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Volcanoes, Crocodiles and Coastlines of Costa Rica and Nicaragua

Program Number: 19976RJ
Start and End Dates:
1/11/2013 - 1/21/2013;
Duration: 10 nights
Location: Nicaragua/Costa Rica
Price starting at: $3,395.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: Adventure Afloat Study Cruise; Small Ship Cruising
Meals: 28; 10 Breakfasts, 9 Lunches, 9 Dinners    
Meal Options: Low Fat; Vegetarian; Low Salt    

Experience a true adventure on this authentic tall ship voyage along the Pacific coasts of Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Aboard the Star Flyer, venture to impressive volcanoes, spectacular protected rainforests, artisan villages and postcard-perfect bays and beaches.

Activity Particulars

Some walking on uneven terrain and stairs. Up to five hours of city walking, hiking on forest trails and optional swimming and snorkeling per day.

Itinerary At-a-Glance

San José (Costa Rica), 1 night; Arenal Volcano National Park, 1 night; aboard Star Flyer, 7 nights; San José, 1 night.

Day 1:
Arrival San José (Costa Rica):

Gain an introduction to Costa Rica in its bustling capital city.
Lodging: Comfortable hotel.

Day 2:
Coach to Arenal Volcano National Park:

Expert-led walks introduce you to Arenal Volcano National Park. A series of well-constructed suspension bridges allows you to experience the various layers of this tropical ecosystem, right up into the canopy.
Lodging: Resort with volcano views.

Days 3-4:
Coach to Puntarenas / embark Star Flyer / At Sea:

Journey to the Pacific port of Puerto Caldera and board the Star Flyer. Spend a day under sail and take part in onboard lectures.

Day 5:
San Juan del Sur (Nicaragua):

Learn about the geological power inside Nicaragua’s volcanoes: the Mombacho stratovolcano, the active Masaya shield volcano and, from a distance, the two cone volcanoes of Ometepe Island.

Day 6:
Playa del Coco (Costa Rica):

Visit Liberia, Costa Rica's "White City," to admire its late colonial architecture and learn about the region's artistic and literary contributions.

Day 7:
Golfo de Papagayo:

Explore Santa Rosa National Park, a reserve that protects much of Costa Rica’s remaining dry forest as well as important habitats for several marine turtle species and other rare flora and fauna.

Day 8:
Bahia Potrero:

Examine the natural environment of the Tempisque River on a small boat excursion. Continue to the artisan town of Guatil to meet expert practitioners of a pre-Columbian pottery technique.

Day 9:
Curú Wildlife Refuge & Tortuga Island:

Discover the Curu Wildlife Reserve, a haven for tropical and migratory birds, and two species of monkeys. Swim in the crystal clear waters off Tortuga Island or enjoy a trail walk.

Days 10-11:
San José / disembark / departure:

Board a small boat on the Tárcoles River to observe local wildlife including some of the world's largest crocodiles.
Lodging: Comfortable hotel.

Star Flyer

This authentic, traditionally rigged tall ship is 360 feet long and can carry 170 passengers in comfort. It offers all the amenities of a modern cruise ship and boasts expansive teak decks, two swimming pools, an elegant dining room, piano bar and library.

Comfortable hotel; resort with volcano views; cabins aboard authentic, traditionally rigged tall ship with swimming pools, elegant dining room and library. Disembarkation during the cruise includes both dry landings (e.g., at a dock) and wet landings (e.g., on a beach). Wet landings may include wading in ankle-high to waist-high water.
Meals and Lodgings
   Ramada Plaza Herradura
  San José, Costa Rica 1 night
   Arenal Paraiso
  Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica 1 night
   Star Flyer
  At Sea, Costa Rica
At Sea - Nicaragua, Nicaragua
At Sea, Costa Rica
7 nights
   Ramada Plaza Herradura
  San José, Costa Rica 1 night
 Ramada Plaza Herradura
Type: Hotel
  Description: With an ambiance of tranquility, the Ramada Plaza Herradura is nestled in the heart of Central Valley, overlooking a breathtaking backdrop of beautiful mountains and lush tropical gardens. Offering refined casual luxury in a relaxing setting, The Ramada Plaza Herradura is a full-service 4 star resort, located just 5 miles away from Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO), and 15 minutes away from San Jose downtown.
  Contact info: General Cañas Highway
5 km. South from International Airport
San José,   Costa Rica
phone: +50622099800
  Room amenities: Private Bath, Air Conditioning, Satellite TV, Direct-Dial Telephone, Room Service- 24 hrs, and High speed Internet access.
  Facility amenities: 3 Outdoor Pools and 5 Jacuzzis, 2 Restaurants, Bar & Lounge, Fiesta Casino, Fitness Center, Business Center, Full Service Spa, and Beauty Salon.
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes
  Additional nights prior: Prices starting at $135. Additional nights are subject to hotel availability.
  Additional nights after: Prices starting at $135. Additional nights are subject to hotel availability.

 Arenal Paraiso
Type: Hotel
  Description: All rooms have views of the Arenal Volcano.
  Contact info: No info.
Arenal,  000000 Costa Rica
phone: +5062-460-5333
  Room amenities: Hair dryer, mini refrigerator, cable TV, and air conditioning.
  Facility amenities: Restaurant, 3 pools, bar, zip line, and spa.
  Smoking allowed: Yes

 Star Flyer
Type: Cruise Ship
  Description: The décor of Star Clipper and Star Flyer is reminiscent of the grand age of sail. Antique prints and paintings of famous sailing ships please the eye, while teak and gleaming mahogany rails are richly reminiscent of Star Clippers’ proud nautical heritage.
  Ship Information: This authentic, traditionally rigged, tall ship is 360 feet long and can carry 170 passengers in comfort. It offers all the amenities of a modern cruise ship and boasts expansive teak decks, two swimming pools, an elegant dining room, piano bar, and library.
  Contact info: USA office: 760 NW 107th Avenue, Suite 100
Miami, FL 33172 USA
phone: 305-442-0550
  Room amenities: Porthole or window, carpeted floors, temperature control, closet, direct-dial phone, and TV.
  Facility amenities: Indoor-outdoor Tropical Bar and Piano Bar, dining room, Edwardian-style library, laundry services (addional cost), and the Sloop Shop
  Smoking allowed: No

Travel Details
  Start of Program:
All-day arrivals into the Juan Santamaria International Airport in San José, Costa Rica. Hotel check-in begins at 3 p.m. You will be staying at Ramada Plaza Herradura that night.
  End of Program:
Departures from the Juan Santamaria International Airport in San José, Costa Rica. Hotel check-out by 11 a.m. You will be staying at Ramada Plaza Herradura the night before.
  Required documents:
The Participant Information Form is required. Nicaragua requires the purchase of a tourist card (approximately $5) upon entry. No visas are required for this program.
  Parking availability:
Transportation (For Independent Travelers)
To Start of Program
  Location:  San José
  Nearest city or town:  San Jose
  Nearest airport:  Juan Santa Maria International Airport
  Transportation to site: Taxi services are available at the Juan Santamaria International Airport. The Taxis Unidos Aeropuerto is the official airport taxi company and their booth can be found outside of the Baggage Claim area. They provide safe and reliable service and their fares can be prepaid in dollars. The Taxis Unidos Aeropuerto vehicles are orange in color and have their logo emblazoned on the side. Tel: (506) 2222-6865/
  From End of Program
  Location: San José
  Transportation from site: Taxi services are available at the hotel. If you wish to hire a taxi, please ask for assistance at the hotel's front desk.
    (Additional transportation information same as above)
The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Daily Schedule

Day 1: Arrivals in San José, Costa Rica.
(Friday, January 11)
 Arrive To: Arrive in San José's Juan Santamaria International Airport.

Proceed through Immigrations, Baggage Claim and Customs before exiting the secured area of the airport. The Road Scholar representative will be waiting outside the exit door with a Road Scholar sign (only applies to Road Scholar group flights).

Transfer to the hotel and check-in, followed by time at leisure.

Please note that this is an international travel day; no meals or program activities are scheduled on this day. Hotel check-in usually begins at 3PM.
Accommodations: Ramada Plaza Herradura

Day 2: Arenal Volcano and La Fortuna -
Arenal Suspension Bridges.

(Saturday, January 12)
 Breakfast: At the hotel.
 Morning: Orientation to the program.
Lecture: An Overview of Costa Rica.
Depart for the town of La Fortuna and the Arenal Volcano.

Arenal was once Costa Rica's most active volcano and a main draw to the town of La Fortuna and the Arenal Volcano National Park. The volcano lords over the countryside with its perfectly conical shape and occasional smoke and gas emissions. While minor activity excites visitors, they are rarely acknowledged by the locals who have learnt to accept the antics of the volcano as part of their daily lives. The thermal waters emanating from the volcano, the clean air and the energy associated with Arenal, makes this a favorite destination for health spa enthusiasts and nature lovers.
 Lunch: En route, at local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Excursion to the Arenal Suspension Bridges.

A series of suspension bridges enable visitors to experience the various layers of the tropical forest, right up into the canopy. A well constructed trail connects all the bridges. Be prepared for a leisurely-paced two hour activity in magnificent surroundings with information about the forest eco-system being provided by the group leader.

Transfer to the hotel and check-in.
 Dinner: At the hotel.
Accommodations: Arenal Paraiso
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3: Arenal Volcano -
Arenal Volcano National Park/Board the Star Flyer.

(Sunday, January 13)
 Breakfast: At the hotel.
 Morning: Lecture: The History and Moods of the Arenal Volcano.
Depart to the Arenal Volcano National Park for a walk along the base of the volcano.

Although clouds often obscure the peak of the volcano, if the weather is clear it is possible to see and hear the super-heated boulders cascade down the side of the 5,300 foot mountain. It is interesting to see how the periodic lava flows have contributed to the erratic growth of vegetation in the vicinity of the volcano.

Return to the hotel.
 Lunch: At the hotel.
 Afternoon: Depart by bus for Puerto Caldera, adjacent to the city of Puntarenas, on the Pacific coast. Late afternoon embarkation on the Star Flyer.
 Dinner: On board the ship.
Accommodations: Star Flyer
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: At Sea -
Lecture and Ship Activities.

(Monday, January 14)
 Breakfast: On board the ship.
 Morning: Lecture: The National Parks and Biodiversity of Costa Rica.
 Lunch: On board the ship.
 Afternoon: Time at leisure to enjoy on board amenities.
 Dinner: On board the ship.
Accommodations: Star Flyer
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua -
Mombacho, Masaya and Concepción Volcanoes/Masaya Market.

(Tuesday, January 15)
 Breakfast: On board the ship.
 Morning: Wet landing at San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua.

Visit three of Nicaragua's impressive dormant and active volcanoes surrounding Granada. Board your air-conditioned transportation for the one-hour-and-45 minute guided drive to the colonial town of Granada.

Granada is one of the oldest cities in Central America. In the nineteenth century, Granada played host to the likes of William Walker and others intent on taking control of the nation. Decades later, Granada seemed a perfect location for the terminus of the canal that would link the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Today, its turbulent history has faded into the past and Granada offers its visitors copious amounts of charm and an excellent view of Central America?s colonial past.

Stop for photo opportunities just outside Granada, at the base of the Mombacho Volcano.
Continue through Granada's historic downtown en route to the Masaya Volcano National Park.

The Masaya Volcano National Park is located inside an extinct crater (Ventarr? just ten minutes outside the town of Masaya, and includes a crater lake, two active volcanoes, and five craters. Hiking trails wind their way through the moonlike landscape, offering visitors views of fumaroles, lava flows, the smoking Masaya Volcano, craters, caves, and Lake Masaya. Despite the inhospitable environment, a number of plant and animal life can be found thriving in the park.
 Lunch: At a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: After lunch, we will continue our exploration of Nicaragua with a visit to the well-known Masaya Handicrafts Market.

Masaya, also known as the “City of Flowers,’ is Nicaragua’s folk culture and artisan center. It is a hot plains city that lies on the Masaya Volcano slope. The Chortegas, who most Masayan inhabitants today trace their ancestry back to, feared the volcano and understood the grumbling eruptions to be signs of anger that required sacrifices, often human. The Masaya handicraft market is the real deal. Locals, as well as visitors, frequent the market that sells everything from hammocks to beef livers.

Journey to the Apoyo Crater, which is now an enormous lagoon. At the crater's edge, marvel at the unbelievable view of Mombacho Volcano, the steeples and rooftops of Granada, and Lake Nicaragua.

On the way back to the ship, a brief stop will be made to photograph the perfect cone-shaped Maderas and Concepción volcanoes located on Ometepe Island in Lake Nicaragua.
 Dinner: On board the ship.
Accommodations: Star Flyer
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6: Playa del Coco, Costa Rica -
Tempisque River Boat Ride/La Casona Musuem

(Wednesday, January 16)
 Breakfast: On board the ship.
 Morning: After a wet landing at Playa del Coco, travel in a Northeast direction to the Bolson area. Enjoy a morning nature boat ride on the Tempisque River. After the river safari, continue to the small community of Santa Barbara, well known as the cradle of the Marimba, a typical instrument of Costa Rica.
 Lunch: At La Casona.
 Afternoon: The ranch house "La Casona" is located within Santa Rosa National park and is built from stone corral in colonial times. It is the site of one of the most famous battles in the history of Costa Rica: the Battle of Santa Rosa, fought against William Walker and his mercenary army on March 20, 1856. The old ranch has been restored to give a glimpse of rural life in the 19th century, and contains a small ecological museum and a restaurant. After lunch and exploration of the museum, meet artisans from the nearby town of Guatil, known for their beautiful hand-thrown pottery. The ancient pottery techniques which continue to be used in Guatil hail back to the Chorotega tribes that lived in the area long before the Spanish conquest.

Return to the ship.
 Dinner: On board the ship.
Accommodations: Star Flyer
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 7: Golfo de Papagayo -
Santa Rosa National Park.

(Thursday, January 17)
 Breakfast: On board the ship.
 Morning: Wet landing in Costa Rica's Golfo de Papagayo for a field trip to Santa Rosa National Park.

Santa Rosa National Park is located along the country's northwestern coast in the Peninsula Santa Elena. The park owes its name to a famous battle that took place in the area during the mid 1800s. Although the park was initially created in an effort to honor and protect the historical battle grounds, the national park has played an important role in helping to safeguard important habitats and endangered species.
 Lunch: On board the ship.
 Afternoon: Enjoy the rest of the afternoon at leisure.
 Dinner: On board the ship.
Accommodations: Star Flyer
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 8: Bahia Potrero -
Orientation to Liberia, the "White City."

(Friday, January 18)
 Breakfast: On board the ship.
 Morning: After breakfast, disembark (wet landing) and travel to Liberia for a city orientation.

Explore the historic Calle Real lined with colonial, whitewashed houses; admire the unique, hand painted roof at Casa Zu? Clachar; learn about Guanacaste's late colonial architecture and religious artwork at Ermita de La Agonia church and museum; stop at the Rafael Angel Zu? Mendez House to view Guanacasteco antiques and hear about local traditions in poetry.
 Lunch: At local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Return to the ship.

Time at leisure.
 Dinner: On board the ship.
Accommodations: Star Flyer
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 9: Nicoya Peninsula -
Curu National Wildlife Refuge/Tortuga Island.

(Saturday, January 19)
 Breakfast: On board the ship.
 Morning: Wet landing at the Curu National Wildlife Refuge followed by a nature walk and beach activities.

In 1983 this large property was designated a Private National Wildlife Reserve in order to preserve the natural habitat along the fringes of one of the most beautiful beaches in the Nicoya Peninsula. The refuge is a haven for tropical and migratory birds, and two species of monkeys. The five different species of mangroves found in Costa Rica are represented in the inlets that are washed by the gulf waters.

Return to the ship.
 Lunch: On board the ship.
 Afternoon: Sail across the Bay of Nicoya to Tortuga Island for an afternoon of beach activities. After a wet landing, participate in water sports, walk on a short island trail, and relax on the beach.

Tortuga Island has a very Caribbean flavor, with a postcard-perfect white sand beach lined with coconut palms. This is a fitting and fun way to end your Pacific cruise.
 Dinner: On board the ship.
Accommodations: Star Flyer
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 10: San José -
Disembark Star Flyer/Tárcoles River Crocodile Safari/Farewell Dinner.

(Sunday, January 20)
 Breakfast: On board the ship.
 Morning: Say farewell to the Star Flyer and board a bus to Tárcoles. Embark on a Crocodile Safari on the Tárcoles River.

This boat adventure on the Tarcoles River takes visitors past mangrove forests and the Carara National Park--a good place to spot Scarlet Macaws. However, the highlight of this river safari is having the opportunity to observe the large population of crocodiles that call this area home. Some of these prehistoric-looking reptiles have been found to reach lengths in excess of fifteen-feet!

After your river adventure, board a bus to San José.
 Lunch: En route to San José.
 Afternoon: Arrive in San José and check-in at your hotel.
The rest of your afternoon will be free of activities. Relax and enjoy the hotel amenities, finish packing, or take the opportunity to explore San José on your own.
 Dinner: Farewell dinner at the hotel.
Accommodations: Ramada Plaza Herradura
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 11: Depart for the U.S. -
Transfer to the Airport.

(Monday, January 21)
 Depart From: Transfer to San José's Juan Santamaria International Airport to catch your return flight to the U.S.

Note: Participants booked on late morning or afternoon flights on this day, can keep their hotel rooms until the standard check-out time. Except for breakfast this morning, all meals on this day are on your own.
 Breakfast: Light snack or breakfast at the hotel (dependent on flight times).
Meals Included: Breakfast
Important information about your itinerary: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information featured on this website. Itineraries are based on our best information at this time. Circumstances beyond our control may require us to adjust itineraries or other details. We regret any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your understanding. Information will be sent to you from your Program Provider approximately three weeks prior to the program start date. The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Suggested Reading List

Lonely Planet Costa Rica Country Guide

Author: Lonely Planet

Description: Regional maps, detailed site information and general tips will be useful to travelers of all budgets and interests.

Moon Handbook Nicaragua

Author: Moon Handbooks

Description: A handy, practical guide to Nicaragua, this book is a good resource for planning a trip, featuring extensive, up-to-date listings, maps, volcano hikes, and other background information.

Nicaragua In Focus, A Guide to the People, Politics and Cu

Author: Hazel Plunkett

Description: Essential reading for Nicaragua, this compact, illustrated travel guide focuses on politics, economy, history and culture. It's especially strong on the difficult history of relations with the U.S. but also includes a good short summary of traditional culture and history from colonial times to the present. It's an excellent overview, strong on facts and unabashedly left-of-center in outlook.

National Geographic Costa Rica

Author: Christopher P. Baker

Description: This stylish, informative and up-to-date travel resource features 200 photographs, many maps and good information on the country's history, nature and culture.

A Brief History of Central America

Author: Hector Perez-Brignoll

Description: A good overview of the region’s economic, political and social history through the 1980s by a professor at the University of Costa Rica. Well-written, informative and concise.

The Penguin History of Latin America

Author: Edwin Williamson

Description: Williamson traces 500 years of history from the time of Columbus and the Spanish Conquest to the present day. An excellent and very readable history in a compact size.

Neotropical Rainforest Mammals: A Field Guide

Author: Louise H. Emmons & François Feer

Description: This beautifully illustrated field guide contains all you need to know about rainforest mammals in Central and South America. It has color plates, range maps and detailed descriptions of each animal, including information about their biology, behavior and natural habitats.

Tropical Nature

Author: Adrian Forsyth, Ken Miyata

Description: A lively, lucid portrait of the tropics as seen by two uncommonly observant and thoughtful field biologists. Its 17 marvelous essays introduce the habitats, ecology, plants and animals of the Central and South American rainforest

A Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica

Author: Gary Stiles and Alexander Skutch

Description: Illustrated descriptions of the major habitats, color plates and maps, help to identify more than 850 species of birds in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica's National Parks and Preserves: A Visitor's Guide

Author: Joseph Franke and Joseph Dimijian

Description: A first-rate source for the Costa Rican park system. Profiles 40 parks and preserves and their distinct tropical habitats. Franke provides regional history as well as tips on what to pack.

Tropical Plants of Costa Rica

Author: Willow Zuchowski

Description: Organized by habitat, this photo guide to 400 species has chapters on popular destinations, including Monteverde and Tortuguero.

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