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G-Adventures Costa Rica

Sometimes a group trip is just what a solo traveller needs. A couple of months following hip replacement surgery, I was feeling very spry and ready to take on an adventure but felt, this time, I should probably join a group trip. I also wanted to check out G-Adventures, as I had heard good reviews. They had a special on their 9-day Costa Rica Quest tour. In an unusual move, I even decided to take my chance on sharing a room with an unknown fellow traveller. I added a couple of days to the trip at each end of the tour through G-Adventures, so I didn't even have to change rooms. I chose G-Adventures for several reasons. I had met travellers who provided glowing reports of trips taken with them. They are a Canadian company who employs local guides and they support local businesses and environmental initiatives. There is a lot of flexibility with free time and excursions. The excursions are varied, interesting, and affordable. Finally, G-Adventures does not charge a single supplement as they will match you with a roommate. Travellers can pay extra for a private room.

The tour begins in the capital city of San José. I had pre-arranged an airport transfer to the hotel which went seamlessly. I had booked a couple of excursions and planned on picking up a couple more along the way. So far, group travel was making a lot of my usual planning and organizing redundant, and I have to admit, I rather enjoyed that. Since I arrived earlier than my group I decided to explore the city on foot and will share my meanderings around San José in a later post. The tour does not include any tours in the capital.

Following standard group procedures, group members met with the CEO (Chief Experience Officer) Gabe in the hotel lobby and went over introductions and necessary information for our departure the following day.

On the first full day, our group started our journey to La Fortuna, in a comfortable touring bus. There are 3 places that we would be staying over the next 9 days: La Fortuna/Arenal, Monteverde, and Quepos/Manuel Antonio National Park. This trip loops from San José northwest to the central mountains and south to the Pacific Coast before returning to San José. Longer stretches of travel are broken up with stops along the way. Most of these stops allowed bathroom breaks and places to grab something to eat, as well as see something unique to Costa Rica. This wasn’t planned but a lovely older gentleman was alongside the road with his oxen and cart, so we stopped and posed for photos.

Our next planned stop was to see this waterfall.

An enterprising merchant set up his stall right across the street. It seemed to be doing a brisk business.

Our group was beginning to mix and gel. The ages of the group ranged from young teens to adults 60+; three family groups, a couple, and a handful of solo travellers. I was delighted with my young roommate, Steffi, who was destined to become ATB#2. We had 14 Canadians, 1 Aussie, and my roommate from Austria.

The next stop along the route was at the Mi Cafecito Coffee Cooperative for a fascinating tour and lunch. I had no idea of the amount of work that goes into getting my morning java!

We toured the grounds and buildings and learned about each of the stages of coffee production.

The outer shell of the coffee bean is sweet. This layer is used for coffee liqueur

... which we sampled

The whole process... plant, blossom, green bean, ripe bean, 3 stages of roasting and the ground coffee. I was surprised to learn that the darker the roast, the less caffeine is left. Espresso actually has less caffeine than a light roast.

Shortly after we got back on the road, our van pulled into a grocery store parking lot and we caught our first sloth sighting. We were all very excited to spot 2 sloths snoozing high in the trees. This is a well-known spot for seeing sloths.

A little further along the road, the driver noticed some cars on the side of the road and excited people with cameras. It was quickly decided to stop and see what was happening. I went around the group in the opposite direction and saw this right in front of my face. Sloths come out of the tree once a week or so to poop. I guess it was our lucky day.

Look at that face! Gabe, our guide explained that sloths carry an entire ecosystem on their bodies, which explains the greenish tinge and the millions of insects crawling all over this fellow.

Upon arriving in La Fortuna, we weren’t blessed with great weather for our volcano nature walk on the Arenal volcano. The volcano stayed hidden but we hiked anyways because it’s a beautiful nature reserve. We kept a close eye on the clouds but they never completely cleared the volcano top.

The last eruption was in 1968. The Rainforest has grown around the lava and across the rough paths

One of the things that I appreciated about G-Adventures was the choice of excursions outside of the group activities. Some members of our group were seeking more adrenaline-pumping activities whereas I am more into nature and wildlife. Everyone on the trip was satisfied with the selections. I took off on my own for my first excursion to Mistico Nature Preserve for a hanging bridge and nature tour in the morning. For a more detailed look at this amazing natural area, check out this post.

My afternoon excursion was a slow rafting trip. The more adventurous in our group went on a rapids adventure while I slowly floated along the river.

I enjoyed the slow float and the chance to see some wildlife. I especially enjoying seeing animals I don't see at home. I love little lizards like these geckos.