First steps in Latin America
Journey Latin America client Christina Tavener shares her first experience to Latin America.
Saturday 28th May 2016 saw the start of an epic 12 day adventure to the beautiful country of Costa Rica, my first encounter with Latin America. Bags packed, walking boots on and an industrial amount of insect repellant at the ready, I met my partner and his family at Gatwick, ready to board the 11 hour direct flight to San José, Costa Rica. Our first evening was spent exploring the city’s streets, soaking up the culture and starting to practice my Spanish!
The following morning saw us sampling the local traditional cuisine of fresh fruit – papaya, watermelon and pineapple – rice and beans and scrambled eggs accompanied by a freshly brewed coffee – delicious! Fuelled for the day, we boarded a raft and began our white-water rafting adventure down the Pacuare river, battling the waves but having a lot of fun! We arrived at our destination, the stunning Pacuare Lodge, where a cool glass of fresh fruit juice greeted us before embarking on our first journey into la selva. The guides had so much passion and were full of information, showing us wildlife we would never have spotted alone and introducing us to the Costa Rican family traditions. The following day saw us whizzing along a series of 11 different zip lines through the forest with amazing views providing a real adrenaline rush! A highlight had to be the toucan spotted on a nearby branch, high up in the canopy. The last stop was ‘The Nest’, a treehouse perfect for a spot of breakfast, before being rappelled down at high speed towards the ground – one final adrenaline surge!
Our adventure continued with a bumpy 4x4 ride followed by speed boat through the rivers and canals leading to the region of Tortuguero, famous for its turtles. Once again our hosts didn’t disappoint with their fresh juice and welcome before we were embarking on a night time trek into the dark jungle! Our guide led us through the tracks of the thick jungle, with only a small torchlight to guide us, identifying brightly coloured frogs, well camouflaged insects and listening to the hive of activity occurring all around us.
Our guide continued our adventure the following morning, this time by boat, into the well-protected Tortuguero National Park. We had the opportunity to see sloths, howler monkeys and even dolphins on our journey, whilst gliding through the waters and once again Willis did not disappoint with his vast array of local knowledge and excellent wildlife spotting skills! The afternoon was spent exploring the local village, made famous for its beaches for seasonal nesting turtles with the museum explaining more about the process.
A small bi-plane was our next mode of transport, providing spectacular views of the Turrialba volcano and dense rainforest beneath and then the patchwork of roofs as we flew over San José. Our destination was the volcanic region of Arenal where we truly experienced the force of the tropical rain! We had a unique view of the volcano both whilst horse riding across open fields and streams to reach a hugely powerful waterfall, and it also served as a magnificent backdrop for us to enjoy a cocktail or two in the geothermally heated outdoor Jacuzzi! We also tried paddle boarding across Lake Arenal, a new experience for us all and much enjoyed!
The penultimate stop on our journey was Rafiki Lodge, a ‘glamping’ experience nestled away from civilisation, giving a true feeling of escape. We were taken on a guided mountain hike which involved swimming in waterfalls, balancing across rope bridges and even sampling a raw termite from a nest, which surprisingly tasted of carrots!
The final leg of our tour was a visit to Manuel Antonio which involved exploring local markets and watching enthusiastic traders, sipping from a coconut on the beach and viewing the vast array of stars twinkling in the night sky. A last visit to a local butterfly conservation project and picking up the last few souvenirs took us to the departure lounge, ready to fly back to London. What an action-packed, nature-filled but most of all unforgettable journey. Here’s to my next adventure in Latin America! Pura Vida!
Take a look at our other holidays to Costa Rica.
Your edit for Latin American inspiration
Our exciting range of articles on Latin America explore everything from iconic destinations and lesser-known cultural gems to delicious traditional recipes. You’ll also find exclusive travel tips, first-hand client reviews and the chance to get your personal questions answered by our travel experts.View Extraordinary Inspiration
Real Latin America Experts
Carrie Gallagher - Travel Consultant
A former JLA tour leader, Carrie brings a wealth of on-the-ground experience to our London-based Escorted Groups team.
Ben Line - Travel Consultant
Ben fell in love with Latin America on a six month backpacking trip from Colombia to Mexico in 1995. Since then he has explored most of South America, including living in Peru for a year. He is now Manager of the Tailor-made Department.
Hannah Waterhouse - Travel Consultant
Hannah had an early introduction to Latin America when her family moved to Ecuador and she returned to study in Buenos Aires for a year before backpacking across the continent.
Paul Winrow-Giffin - Travel Consultant
After graduating in Computer Science, Paul spent seven months travelling from Colombia to Argentina and came home hooked on Latin America.
Chris Rendell-Dunn - Travel Consultant
Anglo-Peruvian Chris grew up in Lima and spent much of his adult life in between London and Cusco as a tour leader, before settling permanently in our Sales team.
Sophie Barber - Travel Consultant
Sophie lived in Chile before joining us and has travelled extensively across Latin America, from Mexico to the furthest tip of Patagonia.