December is a month of reflection. I am always struck by how lucky I am to be doing something I love, what I love is making people happy. I think if you have a job in life that makes others happy, it is fulfilling in so many ways.
I love getting photos sent in from my clients and I received some beautiful shots this past year. THANK YOU to everyone who chose us to be your travel planners; it is such an honor and privilege for us to design these trips for you!
We are still behind schedule with the new website. This is completely my own fault. The trouble I am having is keeping the tour options down to 50 or less! There are so many wonderful vacation combinations and I wanted to have some special ones on the new site. We are working on it though and hope to meet the January 1st deadline we have set. www.costaricavacationexperts.com The interactive Costa Rica map is functioning and almost ready.
We are excited about the possibility of some truly unique tours coming soon. How about building and taking home your own guitar? It’s coming soon! Several new tours are one the way, please stay tuned.
To my staff, thank you for another wonderful year, I love you all and appreciate the work we do together.
Have a wonderful holiday season and thank you for making 2012 so special – Catalina Cuervo / Owner and founder of C.R. Referrals Travel Group
The best experiences seem to be the ones that could never be planned. Such was the case during our family’s excursion to the beautiful Caribbean town of Punta Uva, Costa Rica, when we learned how to make breadfruit with the locals.
A couple of months ago we decided as a family that we weren’t happy with how we were living. We thought life might have more to offer than a house and a career, so we decided to go looking for it. We sold everything, left my job at Hewlett Packard in San Diego, and moved to Costa Rica. This trip to Punta Uva was our first big excursion since arriving. What we found there, unexpectedly, was exactly what we were looking for – adventure, culture, and friendship.
One highlight from this trip was stumbling into Jonathan. A bit of small talk turned into a 2-hour personal tour around his family’s beachfront property. He picked coconuts, climbed giant beach almond trees, explained the patterns of the tide, and told us about the delicious dishes his mother makes from the food that grows wild around their house. Jonathan must have seen my eyes light up at the mention of food, because our visit ended with an invitation for lunch the next day.
The menu was breadfruit in seasoned coconut milk, Caribbean style. Jonathan and his mother, Eliza, graciously walked us through the entire cooking process, from collecting the fresh ingredients, to the subtle tricks for perfected flavor. And this time I brought my camera!
Their use of fresh ingredients from around their property was the pinnacle of eating fresh and local. Yet, despite being completely from scratch, the recipe was surprisingly simple!
I had never heard of breadfruit before, and didn’t know what to expect. Cutting into it, it seemed to resemble potato, though more spongy and watery in texture. My expectations were not high, but I was in love after my first bite. (Our 3 and 5-year-old boys also loved it, which is powerful corroboration!) More tender and flavorsome than chicken, and more moist and robust than potato, breadfruit is now on my most wanted list.
Eliza’s Caribbean Style Breadfruit Recipe (Breadfruit in Seasoned Coconut Milk)
1 large breadfruit
1 tsp chicken bouillon
1 tsp salt
1 small onion
3 cloves garlic
2 tbs cooking oil
small bundle of fresh thyme
1. Grate coconut, add 4-5 cups water and massage to work out milk. Strain out coconut.
2. Add chopped garlic, then onion to hot oil. Cook for a couple minutes.
3. Add chopped breadfruit.
4. Add thyme, chicken bouillon, and salt.
5. Add coconut milk.
6. Simmer covered for 20 minutes or until bread fruit is tender.
7. Serve over steamed rice. Enjoy!
Leaving behind the security of our comfortable life in California was scary, but we did it because we believed in finding something more meaningful. What we’re discovering is more beautiful and meaningful that we could have ever planned.
Who knows what un-plan-ably spectacular journey’s might be ours? We’ve just got to go out and let them find us.
Something new we are doing in 2013 will be very exciting for those looking to expand their culinary horizons. Starting in 2013 you can add Costa Rican cooking classes to any one of our packages or custom designed vacations. We have started adding this into our vacation offerings due to client demand, you told us, and we listened
Costa Rica is not well known as a culinary destination, but this does not mean there is nothing to learn. Our meals tend to be simple but with the variety and freshness of the ingredients we have here at our disposal, culinary classes are a wonderful way to learn more about our culture and most important they are a lot of fun!
Most people have never seen Guanabana, or Jacotes, just 2 of the wonderful ingredients found here in Central America that are seldom seen in U.S. markets. You will get hands on instruction on the art of Costa Rican cooking.
We can add in these culinary experiences to your trip! We have cooking classes in Arenal, Manuel Antonio, Tamarindo and other popular areas of the country. Learn about the history of the ingredients in Costa Rican cooking, the harmony in which the ingredients work with one another, and take away a different experience on your next vacation.
The green season is moving in here in Costa Rica. We talk sometimes about what this all means when visiting. Many people know it is the best time to visit but some still do not. Why is it better? Where to begin… Surfing in Costa Rica is on average better during the green season with swells more plentiful during this time. White Water Rafting is at its best, rivers are full and ready for the adventuresome who wish to navigate through them. The Pacuare River is rated in the top 10 best in the world by National Geographic. The mighty Toro River offers an excellent trip with class 3 and 4 rapids.
Canyoneering, one of our most popular tours is at its best. This sport of rappelling down waterfalls, down climbing and river tracing through the rainforest is the highlight of many of our Costa Rica vacation packages.
Let’s not also forget how green everything is during this time of year which is how it gets the name. With the rain comes the Green Season. It does not rain all the time and not every day. We have just as much sun as we do rain in most cases so do not worry about being rained out. This rarely happens.
This time of year also brings with it the time for Sea Turtle Nesting to many of our beaches. The Green Sea, Leatherback, Olive Ridley, Hawksbill, and Pacific Green sea turtles all make their way back to the beached they were born on to repeat the cycle of life. 2 months after nesting the babies bravely make their way to sea in search of safety.
In addition to some of the best tours and everything in bloom, hotel discounts, tour discounts, and fewer tourists are also attractive to travelers looking to get away from it all.
July holds the mystery of little summer. This is 2 weeks or sometimes 3 of dry season like weather. You can get the benefits of both seasons, with full rivers and colors all around you while rain is not seen through much of Costa Rica. If you are lucky enough to catch this time of year you will not be disappointed.
We are getting ready to launch our new website and are very excited. The official launch will be by the end of April. One of the new things in the new site is our interactive map of Costa Rica. There are many wonderful resources for maps online and we wanted to add one that was a little more interactive and a lot less confusing then many that we have seen.
Although the map is still in development, you can get a sneak preview now and star playing with it.
We will be adding features into the map in the near future, this is still just a prototype and in development. In the current version you can learn what months are best to witness Sea Turtles nesting, some of the best surf spots, blue flag beaches, locations of parks and indigenous tribes, and more!
We are not trying to list EVERY city, beach, surf spot, but are giving an overview of highlights. Looking at a full detailed map of Costa Rica is as confusing as ever which is why we are keeping the information easy to digest.
We will let the world know when the new website launches, until then have fun with this sneak preview!
We love Topes in Costa Rica. A Tope is a kind of parade of horses but it is so much more than that. Fireworks, street food vendors, games, events, concerts, it is a combination of many things all happening at once. It is a chance for the entire community to get together and spend time with one another, to tell stories, to hang out with all your friends. There is also a large amount of drinking that goes on.
The photos are from one of the larger Topes we have every year in the town I live in Atenas. Our next Tope is on April 13th 2012 and it will be another wonderful event. To all of our clients that will be in country and in the area of Atenas I will see you there! Street vendors of all kinds sell their hearts out
Our last Tope was held at night. The events usually start during the day but this particular one is a night time event. Here are some of the sites and sounds of the evening. I hope you enjoy it!
Topes are a very important part of our culture. If you ever have the opportunity to visit or even participate in a Tope do not hesitate! You will love the experience and the energy!
For over the last year the famous Arenal Volcano has been relatively quiet. For over the last 50 years this giant has given hundreds of thousands of visitors a light show that you would remember for a lifetime! One of the top 20 most active volcanoes in the world, on a clear night the mountain would keep you spell bound.
A little over a year ago the volcano went quiet. No more light show, no boulders crashing down the side, no more lava flows, many though it would be short lived but as more and more time goes by the reality is starting to sink in to some. The volcano may NOT come back to its former glory any time soon.
Arenal lay dormant for 500 years before a major eruption back in 1968 started its current activity cycle. Since that time the volcano has thrilled visitors lucky enough to have a break in the clouds to see the show. Since 1968 the area has been built around the attraction of the volcano.
Although quiet now, Arenal could wake up at any time. Even with the decreased activity the volcano is still considered very active and gasses can be seen coming from the top during the day. The area itself hs not been hurt by the lack of lava flow, instead things move 0n as usual, although the area was built with the volcano as the focus, adventure and eco tourism in this area is some of the best in the country. Lava or no Lava this will not change.
Arenal has been and always will be a natural wonder for us in Costa Rica. We are humble in his presence, now and forever.
Every January in Costa Rica brings with it the Palmares Festival. This is one of our countries largest and is held in the town of the same name Palmares.
Concerts, parades, food, rodeos, bull fighting, this is a great way to spend some of your vacation time if you are lucky enough to be here during the festivities.
This years event kicks off on Wednesday January 11th and runs all the way through Monday the 23rd. Each days activities are a little different. Check the calendar of events and see what day best suits you.
In Part 9 of the Animal Sanctuaries of Costa Rica we introduce to you the Happy Turtle Project located on our Caribbean coast. Costa Rica is one of the most important nesting grounds in the world for several speicies of Sea Turtle. The Leatherback, Green Sea, Hawksbill, and the Olive Ridley can be found nesting on both of our coasts.
Turtles are in trouble around the word and many are losing the beaches they use as nesting grounds. Turtles will travel hundreds and hundreds of miles to return to the beach they were born on and lay their own eggs. Dangers include pollution, loss of habitat to development, poachers, fishing nets, and each year their numbers dwindle.
Projects such as La Tortuga Feliz are doing wonderful work in Costa Rica protecting and raising awareness about the plight of our many turtle species.
Watch this video to learn more about what they are doing and imagine spending time here yourself volunteering!
La Tortuga Feliz is a non profit organisation, based in Costa Rica, whose aims are the protection of sea turtles with the help of volunteers. The attendance of the volunteers contributes also to the improvement of the living conditions and education of the local inhabitants. These local inhabitants guard/patrol the beach (east coast of Costa Rica) together with the volunteers, collect the turtle eggs and bring these eggs to a hatchery, guarded by volunteers on a 24 hours scheme. By helping to generate an income for the locals, we hope to take away the necessity for them to poach the turtles. The partnership between the locals and the volunteers creates the ideal environment for the turtles to lay their eggs.
Costa Rica offers many wonderful options for those wanting to get more involved and volunteer their time. Projects such as the happy turtle project are a great example of this and can change your perspective on how you look at the world. We encorage those looking for these types volunteering vacations in Costa Rica and around the world.
The late Paul Lepoutre had the idea to establish an ecotourism project for watching the sea turtles in this area. Together with two Dutch friends (who financed the project) a business plan was created. The ecotourism idea was transferred into a non profit volunteer project, the lease of the beach was organised and Paul started the building of the first cabins and the kitchen. The approach was rather unique and has the special attention and support of various organizations around the world, most notably the World Wildlife Fund. The project is managed by Robert Adeva and his team of enthusiastic (former) international volunteer managers. Since 2006 Robert was the operational manager and after Paul passed away Robert became president of the foundation The final goal of La Tortuga Feliz is to one day hand the management of the project over to the local community and Robert and his team are working towards this by forming part of a village Association. Decisions are made in conjunction with the local community through their participation in the Association.
The project “La Tortuga Feliz”, in which the majority of the inhabitants of the area participate has the following main objectives:
The volunteer project
Volunteers can help with the realization of the protection of the sea turtles by patrolling the beaches together with the local inhabitants. The experience of being connected with nature in the way La Tortuga Feliz has organised the activities will contribute to a better world in the future. Read more… »
Create an income for as many inhabitants as possible. This can be realised by using the locals as guides during the patrols. During these patrols the guides, together with the volunteers watch the sea turtles laying their eggs. After the sea turtle has finished the egg laying process the eggs will be taken by the volunteers and transported to a central, guarded hatchery.
Locals who are interested in receiving and improving their level of education can do so via the adult education program that follows the National Curriculum. Costa Rican schools are invited to bring students to experience the conservation work at Tortuga Feliz. Volunteers can assist by giving their time during school visits.
Support The Happy Turtle Project – Get involved locally and internationally today!
I love my country more than I have words to tell. Surrounded by beauty and nature I have always felt blessed to be where I am. Many people do not realize how diverse Costa Rica is. To give you some idea is the goal of todays blog entry.
Costa Rica hosts more than 9000 identified species of plants including over 900 different species of trees, and more are being discovered every year! Sub-alpine dwarf vegetation, rainforest flora, mangrove swamps, cloud forest, and seasonal dry forest with its deciduous trees, there are an amazing range of habitats for a country so small.
In the cloud forests plants abound which are specially adapted to absorb moisture directly from the clouds and mist in the air. It is from these huge misty forests that Costa Rica’s abundant water sources come from. Epiphytes are plants which live on trees in order to reach the sunlight. They also abound in these forests adding to the water-gathering ability of the trees. Epiphytes are not considered parasites; they feed off water and dust and nutrients which accumulate around their roots.Costa Rica has over 1,800 species of orchids, most of them are epiphytes. Costa Rica provides much of the world’s supply of orchids. Other examples of epiphytes include bromeliads with over 200 species found here. The epiphytes, treetops and vines create a canopy that preserves the moisture within the forest, and also provides a home for many small animals and insects that live their whole lives in the canopy, never touching the ground. The cloud and rainforests of Costa Rica comprise some of the world’s most complex ecosystems.