Category Archives: South America

beach in Costa Rica

How to Make the Most of Your Trip to Costa Rica

Costa Rica boasts multiple attractive features for tourists who enjoy wildlife as well as a peaceful and welcoming holiday environment. This pristine Central American country nestled between Panama and Nicaragua is a treasure trove of untainted landscapes and wildlife diversity, featuring numerous national parks inhabited by rare and magnificent species.

Tips for taking full advantage of the Coast Rican treasures:

costa rica sunsetTry getting from one location to another by plane. It can be difficult to drive from one area to the other of the country, for the roads can often be rendered inaccessible due to the tropical climate. Short plane trips can be a real day saver for those who wish to venture between the several touristic locations, as they are inexpensive and safe to take. Plan your plane trips from San Jose, where flights to all the country’s main locations can be found.

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Make sure you take some good books to help you identify and take full advantage of the wildlife and plants within the Costa Rican national parks. beach in Costa RicaThis will really help you fully appreciate the beauty and rarity of the many wildlife species that can be spotted in the parks. Although the guides in the parks can help you discover and spot these animal and plant species, there is no better way to take advantage of all the natural wonders than with a good reference book.

You should really visit at least one of the coasts of Costa Rica, for this narrow strip of land offers the luxury of two diversified coastal areas, the Pacific Ocean in the west and the Caribbean Sea in the east. Both coasts are the home to several national parks, such as the Manuel Antonio National Park on the Pacific Coast and the Tortuguero National Park on the Caribbean Coast.

The Manuel Antonio National Park

Boating in Costa RicaThis national park is situated in the south along the Pacific Ocean and its starting point is located in the small coastal town of Quepos. You enter the park aboard small boats that takes you across a river into the park’s boundary. The entrance of the park boasts white sandy beaches lined with palm trees from which forest trails lead into the depths of the deep forested park. The park harbors various species of animals including iguanas, wild monkeys, peccaries, agoutis and wild parrots ablaze with red and yellow feathers. Butterflies as well as wild flowers and plants also contribute to intensify the colorful setting of the jungles, offering spectacular scenery of rare natural intensity.

The Tortuguero National Park

On the opposite coast along the Caribbean lies the Tortuguero National Park, a vast expanse of land that features an amazing array of wildlife specimens.

lizards in Costa RicaIf you decide to drive to the park from San José, take the Guapiles highway to Limon and then from the Bay of Moin you can catch along boat on the canal that takes you north to the Cariari National Wetlands into the heart of the national park. Most of the boats from the Bay of Moin leave in the morning, so make sure you find out the departure times before planning your trip.

The Tortuguero National Park features an incredible variety of rich and biologically fascinating wildlife species within more than ten specific habitats. These environments include coastal woodland, slope forest, high rainforest, swamp forest, holillo forest, herbaceous swamp and lagoons. Within these habitats you can spot many different mammal species as well as birds and marine life. Sea turtles including Hawksbill and Loggerheads nest along the pristine beaches from July through to October, while the Leatherback turtles, which are the largest species in the world, come to nest in the park from February to July.

The Barra del Colorado Wildlife Refuge lies north of the Tortuguero National Park and offers a similar climate and environment to explore. To the south the Tortuguero National Park is bordered by the Parismina River and the Cariari National Wetlands.

The best time to visit the Costa Rican parks is during the dry season, for the rainy season can be very humid and wet, especially on the east coast. The dry season runs from November to April, and although there can be occasional showers rainfall is less frequent.

Author Bio:
Alina is a travel author who has written many articles that keeps on guiding the travelers throughout the world. Angelina herself is an avid traveler who has traveled more than 22 countries. 

basilisk lizard in costa rica

Five Far Out Wildlife Retreats in Costa Rica

Exclusive for Vagobond by Melissa Ruttanai

In recent years, Costa Rica has emerged as a premiere destination for wildlife lovers and ecotourism. People pull their kids out of school early to vacation here. Celebrities hoard beachfront property like marbles in a shooting out. Though some places may have become “gringo-cized”, Costa Rica maintains its mission to preserve the biodiversity on which its reputation is built. No matter where travelers disembark, a wildlife retreat is never far.

Monteverde Cloud Forest

monteverde costa ricaCalled bosque nuboso, Monteverde Cloud Forest stretches over 35,000 acres in northern Costa Rica and is home to over 1200 species of wildlife, including all 6 cat species: jaguars, ocelots, pumas, oncillas, margays, and jaguarundis. In all the woodlands of the world, only 1% hold the cloud forests designation. Existing in Panama, Pakistan, Cambodia, and Costa Rica, these ecosystems sit above the regular rainforest. Mist and fog roll through the vegetation, settling on leaves, and hydro-fueling the biosphere. The coating of fog prevents the sun from drying the forest and the entire area blooms in emerald hues.

Visitors to Monteverde come for nature and adrenaline. Birding is a leading activity. Tours can be arranged from any hotel. Nature hikes range from well-marked easy trails no longer than .2 miles (.3 km) to challenging trails over a mile long that traverse several elevations of the cloud forest. For the lionhearted, zip lining and repelling are also available.

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Tortuguero National Park

iguana in Costa RicaMeaning Turtle Catcher, Tortuguero National Park is dedicated to the preservation of its various turtle-residents. Sitting on the northern Caribbean coast, Tortuguero is serviced by a village of the same name, where tours and boats help travelers access the park. The admission fee at the gate is $7. But it’s advised to hire a guide or join a tour group. At 8am, visitors cross the narrow waterways and enter Tortuguero. No camping is allowed in the park. However, you can set up camp by the administration offices and the ranger station for $2 per day.

While fishing and kayaking are big draws here, turtle nesting is the main attraction. Between July and October, Green Sea and Hawksbill turtles come ashore during the waning moon while Leatherbacks prefer the February to April season. Called arribados or the great arrival, the mother turtles come ashore, lay their eggs, and slip back into the sea to the sighs of international tourists. Admission at night is prohibited without a guide. Make arrangements well beforehand and please remember that you are a guest. Shield your camera’s flash, and do not touch or interfere with the arribados.

Rincon de la Vieja National Park

basilisk lizard in costa ricaThe largest of 5 volcanoes, the Rincon de la Vieja sits on the northern Pacific side of Costa Rica. Still active but deemed calm, the Rincon reaches a height of 1895 meters. The national park surrounding the volcano encompasses over 14,000 hectares. Hikers who’ve a penchant for heights can climb the Pacific flank of the cordillera between February and April when the weather is drier. At the summit, you’ll be able to see the Guanacaste Plain, Nicoya Peninsula, and Lake Nicaragua on a clear day.

Nature seekers can walk the moderate trails surrounding the park headquarters. These trails intersect with more difficult trails to Las Pailas. In the 50 hectares surrounding this area, hikers can find thermal springs, waterfalls, vapor geysers, and coldwater pools. Along the paths, wildlife burgeons with quetzals, toucanets, eagles, howler monkeys, and sloths. Guides are recommended since cloud coverage often obscures trail blazes and markers.

Manuel Antonio National Park

costa rica wildlifeOne of the smaller national parks, Manuel Antonio National Park ranks among the most popular in Costa Rica. The park contains 1700 acres of land and over 135,000 acres of marine reserve. Before Christopher Columbus, ancient societies lived here. Along the shore, you can still see the remains of their turtle traps. Now, the primary and secondary forest is home to species ranging from squirrel monkeys and capuchin to sloths, hawks, and kingfishers.

Whitewater rafting and sport fishing are core activities in the park as well as snorkeling and kayaking. Besides hiking, visitors can arrange for canopy, horseback, and bicycling tours. Many head to the mangroves for day-long explorations. But keep in mind that only 600 visitors are allowed admission during the week, 800 on weekends and holidays. On Mondays, Manuel Antonio is closed. Park rangers often state that if the quota is met at 9:15am. They close the gates at 9:15.

Marino Ballena National Park

Nestled on the southern Pacific coastline, Marino Bellena is a small national park, teeming with wildlife that often roam free from the flood of tourists that other ecosystems must endure. South of San Jose, Marino Bellena boasts 9 miles of white-gold sands, quiet mangroves and the largest coral reef on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast. Officially, a $7 admission fee is required upon entering but the gate is often unmanned, reflecting the relaxed and more remote feel of the park.

From December to April, lucky visitors may glimpse humpback whales tossing in the tide as they make their way to traditional mating waters just off the shore. During low tide, the marine life is abuzz, unconcerned about human faces in the waters. Nocturnal visitors in May through August can view mother turtles nesting and laying eggs in the moonlight. Unlike other parks, authorities do not monitor these activities closely. Please be aware of your surroundings, keep your voices down, and shield your camera’s flash.

Since the 1980s, traveling options to these wildlife retreats have exponentially multiplied. Visitors from around the world converge on Costa Rica’s national parks to see animals unique to these biospheres. Accordingly, the travel industry has grown. But, whether you’re flying into Liberia to visit Monteverde or into San Jose for a long stay in Manuel Antonio, please remember to respect the ecosystem and leave the grounds as you found them.

Thanks to its compact size and well developed transport infrastructure, all of these national parks can be accessed with ease. Contact a Costa Rica tours operator for suggestions on itineraries.

Mistura Peru Food Festival

Mistura: Peru’s Festival Of Food

By Maureen Santucci

Lima is often referred to as the Gastronomic Capital of Latin America and going to the annual food festival Mistura is a great way to find out why. I recently went for the first time, getting in the back door so to speak as I was helping my friends who have a small but renowned pisco (Peruvian brandy) bar in Cusco, El Pisquerito.

Mistura Peru Food FestivalThis was the festival’s fourth year and each year sees it growing larger, both in terms of the number of foods and establishments represented as well as the numbers of people attending. The festival runs for eleven days, each day packed with Peruvians and foreigners alike eating, drinking and celebrating the country’s vast culinary heritage.

The event was huge, with literally hundreds of stands offering delicacies from each of Peru’s diverse regions. There was a section dedicated to the ingeniously simple dish called ceviche, fish marinated in lime and chili. There was the carapulca stand, a rich and tasty stew created by the Afro-Peruvian descendants of slaves and traditionally served with cat meat (although fortunately not at Mistura!) There was an entire section given over to the worship of pisco and all the various cocktails it can be used in.
There was a huge grill, on which juicy skewers of anticucho, deliciously tender cubes of beef heart, were sizzling.

Inside a tent that was more like a temporary aircraft hanger, I found indigenous farmers displaying their wares; countless varieties of multicolored potato, maize of every hue, and creamy cherimoya fruit the size of your head.

Mistura is such a success because it reflects the diversity of Peru’s cuisine and history. Naturally, the very finest restaurants are all represented, serving tasters of their signature dishes. But then again so are all the common delicacies more often found on street corners.

Peruvians are rightly proud of their national cuisine, and in a country often divided by wealth, race and geography, Mistura offers a welcome celebration of national unity.

Sampling the delights is easy; visitors simply purchase food tickets which can be exchanged for dishes at each stall. The only trick is saving enough space to taste everything. Real foodies can only do the event justice by buying a multi-day ticket and coming every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

If you are able to time your trip to Peru with the Mistura food festival you would be mad to skip the opportunity of experiencing the event for yourself.

Otherwise, food fanatics can arrange culinary tours and experiences, including taster sessions at top restaurants and Peruvian cooking classes by contacting a special interest tour operator, or a specialist in luxury Peru tours.