Sunday, October 16, 2011

Costa Rica - A Little Heaven on Earth

Looking for a place less than five hours from New York that offers some adventure, a little romance, some lessons on recycling and great beaches? Then come to Costa Rica, where you’ll find all that and more.

A few hours outside of bustling San Jose finds volcano parks, rain and cloud forests, and some of the most breathtaking scenery in the world.

Stay a night or two in the San Jose area, a bustling city with a new soccer stadium and interesting malls and restaurants. You can do excursions to the Arenal or Poas Volcanos, a day trip to Tortuga Island, a tour of San Jose City, Canopy Tours and White Water Rafting. The Barcelo San Jose Palacio hotel offers this and more a mere 20 minutes from the airport.

A must see is the Arenal Volcano. Stay at one of the many beautiful resorts in the area and go to the Hot Springs for a wonderfully relaxing day of jumping in and out of naturally heated water pools and waterfalls. How about a hiking trip around the Arenal Volcano area, where one of the most active volcanoes in the world is located. In fact, if you stay in one of the many hotels in the area, you may even feel the ground jostling if the volcano is having a very active period.

Or see the Poas Volcano, which is one of the worlds largest geysers with a crater over 1.5 km wide. Your tour may begin with a drive through the many lush coffee plantations located in the high mountains, where the best coffee is grown. At Poas, you can actually walk on the crater and look into the volcano.

There are Rain Forests galore here throughout Costa Rica, where you’ll see monkeys, exotic birds, perhaps some unusual frogs, leaf cutter ants, three toed sloths and more.

Or visit a beautiful Cloud Forest, where the vegetation is lush and butterflies and beautiful moths are plentiful. The Villa Blanca Resort has wonderful cabin rooms with a romantic fireplace and a bio reserve where you can see scientific experiments being done with moths. Did you know moths are one of the animals affected by global warming and that studying moths is helping us learn about the effect of global warming on forests?

Or go southwest to beautiful Manuel Antonia, and visit the Manuel Antonio National Park. Take a hike through the park - you may see snakes, frogs, leaf cutter ants and you will definitely see capuchin monkeys, who know where their bread is buttered and go to the end of the trail looking for food – or beach bags. There is a marvelous beach at the end of the trail that is a bit more private than the public beach – but subject to raccoons or monkeys escaping with your beach towel or beach bag!

Is it rainy? You bet ! During the rainy season from April to December, mornings are usually beautiful and rain may come in the early afternoon. Perhaps you may be as lucky as we were and only have rain at convenient times – night or dinner time, which allowed us to enjoy the days. And does it rain! We have never seen it rain as hard as it does in Costa Rica – but the result is a lush beautiful green country with orchids growing wild in some spots.
All visitors must pay a departure tax when leaving the country. Upon arrival at the modern airport, you'll need to head to the right in the airport to the line to pay - then take your stamped forms to your airline and check in.

Some suggestions for traveling in Costa Rica:
1. Book through a travel agent who uses a well known supplier in the area. Local suppliers offer the best value and will be there to assist if there are any problems. In addition, if there are any surprises at the resort you choose, you'll have the help of an agent to get you moved to another hotel if need be. This is one area that the expertise of an agent who has actually been to the country will help to ensure you see as much of the features as you possibly can.

2. If you decide to drive yourself, make sure you rent a 4 wheel drive car and a GPS. There are many dirt roads and if it is raining, some washouts. There are no street signs and a GPS to get where you want to go is a must.

3. Don’t leave valuables in the open if you rent a car.

4. Buy excursions before you leave. Tour operators use excursion companies that are insured and maintain their vehicles. Some people in our hotel did an ATV Adventure they found in town. Their guide’s ATV ran out of gas in the middle of the forest, resulting in having to go back for more gas. The guides didn’t time the excursion right and they were in the jungle when it got dark – and had a harrowing ride back to the start of the adventure with lights from three helmets. And finally, the bus broke down on the way back to the resort and they had to walk to rest of the way to the resort. You can avoid this by using a licensed vendor.

5. Do see one of the volcanoes.
6. Be ready for bugs and little critters, which are found even in the most upscale and spotlessly clean resort. We had a few ants in two of our hotels, another couple had a gecko visiting that they had to shoe out of the room, and one couple had a scorpion in their room. It is a fact of life when visiting - you can find them anywhere.
7. Costa Rica is a difficult place for those who cannot walk long distances or up and down stairs or steep walkways. Almost every hotel is situated in a mountain or on the side of a mountain. Some have tremendous walks to get to rooms, even many of the beach resorts. You will need to find a hotel that is handicapped accessible or that have golf carts to take you around the resort. These resorts are few and far between – but we have some suggestions, so contact us - we are Costa Rica Specialists and can help find the right resort for you.

Be ready for a great vacation in Costa Rica. Call us – we can personalize your vacation with as much or as little as you’d like to so or see to ensure you will have the vacation of a lifetime. 516-608-0568.

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