Holly and I recently returned from an eight-day nature tour of Costa Rica.  We had a great time!  The landscapes, flora and fauna were all incredible in their diversity, complexity, and beauty.  With expert guides, our eyes were opened and directed to some of the most amazing things we’ve ever seen.  Needless to say, we took lots of pictures–so many that it seems best to divide them into the categories below.  For each set, click on the indicated link.

Poas and Arenal Volcanoes

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Virtually all mountains in Costa Rica are of volcanic origin, and are either active, dormant, or extinct.  We were able to hike to the rim of Poas Volcano (8,885 feet), about an hour from San Jose, and to view over the course of several days, the classically-sculpted Arenal Volcano ( 5479  ft) near the town of La Fortuna.  Both are often hidden by clouds, but we were extremely fortunate to see both in beautiful weather (we were visiting towards the end of the Costa Rican dry season, which helped).

click here for more pictures of the Poas and Arenal Volcanoes

Wildlife River Cruises

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We took two river cruises, one on Rio Frio up to the Nicaraguan border, the other on the Tarcoles River.  Both were great for birds, monkeys, and reptiles, including caimans and crocodiles.  We did not have high-powered cameras, but considering everything we feel we did pretty well.

click here for more pictures of Wildlife River Cruises

Tropical Forests: Rain, Cloud, Transitional

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We learned that Costa Rica has a variety of types of forests.  We hiked the Escalonia Cloud Forest Trail on the side of the Poas Volcano; hiked and crossed many hanging bridges in the tropical rain forest in the Arenal Volcano and Manuel Antonio National Parks, and rode an aerial tram through and above a dry transitional forest (albeit with a beautiful waterfall).  Due to climate change, the famous Monteverdi cloud forest is becoming a rain forest, as the clouds and moisture move higher up the mountains.

click here for more pictures of tropical forests

Specialty Stops Along the Way

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A few of the stops along the way: an animal rescue “zoo”; the Doka water-powered coffee plantation; an oxcart factory (also water-powered); a regional church and its topiary; a large-scale hot springs resort in La Fortuna, heated by the Arenal volcano.

click here for more pictures of specialty stops along the way

Where We Stayed: Beautiful Hotels, Pools, and Gardens

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On most trips, this wouldn’t rate a mention, but the hotels we stayed at (with the exception of the Quality Inn the last night) were incredible: beautiful facilities, views, and tropical gardens.  Much more than a place to sleep after a busy day, they were an important part of our Costa Rica experience.

click here for pictures of hotel facilities and gardens

The tour is offered by Caravan Tours.  Our excellent tour director was Fiorella Matarrita. (more…)