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16 minute read

Guest Feature:
The Payettes' Costa Rica Adventure

March 11, 2024

Earlier this year, Mike and Patty Payette – parents of Odysseys employee Jamie Payette – embarked on their first-ever Odysseys Unlimited small group tour: Costa Rica’s Natural Heritage. Their adventure took them all around this Central American paradise, from San Jose to the Arenal Region, from the Monteverde Cloud Forest to Guanacaste on the Pacific coast. They walked along the Mistico Hanging Bridges, toured a coffee estate, milked cows on an organic farm, and visited a local elementary school. And they returned home with lots of stories – and photos – from their trip.

Jamie recently sat down with his mother to talk to her about their tour. Read their conversation below.

Sunset in Monteverde

Jamie Payette: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us about your recent Odysseys Unlimited small group tour. To start off, could you tell me what it is that excites you most about traveling?

Patty Payette: As a 4th grader, I became fascinated with geography class and vividly remember being awestruck by the beauty of the Norwegian fjords. I promised my 9-year-old self that I was going to see those fjords someday … with my own eyes.

I’ve always been drawn to natural beauty, flora, fauna, topography, climate, natural resources, and the ways people thrive in their environments through their livelihoods, food, traditions, art, music, and culture. Traveling excites me because I’m able to experience a bit of these elements firsthand.


JP: What made you choose Odysseys Unlimited as your tour company? Had you considered going on a guided small group tour before?

PP: Through the years, your father and I primarily traveled with a group of lifelong friends who enjoy researching and planning every detail of our adventures. Since we now want to visit places that they have already seen, we looked for alternative touring options where the planning would be handled for us. We first learned about Odysseys Unlimited when you started working there and read in USA TODAY that it has a great reputation. We especially like the idea of guided small tours where the “must-sees” are covered, interspersed with unique interactions with local people, as well as free time to explore on your own. Odysseys Unlimited combines these types of experiences really well.


JP: I know Costa Rica’s Natural Heritage was your first tour with Odysseys … what made you choose Costa Rica as your destination? Had it been on your list for long?

PP: We’ve wanted to explore Costa Rica for over 20 years, knowing that it was richly diverse in plant and animal species, home to varied micro-climates, and populated by warm and welcoming people.

We added the 3-day pre-tour option to a remote national park area in Tortuguero on the Caribbean Sea where thousands of turtles nest each year usually between March and October, knowing there was much to experience even though the turtles wouldn’t be nesting during our visit.

Tortuguero National Park


JP: Tell us about your tour director, Odir Morales. What did he contribute to your overall experience?

PP: During our flights to Costa Rica, Mother Nature stepped in with an arctic blast to Houston, causing our connecting flight to be canceled. While unable to fly out until a day later, I worried that we would miss out on our pre-tour because Odir would have to accompany the other guests who arrived on time. My worries were quickly dispelled. Another tour director, José Banquero, stepped in effortlessly as Odir’s substitute until we caught up with the pre-tour group. (José met us at the airport, got us to our hotel, and briefed us on the schedule for the following day.) Once we met up with Odir in Tortuguero, he went above and beyond to make up for the time we had lost. He offered to get up extra early the following morning to take us latecomers on a boat tour that we had missed the previous day. And the sights were amazing!

Odir continued to be a fantastic tour guide. As a naturalist, he easily spotted highly camouflaged wildlife and helped our untrained eyes zero in on the unusual species, frequently setting his high-powered binocular tripod for all of us.

We heard countless positive comments from our fellow travelers about Odir. He was an excellent translator and problem solver who was unfazed by challenges along the way – all perfect qualities for a tour director.

Odir, Mike, and Patty in Monteverde

Odir, Patty, and Mike in Guanacaste


JP: What was your group like? Do you think you’ll keep in touch with any of your traveling companions?

PP: There were 18 very interesting people in our small group. We really enjoyed chatting with each of them, especially during meals. We have shared photos with some of the group since we’ve returned and have contact info so we can communicate if we’d like. We plan to keep in touch with at least a few of them.


JP: Overall, what were your favorite parts of the tour?

PP: It’s so hard to choose favorite parts because it was all so incredible. When we arrived at the first hotel, we were greeted by thousands of parakeets which really set the stage for our journey. Observing the monkeys, sloths, iguanas, lizards, crocodiles, birds, butterflies, frogs, agoutis, white-nosed coatis, and more in their natural habitats was fantastic.

The scenery and sunsets were breathtaking. Walking along the top of a volcano and through the cloud forest were surreal experiences. The banana and sugar cane fields were impressive. We were fascinated during the coffee estate and the organic farm tours. And of course, the schoolchildren were charming. We learned about the Quakers who settled in Monteverde and embraced the biodiversity of the region.

The sun sets over surfers in Guanacaste.

Irazú Volcano

Ecocentro Danaus biological reserve

Doka Coffee Estate

Patty makes a new friend at an organic farm.

Elementary school visit


JP: Tell us about the food and accommodations on tour.

PP: The food was fantastic! We’ve never had such a variety of fruit that was picked at the perfect moment. Everything was incredibly fresh and flavorful. It was a pleasure, especially in January, to have meals in many open-air restaurants.

We enjoyed the accommodations, which were appropriately rustic in remote Tortuguero and luxurious in other areas. The accommodations were always comfortable and nestled in gorgeous surroundings, with beautiful landscapes. All the plant life we saw was pretty breathtaking, too.

JW Marriott Guanacaste Resort & Spa


JP: Was there anything else about your experience you’d like to share?

PP: Our bus came upon a fender bender accident that stopped all traffic for over an hour. Thankfully, no one was hurt, but a lot of drivers were frustrated that no one could pass in either direction. We were relieved that Odir could speak on behalf of our group, shielding us from the heated discussions outside the bus.

Odysseys then left all of us a letter in our hotel rooms acknowledging the inconvenience. We appreciated that the company was in the loop and responded in such a way.


JP: OK, so now that you’ve returned home, where to next? And would you consider traveling with Odysseys again in the future?

PP: Next on our agenda, we plan to visit Portugal and Spain. And we will absolutely travel again with Odysseys Unlimited!


JP: What advice would you give to someone who’s considering booking their very first small group tour with Odysseys Unlimited?

PP: We’d encourage them to go! And we'd suggest that they read some of the recommended books ahead of time. It was great to be a bit familiar with what we’d see in advance.

We’ve already shared the Odysseys Unlimited website and catalogs with friends and family, along with stories about our great adventure in Costa Rica. We can't wait for our next tour!

The group posing in front of Basilica of Our Lady of the Angels in Cartago


Experience Costa Rica’s Natural Heritage for yourself – click here to view a detailed day-by-day itinerary, up-to-date pricing, and departure date availability.

Monday-Friday 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. ET

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