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Golfo de Nicoya: Breaking the water's surface

As the rainy season starts to draw back and its healing powers have restored the earth; the smell of wet soil is replaced by the smell of warm salty sand, captivating the city by drawing signals in the skies with colourful sunsets, confirming the arrival of the dry season.

Rainy season is ending

The beach is once again ready to receive thousands of local and foreign thirsty tourists that want to squeeze the vitamin D out of the sunlight rays that are revitalized by the fresh waters of the Costarican Pacific coast. Year after year it feels like there are fewer spots to visit on the Pacific coast, that avoids the constant migration of people, making vacation looks like an overwhelming feeling of rushing in to get the best spot at the beach, finding a table at the restaurant with a sunset view or getting the best sunbed by the pool. You end up racing to relax.

I went out to find new frontiers and discovered the freedom in doing micro-adventures without going against the flow of people entering my favourite destinations. There is nothing wrong with sharing the beach with other tourists, but you can always find a balance that will revitalize your lost energy and bring back the radiance in the essence of being deeply satisfied and joyous while on holidays. The key is to step out of the normal routine and leave room to change.

I packed light early that morning, without really knowing where I was heading. I just knew I wanted something different from the hotel-beach-hotel routine, so I asked one of the hotel's staff if he knew where I could rent a small boat with a captain to take me around the Golfo de Nicoya. Once I had some "tico directions" I drove to the "Puerto" (Puntarenas Port Town) and with some references I had from the "address", I asked some fishermen who were preparing a fishing net if they knew where I could find someone that could take me to Chira Island, a place recommended by the guy at the hotel. They all stared at me like if I said something wrong, but luckily I soon realized the "Puerto" people are friendly and welcoming; so they explained to me that taking that boat ride from "El Puerto" will be extremely expensive; as close as it might look on a map, the island was very far from there.

They recommended I should take a small ferryboat from a village about an hour from where I met the fishermen, there I could leave my car at a "Soda" (small typical restaurant) and take the boat that would finally take me to Chira Island.

Leaving for the island

I arrived at the village where the small ferry was supposed to dock. The place didn't seem to be very inviting at all. I left my car at the "Soda" a bit insecure, but after talking to the owner I felt safer, he seemed liked a very nice, humble man. I asked him about the ferry and he told me:

"It should be docking in about 40 minutes, in the meantime, you can try some ceviche at the bar right in front of us". It proved me wrong about how the small town seemed, it might not be the most inviting of all places, but once again, people showed me that they make the most part of the warmth of a destiny. Soon, the bartender brought me an ice-cold beer and free ceviche, the old fashion Costa Rican way (Costa Rica used to have a bar system; you ordered a beer and they'll give a small appetizer for free).

I was now sitting inside the small boat with very few people that I guessed worked or lived on the Island. I was excited to finally arrive at a new destination where I was eager to explore and meet new people.

The movement of the waves hypnotized me and made me think about how islands are created? And how do people or/and animals end up in these isolated seamounts? My mind started to ramble and all I could see were angry volcanoes, millions of years ago; almost on an apocalyptic red landscape where lava steamed up the same waters I was captivated with, creating layers and layers until they break the water's surface... and then I saw land. We had arrived at the shore and a funny-looking bus stop welcomed the small boat in front of an empty, big bar over the rocky shore.

I asked how I could get around the island and a lady suggested me to wait for the bus and ask the driver; he obviously knows everyone and everywhere on the island. When the bus arrived, I told the driver if he knew somewhere I could spend the night. He recommended a place on the extreme opposite side of the island from where I was, so the ride felt a bit long, but that way I managed to see the landscape and the people hopping in and off the bus.

I arrived at a street where there was just a "pulpería" (very small mini-super), and the house next to it was my "cabina", where a family rented a room on the second floor of their house. Lucky for me, there was no one else, so I got the room and with it, the nice lady who was in charge prepared a delicious "casado" (typical Costa Rican dish) with fried fish.


I rested for a while on a hammock hanging on the porch of the house and my mind started rumbling about how one usually thinks that having freedom is when you manage to have everything under your control, but freedom actually should be the opposite as circumstances will take over you; thus end up controlling you. Freedom is that feeling when there's nothing under your control and you're left with nothing but your ability to re-invent yourself under new environments, to find out who you really are. I woke up from that thought and decided I should get a bike to ride around the island. The warmth of the family I was living with, lent me one of their own bikes. I got lost without any worries at all, riding through dirt roads shadowed by green trees and dry land on the sides, until I arrived at a white sandy beach. I took a break from the heat in the isolated shore, took my shoes off, and felt the cold floor on my feet while scrubbing them under the warm sand layers. Until I fully relaxed lying in the sand, I didn't realize there was a family doing a BBQ some meters from where I was relaxing. I was so thirsty I didn’t mind going to them and ask them to sell me a spare beer; they not only gave me a beer, they shared with me some of their BBQ, which was great!

Going back to my "cabina" I felt that freedom of moving at my own pace and whim, so I made one last stop at another beach, a really weird one, as it was covered with climbing plants and trees, I tried to go through it on my bike, but it just got thicker and heavier to move around, so I turned back until I reached small sheds by the beach, where I guess fishermen kept their tools and boats. I was later told that Chira Island contains the most intact flora biodiversity of tropical dry forest. What I love about dry forests are the smells; the fresh breeze brought up that beach freshness of vacation scent, but it also brought some awareness of the smells there have might been when on a busy day for fishermen. I was feeling deep gratification and joy, which somehow made my senses sharper.

Islands have a unique setting for biodiversity as I learned; it’s due to how they have a self-conservation system and different evolution and natural selection of both flora and fauna compared to the one we have on the mainland.

I was told that El Golfo de Nicoya wasn't a gulf, it was part of the mainland at one point, but due to a geological fault, it caused the land to submerge, leaving exposed many hills, which are now islands; Chira is the second largest in Costa Rica. This is impressive and very interesting, I thought of it as a land similar to Atlantis or those ancient underwater civilizations, but this one left some evidence of its existence and I wanted to know more about these formations that managed to stay out of the water.

The next day I didn't wake up with the sense of a hurry, so I took things slowly; I had a typical Costa Rican breakfast and asked my lovely hosts to please drive me to the small ferry back to the mainland. This micro-adventure had ended, but I wanted more! We humans have branded in our DNA the prerequisite of living outdoors and like the first humans, they lived in contact with nature; every day was an adventure for them and that urge was driving me to exploit that sense of belonging.

The Island of Lost Souls

I got back to the mainland and managed to find my way to another dock, where this time a captain would drive me to another smaller island, a place that holds a dark chapter of Costa Rica and its penitentiary system. The island is infamously known in a book as "The Island of Lost Souls" (loosely translated from its original title in Spanish: "La Isla de Los Hombres solos) sometimes compared as to the Latin-American "Papillon". The book takes you through the tragedy and suffering the author lived while in prison, a detention center built in San Lucas Island.

Getting near the dock in San Lucas, you start to breathe its mystery, and as soon as the boat's engine stops...silence...complete silence, not even the sound of the breeze moving the leaves. I'm now walking on a path that leads to the main entrance when horrifying deep growls suddenly interrupt the stillness. As the screaming sounds get closer and closer I manage to see the source, two howling monkeys up on a tree, welcoming the captain and me to the island. The whole place is pure creepiness and if you like dark tourism this is a great spot. The captain told me stories about what went on in there; prisoners trying to escape and getting eaten by sharks, torture, murder, and more, it's hard to believe this Island was shut down until the early '90s.

" is old and has many memories, there are bad dreams for those who sleep unwisely." - Dracula

It's amazing how long it takes nature to creepy crawl around and inside the abandoned infrastructures. Bats sleep inside the darkest corners of the empty rooms, waiting for the night. Howler monkeys warn every other species about an intrusion and large insects drone all around you, patrolling and inspecting from the sky. Light leaks from the wooden cracks, unveiling small stories on the walls told by large graffiti left behind, evidence of "the miserable life in prison" ("Qué miseria se ve en prisión" - saw it written on one of the walls). There is a rumor that says some of the graffiti is painted with blood, the stories are a bit gruesome to share here, but their statement on the walls shows us how deprivation of liberty can be so toxic, even in a beautiful natural place surrounded by white sand beaches.

There is nothing like to feel freedom, just like the exploding volcanoes that millions of years ago created this land, releasing its energy to break through the water and breath the exuberant passion for life! Don't take this for granted, I compare it with the unique biodiversity you can find on these islands; you too can create opportunities to find a unique individual essence in sync with a busy balanced life.


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  • Janaina & Dieter, Brazil

    The trip was wonderful! Your help was invaluable and without your choices it would not have been so good! I am very very satisfied and very happy with the choices you made!

    Thank you very much for everything!

    Janaina & Dieter, Brazil
  • Kathrin, Ines, Matthias & Ingo, Germany

    Hello dear Aline, many thanks to you for the great compilation and organization of the trip. We were able to spend eventful, interesting and wonderful days in Costa Rica and will keep them in good memory. A thank you also goes to the ARA Tours team, which was available 24/7 for problems and questions, which were solved and answered quickly and reliably. The punctuality of the transfers offered should also be emphasized. In summary, it was a wonderful holiday.

    Kind regards

    Kathrin, Ines, Matthias & Ingo, Germany
  • Carina & Thomas, Germany

    Hello dear Aline,
    Now we have arrived back at San Jose Airport after a great trip. Everything worked out great and the tour was just perfectly planned and organized. Thank you very much. We take a lot of positive memories with us.
    Best regards.

    Carina & Thomas, Germany
  • Yvonne, Switzerland

    The Costa Rica trip together with my family is already behind us - it was wonderful!!! Everything went smoothly from A to Z, we had a wonderful time, no incidents and wonderful experiences.
    We all enjoyed it very much; the nature is enormous, but also the warm-hearted people, the cleanliness, the food - we are very enthusiastic!
    At this point I would like to thank you very much for your support in the preparation, for all the bookings, clarifications and enquiries!!!
    We visited the waterfall in La Fortuna and had a great view of the Arenal. In Monteverde we did a Hanging Bridges and Zipline tour and in Nosara a surf course. In Finca Rosa Bianca we did the coffee tour, it was all great, fun and interesting 😊. All in all, we saw lots of animals, always ate well, enjoyed the beaches....even in rainy weather 😊. Often we were even glad that it was overcast, otherwise it would have been almost toouuu hot for us.
    So THANK YOU again so much for everything!!!!

    Yvonne, Switzerland
  • Christina, Switzerland

    Many thanks for the extensive support (before, during and after the trip) and the professional handling of our concerns. With your support we had a smooth and unforgettable vacation in Costa Rica! Our favorite hotels: Hotel Plaza Yara and the Poas Volcano Lodge - a dream!
    All the best

    Christina, Switzerland
  • Jeanne, Bernd & Bill, USA

    Yay! I´m glad we are back on track. Thank you again for helping us with all these changes.
    I´m glad we choose ARA-you are amazing! Thanks for all your help! It made it a very memorable visit!

    Jeanne, Bernd & Bill, USA
  • Janka, The Netherlands

    Hi Eli & ARA Team,
    We have spoken to the guest and they are super enthusiastic about their Costa Rica roundtrip! Everything was well organized, nice hotels, nice mix of activities & beach and they have big compliments for you guys!!
    Many thanks for all the good work!! The guest highly appreciate it!!
    They had lunch nearby in Ara Ambigua Lodge, and they loved this place. Friendly staff and good food!
    Do you work with this accommodation? If so, we would love hear 😊
    Once again, heads off for this amazing trip!
    With warm regards

    Janka, The Netherlands
  • Thomas, Deborah, Eva & Paula, Switzerland

    Dear Priska
    Happily I write some words to you in English, so you can easily forward them also to Ara Tours, please. Thank you all, we spent a magic time in Costa Rica! Baumeler's and Ara Tours organisation and logistics were perfect, everything worked out even better than we expected. The tours were brilliant, we really enjoyed everything very very much!
    All the accomodation was absolutely wonderful... the setting, the quality, the food, with happy helpful friendly staff everywhere. It was a wonderful way to experience this beautiful country the way we did, on a private tour with personal guide and drivers. We saw and learnt sooo much - it would have been impossible to do so on our own.
    Especially we praise our brilliant guide Fernando Perez, we benefited so much from his truly wide knowledge and deep love for his Country which he passed on in lovely encouraging way. We even became friends and we will meet in Switzerland coming September! Also our driver Carlos Sandi was great, not only as a driver but also as a compagnion, animal spotter and photographer. Thank you!
    So.... now we just enjoy our last day...
    Sunny greetings, pura vida

    Thomas, Deborah, Eva & Paula, Switzerland
  • Yvonne & Andrea, Switzerland

    Hello all
    Unfortunately, our wonderful trip is already over and everyday life has caught up with us again. We would like to thank you very much for everything. The trip was planned exactly according to our wishes and we have seen so many beautiful places.
    Thank you Stefanie!
    We have felt completely comfortable and top cared for by you. Via Whats App we got immediate answers to our questions, with the car everything worked out great. In all locations we were treated very warmly and nicely. It was just so indescribably beautiful, we will dream of the beautiful experiences for a long time. In any case, we will warmly recommend you and hope for a next time. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
    Best regards.

    Yvonne & Andrea, Switzerland
  • Anita, Switzerland

    We have arrived safely in Switzerland and have already returned to work.
    It was a wonderful trip you put together for us.
    Your excellent service, as well as the 24 hour support service from ARA Tours, was truly outstanding.
    I have already recommended you several times and would book with you again and again. Thank you very much and keep me informed if there are any interesting offers.
    Best wishes.

    Anita, Switzerland
  • Lukas & Isabelle, Switzerland

    Hello Pedro, our time in CR is coming to an end and we wanted to say "thank you very much for organizing a phenomenal week". Everything has been well organized and we have seen many beauties of nature. Thanks!

    Lukas & Isabelle, Switzerland
  • Reinout & Yvonne, The Netherlands

    Thanks Jenny for the clear answer. We will make an appointment via the link you gave us.
    Today we visited National Parc Cabo Blanco. What an amazing park, so quiet for tourists, so full of animals, really lovely and therefore together with Monte Verde, Cahuita and Corcovado the park today, Cabo Blanco, scores high in our ranking of most beautiful parks of CR.These parks give us reason, together with the Pura Vida in CR, to come back soon. We'll keep in contact.

    Reinout & Yvonne, The Netherlands
  • Dominik, Germany

    Good day Jennifer
    As we have already told Simone, the stay at Lapa Rios is extremely enriching, thanks to the well planned planting and the untouched environment we see a lot of animals. Contrary to the plans before the stay, we do not want to visit more animals in captivity at the end. We will have a look at the few hours before we leave.
    We thank you and your team very much for the excellent advice and the permanent support! We can only recommend Ara Tours.
    Best regards.

    Dominik, Germany
  • Daniel, Jana & Theo, Germany

    A big thank to you, you saved our vacation!
    Communication already worked very well in Germany. The help from you, especially through Aline, should be mentioned here. This was fantastic from the first WhatsApp message to the last. We already know Costa Rica, so we knew what we wanted and what not. Ara Tours was an important point of contact for us. We are very grateful to Aline precisely because our actual travel agent cancelled our trip 36 hours before departure. She immediately organized everything for us. Whether the hotel in beautiful Punta Leona, the tours to the national parks, even the shuttle service with the great driver Guillerno Ortega has to be mentioned here. We are very grateful to you, dear Aline, but also to the entire Ara Tours team. You too made our almost 3-week trip to Costa Rica unforgettable again. We would love to come back and of course we will book through Ara Tours again.

    Daniel, Jana & Theo, Germany
  • Alexander & family, Switzerland

    Thank you, everything really worked out great. Super organization and at any time quick info / help / support from you!
    We liked it very much. The conclusion in Quepos was crowning. We liked the beach in the National Park Manuel Antonio very much. We would have liked to stay longer, but we take home many wonderful, unforgettable impressions. PURA VIDA!
    Many thanks to you Aline! We will gladly recommend you to others.

    Alexander & family, Switzerland
  • Neumann Family, Germany

    - The route was super planned, first on the beach time to arrive and then only from Monteverde with excursions inland etc. and at the end again beach - perfect!
    - Support from Ara Tours was VERY good!!! Through Whatsapp reachability the service was great, very quick answers / very flexible, good suggestions etc. Also with the doctor Ara Tours helped with translations by phone - that was really very, very good!
    - The home stay day was an absolute highlight - very authentic - so we got to know the locals REAL, the family was super friendly and very open and have talked about everything. Not at all touristy perceived.

    Neumann Family, Germany
  • Marine & Bruno, France

    We would like to thank you personally for this beautiful trip that you organised for us and for the follow-up that you did throughout the stay. A big thank you also to Jennifer d'Ara tours! Thank you again and have a great week!

    Marine & Bruno, France
  • Walter, Switzerland

    We really appreciated your (almost) daily updates from Costa Rica on Covid and related issues. That was a highlight compared to other incoming agents worldwide! We thank you for your effort and wish you that you manage the coming time well and stay healthy.

    Walter, Switzerland
  • Ronald, Germany

    Our great compliments for keeping us informed every day on the developments. We wish you all the best and keep yourself and families in good health and mood during this unprecedented period!

    Ronald, Germany
  • Kathrin, Germany

    You are really super! It is impressive how you manage the crisis with your super flow of information and the great reversal. Hats off!

    Kathrin, Germany
  • Michael, Germany

    Hello, we were on a round trip in Costa Rica from 27.11., which was booked through BigXtra and organised by them. We would like to take this opportunity to thank you very much. The tour was simply amazing! The support by Carlos was just great. We have done many trips before, but this one was an unforgettable experience thanks to Carlos. Carlos speaks very good German and was able to sensitively introduce us to Costa Rica, its incomparable nature and its great, friendly inhabitants. Pura Vida became for us a term for the attitude towards life in Costa Rica. Please say hello to Carlos from us and once again a huge thank you to him in the name of the whole group of 8. We wish him only the best for his future.

    Michael, Germany
  • Evelyne, Switzerland

    Wie just did a 4 week trip in Costa Rica which was organised from ARA tours and we really liked it - well done Ara Tours! We also had a guide - his name is Enrique. His German is really good and he knows a lot about Costa Rica and he showed us a lot of animals. We had a wonderful time with hime - thank you so much Enrique!

    Evelyne, Switzerland
  • Tanja, Germany

    perfect tour perfect tour guide pablo, everything very well organised 👍👍👍👍🇨🇷🇨🇨🇷 were thrilled

    Tanja, Germany
  • Ines, Germany

    Many thanks and great praise to our tour guide Mauricio and our bus driver Adrian! We felt very comfortable during the 2 weeks in Costa Rica. The wide-ranging knowledge of Mauricio and the super driving skills of Adrian were particularly admirable. Thanks to the eagle eyes of both of them, we had the opportunity to observe a variety of animals in Costa Rica. Thank you for everything!

    Ines, Germany
  • Sabine, Germany

    I can only recommend ARA Tours. Thanks again to Nicole for the great planning of the tour and the support. Our tour guide Peter Käser was simply incredible (a walking encyclopaedia) and always had an answer to all my questions about the flora and fauna and the history of CR. Our driver Julio carried my father on his hands, for which I am very grateful. CR is also worth a trip for wheelchair users at any time (with ARA Tours, of course).

    Sabine, Germany
  • Thieme Family, Germany

    We would like to thank you once again for organizing our trip [...] through the beautiful country of Costa Rica. Our special thanks go to our tour guide Enrique, who with his extensive knowledge of flora and fauna about his country brought it very close to us and made us want to come even a second time. We were very glad and happy to travel with him, as he was also very committed to our problems on site, in addition to his competent function as a tour guide.

    Thieme Family, Germany
  • Antonia-Maria & Boris, Austria

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your sensational effort! I do not know such a competent tour guide as with you really from nowhere else... and we have already traveled a lot... 🙏🏻🍀

    Antonia-Maria & Boris, Austria
  • Katja, Germany

    I wanted to thank you again for the great Costa Rica trip. We flew back home very happy and with many great impressions. A compliment for the super organisation. Everything worked out perfectly (except for the handover of the rental car, which was force majeure...). So thank you again and I have already recommended you to friends:-)!

    Katja, Germany
  • Denise & Alain, Switzerland

    Thank you very much for your email and the tickets. We really appreciate how quickly and efficiently you deal with our requests each time!

    Denise & Alain, Switzerland
  • Philippe, Switzerland

    Hello Christine Thank you very much for this information. The support is super👍 many thanks Gruss

    Philippe, Switzerland
  • Marianne & Stefan Gräub, Switzerland

    Otherwise, the planned trip was a complete success. Everything went well and the visits you organised were all very interesting. The visits you organised were all very interesting and gave us a great insight into the respective topics. The fact that the Ticos are very friendly and always ready to help was fully confirmed.

    Marianne & Stefan Gräub, Switzerland

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