Costa Rica With Caravan Tours, part 2

The Nicaraguan border

Rio Frío Cruise to Nicaragua, War and… Relaxation

img_7774

It was early in the morning and we were headed to Los Chiles, a border town close to Nicaragua where we boarded a river boat on the Rio Frío (the Cold River).

Bats along the bank of the Rio Frió
Long-nosed bats along the bank of the Rio Frió

Rolando pointed out howler monkeys and spider monkeys in the trees, caiman in the river, many different types of birds, iguana and other animals.

Google Maps Almost Caused A War…

img_7810

In 2010, when Nicaragua saw that Google maps placed a disputed territory in Nicaragua, they declared this to be Nicaraguan territory.

Costa Rica’s deputy foreign minister complained to Google and the map was adjusted, but Nicaragua left 50 soldiers in the disputed area, holding onto the claim. Costa Rica has no military,

The disagreement dates all the way back to a succession vote in some border towns back in 1824.

Costa Rica moved the fight to the U.N. Security Council and a decision was just reached in February 2018, returning the territory to Costa Rica.

Interesting!

When our bus passed a baseball field, Rolando said this was for Nicaraguan migrant workers, since Costa Ricans don’t play baseball.


The Nicaraguan border
We made it to the Nicaraguan border. There were no soldiers waiting to capture us!

Volcanic Hot Springs

img_7850

We ate lunch in Los Chiles, the border town on the Costa Rican side, and then headed back to the hotel to shower and take a five-minute bus ride to the volcanic hot springs at the base of Arenal Volcano to soothe our tired muscles from all the running around we were doing. I don’t have photos (except this one right above) since it’s not practical to wade through hot sulphuric water with a camera raised in one hand so it doesn’t get wet, but these springs were built right in volcanic rock! There are acres and acres of springs to relax in.

The Hanging Bridges of Arenal National Park

00528DA7-1995-4877-B8BC-490472746CA5

Early the next morning, Rolando brought us to walk the hanging bridges at the upper level of the rainforest canopy. There are hills so you’re still walking on ground, but there are parts where you cross through the canopy on hanging bridges.

0221854A-B507-4A43-8923-1D5F712A34D6

A naturalist park guide takes you through and he’s an expert at spotting the snakes, birds and groups of biting ants (don’t wear open-toe shoes!). He also explained the vegetation and the climate to us.

Guanacaste Marriott Resort

IMG_7955

By day 6, it already felt like a long, busy trip and everyone appreciated the stay at the 5-star Marriott, with its infinity pool, private beach, luxurious buffets and an open bar for three hours in the afternoon!

Varied Climate

Costa Rica is a small country but has a varied climate. We had been in higher altitudes where it’s cooler and more humid. If you live in these areas, you’ll find moss on the clothing in your closet.


Now we were on Costa Rica’s west coast, which is dryer and much hotter. On the bus, Rolando pointed out the drastic change in landscape. We arrived in Guanacaste, full of resorts with its perfect beach weather.


 

Manuel Antonio National Park

3B5D5CC3-7B79-4DD1-A637-E2EC2DF18103

The last stop was Manuel Antonio National Park. Our hotel had a rooftop bar with a view of the rainforest and the ocean behind it! Each room also had a view of the rainforest and again, we were able to hear all of the animals at night, as well as see some monkeys from your hotel room window.

Rolando had to take an elderly gentleman to the nearest hospital, over two hours away. The man was dehydrated. Rolando warned us from the beginning:

  1. Eat yogurt every morning to help you with digestion
  2. Drink lots of water to avoid dehydration

Caravan provides you with a fresh bottle of water every two days with unlimited refills of filtered water from a dispenser on the bus.

3B5CA36A-AB73-4866-B873-4BB12ED10A63

The next morning, Rolando brought everyone into Manuel Antonio National Park for a sunrise tour, but we opted out. We took a taxi into Quepos, the nearby coastal city. The two things we lacked on this wonderful tour was time alone, and the opportunity to explore on our own and meet new people.

8C6F503C-3A9D-4748-BE32-A7528DE4AEB1

We dined alone, too. We took a taxi to El Avion (the airplane) restaurant for a sunset dinner. The restaurant is built around an old Fairchild C-123 cargo plane that President Reagan’s military used in their secret Iran-Contra operations, where the United States sold arms to Iran. The money was used to fund operations against the Contras, the paramilitary group fighting the Sandinistas. This plane was shot down over Nicaragua. Years later, the restaurant owners bought it, shipped it to Costa Rica for their restaurant.

3E34F91E-E2CD-46AF-B434-F2B522C902BA

The fuselage is a bar. Walk through the fuselage and you enter onto a large patio restaurant with a breathtaking view of the ocean!

70DC7B66-4175-486D-83B6-ABB14B7577C9
Don’t worry about the geckos on the ceiling. They eat insects.

I have written about the highlights, but we saw much more, including sloths and iguanas. Whereas Guatemala was all about the Maya, as you can tell, Costa Rica is all about wildlife.

What Makes Caravan Such A Good Deal?

Our traveling companions ranged in age between 4 to 80 and everyone got along well.

Although we prefer traveling on our own, it’s not as affordable as a Costa Rica package tour like this one from Caravan. Airport pickup, all meals included, beautiful hotels, all day tours paid for, all you can drink at open bars at two hotels, and a highly-skilled tour guide for a 9 day tour at $1,195 during peak travel season is what they promise and exactly what you get!

Did you read part 1?

Costa Rica With Caravan Tours

Costa Rica With Caravan Tours

When I showed Dan the small Caravan Tours ad in Real Simple magazine, he immediately began reading dozens of glowing Trip Advisor reviews and, within the hour, we began our way through the booking process for our Costa Rica tour vacation.

This would be our first group tour since we like to explore on our own, talk to people, and make spontaneous decisions about what to do next. But this would be an extra trip that year and the value was too good to pass up! There’s no way that you can match the high-volume discounts that Caravan Tours receives.

New Photo Challenge

Sunday Stills Photo Challenge

The 9 days were packed with activities and filled with information from our knowledgeable and entertaining guide, Rolando. Rolando was one of the highlights of the trip, teaching us about Costa Rican history and culture, spotting animals and arranging for all of our needs, while making us laugh the entire time! Rolando is a Tico (Costa Rican) but speaks flawless English!

I won’t write about every single thing we saw, just the best parts… Costa Rica tourism offers a lot

Poás Volcano and the Escalonia Cloud Forest

At the mouth of Poás Volcano in Costa Rica

Rolando brought us to the mouth of the volcano, an elevation of 2,574 meters (8,860 feet). Poás Volcano is sulphuric, so that means there’s no lava. These sulphuric gases you see cause acid rain. You cannot stay here for too long.

The volcano was temporarily closed in 2017 due to volcanic eruptions.

66b0f2a6-2dbd-4338-8ca9-b42f2c031a7b

Poás is next to the Escalonia Cloud Forest, where we got to explore on our own. A cloud forest is like a rain forest, but it’s high in humidity with much less rainfall than a rain forest. The walk was perfect to unwind from work stress.

Doka Estate Coffee Plantation

IMG_7605

Poás is also a region of quality coffee production, so our next stop was the Doka Estate coffee plantation. Here we learned about the region’s coffee production and this plantation’s process of growing the coffee beans and producing high quality coffee.

The guide explained how some countries opt to produce high quantities/low quality and others opt for low quantities/high quality. Costa Rica’s coffee is high quality.

Arenal Region

Town of Fortuna
The town of Fortuna with the Arenal volcano behind us.

We arrived at the town of La Fortuna near Arenal volcano, just in time for lunch and some free time in town. We ate and then headed straight for the supermarket, one of our favorite things to visit wherever we go!

Moving To Costa Rica

Many Americans, Canadians, Europeans and Austrailians have moved to Costa Rica for its simple, slow lifestyle, beautiful landscapes and its low-cost living. Rolando even told the group the income required and the paperwork that needs to be done to become a legal resident. Costa Rica is on our list of possible places to live.


Arenal Manoa Hotel and Crossing an Alligator Swamp In The Dark

11125d84-0b45-46a9-aefe-f6c7efe42f8b

Everyone was excited to see how beautiful the hotel was! Each cabin had a patio and a view of the volcano.

7d9d81e1-dc4e-4728-bb4f-72e64bf49989

I had been teasing Dan, telling him there would be flying ants at dinner. Once at a hotel on Margarita Island in Venezuela, flying ants swooped onto our plates as soon as the waiter set them down on the table. I was comfortable just pushing them off with my knife with each bite, but Dan couldn’t eat a thing that night.

E44EE767-E043-4377-8616-1AB625F8B574

I teased him but he had his revenge… fast! The restaurant was a ten-minute walk along a dark path. We used Dan’s iPhone flashlight to see where we were going and to make sure we wouldn’t fall off the bridge into an alligator swamp.

If you’ve followed my blog for a while or my Instagram, you know that the one thing I’m terrified of is frogs. As we were walking to dinner, Dan shined his flashlight and illuminated several frogs in our path! We made it passed the frogs and across a bridge, over what looked like it could be an alligator swamp. The restaurant had a full buffet ready for us and it was delicious! Luckily, there were no flying ants at the restaurant.

Bed(time) & Breakfast

When we turned out the lights to sleep, there was total darkness and we could hear the symphony of animals outside. We slept very well that night, until the alarm went off.

We headed for breakfast early. In the morning light, we could see that the “alligator swamp” was really just a stream…

74957BBE-D602-4978-9DE7-8774E70D4206

We wanted enough time to eat breakfast and make sure we were fully packed for the next adventure. We remembered how Rolando had explained to all of us the difference between a tourist and a hitchhiker (“5 minutes” 😮 meaning, “Don’t be late!”). This next day turned out to be a lot of fun, full of adventure as we headed up the river into Nicaragua and found ourselves in the middle of an international border dispute and later enjoyed the most beautiful volcanic hot springs I could ever imagine!

View from breakfast at Arenal Manoa hotel
Buffet breakfast at Arenal Manoa hotel with Ana

Continue to Part 2

  • Will everyone make it back from the river cruise into Nicaragua, right in the middle of an international border dispute?!
  • Relaxing in the volcanic hot springs at the base of Arenal volcano
  • Enjoying luxury and drunkenness… in Costa Rica???
  • And more…

Costa Rica With Caravan Tours, part 2