Christopher Columbus coined Costa Rica the “Rich Coast” for a reason. With its ecosystem boasting the highest density of biodiversity in any country worldwide, it’s not uncommon for travellers to spot three-toed sloths swinging from tree canopies, hear howler monkeys call outside their lodge window or catch glimpses of vibrant hummingbirds fluttering deep in the tropical rainforest. Spectacular scenery, volcanic hikes, natural thermal hot springs dips and fantastic wildlife sightings await you on our trips to Costa Rica. Tempted? Why not read on as Jeff Craddock explains why his recent Discover Costa Rica trip with Exodus was one of the best adventures he’s ever had.
What was the most memorable moment of your trip?
The first stop on our tour was Tortuguero National Park. The journey from San Jose included an hour-long boat trip to Laguna Lodge. The lodge was lovely – and a wonderful base for two days exploring the waterways and seeing some amazing wildlife (including sloths, spider monkeys, caimans, emerald basilisks, and all manner of birds). My memorable moment was the first dawn chorus we heard there. The Montezuma Oropendola birds nesting in the tree behind our cabin had the most amazing call I have ever heard. So unlike anything we had ever experienced before. I think we realised at that point that this was really going to be a very special trip.
What did you think of your group leader, and does having a leader help you discover more about a destination than travelling alone?
Our Group Leader, Glenda, was fantastic. She had a huge love for her country and an encyclopaedic knowledge of Costa Rica’s flora and fauna. Just as importantly, in my view, she had great empathy for the group. When she introduced herself to us, she said that she aimed to give us a totally stress-free holiday and to show us all the wonders of Costa Rica. She certainly did that. I think that you do get to discover more about a country when you travel with a local guide for two weeks. You really get to know them, and you get to understand a lot about real life in that place. Glenda and Gustavo’s (our driver’s) dancing skills also had to be seen to be believed!
How did the leader and their expertise compare to other leaders you have travelled with from other companies?
We’ve only ever done three guided tours. Two with Exodus and one with another company. The guides for the two with Exodus included Phuong in Vietnam and now Glenda in Costa Rica – and both were equally brilliant. We did another tour in Morocco where the guide was not so good. Knowledgeable, but absolutely no empathy with the group. I know this is going to sound like an advert for Exodus, but honestly, I’m just telling it like it is.
Is there any activity or experience that really stands out to you, and why?
Problem is, there are so many to choose from. However, I’d have to include; the hanging bridges walk in Monteverde, the night walk at Esquinas Lodge (where we saw 18 species of animals – including a Fer de Lance snake) and whizzing across the valley in Monteverde on an 800-metre zip wire.
Although, if I had to pick just one, it would be the hanging bridges walk. Walking along a bridge at tree canopy level and coming across a large group of feeding hummingbirds was a priceless experience I’ll never forget.
What local cuisines did you try, and were there any foodie experiences that you particularly enjoyed?
We ate a lot of rice and beans. Gallo de Pinto, Casado aplenty. My favourite meal was a Caribbean fish soup which we had in La Fortuna. This was served with a small dish of fiery blackberry chilli sauce. I would never have thought of combining those flavours, but what a delicious dish that was.
The food that we had at Esquinas Lodge, which was provided as part of the tour, was also exceptionally good.
What did you enjoy most about travelling as a group?
One of the things we’ve always enjoyed on this type of holiday is getting to know the group. A camaraderie always develops when you travel around together. Glenda set up a WhatsApp account for the group so that we could share photos as we went along. She was very adept at using her tripod-mounted monocular to get amazing pictures and videos of some of the animals we saw, and also very adept at capturing photos on iPhones. We had one person in the group, Helena, whose phone was used to capture the best images. She’d then share them with us all. It was great to share these experiences with this particular group of people. We all got along really well. Everybody had a story to tell.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
We waited for three years for the Discover Costa Rica trip and it was so worth the wait. It’s such an amazing country – and you could see the people who worked in the tourism industry went through a lot as a result of the pandemic so we were really glad to be there and give back to these communities. We think it was probably one of the best holidays we’ve ever had. It has made a deep and lasting impression on all of us.
If Jeff’s account of exploring the lush rainforests of Costa Rica has inspired you to plan your own trip to the “Rich Coast”, take a look at our Discover Costa Rica trip or browse our collection of adventures here.
All images were used with permission from the author and Exodus group travellers.