I arrived into a very busy San Jose and picked up my transfer to the hotel. After a quick wash it was time to head to the orientation and meet my G Adventures group. Jorje was our guide for the trip and the group consisted of 16 travellers aged 25 to 65. There were some couples, some friends and some singles, so it was a good mixture, although the majority of the group were female. Jorje went through our programme and told us a little bit about local customs before answering any questions we had. Then it was time to go for dinner and get to know each other better. At 8am the next morning, after a hearty breakfast, we headed off to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. The minibus was exclusively for our group and Jorje continued talking to us about Costa Rican culture and customs as we made our way through the countryside and into the mountains.
Lunch was had in a traditional restaurant on arrival, and we started to get the hang of the fact that every meal (including breakfast) is accompanied by rice and beans. In the afternoon we paid a visit to a local coffee farm which is sponsored by G Adventures as part of their Planeterra charity. We had a chance to pick the coffee beans and follow the process of drying and roasting, before enjoying a tasting session. We also bought some coffee to enjoy at home. Various activities were on offer for the next day. I opted for a full timetable of horse riding, zip lining and a hanging bridges nature walk. That evening we were issued with flashlights to enjoy a night-time nature walk and meet some of the nocturnal residents of the cloud forest. Our guide was very knowledgeable about the animals and tracked down several creatures, including snakes, a scorpion and a tarantula. Dinner was in a local restaurant (accompanied by rice and beans) and then it was back to the hotel, which consisted of cabin-type rooms. The accommodation is basic, but we were actually in the forest and one member of our group got to enjoy five monkeys passing by her on the balcony.
The next day was a busy one, starting with horse riding. It was a beautiful clear morning and my horse was docile and happy to follow our guide as he pointed out more wildlife. Horse riding was followed by ziplining, which was a bit of an adrenaline rush. We were harnessed in, double-checked, then we were off through the trees in exhilarating fashion. As I became more comfortable they switched up the method and to cross the widest part of the canopy I was strapped in ‘Superman’ style, face-down and flying for a kilometre over the treetops. The feeling was incredible and I could see for miles across the forest below. The grand finale is the Tarzan swing. It sounds more tame than it is, being a 45 foot ‘fall’ at the end. As you fall, the line catches you and you’re slowly lowered to the ground. I had no idea I could scream so loud! The last activity for the day was the far more sedate hanging bridges treetop tour. Again, our guide was very knowledgeable and used several different animal calls on his phone to entice wildlife over to us. We were introduced to the evil ‘ficus’ tree, which grows around an existing tree, eventually strangling it and killing it. I now know what trees have nightmares about. A few of us enjoyed dinner in a local Mexican restaurant, and Jorje suggested we go to the local salsa club, where he taught us a few of his best dance moves. The next morning we were on the road again, making our way to La Fortuna. Part of the journey was by boat across the huge Lake Arenal, heading towards the slightly menacing volcano which was our backdrop for the next couple of days. On arrival we visited the local activity centre and booked in the trips we fancied joining, before enjoying a spot of lunch beside the plunge pool where the local young men show off their acrobatic skills.
That evening Jorje took us to the hot springs. There are many local resorts which have more of a commercial offering, but this is where the locals go. It’s a river situated in the jungle and is quite magical to see. We sat in the flowing spring water, heated to 35 degrees by the volcano, drank beer and watched the sun go down as the fireflies came out. Nature at its breathtaking best.
The next day I jumped aboard a boat safari to the border of Nicaragua (my passport was needed). Our group had its own boat, so I already knew everyone on board. We drifted along and spotted some wildlife: monkeys, an iguana, a cayman and a beautiful sloth.
I tried my hand at paddle boarding on Lake Arenal. The lake was peaceful and quiet. We got to paddle into some beautiful areas, getting up close to the exotic birds. A backup boat followed us with towels and fruit. Remarkably I didn’t fall in.
That afternoon we set off back to San Jose, where the tour officially ended. Jorje took us all downtown to a popular restaurant for our last meal together, where we swapped email addresses and promised to swap photographs and keep in touch. I had one day left before my flight home. Luckily I had made one really good friend during the trip, and who also had a spare day before her flight home (to Canada), so we decided to head to the beach together. Jorje recommended Jaco beach on the Pacific side and told us that we could take a local bus. We felt happier and safer hiring a driver for the day, so he arranged one for us. I am so pleased we did as the day was amazing. Our driver stopped on the way to show us some crocodiles. The beach was beautiful and almost empty, the water was warm and the atmosphere of the town was very laid back. After quite a busy schedule it was lovely to lie in the sun and relax for a while, drinking cocktails and remembering all the things we had done and seen during our trip.
We were terribly lucky with the weather as it only rained during the night. Even in the forest the visibility was excellent for zip lining, but was awful for those doing that activity later on the same day. All of the photos were taken with an iPhone, some through binoculars, but any keen photographers will be rewarded with far better shots (and I hope to receive some from other members of my group). A mounted Go-Pro would also have been useful for zip lining, as I simply could not bring a phone in a pocket, and all bags had to be checked in. I cannot recommend G Adventures enough, particularly for lone female travellers. I always felt safe, but also that I was getting to see everything from close quarters and with local insight. Additionally, the company prides itself on providing sustainable travel and supporting projects that benefit the local community. Several members of my group paired the G Adventures tour with onward travel. As you make your own arrangements to join the tour this is a good option for anybody wanting to combine an organised tour with some relaxation either before or afterwards. The accommodation is fairly basic, but not much time is spent in the hotels and they all had WiFi, as did the minibus we travelled in. I chose to pay a single supplement, but if you are prepared to share this can be waived. I have made some firm friends, lasting memories and I am already considering my next solo trip. Thanks as usual, to Julie, for arranging such an amazing adventure. Kristina