Costa Rica: An EF College Break Trip
There is nothing more exciting than booking your first "solo" trip abroad. By solo, I don't mean I was alone, but it was my first time leaving my country on a trip where I had personally never met anyone before. All of it happened very quick when i found EF College Break's website, was going back to my job, and decided that I wanted to travel somewhere. I picked Costa Rica for December so I could get a break from the cold New England weather for a few days before Christmas. So from March 2014 to December 2014, my money would slowly but surely, thanks to their payment plan, pay off my 10 day Costa Rican Adventure. The trip of a lifetime that would help me find my, expensive, passions.
Over the months I would slowly begin to meet people online going on the same trip, and would continue to count down the days until my trip would be upon us. I can still remember my mothers face when I told her that I had booked a trip, and she didn't believe me at all. The days went by and faster than I thought it could ever feel like, December arrived, and I was at Logan International Airport nice and early headed down to Miami where I would meet up with a few others on the trip, and from there we would fly to Costa Rica.
Our trip with EFCB was something that I don't think any of us would forget, and it was a company many of us, to my knowledge, have turned too again for other trips around the world. Included in our payment was everything from flights, hotels, excursions, a full time tour director, and all of our transportation for planned activities! It was something that could not be beat.
Our trip started off in San Jose, being able to explore the city on our own the first night was made even more amazing thanks to the festival of lights going on, so there was a big parade for us. If you can book your trip for December before Christmas, you may be able to see this also!
Although not in order, our trip was filled with tons of amazing excursions for us. We were able to see and learn about the coffee plantations, pictured above, that are in the Arenal region of Costa Rica. We hiked (climbed a TON of stairs) down to the La Fortuna waterfall where we were able to watch the water fall 200 feet down into the pool, where we could swim in the refreshing waters. All before we remembered we had to hike back to the top still. (400-ish stairs)
While visiting we were able to explore the Santa Elena cloud forest, where there are nearly 12 feet of rain per year, and the views and ecosystems are unmatched. The trees and ground foliage put New England to shame. Many of us opted in for the horseback riding excursion (extra cost) but the views while on this excursion were amazing, and it was a great way to spend part of the day relaxing. As a sidenote, if anyone plans on doing this excursion I highly recommend bringing an extra pair of pants for it, because some horses shed a little more than others.
The next few excursions had to be my favorite excursions on the entire trip, and were the main reasons that I booked. Nothing screams "escaping the New England winter" quite like zip-lining in Costa Rica. Nothing is more fun than being able to do that, and do it when the lines are a little wet so you may go a little faster. Zip lining in Costa Rica offered some great views as we zipped in and out of, as well as above the tree tops, reaching speeds of 60mph and with the longest line being almost exactly a kilometer! It was something I would never forget. While at the zip-lining excursion we found out that they also offered bungee jumping, the tallest bungee in latin America. So you bet that most of us paid the $60 and decided that jumping out of a cable car with a top around our ankles to keep us safe was a good idea. (Note: EFCB does not promote this and they will be sure to let you know that your travel insurance does not cover this activity, so please use your best judgement before doing this because its risky, but so is zip lining... *cough* do it *cough*) and they also offered a Tarzan Swing, but that was shut down due to slick ropes or something thanks to the misty weather while we were there. Be sure to buy the DVD with all the photos from your adventure!
Our final action packed adventure was whitewater rafting. This was something that had always been on my bucket list, and I probably never would have tried it on my own without tis trip. Amazing isn't even able to express how great this excursion was. Theres something about paddling your way down a river through rapids with a bunch of your newest friends that is a great way to finish off your trip. The guides are a blast, and ours had to have been the best in the group. From joking around, to the fresh pineapple halfway down the river, to letting our raft "abandon ship" and float down the river, to letting us float through a class 2 rapid (only a couple of us on the raft did that). The excursion is a fun filled adventure and is only made better when they had had some rain so the rapids are a little bigger.
The other stops on our trip were in Jaco, with a trip out to Manuel Antonio Park, as well as a crocodile cruise. So lets start off with the crocodile cruise. We were out on a boat, on a river, and we were cruising up and down looking at everything from baby crocs to crocs that had to have been easily 16 - 18ft in length, and we were able to touch them. It was just another great way to see the ever changing and different landscapes that make up Costa Rica. Manuel Antonio Park is an amazing beach with some of the nicest water I have seen. Where the monkeys will come steal your food and sunscreen, which will get you in trouble with the park rangers, so be sure to keep those backpacks closed tight! Our group ended up cutting our time at Manuel Antonio short and grabbing food and then heading back to Jaco, probably since it was a little more fun in Jaco. Jaco and Manuel Antonio were the locations where e it didn't rain for our group, although December is supposed to be the least rainy time of year in Costa Rica. Jaco is a pretty built up surf town. The beach is all volcanic sand, so it will get everywhere, and even almost two years later you will find sand in your backpack as a souvenir. The beach is great, the waves are amazing, and you can learn to surf or body surf the day away on the beach. I would highly recommend finding the fish taco place, or going to Moonshiner and putting your name on the wall! (Bonus points if anyone find our groups names on the wall to the right of the bar).
One of the most memorable parts of our trip was visiting a local school and seeing the difference in the facilities that our education system provides and what they have in Costa Rica. It showed just how blessed we are, but also how much they appreciated what they had more than we did. We brought them some gifts, candy, and they showed us two traditional dances. We played a game of soccer, further proving that they are much much much better at soccer in Costa Rica then we are, and it was a great time to be able to play with them and just share the bond of being able to play the sport, even if we weren't able to communicate through language with them.
I would highly recommend this trip to anyone looking to travel abroad, not only for the low cost and all that it included, but the experiences and friendships that you will build while on the trips are amazing. I have since booked two upcoming (as of August 2016) trips with EFCB to Europe, and I couldn't be moe excited.
Excursions not written about in this post: Palm Farm visit and kayaking Lake Arenal.