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Some ideas of places you can still visit this year.

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Posted by:

Vicki Tester

 

Costa Rica

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

December is a great time to visit Costa Rica. Here you will find one of South America’s largest cloud forests, Monteverde, with its evergreen canopies, exotic birds, butterflies and a host of other wildlife. There are numerous national parks and wildlife spotting opportunities, waterfalls, rain forests and volcanoes!

There really is so much to see and do here: visit Arenal Volcano, hike through the lava fields, go birdwatching, bathe in the hot springs, zip-lining and trekking through the rainforest.  This is an ideal place for a family holiday, and when you are feeling less adventurous you could spend time on the many beautiful beaches such as the golden sands of Manuel Antonio National Park.  Click here for your Costa Rica Adventure.

Picture Courtesy of Peter Ellis

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

 

 

Hawaii, USA

For some winter sun, Hawaii has it all. With its golden sands, turquoise waters and a tropical feel, you could have a very different Christmas this year, spent on the beach!

Take a trip out to see the whales and dolphins. Snorkelling is a popular activity here and a great place for this is the partially submerged volcanic creator off Maui’s southwest coast. Here there is a thriving coral reef with an array of marine life to spot.

On land you could hike Kauai’s forest trails to the hidden waterfalls, or go island hopping on a small plane for more adventure in the glorious winter sunshine.

Picture courtesy of Island of Hawaii Visitors Bureau (IHVB) Kirk Lee Aeder

Picture courtesy of Island of Hawaii Visitors Bureau (IHVB) Larry Marshall

 

 

Whistler, Canada

Picture courtesy of Destination BC – Blake Jorgenson

This very popular ski resort is definitely one for the ski lovers bucket list.  The snow is in abundance throughout the winter months, making the chalets look picturesque, with tree lined streets  and twinkling lights.

There are no end of activities to take part in such as, dog sledding, snowshoeing, snowmobiling and hiking the trails up Blackcomb Mountain stopping off for a fondue dinner at the top.  Or on a Sunday night you can watch skiers and snowboarders pulling tricks with fire for a bit of live entertainment.

Picture courtesy of Destination BC – Blake Jorgenson

Picture courtesy of Destination BC – Blake Jorgenson

 

Vietnam

Picture courtesy of Angie Watson

Our winter is a popular time to visit South East Asia as there is very little rain and the days are sunny.  Stay at one of Vietnams beach resorts, surrounded by tropical rainforest and fishing boats hauled up on the beach, for a bit of relaxation.

See the water lilies and flower fields begin to bloom, which are then picked to decorate the temples and shrines.  Any cultural seeker would love Vietnam. It has a thousand-year-old civilisation and a fascinating history. Wander through the streets of the Hanoi Old Quarter or Hoi An Old Town to get a glimpse of the French architecture mixing with the ancient and modern temples. See one of our Vietnam bespoke itineraries.

Picture courtesy of Angie Watson

Picture courtesy of Angie Watson

Panama Itinerary

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Vicki Tester

 

Panama City itself is actually three cities in one. La Vieja is the ancient ruined city that the Spaniards burned down on the approach of the pirate Henry Morgan. He still sacked the remainder of the city and stayed a month to ensure he had squeezed all the gold out of the inhabitants. Then there is Casco Antiguo with its Spanish feel, boutique hotels and excellent bars and restaurants and finally the modern city of business skyscrapers and interesting architecture.

Certainly, visit the Miraflores Lock on the old canal to learn about its construction and to watch the huge ship navigate the lock. But also head to the rainforest in a powered dugout to meet the indigenous tribes that still live their traditional lives here.

Finally, finish on a white sand, palm fringed beach on the Caribbean. Home of clear warm water and ideal for spectacular snorkelling and diving.

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Panama

A country that has so much more to offer than just the Panama Canal (well two canals as the new one is up and running).

Day 1:              Panama City

Day 4:              Bocas del Toro

Day 7:              Panama City

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Description

 

Day 1

As you descend in to the International airport, look out for the islands and the huge number of vessels awaiting their turn to navigate the Panama Canal. The new canal takes the largest of the ships waiting. While here ensure you explore the 3 different aspects of the City – an insight in to the influence of Europe on this region.

Certainly you should explore the Casco Antiguo, the Spanish part of the city, as it is lively and has an array of good restaurants and bars. Be here for sundown and join the locals parading along the waterfront before deciding where to eat.

On another day take the powered dugout to the village of Embera Drua, well up stream and deep in the rainforest. You will be made very welcome and have a chance to learn about the tribe’s traditional way of life. Fresh fish from the river will be your lunch before you head back down river.

On the way back, stop at Miraflores Lock to watch the boats traversing the isthmus on the Canal. There is an excellent little museum here and information centre about the construction of the Canal.

3 nights Panama

 

Day 4

Time to relax on the beach or take your snorkel out over the coral reefs to see the amazing colours of the coral and all the fish here. Very much a get away from it all destination. With 7 major islands to choose from and Bocas Town being clapboard houses down by the waters edge, you are long way from the big hotel chains found elsewhere.

3 nights Bocas del Toro

 

Day 7

Back to Panama City to connect with your onward flight. Perhaps home but you could make this part of a trip that includes Costa Rica.

Panama

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

Panama

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

Panama

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

Panama

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

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Little Gems

 

Enjoying the freewheeling life at the village of Embera Drua. While everything was put on for our benefit, everyone seemed so happy that we had made the effort to visit them.

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Country: Panama

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Vicki Tester

 

Panama is a small country situated at the southern end of the Central American isthmus. Rightly famous for its 82km ship canal running from the Pacific Ocean to the Caribbean, it is very much more than just this. With a booming economy and a growing tourist industry it offers you history, pristine rainforests with abundant wildlife and indigenous tribes and Panama City – three cities in one. This is a year round destination with tropical weather throughout the year and a dry season that runs from November to April.

Panama City firstly offers you the ancient ruined part known as La Vieja, the original Spanish city that they burned down when the Spanish authorities heard that Henry Morgan was on his way to capture the city.  Casco Antiguo grew up a short distance from the original and still has a very Spanish feel to it. Home to boutique hotels, interesting bars and restaurants it is a place to explore and enjoy yourself. Finally there is the modern skyscraper city that is lively and with some interesting architecture.

 

Away from the city you could transit the Panama Canal as an experience or just visit the locks at Miraflores which house a museum on the construction of the first Canal and a cafe with views over the lock so that you can watch the precision needed for large ships navigating their ways to and from the Caribbean and Pacific. The second Canal is already in operation and again worth viewing as it takes larger vessels along it.

 

Just a short distance from the city, you could be climbing into a powered dugout boat and racing up a fast river deep in the rainforest to meet the indigenous tribe that lives here. Enjoy time learning how they exist in the forest, their tribal structure, their herbal medicines, their arts and craft and even a dance or two. Perhaps include trek through the cloud forest at Boquete looking at the truly colourful flora and bird life.

In addition you could be lazing on the palm fringed white sandy beaches of Bocas del Toro. Here the waters are clear – ideal for swimming, diving and snorkelling.

All in all there are plenty of reasons to holiday in Panama or combine it with a trip to Costa Rica.

 

 

Panama

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

Panama

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

Panama

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

Panama

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

Panama

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

 

 

A Journey Around Costa Rica – By Peter Ellis

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Posted by:

Vicki Tester

 

I have just returned from a trip to Costa Rica and cannot wait to tell you about it. It was the first time that I have visited Central America and my expectations were high but I now realise how ill informed I was about this amazing country. The first thing to say is how welcoming I found everyone and proud of their countries achievements. With no army, the money saved has been ploughed in to education and their health service; leading to 98% literacy rate and a primary school in every village. Early on they realised that they could not produce coffee on the scale of places like Brazil so they have decided to only grow top quality instead and I can confirm that it is great – everywhere. Costa Rica also expects to be carbon neutral by 2020.

The scenery is amazing with over 120 volcanoes dominating views in many places around the country. Five of these are still active. The national parks account for 25% of the land mass and encompass a host of different eco systems such as cloud forests, rain forests, mangrove forests and everything in between. The wildlife is spectacular, the bird life even more so and the flora beautiful. Having a guide to show you what is hidden in these reserves is a must – they have the eyes to see things and their knowledge of the flora and fauna ensures you are fully informed. Waking up to see Arenal Volcano in the morning light in front of your lodge and then watching a sloth making its way slowly along the branch in the tree behind has to be a special treat.

                Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

I was lucky enough to see turtles hatching on the Caribbean side of the country, be woken by howler monkeys on the Osa Peninsula (the second loudest mammal on earth), hummingbirds and toucans in most places and frigate birds on the Pacific coast. The variety of new and interesting sights, flora and fauna was/is amazing. There are even big cats to be found here, although I missed them all. So much to see and do…Tortuguero has a beach of about 20 miles and at the right time of the year has 20,000 adult female turtles coming ashore to lay their eggs. That is on a poor year – on a good year in can be up to 40,000!

 

There is much more to talk about and I will be putting this in blogs and in an “Experience Eye” sample itinerary very shortly. But if you would like to chat about this wonderful country just call. Pour yourself a Costa Rican coffee first though!

                  Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

                    Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

                  Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

Costa Rica Adventure

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Avatar

 

There is so much to explore in this tropical country as you travel around.  You’ll not want to miss the Cloud Forest with its huge variety of birds and mammals or Arenal Volano, set in the tropical lowlands.  Enjoy this adventure packed tailor made trip through Costa Rica.

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Costa Rica Adventure

Day 1: San José
Day 2: Poás Volcano National Park
Day 3: Pacuare River Rafting
Day 4: Bajos del Toro
Day 6: Arenal
Day 9: Rincon de la Vieja area
Day 11: Conchal Beach
Day 15: San Jose
Day 16: Depart San Jose
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Description

Day 1: San José
You will be met at the airport and transported to your central hotel. Take a tour of the capital city including a visit to the Gold Museum which houses the largest collection of Pre-Columbian Gold in Central America. Enjoy a stroll along the Central Avenue Boulevard.
San Jose 2 nights

Day 2: Poás Volcano National Park
Early morning start to the northern mountains of the Central Valley and a full day tour of Poás Volcano National Park. Spend time at La Paz Waterfall Gardens. On the return to San José, visit a family owned coffee plantation.

Day 3: Pacuare River Rafting
Today you will head to the Pacuare River, crossing the Continental Divide and passing through the breathtaking Braulio Carrillo National Park. Take an exhilarating rafting trip down this wild and scenic river which offers some of the finest white water in Latin America winding deep inside one of Costa Rica’s most impressive rainforests. Traverse 20 miles of remote and Class 111 scenic waters that course through a wilderness of dense vegetation and steep sided gorges. You will eventually arrive at your overnight eco-lodge, nestled in a private 1000 acre rainforest reserve overlooking the river. Afternoon at leisure to enjoy optional activities such as hiking and swimming
Rainforest Lodge 1 night

Day 4: Bajos del Toro
Continue your river rafting adventure along the Pacuare, stopping off for lunch along the river. On arrival at your destination, transportation and a guide will be waiting to transfer you to Bajos del Toro. En route visit a former cocoa bean rain forest plantation for a guided hike followed by a hands-on chocolate making session. Continue to Bajos del Toro located in the Tropical Cloud Forest. Your base here is a luxury eco resort and spa set in 500 private acres of tropical cloud forest, dotted with hidden waterfalls and gentle creeks. Relax in your suite which boasts a private outdoor whirlpool tub, viewing deck and gasfireplace.
Bajos Del Toro 2 nights

On your full day here enjoy a nature walk through the cloud forest that will take you past a pristine creek and mesmerizing waterfalls. Enjoy lunch in the riverside restaurant. In the afternoon take a tour of the thriving local rural community with its rich traditions, unsurpassed landscapes and intriguing flora. Visit a local orchid enthusiast; his collection features more than 400 orchids.

Day 6: Arenal
After breakfast, you may join in an optional Yoga session or a guided cloud forest trail walk. After lunch transfer to Arenal. Your journey passes through the agricultural town of Zarcero before continuing to the northern lowlands in Alajuela Province where we find the Arenal Volcano, active since 1968. Here you will be based for 3 nights
Arenal Volcano 3 nights

Your first morning is filled with adrenaline as you drive into the tropical rainforest outside the town of La Fortuna. When you arrive at the waterfalls you will abseil from the top down into the beautiful pristine canyon below. After trekking through the canyon there will be more abseiling down to other waterfalls that will take you to the tranquil pools. Enjoy some bird watching, or just relax in this unspoiled paradise. Before sunset, visit the best lookout point in La Fortuna to enjoy Arenal Volcano and Lake at the same time! You can simply sit, take pictures and relax waiting for the frequent volcanic activity or hike along the lava trails.

Your second full day here takes you through citrus groves, pineapple and sugar cane plantations to Los Chiles on the northern border with Nicaragua. From here you’ll be taken on a comfortable boat ride up the Río Frío, a tropical river alive with an immense variety of animals. Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge consists of over 18,000 acres of lagoons and marshland (tropical everglades). The area attracts many bird watchers and nature lovers. Capuchin, spider and howler monkeys, sloth, garfish, roseate spoonbills, many types of herons, caimans and turtles are commonly found in this unique reserve. As many as 60 different types of birds have been spotted on this adventure tour. Lunch included in a local restaurant in the village of Los Chiles. On the way back, stop by the iguana bridge to observe some huge specimens. Arrive back at the hotel in the mid afternoon before enjoying a gentle evening float trip down the Peñas Blancas River. Witness the jungle transform from day into night. Regular sightings include the common opossum, common gray four-opossum, brown-throated three toed sloth, Hoffmann’s two-toed sloth, long-nosed bat, mantled Howler monkey, yellow-crowned night-heron, spectacled owl, the american crocodile and plenty of baby crocodiles.

Day 9: Rincon de la Vieja area
Travel from the northern lowlands to the Guanacaste Volcanic Mountain Range where the Rincon de la Vieja Volcano is located. Your base for 2 nights is a family owned cattle ranch which offers a contrasting volcanic activity experience. During your stay here you have a choice of activities including horseback riding to a waterfall, river tubing and cattle herding. Or relax in the hotel’s spa and swimming pool.
Rincon de la Vieja 2 nights

Day 11: Conchal Beach
After breakfast transfer to all inclusive beach resort Paradisus located by one of the most beautiful beaches in the country, for a few nights relaxation at the end of your holiday.
Paradisus Beach Resort 4 nights (or longer)

Day 15: San Jose
Your guide will meet you at your beach resort and transfer you back to San Jose. En route enjoy lunch at a Hacienda, perhaps sampling the fresh tilapia. Continue towards San Jose for your final night

Day 16: Depart San Jose

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Courtesy of ICT

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Courtesy of ICT

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Courtesy of ICT

 

 

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Little Gems

An increasingly popular way to visit Costa Rica, or to add to a land based itinerary is to join a cruise ship.  Several smaller companies now offer voyages that begin or end in Costa Rica – ask us for details
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Costa Rica

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Posted by:

Amanda Skingle

 

Costa Rica is a nature-lover’s paradise with beautiful national parks as well as wonderful beaches on both its Pacific and Caribbean coasts.

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Costa Rica

Day 1: San Jose

Day 2: Poas Volcano National Park

Day 3: Tortuguero

Day 5: Arenal

Day 8: Monteverde

Day 10: Manuel Antonio

Day14: San Jose

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Description

Day 1: San Jose

San José is the capital city of Costa Rica and is located in the centre of the Central Valley surrounded by volcanic mountain ranges. Popular regions within the city include El Pueblo and San Pedro however San Jose’s unquestionable highlight is its National Theatre. This is Costa Rica’s national treasure and most impressive architectural showpiece. Built in 1890 with the profits from coffee, the intricate detail of Italian and Belgian architects and craftsmen is not to be missed.

Many other museums and attractions are also dotted around the city including the Gold Museum which houses the largest collection of Pre-Colombian gold jewellery in Central America. San Jose 2 nights

Day 2: Poás Volcano National Park

Early morning start to the northern mountains of the Central Valley and a full day tour of Poás Volcano National Park. Spend time at La Paz Waterfall Gardens. On the return to San José, visit a family owned coffee plantation.

Day 3: Tortuguero

Early this morning, you will head to the Caribbean region. You will cross the Continental Divide and drive through the breath-taking Braulio Carrillo National Park with wonderful views of its dense forests. Continue to the river port for a boat transfer through the jungle canal to Tortuguero. During the afternoon, your guide will take you to Tortuguero Village where you will have time to walk around, visit the museum for the Caribbean Conservation, the village and shopping. During your full day here, you will be able to take a boat tour through the National Parks Canals. Tortuguero 2 nights

Day 5: Arenal

Today you will set off after breakfast, to Guapiles where you will stop for lunch at a restaurant and you will be taken through picturesque scenery to San Carlos in the area of the Arenal volcano. Set within the rolling plains of San Carlos, this national park is dominated by the impressive cone of the Arenal Volcano, famous for its incredible eruptions, lava streams and incandescent rock explosions. A visit to this wonderful national park therefore usually provides an unforgettable natural firework display from a controlled and safe distance. The park is also blessed with a second volcano, Chato, which having laid dormant for 3,500 years has a 500 metre wide crater now filled with a beautiful lagoon. Arenal 3 nights 

Day 8: Monteverde

Located high in the Tilarán Mountain Range at an altitude of about 4300 feet above sea-level, Monteverde is one of Costa Rica’s most scenic spots and the source of one of Central America’s finest coffee. Founded by Quakers who emigrated from the United States and started the country’s most successful cheese factory, Monteverde is now best known for its biological reserve which is a paradise for researchers and nature lovers alike. The misty, magical private cloud forest preserve protects a treasure trove of rare flora and fauna, including the three-wattle bellbird and the legendary resplendent quetzal – one of the most beautiful birds in the world. This is the perfect place for anyone looking for close contact with nature as well as activities such as tree canopy trails and tree zip-lining. Monteverde 2 nights

Day 10: Manuel Antonio

Today you’ll be transferred to Manuel Antonio National Park. Although the main attractions of this park are its two beautiful white sand beaches – Espadilla Sur and Manuel Antonio, this national park also boasts an incredibly diverse coastal rainforest with a huge abundance of wildlife. This means that there is ample opportunity not just for relaxing on the beach and swimming in the ocean, but also for leisurely trails through the forest picking out the distinctive plant life and resident fauna which include 109 mammal species – such as the white faced capuchin, squirrels, monkeys, agouti and three-toed sloth – not to mention the 184 species of birds. Manuel Antonio 4 nights

Day 14: San Jose

Today you’ll be transferred back to San Jose where you’ll have a final overnight stay before you return home. San Jose 1 night

Photo courtesy of ICT

Photo courtesy of ICT

 

Photo courtesy of ICT

Photo courtesy of ICT

 

Photo courtesy of ICT

Photo courtesy of ICT

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[wptabtitle] Little Gems [/wptabtitle] [wptabcontent]

Little Gems

Set within the rolling plains of San Carlos, Arenal National Park is dominated by the impressive cone of the Arenal Volcano, famous for its incredible eruptions, lava streams and incandescent rock explosions. A visit to this wonderful national park therefore usually provides an unforgettable natural firework display from a controlled and safe distance. 

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Country: Costa Rica

Posted on:
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Yvonne Dann

 

Costa Rica – there is so much to explore in this tropical country as you travel around.  You’ll not want to miss the Cloud Forest with its huge variety of birds and mammals or Arenal Volano, set in the tropical lowlands.  Continue on to Tortuguero National Park where Green Sea Turtles nest, and Manuel Antonio National park with its tall evergreen forests.  The Pacific and Caribbean coasts are home to wonderful beaches to visit for a little rest and relaxation. 

Costa Rica Adventure Itinerary

 Costa Rica Itinerary

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