Field Notes: Costa Rica: From Sea to Mountains

Posted: Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Discovering Costa Rica: A Journey Through Nature and Adventure


¡Hola amigas de Costa Rica!

We hope your first weeks back from “the lungs of the planet” have provided you with time to rest and reflect upon our amazing 10 days together in Costa Rica. Let’s take a stroll down memory lane…

Day 1 - San Jose

It seems like forever ago now, yet on this day, we all met at the Radisson and quickly got to know each other through a name game. Then, off we headed for our first meal at Cafe Mundo. The wallpaper was funky, but the 3-course meal was fabulous! Then it was off to bed before our big transfer day to the Northern Caribbean coast.

Day 2 - Arrive at Tortuguero

There was nothing like a long travel day to bond our crew on the first full day. Cata spotted a two-fingered sloth on the way to the port in Caño Blanco to take the boat to our lovely home for the next two nights, the Pachira Lodge. We were welcomed with “Agua de Sapo” (a spicy ginger drink), and everyone happily relaxed in their spaces after the transport day.

Day 3 - Full Day in Tortuguero National Park

This day was full of joy and lots of wildlife rewards. In the morning, we went for a boat canal tour with our Capitan Michael, whose keen eyes spotted a cayman, sloth, long-nosed bats, Amazon kingfishers, green iguana, Montezuma oropendola, a male and a female basilisk lizard, and many more!

After the boat tour in the canals, we boated over to the little town of Tortuguero for a stroll and some local wisdom from Cata. While some shopped, others enjoyed fresh coconut water, and all saw a keel-billed heron. We had a quick lunch and siesta back at the hotel before heading out for our canal kayaking adventure.

Our guide, Owen, led the way, and we pushed through the strong current to find calmness, peace, and serenity in the small side channels. Amongst spider monkeys and boat-billed herons, we also spotted blue morpho butterflies. Getting a group photo of everyone was a bit of a challenge, but it was well worth the picture memory. We headed back to Pachira Lodge for a rest and dinner.

Day 4 - Tortuguero to Selva Verde (next to the Sarapiqui River)

Today we woke up in Tortuguero, sang Happy Birthday to Julia, took a boat from the Caribbean side, and made our way to the forests of the Sarapiqui River. Along the way, we stopped at a roadside fruit stand to sample all kinds of local fruits and sweets. We tried mango, ‘monkey boogers' (aka white passion fruit), orange passion fruit, coconut macaroons, fudge, guava, green mango in salsa, star fruit and salt, and all kinds of tasty treats.

After the fruit snack, we headed to Pirella Butterfly Farm, where we met Crystal, one of the owners. Crystal explained that 25 years ago, the land was flat and grassy, just for cattle, and now, it is a full forest and home to much more than butterflies. Before our tour, we had lunch and were treated to cacao and bananas straight from the farm.

Our guide, Walter, showed us white bats, a Night Hawk, sloths, caterpillars and their respective chrysalis and butterflies, red-eyed tree frogs, blue jean poison dart frogs, blue morphos, scorpions, and more! Then we headed to Selva Verde for the evening, where we enjoyed a pizza party and celebrated Julia’s birthday again.

Day 5 - Rafting the Sarapiqui River and arrive at La Fortuna - Home of Arenal Volcano

This morning we woke up to the songs of birds at the beautiful Selva Verde lodge. We met our rafting captain, Julio, in the lobby before we set out for our rafting adventure. This crew of adventurous women mastered several Class II and III rapids - and some even hopped in the kayak for a few, too! Four brave souls also hopped into the river from a cliff! We paused for some fresh watermelon and pineapple and then hopped back in the rafts for a few more rapids! After rafting, we dried off, changed, and stopped for some lunch.

Then it was off to La Fortuna to find our next hotel, Los Lagos, at the base of the Arenal Volcano. Dinner, hot springs, and a full moon?! Does it get better than this?!

Day 6 - Hanging Bridges and a stroll through the town of La Fortuna 

Today we really experienced the tropical rainforest! We hiked all 7 hanging bridges in the pouring rain. This experience brought us forest bathing and a yellow pit viper! We got soaked to the bone, but nothing some hot springs and hot showers could fix! Some folks met up for a trip to La Fortuna to learn about cacao + chocolate and local fruits and to try the local shot: “chiliguaro,” made with local liquor cacique! We then made our way back to the hotel to pick up the rest of our crew and head to dinner. 

Day 7 - Boat transfer across Lake Arenal, lunch in Santa Elena, Night Walk in Monteverde

The morning started out rainy, became cloudy for our private boat ride, and then sunny upon our arrival to the town of Santa Elena. We enjoyed the moderate temperatures and the beautiful views of the tropical rainforest as we crossed the smooth waters of Lake Arenal. The feeling of the sun shining on our skin again was fabulous, and lunch at the Chocolate Cafe was a hit. Many folks found some nice souvenirs in the town of Santa Elena before our night walk. We saw a tarantula, another pit viper, sleeping toucans, and a stick bug!

Day 8 - Canopy Zipline Tour and a walk through Monteverde National Park

Up, up, and away we went with harnesses and helmets in tow. It was special to get a feel for what the monkeys and birds feel as they soar above and through the green canopy. Many faced their fears of heights and took some deep breaths as the platforms swayed in the breeze with the trees.

The guides surprised us with the choice to climb up a Strangler Fig Tree - which finished with a free-hanging ladder! After flying through the sky, it was time for lunch before our afternoon walk. We split into two groups once we arrived at the Monteverde Biological Nature Reserve.

Those who wanted to look for the famous Quetzal (where the Condor and Eagle meet) and those who wanted to move their bodies to the Continental Divide! While some stood up high between the Pacific and Caribbean coasts, others spotted quetzals and wild boars! With some time to spare, we stopped for happy hour at sunset, looking over the Pacific Gulf.

Day 9 - Drive back to San Jose with a stop at El Trapiche Coffee and Cacao Farm

Tour Guide Jeffrey wowed us with stories of the family coffee and cacao farm. We tasted coffee straight off the tree, sugar cane, the fruit of cacao, chocolate, white chocolate, and homemade candy! After a delicious lunch, it was time to get back on the bus and make our way back to the capital. We capped off our trip with a final banquet meal in our very own room. Laughs were shared, tears were shed, and an immense amount of celebration and gratitude was felt. It’s amazing what can happen when 16 adventurous women come together.

We thank each of you for bringing your flavor and bravery to this trip - it wouldn’t have been the same without you! I hope to see you on future AGC adventures!

Until then - we are sending love from the land of coffee and sloths,

Awesome Annika + Cata Karate

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