(this is a guest blog written by Charlie Vrettos, Earth Day ’17 EcoTour Vacation Sweepstakes Winner)
My brother and I recently returned from an incredible week-long adventure in Costa Rica, all thanks to the generous folks at Carbonfund.org and The Evolved Traveler. The vacation far exceeded all of our expectations and allowed us to experience truly luxurious and eco-friendly travel. Although it was the most complex trip I’ve ever been on, it was the easiest to plan, prepare for, and go on. Justin from The Evolved Traveler provided us a multitude of travel options as well as everything from a customized packing list, tipping guidelines, and restaurant suggestions. The trip consisted of two nights at the Hotel Grano de Oro in San Jose followed by four nights at the Lapa Rios Ecolodge on the Osa Peninsula.
In San Jose, we spent our days exploring the remarkable city. Justin hooked us up with a local tour guide that showed us around, taught us about the local culture, and introduced us to many of the locals he knew along the way. The highlight was traveling through an underground bustling market where we bought some goods from the hundreds of local vendors.
We also spent an afternoon away from the city ascending the Irazu Volcano. As we reached the clouds, it was so foggy that we could barely see the road in front of us (never mind the wandering cows that our driver had to keep dodging!), but we made the best of it. We used our limited Spanish to chat with our friendly driver and the locals we met at the couple markets and bars along the way down.
After a flight on a tiny prop plane, a boat ride across the sea, and a short drive through the jungle, we made it to Lapa Rios. Lapa Rios was absolutely stunning. It is by far the most beautiful place I have ever been in my life. The lodge, and each private bungalow, is perched atop a hillside and overlooks a dense rainforest and the Pacific Ocean. Every morning, we awoke to the howling of wild monkeys and the sunrise shining through the bungalow’s screen walls. Each multi-course gourmet meal was delicious and sourced from local ingredients. The staff was incredibly friendly and knowledgeable and knew us both by name.
While at the lodge and on various excursions we were constantly surrounded by an amazing assortment of animals. We saw countless toucans, macaws, and other colorful birds. We saw howler monkeys, spider monkeys, capuchins, and sloths. We saw coati, agouti, caiman, and snakes. The list could go on and on — the private Lapa Rios Reserve is home to 2.5% of the world’s biodiversity!
At Lapa Rios, there were quite a few optional excursions to pick from. I convinced my brother to go ziplining and waterfall rappelling, and he convinced me to go horseback riding. Of all three, horseback riding was surprisingly my favorite. Having never ridden a horse before, I was a bit nervous, but those nerves subsided as I hopped atop “Muncho” and learned a few simple commands. We traveled around the guide’s farm, along a deserted beach, across a couple rivers, and through the dense rainforest which was packed with wildlife. Upon exiting the forest, we found ourselves in an open pasture with dozens of cows which we proceeded to chase, earning ourselves the nickname “rancheros.”