Although I try to save money when I can, I have come to realize that tours are one of the best ways to actually get to know they place you are visiting. The guides are typically locals and (should) know quite a bit of information about the sites they are showing. Tours give a deeper, richer insight than just wandering around a place on your own can do (and even guide books are a poor substitute). If you are ever in Puntarenas Province in Costa Rica, I highly recommend booking an Odyssey Day Tour, specifically the 10 in 1 tour. I can’t speak for any of the other Odyssey Tours, but you can find quite a few reviews on Trip Advisor.
The 10 in 1 tour is exactly what it sounds like. We did 10 things over the course of a single tour. Some of the sights were simply things you would see on the course of a normal drive through Puntarenas Province, but it was nice to have a tour guide to explain what we were seeing, such as fruit plantations, wild-life, and some of the history of the region.
Our transportation was a Mercedes-Benz vans with plenty of space and WiFi (that sometimes worked and sometimes didn’t). Carlos was our tour guide and he strongly reminded me of a Costa Rican version of Patton Oswalt in terms of looks and speaking style. Alvaro was our driver/ the master of spotting wildlife even while behind the wheel.
The 10 in 1 tour included:
- Driving on the side of different fruit plantations
- Seeing white face capuchins
- The Crocodile Man Tour
- Eating a typical lunch (Casado)
- Brief city tour of Tarcoles where we also saw macaws
- Ocean view up in the hills
- Driving in the surrounding rainforest
- Beach break
- Shopping in a woodcarving shop
- Going to a local fruit market
Up-Close with White Face Capuchins
One of the coolest things we got to do was see White Face Capuccins up close and personal (literally!). We originally went to a beach’s parking lot to get a glimpse of the monkeys, but unfortunately there were a ton of people around since it was the last holiday weekend. It was unlikely the monkeys would come to us with that many people around. Our guides took us to another spot just to the side of a road without much traffic. They then proceeded to call for the monkeys saying, “Ven monkey ven!” or using a whistle/flute. After several minutes we finally saw a monkey beginning to make its way to us from deeper in the forest! Then there were 6-12 monkeys coming towards us!
Although our guides did not use food to attract the monkeys to us, they did have banana slices that we could use to entice the monkeys to crawl on our shoulders. You can tell from my face that I was more than a little excited about my encounter with the Capuchin.
The Crocodile Man Tour
We next headed to the Tarcoles River outside of Jaco for the Crocodile Man Tour, a 2ish hour boat tour that included getting close to crocodiles. We also saw a ton of different bird species and some iguanas. The tour guide would say everything in both English and Spanish and was extremely knowledgeable about the various wildlife and their habit.
Interestingly, the guides have named most of the older crocodiles after famous people. The oldest/ king of the river (60 years) was Osama Bin Laden. Another male was George Bush. We also saw a female named Lady Gaga. Apparently it was mating season so the males were feeling pretty lazy and just sunning themselves by the river bank. Lady Gaga was much more active and came swimming towards our boat. Crocodiles are extremely territorial which is why the tour guide was so confident when telling us which crocodile was which.
After we saw the crocodiles we stopped for lunch nearby for a typical meal called casado (married). It’s called casado because all of the foods (a salad, beans, rice, and a type of meat [chicken, pork, or fish typically) touch one another on the plate.
A Brief City Tour and Macaws
Our next stop on the 10 in 1 tour was the town of Tarcoles. We drove through the town which was quite different from Puntarenas (a beach town), San Jose (a big city), and Monteverde and Montezuma (tourist spots). We passed by a church, medical clinic, police station, soccer field, and a stream where people were fishing.
A the edge of town near the beach, our guides had us get out to watch a Macaw. It was quite the show-off and even hung upside down for us. Fortunately between my binoculars and the high-res picture on my camera I was able to get a pretty good look at him despite the fact that he was pretty high above us.
Our guides next took us up into the hills where we drove through “transitioning rainforest,” a transition zone between dry forest and rainforest. Sadly, my camera did not do the views justice, but you can get an idea of what we saw from my pictures.
Beach Break- Playa Blanca?
I actually don’t know for sure what beach we visited as part of the tour. Based on my Google investigation (my Google skills are quite strong, if I do say so myself) the beach was likely Playa Blanca. We relaxed there for a few hours, and climbed on some rock outcroppings. However, getting 20 people organized to leave the beach proved to be a little tricky and probably took longer than our guides were anticipating.
Wrapping Up Our Tour
We left the beach a little before 5:00pm and the tour was scheduled to end at 5:30pm. However, our guides wanted to make sure we hit everything on our itinerary, including the woodcarving shop and the local fruit market. We told them it was completely up to them if we continued the tour since we felt badly about taking up too much of their time. They made some quick phone calls and found a woodcarving shop and fruit market that were willing to stay open for us.
Honestly, I probably could have done without those last two shops. The woodcarving shop was a typical over-priced tourist shop (the prices were cheaper in San Jose), and I was extremely tired by the time we got to the fruit market. However, I greatly appreciate our guides’ willingness to be thorough and give us a complete experience.
Our tour ended up going 2 hours longer than it was supposed to due to traffic and organizing 20 people to move from place to place. Our guides never acted impatient with us (though I’m sure there were times they wished we would move a little faster) and still made sure we had a chance to see everything. The tour was only $65/person and worth every cent/ colon.