It was truly a slice of paradise recently when a large group of Relyance Bank Crown Club members and their guests traveled to Costa Rica where they experienced eight days of lush forests, stunning waterfalls, exotic wildlife and endless coastlines.

It was truly a slice of paradise recently when a large group of Relyance Bank Crown Club members and their guests traveled to Costa Rica where they experienced eight days of lush forests, stunning waterfalls, exotic wildlife and endless coastlines.

Their tour began in the colorful capital city of San Jose. Upon arrival, they had time to relax and soak up the sights of their beautiful surroundings.

The next morning, after a breakfast of red beans and rice, plantains, squash, omelets, ham, tomatoes, cucumbers, a varied assortment of cheese, yogurts and wonderful fresh pineapple, strawberries, bananas, papaya, watermelon and much more, the group traveled through the verdant countryside to the Central Valley to the fertile region world-renowned for coffee. A tour of the Doke Coffee Estate highlighted the history and cultivation of coffee and its importance to the Costa Rican economy. In the afternoon, they arrived in the Guanacaste region, known for its breathtaking beauty and fine sandy beaches and settled in for a relaxing two-night stay.

The next morning the Crown Clubbers had the options to explore the nearby town of Tamarindo, take a cruise or simply relax on the beach with mesmerizing ocean views and take advantage of the amenities offered at their lovely resort. John Whitwell and James House enjoyed a mountain horseback ride.

The next morning the group traveled into the Monteverde Cloud Forest, where trees grow to heights of 100 feet. There are only four places in the world with an ecosystem so unique that it produces a cloud forest. The Monteverde Cloud Forest in Costa Rica is one. Situated high on a mountain, the cloud forest is created when the arid air from the forest below the mountain combines with the moist, hot air of the rainforest. The result is a blanket of misty, wispy clouds that linger low in the forest, making it feel as if it were raining.

The next day at a cloud forest reserve at Selvatura Park, they ventured into a different world, exploring one of the world’s largest butterfly gardens with more than 30 species of tropical butterflies. Next, in a nearby gallery containing more than 100 beautiful hummingbirds, they were dazzled by the 14 different species. They, then, enjoyed a guided, leisurely-paced "Hanging Bridges" walking tour. Following the hanging bridges tour, most of the group decided to make it a real adventure and zip-lined through over the actual virgin cloud forest of Monteverde. There were even a few truly brave souls that decided to fly on the Tarzan Swing. The group enjoyed the views of the magnificent landscape.

They began the next day with a visit to a tree nursery and learned about Monteverde’s reforestation efforts of indigenous trees. They traveled through the beautiful mountainous landscapes of Monteverde to Arenal, where breathtaking views of the Arenal Volcano awaited them. They enjoyed a delightful cruise on Lake Arenal, the largest and most important lake in Costa Rica. Later, they checked in for a two-night stay at a typical lodge overlooking the majestic volcano which has been generating lava for the past 30 years. Before dinner, they enjoyed a cooking demonstration and learned how native, exotic vegetables and plants contribute to the unique flavors of Costa Rican cuisine.

Of all Costa Rica’s nature preserves, the remote 20,000 acres of Cano Negro are home to the largest viewable selection of indigenous wildlife. They embarked on a Cano Negro guided river boat trip in a panga (covered canoe), all the way to the border of Nicaragua, making frequent stops to watch and photograph the wildlife around them which included crocodiles, river otters, sloths, river turtles, exotic birds and rare butterflies, all known to live in the area.

The group traveled to the charming town of Zarcero to visit its well-known whimsical topiary garden. In Sarchi, they visited an old oxcart factory and enjoyed seeing the beautiful painted carts as well as lots of wood carvings. The group loved the giant gift shop filled with interesting local crafts and art pieces. Nearby they saw the beautifully painted "World’s largest oxcart"

They continued to the small picturesque town of Grecia to see the unusual metal church constructed of brick-red metal panes, walked the beautifully landscaped central park and shopped at the traditional local market. Later, they returned to San Jose where they visited the colorful Plaza de Cultura and the National Theatre, a magnificent building of post-Baroque splendor.

Members enjoying this trip were Donna and Neal Heflin, Linda Smith, Tenie Bullard, Pat Bethea, Martha Taylor, Gerald and Sue Majors, Floy Harper, Jody Stout, Tommy and Elaine Dial, James House, Tanya Welsh, Earl Raines, Larry and Diane Porter, Mary Herrington, Lela Donat and John Whitwell. The group was escorted by Cindy Whitwell, Crown Club director.