The Tour Bus

Vista in Costa Rica

When planning our recent trip to Costa Rica, I thought about booking a tour to coffee plantations or volcanoes.  Gasping at the prices of American based companies, I decided it would probably be less expensive to book in San Jose, the capital.  At our hotel they told us about a local company who would be able to take us on a small tour to Poás volcano and see coffee plantations on route.  Perfect!  The tour was leaving at 7.30 am sharp.  A small van was taking ourselves and two husbands, staying at our hotel, to join up with our respective tours.  When we arrived at the next destination, I inwardly chuckled that the tour guide assumed that the fit young men were going up volcanos and we were going to a spa (to ease our old bones).  Luckily, one of the husbands was fluent in Spanish.  I can’t think of anything more boring than going to a spa…

Coffee Plants

We ascended onto the ‘volcano’ bus and greeted out fellow passengers.  There was only 4 seats left on our Sprinter so we sat in the back row like naughty students.  After 45 minutes we stopped on the side of a busy interstate and were joined by our final two guests, lovely ladies from North Carolina.  The passengers were quite eclectic.  The couple in front of us were French and Italian.  The French lady kept twittering about l’oiseaux, so I guess she was a birder.  The couple next to us were from Minnesota, although the husband was originally from New Zealand.  I was curious about moving from New Zealand to Minnesota but I guess love is powerful.

One of the North Carolina ladies announced to the whole bus that she had moved from New York to North Carolina after her divorce and it was ‘the best thing she had ever done’.  We seemed a chattier group than usual but perhaps this is normal in this post pandemic world?  One Canadian man was talking about American politics but survived the trip intact…  Teddy was trying to curl himself into a ball in his window seat.  He is so used to just being around me and wolves that he was struggling to cope with all this sociality.

Water Buffalo and Cart

Then we spotted the first coffee sign for a plantation.  Inevitably it was Starbucks.  I think they start off with good coffee but then ruin it with burned milk (just my opinion).  We stopped at the next plantation and there was a little visitor center and café.  The coffee was nice but the view even better.  When we arrived there was a very old man posing with his water buffalo.  He berated me for giving him Costa Rica currency – he wanted dollars.  How did he know I was American?  He would have been less happy if I offered him Icelandic Krona.


The roads were narrow and interesting.  Thankfully I was too excited about a volcano to have a panic attack.  There were very deep ditches at the sides of roads to deal with tropical rainfall.  Generally, the roads were in good condition.  It was a very steep, winding drive up to Poás volcano but finally we arrived.  Our tour guide said, “Vamanos!”, and we strode up the road to the summit with varying degrees of ability.  I have been to Denver on various trips but this was the first time I noticed I had trouble breathing at high altitude.  Perhaps the steep hill contributed.

At the summit, the tour guide said that the rest of the passengers were going on to visit waterfalls.  Would we like to pay extra and join them?  I was keen but Teddy was over the tourists.  On the way back we stopped at a winery to meet up with our car to take us back to San Jose.  The guide explained to the bus group that we were leaving so we left with Au Revoir, Ciao and Goodbye Y’alls.  Our car wasn’t there so the guide suggested that the rest of the group wine taste since we were waiting.  It was quite delicious for tropical wine – sweet and red.

While we were waiting, I had a long chat with the driver who only spoke Spanish.  He must have enunciated very well because I understood everything and was able to respond.  His son is a student in Indiana and they have to travel through Houston to visit.  The slightly hassled tour guide interrupted us to say that our driver was at another location closer to San Jose.  So…we had to get on the bus, listen to all the jokes (did you have a nice time in San Jose?) and then say goodbye all over again, about 20 minutes later.  Another couple were waiting to take our places and go to the waterfalls.  As someone who has worked in public and private transportation for years, I was terribly impressed by their efficiency (apart from one little blip).  I hope the new couple that joined the group enjoyed a wee chat…

Our new driver was content to put the radio on and drive swiftly back to San Jose.  That allowed my wolfman to chill out and enjoy the scenery.  It made us both realize that we prefer being travelers than tourists.  We rarely saw tourists near our hotel or in San Jose but it didn’t take away from a fantastic trip.


37 thoughts on “The Tour Bus

  1. We’re better travellers than tourists too but sometimes it’s the only or easiest way to see sites. Sometimes you get a good group and other times, well, you don’t. How disappointing to go on a coffee tour in Costa Rica and get Starbucks! To me it tastes like they burn the beans, but maybe it’s the milk. Maggie

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I love your writing voice, Kerry, because it’s engaging and approachable and reading about your tour made me feel like I was there with you on a sprinter van. I am not a coffee drinker, but given that for Costa Ricans, coffee is more than just a caffeine kick, I would love to visit coffee plantations to learn the process of harvesting and roasting and all the work involved in the production of their beans. Thanks for sharing and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, it is very popular with tourists, Neil. We didn’t stay at a resort so perhaps missed many of them. It is good value but not as inexpensive as Mexico, for example. Costa Rica is a democracy that’s relatively safe, for central America, but crime has been increasing lately. We felt completely safe in bustling crowds.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I love living vicariously Kerry. You make the trips sound amazing. I’d love to visit Costa Rica… maybe someday. A tour of coffee plants sounds amazing.
    I’m with Andy. I’d rather be a traveller than a tourist.
    Looking forward to your next adventure.
    Warm wishes
    Anne x

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much, Anne. I think you would really enjoy Costa Rica – an exotic destination that feels cozy. The people are very friendly – they were like Glaswegians with Spanish accents. Love K x 🥰


  4. I am glad it was OK. I can really understand wolfman and how it would be madness in a confined space.
    Once I went to the summit of a mountain near here and in the smallish are were a few mature women non-stop blah blah blah bout anything but nature and the silence to enjoy. Oh to be able to say STFU!!!
    I prefer to be a traveller than tourist. I have been “kidnapped” on tours before and wondered why I allowed myself to fall for it again.

    Liked by 1 person

    • She certainly did, Roy. I had the pleasure of meeting her at the information desk in Houston Airport. To my utter embarrassment, I couldn’t place her but twittered on about how I knew her face. She was utterly charming. And it was the Californian town which I had a lovely road trip to. Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I believe Starbucks has made an effort to use coffee from native plantations, although I’m sure there are many locally-owned that don’t get the visitors as much. Dionne Warwick sang about the San Jose in California!

    Liked by 1 person

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