Friday 19 Aug, 2011

Discovering Costa Rica

Cassandra Lund Cassandra Lund has traveled on more than fifteen EF tours and has more planned through 2013. Lund is a magazine journalism major at Temple University in Philadelphia, and she hopes to write for a travel magazine after her graduation in 2012. Here, she writes about her experiences on her recent EF tour of Costa Rica. 

By Cassandra Lund | EF student traveler

Banana Plantation
On our first day in Costa Rica we experienced why it was called the rainy season when we were caught in a thunder storm on the way to our hotel in San Jose. Our tour guide led us to a banana plantation, the main export of Costa Rica, on the side of the road. We were lucky enough to arrive just when workers were cutting the bananas down from the tree.

Tortuguera Bird
After San Jose, we headed to Tortuguera, which is on the Atlantic side of Costa Rica. There are few cars in Tortuguera and we had to go everywhere by boat during our stay.  During our nature tour down canals and rivers, we saw many birds, including this one pictured, iguanas, flowers and even a Cayman!  Our local guide was very knowledgeable and told us every bird we saw, even if it was flying through the air way above our heads!

Lake Arenal Kayak
Our next stop was the Arenal region of Costa Rica, where the dormant volcano lies. Our group went kayaking in Lake Arenal, in close proximity to a once active volcano! In the middle of the kayaking we had the chance to swim in the lake and cool off before heading back to shore.

La Fortuna Waterfall
La Fortuna is a beautiful waterfall located near the volcano in the Arenal region. The waterfall is about 70 meters high. You are able to view the waterfall from above, where this picture was taken, and down below, you can swim at its base. Our whole group also participated in zip lining; afterwards we were able to go back to the waterfall for a swim. There was so much to do in Arenal including horseback riding, more sightseeing and delicious dining.

Arenal Volcano
Our hotel was in perfect viewing distance of the volcano and this picture was taken from our pool area.  The volcano stands 5,358 feet tall and is considered a young volcano, being estimated at less than 7,000 years old. The last eruption of the volcano was in 1998, and is still considered active.

Volcano Survior
As a special surprise to our group, our tour guide took us to the house of a Volcano survivor.  He told us his story of the eruption in 1968, its destruction and how it affected his life. His family survived, and was moved by the government to “New Arenal City”, where they live today. He was kind enough to take us into his home even though he did not speak a word of English!

Puma Rescue
We sadly had to leave Arenal and La Fortuna to continue our journey to Guanacaste Region. On our way, we stopped at a Puma Rescue area. Their function is to protect native animals that were unable to go back into the wild. There were many large cats including pumas, ocelots, leopards and more. Other animals that made their home there were monkeys, parrots, toucans and otters. We were able to get close to these animals, a special experience not possible in a zoo.

Las Pumas Parrot
At Las Pumas we experienced the beautiful creatures that call Costa Rica home. Here is a picture of a parrot that loved my camera! He loved my camera so much he thought it was food and kept trying to take a bite while I was snapping pictures. The birds and cats were my favorite because of their beauty and curiosity. These were not your typical zoo animals; they were very interactive with our group.  This was truly an experience unique to Costa Rica.

Liberia Church
After Las Pumas we continued to the Guanacaste region. We stopped in Liberia, where our plane would be leaving from a few days later. Liberia was full of history and we were even allowed time for a little retail therapy. We were brought to the first church in Costa Rica, pictured here. The inside of the church was like the rest of Costa Rica; understated but unique and attractive. Speacial features included the many statues and wood carvings as well as the altar at the front of the church.

Costa Rica Sunset
The Guanacaste region was my favorite part of the trip. We were near the beach and at a beautiful hotel with several pools. Half of our group left and half stayed for the extension of two days in the area. I was luckily with the part that stayed and we got to choose what we did those days. We were able to enjoy lobster, riding ATVs, the beach, pools and shopping.  Of everything we did, my favorite was a small sailing ship excursion where we sailed out into the Pacific Ocean. We got to go swimming in blue water, go into a seaside cave, and watch the sunset from our boat in the middle of the Pacific. This picture was taken as soon as we got back onto the beach from the boat, summing up Costa Rican life perfectly.