I have been very lucky to have visited some amazing places but I have to say Costa Rica is be far one of the best. There is nothing quite like it and is a wildlife fanatics utter paradise. Make sure you have a good camera, you will be using it a lot!
I must say I am not a morning person. I am grumpy and wish I was back in bed as soon as I wake up especially as I had to be at Gatwick's South terminal for our 6am check in time! However this morning was different, I was jetting off on British Airways for my 11 hour flight to Costa Rica; to which I deemed 6am to be a very acceptable time of day! I was very excited, bright eyed and busy tailed as were we all. Once we had all checked our bags in we headed through security and into departures. After a coffee and a cake (there must always be sweeties involved somewhere before a plane journey) and a look round the shops we headed to the gate to board. In Economy I can honestly say the food was good, the seat was comfortable and I had room the person in front of me put his seat back. After a couple of films and a nice sleep we arrived at San Jose airport.
Once we collected our luggage and passed through customs we were met by our guide Antonio from Travel Excellence and driven to our first hotel the Grano de Oro. This is a beautiful hotel not too far from the centre of San Jose. The original building is 125 years old and has 39 rooms. The restaurant at the hotel is one of the best in San Jose and very popular with the locals.
After a quick freshen up we headed to a local bar to have a drink before dinner to get know each other a bit better. Antonio told us a bit about the history of Costa Rica and a bit of what we would be doing over the next week. We headed back to our hotel to meet the rest of the Travel Excellence team and headed into the restaurant for dinner; during of which we discussed the itinerary for the week and even though we were all very tired after a long day travelling we were very excited for the adventures ahead. After, we said our goodbyes to the team as we had an early start in the morning for our first full day in Costa Rica!
After a good nights sleep it was another early start today as we had to be up and on the coach by 06:30. We all collected our bags, breakfast packs and boarded our coach for the 3 hour drive to Pacaure River for our rafting adventure to Pacaure Lodge!!
En-route to the river we drove through San Jose which is a very vibrant city with lots to see and do. They have Museums and a theatre and home to the University of Costa Rica. Once we left the capital we headed to Cartago, which was the first city the Spanish came to before moving to San Jose and making it the Capital. Cartago is home to the main church in Costa Rica and on the 01st of August every year there is a pilgrimage to the church and then a big celebration.
Whilst giving us the history and facts of Costa Rica Antonio also told us about the big coffee trade. Coffee is a big part of life in Costa Rica and they produce the Arabica Coffee but now it’s all about quality rather than quantity.
After a quick stop for breakfast (where I had to buy a jumper as it was cold and had not stopped raining all morning, stupidly I had forgotten my coat!!!) we arrived at Pacaure River. Exiting the coach filled with excitement and a few nerves the group met our guides Max and Jose Luis who went through all of the safety rules with us, kitted us out with our helmets, paddles and life jackets, put our overnight bags (you are only allowed 12kg per person) into the waterproof bags and we were all ready for our rafting adventure!! We split into two groups and boarded our rafts. Once on board we practiced our safety moves and headed out onto the rapids. WOW!! After the first bend we were all already soaked! I’m sure our guide Jose Luis made sure we hit the rapids in a way that guaranteed us to get hit with the freezing cold water!!! He was a great guide and although he was slightly crazy he made sure we were always safe and not one of us fell out! It took us 1 hour 30 minutes to raft our way to our hotel and I loved every minute. It was definitely better than I anticipated it to be and a great way to arrive at Pacaure Lodge.
We disembarked our rafts and headed to the reception of the hotel where we were given the keys to our rooms. I was in a Vista Suite which was massive! It was a large open plan room with a King Size bed, sofa and chair and a huge bathroom with a separate bath and shower. There was a lovely terrace with an outside shower, a hammock, lounge chairs and an infinity plunge pool!! The view from the terrace was stunning and the sound of the fauna was mesmerizing. The best bit was that the wall leading to the terrace was mesh so even when you were lying in bed you could still see and hear everything.
We headed down to have lunch and to decide what activities we were going to do for the afternoon. There is an extensive choice of activities to choose from to suit everyone’s needs and requirements from zipwiring, canyoning to guided walks. I chose to go canyoning! After lunch we went to the activity centre and got kitted out in our helmets and harness and then we were ready to go! We climbed to the top of the resort ready for our second adventure of the day to begin. We spent the next two and half hours making our way through the jungle back to the resort by zipping between trees and abseiling down waterfalls, which with my lack of co-ordination proved quite tricky at times!! Such a great experience which I can highly recommend to anyone. Once we were back on firm ground we went back to our room for a swim in our pool and to get ready for dinner. As there is no electricity at Pacaure Lodge this was all done by candle light and torches! The food at Pacaure Lodge is really good and all cooked and served by the guys who are your guides during the day, so you get to build up a really good rapport with them and learn more about each other which really helps enhance your whole experience at the lodge.
Another early start today as I woke to the sunlight coming into the room and the sound of birds in the trees. It was a beautiful clear sunny day so I got up and ordered coffee in Spanish (I was very impressed with myself!) sat out on the terrace and just took time to enjoy the amazing sights and sounds, before I got ready to join everyone for breakfast and headed out on our rafts again.
After breakfast, we all got kitted out in our life jackets and helmets, grabbed our paddles and got ready for our 3 hours of rafting!! Today we rafted from Pacaure to Siquirres and were in level 5 rapids. Unlike yesterday we were not scared to get wet and went for a little swim in the river before we got into our rafts. We all boarded our rafts and were set for another big adventure!! The river leaving the lodge was where the rapids were at their fastest and we did nearly loose someone but Jose Luis grabbed her and pulled her into the raft just in time!! Once we were in the open waters of the river and the rapids had calmed we all jumped out of the rafts and went for a little swim, letting the rapids pull as along behind the raft. Jose Luis pulled us all back in and we were back in the raft paddling our way down the river and taking in the amazing sights of flora and fauna. After a while we pulled up on the banks of the river and Jose Luis and Max turned one of the rafts upside down and started making our lunch! Just as they were doing so it started to rain but as it was warm rain and we were already wet we sat down on the beach and ate our wraps. Max and Jose Luis thought we were mad and took shelter from the rain under some trees!! After lunch, we got back in the rafts to complete the last part of rafting adventure. Before we came to the end we went for another little swim in a waterfall and just floated along beside the rafts just taking the scenery before we had to get back in and steer the rafts to shore. Once back on dry land and changed into dry clothes, which had been a welcome change after the last two days we said our goodbyes to Max and Jose Luis and the other members of the team and then boarded our coach for the 4 hour drive to Manuel Antonio!!!