Three years ago, my wife and I flew with Nature Air for the first time. We flew from Liberia to San Jose with a connecting flight to Quespos. We enjoyed the air travel so much that we decided to take a side trip on our holiday to Costa Rica again this year to the Bocas del Toro Islands, Panama.
It would never happen in North America, but as we checked in to the Nature Air counter at the beautiful, new air terminal at the Daniel Oduber Airport in Liberia, we presented our documentation and placed our hand luggage on the weigh scale.
Then we were asked to get on the scale with our luggage. That’s right. You ‘weigh’ in when you board a Nature Air flight. Fortunately, we had no problems as the weight of our luggage plus out body weight was well below the maximum of approximately 250 pounds that are allotted for each passenger.
Nature Air is a Costa Rican airline whose small passenger planes make 74 flights each day. A 19 passenger, Canadian-made aircraft known as the Twin Otter, provided an aerial adventure for us with stops in Tamarindo and San Jose.
The DeHaviland Twin Otter opened up the Canadian north and is said to have made more trips to the North Pole than any other plane. However, the Otter is perfectly at home in tropical Costa Rica as we found out.
We purchased our 4-day holiday package from Nature Air which included return airfare from Liberia to the Bocas del Toro, 3 nights accommodation at the Hotel Tortuga including breakfast, and transfers from the airport. Total cost was $1500 for two persons.
The highlight of the trip for me was the opportunity once again to fly across Costa Rica at about 12,000 feet, and appreciate the natural beauty and diversity of the country.
Liberia is located in the northwest province of the country, Guanacaste. The area is very dry and hot, and is a combination of Pacific beaches, rolling plains and mountains. The Guanacaste area has a history of horse ranching and farming however the tourism industry has taken over.
The new airport terminal in Liberia has all the bells and whistles of a modern airport, and now accommodates direct flights from as far away as the United Kingdom and Germany, and well as the closer American airports which include Atlanta, New York City, Miami and Houston.
Enroute from Liberia to the Bocas del Toro
If you like air travel that is uncomplicated, then you will enjoy Nature Air. Remember what air travel was like in the 60’s or 70’s? Ask someone if you are too young to remember.
Grab your computer or purse, your bottle of water and hop on board with the pilot and co-pilot. Within minutes you will be airborn after a short preamble from the co-pilot.
Our flight to San Jose took less than one hour, and the aerial views of the capital were spectacular with a clear blue sky, and plenty of visibility.
The photos below show the runway of the Juan Santamaria airport, the soccer stadium and the diversity of San Jose, which due to its varied elevation and surrounding mountains contains several different micro climates. Generally, the temperature is much cooler than the Pacific side.
Our connecting flight that afternoon, was also one hour, and the topography changed considerably once we left San Jose and the mountain ranges.The photograph below shows the Sixaola River, which forms the natural border between Costa Rica and Panama.
Bocas del Toro, Panama
The Bocas del Toro is a group of several islands off the coast of Panama, and only minutes by air from the Costa Rica border. The small island airport is served mainly by flights from Panama City and San Jose.
The small air terminal was 5 minutes from the Hotel Tortuga, one of the a few beach resorts outside of the town, which is called Bocas del Toro also. The hotel has a distinct Caribbean flavour, and the staff were friendly and competent.
We were drawn immediately to the contrasts between Liberia and the Bocas. Out hotel room was very musty because of the high humidity on the island, and we felt uncomfortable. On the following morning we changed our room to one on the ground floor with a patio and that resolved our problem.
The islands cater mainly to a younger crowd, with activities such as: snorkeling, scuba diving, surfing, and boating. There are many youth hostels available, and even the oversize taxis cater to the transfer of surfboards and other equipment.
The harbour has many water taxis which link the town to hotels, water sports destinations and the other islands. You can get water transportation to just about anywhere you need to go since most of the activity on the island takes place on the coast.
One night we had dinner at the El Limbo restaurant and were impressed with the quality of the meal and excellent service. The breakfast buffet at the Hotel Tortuga was acceptable.
Below are a couple of pictures taken in the Bocas area.
If you want to avoid hours of travel on the roads of Costa Rica, and you enjoy flying, my recommendation would be to fly Nature Air and see what’s out there. It’s an experience that you won’t forget.