Over the past couple of weeks, I have shared with you the major highlights on the Touch of the Tropics tour to Costa Rica from myself and my students who traveled with me. If you missed them, you can read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. To this day, my students and I still bring up memories of the breathtaking nature and thrilling activities from the trip. Here are just a couple more notables to wrap up our series of highlights.
Birding in Monteverde Cloud Forest: In preparation for the trip, my students and I read a lot about Costa Rica, its beautiful national parks, and unique wildlife. We learned a lot about the famous quetzal bird and hoped to encounter one in the Monteverde Cloud Forest. While hiking quietly through the narrow trails, our guide used a birdcall from an app on his cellphone to attempt to locate this famous bird. We waited patiently in silence while spotting several other unique birds, when suddenly we heard a quetzal respond off in the distance. Although we never got a glimpse of this colorful, long-tailed bird, we deemed the adventure a success. Since Costa Rica is home to over 800 species of birds, birding is something everybody should experience.
Manuel Antonio National Park: On a hot and humid day along the Pacific Coast, we walked through the trails of one of Costa Rica’s most famous and beautiful parks, Manuel Antonio National Park. We were so excited to finally have a safe place free of rip tides to swim in the ocean that our guide had to remind us to slow down in order to see the nature around us. He immediately pointed out a few tree frogs that we had walked right by. We also saw two-toed sloths, three-toed sloths, squirrel monkeys, and even heard some howler monkeys. Just before arriving to the beach, our guide warned us to watch our items closely. It wasn’t other people he was worried about, but rather the white-headed monkeys that aggressively attack belongings in search of food and drink. We took turns watching bags so that we could all have a chance to swim, lie in the sand, and play Frisbee. Suddenly the white-headed monkeys we were warned about made their appearance. They worked their way through the trees coming closer to us in order to get a good look at what goods we might have to offer. The monkeys then become even braver and ambushed some of our sack lunches that were sitting within inches of us and stole juice boxes, sandwiches, and bananas. They retreated to nearby trees where they could taunt us by eating our food in plain view and throw the remains towards us on the ground. Watching a monkey rip into a juice box with its teeth and chug it was quite a site. The guide had warned us not to feed the monkeys. Although we hadn’t done so on purpose, that’s exactly what ended up happening. These monkeys charm you with their pretty faces and gracious movement through the trees. The next thing you know, they steal your backpack and are emptying it from a tree branch. Once the monkeys disappeared for good, we were able to let our guard down and enjoy the beautiful beach and ocean.
Sunsets: From the beginning of the trip, my students couldn’t wait to see a Costa Rican sunset over the ocean. When we arrived to Jaco on the Pacific Coast, the group insisted that we head down to the beach to watch the sunset. We gathered on the beach to shoot videos, take group pictures, and take in the sight together. It was a special moment that did not disappoint.
Looking back, it’s crazy how things worked out the way they did. A huge disappointment turned into a pleasant surprise for our entire group. We’ve since learned that Costa Rica is the most visited Central American region and is also one of the most popular destinations for EF Tours. Visit Costa Rica and experience Pura Vida and you’ll quickly understand why.
Scott Hemker is a high school Spanish teacher and basketball coach. He began traveling with EF Tours in 2001 and has led 8 student tours to various Spanish-speaking countries. Scott strongly believes that student travel builds self-confidence and inspires students to develop and work towards long-term goals.