There is a unique beauty about spending time in Costa Rica that can't be fully expressed in words or even captured in a photograph. I believe that it's something that can only be experienced personally... in the smiles, laughs and spirited conversations that are shared with local Costa Ricans, more commonly known as 'Ticos,' in this beautiful corner of Central America. As a Backroads Leader in this region, I've found that spending time in this glorious country means that for every amazing bike ride there is a wonderful story; after every breathtaking hike there is an authentic homemade meal to savor; for every exotic creature spotted on the trail there's a new Spanish phrase to be discovered.
It's extraordinary... I find that our guests often start one of Backroads Costa Rica trips with an expectation that when it's over they will take home wonderful memories of a high-octane, action-packed adventure. Yes, of course, that's true! But that's only one part of the experience. I find, as each trip draws to a close, most of our guests reveal to me that they are personally moved by the welcoming people and the rich, colorful culture they found here.
Backroads Costa Rica Multi-Adventure trips are so much more than all the fun we have during our curated itinerary... the trips are also a reflection of the day to day life of the local people. Now don't get me wrong! The hikes, bike rides and water sports we do ARE thrilling but it is the ticos themselves (those we partner with and those we meet by chance along the way) that leave our guests feeling like they have made a special connection to the country itself. From homemade meals to visiting family-run sugar mills to beautiful garden visits and indigenous mask painting... there is something very sweet about these local interactions that really makes a strong impression and I find are at the core of the memories that our guests say they tap into long after they've gone back home at the end of the trip.
Have you ever spent time in a foreign country and wished there was a way you could simply peer behind the curtains and discover how the locals really live? During our Costa Rica Multi-Adventure Tour, our guests are welcomed into the home of Donna Olga in the small mountain town of Bajos del Toro. As soon as we arrive, we encounter the delicious smells of rice, beans, picadillo, salads, potatoes, maduros, fresh cheese (made from the milk of her cows just over the hill) and homemade flour tortillas. Olga serves us the most delicious homemade meal with all our local favorite ingredients and as we eat, normal family life continues to play out around us. Friends and family come and go, say hello, give a smile, and sometimes stay for a bit to share a story or laugh with our hosts.
Olga shares her secret to making tortillas with us and recalls funny tales about the correlation between tortillas and marriage. Similarly, in the quiet town of Silencio tucked deep in the rainforest, Donna Edith welcomes our guests into her garden and patio to learn about the types of plants she grows and how she uses these home-grown ingredients in her cooking. We take a walk through her town and see the daily life there and how our visit to this tiny town contributes to the local economy and to the conservation efforts of the area. Each of these unique experiences allow our guests to slow down after a long day of bike riding or hiking to see how the locals really live.
In addition to the home visits we experience on our Costa Rica trips, we're also able to gain personal insight into particular pastimes and industries that exist in this part of the world. Near the town of San Isidro de El General we are invited to spend time in Trapiche de Pemo, an old sugar mill, where the process is still carried out by hand. We arrive in the middle of the three-hour process and learn how the sugar cane is harvested, cooked, and cooled. The family not only encourages hands-on involvement, they also share stories about their beliefs and way of life. Spending time at Trapiche de Pemo gives us a warm and welcoming feeling and our guests often leave amazed by the joy and simplicity they see in this family-run business.
On our Costa Rica Family Multi-Adventure Tour, kids (parents are welcome, too!) are given a unique opportunity to learn about the indigenous history and culture through hand-painting their own balsa wood masks. An artisan from the indigenous Baruca tribe drives nearly five hours just to meet our guests and to share a piece of his history, which is now preserved in these hand-carved masks. His beautiful story even slows the Backroads leaders down a bit (no small task!) as he emphasizes the importance of sharing with our neighbors and working together for the good of everyone. His passion is contagious, and by the end of our time together, he is sure to show us the latest photo of his growing baby girl. These special hosts who share a piece of their lives with us really make our Costa Rica trips extra-special. And it makes me so happy to hear from our guests that these are some of their most treasured moments of their Backroads trip.
While the beautiful hiking and biking routes, the adventurous river rafting and other thrilling action-packed activities may continue to rank as the most Instagram-worthy moments of a trip to Costa Rica, it's for sure the smiles, hand-crafted meals, spirited conversations and quiet moments that seem to find a resting place deep into our hearts and continue to frame the perceptions of Costa Rica we'll carry with us long after the trip ends.
Backroads has been partnering with and working alongside the locals in Costa Rica for so long that for myself as a Backroads leader, it's almost like coming home to family each time I bring new guests to experience the warmth and genuine hospitality of our hosts. Their influence truly makes a big impact on our journey: we smile a little easier, we stop more often during our hikes to admire the exotic flowers around us, we embrace joy when we overcome a fear or meet a physical challenge. Backroads guests may come to Costa Rica for the fun, challenge and adventure but certainly leave with a deep appreciation of the beating heart of this fascinating country.
Check out this video of our Costa Rica Multi-Adventure Tour!