Experience the Marvelous Natural Splendor of Costa Rica
Posted October 22, 2019
Occupying a small sliver of the Central American isthmus, Costa Rica might seem less interesting than some of its neighbors. Panama has the world’s most famous canal, Guatemala boasts incredible Mayan ruins, and several nearby South American nations offer a handful of interesting cities and a more robust Spanish colonial heritage.
But you don’t visit Costa Rica for the architecture, the history, or the nightlife.
You visit for the dazzling and ubiquitous natural splendor.
On our 11-day Costa Rica’s Natural Heritage tour, our small group discovers a nation’s wealth in four distinct regions, from cloud forest to rainforest; Central Valley to Pacific Coast. As Costa Rica presents its staggering display of biodiversity – pristine landscapes, unique microclimates, exotic flora and fauna – we enjoy a relaxed yet comprehensive exploration that celebrates Costa Rica’s wide-ranging natural resources. And for those who can’t get enough, our Pre-Tour Option to Tortuguero National Park can’t be missed.
Like most travel experiences, a Costa Rica vacation is hard to convey in photos and videos. They don’t capture the constant chatter of birds and other rainforest dwellers, the warm morning sun steaming a dense jungle of dripping leaves, or the overall feeling of vibrant life that emanates from every corner of this diverse country.
However, until you book your next Odysseys trip and join our Costa Rica’s Natural Heritage tour, photos and videos are all we can provide. So let’s take a look, starting in the Central Valley.
Central Valley: Volcanos, Coffee, and Orchids
After meeting our tour director and fellow travelers, our first excursion in Costa Rica takes us to Irazu Volcano National Park. The centerpiece of the park, Irazu Volcano, ranks as Costa Rica’s highest active volcano, at 11,260 feet. Though the summit is usually shrouded in clouds, the slopes of this colossus present lovely panoramic views, giving us a bird’s-eye view on the country we are about to explore.
The crater of Irazu Volcano contains a lake with a greenish hue
From one volcano to another, as our next visit takes us to the slopes of Poas Volcano for a tour of the Doka Coffee Estate. Here, we learn about coffee making and Costa Rica’s thriving coffee industry, and of course, have time to sample the wares.
One of the workers at the Doka Coffee Estate
En route to the Arenal region, we make one more stop in the Central Valley, at the town of Carrizal. This lovely town is known for its profusion of exotic plants, and we visit the family-owned Botanical Orchid Garden, which features tropical trails, exhibits, nurseries, and gardens all dedicated to the wondrous orchid plant and its many varieties.
Rainforest: school visit, bio-reserve, and canopy sky walk
Amid all this wondrous nature, it’s easy to forget that Costa Rica’s people are just as interesting and impressive as their country’s environmental offerings. We visit a local elementary school on day four of our journey to meet the lovely locals and get an inside look at the country’s respected educational system, which is responsible for Costa Rica’s 95% literacy rate.
After visiting the school, we get an up-close look at Costa Rica’s lush secondary forest as we visit Ecocentro Danaus, a biological reserve focused on conservation, environmental education, and sustainability. We wander a series of trails winding through orchids, bromelia, and heliconia, and keep our eyes peeled for some of the preserve’s 150 species of birds; sloths; and bats; among other fauna. Highlights include a butterfly farm with 30 different species and a natural water spring that attracts waterfowl, alligators, and iguana.
A baby gator suns himself in Ecocentro Danaus
On the morning of day 5, we dive headlong into the rainforest with an excursion to Arenal’s suspended bridges Sky Walk. Here we get stunning views of the Arenal Volcano as we walk along suspended bridges built in the upper level of canopy. Walking 145 feet up, we pass by two cascading waterfalls and get up close to the forest’s flora and fauna – including birds, reptiles, and monkeys. The forest is also home to “Blood Trees” which emit a red sap to protect itself from fungus and bacteria.
Cloud forest: more bio-reserves, hummingbirds, and bats
The next stop on this ecological tour de force is Monteverde, the country’s “green cathedral” that Costa Rican citizens voted as one of their seven natural wonders. Here, we enjoy a guided walk through the region’s biological reserve, where we learn about the region’s incredible diversity of plant and animal species…
…visit the Hummingbird Gallery to observe these speedy specimens…
… and explore the Monteverde Bat Jungle to learn about Costa Rica’s important bat population, who are tasked with transporting and depositing seeds during pollination.
Our final stop in Monteverde: the Butterfly Garden, presenting a great variety of species, including the stunning blue morpho and the virtually transparent glass-winged butterfly.
Pacific Coast: float safari, beach resort, and time to unwind
The final leg of our adventure takes us to Guanacaste, Costa Rica’s stunning northwest Pacific coastal region lined with pristine dark-sand beaches and home to several national parks. On the morning of day nine, we board a boat for a unique “float safari,” cruising along the Tempisque River, where we may see monkeys, iguanas, and crocodiles.
A few scenes from this excursion:
After that, we have the afternoon, evening, and entire next day at leisure to enjoy the amenities and breathtaking location of our beach resort. With an infinity pool, hiking and jogging trails, and optional activities including zip-lining, white water rafting, and golf, our resort offers something for everyone to enjoy. Those who wish may also visit the nearby town of Tamarindo, Costa Rica’s surfing capital.
Pre-Tour Option: Tortuguero National Park
Costa Rica is blessed with coastlines on both oceans, and the country’s lagoon-riddled shoreline along the Gulf of Mexico is not to be missed. On our four-day Pre-Tour Option, we stay in a rainforest lodge, explore Tortuguero National Park via boat, and learn about the area’s prized green turtles – Tortuguero Beach is the most important nesting site in the Western Hemisphere for this endangered species.