Costa Rica: Day 7-Tortuguero Canals and Banana Plantation

The day before we flew home from Costa Rica, we needed to travel from where we were staying on the Caribbean Coast (Puerto Viejo) back to the capital of San Jose, where the airport is located, which is roughly a five-hour drive through the mountains. We planned to catch our flight the next morning, after spending the night in the capital.

Rather than devoting an entire day to travel (because that’s no fun), we found a fun solution offered by Gecko Trail Adventures – the “Adventure Connection.” After checking out of Banana Azul (our wonderful hotel) in the morning, with our luggage in tow, we boarded a tour van which took us on a day excursion en route to San Jose. We were actually the only two people on the tour that day, so we had our own personal tour guide. This is what I loved about visiting the Caribbean Coast over the more touristy Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. I feel like we had more authentic experiences.

Oh, but before we left, we had our final home-cooked breakfast at Banana Azul – breakfast burritos with fresh local fruits (that pineapple!), cereal, coffee and juice.


Like the previous day, it was a gray and drizzly day but we didn’t let that hamper our style. (Especially since every other day of our trip was amazingly warm and sunny with blue skies!)

Our tour guide drove us to the Tortuguero Canals for a wildlife safari, by boat. It was just the two of us, our boat captain, and our tour guide on this trip! Ponchos were sported.

For parts of the tour, we took it nice and slow to avoid scaring off any wildlife.


But on the way back, we picked up our speed! Batman! This picture cracks me up.


Most of the tour through the canals seemed to be in fairly remote, jungly areas, but we did pass a few signs of human life along the way.


Tortuguero Canals.




Both our guide and boat captain had a penchant for identifying wildlife that I never would have been able to spot. We saw an incredible amount of creatures during our tour.


Iguanas are seriously the cutest:


A huge variety of birds were spotted and our guide gave us information about all the different species we observed.


We also passed the Coast Guard.


Check out that tail!


Howler Monkeys!


An old railroad bridge.


After our safari on the Tortuguero Canals, our guide drove us to one of her favorite local family farm stands for light refreshments.


Fresh coconut water is THE most refreshing drank ever.


Local corn with spicy vinegar.

Super-sweet local mini bananas. (“Mini” compared to the big ones gracing American supermarket shelves, but “normal” in Costa Rica.)


The huz enjoyed his coconut water as well.


Our next stop was a visit to a Del Monte Banana Plantation.


We had a brief tour through the facility, which demonstrated how bananas travel from the plantation to the trucks that take the fruit to be shipped all over the world. Fun fact: bananas don’t grow on trees. Rather, the fruit grows on structures that are bettered labeled as perennial plants.

The fruit is covered in colored bags that correlate with their age and maturity. In addition, the bags enclose pesticides around the fruit, and serve to protect the fruit from pests and fungi.


When the fruit is ready to be harvested, workers pick all the fruits bagged in a the designated color for the day and send them down a moving assembly line for processing.


Bananas being prepared for packaging.


The negative impact that the fungicides and agrochemicals involved in banana farming have on both the environment and the local workers and residents was touched upon during our visit (by our guide, who does not work for the banana company), and this visit inspired me to start buying organic bananas whenever possible when I returned home, even though they are not one of the Dirty Dozen. Enlightening.


Next, our guide dropped us off at a hotel that also functions as one of the stops on one of Costa Rica’s shuttle buses that run from the Caribbean Coast to San Jose.

We had about an hour to hangout at the beachside restaurant and have lunch while waiting for the shuttle to arrive.


“Tico” Lunch – fried plantain fritters, fish filet, beans, salad, fajita, and fried hot dogs (lol). Surprisingly tasty.


Soon the shuttle came and pick us (and our luggage) up, and drove us to San Jose, where we spent the night in a simple hotel. It was late in the evening and dark by the time we made it to San Jose, and I was pretty stressed after our treacherous 5-6 hour ride through the mountains in the dark! #Longestcarrideever.

One last Costa Rica post to go to wrap up the trip! Stay tuned.

Missed earlier recaps? Catch up here:

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