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Make sure to watch the sun rise or set over the Arenal Volcano—it's simply magical. As we sat on our deck enjoying the last of the sunset I noticed a faint glow coming from the top of the Arenal Volcano. Initially we were excited as we thought we were about to witness an eruption—which had not occurred in over a year. Instead, we sat transfixed as we watched the full moon rise from the apex of the volcano and it seemed like Arenal was spitting a fireball across the night sky.
Off the coast of Costa Rica’s remote Osa Peninsula, spend your days at sea counting humpback whales, identifying them by their markings, plotting their movements, and recording their sounds. Your work will help to determine if the same whales return each year and whether the area should be designated as a marine sanctuary. —Kellie Schmitt Humpback Whale Research: $2,690 for one week, including food, lodging, and airfare from San Jose, Costa Rica. (800) 326-7491, oceanicsociety.org. Other Trips to Help AnimalsSnow leopards in Central Asia Orangutans in IndonesiaMeerkats in South AfricaElephants in Thailand Horses in California Photo by “Mike” Michael L Baird, flickr.bairdphotos.com. This story appeared in the November/December 2011 issue.
The Hanging Bridges at Monteverde Cloud Forest was an AMAZING way to experience the Cloud Forest. You literally have a bird's eye view of the entire forest. I went later in the day so I basically had the entire trail to myself which was nice because I could move around at my own pace. I felt like I was on top of the world; it was an incredible experience!
One of the most amazing places I have stayed, and would stay again in an instant, is the Pacuare Eco Lodge in Costa Rica... I stayed in the above cabana high in the rain forest canopy above the ground. The cabana has its own private bridge and hot tub.... You can walk out on the bridge and see monkeys and toucans and feel like you are atop the trees. The lodge sits on the Pacuare River and is only a few hours from capital city San Jose. You can raft the river and take treks up to Cabecar Indian villages. The whole property is run on renewable energy via solar, wind and water turbine power. The staff is great, huge community area for dinner/breakfast and drinks.... There are a many different size cabanas and shared hammock areas... Each cabana feels like it is your private rain forest high in the canopy... Yes, there is a honeymoon suite too!! http://www.pacuarelodge.com/ Enjoy!
Playa Conchal makes every list of Costa Rica's most beautiful beaches, and once you see it, you'll know why: sand made up of crushed shells; water that has somehow taken on a more turquoise hue than the rest of the coast; gentle, lapping waves; a ruggedly beautiful shoreline, and insanely technicolor sunsets. If you're in the mood to bliss out on your own slice of paradise, then put on your sunscreen, get out your book, and stake out a corner of beach, because you're in the perfect spot. Photo by Arturo Sotillo/Flickr.
Sometimes, the best day of vacation is spent hanging out at and around the hotel and finishing off the evening with some entertainment. On-site at the Westin is the Astrea Theater Bar and Lounge, where guests can enjoy live performances by local musicians while sipping cocktails crafted with exotic Costa Rican ingredients, such as the passion fruit. The Astrea is open every night from 6pm-11pm. TravelingOtter
Mornings are the best for bird watching in Costa Rica. Sitting by the pool, at the Selva Verde Lodge at four in the morning, turned out to be a fantastic idea. I saw a wide variety of birds, including toucans, parrots, and even the occasional hawk. Not only are the birds a pleasure to watch because of their colorful feathers, but also their unique songs are a wonder to listen to. It’s almost as if their singing just for you! Waking up early to experience nature alone ~ never means being lonely. Learning AFAR, in partnership with Global Explorers, promotes cross-cultural exchange by sending students on trips to experience other parts of the world. Sponsorship assistance from the Pearson Foundation, Schlumberger, and Wimmer Solutions makes the trips possible. Donate at afar.com/foundation.
Club Rio Outdoor Center and Wildlife Preserve is located in The Springs Resort & Spa near the base of the Arenal Volcano in northwest Costa Rica. For $99 USD, you can opt for the mult-adventure package, which includes the Springs' hot springs (with three varying temperatures - all incredible!), a Costa Rican lunch, access to hiking trails and a wildlife sanctuary, and a choice of two other activities, one of which is kayaking. If you're a first-time river kayaker, there's no need to worry: the rapids are all Level 1. Though I defintely wobbled down some of the more slippery spots in the river, no one in our group fell out, so you'll probably be pretty safe, too. But, if kayaking isn't your thing, you can also go tubing alongside the kayaking group - no paddle needed. Loved it here - gorgeous river, comfortable boats, very skilled guides. The atmosphere is somewhat targeted to North American travelers, but their mission is unmistakably Costa Rican: to preserve the animals, the land, the waters, and the beauty of this stunning little country. Also, if you're interested, we went with TAM Travel, a local Costa Rican tour operator. They arranged everything for us!
At Finca La Bella Tica I got to see how a small family owned farm produces their organic coffee. I got a short tour and even got to taste the coffee which by the way was deliciouse. Learning AFAR, in partnership with Global Explorers, promotes cross-cultural exchange by sending students on trips to experience other parts of the world. Sponsorship assistance from the Pearson Foundation, Schlumberger, and Wimmer Solutions makes the trips possible. Donate at afar.com/foundation.
I'd never surfed nor wanted to until l I booked a week-long stay at a Yoga and Surf retreat in Montezuma, Costa Rica. I was interested in the Yoga but surfing was included in the package so I made use of the opportunity to try something new. Excitement was my first reaction until fear set in. What if I drowned got attacked by a shark? I arrived at the beach on a beautiful but windy day. The surf was pretty fierce and the instructor thought the lesson might be cancelled. We walked for about a mile to the section of beach where the lessons took place and learned they would not be cancelled. I was terrified. The waves were huge. Seasoned surfers were already out there and getting tossed around like rag dolls. I got a very brief lesson on how to get the board past the breakwater and how to stand on the board. I put a brave face on, walked to the water's edge and charged into the breakwater...and was tossed like a rag doll. But it wasn't so bad! All the thoughts I had were gone. Over and over again, I was tossed around only to turn around and do it again until I set my eye on one wave, a big one. I shut everything out, got on that board, waited for that right moment and stood up and rode it all the way to shore. I left the beach that day with a new-found respect for the sea and a new-found love for surfing. Did I mention I was the only one in my class that successfully rode a wave all the way to shore? Who knew I was a natural!
On my recent road trip through the provinces of Costa Rica, one of our stops was the Monteverde - Santa Elena cloud forest reserves in the province of Guanacaste. One of the most popular activities here is zip lining as you get to zip through and above the canopy of the cloud forests. They're called cloud forests for a reason. During the wet season and often times even throughout the rest of the year the surrounding mountain ranges trap the clouds within the forest such that walking through it can feel like you're walking through mist and clouds. The result is the verdant beauty that is evident even during the dry season, as the photo shows. This shot was taken off of one of the hanging bridges of Selvatura. Walking across it and gazing out at the seemingly never ending expanse of trees is a wonderful feeling. Zip lining through it, on the other hand, is a 'OMG! I'm flying!' sort of feeling that although can not be captured on camera, is also one of the things in life best experienced firsthand!
Visitors who are making a day trip to the Arenal Volcano National Park have plenty of options for activities beyond seeing the volcano itself. Hot springs and mud baths are other popular natural attractions, and are particularly welcome experiences after a day of strenuous hiking in the national park. Several tour operators and sites offer access to the hot springs and mud pools; one of the most popular is Tabacón. Day passes or visits with a tour outfitter allow visitors access to the property's three thermal springs. Photo by Jennifer Morrow/Flickr.
Many moons ago on the way back from a business trip I read an article on some place called “Costa Rica”. It was full of lush forests, mighty rivers, and Volcano’s. It had great surfing and snorkeling right off rough and rustic beaches, sport fishing, hiking…the list went on and on. However, it was the article on white-water rafting that got me…I had done some before…but I needed to do it here. The river looked like it cut through Jurassic Park! I did go and raft that river…(I’ve been to CR 5X thus far) and even though I had an “incident on that river that might dissuade others from doing it again…I went back a few years later for more…two days this time. I have many stories from my trips to Costa Rica but this is the one I love telling…especially to see how people react…this is the one that another minute or so… instead of this being one of my favorite stories to tell…it would have been one of the worst for the others in my raft… I ‘m white-water rafting the Pacuare River when we hit a big drop loaded with boulders…I was thrown out of the raft…hovered up in the air…then vanished and found myself trapped in a hydraulic under the raft! Stay frosty!…keep tucking into ball to drop…not working …finally a current took me…still under 15ft + of water…swimming up toward light…waves keep crashing on top of me…can’t break thru them!!! Running out of air…one final kick!…stroke!…air!!! Sweet air!…I look ahead…no raft?!? look back…my fellow travellers paddling towards me…
I spent the day with 30 other faculty members, visiting the various sites at Earth University in Costa Rica, where the emphasis is on sustainability and agriculture, taught in an international environment of promoting peace. The highlight was meeting the founder of the school and hearing his story and vision for the future. What a cool, cool (but hot and humid) place.
The La Fortuna Waterfall is an easy hike (down, much harder soaking wet on the way up!) to the base of a breathtaking water fall. Jump in the icy water for an invigorating swim at the base of the thunderous falls!
As soon we got to corozalito in costa rica, we kept seeing stray animals. I have never seen that, I wanted to take pictures of them. Is wonderful to know the differences in countries. How in the United States every animal has to have a owner yet in CostaRica the animals are free to be anywhere, getting food anywhere they can. The life style of people and even animals are different back home, it was a nice experience to compare home to a different culture. It made me be aware of the different aspects of different countries and keep me open minded when I travel. Learning AFAR, in partnership with Global Explorers, promotes cross-cultural exchange by sending students on trips to experience other parts of the world. Sponsorship assistance from the Pearson Foundation, Schlumberger, and Wimmer Solutions makes the trips possible. Donate at afar.com/foundation.
What an incredible project! I remember geodesic domes from the 1970's in Boulder, CO. So it was amazing to be a part of the building of one in this day--how they are still important & useful structures. Plus it looks so cool!
Africa has its "Big 5" but Costa Rica boasts its own cast of critters. I saw dozens of white-faced monkeys and lizards in Manuel Antonio as well as some tropical raccoons scavenging on the beach. The highlight of the day was spotting two sloths casually gnawing on leaves overhead.
San Luis is a rather unique community for it is divided into two sections: Upper and Lower San Luis. Upper San Luis boasts all the prime tourist attractions like zip lining across the cloud forest canopy, while Lower San Luis, offers humbling mountains and quaint farms that make up Monte Verde. To sum up, San Luis offers the best of two worlds. Learning AFAR, in partnership with Global Explorers, promotes cross-cultural exchange by sending students on trips to experience other parts of the world. Sponsorship assistance from the Pearson Foundation, Schlumberger, and Wimmer Solutions makes the trips possible. Donate at afar.com/foundation.
The original farm-to-table eatery in the area, Mary’s Restaurant, lies just down the road from the fishing harbor in Mal País village. With its pool table, polished concrete floors, and chalkboard menu, it feels like a pub. But along with such comfort foods as pizza and fish tacos, you can enjoy Thai lobster tails drizzled in raw honey. 506/2640-0153. Photo courtesy of Mary's Restaurant.
Anamaya is located in Montezuma, Costa Rica. This image is taken from their extremely tranquil yoga deck, where guests practice twice a day. This hidden gem is affordable, has gorgeous cabanas, and serves the best vegetarian food I've ever had. Originally built to be a celebrity destination, the owner, frequently seen on the grounds conversing with guests and attending yoga classes, decided to follow his vision of creating a tranquil oasis for detoxification and health. The experience also includes an infrared sauna, workshops, surfing, and whatever services guests and friends want to offer. For example, this week we have an amazing musician that plays during morning and evening yoga sessions and gives free astrology readings :) This place is truly special, combining health, community and a sense of tranquility in a breathtaking setting. Check out their website here!! http://www.anamayaresort.com/
A few hours North of San Jose, Costa Rica are the small towns of La Fortuna and Arenal which are known as the basecamp for many adventures such as rafting, mt biking, trekking, bird watching, hot springs and watching lava come off of Arenal Volcano at night. One of the coolest day trips is to zipline through old-growth rainforest 600 feet in the air. You'll see and hear howler monkeys, see toucans and more... You'll take a safety class with SKYTREK, get outfitted with helmets, gloves and a harness before you take a tram up to the first of ten ziplines.. You hook up and the ride is breathtaking through the upper canopy of primal rainforest! Very safe and reputable company with a spotless track record. (506) 2479 9944 - firstname.lastname@example.org After your zipline adventure, have dinner at small town of Forutuna at one of the many small travel restaurants in the backpacker-esque town.... Then hit one of the famous natural hot springs just on the edge of town. A great one I have spent many a night soaking in is Tabacon hot springs. The springs will set you back about $40usd, dinner included, but the quality is excellent compared to some of the other hot springs in the area. www.tabacon.com -Remember to take a little camera/video to strap to your arm or chest while zipping down the lines!
A luxury hotel in the shadow of Arenal Volcano features a series of pools—one equipped with slides—and waterfalls set amid tropical gardens. Lava streaming from the volcano may provide an after-dark show. Tabacón Grand Spa Thermal Resort, (877) 277-8291, from $245. Photo courtesy of Tabacón Grand Spa Thermal Resort. This appeared in the December/January 2010 issue.
Viewing Arenal Volcano from the thermal hot springs at the base of the mountain. The peak is rarely clear but when the clouds break it's an awesome sight.
Montezuma was a must-stop recommendation of all the beaches, so when we two Floridians finally arrived on the miniature, desolate coast in this small town we were confused. The communal bonfire atmosphere described seemed unlikely and the view was dreary on the cloudy days we were there, but our uncertainty was stifled when a gruff looking man came running to shore mid-catch (translation: bloody fish in hand) to show us his hostel rooms. We took one to end the awkward pressure of the circumstance and headed to the highly anticipated beach to relax. Having fulfilled this trip's bucket list, we saved laying in the sun and doing nothing for last, but a few hours of being the only two people on the beach under the clouds proved disappointing. Holding on to hope that this town would measure up to its reputation, we searched for the known waterfall to redeem it. Looking up the creek I worried the trek upstream might add to the discouragement, but when our luck brought on rain as well, we gave up on forcing this portion of the trip, packed up our clothes, and jumped in. Feeling the rush of the refreshing water and playing like no one was watching was all it took. I jumped off a rock that looks much smaller in photos and took a potentially homeless, bearded man's directions to swim deep enough to see the limestone below. We consequently had a blast, by ourselves--no parties, bonfires, or beach tans necessary. I mean we found those eventually, but after a day playing in the water.
"You get to the end of the road . . . make sure you lock your car. Follow the beach down to a bunch of white tents. You can’t miss it.” We’d heard those words before, and we’d proved our inalienable right to, indeed, miss what could not be missed. But after a long walk, we saw someone hailing us from a tented area. “You’re just in time--we’re about to release the turtles.” Not many visitors go to Playa Caletas to find Pretoma Turtle Sanctuary. Situated on one of the more remote beaches of the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica, and often moving between beaches, it’s a place you’ve got to know is there and want to find. Fortunately, we did. “The people who make it here are the people we want to come,” summed up our makeshift tour guide from Barcelona. We met young people from all over the world there for one cause--to safeguard enough turtles between egg laying and hatching into the sea to keep the species viable. As the Pacific sun set, our three kids got the experience of holding a baby Olive Ridley sea turtle gently in their hands and releasing it onto the sand. We all cheered them on in their dangerous scamper to the sea, and we all felt a little like turtle parents, swelling with pride at our offspring and thrilled for their safety. Not the way we’d ever spent a Christmas Eve before. But caring for the helpless felt like a good fit, as we returned back down the long moonlit beach.
Belly breathe some ocean air into your sun salutation at Pranamar, where resident teachers and visiting experts lead flow yoga classes in the teakwood chalet just steps from the sand. If you book a room, one class a day is included with your stay. There’s also a restaurant where students sip from coconuts after class. 506/2640-0852. Photo courtesy of Pranamar Villas.
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