I've dreamed of visiting Costa Rica for several years now, and that dream was finally realized when I made it there on an Adventure Life Journey. The trip from Missoula, Montana to San Jose, Costa Rica is a long one, so I decided to overnight in Miami on the way down. I found my Taca Airlines flight from Miami to San Jose to be quite comfortable, and could hardly contain myself when I realized the plane was actually landing in Costa Rica - I finally made it!
After making it through customs in justa couple of minutes, I quickly found my driver waiting to take me to Hotel Le Bergerac. The 40-minute transfer through San Jose traffic was a great chance for me to begin putting my out-of-practice Spanish skills back to work. I discovered that I'm a bit rusty, but still able to communicate on a basic level. The hotel was just as beautiful as I imagined it, and a tour courtesy of Federico allowed me to see several of the quaint hotel's unique and comfortable rooms.
The second day of the trip started bright and early when I was picked up for my two-day raft trip along the famous Pacuare River. The river would live up to all of my expectations…and more! I was blessed by being able to spend this time with a great group of friendly and fun people from several different places including California, Florida, El Salvador, and Cuba. My time on the Pacuare was wonderful, and I was amazed at the ability of the river guides to produce such great meals in the middle of the jungle. Many thanks to Rafael, Hector, Chino, Johnny, and all of my rafting friends for helping me have the time of my life during our river trip - I'll definitely be back!
It was on to Selva Bananito Lodge after we took out on day two of the whitewater trip. I was transferred to Bananito Town, where my friend Danilo was waiting to take me the remaining 11 kilometers to the lodge. The trip to the lodge was an adventure in itself over a potholed road and through a couple of small streams (which I've heard can be large streams at times!), but we arrived safe and sound at Selva Bananito within about 45 minutes. There I met Victor, my guide for the next three days, who showed me to my lovely room, complete with breathtaking views of the surrounding rainforest from my own personal hammock - does it get any better? The lodge could be described as rustic due to its lack of electricity, but I found it to be luxurious and perfect - the beautiful solar-heated showers are a great touch!
Selva Bananito is a great example of sustainable and responsible tourism at its best. Construction of the lodge began in 1994, after the Stein family declared most of their farm (two-thirds, or 2,000 acres) a private biological reserve. Decades before, much of the native tropical hardwood had been stripped from the land by banana exporters. When the Stein family took over they halted further exploitation of the remaining trees, and used the felled timbers to build 11 cabins on the previously cleared land. Today Selva Bananito Lodge is surrounded by reforested pastures, sustainable farms, and primary rainforest.
My days at Selva Bananito were filled with wonderful activities. Victor led us on a natural history tour the first morning, which was both a fun and educational introduction to the area. I relaxed in my hammock that afternoon and enjoyed the soothing rains. During my visit to Selva Bananito I also experienced sunrise birding, tree climbing, rappelling down a waterfall, and jungle horseback riding. My stay at the lodge was everything I had hoped for-great therapy for the body, mind, and soul.
After lunch on my fourth day at the lodge, Victor took me back to Bananito Town. This time we were in a bit of a hurry, so we made the trip in just over 20 minutes - what a rush!
Next, I journeyed back out to the coast and down to Cariblue Resort at Playa Cocles. Here I was kindly greeted by Richie and immediately given a cold tropical drink. Unfortunately, I was only able to stay at Cariblue for one night, but I could certainly see myself spending more time there during a future trip - with bikes for rent, horseback riding, fishing and snorkeling trips available, and myriad birdlife in the area, there's more than enough to keep visitors busy! A late afternoon walk down Playas Cocles and Chiquita was a nice way to end the day. I enjoyed a mellow Caribbean evening reading in my hammock bungalow - by this time I was engrossed with E. O. Wilson's Biophilia, an eloquent yet scientific narrative on the human bond with other life on earth. It was great timing for me to be in the tropics while reading a field biologist's insight on leaf-cutter ants and their extremely specialized way of life.
Day seven of my tour began with a sunrise bike ride on the road from Playa Cocles to Puerto Viejo - very nice. After a plentiful tropical breakfast at Cariblue I took a minibus transfer bound for the Arenal Observatory Lodge. My view of the erupting volcano from AOL's Smithsonian Block would have been spectacular if it weren't cloaked in dense cloud cover - oh well, not being able to control the weather is something I've learned to accept. Next time I'll have to extend my stay and make sure I take in the volcano views!
In the morning we journeyed north to the Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge, near the Nicaraguan border and the town of Los Chiles. This day proved to be one of the most exciting and fulfilling of the trip, especially since I had no idea what to expect. The day's boat tour on the Rio Frio was chock full of wildlife viewing. We saw capuchin (white-faced), spider, and howler monkeys, a caiman, at least 30 species of beautiful birds, tropical bats, and more! The local outfitter did a great job of keeping us entertained and fed throughout the day.
That night I made it back to San Jose on a long public bus ride that stopped every few minutes. This made me appreciate the much faster minibus transfers I used earlier in the tour, and that our clients use throughout their trips. The staff at comfortable Hotel Santo Tomas in San Jose welcomed me after a long day of travel through Costa Rica's countryside, and I slept well that night, appeased after a great getaway to this ecological paradise. A resounding "Muchas Gracias" to all that helped make this trip possible!