Tag Archives: La Virgen

Costa Rica Part 3: The Eco Adventures

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When in Costa Rica, one must Eco Adventure. In fact, I am pretty sure they don’t let you leave the country until you have partaken in some Eco activity. Luckily, there is something for everyone where that is concerned: from hikes through the rainforest, canopy hikes over suspended bridges or tram rainforest tours , to activities of varying extremes like white water rafting, zip lining, ATV riding, kayaking, horseback riding, surfing, plus you can pretty much rappel and jump off of anything – waterfalls, canyon walls, the Marriott Hotel (not really, but Teen considered the possibility). And the list goes on!

There are two good things about the Eco Adventures in Costa Rica.  First, almost all of the activities are offered in every region and, second, the Costa Ricans, across the board, are vastly adept at making the experiences safe, fun, and exhilarating!

Although we could not work in every activity we wanted to do, we did manage to come away with some amazing adventures. In fact, every tour we went on was a memorable experience.

1. ATV  RIDE– The Four Hour Tour

Tour Company: AXR An Xtreme Rider – Jaco, Costa Rica

ATV tour

Our ATV Tour in Jaco, Costa Rica started out to be a 2 hour ride through muddy river beds, rainforest trails, rivers and in the mountains above Jaco with beautiful vistas of the Pacific Coastline. However, at the end of our scheduled 2 hours, we were just not ready to be finished! So we kidnapped our guide and demanded he take us to a waterfall, kindly asked our guide, Luis, to take us for a few more hours, to a waterfall (‘cause in Costa Rica there is apparently a never ending supply of waterfalls to go to and swim in). He agreed, and off we went!

ATV TourTo top off what turned out to be our favorite Eco experience, Luis (who I should point out made the ride really enjoyable and exhilarating, and was very patient with myself and younger son who were first time ATV riders!), took us to mountain high restaurant – Rancho Shadday – to experience, hands down, the best homemade Epanadas (made to order no less) in the whole of Costa Rica (I still dream about them!)

"Welcome to the place where there's no world crisis"

“Welcome to the place where there’s no world crisis”

2. WHITE WATER RAFTING – Monkey See Monkey Do

Tour Company: Hacienda Pozo Azul Adventures – La Virgen, Sarapiqui River

Whte Water RaftingLet’s see, white water rafting, through a rainforest river, with Toucan and Howler Monkey’s looking on – not much to dislike here (except, I am pretty sure those Howler Monkeys were laughing at us because despite the many promises throughout our time in Costa Rica of seeing monkeys, the glimpse of them in the trees as we tried to not get flipped out of the boat was the only siting we would ever have!).

Add to it, the midway stop with fresh pineapple, machete’d on an overturned boat on the shore (Note: Costa Ricans love their machetes, available for purchase in the local grocery store), 15 foot high ledge to jump off of, and a swim in the Sarapiqui River and you have the makings of a pretty perfect experience.

The rapids were just extreme enough to be fun and not terrifying – 3’s and 2’s (although the rest of my family was ready to take on some 4’s by the end!).

White Water rafting, Sarapiqui river, Costa RicaThe beauty of the river winding through the lush rainforest is not an experience I will soon forget, if ever! Luckily, since the truth is, I don’t have any pictures that really do justice to the beauty of the surroundings. You will just have to take my word for it!

3. ZIP LINE AND TARZAN SWING – Ahhhhhaahhhhhhaaaahhhhhhahhhahhahaaa

Tour Company: Ecoglide – Arenal Park, La Fortuna, Costa Rica

Zip Line, Arenal Park, La Fortuna , Costa RicaZip Lines are everywhere in Costa Rica – you would think they, like, originated the idea or something (which, of course, they did). We chose this particular Zip Line tour partially because, duh, the added Tarzan Swing. At no extra cost, we just could not pass up the chance to potentially lose our lunch doing a bungee like drop on a “Tarzan Swing”. However, it proved to be worth the risk of losing stomach contents (which we didn’t) to scream our way to the bottom (which only I did) on the Tarzan Swing– actually, the whole experience was serious fun.

The 13+  Zip Line runs (plus Tarzan Swing) were thrilling, beautiful, and felt like a once in a lifetime experience. The guides at each  tree stand between runs were fun, the level of safety was exemplary and the instruction for first time & repeat zip liners was just the right amount.

Zip Line, Costa Rica, Arenal Park

4. HORSEBACK RIDING – The Frog of Death, our new pet

Tour Company: Discovery Horseback Tours – La Quina (near Jaco), Costa Rica

Horseback Riding, Costa RicaWhat do horses and spa quality volcanic mud have in common? Only the Discovery Horseback Tour company’s Spa Tour in Costa Rica. Owned and operated by English couple, Chris and Andrea, now 12 year residents in Costa Rica, the tour was the best possible choice for our desire to ride horses in Costa Rica. The horses were beautifully kept and cared for, many rescued from abuse situations. We chose to take the 2 hour ride by a local farm, up into the rainforest and to a small waterfall (remember what I said about the waterfalls…) where we got to slather volcanic mud (a boys dream) all over ourselves before swimming in the waterfall pool.

After emerging from the pool with smooth as silk skin from head to toe, we were treated to fresh fruit, homemade fruit juice and flavored tea before continuing on our ride. Along the way on our ride, Andrea educated us with knowledge of rainforest growth patterns, ecology, wildlife and insect habits,  and located for us various creatures to observe including the infamous Costa Rican poison dart  frog (no, pre-teen-now-teen, you can’t take him home…but he is cute for a frog that emits poisonous juices)

Poison Dart Frog, Costa RicaAnother perfect experience – Pre-Teen-now-Teen’s favorite.

5.  RAINFOREST CANOPY HIKE

Tirimbina Rainforest– La Virgen, Costa Rica and Arenal Rainforest – La Fortuna, Costa Rica

Here is the thing, rainforests in Costa Rica are as plentiful as dirt on a ditch digger (little redneck humor for ya there). They are all stunning and I don’t really think it matters which rainforests you choose to visit, just make sure you do! The Canopy hikes – going across bridges suspended over the rainforest floor– offer a view from the “upper floors” of the rainforest. (Tirimbina)

Canopy Bridge, Tirimbina Rainforest, Costa RicaWhile the hikes through the rainforest gives you the up close and personal touch. (Arenal Rainforest)

Arenal Rainforest, Costa RicaMany of the hikes offer views of waterfalls along the way and they all offer an abundance of insects (don’t mess with the ants, they may carry you off), wildlife (be sure to look up high into the trees to see monkeys – if you are lucky- and exotic birds), and lush green foliage.

La Fortuna Waterfall, Costa RicaLa Fortuna , Costa Rica

Some areas offer an aerial tram that can be a good alternative for seeing the rainforest from above if you are not inclined to Zip Line.

 

Honestly, when it comes to Eco Tours in Costa Rica, you can’t really go wrong – turn the wrong direction, yep- that could happen, but have a bad tour…not likely!

More on Travel in Costa Rica!

Costa Rica Part 1: Take a Picture, It Lasts Longer

Costa Rica Part 2: No Signs Allowed!

For More Sweet Spot Travels: GO HERE

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Costa Rica Part 2: No Signs Allowed!

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Costa Rica

Want to get the most out of a trip to Costa Rica? Then, I have one piece of vastly important advice for you…

Rent a car!

But wait, there’s more!

Actually, as with all unsolicited advice, there is a catch.

If you are going to follow my lead and rent a car to get around Costa Rica, (preferably one with 4 wheel drive) it is absolutely essential (in that, always put on clean underwear before you leave the house kind of way) to rent (or bring) a GPS!

Our initial reaction when the rental car salesman in San Jose, Costa Rica started urging us to also rent their Garmin GPS, was something like “Sure, gouge the tourist for more cash!” However, there was something in the earnestness of his insistence (and, the fact that Costa Ricans in general tend to be vastly straight forward about things) that made us finally relent and rent the GPS for $8 per day. It didn’t take long (about two blocks) to realize the complete and utter necessity of the gadget.

You see, the Costa Ricans, while a lovely people in general who really know how to host a traveler in their beautiful country, have a cultural abhorrence for street signage…anywere! Technically the streets all have names – the maps are loaded with them – but trying to find an actual street  sign anywhere in the towns and cities is like looking for a teenager without a phone in hand. Even Costa Ricans, when queried about this phenomena, expressed their own difficulties when travelling to a town they had never been to before.

Now, don’t get me wrong. You will get enough signage to get the general sense of your place in the world,

I think I know the way to San Jose...

I think I know the way to San Jose…

But,  other directions will look like this:

We must be almost there...

We must be almost there…

Or, come from locals (and even printed in online directions) in the form of relational positioning such as “six blocks from the Church”, or “around the corner from the store”, or “over there (points to some distant corner of the town)”. Of course, success with directions of this sort is dependent on knowledge of where the actual “church”, “store”, or “there” is located.

I think he knows where we need to go...but he's not talkin'

I think he knows where we need to go…but he’s not talkin’

By the time we had completed our first drive from San Jose to La Virgen, successfully winding our way around myriads of unmarked streets as the electronic voice told us just where to turn, we were ready to get down and kiss the proverbial feet of our precious rented GPS. (just in the figurative sense, of course – we did not want to look weird). The truth is, without the GPS we would probably still be driving in circles around the mountain towns of Costa Rica (which wouldn’t be so bad, aside from the bothersome reality of work, school and pets demanding to be fed).

About now I suppose you are asking yourself why the crazy Sweet Spot chick is encouraging you to risk driving around Costa Rica at all! Perhaps some perverted plan to send travelers randomly driving in circles around the wilds of Costa Rica?

For one reason, and one reason only – really, the only one that matters.

If you don’t get in a car and drive yourself around Costa Rica, you will miss seeing things like this:

Rio La Paz. Drive from San Jose to La Virgen

Rio La Paz. Drive from San Jose to La Virgen

Farmland - drive from San Jose to La Virgen

Mountain farm – drive from San Jose to La Virgen

Drive from La Virgen to La Fortuna

Drive from La Virgen to La Fortuna

Sheep farm between Jaco and Quepo

Sheep farm between Jaco and Quepo

Beach between Hermosa and Quepo

Beach between Hermosa and Quepo

 

Driving into La Fortuna

Driving into La Fortuna

Drive from Jaco to San Jose

Drive from Jaco to San Jose

The Defense rests.

For other posts on Costa Rica:

Costa Rica Part 1: Take a Picture, It Lasts Longer

Costa Rica Part 3: The Eco Adventures

For more Sweet Spot Travels: GO HERE

 

 

Costa Rica Part 1: Take a Picture, It Lasts Longer

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Costa RicaWhat can you say about a country that offers so much in the way of  beauty, adventure, food and culture?  It would seem, not much as I have been home from a recent trip to Costa Rica for almost 2 weeks and have yet to be able to get anything down on paper!  I attribute my speechlessness to the fact that I spent the entirety of the trip, traveling around the country muttering to myself over and over again “It’s so beautiful!”, “It’s so beautiful!”, “It’s so beautiful!”…

While I know my muted status will not persist forever, much to the disappointment of my kids, (although I am sure they are glad the muttering has stopped), I decided the best way to get the ball rolling was to share some of my favorite photos from the trip.

What I can’t seem to put into words, possibly I can attempt to portray in pictures. Even though, it will be a poor man’s version of the real thing!

At least, it is worth a try…

Esterillo Beach

Esterillo Beach, Costa Rica

La Virgen, Costa Rica

La Virgen, Costa Rica

La Virgen, Costa Rica

La Virgen, Costa Rica

Hermosa Beach, Costa Rica

Hermosa Beach, Costa Rica

La Fortuna, Costa Rica

Rainforest in La Fortuna, Costa Rica

Rio Fortuna Waterfall, Costa Rica

Rio Fortuna Waterfall, Costa Rica

Hermosa Beach at Sunset, Costa Rica

Hermosa Beach at Sunset, Costa Rica

Sand Dollar found on Esterillo Beach, Costa Rica

Sand Dollar found on Esterillo Beach, Costa Rica

Get the picture?

Other posts on Costa Rica:

Costa Rica Part 2: No Signs Allowed!

Costa Rica Part 3 – The Eco Adventures

For more Sweet Spot Travels – GO HERE