Off the Beaten Path in Estrada, Costa Rica
Stepping onto the canal boat, I felt like I was embarking on an adventure in the Amazon.
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¨This is the sad part,¨ says Alvaro, a 57 year old Caribbean farmer, as we drive away from the land he grew up on. As a small boy, Alvaro loved to play in the trees, listen to the monkeys and go fishing with live shrimp as bait. Today, not much has changed; Alvaro still prefers the tranquility of his farm, the surrounding canals and beaches, to the hustle and bustle of the local town, Estrada. In an effort to spend more time here, Alvaro has opened a business called Jungle River Estrada, offering canal tours, sightseeing, camping and ferry services, and other things to do in Costa Rica to tourists heading to Tortuguero, the Pacuare Turtle Reservation or the beach.
After a 45 minute drive through a banana forest, I was pleasantly surprised to find the oasis which was the jump off point for Jungle River Estrada. Alvaro´s passion for this special place is palpable, his experience in the area is unique and adept, derived from a long history of generations living, working and relaxing in the area. My girlfriend asked Alvaro if he ever feels stressed. His response was laughter, a shake of the head and hands in the air saying, ¨No, no, no¨, a common Caribbean mannerism; it´s no wonder he isn´t stressed in a place like this. An outstanding tour guide, Alvaro led us on a sightseeing tour where we saw fish jumping out of the crystal blue waters, sun bathing crocodiles, howler monkeys and a number of long-necked camera-dodging birds. Many of the people renting boats here are locals who go fishing for shrimp and bigger game. Renting a boat without knowledge of the area is not recommended.
Stepping onto the canal boat, I felt like I was embarking on an adventure in the Amazon. I fell into a meditative state as I listened to the sounds of the jungle and enjoyed this new aspect of Costa Rican tourism. Around every corner, a new breathtaking tree, bird or colour of the water awaits. My favourite part was the curve where the canal meets the sea, a spectacular view enjoyed by tourists, locals and grazing cows alike. It´s hard to believe this place is only a 45 minute drive from civilization.
Estrada is a 45 minute drive by car or bus from Limon center. A mecca for banana production, many travelers frequent this place as a jump off point to Tortuguero. Alvaro charges 50$ a head for a boat ride to Tortuguero, but before dishing out the cash and following the crowd, consider spending some time in the Estrada area. Alvaro´s canal tours range in price from 20$-40$ per person depending on how long of a tour and how many people. Alvaro can be reached by telephone at 506 8926 3831 (English spoken). The best way to get a glimpse of this overlooked tropical paradise is to get yourself (by bus or car) to Estrada and give Alvaro a call. This family-run business is a real gem and stands out like a star in terms of customer service in Costa Rica.