all of the Americas.
A peaceful, green jewel of Central America, this small country - about the size of West Virginia - offers greater biodiversity than the US and Europe combined and welcomes visitors with open arms. Costa Ricans, or Ticos as they call themselves, embody the warm, easygoing rhythms of the local mantra - pura vida or pure life.
Begin your journey by flying into San Jose, Costa Rica’s capital and largest city. In the same time zone as Chicago, you won’t experience the jet lag associated with other international trips. It is home to European-influenced architecture such as the National Museum, with its impressive exhibits of natural history and pre-Columbian art and artifacts, the University of Costa Rica and the Teatro Nacional, which was built from coffee taxes and modeled after the Paris Opera House.
While in San Jose you can have the opportunity for an exchange with students at the Costa Rican Institute of Music and perhaps a performance at the grand 700-seat Auditorio Nacional, the most modern performing arts venue in the city.
From San Jose head south to San Carlos, home to the famous Arenal volcano, among the most active in the world. On a clear night it may be possible to see the orange glow of lava flowing from the volcano above. Board a river boat and enjoy the sights and sounds of the rainforest as you paddle along the Sarapiqui River. Along the way you will likely see monkeys, sloths, iguanas, crocodiles and many varieties of tropical birds.
Visit the nearby small town of La Fortuna and hike to the La Fortuna waterfalls, then take to the trees for an exhilarating canopy tour. While here you can also perform inside the town’s beautiful church.
En route back to San Jose, stop by the magnificent Poas Volcano where you can stand at the edge of its crater and look down 1,000 feet to the geyser-like eruptions. Add a visit to a coffee plantation and then enjoy a Latin dancing show with your dinner.
Monteverde Cloud Forest
For a longer stay, there are other magnificent areas of the country worth exploring. About 3 hours northwest of San Jose lies Monteverde, home of the cloud forest. Founded in the 1950s by a group of Quakers from Alabama, Monteverde Cloud Forest is home to more than 400 species of birds, 100 species of mammals and 2,500 species of plants. For the adventurous, you can swing far above the forest floor on the world famous Monteverde Canopy Tour. There are also opportunities to participate in a service project as well as perform in a local church.
If you’re looking for something more relaxing, head to the resort city of Jaco Beach on the Pacific Ocean and enjoy the beautiful beaches. Excursions are possible to the Manuel Antonio National Park where a local guide can take you through some of the forest trails, stopping for a swim on the way. Then, sit back and relax on white sand beaches that are shaded by the trees of the jungle.
About the Author
Jon comes to Encore Tours after 20 years as a professional trumpet player in United States Air Force bands including assignments in Ohio, Germany, Massachusetts and California. During his military career he performed in concert band, jazz ensemble, brass quintet and marching band in more than 20 US states and 19 foreign countries. Jon holds a Bachelor's degree in trumpet performance from Northern Illinois University.More Content by Jon Linker