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Tips for meaningful travel in Costa Rica

Like many who have visited the country, Ann Becker fell in love with Costa Rica when she vacationed here in 2005.

Since then, Becker has dedicated her life to helping others embark on “experiential travel” — trips that combine authentic activities with environmental responsibility.

Among Becker’s commitments is employing guides who have deep understanding of the region. One of those guides is Alex Alvarez, who had planned on becoming a research biologist.

Instead, Alvarez found his passion in teaching and engaging others in Costa Rica’s biodiversity. A freelance bilingual naturalist guide certified by the Costa Rican Tourism Board, he has been leading small-group adventure trips for more than 25 years.

Becker and Alvarez have been working together since she led her first Costa Rica trip in 2006. Since then, he has accompanied Becker on her annual scouting and guided all her signature women’s trips and multiple co-ed custom trips.

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Their professional relationship has blossomed into a friendship, and Alvarez has visited Becker and her family in Chicago several times.

The duo shared the below tips on how to make the most of one’s Costa Rica experience:

Carry a positive attitude: The forest is there whether it’s raining or not. If you invest time and money to travel and experience a rainforest, go and make the most of it and learn as much as possible. Sunshine may offer a great adventure, but so can the rain.

Traveling is a lifetime adventure. Make the most of each opportunity in the moment.

Make personal connections: Challenge yourself to make five new acquaintances. Whether it’s the owner of a local tienda or a fellow traveler, it’s the people connections that can often be the most memorable and impactful part of a travel experience.

A participant in one of our Wonderful Women Adventure trips told us the following: “I was nervous about roommates I had never met before. That turned out to be a highlight of the trip for me. I got to know women I wouldn’t have otherwise, and some of them have become dear friends.”

Return home with one “to do” that will enrich your life: When he visited Ann in Illinois, Alex shared his appreciation for Chicago’s vibrant parks. Although he has never been much of a city fan, he headed back to San José committed to spending more time exploring its array of urban parks.

Several of the people who have traveled with us over the years have returned home committed to learning or improving their Spanish-speaking skills. Whether it’s in a classroom or online, each one has taken to heart that knowing even a fraction of another language is a path to deepening one’s connections with other people and cultures.

Alvarez and Becker will be working together again on the 14th Annual Wonderful Women Adventure:  A Taste of Urban Renaissance and Costa Rica’s Magical Peninsulas from Feb. 6-16, 2019. To connect with Ann or learn more about her upcoming trip, visit

When Alex is not leading a trip, you might find him heading to Sarapiqui on his motorcycle to spend time with his family; taking courses about the latest information to share with his clients; bird watching; or scuba diving throughout Central America to observe diverse marine life and a different kind of natural beauty. You can connect with Alex via e-mail:

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