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Openings available for journey to Costa Rica in 2020

By Staff | Aug 6, 2019

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The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum is still taking registrations for its annual eco tour.

For the second year in a row, the group of travelers will head to Costa Rica to explore several land and marine environments. From Feb. 3-11, the participants will delve into the country’s diverse habitats, national parks and private reserves while observing the abundant marine mollusks on the Pacific Coast.

The group will be joined by Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum Curator Dr. Jos Leal and Outreach Coordinator Leigh Gay, along with guide Erick Guzman, with Holbrook Travel.

“A lot of the people who visit Southwest Florida are into shelling, they love the beach,” Gay said, noting that while keeping non-live shells is permitted on local beaches, it is not always a common or legal practice in other areas. “We want people to know that other countries do things differently.”

“They do it for a reason,” she added. “It’s to keep their country as natural as possible.”

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Gay explained that the trip also helps to promote eco-friendly tourism.

“And experiencing a new place with new people is always important,” she said.

The museum is currently trying to fill at least two more spots.

“Our minimum number of people is 10 people to make the trip a go,” Gay said.

This trip’s itinerary will be a little different than 2018.

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“This year it’s going to be more beach time,” she said.

After flying into Costa Rica, the group will head to its first stop – the Arenal Lodge. While the resort is not a beachside stay, it is situated in the rainforest and located next to a volcano and Lake Arena.

“When you wake in the morning,” Gay said. “You really feel like you’re in a different place.”

One day will be spent hiking to see the lava flow, with a visit to the Danaus Eco Center.

“It has over 100 species of birds that have been seen there,” she said, adding that other critters, like sloths, have also been observed in the area. “That’s a really great place to see things up close.”

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The group will then take a road trip along the Pacific coast.

“It’s a really good way to see different sides of the country,” Gay said.

Along the way, there will be little towns and participants will stop for lunch at one.

“We go on a river cruise on the Tarcoles River,” she said. “Last year, we saw scarlet macaws and crocodiles everywhere, like a huge 17-foot one, but we were safely in the boat.”

“There’s a place that we usually go shopping,” Gay added, describing it as a market filled with souvenirs and other goodies to take home. “There’s opportunities to bring stuff back.”

The next stop is a stay at the Alma Del Pacifico, with its black sand beach.

“It’s a new element and we chose it because it is right on the beach,” she said, explaining that a lot of the feedback from last year’s trip involved the participants wanting some more “beach time.”

“So we have a free day there,” Gay added.

The travelers can pick to hang on the beach, go shelling, relax, go horseback riding and more.

The group will then head to its next destination, the La Cusinga resort.

“We stayed there last time,” she said, adding that it also is not directly on the beach, but there is a stretch of trail that can be hiked to the shore. “But what we really love about it is the view.”

Gay explained that it is on a cliff, with a view of the Pacific Ocean from the patios.

“The resort is kind of nestled in the rainforest there,” she said.

Gay added that howler moneys wake you in the morning, and the lucky might see a whale.

“We go out snorkeling for two days,” she said.

One day entails a half-day of snorkeling, followed by whale watching if the conditions are right. The other day involves an all-day snorkel at a small spot out in the Pacific Ocean, called Cao Island.

“It’s uninhabited, it’s pristine wildlife and the reefs are awesome,” Gay said.

“It’s cool because you see similar species to species in Florida or the Bahamas,” she added. “But slightly different.”

After, the group will head back to San Jose, where the participants will stay at a resort with a casino and a bar. They get to relax and enjoy the last leg of the trip, before flying out the following day.

“It doesn’t really matter what you’re into because Costa Rica has everything,” Gay said.

She explained that there is outdoors and wildlife for the “nature nerds” like her.

“It’s got the food, it’s got the culture,” Gay said.

She noted that the food is “awesome.”

“Everywhere we stay has amazing food. And we don’t just eat at the resorts,” Gay said. “We try to experience some of the culture. And the people there are so friendly.”

The public is encouraged to reserve a spot for the adventure.

“If you live somewhere cold in February, this is the place to get away from it,” she said of Costa Rica. “And it’s a way to meet a new group of people and share your experiences with them.”

“Last year, by the end of it, all of us were good friends,” Gay added. “We still keep in touch.”

The trip costs about $4,000; airfare is not included.

The travel company working with the museum will assist with airfare reservations.

For additional information or to make a reservation online, visit www.ShellMuseum.org/eco-tours or contact Leigh Gay at lgay@shellmuseum.org or 239-395-2233.