By Jean Strauber, Travel Editor
Have you heard about Caravan Tours? For more than 60 years, Caravan has provided escorted tours in the United States, Canada, Panama, Guatemala and Costa Rica. And, for a relatively low cost. A couple of readers e-mailed me and recommended that I write about their tours. They had taken Caravan’s Costa Rica tour and were impressed with the quality for the low cost. In Caravan’s 2012 brochure you’ll find these full escorted tours for $995, $1,095, or $1,195. For only $995 (or $1,095 or $1,195 depending on the time of year) per person/double occupancy you can select from the 10-Day Nova Scotia and Prince Edward and Cape Breton Islands or the 10-day tour of Costa Rica. Highlights of the Nova Scotia tour include a drive along the beautiful Cabot Trail, a visit with the First Nation people at the Mi’kmaq Heritage Center, a whale watching cruise, the fascinating Alexander Graham Bell Museum in Baddeck, the Fortress of Louisbourg where you’ll be transported back to the 17th century; a short ferry ride to Prince Edward Island and a ride to the red sandy beaches and cliffs of the Prince Edward Island National Seashore. You will continue on to the province of New Brunswick and the Bay of Fundy to observe the high tides change as much from 6 to 8 feet per hour.
It’s then on to Halifax in Nova Scotia for your final two days. While staying in Halifax you’ll have a morning visit to the fishing village and artist retreat of Peggy Cove with its classic lighthouse. A visit to the 17th century fort, Citadel Hill is also included. While in Halifax there is free time for souvenir shopping or taking in the Maritime Museum with its many Titanic artifacts; the Commons, a beautiful park where you can see the tree that King George VI planted on his 1939 visit; the Pioneer Cemetery, or even the shops. Included meals are all breakfasts and four dinners. Your accommodations are the Hilton Garden Inn, Halifax Airport; Laurie’s Inn at Chelicamp, Cape Breton; Auberge Gisele’s Inn at Baddeck; North Winds on Prince Edward Island and the Marriott Harbourfront Hotel in Halifax.
Features of the Costa Rica Natural Paradise tour begin when you arrive in the capital, San José, and stay for the next two nights. During your first full day in Costa Rica you’ll visit the Coffee Brit, a coffee plantation, where you’ll enjoy a guided tour and sample fresh Costa Rica coffee; the Poás Volcano where you can peek inside the volcano from an overlook, if the weather permits; and hike the Escalonia Cloud Forest Trail, a habitat for epiphytes, orchids, ferns and tropical hummingbirds. Leaving San José on the third day, drive through the Braulio Carrillo Park where you’ll view cascading waterfalls and visit a butterfly garden on your way to the 47,000-acre Tortuguero National Park, home to more than 300 bird species. You’ll then check into the Tortuguero Park’s Laguna or Pachiro Lodge for free time to enjoy the swimming pool and tropical gardens. Your fourth day of this Costa Rican adventure will find you cruising along canals with a naturalist guide. You’re on your way to the mysterious waters of Caño Palma Wildlife Reserve and the Green Turtle Station to learn more about the efforts to protect the turtles. You will walk along the Atlantic turtle nesting beaches with your guide, and then to Tortuguero village.
After lunch at your lodge you can join an afternoon boat excursion into Tortuguero Park. Your fifth day begins with a visit to a pineapple plantation and then a scenic drive to the San Carlos Valley before reaching Fortuna, which will be your base while you explore Caño Negro wildlife refuge and see the nearby Arenal Volcano’s glowing lava flow, before returning to the Arenal Springs for a relaxing soak. On your seventh day, venture into the rainforest to see the Hanging Bridges and hike on six suspension bridges through lush tropical rainforest canopy. You’ll then move on to Guanacaste province to experience the only tropical dry forest in Costa Rica, before driving to the country’s Pacific Coast for a two-night stay at the beautiful J.W. Marriott Resort and Spa. Your continuing adventures include a visit to the Natural Trail of Hacienda Pinilla, a wildlife tropical bird and wildlife sanctuary. The afternoon at your hotel is for you to beachcomb, stroll along the beach, take advantage of the spa facilities for a facial, or enjoy the hotel’s infinity pool, the largest in Central America.
Day nine finds you driving through the cattle ranches of Guanacaste, enjoying a bird and crocodile spotting cruise on the Tarcoles River or cruising through a mangrove reserve before heading towards the capital, San José, and the Aurola Hotel. Hotels on this journey are: Barcelo Palacio and Real Intercontinental, San José; Laguna or Pachira Lodge in Tortuguero Park; Lomas del Volcan, Arenal Springs, Aernal Manoa, Magic Mountain, the J.W. Marriottt Resort and Spa, Guanacaste and Pacific Beach; and the Aurola in the capital, San José. Caravan has scheduled another Eight-Day sojourn which features Mt. Rushmore, Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Park from $1,095. Guests will enjoy a stay in Rapid City (SD) from where you’ll visit the Crazy Horse Memorial and Mt. Rushmore.
You’ll also visit Little Big Horn, where Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull overwhelmed the forces of General George Custer. This tour includes a visit to Cody (WY) where you’ll find the Buffalo Bill Historical Center as well as the Plains Indian Museum and the Whitney Gallery of Western Art before heading to Yellowstone National Park and your accommodations at the Old Faithful Inn. One of the best features of the Inn is that you’re a short walk from the Old Faithful Geyser. You’ll enjoy your complete tour of Yellowstone, both the upper and lower loops. Look for the Paint Pots, Yellowstone’s Grand Canyon and the Grand Canyon Falls which are twice the height of Niagara Falls.
At Mammoth Springs try and spot the elk, deer and bison which abound in this park. In Grand Teton National Park, Caravan will provide a picnic lunch on the banks of the Snake River. Keep your fingers crossed for good weather because you’ll soon be in a raft floating down that river. The seventh day will find you crossing into Idaho to cross the historic Oregon Trail. You will drive through the picturesque Logan Canyon as you make your way to your final destination, Salt Lake City (UT). Your hotels are: The Radisson in Rapid City, HIlton Garden Inn in Billings, Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone Park, The Virginian Lodge in Jackson and the Hilton Garden Inn in Salt Lake city in Utah.