Tag Archives: Costa Rica family vacations

Spotlight in Puerto Viejo and the Southern Caribbean Beaches

surf costa rica on your adventure vacationPuerto Viejo and Cahuita lie within the province of Limon and are the two main tourist towns of the southern Caribbean coast in Costa Rica. They are like a country within a country (think Texas) and you will feel like you crossed a border somewhere and ended up on a Caribbean island. The culture is very different than the rest of the country, with a more Rasta and Caribbean flair, unique cuisine emphasizing the use of coconut milk, curry and fresh seafood, and a laid back friendly pace of life. They celebrate Carnival, just like in the Caribbean Islands, and the whole province celebrates with a long weekend of partying, extravagant costumes, lots of music and delicious street BBQs.

Wildlife

costa rica wildlife sanctuaries are importantThe area is a natural habitat for a wide variety of exotic creatures and is home to the famous Sloth Sanctuary. There, they rehabilitate and care for injured or orphaned sloths and try to teach visitors about this extraordinary animals. There is also the Jaguar Rescue center in Playa Cocles that also helps needy animals and is open for morning tours, but in the afternoons they are busy taking the animals into the forest to see which ones are ready to fend for themselves in the “real world.” There are also several national parks and reserves, with well kept walking trails to follow. This is where you will see an incredible amount of Costa Rican wildlife. I have never been to this part of Costa Rica without seeing many monkeys (howler and white-faced) and sloths, as well as tons of exotic birds, iguanas, turtles nesting, some snakes and more. If your Costa Rica adventure vacation is not complete without some wildlife, you should definitely consider a visit to this area.

caribbean beaches are unpopulated and stunningBeaches

The beaches along this coastline are stunningly beautiful with the jungle touching the sand, which leads into the clear turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea. They are almost always empty, giving you a feel of really getting away from it all. Rent a bike and ride up and down the coast until you find your own special piece of paradise. Our favorite beach is Punta Uva. It’s a truly idyllic spot, with calm warm waters which are great for our young kids, some nice snorkeling, soft sand and just enough waves to boogie board sometimes. You can also rent sea kayaks or stand up paddle boards and explore the rocky outcropping that makes a natural boundary for the beach. Playa Cocles and Playa Negra are better known for their excellent surf. The world-famous Salsa Brava is an epic break that comes up in an easterly swell and can be massive! It’s recommended for experts and pros only as the reef below can do some real damage to the unlucky.

Things to See and Docosta rica snorkeling and wildlife

Although this area doesn’t feel super touristy, there is still plenty to do. Learn about the indigenous people, swim in waterfalls, snorkel the Caribbean sea, take a surf lesson, rent a SUP board,zipline through the rainforest or go horseback riding. The hotels are mostly small boutique hotels with bungalows dotted around tropical gardens. They’re perfect for couples on their honeymoon, intrepid travelers and families on their Costa Rican family vacation. We prefer to stay outside of the town for a quieter, more relaxed atmosphere.

Puerto Viejo has around 49 countries represented by the expatriates who call it home, which means there are a wide variety of restaurants to choose from. From authentic Italian to Thai to simple but delicious sandwiches on freshly made bread, you’ll be able to get something to please everyone. Don’t forget to visit Bread and Chocolate (open for breakfast and lunch) and try their delicious iced coffees and homemade organic chocolates.

So, if you are someone who likes to experience something a little different on your vacation, doesn’t need 5-star all-inclusive resorts and likes to explore the less explored, then the Puerto Viejo could be a good place to finish up your Costa Rican adventure vacation or adventure honeymoon. Contact us today to see how it can fit within your itinerary.Costa Rica Animal

 

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Costa Rica: The Rainforest vs The Jungle

costa rica wildlifeIf you’ve never been to a tropical climate, the idea of a jungle or rainforest may sound very exotic. It is. Costa Rica has both rainforest and jungle. Some people refer to these forested areas interchangeably. While the two eco systems are very similar, there are a lot of differences that come into play. The biggest contrast is the amount of sunlight that peeks through the treetops. It dramatically changes the environment. If you’re planning a vacation or a honeymoon in Costa Rica, it’s helpful to know how these beautiful landscapes teeming with wildlife compare to each other, especially if you want to go exploring.

The Jungle

Amid the wilderness of Costa Rica is the jungle. It’s a dense forest comingled with trees and vegetation. The trees grow close together, and leafy vines seem to connect the dots. Animals have free range, roaming among the trees or through the wealth of plants that create a thick groundcover. The jungle is also filled with the sounds of wild animals singing, chattering and calling to each other amid the rustle of leaves and flowers. Humans find it more challenging to navigate, but it’s quite a sight to see. One of the most exhilarating ways to view the jungles of Costa Rica is to take a zipline ride over these scenic forested areas. Whitewater rafting on the Pacuare River is another option.

costa rica adventure vacations in the rainforest

The Rainforest

The rainforests of Costa Rica are similar to the jungle, but they have layers. There’s little vegetation on the ground except where the stray ray of sun shines through. You won’t find the dense tangle of plants and vines growing under your feet the way it is in the jungle. Instead, there’s a high canopy of treetops that shields the sun from peeking through. Vines climb up long tree trunks to reach the sunlight. This is where the vast majority of rainforest animals live. In this setting, trees can range from 60 feet tall to well over 100 feet. A lower canopy of treetops blocks out sunlight below 60 feet, creating a humid environment. The cool breezes rarely

The Animalsbreak through this layer, but the sounds of the busy animal kingdom in the treetops filters down below and fills the air. It’s much warmer on the ground. The moist hot air creates a lush environment for ferns and flowers in this tropical setting. Rodents and reptiles roam the ground in this rain-soaked environment, which is dotted with rivers, streams and waterfalls.

Much of the wildlife is the same in canopies of the jucosta rica waterfall in the rainforestngle and rainforest. Monkeys, macaws, anteaters, snakes and sloths are just a few of the wild animals found in the Costa Rican jungle. A trek through the rainforest also reveals various species of birds, monkeys, snakes and sloths. Creatures like the peccary, lizards, tree frogs and an assortment of cats and rodents also roam the jungle and rainforest, foraging for food and water.

A jungle or a rainforest can grow naturally, creating an ecosystem where plants and animals thrive. When part of a rainforest is cleared, however, rays of sunlight encourage growth of vegetation across the ground, creating a jungle instead.

If the idea of trekking through the jungle or wandering through the rainforest intrigues you, it might be time for a visit to Costa Rica. At Costa Rica Rios, we help people plan vacations and honeymoons with as much or as little adventure as you like. Check out our photo gallery from The Jungle Lodge on the Pacuare River to see some of the unique tropical scenery you can encounter on your trip.Costa Rica bird watching is a popular past time

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Spotlight on Turrialba

active costa rica volcano

Turrialba is a small agricultural town in the heart of Costa Rica that has largely been left unaffected by the vast number of tourism flocking to other parts of the country. That is not to say it is uninteresting or has nothing to offer! On the contrary, this little town has many treasures to enthrall the discerning traveler. Nestled in a valley, surrounded by primary and secondary rainforest, one of the most active volcanoes in Costa Rica to the north, as well as the highest volcano in the country, and with the highest mountain on the horizon to the south, its beauty is unquestionable. Located just 1.5 hours form the capital city of San Jose, Turrialba is worlds away from the hustle and bustle.

If your idea of a Costa Rica adventure vacation includes meeting locals and getting a feel for the culture, then this is the destination for you. Its warm and welcoming community is friendly and fun, always rising to the occasion when there is something to celebrate. It seems nearly every second weekend there is something going on, from a mountain bike race to runs to cultural festivals and fairs. It’s also the hub for many indigenous people, who come in for their weekly market shopping and other necessities.

luxury boutique hotel in costa rica

There are no large chain hotels, but several smaller boutique lodges that cater to almost any budget. So if you want luxury on your family vacation or adventure honeymoon, you can still get it in Turrialba.

Turrialba is also the gateway to many adventures. With more than 22 canyons in and around the town, canyoning has become one of the most popular adventures in the area. The beautiful thing about the canyons here, is that the tours all run on a “leave no trace” policy, meaning that when you are rappelling down waterfalls there are no fixed points and all the ropes are set up at each drop by your expert guides

canyoning in the rainforest of costa rica

There are numerous mountain biking trails for enthusiasts, and you could fill your entire Costa Rica adventure vacation with a different trail every day. And the hiking is incredible. There are many private and public reserves to visit including a UNESCO Natural Heritage site just a 20-minute drive from downtown. Due to the low number of visitors to the national parks around here, there is a lot of wildlife. We have been lucky to see the shy and rare Tayra twice this year, as well as an abundance of sloths, toucans and many other exotic creatures. No Costa Rica vacation is complete without a little wildlife!

hiking costa rica's rainforest

The most important archaeological site is also located here and is a wonderful place full of mystery and intrigue. You’ll be able to learn about the pre-Colombus people and their way of life. Dotted all around the valley are relics from the past and many stone carvings and artefacts.

Turrialba is best known as the gateway to the Pacuare River, home of the best whitewater rafting in the country and some of the best whitewater in the world. National Geographic voted this river “one of the top 10 commercially rafted rivers in the world”. There are two ways to raft the Pacuare: A one-day trip that leaves early in the morning and has you off the river by mid-afternoon, or an overnight excursion where you will spend a night or two in a beautiful and remote jungle lodge. An overnight in one of the Pacuare River’s lodges is generally a highlight of any Costa Rica trip.

costa rica wildlife

An unusual fact about Turrialba is that it is home to the Rawlings baseball factory, and every baseball used in Major League Baseball in the USA is made here in this town. The factory produces 50,000 handmade baseballs every week to be shipped to the USA! Also hosted in the town is the world coffee bean bank. This means that if a crop of coffee, anywhere in the world, was to be wiped out due to plague or other phenomena, we have the original strain ready to start the replenishment. If you like your family adventure vacation to include a little education, this is a great place to start.

So if you are planning your honeymoon or your annual family adventure vacation, why not get away from the crowds and experience a little bit of the “real” Costa Rica? We would suggest at least a two-night stay in the Turrialba area before moving on to your next destination.

To see how Turrialba could fit into your next vacation plans, contact us for more information. You won’t be disappointed.

whitewater rafting past waterfalls on the Pacuare River

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Hot Surfing Spots in Costa Rica

try surfing on your costa rica honeymoonIf you dream of surfing in Costa Rica, you’ve probably heard that there are at least 1,000 surf-able breaks and beautiful beaches here. The culture is very accepting of surfers, and you’ll find a number of shops near our busiest beaches. The best surfing spots in Costa Rica are legendary, but there’s a great mix of lesser known beach breaks that can give you an unforgettably great ride. While it was hard to pick out just a handful of favorite surfing destinations, we’ve highlighted a few hot spots located around Tamarindo, Puerto Viejo and Pavones that are well worth mentioning.

Tamarindo

One of the most appreciated surfing spots in Costa Rica is Tamarindo. Located on the northern end of the Pacific Coast, there are several breaks to surf in the area. If you want to experience as many surfing spots as you can find close together, Tamarindo could be the place to start your quest. Witch’s Rock and Ollie’s Point are among the favorites, and both are accessible only by boat. If you saw the movie “The Endless Summer II,” you already know about Ollie’s Point.

  • Witch’s Rock is a two-mile stretch that’s best at high tide. Be prepared for some steep waves. It’s considered one of Costa Rica’s best places to surf, so it gets crowded on occasion.
  • Ollie’s Point is a year-round surfing destination that is loaded with hollow waves. If you’re looking for a place to surf when the tide is going out and the swells are southwest, try this one.

Puerto Viejo

Puerto Viejo is located on the southern Caribbean Coast. It’s not as busy as Tamarindo. There are a few surfing spots close to each other that give you a great experience, but it can be inconsistent, depending on the time of year you visit.costa rica honeymoons and family vacations are a great time to try surfing

  • The waves at Puerto Viejo, sometimes called Salsa Brava for its powerful big tubes, build from deep water and break on a shallow reef. Bring your A-game. An easterly swell produces the best surfing conditions.
  • Black Beach is a year-round surfing destination with best results from a southern or easterly swell. If you’re looking for something less crowded, put this one on your list – especially if you’re an early riser who likes good waves before breakfast.

Pavones

Pavones is among the legendary surfing destinations in Costa Rica. Located on the South Pacific Coast, this small town enjoys a big reputation. Pavones is a popular destination for the avid surfer. If it’s too crowded or not a great day for swells, consider nearby Punta Banco.

  • Pavones offers about three-quarters of a mile of left, and it’s considered one of the longest in the world. It has fast waves with good shape. It can be inconsistent and small at times, but when it’s on, it’s on.
  • Located about two-and-a-half miles south of Pavones, Punta Banco has a reef break and generally a smaller crowd. It’s a good choice at middle to high tide when there’s a western or southern swell. It can be a little hard to paddle into at times, which is why it’s less crowded than Pavones.

family surf lessons in costa rica If you love to surf, Costa Rica holds an adventure for you. There are many surfing hot spots with different types of breaks, from big waves to short and strong ones. When you’re ready to book a scenic surfing vacation in Costa Rica, contact Costa Rica Rios. We’ll help you build your own vacation, finding the best breaks for your skill level and plan some great accommodations for your stay.

 

 

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Spotlight on Manuel Antonio National Park

manuel antonion national park beachWhen making your Costa Rican vacation plans make sure that you include a visit to Manuel Antonio on the Pacific Coast. It’s one of the premier beach destinations in Costa Rica. It boasts all the amenities you would expect. From backpacker style accommodations to luxury hotels (and everything in between), Manuel Antonio has it all.

So what drives so many people to Manuel Antonio?

It has some of the best beaches in the country and one of the best, and most accessible, National Parks. It’s an easy 3-hour drive from San Jose and the international airport.

Manuel Antonio National Park was established in 1972 and is Costa Rica’s smallest park. In 2011, it was awarded the distinction of  one of the world’s “Top 12 Most Beautiful Parks” by Forbes magazine, and for the many visitors who passed through the park’s gates before then, it came as no surprise.

There are four beaches within the park itself, Manuel Antonio, Espadilla Sur, Teloro and Playita, that have well-marked trails making for easy access.

three species of monkeys live in the Manuel Antonio National ParkIf beaches are not your thing, then maybe the wildlife is. The park has 109 species of mammals and 184 species of birds within its borders.

You are almost guaranteed to find both types of sloths and 3 of the 4 species of monkeys found in Costa Rica – Howler, Squirrel and White Headed Capuchin).sloths can be found all over the manuel antonio national park

Other than the National Park, Manuel Antonio is a magical playground for families, newlyweds and solo travelers alike. There are endless options to keep yourselves occupied, with some of the most popular activities being snorkeling, jetski riding, surfing, ziplining or simply lying on the beach and relaxing.

So why not include Manuel Antonio in your itinerary? It’s one of the most famous destinations in Costa Rica. Contact us today to see how Costa Rica Rios can help include it in your vacation package.for beginners or experienced surfers, there is something for everyone

 

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Take a Costa Rica Biking Adventure

One of the more unusual ways to take in Costa Rica is by bike. Because some of the outlying areas have rough roads, a mountain bike is the best option. Seeing the gorgeous countryside at the slower pace of a bike will allow you to get an inexpensive and unique perspective of life in Costa Rica.

There are more than 80 different bike routes to choose from, including gentle hills and rugged mountains. Here are a few areas you don’t want to miss.

Lake Arenal and Arenal Volcano:  This is one of the best areas in Costa Rica for biking. Trails take you through primary forests and waterfalls. There’s also a hot springs nearby where you can relax after a day’s ride. Some uphill routes take bikers on roads normally travelled only by local farmers and horses.

Ruta de los Conquistadores:  One of the world’s most challenging bike races takes place in Costa Rica from Thursday, Nov. 6 to Saturday, Nov. 8, 2014. Bikers cross Costa Rica from the Pacific to the Atlantic Coast, about 400 kilometers or 250 miles, over three days. Check out the official site for more information if you’d like to follow sections of the race routes.

Turrialba:  Bike routes in this area pass by archaeological sites and refreshing freshwater pools. There are more difficult single rider trails as well as remote backroads. The Pacuare and Reventazon Rivers of the region are some of the most famous in the world for whitewater rafting. There are also several volcanos to investigate.

Irazu:  One bike route takes you from the top of Irazú volcano passing coffee plantations and cattle farms. This is one of the best downhill rides in Costa Rica. The Irazu Volcano National Park has an unusual landscape that almost feels like the moon, with craters lined by scorched trees. There are also sparkling mineral pools fed by rain.

Nicoya Peninsula:  This is an area of Costa Rica that most visitors miss. Biking routes in this area include beaches and fishing villages, as well as coffee plantations. Stop en route to take in some water sports like surfing, fishing, snorkeling and diving. The Nicoya Peninsula is rich with natural assets including  turtle beaches, subterranean caves and excellent birding locations.

For your next Costa Rica adventure, consider a bike tour. What better way to take in the majestic nature of Costa Rica than by traveling in a green, sustainable way?  For more information about adventures awaiting you in Costa Rica, contact us today.

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Finding Some Peace On Your Costa Rica Adventure

From a zip-line jungle canopy tour to whitewater rafting, the adrenaline pumping options for your Costa Rica adventure are endless. But Costa Rica also promises world-class PEACE at the United Nations University for Peace, which is headquartered in Ciudad Colón, San Jose, Costa Rica.

The UPEACE system was created in 1980 with a mission “to provide humanity with an international institution of higher education for peace and with the aim of promoting among all human beings the spirit of understanding, tolerance and peaceful coexistence, to stimulate cooperation among peoples and to help lessen obstacles and threats to world peace and progress, in keeping with the noble aspirations proclaimed in the Charter of the United Nations”. The University for Peace offers master’s degree programs in Peace and Conflict Studies. It also conducts training programs, study abroad programs and undergraduate credit building programs, all aimed at building a community of people who want to further peace and reduce conflict throughout the world.

UPEACE’s main campus in San Jose boasts a Nature Reserve, Recreational Park and Monument to Disarmament. While visiting the campus, enjoy tours focusing on natural history and Central American history, as well as UPEACE’s history and ongoing work. With biking paths, walking trails and observation points in place, and a hummingbird garden coming soon, a stop at the Reserve is a wonderful addition to your Costa Rica trip.

The University for Peace offers several activities for students. They include the 1 Billion Rising movement held this past February, and coordinated dances held in 207 countries with 1 billion participants to draw attention to the problem of violence against women. More than 30 UPEACE students participated in flash mobs at two of the university’s Costa Rica campuses. Contact us at Costa Rica Rios to plan your custom Costa Rica adventure today.

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How Costa Rica Trips Broaden Cultural Horizons

Costa Rica trips have been lauded for years for displaying natural beauty. What doesn’t always come to mind, though, is the value of learning about a new culture. Nothing helps to expand human experience and bring people together like learning about a locale’s unique culture. Costa Rica is no exception.

The culture of Costa Rica is heavily influenced by settlers who arrived during Spain’s period of colonization throughout the world. Although the Spanish language and many Spanish customs still exist, don’t be fooled. This is not Spain. There is plenty of influence from indigenous tribes whose customs, food and languages still live on with the locals.

One of the most important aspects of Costa Rican culture is called “Pura Vida,” or “pure life.” Although that’s the direct translation, the phrase more accurately means “living well” or “This is living.” It can be used as a greeting, a farewell, or even a response to a question, and it portrays the Costa Rican culture well. Costa Ricans live for fun. Whether it’s good food, dancing or a holiday celebration, the Costa Rican love for food, games, and fun is contagious to just about anyone that visits.

This love of parties and fun, of course, means that Costa Rica is marked by a hospitable and friendly people. Our visitors are typcially welcomed with open arms, and it’s easy to find a place to eat, to shop or just watch the waves and feel welcome. The sand, the sun and the adventure aren’t the warmest part of Costa Rica. When you’re thinking of warmth, you should think of the people.

And who can forget the food? Probably the most important is coffee. It’s custom to drink coffee several times a day, even when it’s very hot outside, so you’ll always be able to find a fresh cup. Fresh fruits and vegetables also feature prominently in dishes like Casado, a mixed-variety plate that takes place as the most common dish served here in Costa Rica.

The Costa Rican culture is like nowhere else on earth. With influences from Spanish settlers and native peoples, as well as a culture that emphasizes fun and adventure, you won’t see this lifestyle anywhere else. The food and drink are unique, and the people are warm and inviting. When it comes to broadening cultural horizons, learning about Costa Rica firsthand is something that simply can’t be replaced.

Contact us to  plan a Costa Rica vacation where you can learn more about the culture and customs of our amazing and unique country.

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The History of Zip Lining

Now mostly enjoyed as an adventure thrill, zip lining was actually an invention of necessity. Using gravity as a power source, workers in remote geographic regions, like China, the Costa Rican rainforest and the Australian Outback, once strung cables between two points to primarily move people and supplies. Oftentimes, zip lines were installed over canyons or rivers where other means of travel were difficult or impossible. The principle is still the same today, although the materials and technology are stronger, safer and just plain better.

Currently, zip lining is also known in various parts of the world as the flying fox, foefie slide, zip wire, aerial runway or aerial rope slide. History shows zip lining referred to by other names, including the flying fox and Tyrolean Crossing.  The term “an inclined strong” was used to describe it in the 1897 H.G. Wells novel “The Invisible Man.” Zip lining is a booming area of adventure tourism activity, especially in Costa Rica, where zip lines have been used since the 1970s. Other destinations for great zip lining include Nicaragua, Jamaica, Alaska, British Columbia, South Africa, Thailand, Israel, Spain and the Czech Republic. More than 700 zip line courses are available around the world.

In terms of specifications and safety, zip lines are designed to bear great loads and are safe when used properly. Platforms on a zip line course can hold at least 40,000 pounds. The half-inch wide, galvanized cables used in zip lines have a break strength greater than 22,000 pounds. The pulleys used to connect riders to the line have a break strength that’s more than 14,000 pounds.

Zip line tours in Costa Rica include views of waterfalls, the Pacuare River and rain forest canopy, Arenal Volcano, the Pacific and Atlantic oceans and native wildlife. There are dozens of miles of zip line for adventurers to enjoy.

Contact us to learn more about the zip line options available in Costa Rica.

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Coast to Coast Vacations Afoot in Costa Rica

If there’s one thing that vacationers, honeymooners and adventure enthusiasts agree upon about Costa Rica, it’s that the unspoiled natural environment and the country’s commitment to preserving it make for a memorable experience. The many running and biking trails and events for endurance runners also provide ample opportunities to take in all that there is to see about Costa Rica while getting plenty of exercise, and a race or other trail adventure will leave you feeling like a participant in something truly special. If you’ve never made a vacation out of running – or if you have, but Costa Rica’s still on your bucket list – one of the following trail running events would be a great reason to make it happen in 2014.

The Irazu Volcano 5k, 10k, 21k half-marathon and 42k marathon will be held on Saturday, March 29, 2014. Registration is 185 USD for international participants and 50 USD for locals. The marathon start time is 7 a.m., and all other races begin at 6 p.m. The marathon begins in the town of Tres Rios, just a few miles from the volcano, and the night races take off from San Juan de Chicua, a small town along the Irazu Volcano Trail where all of the races will finish. This is not for the faint of heart. It’s a run uphill toward a volcano, and the race features a gain in altitude of up to 2,360 meters, or 7,800 feet. Most of these races will be relatively easy for someone with a decent mileage base to train for, but a training plan should include lots of hill repeats.

The La Transtica Coast-to-Coast Ultra Trail event will take place from Wednesday, Nov. 19 through Saturday, Nov. 29, 2014. Participants  arrive in the capital city of San Jose on Nov. 19 for a couple of days of medical and administrative checks, as well as a chance to look at the crocodiles. Runners head out on Nov. 21 to complete the race. It’s approximately 117k for the adventure race and 198k for the extreme race, in stages of 25k and 40k respectively. It’s a good idea even for experienced trail runners and ultra-marathoners to begin training several months out. Each leg of the race will have between two and four aid stations, and a catered dinner in the town where that stage ends. Runners will go through several towns before finishing in La Transtica for the award ceremony and a well-deserved celebration dinner and overnight hotel stay before being transported back to San Jose.

Costa Rica is the perfect place for runners of all ability levels to explore new surroundings while experiencing a natural environment that’s unlike any other in the world. For the running destination vacation of a lifetime, contact us to book your Costa Rica adventure tour today.

running La Ruta 2013, Costa Rica
Our good friend Casey with the Tarahumara ultra-marathon runners, at the 2013 La Ruta race, before she won the ladies 52km category.

Check out more photos from La Ruta here….

 

 

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