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adventure travel trip to Costa Rica
Look for toucans, other birds, and abundant wildlife.
  • Flexible departures joining small groups
  • Duration 9 days
    Group Size 2-20
    Land Cost $2,725 Details
    Single Supplement $455 Details
    Lodging 2 stars-3 stars
    Grade I-II
    Best Time

    Costa Rica Tropical Highlights

    Tortugeuro canals, Arenal National Park environs, Monteverde cloud forest

    Day 1      Arrive San Jose

    Upon arrival in San Jose you will be met and transferred to a specially selected hotel, a converted Victorian mansion that maintains the warmth and comfort of a private home while offering the amenities of a fine hotel. It is located on a quiet street close to the city center, near restaurants, theaters and shops.  The afternoon and evening are yours free to relax or explore.

    Lodging: Grano de Oro (or similar)

    Day 2-3      Tortuguero Rain Forest Immersion

    Travel by road and river to Tortuguero National Park for two incredibly full days of exploration. For this module of your trip, you'll will be part of a group of 10-20 people, in the care of the professional team from your jungle lodge. All group members will be picked up by a mid-size tour bus at their San Jose hotels, and will travel together by road, approximately 90 minutes, to the river port, stopping for breakfast en route. At the port you'll board your open-sided riverboat which allows for unobstructed viewing of abundant waterfowl, as you make your way, about an hour, to your lodge on the edge of the National Park. Many travelers report that their river "cruise" begins with a dramatic sighting of scores of large pink roseate spoon bills.

    Tortuguero National Park borders the Caribbean and contains a network of canals and waterways through protected jungle that is home, year-round, to myriad species of tropical wildlife. Each day, for the hours leading up to dusk and following dawn, when animal and birdlife is most active, your group will slowly travel the waterways with a one of the expertly trained naturalist guides from the lodge.  Search for manatees, caimans, monkeys, sloths, river otters, poison dart frogs, and the 300 species of birds, including the roseate spoonbill, American fin foot, great green macaws, trogons, oropendulas, and frigate birds. 

    Mid-day, you can choose to walk trails in the forest near the lodge, stroll the rocky beach, visit Tortuguero town, view exhibits at the National Park Visitors Center, or relax in the pool or gardens of the lodge. Meals are buffet-style, and delicious, and offer opportunity for conversation, reflection and learning with your group. 

    A highlight of a visit to Tortuguero is learning about the green sea turtles that nest here. Those who travel here in nesting season, July-October, can make special arrangements to add a night-time beach walk to their program, in the hope of witnessing (early in their season) the large turtles digging their nests and laying their tennis-ball sized eggs, or (late in the season) the tiny babies emerging and heading into the surf. The giant leatherbacks nest in March and April and hatch in May and June. Even those who don't witness the spectacle first-hand, will see the beaches and learn about the phenomena from their guides.

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging: Evergreen Lodge (or similar)

    Explore the lush waterways of Tortuguero
    Day 4      Arenal Observatory

    Fly from Tortuguero to San Jose (note: 30 lbs baggage limit), then set off for the Arenal vicinity.  En route to Arenal, visit Silencio Lookout or Danaus Tropical Gardens.

    After lunch, drive through mountains and agricultural lands to Arenal, until 2010, Costa Rica's most active volcano. During your two-night stay, you will enjoy guided hikes in one of the most spectacular parks in Costa Rica, Arenal National Park. The volcano was active from 1968 to 2010, and the park now offers a landscape to learn with your guide about the materials expelled from the volcano, rock formation from recent lava flows, and the natural regeneration of flora and fauna in the area. The volcano, with its perfect imposing cone, is surrounded by exuberant vegetation and sits at the side of the engineering masterpiece of Arenal Lake.

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging: Arenal Observatory Lodge (or similar)

    Hike the area and see Arenal which, although inactive right now, is an awesome sight
    Day 5      Waterfalls/Lava Flow Hike/Hot Springs

    In the morning you will visit La Fortuna Waterfalls. Located just 3 miles away from the town of La Fortuna, this beautiful 200' waterfall receives its cool, clear waters from the pristine forests of Arenal National Park. En route and near the falls one may see parrots, toucans, and tropical hummingbirds. The steep trail to the waterfall goes down through dense, lush rain forest and ends at a large pool at the base of the falls. In addition to seeing a majestic waterfall in a beautiful setting, visitors to the falls are helping the local community, with fees used for important community projects such as schools, the town orphanage, recycling projects, water quality , roads, and an educational center.

    Lunch is at the farm of Juan Bautista, a former teacher and principal living in the town of La Fortuna.  He is now a local farmer who owns a small five-acre farm and uses it to show visitors how to live in an environmentally friendly way with the nearby rainforest. He'll explain the use of every plant he finds on his farm's trails. He grows sugar cane which visitors can crush at his sugar cane mill to drink. Then take a turn at making your own tortillas for lunch.

    After lunch, head out on a lava flow hike near the town of La Fortuna and Arenal Volcano, where you'll learn about the history of volcanic activity in the area, plus the local flora and fauna.

    In the evening, relax at the base of Arenal Volcano in the Ecotermales hot springs, where natural springs and thermo-mineral water polls provide unparalleled relaxation. Have dinner here and return to your hotel for the night.


    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging: Arenal Observatory Lodge (or similar)

    Admire pristine La Fortuna waterfalls
    Day 6      Hanging Bridges/Lake Arenal/Monteverde

    Today you will visit the Arenal Hanging Bridges, a complex of suspended bridges and trails through a beautiful rain forest. The lush vegetation contains palms, heliconias, and tall trees that you will view from ground level to above the tree tops as you meander along the trails and on the bridges. From some of the bridges, there are also panoramic views of nearby Arenal Volcano. As you walk through the forest, you may encounter a variety of the forest wildlife, including toucans, motmots, trogons, poison dart frogs, howling monkeys, spider monkeys, and white-faced capuchin monkeys.

    After your rainforest bridges walk, travel via lake crossing into the mountains on your way to Monteverde. Your journey will bring you through small rural Costa Rican villages passing coffee and dairy farms.

    Monteverde is both a community and forest reserve. The world-famous Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve protects a mountain forest characterized by majestic trees densely covered by thick, wet and heavy “carpets” of epiphytes, including orchids and wild relatives of familiar tropical house plants – philodendrons, ferns, and ficus trees.

    The beautiful Resplendent Quetzal spends about half the year here and the forest is home to hundreds of other bird and mammal species. This private reserve has been intensely studied by scientists since its founding in 1972, and is the site of important pioneering research on the effects of climate change in tropical ecosystems. Several resident biologists are renowned experts on tropical bats, plants, and amphibians

    The communities outside the reserve include Monteverde, Cerro Plano, and Santa Elena. The small mountain farms of these towns are owned by “campesinos” (country farmers) who grow a small variety of crops. The most important farm products are organic coffee (which can be purchased in local stores) and milk for the local Monteverde Cheese Factory. The factory has been producing a variety of high-quality cheeses in Costa Rica since shortly after Quakers from the United States settled the area in 1950s. Near and around the community centers, a large selection of restaurants, and other visitor attractions are found, such as butterfly gardens, horse rentals, treetop forest canopy tours, an orchid garden, art galleries, and an excellent educational bat exhibit among others.

    Meals: Breakfast, Dinner
    Lodging: Fonda Vela (or similar)

    Look for poison dart frogs and other Monteverde residents
    Day 7      Monteverde/Canopy Tour

    In the morning, you'll go on an exciting and interesting zipline tour of the Monteverde canopy, with opportunities to learn more about the area and to see birds and other wildlife. Your guide will also provide interesting history on the plants and human activity in the region.

    After lunch, enjoy a guided visit to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, entrance fee included. Located in the Tilaran Mountain Range of Puntarenas Province, the Reserve is one of the premier natural history destinations in Costa Rica. Later in the afternoon the forest may be cool and misty from low cloud cover, so bring a light jacket for your walk.

    The forest consists of lush, verdant vegetation containing understory palms, majestic canopy trees, arching “ropy” lianas, bizarre “strangler” fig trees, and epiphytes -- small plants that grow on the trees. Outstanding among the epiphytes are orchids -- although most are small and high in the tree canopy, more orchid species (>500!) are found in Monteverde for its size than any other place yet known. As you walk through the forest, you may encounter a variety of wildlife. Frequently-sighted mammals include white-faced capuchin and howler monkeys, white-nosed coatis, two-toed sloths, kinkajous, and agoutis. Of the 400 bird species found in or nearby the reserve, outstanding species you may see include the legendary crimson and iridescent-green Resplendent Quetzal (which spends about half the year in the area during its breeding season from February or March to July), Emerald Toucanets, Black guans, Keel-billed toucans, Blue-crowned Motmots, Orange-bellied Trogons, Three-wattled Bellbirds (approximately April to August), and hummingbirds such as Purple-throated Mountain-gems, Violet Sabrewings, and Magenta-throated Woodstars. The wonderful songs of many of these birds will accompany you as you travel through the forest.

    Meals: Breakfast, Dinner
    Lodging: Fonda Vela (or similar)

    Have a blast on a zipline canopy tour
    Day 8      San Jose

    Depart the Monteverde area this morning and head for your lovely hotel just outside of San Jose, a family owned and operated inn set in12 acres of beautiful gardens featuring over 50 species of bromeliads, Costa Rican native trees, numerous species of orchids, herb, and cacti gardens, and radiant hummingbirds.

    Meals: Breakfast
    Lodging: Hotel Bougainvillea (or similar)

    Say goodbye to the rainforest. (Resplendent Quetzal by Alex Arias)
    Day 9      San Jose/Onward

    Transfer to the San Jose International Airport for your flight home.

    Say farewell, or sign up for an extension

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