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Paradise in Parisio
A visit to the Cartago region provides a flashback in time, with ruins dating back to the 16th century found here, reminding visitors of a time when pre-Columbian inhabitants farmed what was once the country’s breadbasket region. By visiting places like the Monumento Nacional Guayabo, one gets the opportunity to take in this area’s amazing past. It's a living exploration of history.
The town of Parisio is captivating in its lush environment. It is also home to the spectacular Lankester Botanical Gardens. Named after the British botanist, Charles Lankester who was sent here in the 1900’s to plant coffee; this 11-hectare garden is today, home to 600 of the total 1,400 native orchid species found in Costa Rica. Managed by the University of Costa Rica, this botanical garden has a varied landscape creating a number of microhabitats, with each habitat housing various species of orchids and other plants. A visit here between the months of February and April is especially beautiful. This is the period of flowering season and the garden is visited by hundreds of beautiful birds.
A lush region that was once covered by forestation, much of the land here has been cleared away by early colonial farmers to prepare settlements. Cartago’s rural villages today are a sight to behold and are marked by old adobe houses and aged buildings with colorful wood. With a pleasant climate and wonderful surroundings, paradise is well within reach in Parisio.
¿Qué es un Tico?
What in the world is a Tico? Sounds exotic. Maybe it's something like a Piña Colada or a Capucino. Or maybe it's one of those little biting pests that you find in tropical places. Wrong! A Tico is a very special group of people that inhabit one of the most beautiful, tropical and hidden paradises in the world—Costa Rica. “Tico” is simply the name commonly used to refer to the native inhabitants of Costa Rica.
About a century ago many Costa Ricans made the mistake of forming the diminutive by adding an “ico” to the end of words. So poquito (the Spanish diminutive of the word poco, little, few) would be poquiTICO when spoken by a Costa Rican. Because of their friendly and warm-hearted manner, the people of Costa Rica commonly used the diminutive in their everyday speech patterns and thus earned the nickname “Ticos” from outsiders.
By Lori Klein
One day trip to the Irazú Volcano
The Irazú Volcano (Spanish: Volcán Irazú) belongs to places that rank among places worthy to see when you are in Costa Rica. Today I would like to share with you our recent experience with one day trip to this interesting Volcano.
Let´s start with some basic information. It is Costa Rica´s highest volcano with the height of 3,432 meters. It is also one of the most active, with a history of frequent eruptions. The last noticeable activity came in 1996, and since then Irazú has been a quiet giant.
The volcano has several craters, two of which are the principal attractions. The smaller crater, Diego de la Haya, has a beautiful unusual lake with bright greenish yellow coloring that is caused by rainfall dissolving the minerals along craters walls. I believe this lake really contributes to the attendance of this place since it is really amazing.
The wildlife there is often difficult to see because of the constant volcanic activity, but many small animals make their home within the parks perimeters. We were lucky and see at least one.
When to visit:
To avoid the wettest months, the best time to visit is during March and April, although cool temperatures and high winds are common year round. The park is open 7 days a week from 8 am to 3 pm and it is recommended to visit early in the morning as swirling clouds are known to overwhelm the summit later on in the day.
How can you get there?
Irazú National Park is an easy day trip from most locations in the central valley. The drive up through the hills provides an excellent opportunity to see the Central Valley below.
We took a bus that stops in Cartago once a day in the morning and goes from San Jose. You pay something about 4 dollars for return way bus ticket and the entrance is around 10 dollars for non residents of Costa Rica.
We had a chance to visit the Irazú Volcano few days ago and can recommend this place for a day trip. This is the picture of the smaller crater, Diego de la Haya, and its beautiful lake.
(By Marketa Sobotkova - Marketing Intern)
Visit to Bambu Indigenous Centre and Talamanca Indigenous Cultural Festival
Time goes so fast and it´s already one month since me and Jakub started our marketing internship with Tropical Adventures. We have already had an amazing opportunity to go to the Manuel Antonio National Park, where there is a great future possibility for Tropical Adventures to open a new projects for our volunteers. But more about this trip you can read in our other post from David here.
Another great possibility occurred for exploring more beauty of Costa Rica and we went to stay few nights in Bambu village, where our Bambu indigenous project takes place. Commonly labeled on traditional maps as “Bratsi”, Bambu can be reached about 30 minutes from the main indigenous community of Bribri. During the way to get there we were passing alongside Suretka river and on the opposite side of the riverbank we could have seen Panama. We stayed in Bambu Cultural Centre that was built by using traditional indigenous methods and hosts people from around the world. Just by staying in the Centre it supports up to 20 local families through the income it produces through receiving overnight guests.
Next day we took a look around and visited elementary school of Bambu, where our volunteers have opportunity to participate and also retirement home, where we were warmly welcomed by one of the nuns that takes care of the elderly people living there and volunteers are there welcome as well. For more information about typical day in Bambu you can read more here.
Talamanca Indigenous Cultural Festival
As the headline indicates, we didn´t come to Bambu just to enjoy beauty of indigenous centre and hospitality of local people, but the main reason was to experience a Talamanca Indigenous Cultural Festival, that took place during the weekend August 6-7 in nearby village called Amubri. This was a first year of this festival among the indigenous communities of Talamanca and local political officials. The event was held in honor of common unity organized by our friend Danilo, a Bribri political activist employed with the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Early in the morning we had to get to the shore of Súarez river. The only way how to cross the river is by motor canoe, since the government doesn´t have enough financial resources for building a bridge over the river. On the other side a bus was already waiting and we continued our adventure towards the festival. After a while we arrived to the place of the event. My colleagues Jakub and David could lend a hand and utilize their height for hanging the big table over the stage, as you can see on the picture :).
Festival started by several speeches of local prominent personalities that were followed by playing and singing the national Costa Rican anthem in Bribri language. As next a performance of local children showing the traditional dance of local culture was followed.
These showcases of indigenous culture attempted to show local political leaders the value of the community’s presence as well as encourage the leaders to help facilitate the administrative process of obtaining the “cédula de identidad” for the many undocumented indigenous community. The “cédula de identidad” is the necessary identifiable ID card which is required in obtaining any services as well as accessing and transactions in Costa Rica. The process for obtaining the cédula is highly complex for native people who often lack the necessary resources to navigate administrative procedures.
Bambu is located about a one-hour bus ride away from the popular tourist beach town of Puerto Viejo, where we had also opportunity to spend some time. It is home to beautiful beaches, such as Playa Chiquita, Playa Negra, and Punta Uva and it is a place with the most amazing surfing opportunities. And of course, this place will love fans of reggae since cadenced rhythm of this music are present everywhere. That is caused by substantial Jamaican population that lives here. We had a chance to try Carribean sea and also experience Puero Viejo´s local delicious food and town´s nightlife. But there are plenty of things what to do in Puerto Viejo such us many water sports as above mentioned surfing, snorkeling, diving, kayaking, horseback tours around the area, mountain biking or for those who prefer some nature there is a possibility to visit for example National Park Cahuita.
(By Marketa Sobotkova – Marketing Intern)
Romería in Cartago aka a half of the Costa Rican population on foot
August 2 is the official day of La Romería in Costa Rica, a religious festival and a long-term tradition in this country. Every year, when this date approaches, about two and half million people start walking from their homes to reach the city of Cartago. Their goal is to get to the Basilica de Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles and visit a dark colored stone image of the Virgin Mary. Many of them would walk long miles, many days and over nights just to get to the cathedral and say their prayers.
Since my temporary home is located in the province of Cartago I just couldn't miss it. During these days, it is basically impossible to get to Cartago by car or bus so the decision if to walk or not was not very difficult. It doesn't matter what time you choose, a couple days before the mentioned date there are people walking all the time so you know you will not be walking alone.
Getting closer to the center of Cartago it is more and more difficult to pass. Together with my friends we decided to walk on Monday, August 1, probably the busiest day. The roads change in a continuous flow of people and when you finally get closer to the basilica you feel more like at a big concert with famous foreign band. Thousands of people at one place, long lines, several music stages and various food stands. But these people are not here because of food or music, they came to get to the cathedral and it surely won't be that easy, the line is endless and lasts at least 2 hours. No patience to even try it today, I better try some of the delicious local food and observe the atmosphere, the excitement in eyes of people waiting in the line.
Nevertheless, I don't give up and I come the second day with new energy and determination. I am rewarded and I succeed to enter to the cathedral after just a few minutes of waiting. You first choose if you want to enter walking or crawling. I have to say the sight is quite spectacular. The basilica is beautiful and the whole act very memorable. People are then leaving with a sense of accomplishment and seem happy. Its time to go home, this time by bus, no more walking. At least until the next year.
(By David Kolesa - Marketing Intern)
Testimonial Karin Miller
Bambu was like nothing I had ever experienced before. I stayed with a family, which really added to the experience. During the days, I volunteered at the retirement center and the school. The people at the retirement center were really appreciative of the volunteers, and it was great spending time with them and getting to know each individually. The school was fun too, and the children were very excited for their English lesson!
After volunteering, it was great to return home to my family and eat lunch with them. After lunch, I either participated in a tour or spent time with my family. I did the Panama Waterfall Tour on my first day in Bambu, and it was a great introduction to the week. Ito and I took a boat ride out to the waterfall and spent a couple hours swimming there. It was beautiful!
I was sad to leave my family at the end of the week, and I would love to return one day. I only spent a week in Bambu, but the people were so friendly and open, that by the end, I felt as if I belonged there. Likewise, I was very happy to volunteer through Tropical Adventures because they really took care of me. Susan practically organized the whole trip- all I had to do was book my flight! Tropical Adventures booked my transportation, housing, and meals; they made it easy for an outsider to get an inside look at Costa Rica.
Testimonial Nancy Ward
My grandson and I had an absolutely wonderful time! Our homestay with dona Lidia and her
We worked hard at the ASIS animal rescue center. The work we did was really needed, not some tourist made up projects. I became the segunda madre a tres mapachitos - 2nd mother to three little raccoons. I miss them and am going to have to go back to be sure they continue to do okay.
This was my second Tropical Adventure trip and I defintely be back for another next year!”
Volunteering for students?!
Just yesterday we came across an amazing article about high school students and volunteering.
Actually it’s an article and a debate about the question: ‘’ Should high school students be required to volunteer in community service projects?’’
Well do they? There are all kinds of projects available, whether you’ll teach children English, or teach kids how to swim or surf, you could also just play with them. This doesn’t only benefit the children but a student that wants to become a teacher will have a great opportunity to apply their course line into practice. This way they will gain experiences and by the end of their education they will have already done something to enrich themselves. Of course the work students do in the communities is connected with what they are learning in school.
We have had several interns in the past that gained experience in their field of study.
There are many things they help with at the center located in Bambu, including teaching English to the families who work there, children and adults from town, translating for the tours, helping to build marketing material, planting flowers and trees, general maintenance, and the planning & fulfilment of cultural activities. Also the Spanish language skills of the students will highly increase during their stay in Costa Rica. Students who want a teaching degree will have an opportunity to apply their course line.
At our Wildlife Rescue Center we provide quality Spanish language classes (optional) at our on-site language school
Well so far the poll is 58 % Yes and 42 % says No. How will this turn out?
Testimonial Colleen Donahue
The following was written by Colleen Donahue, a Tropical Adventures volunteer who joined us on a volunteer vacation recently. She was accompanied by her niece and they taught English at the elementary school in Cocles, which is near Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica.(Click here and read more about this fun project!)
My niece (14 yrs) & I recently returned from our 8-day fun & adventurous volunteer vacation to the Cocles Elementary School teaching project in the funky beach town of Puerto Viejo. In addition to working with the elementary kids (K-6) each day, we had time to explore the beach town, take the zip-line tour, go white water rafting, take the sloth & chocolate tour, visit Manzanillo beach town, eat some great meals, and meet some fantastic people!
I can’t say enough good things about Tropical Adventures organization and our project director Isaac. Isaac was fantastic and took care of us our entire trip. THANK YOU ISAAC!! He works tirelessly to take care of the volunteers in addition to the many hours he spends at Cocles Elementary with the kids. I would also like to thank Susan and Alice for helping me formulate my plans and ensuring that our arrangements / logistics (and our changes to those!) were taken care of. Thanks to all, our trip was extremely smooth!
I would definitely consider another Tropical Adventures volunteer vacation, and probably select another project so we could experience more of what beautiful Costa Rica has to offer! I will forever have great memories of this trip :-)
A life experience
When you are a young European, about to leave your country to spend a couple of months in Central America, you feel anxious, overwhelmed and uncomfortable. After spending 3 months here, the feeling which predominates is sadness. Indeed, Costa Rica is a pleasant country where you can easily think about not going back home!
There are too many attractive aspects to Costa Rican lifestyle to ignore them, even if you are deeply attached to your native country. To take the bus from a point A to a point B is just like sightseeing. Every landscape you see is just amazing. Every person you meet is a new testimonial of happiness.
During my time here, I had the chance to travel around Costa Rica thanks to Tropical Adventures and because of a craving in discovering a new culture and country. Before coming here, I knew that this trip would be different from what I have experienced so far. I could not imagine how far I was from the truth. I learned here how to respect the environment, to not size up anyone because of his appearance and to adapt myself to a lifestyle. I met people that I will never forget, even if I’ve just spent a couple of days with them. There is a wisdom and kindness about the world you had not noticed before. They helped me to feel more concerned about basic issues regarding the natural and human aspects.
To see someone saying “thank you” to the bus driver once he gets off the bus seems weird to our occidental habits, but it does make sense actually. There is a special behavior here which is to consider the other person. We lost that mentality when we decided that a successful life meant to be professionally successful. It is not the case here where family values are deeply established in their way of life. I felt very comfortable with all “ticos” that I have met.
Every time I went to visit a place in Costa Rica, I left it with a tear. There are so many things to see, and so little time…I’m not out of the country yet and I am already thinking about when I’m going back here!
Thank you and see you very soon!