Eco-Touring Costa Rica
Costa Rica is a dream vacation for any eco-tourist. This is a great place to connect with nature. You will see the natural world in all of its glory from the volcanoes to the rain forest canopy to the seashores. The tropical forests are lush and teeming with wildlife.
My wife and I just completed a ten-day odyssey through this land of wonders. During this trek we were driven some 1000 kilometers (600 miles) through the countryside on our ground transfers and tours. You would have to be crazy to drive in Costa Rica due to the roughness of the roads and the utter lack of traffic regulations. Driving is best left to the local professionals who know the terrain.
Most of the roads we travelled had no yellow lines down the middle. But where present they were merely decorative. For example, a left turn signal is given to a trailing vehicle on a road with a double-yellow line to indicate that it is safe to pass! We were driven down highways, back roads, and even no roads at all. We saw farms and fields and small towns and rural crossroads.
It was interesting to see all the agriculture and the native vegetation. We saw sugar cane, coffee and rice plantations, pineapple farms, melon farms, and orchards of many varieties. We toured a coffee processing plant and learned way more about producing coffee than we had expected. We saw rubber trees, coconut palms, date palms, plantain trees, and pineapple plants. There were lush and aromatic tropical flowers everywhere.
There were wild rivers full of exotic inhabitants. On a river tour we saw crocodiles, iguanas, howler monkeys and white-faced monkeys, bats, and even the lizard that walks on water, Basiliscus Basiliscus or the “Jesus Christ lizard”. Costa Rica has some 500,000 species of animals including some 600 resident bird species plus migrants from all over the continent.
At one of our hotels, there was a bird family that would hang out at the open air restaurant and steal sugar packets and other goodies off of the table. They would first graciously pose for pictures and then demand payment in kind.
We spent three nights in an elegant cabin in the mountains. Our cabin had a glass wall facing the Arenal Volcano. We could watch the clouds perform their fan dance across the peak. We never tired of watching the graceful movements of the clouds. One afternoon we had a cloudburst that was a passionate display of the powers of nature at their finest. The next morning the clouds graciously parted and allowed us to take pictures of the volcano erupting.
While in Arenal we took a zip line tour of the jungle canopy. We travelled some 8 kilometers (5 miles) on the cables, with the longest segment being about 800 meters long (one-half mile). Did I mention that my wife and I are in our sixties and have never done zip lines before? We got to see a tarantula up close and personal.
Our accommodations were posh, with all of the amenities that one would expect at a nice resort.
The people of Costa Rica are known for their warmth and kindness. They are gentle and giving souls who will do anything to help a friend or even a stranger. Everyone in the tourist industry that we met went out of their way to make sure that our trip was a great success. Everyone speaks English, even in the most remote areas, and most speak it at least well enough for simple conversations. You can expect that anyone in the tourist industry will speak English very well. But even so, I took great joy in practicing my fractured Spanish, and the people were happy to help me improve.
The people of Costa Rica all seem to be healthy and strong. This seems to stem from their connection to nature, their cheerful disposition, the rigors of their daily lives and the excellent diet that they enjoy. Infant mortality is low and the life expectancy is 78 years. Even the people in their sixties or beyond seem attractive, healthy, slender and strong. It would seem to be a great place to spend one’s golden years.
The per capita GDP is $12,157. By comparison the per capita GDP of Mexico is $16,588. Everyone in Costa Rica has access to a good education and medical care. But the people seem happy and prosperous beyond the statistical data. The roads are seemingly full of late-model SUV’s of Toyota and Hyundai persuasions.
The food in Costa Rica is truly outstanding, and is reason enough to make the trip. Rice and black beans is a staple which is called “casado” (marriage). Breakfast is often a combination of casado and fresh fruits.
Coffee and chocolate are two of the spectacular foods of Costa Rica. The rich volcanic soils grow some of the best coffees in the world. Pineapples and coffee are the two largest export crops.
Fresh pineapple in Costa Rica is a memorable experience. A slice of fresh pineapple can bring on tears of joy at the sheer wonder of the cool sweetness.
All of the chickens are free range, as are the cattle, pigs and goats. There are no factory farms or feed lots. There are also abundant resources of fresh-caught fish and seafood. The diet is based on plant products with these protein sources as flavoring, and not the main source of nutrition.
As a vegan I had wondered how hard it would be to stick with a vegan diet while traveling through Costa Rica. I found, much to my relief, that a vegan diet is no problem in Costa Rica. Everywhere we went had vegan options. There were times where I requested menu items prepared without cheese.
In Costa Rica, food is local. Many people engage in subsistence or village agriculture, living substantially off of the grid and making due by their own resources.
Some of the best food that we ate came from little roadside diners and dives, places where the locals ate. On one of our tours we ate under a shed roof at a combination farm and farm museum in the middle of nowhere. We had a truly outstanding meal while the farm animals contemplated where our next meals were coming from, and the naughty white-faced monkeys in the treetops pelted us with mangos.
We traveled in late May. May is the start of the rainy season. Since we were somewhat off-season we found the hotels and restaurants uncrowded and the rates low. We did get some afternoon cloudbursts, but that is just part of being in a rain forest. Also, for an eco-tourist this is an opportunity to see how a rainforest nurtures its abundant flora and fauna.
We were especially pleased with our travel company, Costa Rica Vacations, which helped us plan this trip and executed the plan flawlessly. This was not a bus trip with fifty strangers, but a customized package suited to our exact requirements. Your desired trip may look altogether different than ours. That is the beauty of dealing with Costa Rican Vacations. You can plan your own dream vacation and trust that it will be an experience that you will never forget.
Special thanks to :
Costa Rican Vacations
Jeremy helped to design our trip and did everything possible to make it the experience of a lifetime. I would highly recommend him for any of your Costa Rican travel needs. Jeremy is an American Ex-pat, and part of a large and growing American ex-pat community in Costa Rica.