Boasting glittering white-sand beaches and dotted like pearls in the vast blue Caribbean Sea, Rosario (one of the prime highlights of Colombia) is an archipelago of 27 small coral islands, just minutes away by boat from the vibrant colonial town of Cartagena. While Cartagena’s rich history and old charm are worth a lot of attention in their own right, a traveler should not pass up on the brilliance of the turquoise-colored waters and the tropical Caribbean aura that the Rosario Islands offer. Apart from all that beachy-beauty, the islands are home to pristine and delicate coral ecosystems, calling divers and snorkelers to their shores.Get hold of a Colombia travel expert who can weave these little nuggets of paradise into a larger Colombian itinerary. OverviewTraditionally called Islas del Rosario or Corales Islas del Rosario (the coral islands of Rosario), this archipelago of 27 small islands are home to over 1000 species of flora and fauna breeding in its translucent waters.Considered one of the most important coral reefs in the world, the Rosario Islands were endowed a national park status in 1977, and this is when it opened its gates to curious snorkelers and scuba divers who wished to explore this never-seen-before unadulterated aquatic world.Until 1977, wealthy families from Cartagena used this natural playground to build their vacation homes; post '77, the government allowed them to retain their homes if they paid an annual tax and complied with the rules to protect the ecosystem of the islands. Today, the islands are a perfect day escape option from the cultural charm of Cartagena; given the availability of excellent accommodation, one can stay overnight in one of the many eco-lodges on the islands. Getting thereJust around 23 miles from Cartagena, Rosario Islands can be accessed by a 45-minute boat ride from La Bodeguita Pier in Cartagena’s historic center. Sights and activitiesEditorial copyrights: Reginaldo G MartinsThere is no better way to commence your Rosario voyage than by visiting the open-air Oceanario aquarium. Although not that huge, it still houses a variety of rescued sharks, along with giant sea turtles and other aquatic life. Rather than focus on entertainment (apart from a short dolphin show), Oceanario is geared more towards conservation, providing as a perfect stop for anyone curious to learn about the marine culture.After a pleasant aquarium visit, head over to Isla Grande, a unit of Rosario Islands and perhaps the only island inhabited by the indigenous native population, providing its visitors an oportunity to explore the local culture. With boutique resorts lined up and and gorgeous waters to swim in, everything that tourists look for in Caribbean islands are represented here.Grab your snorkeling gear (which can be rented if you aren't carrying your own) and swim around to your heart's content. Walk into dive shops, rent gear and enjoy day dives, bookings for all of which can be done in Cartagena itself. Editorial copyrights: Chuck HoltonAfter a refreshing splash in these vibrantly chromatic waters, be sure to treat your palates with some typical and original Colombian food consisting of coconut rice, fried white fish, and yucca, all with the finest beach views.Important tip: Be sure to carry sunscreen protection, and if planning to explore other parts of the island, stock up on mosquito repellant too.Not just limited to beachside fun and underwater explorations, Isla Grande is also home to magnificent mangroves, best explored by canoeing; a travel expert will easily hook you up.The Beauty of Playa BlancaAlthough formally not considered as part of the Rosario Islands, Playa Blanca situated on Isla Baru is famed for its sheer beauty of golden sands; a must-visit spot while in Rosario or Cartagena. Consistently voted as one of the best beaches of Colombia, Playa Blanca draws a substantial amount of visitors to its shores that abound with fun activities like as diving and surfing. Whether for spending quality time with family or simply to enjoy a breathtaking sunset with a drink in hand, Playa Blanca is truly the place to be. One can also sample lip-smacking traditional recipes of the region, famed for their distinctive Caribbean flavors.Another island for top-notch diving is Tierra Bomba, superb reefs and superb wrecks, so be sure to include that in your Rosario outing if you are a scuba junkie. Best time to visitThe best time to visit Colombia in general, and especially the Rosario Islands is the dry-season months from December to March. These uninterrupted sunny days are just perfect for a Caribbean coastal experience, along with other exciting activities that the area hosts.Start planning your itinerary with a travel expert here.
Tucked away in the northeastern part of Costa Rica, Tortuguero National Park (one of the key highlights of Costa Rica), and possibly one of the finest national parks of the country, is an ecological treasure-trove luring nature-seekers around the globe with its unadulterated elements and exotic wildlife. Named after the Spanish word Tortuga, which translates as turtles, Tortuguero National Park is in the mainstream for breeding the famed sea turtles on its shores. Best explored by boat down the canals of the park, amidst the howling of monkeys and chirping of birds, this ecotourism hub bestows nature-fanatics with that piece of jungle utopia they have been longing for.Connect with Costa Rican travel experts, who will weave Tortuguero into a larger itinerary across Costa Rica.OverviewStretching north along the Caribbean coast up to the village of Tortuguero, the national park sprawls over 31,174 hectares and enjoys the prestige of being the third-most visited natural preserve in the country despite its remote location. Officially established in 1975, Tortuguero National Park recalls its creation back to 1955 when an American herpetologist, Archie Carr, encouraged the protection of endangered sea turtles and began the turtle-tagging program to preserve them, which is still prevalent today.Editorial copyrights: mmose1Although an enormous variety of wildlife fills the park, this area primarily acts as an important nesting hub for the sea turtles, drawing thousands of visitors from all corners of the world. Earlier, Tortuguero National Park was an archipelago of volcanic islands until the alluvial slag from the mountains filled the spaces and turned it into rich, lush marshland. Given its extreme swampiness, Tortuguero can be best explored by a canoe or a kayak down its network of lagoons.Getting thereConsidering its isolated location, Tortuguero National Park can be accessed by a flight or a 4WD. The shortest possible way is definitely by taking a domestic flight operating daily from San Jose’s Tobias Bolanos International Airport to Tortuguero. Budget-restricted travelers can benefit from the efficient public transportation without burning a hole in their pocket by taking a bus ride from San Jose’s Terminal Gran Caribe Bus Station to Cariari, then shifting to another bus to La Pavona, after which one can take a ferry ride to the national park, which lasts around an hour.Important note: Entrance to the park costs $15 USD per adult and opens for visitors every day from 8 AM to 6 PM.Things to doWalk through Tortuguero National ParkLike most of the national parks prevailing in the region, Tortuguero does attract its guests with its pleasant walking trails, thereby allowing you to explore the park at your own pace. Blooming with rich biodiversity, the park’s various trails enchant visitors with several terrestrial and marine life species like jaguars, sloths, spider monkeys, kingfisher, toucans, alligators, manatees, frogs and caimans. The sheer brilliance of the park is not restricted to its abundant wildlife; it is also an unrivaled intimacy with nature in its most primal form.Turtle TourThe main essence of Tortuguero National Park, which separates it from its fellow counterparts, lies in its commendable populations of sea turtles; hailed as one of Costa Rica's finest experiences and things to do, one cannot afford to miss the sight of these gentle and endangered animals while here. Head over in the months between July and October to catch a glimpse of Hawksbill and Green Sea turtles crawling onto the beach to lay clutches of eggs. Editorial copyrights: Jim PickellTurtle tours usually commence at night with a guide who enlightens you about this spectacle of birth and regeneration, and the miracle of a mother turtle navigating her way around the world and returning to the very shores on which she was born. Stripped off all frills, the Turtle Tour is truly a phenomenal experience in itself, worth the price of a ticket alone.Important note: Flash photography is strictly prohibited as it may disorient the mother at egg-laying time, and the baby turtles at hatching time.Jungle Canopy TourAs most of the animals in the park are arboreal i.e. they dwell amongst the trees without stepping onto the ground, it becomes difficult to sight them by simply walking along the trail. One can take a jungle canopy tour and discover the canopy through a network of hanging bridges, that serve as a magnificent vantage point for the hidden wildlife, and also the fresh green vista of the forest from over 100 feet above the ground. Editorial copyrights: goantranceEditorial copyrights: Jason StuckThose looking for some adrenaline-spiking moments in the midst of the jungle should indulge in zip-lining in which you swoop through the forest canopy cover, an activity that combines adventure and nature-viewing.Visit the Turtle Museum at Caribbean Conservation Center (CCC) Editorial copyrights: mmose1A unit of the Caribbean Conservation Center (CCC), the turtle museum is located just along the main street of the park and grants admission to its visitors for a nominal fee of $ 2 USD, whereby you can get access to a well-scripted documentary video, emphasizing the importance of saving the endangered turtles and find interesting information and posters depicting facts about other wildlife species. This museum is an eye-opener for visitors, making them aware of the various menaces that turtles face and how dangerously likely they are to become extinct if those wrong practices continue. Interestingly, the museum also has a shop, where one can even sponsor a turtle.Canoeing/KayakingUnlike other national parks of Costa Rica, Tortuguero is a marshy landmass with an extensive network of canals, perfectly explored only by canoeing down its muddy lagoon. Editorial copyrights: /Shutterstock.comOne of the added benefits of canoeing, compared to hiking, is it can help you reach the most secluded portions of the park. Nature enthusiasts can rent a canoe and embrace the serene experience of traveling to the innermost sections of its waterways, deep into the heart of the thick mangroves which are home to several amphibious species like manatees and caimans that would otherwise remain unseen.Best time to visitSince the turtles are the primary attractions of the park, the best time to visit would be from July to October, when the Hawksbill and the Green Sea Turtles come to nest on the beaches. The Leatherback turtles, however, nest from March to July. The peak nesting period of the turtles is considered to be in the rainy season and this is perhaps the best time to go, as opposed to other destinations in Costa Rica which are better visited in the dry months.Start tailoring your itinerary with a local expert here.
After telling you all about Costa Rica's beaches and national parks, it's time to list out its hidden and beautiful waterfalls that attract travelers from over the globe. Connect with Costa Rican travel experts who can include these tropical wonders into a fully customised itinerary tailored around these several trip ideas. After a tiring and satisfying hike, there is no better way of rewarding yourself than by taking a dip under these beauties.What to bringMost of the waterfalls are tucked deep into rainforests and are accessed only by hiking them, so good hiking shoes and comfy wear are essential. Also, don’t forget to pack your swimsui; diving into the crystal-clear waters of the plunge pools is very tempting.Here are some of the best waterfalls in Costa Rica you should be looking up on your next visit.La Fortuna WaterfallApart from being the most prominent and most visited one on the list, La Fortuna Waterfall also tops the charts as the most picturesque in the country. Located just 3 miles from downtown La Fortuna (pictured above), and a 15-minute descent through the carved jungle staircase from the entrance, the waterfall spills out from the base of the dormant Chato Volcano and plummets 230 feet before hitting the cool blue-green pool. Endowed with two vantage points offering different faces of the waterfall, one can even discover other smaller, serene pools by taking a short hike from the lower observation platform.Given its proximity to the nearby Arenal Volcano National Park, a prominent highlight of Costa Rica, and the surrounding forests, visitors can catch a glimpse of some rare mammal species, like the 3-toed sloth (pictured above), on their way to the falls.La Paz Waterfall Garden Just a short drive from San Jose takes you to one of the finest privately-owned ecological attractions in Costa Rica - The La Paz Waterfall Gardens. What actually makes La Paz so astonishingly noteworthy is that it is home to five rustic waterfalls along with a large wildlife preserve filled with over 100 species of mammals; it also includes a serpentarium, a frog exhibit, a butterfly conservatory and a hummingbird garden. With a combination of picture-perfect waterfalls, abundant wildlife, and pleasing nature walks all in one stunning setting, it is not a wonder that La Paz witnesses a high footfall of visitors around the year, making it a favorite choice for a day escape.Rio Celeste WaterfallIn a country of abundant natural treasures, Rio Celeste Waterfall is one of those hidden jewels which stands above the rest. Located amidst the Tenorio Volcano National Park, the Rio Celeste Waterfall can be accessed by a two-hour hike, leading you through tropical rainforests and past some of the exotic wildlife that dwells in the region.Editorial copyright: Anna Talitha WhiteThe first thing that hits you when you come across the waterfall is the stunning blue of the plunge pool, which actually is a chemical reaction between the volcano and rainforest minerals.Important note: Due to ecological reasons, swimming is prohibited in the Rio Celeste Waterfall.Nauyaca WaterfallLocated in the South Pacific region of Costa Ballena and a short drive from the beach town of Dominical, Nauyaca hits the charts for being one of the largest waterfalls in Costa Rica.Editorial copyright: everyday family blogWrapped inside deep jungle, visitors have the option of hiking the well-maintained trails or taking a horseback ride with a professional guide towards the waterfalls. The trek through the rainforests is truly spectacular in itself and one can come across the prolific wildlife that thrives in the area which includes monkeys and a plethora of birds, most notably the colorful hummingbirds. Editorial copyrights: Jason LucasWhat makes Nauyaca unique is that is gets split into stunning tiers of upper and lower cascades. The water spills over the cliff side to fall over 140 feet, before taking the next 60-foot drop into the bottom pool. After an exhilarating hike, a refreshing dip in the cold water of the pool is an experience that is second to none.Montezuma WaterfallUnlike most of Costa Rica’s waterfalls that are tucked away among mountains and rainforests, this spectacular set of three waterfalls is just a short stroll away from the bohemian beach town of Montezuma. The hike towards the waterfalls is moderately challenging with crossing a riverbed and possibly using a rope at some points (thus demanding a quality hiking footwear). One of the falls appears early in the hike; this is where thrill junkies love diving into the pool. But continuing towards the other two falls is definitely worth the march. Editorial copyrights: JCThe second fall has an impressive swimming hole at its base, perfect for relaxing after an arduous hike. Those looking for a little sport and fun, there is a spot to jump into the pool beneath right beside the 'fall.Catarata del ToroAnother cascade that makes the list for uniqueness of flowing right into a dormant volcanic crater, is the Catarata del Toro. Based in the heart of Costa Rica and surrounded by cloud forests, Catarata del Toro is a giant that falls uninterruptedly for 300 feet. The base of the falls can be accessed by hiking down some muddy and slippery steep steps. Catarata del Toro houses a wide range of wildlife species, including the bright-colored hummingbirds.When to visitSince most of the waterfalls are based in the rainforests and demand a hike, the trail gets muddled up in the rainy season from September to November, making the water pools look untidy due to constant mudflows. The best time to visit, however, are the dry months of December to April and in the shoulder months of May to August, when rains are almost non-existent, making your experience easier.Start tailoring your itinerary with a travel expert here.
Home to more than 300 different types of chilli pepper, Peru is the South American Mecca for spice-lovers the world over.Whatever the dish, Peruvians like their heat. This is the time to ditch your mild spices for a taste of no-holds-barred Peruvian cuisine which puts to shame all your mollycoddled imitation ‘‘spicy cooking’’ back home. This is the real stuff. We’re not in Tabasco territory any more, son.Get an in-depth lesson on the intricacies of preparing one of the most celebrated cuisines in the world under the watchful eye of a master-chef (our experts will set it up for you), but a little more about Peru's premier spice first. Human consumption of the chilli pepper in South America goes back for millennia, far back into prehistoric times. Traces of domesticated chillies have been discovered in ancient cooking vessels as far back as 4,100 BC in South West Ecuador. When Christopher Columbus encountered the chilli (itself a modern appropriation of the Nahuatl word), he renamed them ‘peppers’ for their intense, spicy taste, so similar to that of the black and white pepper native to Europe.The Peruvian chilli (ají) comes in as many colours and heat-levels as there are alpacas on Machu Picchu, from the standard Ají Amarillo, (yellow chilli, for the linguistically-inclined) used widely in typical dishes throughout the country, to the small, round, deceptively innocent-looking Ají Charapita, (rumoured to be an aphrodisiac, but don’t take our word for it).If you’re really looking to fit in with the locals, look no further than the biggest and baddest of Peru’s chillies, the Rocoto, encouragingly known as the Peruvian Death Pepper. Between 100,000 and 350,000 on the Scoville – pungency or heat – Scale (rough translation: bloody damn hot), this is the extreme sports of the chilli world.Be sure to carry some home back with you; they will add that authentic touch for those evenings when you show off your newly-acquired culinary skills to your family and friends. Have extinguishers standing by.
Located in the fertile northern lowlands of Costa Rica, Arenal Volcano National Park, one of Costa Rica's premier highlights, spearheads the country's tourism scene by offering an abundance of thrill-junkie adventure activities and the stuff of dreams for even the casual sightseer. Perhaps the main draw of this natural reserve is the staggering beauty of the symmetrical cone-shaped Arenal Volcano, but its plethora of other activities like hiking, whitewater rafting, and canopy tours, your trip is surely bound to be one of non-stop excitement.Connect with Costa Rican travel experts, who will ensure that you cover and enjoy every bit of wonder this adventure hub has to throw at you.OverviewStretching over 12000 hectares of land, Arenal Volcano National Park was established in 1991 and is most notable as home to the imposing Arenal Volcano, adventure activities and an overall staggering natural beauty being close seconds. Travelers typically make it part of a larger itinerary that covers the country's other wonders; plan the duration of your stay here depending on what you wish to get out of it.In July 1968, Arenal showed its most catastrophic side when its violent eruptions killed over 87 people and destroyed 3 small villages. Arenal spewed lava and ash on a regular basis till 2010, after which it entered into a resting phase. Although the visitors are deprived of the amazing view of the flaming volcano in the night sky, Arenal still doesn’t fail in charming visitors with its now placid beauty. Getting thereArenal Volcano National Park is situated in the Alajuela Province and is a scenic 3.5-hour drive from the capital city of San Jose (and 3-hour drive from Liberia International airport). There are also a number of direct buses operating from San Jose to the small town of La Fortuna de San Carlos, aka the Gateway to the Arenal Volcano National Park.Important tip: If on a self-drive tour, equip yourself with a GPS or a map, as the trails are not well marked here.Things to doHikeProbably the best way of getting up close and personal with the park’s rich biodiversity and exploring its varying ecosystems is by hiking through it. Sadly, trekking the smokey volcano is strictly prohibited, but given the abundance of other sights like the Cerro Chato volcano and Lake Arenal, hiking the park is a truly pleasurable experience. A hike to the La Fortuna Waterfall is another noteworthy trail, hardly taking you more than 15 minutes and rewarding you with its crystal-clear waters; most recommended is diving in and cooling off in its plunge pool.Wildlife SpottingApart from its jaw-dropping natural marvels, what attracts the visitors to this park is its thriving wildlife population. Arenal is a protected nature reserve and is well-known for inhabiting hundreds of aerial species, most notably the brilliantly colored toucans and hummingbirds, along with reptiles, monkeys, sloths, iguanas, and coatis. Wildlife afficionados looking to explore more of the native species can head over to the habitat centers of Arenal Oasis Wildlife Refuge, and Club Rio Wildlife Sanctuary, both of which are inside the park’s territory.Canopy ToursEditorial copyrights: Borchers & WoodburnA unique way to admire the lush rainforests of the park and get some thrills along the way is to embark on a canopy zip lining tour. Ziplining probably offers the best and most exclusive aerial views of the rainforests, along with the adrenaline surge of swooping over the forest. For those not inclined for such adventurous acts can take a nature walking tour over the park’s famed hanging bridges, thus exploring the gigantic trees and their swinging vines, all in atmosphere of rich oxygenated air that acts as a tonic boost for the rest of the day.Soak in the natural hot springsIt is impossible to return from Arenal Volcano without soaking in its illustrious natural hot springs. Although most of these springs are on hotel/resort premises, it is not necessary that you have to stay at one of them; many resorts offer day guest passes for visitors.After a long, tiring adventurous day, what could be better than a warm, rejuvenating bath amidst thick jungle?Horseback ridingEditorial copyrights: serialkisserxoAnother must-do activity that goes on the list is a horseback ride towards the majestic waterfalls of La Fortuna. Equipped with a guide, this tour takes you through flourishing green country of sloths, monkeys, coatis and colorful tropical birds.This horseback ride ultimately ends at the trail that leads to the La Fortuna Waterfall, after which you hike for a bit and earn your dip in the chilly plunge-pool at the base of the waterfall.Go SpelunkingNot all of the park's beauty is above ground. Below the surface lie the ancient Venado Caves, limestone wonders presumed to be 20 million years old. Journey towards the centre of the earth and discover underground waterfalls, timeless stalactites and stalagmites, and learn all about the fascinating natural history from a trained guide.AccommodationEditorial copyrights: ArenalOnline Arenal VolcanoWhen it comes to overnight stays while exploring the park, the nearby quaint town of La Fortuna offers a wide array of hotels to choose from. Budget-restricted travelers can opt for hotels/cabins for less than $25, while the luxury seekers can stay at extravagant resorts for $400 a night. Since the hot springs are a huge hit here, it is recommended to stay at hotels equipped with such springs.Best time to visitArenal is one of those destinations that can be visited any time of the year, but in order to avoid rains, it is best explored in the dry months of December to March. Check with your expert about the best time to go to get the most out of your visit.Important tip: Since the dry season also happens to be the busiest time of the year, book your stay earlier (at least 8 months) to avoid disappointment.Interested enough? Start customizing your itinerary here and head over to this natural gem of Costa Rica.
A strong rival the Arenal Volcano National Park is undoubtedly the Poas National Park, home to the eponymous Poas Volcano, and also a prominent highlight of Costa Rica. Of the six active volcanoes calling this miniature-sized nation home, Poas is arguably the most active of them all. A prominent destination of the Central Valley region, worthy of any Costa Rica itinerary, its green acid crater lake spews majestic geysers every time it erupts. Not just limited to picturesque eruptions, Poas is also a natural habitat for diverse avian and wildlife species, making it hugely attractive to naturalists.The national park itself is perfect for a day's exploration from the capital, San Jose. Get a travel expert to customize a trip for you, along with a seasoned guide who will add great value to your visit. OverviewEncompassing an area of 16,000 acres, the Poas Volcano National Park was established in 1971 and quickly became a mainstream tourist attraction for having the largest active crater in the world, one of the reasons it attracts thousands of visitors through the year. Standing at 8,885 feet (2,708 meters) above sea level, this restless giant occasionally shoots up geyser-like eruptions up to 820 feet (250 meters) high from a crater that measures 1.5 kilometers (0.9 miles) in diameter with a depth of 1,050 feet (320 meters).Inspired by the conservation of the Great Smokey Mountains National Park in the United States in the 1960’s, Poas Volcano National Park was conceived of and developed by a Costa Rican student named Mario Boza, who was so impressed by the U.S. park that he decided to manage the Poas Volcano area in a similar fashion. A true representation of the geothermal forces that formed this country, this nature reserve also hosts a wide array of biodiversity that attracts wildlife lovers.Getting thereLocated just 30 miles, and a one and half hour drive from the bustling capital of San Jose, Poas Volcano National Park makes for a perfect day escape destination from the urban sprawl of the city. If on a self-drive tour, the park can be accessed by taking the Pan American highway from San Jose to the Alajuela province. Alternatively, several bus tours operate from San Jose to the national park till mid-afternoon.Things to see and do Editorial copyrights: Go Easy Costa RicaThe Poas Volcano National Park has trails that are easily accessible and fortunately not that challenging, making them suitable for people of all ages. Start off your trip at the visitor’s center by educating yourself about the park’s history and the various geomorphic processes that have happened over the years. Fuel yourself with coffee and other snacks at the nearby café before heading towards the main crater, a mere 15-minute hike away. The crater’s rain-fed sulfuric smelling pool still bubbles and emits smoke into the thin mountain air. At times, the sulfur in the air proves to be so acidic that the park is closed. It is from this sulfur that the effects of acid rain have stunted the nearby vegetation brown and black. The dynamic vitals of the crater can be seen from a viewing platform, which acts as a magnificent vantage point; on clear sunny days, the views are picture-perfect.The second crater, Botos Lagoon is another spectacle offered by this region and is just a little short of a mile away from the main crater. Botos Lake is rather calm and lures visitors with its beautiful jade-colored water.Adding to the delight of nature connoisseurs, Poas Volcano National Park hosts a comprehensive range of avian and mammal species.Sightings of 79 bird species have been recorded to date, including the Quetzal, Emerald Toucan, Black Guan, Hummingbirds and Robins. Similarly, wildlife varieties of marmots, coyotes, rabbits and the endemic Poas squirrels are known to live and thrive here. Excluding the scorched surroundings of the main caldera, the park is covered in dense vegetation and is quite an attraction for its pagoda shaped Escalonia trees.Before heading back, do take time out to visit the picturesque La Paz waterfall gardens, located a 30-minute drive away from the national park. La Paz waterfall is a wonderful natural artwork showcasing 5 scenic waterfalls along with some wildlife sightings and a well-known butterfly conservatory project.Important Tip: Due to its high elevation, Poas Volcano National Park can be cold and wet, so make sure to pack some warm clothing.Best time to visitThe best time to visit the park is in the dry months of January to April, when the weather is chilly and marked by bright clear days. To get the best view of the volcano, head over in the early morning hours or just before afternoon, as later the clouds tend to roll in and disturb the panorama of the volcano.Start tailoring your itinerary here and include Poas Volcano National Park in your Costa Rican expedition.