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Young boy with older brother in the Topiary Tunnel in Zarcero, Costa Rica

Today, we left San Jose and headed north to stay at the Magic Mountain Resort in La Fortuna Costa Rica, at the foot of Arenal Volcano. Along the way, we made a few stops at the Wildlife Rescue Center on Zoo Ave, as well as a visit to the small mountain town of Sarchi, famous for making hand-built and hand-painted Ox carts.

As we left for La Fortuna Costa Rica, our tour bus drove by the Plaza de la Cultura and the National Theatre of Costa Rica (Teatro Nacional) in San Jose, which was completed in 1897. Modeled as a smaller version of the Paris Opera House, the National Theatre is the San Jose’s most cherished building, complete with neoclassical columns, a marble lobby, and a statue of Beethoven. According to the Costa Ricans, to truly appreciate the interior’s opulence and architecture you really need to see a live performance.

Rescued Toucan Costa Rica

Along the route to La Fortuna Costa Rica, we stopped at the famous Wildlife Rescue Center on Zoo Ave, a non-profit organization dedicated to animal rescue, rehabilitation, and release. The main objective of the Wildlife Rescue Center is to help injured and unwanted endangered Costa Rican wildlife, nursing them back to health, helping them to recover, and if possible, releasing them back into the wild. Along with toucans and dozens of wild birds we got to see owls, an ocelot, a puma, a crocodile, emus, and ostriches. They also had a wide variety of monkeys including howler monkeys, white-faced monkeys, and squirrel monkeys. The Wildlife Rescue Center does amazing work and is not funded by the Costa Rican government so they are currently raising money to build a new animal hospital.

Ox Cart Artist in Costa Rica

As we headed back out on the road to La Fortuna, our Costa Rica tour group got to visit the country’s oldest oxcart factory in the lovely mountain town of Sarchi. The town of Sarchi Costa Rica is also famous for its concentration of artisans who make all kinds of unique artwork and crafts. Sarchi ox carts are world-famous and are all hand-built and made to order. Every ox cart is also hand-painted by talented artists so no two carts are alike! The painted ox carts of Sarchi are more than just works of art; they are essential tools of the trade used by farmers and plantation owners all across Costa Rica.

Ox Cart Factory in Sarchi Costa Rica

Before heading into La Fortuna, we also stopped by the Parque Francisco Alvardoa, a Costa Rican topiary park next to the Zarcero city’s large ornate church. Gardner Evangelisto Blanco is the same visionary artist who has been shaping the hedges and shrubs in the park for over 50 years, creating human figures as well as various animals and even dinosaurs. Lining the center of the park is a row of green arches creating a natural tunnel that leads towards the church.

Topiary Tunnel, Zarcero, Costa Rica

Our last stop on today’s Costa Rica tour was to Hotel Magic Mountain at the foot of Arenal Volcano near La Fortuna, in the central lowlands of Costa Rica. The volcano was covered in the cloud today but hopefully, we’ll get a good view of it tomorrow. Tomorrow, we also head north towards Nicaragua to enjoy a wildlife Rio Frio cruise and some time in the natural volcanic hot springs. Really loving Costa Rica! Caravan Tours has done an amazing job.

Will have more to report tomorrow!!

~Lee K.