I’m swimming upstream through a cave in Poza los Coyotes, a local swimming spot near La Fortuna, Costa Rica with a group of fellow travellers hailing from across the globe. We all stop and take a break to admire an ancient looking tree that extends its gnarled roots into turquoise water. The sounds of rapids, waterfalls and the rainforest surround us.
Then we hear it… a deep, guttural scream from above us in the forest canopy. The expressions on my travel companions’ faces turn from contentment to fright. My eyes dart to our guide Adrian, nicknamed ‘Rago’, to sense what our next move might be. He laughs, throws his hands into a Shaka and shouts ‘Howler Monkey!’
Hearing one of the world’s loudest animals bellow above me while swimming through the rainforest in Costa Rica will forever be one of the most incredible moments of my life. This was day four into my fourth and penultimate ‘Roamies’ trip with G Adventures and Hostelworld. Over 11 days, myself and 23 strangers would be travelling together on the Epic Costa Rica: Craters, Rainforest and Hanging-10 trip. It would begin in the Costa Rican capital of San Jose and finish in the west, along the Pacific coast in the surfer town of Tamarindo. Over the course of the trip we would also visit La Fortuna – the home of the great Arenal volcano, Monteverde — a haven for adventure junkies in the Puntarenas cloud forest, the bustling city of Liberia, and the chilled beach town of Nosara.
This itinerary is for those looking to try their hand at something new. We swam at night by candlelight in a geothermically heated river near La Fortuna, we zip-lined through cloud forest in Monteverde, surfed in the Pacific ocean and experienced a cacao ceremony in a hostel in Tamarindo.
San Jose was a quick overnight stay in the Costa Rica Backpacker’s hostel, about 25 minutes from Juan Santamaria International airport. My Roamies companions for this Costa Rican excursion were a mixture of Canadians, Americans, Aussies, Irish, British and German natives. Our Chief Experience Officer (CEO) or guide, ‘Rago’ was from La Fortuna — the next stop on our Epic Costa Rica adventure.
On Nov. 9, we left San Jose on a private bus with a full day of activities planned, including a stop at Mi Cafecito, a coffee farm found at the foot of the Poás Volcano in the Alajuela province of Costa Rica.
This was one of the ‘G for Good’ moments of our trip where. As part of G Adventures’ responsible travel commitment and its work with NGO, Planeterra, support is provided to local enterprises, guides and environmental initiatives to fuel sustainable, community tourism.
The Mi Cafecito Coffee Tour was originally created by a local co-operative to help find ways for the coffee producers to earn more money following an earthquake in the San Miguel de Sarapiqui region in 2009. Unfortunately, they did not receive enough visitors to sustain the business and were at the point of shutting down when G Adventures’ non-profit partner, Planeterra, began working with them to develop a sustainable enterprise.
Now Mi Cafecito is able to continue its support of over 200 small farmers that produce organic coffee from the four regions of San Carlos, Sarapiqui, Heredia and Alajuela.
During our tour of Mi Cafecito we enjoyed a typical Costa Rican lunch of locally caught Tilapia fish followed by a tour of the grounds and a great cup of coffee.
With full bellies and Mi Cafecito roasted coffee beans in our backpacks, we left for the northern highlands to visit La Fortuna. A small town that offers the jaw-dropping Arenal volcano as its scenic backdrop. There is something particularly special about the moment you see the Arenal volcano rise up on the horizon. It looks as though it was painted there.
We arrived at Arenal Poshpacker hostel for our two night stay in the late afternoon. The hostel has lovely staff and a welcoming vibe with a swimming pool, complete with swim-up bar.
On the first night we all enjoyed a free welcome drink at the hostel before our Rago took us to an incredible local swim spot called Rio Chollin. It’s a naturally hot flowing river that felt like bathwater. It was a unique experience that would’ve been very difficult to find without a local guide on hand.
The area around La Fortuna feels custom built for adventure seekers. Our group spent the following day taking advantage of the multitude of activities on offer here. Some opted for rappelling down waterfalls, white water rafting or to hike to more beautiful local swimming spots. The safari float was a great option for those looking for those on the lookout forCosta Rican wildlife. Some of our group managed to spot a sloth while taking an easy ride down a section of the Penas Blancas river.
Next up on the Roamies Epic Costa Rica itinerary was a visit to Monteverde, a town in the cloud forest nestled in the Cordillera de Tilarán mountain range. Its location in the Puntaneres region means it has a continual supply of precipitation from the clouds that blanket the rainforest, making it evergreen — the translation for Monteverde is ‘green mountain’.
Here we stayed in the Hotel Quetzal Inn, which was a great spot to see wildlife. On our last day, we all awoke to the sounds of Capuchin monkeys playing in the trees. A family of three even dropped down to say hello at breakfast.
A trip to Monteverde is not complete without zip-lining through the cloud forest and luckily for us, this was included in our ‘Roamies’ itinerary.
Our group spent our first morning in the Aventura 100% park getting our adrenaline pumping with a canopy tour. he park has a total of 10 ziplines including the longest zipline in Costa Rica (5220ft), a hammock bridge, one rappel, and a mega Tarzan swing. On two of the ziplines you can get hitched up ‘Superman’ style to give you the sensation you’re flying through the cloud forest.
There’s also an option to do the Tarzan swing at the end. You may want to back out of it because it seems terrifying but it’s one of the most exhilarating experiences. While rigged up, you need to bravely step off a 45 foot drop and free fall before being jolted back into the air. A great way to get over a fear of heights, trust me!
Our final destination on the Roamies Epic Costa Rica trip was two nights in the surfer town of Tamarindo. This was the perfect end to an adventure-filled trip and the Selina hostel here had many fun activities on offer for its guests, so we took full advantage. There was a big focus on wellness and relaxation, which was a perfect way to wrap up an active trip. It’s located 20 feet from the main Tamarindo beach which is lined with bars and restaurants, and you’re guaranteed a beautiful sunset.
Our last day was spent surfing together with the Iguana surf school in Tamarindo. Our group was broken up into fours with each group receiving their own dedicated surf instructor which helped those who needed a little more guidance, like me. The waves were ideal for beginners too.
For our last evening as Roamies, Selina Hostel staff really pushed the boat out with a unique dining experience. The evening began with a group cacao ceremony, where cacao is used in a ritualistic way to create a nourishing environment, allowing you to connect with yourself. After the ceremony, we sat down to a three-course vegetarian meal by a campfire with Selina brewed beers accompanying each course. This was probably one of the most unique hostel experiences I’ve had to-date.
After the meal, Rago asked us to share our highlights of the trip. For some it was ziplining through the cloud forest in Monteverde, for others it was surfing on the Pacific coast earlier that day but for most, it was meeting new people from across the globe, people they never would have met had it not been for this epic Costa Rican journey.