Every year, I like to escape the harsh Canadian winter to a tropical place where I can soak up some much needed sun. In the winter of 2017, I decided to do a G Adventures tour of Costa Rica, specifically on their Costa Rica Quest tour. I heard many great things about the company through word of mouth. They provide small group travel for an affordable price. Here is my adventure with them:
I arrived in the capital, San Jose, a day earlier than the start of the official tour as I wanted to explore before the start of my tour. I took the day to wander around the city centre. In the morning, I headed to the main market in the city centre; Mercado Central. Here you can find a plethora of food vendors with fresh fruits and local eats.
Walking around the city, I was quite shocked to also find a Chinatown in the city. For lunch, I went to a Costa Rican soda. A soda are small restaurants that serves only traditional Costa Rican food. It’s the best place to experience eating out like a local. I got the pollo en salsa, which is a plate of chicken with common sides such as rice, beans and coleslaw. A plate can only cost $3 USD!
From there, I spent the afternoon in La Sabana Park — the city’s largest urban park. This is where the National Stadium is, where the Costa Rican national football team plays. It also has a large artificial lake, several sports fields, and running tracks. It is a great place to watch the locals!
Fortunately, one can explore most of San Jose in a single day. The entire city centre is walkable and if you have data or access to WiFi, you’ll find that Uber is very affordable (around $3-5 USD for driving across the city). While I did not have time to go, I highly recommend visiting these museums if you ever get the chance:
- Museo de Oro Precolombino (The Gold Museum)
- The collection consists of 1600 pieces of Pre-Columbian gold work dating from 500 AD to 1500 AD.
- Entrance fee: $9 USD for foreigners
- Museo del Jade (The Jade Museum)
- Entrance fee: $15 USD for tourists, $5 for locals
- The largest collection of precolumbian Jade in the Americas.
Start of G Adventures
Later that night, I met up with my G Adventures tour group in the hotel that we were staying. The group members were a good mix of couples, friends and solo travellers. We also were introduced to our tour guide, or what G Adventures call CEOs! (Chief Experience Officers). His name is Gabriel and is from a small town in Costa Rica. He went over the itinerary of the trip, rules and guidelines, and what to expect of the relationship between a CEO and its . A great thing about G Adventures is that they do small group travel. My group came to around 12, which was a great nu We all got to know each other by the end of the trip.
The next morning, we started our journey by visiting Mi Cafecito Community Coffee Plantation. G Adventures is big on responsible travel and partners with Planeterra Foundation, a non-profit organization helping local communities earn an income from tourism. In the plantation, we learned everything about coffee. From harvesting, to husking, drying, and roasting the beans
Located just a three hour drive northwest from San Jose, the small town of La Fortuna is an excellent base for adventure, where you can hike the area’s nature trails and the Arenal Volcano, swim in La Fortuna waterfall, go canyoneering, or white water rafting, among other things.
I really enjoyed my past experience of white water rafting in Quebec, thus I decided to pursue a more advanced level (Class III-IV rapids). This particular activity took up the whole day as we had to venture a bit further from La Fortuna, but it was definitely worth it!
Being right beside the Arenal Volcano, there are plenty of hot springs with therapeutic waters heated by the earth’s magma and infused with healing minerals and salts.
At night, our tour guide led us to a “local” natural hot spring. I don’t know how local it is per se, but I did not hear anyone else speaking anything outside of Spanish so it must be legit right? It was a great place to chill and relax. Afterwards, we headed to a resort to access their slides and thermal hot pools. Funny story — I was holding my glasses in my hands (stupid me!) while going down the slide, and the hard impact of landing in the water broke them in two pieces. As I had no back-up pair, I MacGyvered my way out of an unfortunate situation by using a combination of tape and bandages to temporarily hold my frames together for the remainder of the trip.
After La Fortuna, we headed to Monteverde, a town in the mountains renowned for its biodiversity. The famous Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve shelters countless wildlife species, including jaguars, ocelots, sloths, and many more. National Geographic has dubbed it as the “the jewel in the crown of cloud forest reserves”.
It was here that I oversaw the tree tops of Monteverde’s Cloud Forest by crossing a series of hanging bridges. You get to see the rainforest from a different view, as sometimes you are 20 metres from the ground. I don’t know necessarily if it is a better view, because I didn’t see much wildlife. But I am also an impatient guy, so maybe it was just me. The one I went to cost $35 USD, which was quite steep in my opinion.
Then we headed to Aventura Canopy Tours, where I went zip-lining. The company advertised themselves as “the longest zip line in Latin America”. While I have never zip-lined elsewhere, I found that some of the zip-lines were pretty long, lasting 2 or 3 minutes. They also included superman cables, rappel, an ATV ride, and the biggest tarzan swing in Costa Rica. I really enjoyed my experience there and would definitely go back. As this was part of my adrenaline package with G-Adventures, which was $182 USD with the white water rafting I did in La Fortuna.
At night we went on a guided forest tour, which was included in the tour. Our guide was able to show us some of the animals that lurk in the forest. He was able to point out a tarantula, a sloth, bats, and snakes, among other creatures. He also was very knowledgeable in the different animals and fauna that roamed around the rainforest.
Manuel Antonio National Park
Our last stop was Quepos and Manuel Antonio National Park. This park is a popular destination and is well known for its beautiful beaches and hiking trails. In 2011, Manuel Antonio was listed by Forbes among the world’s 12 most beautiful national parks.
I decided to sign up for surfing lessons, as this was my first time surfing. This is when I learned why surfers have six-packs. The sport is an amazing workout, and really builds your abs and core. It also really tires you out as the waves kept on crashing my body as I try to go deeper to catch the waves. After surfing the instructors showed us a local watering hole with a waterfall. It was a great place to chill and relax after a tough workout. This half day tour was an additional $55 USD.
The next day, we headed to the beach. After all, this is the real reason I went to Costa Rica in January — to catch some sunshine and tan!
In the afternoon, we went on a catamaran tour which included drinks, food, and snorkelling. We also got lucky and were able to see dolphins! This optional activity cost approximately $102 USD.
This was the last activity as we returned back to San Jose. We all had one last dinner, said our good byes, and went our separate ways.
All in all, it was an amazing trip! I was able to experience a lot of new things such as:
- Exploring a new country – Costa Rica
- Travelling solo in a tour group with G Adventures
- First time zip-lining
- First time surfing
The Sum of Exploring Costa Rica with G Adventures
All together, this was one of my more expensive trips at $2,671.56 CAD($2020.44 USD) for 10 days. I have no regrets going with G Adventures. They are a great company to book a tour with as they have amazing guides, awesome itineraries, and outstanding customer service. G Adventures was highly recommended by many friends, and I wanted to do and see a lot in a short timespan (only 3 weeks of vacation at work, can’t use it all up in January!). They also offer an alternative tour, Costa Rica on a Shoestring (around $300 CAD cheaper) for those of you on a tighter budget. Check below if its on the last minute deals!
I read that Costa Rica is one of the easiest places in Latin America to backpack as they have great infrastructure with abundant accommodation, lots of public and private transportation, and that there a lot of Costa Ricans that speak English. Therefore, if you want to save money, I really suggest going alone and booking everything yourself. I figure you can save up to $500 from my total spend.
To note, I booked this trip two weeks before I left, hence I could have saved more in the flights had it not been so last minute. There are some flights from Toronto to San Jose for as low as $300s (CAD).
|Food & Drinks||496.66|
|Hostel in San Jose||17.43|
|G Adventures Tour||1,112.65|