11586
Costa Rica
The Best of Costa Rica: Exploring Natural Wonders
With more than 5% of the world’s biodiversity, 121 volcanic formations, 801 miles of coastline and hundreds of endemic birds, Costa Rica is a true Mecca for nature lovers to explore.
Rating (4.99)
Program No. 11586RJ
Length
13 days
Starts at
2,396
Special Offer
Flights start at
455
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13 days
12 nights
34 meals
12 B 11 L 11 D
Getting There
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DAY
1
Arrive to San José, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
San José
D
Radisson Hotel San José - Costa Rica

Activity note: Participants must book flights that arrive into San José, Costa Rica no later than 4:30 p.m. on this day if they plan on attending the program orientation. Some Road Scholar gateways require the use of overnight flights in order to get participants to San José by the suggested time. Please contact your Road Scholar program provider at 1-800-866-7111 or roadscholarprograms@holbrooktravel.com if you would like to make arrangements to arrive in Costa Rica a day or more before your program.

Afternoon: 6 p.m. program orientation at the hotel. Meet 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.

Dinner: Welcome dinner at the hotel with water, coffee, tea. Other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
2
National Museum, Cafe Britt
San José
B,L
Radisson Hotel San José - Costa Rica

Activity note: This program includes a number of bus transfers. The air conditioned Road Scholar bus does not have a bathroom on board. However, the program includes stops for program activities, meals, and/or basic pit stops that help to break up longer travel times. Stops are built into the schedule for every 1.5 - 2 hours of bus travel.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: Enjoy a lecture on Costa Rican biodiversity at the hotel before departing by motorcoach to the National Museum. Once there, we will accompany our Group Leader and a local expert on an informative walk detailing Costa Rica's cultural history. Costa Rica's National Museum stands proudly in San José's Plaza de Democracia. Exhibits feature various artifacts and pieces detailing the country's history from pre-Columbian times to the present. The museum is housed in the historic Bellavista Fortress--the country's former army headquarters. After boarding our motorcoach, we will transfer to the Cafe Britt coffee farm for afternoon activities.

Lunch: At Cafe Britt.

Afternoon: At Cafe Britt, we will enjoy an interactive walk through the coffee farm to find out how coffee is grown, harvested and processed for consumption. We will learn from an expert the proper way to taste coffee in order to identify the quality of the brew. Return to the hotel.

Dinner: On your own to explore local fare. Your group leader will be available to offer dining suggestions.

Evening: Overview of next day's activities.

DAY
3
Transfer to Tortuguero, Sea Turtle Conservancy
Tortuguero
B,L,D
Pachira Lodge

Activity note: Bus drive from San José to boat dock: 3.5 hours. The bus drive includes an en route stop for breakfast at a local restaurant. River boat ride to Tortuguero: 1.5 hours.

Breakfast: Early morning check-out of hotel. Breakfast at a local restaurant.

Morning: Transfer to dock and board river boat to Tortuguero. Tortuguero is located on the Caribbean coast, south of Nicaragua, and fifty miles north of Limon. The Tortuguero National Park embodies Caribbean beaches, with a surprising array of plant associations, including swamp forest, lowland rainforest and a picturesque network of natural waterways. Tortuguero gets its name from the large sea turtles that come ashore yearly to nest on the beach. From July through October, the 27 mile-long black sand beach welcomes thousands of Green Sea Turtles who come onto land to lay eggs. Every year, under the watchful eyes of park guides, visitors enjoy nighttime walks on Tortuguero’s beach in the hopes of seeing turtles (seasonal). Although these gentle giants are a big tourist draw to the area, the national park has much more to offer than just sea turtles. Navigating through the river and canals of Tortuguero reveals an incredible diversity of plant and animal life including more than 100 reptiles, 60 mammal species, and hundreds of bird species. Arrive at the lodge and check-in.

Lunch: At the lodge.

Afternoon: Excursion to local village. Visit to Sea Turtle Conservancy (formerly Caribbean Conservation Corporation) field station for video/slide show presentation. Return to the lodge. Pre-dinner lecture: History and Overview of Tortuguero.

Dinner: At the lodge.

Evening: Overview of next day's activities and free time.

DAY
4
Boating & Hiking Field Trips
Tortuguero
B,L,D
Pachira Lodge

Activity note: Activities in Tortuguero require participants to get in and out of motorized river boats. Since this region of Costa Rica receives a considerable amount of rainfall throughout the year, forest trails are oftentimes muddy.

Breakfast: Early morning canal safari in Tortuguero National Park. Return to the lodge. Breakfast at the lodge.

Morning: After breakfast, join your group leader on a hike along secondary forest trails. Learn about riparian vegetation and endemic wildlife. Target species in this area include caimans, monkeys, and sea and river turtles. Tortuguero National Park is located in one of the rainiest regions of Costa Rica. It is also an area of incredible biological diversity, with at least eleven identified habitats. A scenic natural channel and navigable river mouths form the park from the southwest to the northeast. These river ways and swamps are the habitat of species of land tortoises, which can be seen sunning themselves on drifting logs or in the floating islands formed by vegetation. The canals also provide shelter to a variety of species in danger of extinction and are excellent locations to observe the different species of aquatic birds. Return to the lodge in time for lunch.

Lunch: At the lodge.

Afternoon: Afternoon at leisure. This is the perfect chance to enjoy a refreshing dip in the pool, take a stroll around the lodge, or just settle into a comfortable chair with a great book. Late afternoon boat safari on local canals. Look for endemic and migrant birds as well as howler monkeys, caimans, bats, turtles, and more! Although wildlife observation tends to take the front seat during these activities, do not ignore the unique flora of this lush region. Some of the important trees and plants found here include the kativo, almendro, sangrillo, and pachira. Return to the lodge.

Dinner: At the lodge.

Evening: Overview of next day's activities. Short guided walk around the lodge grounds.

DAY
5
Transfer to Sarapiqui, Rainforest Hike, Biological Corridors
Sarapiqui
B,L,D
Selva Verde Lodge

Activity note: River boat ride from Tortuguero to boat dock: 1.5 hours. The bus drive from the dock to Sarapiqui takes approximately 2.5 hours.

Breakfast: At the lodge.

Morning: Boat and land transfer to Sarapiqui, in Costa Rica's Caribbean lowlands. Sarapiquí is one of the richest sites for birds in Middle America with well over 400 species recorded. 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.

Lunch: At a local restaurant en route.

Afternoon: Arrive at the lodge. This afternoon, enjoy a guided rainforest hike in the lodge's private reserve. Lecture: The Mesoamerican Biological Corridor.

Dinner: At the lodge.

Evening: Overview of next day's activities.

DAY
6
Birding, River Rafting, Visit to Local Plantation
Sarapiqui
B,L,D
Selva Verde Lodge

Breakfast: Optional, early morning guided birding in lodge environs. Breakfast at lodge.

Morning: After breakfast, enjoy an exhilarating river rafting excursion. Return to the lodge to freshen-up and change clothes.

Lunch: At the lodge.

Afternoon: After lunch, transfer to a local plantation to learn about agricultural practices in the region. Return to the lodge.

Dinner: At the lodge.

Evening: Overview of next day's activities and free time. After sunset, the rainforest comes alive with the calls of its nocturnal inhabitants. Listen to the sounds--try to distinguish one from another as you relax in your hammock. Frogs, owls, bats, tepezquintles (pacas), moths, and various other creatures come out at night as most of us get ready for bed.

DAY
7
Transfer to Arenal, Arenal Volcano National Park
Arenal Volcano
B,L,D
Arenal Paraiso Hotel Resort & Spa

Activity note: Bus drive from Sarapiqui to Arenal takes approximately 2.5 to 3 hours.

Breakfast: At the lodge.

Morning: Check-out of the lodge and begin transfer to Arenal. Upon arrival at the town of La Fortuna town, enjoy some free time to explore its streets. 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: At a local restaurant.

Afternoon: This afternoon there is a field trip to Arenal National Park. Walk along Las Coladas trail to observe up close views of the volcano and also witness the regeneration process of the vegetation that was once affected by past volcanic activity. There are also privileged views of the Arenal Lake and the surrounding areas during the walk. The National Park is situated right in the vicinity of Arenal 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. Arrive at the hotel and check-in.

Dinner: At the hotel.

Evening: Free time at the hotel. Why not relax your sore muscles with a rejuvenating soak in the hotel's thermal springs?

DAY
8
Arenal Hanging Bridges, Local Farm Visit, Traditional Dinner
Arenal Volcano
B,L,D
Arenal Paraiso Hotel Resort & Spa

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: Field trip to Arenal Hanging Bridges. This private nature reserve in La Fortuna de San Carlos 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. Return to the hotel.

Lunch: At the hotel.

Afternoon: Afternoon at leisure to explore La Fortuna town, enjoy a relaxing soak in your hotel's thermal springs, or make use of other hotel amenities. Field trip to local farm to learn about the history of the estate and the agricultural practices of this fertile region. Before dinner, work-up an appetite while learning to make tortillas and then cooking them on a traditional wood stove.

Dinner: Traditional dinner at the farm, hosted by the family. Enjoy a dance presentation performed by local school children.

Evening: Return to the hotel and free time.

DAY
9
Transfer to Punta Leona, Crocodile Safari
Punta Leona
B,L,D
Hotel Punta Leona

Activity note: Bus drive from Arenal to the Punta Leona/Pacific Coast takes approximately 4 to 4.5 hours.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: Begin transfer to Punta Leona, on the Pacific Coast. Punta Leona is located on the Central Pacific Coast; less than 2 hours by car from San José. The area has become a popular vacation spot with Costa Rican families. With white sand beaches on one side and tropical rainforest on the other, there are many options for both the adventure lover and those looking for a little rest and relaxation. Punta Leona is just a short distance from the important Carara National Park.

Lunch: At a local restaurant en route.

Afternoon: Crocodile Safari boat ride on the Tarcoles River. The Tárcoles River Basin is one of the most important in the Pacific coastal region, virtually draining the entire western side of the Central Valley. Tárcoles hosts an amazing diversity of wildlife along its banks and in the extensive mangrove ecosystem. Perhaps the most famous of all the river's inhabitants are its enormous crocodiles. These crocodiles have been studied by numerous local and foreign specialists and featured in TV specials, including several episodes of Dr. Brady Barr's "Reptile Wild" series through National Geographic. Arrive in Punta Leona and check-in at the hotel. Enjoy a guided orientation to Punta Leona, followed by a lecture. Lecture: Central Pacific Region: Conservation and Development.

Dinner: At the hotel.

Evening: Time at leisure. Get a good night's rest in preparation for early morning activities the following day.

DAY
10
Carara National Park, Afternoon at the Beach
Punta Leona
B,L,D
Hotel Punta Leona

Breakfast: Optional early morning birding. Breakfast at the hotel.

Morning: Field trip to Carara National Park. Carara, 60 miles southwest of San José, lies at the northern limit of the Pacific lowland rainforest and the southern limit of the dry, deciduous forest. Its unique location within a transition zone means that plant and animal species from both habitats coexist in the reserve. In addition to conserving primary and secondary growth forests, Carara National Park also protects the Rio Grande de Tarcoles river basin and its rich wildlife. The park is a favored birding destination, with more than 350 recorded bird species including a sizeable population of endangered Scarlet Macaws. Return to the hotel.

Lunch: At the hotel.

Afternoon: Time at leisure to enjoy the beaches, pools, and other amenities at your hotel.

Dinner: At the hotel.

Evening: Overview of next day's activities.

DAY
11
Transfer to San Gerardo de Dota, Hacienda Baru, Cloud Forest
San Gerardo de Dota
B,L,D
Savegre Hotel Nature Reserve & Spa

Activity note: Bus drive from Pacific Coast to San Gerardo de Dota takes approximately 5 hours. Travel is broken up by en route stops for program activities and lunch.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: Check-out of the hotel. Travel along the coast (1.5 hours) for a field trip to Hacienda Baru. Learn about local conservation efforts during a guided walk on small loop trail and lecture. Lecture: An Overview of Baru's Reforestation Project. Hacienda Baru National Wildlife Refuge is situated on Costa Rica’s Southern Pacific Coast. This is a region of distinct natural beauty, where forest covered mountains rise up from the dramatic Pacific coastline. Hacienda Baru’s 815 acres have a fantastic variety of habitats, from wetland and secondary forest in the lowlands to primary forest on the highland costal ridge.

Lunch: At a local restaurant en route.

Afternoon: Transfer to San Gerardo de Dota. Arrive at the lodge and check-in. Time at leisure. Walk around the cloud forest grounds of the hotel. Lecture: The History of the San Gerardo Valley. The few families that inhabit the valley are mostly dedicated to the production of trout, apples and peaches, which grow well in the cool, moist elevations of the Talamanca Range. Pioneers in many aspects, the Chacon family was the first to settle in this area. They built the first hotel in the region and were the first to set out to conserve the magnificent high elevation and oak forests that covered the entire valley. The patriarch of the family don Efrain Chacon, has transmitted his love for this land to his children and grandchildren. They now share his passion and devotion for the preservation of the pristine forests.

Dinner: At the lodge.

Evening: Overview of next day's activities.

DAY
12
Transfer to San José, Birding, Farewell Dinner
San José
B,L,D
Wyndham San José Herradura Hotel & Convention Center

Activity note: Bus drive from San Gerardo de Dota to San José takes approximately 2 to 2.5 hours.

Breakfast: Optional early morning birding around the lodge. Breakfast at the lodge.

Morning: Guided nature walk in the Savegre Forest, adjacent to Los Quetzales National Park. During this activity, you will have the chance to learn about the life history of the Resplendent Quetzal and the flora and fauna of the highland cloud forest. The quetzal, a colorful bird much revered by the Maya and Aztec, can be seen all year feeding on the many aguacatillo trees growing throughout Los Quetzales National and the Savegre Nature Reserve. The Chacon family was instrumental in turning the 12,000 acres of mist-covered forests, rivers, glacial lakes, and various ecosystems adjacent to their home into what is now the Los Quetzales National Park. After the guided walk, freshen-up and check out of the rooms before we have lunch.

Lunch: At the lodge.

Afternoon: Transfer to San José. Arrive in San José and check-in at the hotel. Enjoy a little bit of free time to rest and freshen up before dinner.

Dinner: Farewell dinner at hotel.

Evening: Free time. Spend your last evening in Costa Rica with your new Road Scholar friends, finish your packing, or get a good night's sleep in preparation for international departures tomorrow.

DAY
13
Program Concludes
In Flight
B

Breakfast: At the hotel (dependent on flight departure times).

Morning: Transfer to the 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.






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