Road Scholar : Home
Costa Rica and Panama: Rainforest to Canal

Program Number: 20186RJ
Start and End Dates:
2/21/2015 - 3/6/2015; 11/3/2016 - 11/15/2016; 12/1/2016 - 12/13/2016; 1/19/2017 - 1/31/2017; 1/26/2017 - 2/7/2017; 2/2/2017 - 2/14/2017; 2/9/2017 - 2/21/2017; 2/23/2017 - 3/7/2017; 3/9/2017 - 3/21/2017; 3/16/2017 - 3/28/2017;
Duration: 13 nights
Location: Costa Rica/Panama
Price starting at: $3,699.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type:
Meals: 37; 13 Breakfasts, 12 Lunches, 12 Dinners    
Meal Options: Low Fat; Vegetarian; Low Salt    

Engineering marvels, lush rainforests and magnificent natural reserves are just some of the jewels to be found in the heart of Panama and Costa Rica. Experience the natural and man-made beauty that can only be found in this region of Central America as you journey through the Panama Canal and search for exotic wildlife in sanctuaries throughout Costa Rica.


• Walk among the treetops during an excursion to Arenal Hanging Bridges, a nature reserve with standing and hanging bridges that crisscross the rainforest.
• Soak up the beauty of Costa Rica’s Pacific coast and enjoy the thrill and adventure of sea kayaking & snorkeling.
• Enjoy a partial transit through the legendary Panama Canal and search for wildlife as you pass through its many lakes and locks.

Activity Particulars

Walking on forest trails under varying weather conditions; getting in and out of boats.

Date Specific Information


This program includes a partial transit through the Panama Canal that will begin in Panama City and end at Gamboa. During the cruise participants will experience and see the Miraflores, Pedro Miguel and Gamboa Locks in action and will also navigate through the infamous Culebra/Gaillard Cut. Since the partial transit is not a private charter, our group will share space on the vessel with non-Road Scholar passengers.
Enjoy the latest in hearing technology — listening devices — on this date.

11-3-2016, 12-1-2016, 1-19-2017, 1-26-2017, 2-2-2017, 2-9-2017, 2-23-2017, 3-9-2017, 3-16-2017

Enjoy the latest in hearing technology — listening devices — on this date.

Itinerary Summary

Arrival to San José (Costa Rica), 1 night; coach to Arenal, 2 nights; boat/coach to Monteverde, 2 nights; coach to Punta Leona, 2 nights; coach to San José and flight to Panama City (Panama), 2 nights; transiting the Panama Canal/coach to Colon, 2 nights; train to Panama City, 1 night; departure.

Flight from the U.S.A.
Arrival San José (Costa Rica)
1 night
Coach to Arenal
2 nights

Walk among lush tropical vegetation and marvel at the vibrantly hued hummingbirds at La Paz Waterfall Gardens. Get a new perspective — and spectacular views — of the rainforest during an excursion to Arenal Hanging Bridges, a private nature reserve that features standing and hanging bridges. Learn about everyday life in rural Costa Rica during a visit to a local farm.

Boat/coach to Monteverde
2 nights

Learn about the harvesting of coffee at a local farm, and search for wildlife during excursions into a cloudforest reserve at Monteverde. Learn the community’s unique history and address current conservation and development initiatives.

Coach to Punta Leona 2 nights

Navigate the mangroves and sandy banks of the Tarcoles River in search of its giant crocodiles. Enjoy the refreshing saltwater spray and ocean breezes during a kayaking adventure along Costa Rica’s Pacific coast.

Coach to San José
Flight to Panama City (Panama) 2 nights

In Casco Viejo, the historic colonial center of the city of Panama, admire the local architecture as you explore sites including the Metropolitan Cathedral, the Municipal Palace and the National Theater. Learn about one of the greatest engineering feats of the 20th century at the Panama Canal Museum, and watch ships pass through Miraflores Locks.

Colon/Transiting the Panama Canal
2 nights

Journey through the Panama Canal — from Panama City to Gamboa — and watch for ships and wildlife as you pass through the Miraflores, Pedro Miguel, and Gamboa Locks and the Gaillard Cut. At the New Locks Visitor Center, learn about the ongoing expansion project. At an Embera village, gain insight into their people’s history, culture, and traditions while sharing in a traditional meal.

Train to Panama City
1 night

Return to Panama City on a scenic train ride along tracks that were built to aid the building of the canal.

San Jose: Comfortable downtown hotel. Arenal: Resort facing the volcano. Monteverde: Hotel near cloud forest reserve. Punta Leona: Beachfront resort. Panama City: Hotel overlooking the canal outside town. Colon: Lakefront hotel.
Meals and Lodgings
   Amador Country Inn & Suites
  Panama City, Panama 3 nights
   Sol Melia Panama Canal
  Colon, Panama 1 night
   Crowne Plaza Hotel
  Panama City, Panama 1 night
   Hotel Balmoral
  San José, Costa Rica 1 night
   Selva Verde Lodge
  Sarapiqui, Costa Rica 2 nights
   Arenal Manoa Hotel
  Arenal, Costa Rica 2 nights
   Hotel Montaña Monteverde
  Monteverde, Costa Rica 2 nights
   Wyndham San José Herradura Hotel & Convention Center
  San José, Costa Rica 1 night
 Amador Country Inn & Suites
Type: Hotel
  Description: Modern hotel located at Fort Amador, on the boardwalk overlooking the entrance to the Panama Canal and the Bridge of the Americas.
  Contact info: Amador Avenue & Pelicano Avenue
Panama City,  00000 Panama
phone: +507-2-114500
  Room amenities: Air conditioning, balcony, cable TV, coffee maker, microwave oven, and WiFi.
  Facility amenities: Restaurant, outdoor pool, jacuzzi, coin-operated laundry facilities, health club, spa services, meeting rooms, and tour desk. High-speed wireless Internet in all rooms, lobby and pool-side.
  Smoking allowed: Yes
  Elevators available: Yes
  Additional nights prior: Prices subject to availability Additional nights are subject to hotel availability. Please contact the program provider at 1-800-866-7111 or for current prices and assistance with reservations.
  Check in time: 3:00 PM

 Sol Melia Panama Canal
Type: Hotel
  Description: Modern hotel located on Gatun Lake, just 10 minutes from the city of Colón.
  Contact info: Espinar Colón
Former Las Americas Military School
Lago Gatun,  000000 Panama
phone: +(507) 4701100
  Room amenities: Air conditioning, cable TV, hair dryer, safe, direct dial phone, and mini refrigerator.
  Facility amenities: Restaurants, bar, pool, meeting rooms, spa services, laundry services, gym, and tennis courts.
  Smoking allowed: Yes
  Elevators available: Yes

 Crowne Plaza Hotel
Type: Hotel
  Description: Modern hotel located approximately 2 miles from downtown Panama City.
  Contact info: Ave Manuel Espinosa Batista
Panama City,  000000 Panama
phone: +507-2065500
  Room amenities: Air conditioning, cable/satellite TV, coffee maker, hair dryer, mini refrigerator, iron/ironing board, and Internet access.
  Facility amenities: Pool, restaurant, tour desk, Internet cafe, business center, fitness center, laundry/dry cleaning services, and gift shop.
  Smoking allowed: Yes
  Elevators available: Yes

 Hotel Balmoral
Type: Hotel
  Description: Comfortable hotel located on the main pedestrian boulevard in downtown San Jose. Within walking distance of the National Theater and Gold Museum.
  Contact info: Avenida Central (between 7th & 9th Streets)
San Jose,  3344-1000 Costa Rica
phone: +506-22225022
  Room amenities: Private bathroom, hair dryer, air conditioning, cable TV, complimentary WiFi, minibar, safety deposit box, and telephone. Irons are not supplied in the rooms, but can be requested at the front desk.
  Facility amenities: Conference rooms, restaurant, room service, complimentary WiFi, business center, gym, bar, casino, luggage storage, Concierge Desk, shops, and laundry services. Airport transfer services are available for an additional charge. This service can be booked directly through the hotel. Email requests should be sent to and should include pertinent flight information.
  Smoking allowed: Yes
  Elevators available: Yes

 Selva Verde Lodge
Type: Lodge
  Description: Nature Lodge built along the banks of the Sarapiqui River. Room modules are built on elevated platforms, surrounded by tropical vegetation. A large tract of private primary and secondary rainforest is accessible via a hanging bridge.
  Contact info: Chilamate
Sarapiqui,  00000 Costa Rica
phone: +506-2-27611800
  Room amenities: Safety boxes, ceiling fans, phones, screened windows, and hair dryers.
  Facility amenities: Meeting rooms, restaurant, bar, and private rainforest reserve with trails.
  Smoking allowed: No

 Arenal Manoa Hotel
Type: Full Service Hotel
  Description: Arenal Manoa Hotel is a beautiful place to rest, relax and enjoy the marvelous view of Arenal Volcano. Surrounded by gardens, pastures and animals, our rooms have been designed so that each one offers you a panoramic view of the volcano. Our visitors can take advantage of our spacious gardens for walking and meditation as well as the opportunities to see the daily operations of a typical Costa Rican farm
  Contact info: 7 kilometers west from La Fortuna and 800 meters from the main
Arenal,   Costa Rica
phone: +(506) 24791111
  Room amenities: Our rooms, have been designed to take advantage of the panoramic view of the Volcano from your own room. Also enjoy wide open spaces both inside and outside your room. Each room is equipped with: •Two queen sized beds •Air conditioning •Satellite television •Private Bath with hot water and a hair dryer •Telephone •Terrace with a view of the volcano •Refrigerator •Safe-Deposit Box •Coffee Maker Arenal Manoa is a destiny created for you to enjoy the combination of a high quality service and an exuberant nature beauty. Everything start with our rooms that combines a modern and rustic architecture, with plenty space for your comfort, where you can enjoy the view of the Arenal Volcano from your own bed, also a big bathroom with an little garden just to remember the natural beauties that surround us and the balcony where you can delight with the panoramic view and the gardens that are around the rooms, while you rest in a rocking chair.
  Smoking allowed: No

 Hotel Montaña Monteverde
Type: Hotel
  Description: The hotel is located in the Pacific highlands of Costa Rica (approx. 4,500 ft above sea level), just a few minutes from the famous Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve.
  Contact info: P.O. Box 07-5655
Monteverde,   Costa Rica
phone: +(506) 26455046
  Room amenities: Each room has a private bath, telephone, and safety deposit box.
  Facility amenities: Private forest reserve with trails, conference room, bar and restaurant, jacuzzi, and sauna.
  Smoking allowed: No

 Wyndham San José Herradura Hotel & Convention Center
Type: Resort
  Description: The Wyndham San José Herradura Hotel and Convention Center has 229 spacious rooms with modern conveniences and a long list of amenities that are meant to accommodate business travelers as well as vacationing families. It is conveniently located a short distance from San José's Juan Santamaria International Airport. The hotel has earned a Level 3 Certification for Sustainable Tourism by the Costa Rican Tourism Institute.
  Contact info: General Cañas Highway
5 km south from International Airport
San José,   Costa Rica
phone: +506-22099800
  Room amenities: The spacious, air conditioned rooms have private baths, hair dryers, satellite TVs, direct-dial phones, mini refrigerators, coffee makers, safety deposit boxes, iron/ironing board, and complimentary Internet access.
  Facility amenities: Restaurants, swimming pools, a wet bar, Jacuzzis, casino, fitness center, spa services, laundry service, souvenir shop, beauty salon, business center, conference center, money exchange, travel agency, a souvenir shop, and WiFi in public areas. Wheelchair acessible elevators and public areas. Free airport shuttle service from 5:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Free hotel shuttle service to San José attractions. Please call the hotel or check at the front desk if you would like to use this service.
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes
  Additional nights after: Prices subject to availability Rates and room types are subject to availability. Please contact your program provider at 1-800-866-7111 or if you need assistance with booking additional hotel nights.
  Check out time: 11:00 AM

Travel Details
  Start of Program:
All-day arrivals at the Tocumen International Airport in Panama City, Panama. Hotel check-in begins at 3 p.m. You will be staying at Amador Country Inn & Suites that night.
  End of Program:
Departures from the Juan Santamaria International Airport in San Jose, Costa Rica. Hotel check-out by 11 a.m. You will be staying at Wyndham San José Herradura Hotel & Convention Center the night before.
  Required documents:
The Participant Information Form is required.
  Parking availability:
Transportation (For Independent Travelers)
To Start of Program
  Location:  Panama City
  Transportation to site: Taxi services are available at the Tocumen International Airport in Panama City. For more information about the airport and transportation services, please consult the airport's official website:
  From End of Program
  Location:  San José
  Nearest city or town:  San Jose
  Nearest airport:  Juan Santa Maria International Airport
  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.
Elevation Note: Monteverde 4,662 ft

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 Panama City, Panama.
(Saturday, February 21)
 Arrive To: Arrive at the Tocumen International Airport in Panama City, Panama.

Participants arriving on the group flights will meet the local Road Scholar representative once they clear Customs and leave the airport's restricted arrivals area. The representative will be holding a Road Scholar sign.

Transfer to the hotel.

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 3 p.m.
Accommodations: Amador Country Inn & Suites

Day 2: Panama City -
Historic Casco Viejo/Introduction to the Panama Canal.

(Sunday, February 22)

Note: Please be aware that program activities and scheduled times could change due to local circumstances. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding.

 Breakfast: At the hotel.
 Morning: Program orientation.

Get to know your group leader and fellow Road Scholar participants during a welcome and introduction session at the hotel. We will review the up-to-date daily schedule and any changes, discuss responsibilities, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer any questions you may have.

Field trip to Casco Viejo, the historic colonial center of the city of Panama, Pacific Canal Commission Compound.

Panama City's old historic quarter (a.k.a. Casco Viejo or Casco Antiguo) dates back to the 1670s, when the destruction of Panama Viejo made relocation a necessity. Casco Viejo’s parks and narrow streets are lined with colorful buildings representative of Spanish, French and early American architectural styles. This eclectic collection of architectural styles reflects the city's role as an international trade center and cultural melting pot that began well before the building of the Canal. Some of Casco Viejo's must-see sites include the Metropolitan Cathedral, the Municipal Palace, the National Theater, the Panama Canal Museum (originally the Grand Hotel), the French Embassy, and France Plaza.

Before lunch, pay a visit to the Panama Canal Museum, showcasing the American era of the Panama Canal.
 Lunch: At a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Return to the hotel.

Lecture: The Panama Canal: Past, Present and Future.
 Dinner: At the hotel.
 Evening: Time at leisure.
Accommodations: Amador Country Inn & Suites
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3: Panama City -
Las Cruces Trail/Maddem Dam/French Monument/Miraflores Locks.

(Monday, February 23)
 Breakfast: At the hotel.
 Morning: View Lake Alajuela/Madden Dam and learn about its impact on the lives of people in the region and in the daily operation of the Panama Canal.

Lake Alajuela was "created" in 1924 with the construction of the Madden Dam. The dam's reservoir maintains the water levels in Lake Gatun and provides primary supply of drinking water along the canal. Lake Alajuela is surrounded by a 129,000 hectare national park of primary rainforest.

Field trip to Las Cruces Trail, used by early travelers to California lured by the Gold Rush.

In the past, Las Cruces Trail served as the primary artery for sending most, if not all, of the gold brought from the Incan Empire to port for shipment back to Spain. In many ways, the Las Cruces Trail of the colonial era was the wealthiest road on earth. At the same time, because so much gold traveled the same route, just about every enterprising pirate sought access to this trail.

During our explorations along the Panama Canal we will also make a couple of stops to observe and discuss some of the work being done to expand the Canal. The estimated $5.25 billion project is set to add a third lane with larger locks, thus making it possible for bigger container and cargo ships to make use of the shortcut.
 Lunch: At a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: After lunch, make a stop at the French Cemetery Monument and review the role of immigrant workers in making the Panama Canal a reality.

Transfer to the Miraflores Locks Visitor Center to view the locks at work and enjoy the museum's interactive displays.
 Dinner: At a restaurant in Miraflores, with views of passing ships in the Canal.
 Evening: Return to the hotel.

Time at leisure.
Accommodations: Amador Country Inn & Suites
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: Colon -
Partial Panama Canal Transit: Panama City to Gamboa/Transfer to Colon.

(Tuesday, February 24)

Note: The partial transit through the Panama Canal is expected to last approximately 4:30 hours. Participants will embark at Panama City and disembark at Gamboa. During the cruise, participants will experience and see the Miraflores, Pedro Miguel and Gamboa Locks in action and will also sail through the infamous Culebra/Gaillard Cut. Since this cruise is not a private charter, our group will be sharing space on the vessel with non-Road Scholar passengers.

 Breakfast: Early morning transfer to the port. Board the boat that will take you on a 4:30-hour-long partial transit through the Panama Canal.

Breakfast on board the boat.
 Morning: Partial transit through the Panama Canal, from Panama City to Gamboa.

This transit leaves through the Pacific entrance of the Canal, just outside Flamenco Island. Here you will wait for the Panama Canal Commission Pilot who will guide you through the transit. Follow your companion vessel for the transit of the Miraflores locks (by Canal standards, we are a small vessel, so we rarely transit the locks alone).

The transit will take you through Miraflores Lake and Locks, Pedro Miguel Locks and Gailard/Culebra Cut, before disembarking at Gamboa.

Throughout the transit there are numerous opportunities to see dolphins, birds, monkeys and crocodiles.
 Lunch: On board the boat.
 Afternoon: Disembark at Gamboa and transfer by bus to Colon.

Colon was originally an island, separated from the mainland until 1852 when the U.S. began building a railroad across the isthmus. Contemporary Colon is known for its status as a Zona Libre, a free trade zone. Next to Hong Kong, Colon is the largest free-trade zone and marks the northern terminus of the Panama Canal.

Transfer to the hotel and check-in.
 Dinner: At the hotel.
 Evening: Time at leisure.
Accommodations: Sol Melia Panama Canal
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: Panama City -
New Locks Visitor Center/Train Ride Via the Isthmus.

(Wednesday, February 25)
 Breakfast: At the hotel.
 Morning: After breakfast depart to New Locks Visitor Center to learn about the new canal expansion, including a video on the expansion program and new locks construction in addition to pictures of development at various stages. After a nature hike, the visit will end at the view point to observe the work being done at the new lock from afar.

Return to the hotel.
 Lunch: At the hotel.
 Afternoon: Free time to relax, do some packing, or enjoy the hotel's amenities. The rooms will be available until the transfer time to the train station.

Train ride excursion to Panama City via the isthmus.

Arrive in Panama City and check-in at hotel.
 Dinner: Farewell dinner with Panamanian music.
 Evening: Time at leisure.
Accommodations: Crowne Plaza Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6: San José -
Fly from Panama to Costa Rica/Orientation to Costa Rica/The Gold Museum.

(Thursday, February 26)

Note: The flight from Panama City to San José takes approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes.

 Breakfast: At the hotel.
 Morning: Transfer to the airport for flight to San José, Costa Rica.

Upon arrival in Costa Rica it will be necessary to proceed through Immigrations, Baggage Claim and Customs before exiting the secured area of the airport. When exiting the restricted arrivals area, please leave through the door on the right. The local program representative will be waiting outside the exit door, holding up a Road Scholar sign.

Transfer to the hotel.

Enjoy a brief program orientation followed by a lecture. Lecture: An Overview of Costa Rica.
 Lunch: At the hotel.
 Afternoon: Excursion to the Gold Museum with a site lecture.

This interesting museum has a large collection of Pre-Columbian gold artifacts (approximately 1,600 pieces) dating from 500 A.D. to 1500 A.D. The first section of the museum presents an introduction to the Pre-Columbian cultures of Costa Rica; their social and cultural evolution and their progress in metallurgy. The second section contains beautiful displays showcasing the museum’s collection of gold artifacts. Accompanying descriptions explain the meaning and use of each piece.
 Dinner: At a local restaurant.
 Evening: Time at leisure.
Accommodations: Hotel Balmoral
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 7: Sarapiqui -
Pineapple Plantation/Introduction to the Rainforest.

(Friday, February 27)

Note: The drive from San José to Sarapiqui, in the Caribbean lowlands, takes approximately 2 hours.

 Breakfast: At the hotel.
 Morning: Transfer to Sarapiqui.

Situated in the Caribbean lowlands, 40 miles from San José, Sarapiquí is one of the richest sites for birds in Middle America with well over recorded 400 species. Nearby, the La Selva Protection Zone and the Braulio Carrillo National Park form the only significant corridor of forest on the Caribbean slope linking the highlands with the lowlands - a corridor crucial to birds and animals that undertake seasonal altitudinal migrations.

Arrive in Sarapiqui and check-in at the lodge.

Orientation to the lodge.
 Lunch: At the lodge.
 Afternoon: Field trip to a local pineapple plantation.

Examine the environmental and economic impact of growing pineapples in Costa Rica, one of the top ten producers of pineapples in the world.

Return to the lodge.

Lecture: The Mesoamerican Biological Corridor.
 Dinner: At the lodge.
 Evening: Time at leisure.
Accommodations: Selva Verde Lodge
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 8: Sarapiqui -
Bird Watching/Sarapiqui River Boat Ride/Cultural Interaction.

(Saturday, February 28)
 Breakfast: Early morning bird walk around the lodge.
Breakfast at the lodge.
 Morning: Enjoy a boat ride on the Sarapiqui River in search of local wildlife.

Return to the lodge.
 Lunch: At the lodge.
 Afternoon: Visit to Sarapiqui Conservation Learning Center (SCLC) to meet with locals and Charla.

In Spanish "charla" means "chat." During this informative session led by a local community member, you will learn about life in Sarapiqui. Topics include local ecosystems, immigration, domestic life, and local artisan work. A question and answer session concludes the activity, fostering international communication and understanding.

The Sarapiqui Learning Center (SCLC) is a registered non-profit organization whose mission is to help communities and local conservation efforts through education and ecotourism in the Sarapiqui region. Programs include environmental education, ecotourism activities, English classes, an ecology club, community outreach, a women's group and many others.

The remainder of the afternoon will be at leisure. Take this opportunity to cool off in the lodge's pool, go birdwatching, or indulge in the sounds of the rainforest from the comfort of your hammock.
 Dinner: At the lodge.
 Evening: Dance presentation and instruction.

Participants learn three styles of Latin dance: Meringue, Salsa, and Cumbia. Local dancers first demonstrate the style of dancing, then lead the group through the dance step by step, and finally participants get to practice with a partner.
Accommodations: Selva Verde Lodge
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 9: Arenal -
River Rafting/Introduction to Arenal.

(Sunday, March 1)

Note: The bus drive from Sarapiqui to Arenal takes approximately 2.5 to 3 hours.

 Breakfast: At the lodge.
 Morning: River rafting excursion on the Sarapiqui River.

Return to the lodge.
 Lunch: At the lodge.
 Afternoon: Transfer to Arenal.

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.

Arrive at the hotel and check-in.

Time at leisure.

Lecture: The Arenal Volcano.
 Dinner: At the hotel.
 Evening: Time at leisure.
Accommodations: Arenal Manoa Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 10: Arenal -
Arenal Volcano National Park/Hanging Bridges/Dinner with Local Family.

(Monday, March 2)
 Breakfast: At the hotel.
 Morning: Field trip to Arenal Volcano National Park with site lecture.

The Arenal Volcano National Park, located in the central region of the country, protects a number of important life zones. The park also encompases the Arenal Volcano and the extinct Chato Volcano. Although clouds often obscure the peak of the volcano, during clear days it is possible to see gases and steam rising from the cone. It is interesting to see how the periodic lava flows have contributed to the erratic growth of vegetation in the areas around the volcano. The hilly terrain is littered with volcanic rocks. Park trails traverse old lava fields and secondary forest.

Excursion to Arenal Hanging Bridges.

Arenal Hanging Bridges is a private nature reserve in La Fortuna de San Carlos. The site features a network of standing bridges, hanging bridges, and trails that crisscross 250 hectares of tropical rainforest. The park’s mission is to provide natural history education in a responsible and sustainable way. Visitors are able to view the rainforest from different angles and heights, from ground level to canopy level, learning firsthand about this fascinating and biologically diverse environment.
 Lunch: At the hotel.
 Afternoon: Time at leisure to enjoy the hotel's hot springs.

Field trip to a local farm to learn about the history of the farm and the agricultural practices of this fertile region.

The small and painteresque town of Fortuna has changed quite a bit from the village that witnessed the eruptions of Arenal Volcano in 1968. Once a small agricultural community, Fortuna has grown in the shadow of the colossus that once burned and devastated large areas. Tourism is precisely the most important income for the region. Although now on a second level of economic importance, many plantations in the surrounding areas still produce important amounts of papaya, sugar cane, tapioca and ornamental plants.

Before dinner, work-up an appetite during a tortilla making activity. Learn how to prepare tortillas and cook them on a traditional wood stove.
 Dinner: Enjoy a traditional Costa Rican dinner hosted by the farm owner's family.

Dance presentation by local school children.
 Evening: Return to the hotel.

Time at leisure.
Accommodations: Arenal Manoa Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 11: Monteverde -
Crossing the Arenal Lake/Coffee Farm.

(Tuesday, March 3)

Note: The boat ride across Arenal Lake usually takes between 45 minutes to 1 hour to complete. This will be followed by an uphill drive on scenic back roads up to Monteverde (approximately 1 hour).

 Breakfast: At the hotel.
 Morning: Transfer to Monteverde. Enjoy a boat ride across Arenal Lake (45 mins - 1 hr), followed by an uphill drive on scenic back roads up to Monteverde (approx. 1 hr). Bathroom stops will be made along the way.

Arrive in Monteverde and transfer to a local coffee plantation.
 Lunch: At a local coffee plantation.
 Afternoon: Field trip to local coffee farm with site lecture.

Learn the about harvesting and processing of coffee as well as the history of this crop from its beginning in the Arabic countries and Ethiopia. Discover the importance of the golden bean ¨grano de oro¨ and its impact on the social, cultural, and economic development of Costa Rica.

Arrive at the hotel and check-in.

Time at leisure.

Lecture: The Quaker Story.
 Dinner: At a local home - Quaker style.
 Evening: Return to the hotel.

Time at leisure.
Accommodations: Hotel Montaña Monteverde
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 12: Monteverde -
Cloud Forest Reserve at Monteverde/Local Cheese Factory & Bakery/The Quakers of Monteverde.

(Wednesday, March 4)
 Breakfast: At the hotel.
 Morning: Field trip to a cloud forest reserve at Monteverde with site lecture.

The edges of this rich forest system, often cloaked in clouds and blowing mist, are home to more than 350 avian species and a myriad of other creatures and critters. The Monteverde area is perhaps most famous for breeding Resplendent Quetzals, Three-wattled Bellbird, and Bare-necked Umbrellabird. While these charismatic species can be elusive, a host of other cloud forest birds and amphibians are found in the area.

Return to the hotel to change and freshen-up.
 Lunch: At a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: After lunch, visit a local cheese factory, bakery and the cooperative of artisan women's shop.

In 1951, a group of American Quakers, fearful of their nation’s growing militarism, fled the United States. The Quakers found Costa Rica, a nation without a military, to be the most inviting nation for their pacifist beliefs. This group settled Monteverde and intended to transform the area into profitable farmland. The Quakers developed a fairly successful cheese industry but they also recognized the delicate nature of the land and helped establish the area’s first wildlife sanctuary.

Return to the hotel.

Lecture: Conservation and Development of the Monterverde Area.
 Dinner: At the hotel.
 Evening: Time at leisure.
Accommodations: Hotel Montaña Monteverde
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 13: San José -
Butterfly Garden/Sarchi Handicrafts/Farewell to Costa Rica.

(Thursday, March 5)

Note: The bus drive from Monteverde to San José takes approximately 4 hours.

 Breakfast: At the hotel.
 Morning: Morning visit to the Monteverde Butterfly Garden and Arthropod Education Center.

Jim Wolfe and his wife Marta Iris opened the Monteverde Butterfly Garden in 1989. The couple has been hand raising butterflies for many years and has come to learn their individual preferences and habits. These fragile creatures require extreme care as they develop and every species feeds on a different variety of plants. Unlike most butterfly gardens, which buy their butterflies as chrysalides, all the butterflies you will see here were bred and raised on the premises.

Transfer to San José.
 Lunch: At a local restaurant en route to San José.
 Afternoon: Excursion to the crafts town of Sarchi where ox carts, traditional furniture, and other handmade artifacts are created.

The town of Sarchi, just a few miles from Grecia, is well known for its centuries-old tradition of making oxcarts. The brightly colored and intricately decorated carts are a national symbol and can still be seen in use in rural communities. Sarchi is also known for its handcrafted furniture and wood housewares.

Arrive in San José and check-in at the hotel.

Time at leisure.
 Dinner: Farewell dinner at the hotel.
 Evening: Time at leisure.
Accommodations: Wyndham San José Herradura Hotel & Convention Center
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 14: Depart from San José - Flights to the U.S.
Arrive in the U.S.

(Friday, March 6)
 Depart From: Transfer to the Juan Santamaria International Airport for flight to the U.S.

This concludes the program. We hope you enjoyed your Road Scholar adventure! When you get home, remember to stay in touch via the Road Scholar Social Network; share memories, pictures, and comments about your recent travels.

Note: Participants with independent travel arrangements and/or scheduled on later flights can keep their hotel rooms until check-out time on this day. Except for breakfast, all other meals are on your own on this day.
 Breakfast: At the hotel (dependent on flight times).
Meals Included: Breakfast

Free Time Opportunities
  Arenal Canopy zip line, horseback riding, hiking and spa activities
Hitch your self to a zip line for an adrenaline rush through the forest canopy. Spot animals while gliding through the forest. Horseback ride within the vicinity of the volcano. Spa options provide Swedish massage, reflexology and skin treatments. For additional information, visit
  Explore the town of La Fortuna
Walk around the town after dinner with the opportunity to interact with the locals. For additional information, visit
  Horseback riding, hiking, kayaking, safari float, boat ride on Lake Arenal or windsurfing
Horseback ride and hike to La Fortuna Waterfalls or through pastures and hilly terrain. Kayaking on Lake Arenal not only offers the opportunity to spot a variety of birds, but also the stunning backdrop of the volcano. A boat ride on Lake Arenal provides great opportunities to photograph the volcano and to enjoy the water birds frequenting the edge of the lake. The wind on Lake Arenal usually offers a great opportunity to windsurf. For additional information, visit
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

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.

Breaking Out of Beginner's Spanish

Author: Joseph Keenan

Description: Idioms, common mistakes in word usage, and other helpful advice on tackling spoken Spanish. You'll need some foundation to take full advantage of this book – but even a complete novice will appreciate the author's playful sense of humor.

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.

Culture Smart! Costa Rica

Author: Jane Koutnik

Description: A guide to local customs, etiquette and culture.

Culture Smart! Panama

Author: Heloise Crowther

Description: This practical guide to local customs, etiquette and culture is concise and well-illustrated.

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.

Lonely Planet Panama

Author: Lonely Planet

Description: Written in the tradition of Lonely Planet travel guides. This book is a good general resource and provides accounts of the Panamanian history and local culture and also detailed descriptions of sites of interest.

Panama Map

Author: ITMB

Description: A full-color, double-sided map of Panama for the traveler at the detailed scale of 1:480,000.

The Path Between the Seas, The Creation of the Panama Canal: 1870-1914

Author: David McCullough

Description: Admirably told in vivid, page-turning detail. McCullough reveals the full scope of the Panama Canal, its characters, technical difficulties and Byzantine politics.

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.

The Wildlife of Costa Rica, A Field Guide

Author: Fiona Reid, Twan Leenders, Jim Zook, Robert Dean

Description: Designed to take along on a walk in the forest, this latest compact Zona Tropical guide includes 450 of the most common, interesting and charismatic mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and arthropods that you are likely to encounter in the field. Each gets an exquisite full color illustration.

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

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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