One of the hottest destinations for 2020 is the lush Central American nation of Costa Rica. Almost 6% of the world’s natural biodiversity is packed into this tiny country, which is tipped by many, including Lonely Planet and Forbes, to be one of the top travel destinations of next year.
We spoke to our very own Gold Travel Counsellor, Jo McDonnell, who took her family to Costa Rica for a three-week holiday in summer 2018, to learn more. Not only did she find it a rewarding family holiday destination, firmly ticking the ‘eco-adventure’ box, but she also created the whole experience from scratch using one single booking platform - our very own Phenix booking system!
"We flew to San Jose on a direct flight from Gatwick - that’s me, partner Steve and boys Jake (17) and Tom (12)", explains Jo.
"I think a lot of visitors tend to by-pass the capital, but we stayed three nights to chill out and acclimatise. We could stroll into town from our hotel, the Grano de Oro, and enjoyed a couple of interesting day trips, both of which I’d booked in Phenix."
"The phrase ‘authentic experience’ can be a bit over-used these days, but our visit to a nearby coffee plantation and a hike to the active Poas volcano, were both exactly that. It was fascinating to see how the coffee plantation worked; just one guy taking us round his local community, to his friend’s place for lunch; we really did get to see the working plantation as it was. We got a similarly refreshing ‘local’ experience too, as we hiked the stunning the Poas volcano with a native guide."
"Our next stop was Tortuguero, a protected wilderness area on the Caribbean coast, about two hours from San Jose. It’s only accessible via a half-hour boat ride and we stayed in the lovely Manatus Eco-Lodge. This stunning wetland area really is spectacular; the dense rainforest is so rich and exotic, but watching the turtles laying eggs on the beach in their natural habitat was just the most incredible experience!" enthuses Jo.
"We then flew from Tortuguero to the small town of La Fortuna; what a journey that was! Just an airstrip, a man with a clipboard and a tiny Cessna airplane - and that was it! I guess it was an appropriate start to a stay in the country’s adventure capital!", recalls Jo.
"La Fortuna nestles in the lush foothills of two volcanoes and is the gateway to what’s known as the Arenal National Park. We enjoyed ziplining and white-water rafting, which went down well with the boys, and we saw incredible bird and wildlife on our ‘Cloud Walk’ in the forests. The area is rich in volcanic hot springs too, and our beautiful Lodge, El Silencio del Campo, had its very own hot springs in the grounds, which was a real treat for all of us!"
"From La Fortuna we collected our hire car, also booked in our Phenix system, and drove to the Pacific Coast for a stay at the popular beach resort of Tamarindo."
"I’d picked a gorgeous boutique hotel for us, one of Mr & Mrs Smith’s properties which, again, I booked directly from within our system. That said, I had my pick of a whole host of hotels, from quirky, boutique-style to large chain all-inclusive properties, all of which we have available on direct contract within Phenix", says Jo.
"We enjoyed three nights chilling out here, before swapping our car for a 4x4, and driving up to Monte Verde in the rainforest. Monte Verde is a natural reserve where we enjoyed tree-canopy and cloud-forest walks. This was where we did a lot of nature spotting - the area is particularly popular with bird watchers, and we saw sloths, frogs, lots of small wildlife and a multitude of exotic and colourful birds. We didn’t, but if you’re lucky, you can even see big cats, such as jaguar and ocelot."
"The final leg of our trip took us back to the Pacific Coast, to Manuel Antonio National Park in Limón Province. It’s an area of stunning natural beauty, where white sand beaches are backed by lush, deep jungle. We totally chilled out for a couple of nights here after our epic tour!"
"I found Costa Rica to be accessible, the trips well organised, food good and a breathtakingly beautiful country. We enjoyed a wide variety of activities and made lots of different stops. Our DMC partner, Urban Adventures, are a mine of knowledge and great to have at my fingertips, but it was surprisingly easy for me to book the almost all of the elements in our holiday in one place - our very own Phenix booking system!"
With your travel knowledge and a world of hotels, DMC partnerships, car hire, flights, excursions and more at your fingertips, just imagine how easy it is to tailor-make bespoke itineraries as a Travel Counsellor.