Costa Rica with Get to Costa Rica Tours

From our initial contact with Get to Costa Rica Tours (624 Pecan Blvd., McAllen, TX 78501; 877/877-8666 or to arrange a 9-day/8-night customized tour of the country, I was impressed with the company. Scheduling concerns limited the dates we could travel, and Get to Costa Rica worked within our “set” dates when most other companies would not.

Our group consisted of four adults (two sisters and their partners). We were met at the San José airport by our guide, Felipe Chacón, who spoke perfect English and accompanied us throughout most of our tour, Aug. 6-14, ’05. We traveled in a comfortable Toyota minivan. Our first night was spent at the Quality Hotel Real San José, which had clean rooms, a laundry facility and pool.

We started our travels by visiting a coffee plantation and seeing Poás Volcano National Park. Leaving the volcano, we headed to Hacienda Pozo Azul, where we had the unforgettable experience of Class 3 river rafting. The river guides were exceptional, and we were outfitted with all the necessary safety gear and attended the required safety class. Showers, changing rooms and a restaurant were available at the facility.

The next three nights were spent at Montaña de Fuego Resort & Spa in La Fortuna de San Carlos. All the bungalows had spectacular views of the Arenal Volcano. The grounds were beautiful, with a pool, and the hotel offered spa services. We rode horseback down to La Fortuna Waterfall and then descended a 500-step path to the base of the falls where we could swim.

That evening we were treated to a wonderful experience at Tabacón Hot Springs Resort & Spa, where we relaxed in Mother Nature’s enormous hot tub. The grounds were gorgeous, with landscaped paths through the facility to a variety of natural pools, whose water temperature was around 101°F. We had an excellent buffet dinner at Tabacón (included in the tour price).

The next morning we were up early for yet another unique and exhilarating activity: a zipline tour through the treetop canopy. The tour company selected Sky Tram & Sky Trek Tours ( We learned from talking with others who had made numerous zip trips that this was the best facility. Two of the four of us initially had not planned to “zip,” due to fear of heights, but ultimately we chose to participate and never regretted that decision.

We spent our last day in La Fortuna with no set plans, giving us the opportunity to shop in town and visit the bakery.

Early on our fifth day we drove to Puerto Viejo, where we met the riverboat that would take us to Tortuguero. I highly recommend this 4-hour boat ride. We traveled up the Sarapiquí, Barra del Colorado and Rio San Juan rivers, passing through Nicaraguan waters (a border fee of $9 each extra). Our guide, Felipe, was unable to accompany us on this part of our journey, but upon arrival at Laguna Lodge we were greeted with a refreshing cocktail. A guide explained the activities available for the next two days.

We chose to attend the “Turtle Nesting Tour,” held late that night ($15 per person extra), where we observed the green sea turtles laying their eggs. Early the next morning we took a boat tour to see the awakening wildlife. The boat guides and operators were amazing at spotting the wildlife, stopping for photographs and answering questions.

Our guide took us to Tortuguero National Park ($7 per person extra). We were able to view the basilisk lizard (also known as the Jesus Christ lizard because it “walks on water”), crocodiles, Anhinga birds, bats, howler monkeys, green herons, turtles and two-toed sloths, just to name a few. After breakfast, we boarded the boat for a quick trip to the base of an extinct volcano, where after donning our ponchos and plenty of insect repellent we took a hike through the rainforest.

We headed back to San José via boat (there are no roads in Tortuguero), meeting up with very nice buses. While we saw banana plantations and the “highway of death” over the mountains, we would change this part of the trip if we were to do it over. There are small commercial aircraft that fly from Tortuguero to San José daily, and the additional cost (approximately $100 per person) would be worth it to not spend nine hours on a bus.

— ANITA NIKIFORUK, Coeur d’Alene, ID