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. The Group Leader will greet everyone with a warm welcome and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule and any changes, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer any questions you may have. Meals on our program feature local cuisine. In many cases, they will be plated and served set meals; in others, we will have buffets with multiple options. Beverages include coffee, tea, water; other beverages are usually available for purchase. Unless otherwise specified, transportation during your program will be provided by air conditioned motorcoach. Free time is reserved for your personal independent exploration. Please note that program activities, schedules, and personnel may need to change due to local circumstances. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding.

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 1/2 - 2 hours of bus travel.

Breakfast: At the hotel plus coffee, tea, water, juice.

Morning: An expert-led presentation at the hotel, will offer us insights into Costa Rica’s famed biodiversity. Next, we’ll check out of the hotel and depart by motorcoach to the National Museum. Once there, our Group Leader will lead us on an informative museum 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 plus coffee and water; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: At Cafe Britt, an expert will lead us through an interactive walk through the coffee farm to demonstrate how coffee is grown, harvested and processed for consumption. We will learn from an expert "cupper" (a professional coffee taster) 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. Please ready luggage for hotel check out the following day.

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

Activity note: Early check-out. Bus drive from San José to boat dock takes approximately 3 1/2 hours hours including an en route stop for breakfast at a local restaurant. River boat ride to Tortuguero: 1 1/2 hours.

Breakfast: Early morning check-out of hotel. Breakfast at a local restaurant plus coffee, water, juice.

Morning: Early this morning, our motorcoach will transfer us from San José to a local dock where we will board a 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. We'll disembark at the lodge and check-in.

Lunch: At the lodge, enjoy a buffet meal plus coffee and water. Other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: A quick boat transfer will deliver us to the local village where we'll accompany our Study Leader on a walking exploration of the community. Next, we'll visit the Sea Turtle Conservancy (formerly Caribbean Conservation Corporation) field station for video/slide show presentation. We'll return by boat to our lodge in time to attend a presentation by a long-time resident on the history of Tortuguero.

Dinner: At the lodge, enjoy a buffet meal plus coffee and water. Other beverages available for purchase.

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

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. A hat, sunscreen, insect repellent and binoculars are suggested for canal safari activity. Wear comfortable clothes that you don't mind getting dirty plus closed-toed shoes for forest hike. A walking stick will be useful on the irregular forest trails.

Breakfast: At the lodge, enjoy a buffet meal plus coffee and water. Other beverages available for purchase.

Morning: Before breakfast we'll enjoy an early morning canal safari in Tortuguero National Park to spot local wildlife. Return to the lodge in time for breakfast. Later in the morning, we'll join our group leader on a hike along secondary forest trails. During this activity, we'll 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. We will return to the lodge in time for lunch.

Lunch: At the lodge.

Afternoon: Free time. 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. From our lodge's dock we'll embark on a boat safari on local canals. As we navigate these waterways, we will search of 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, we shouldn't ignore the unique flora of this lush region. Some of the important trees and plants found here include the kativo, almendro, sangrillo, and pachira. Our boat will transfer us back to the lodge.

Dinner: At the lodge.

Evening: Overview of next day's activities. Our Group Leader will take us on a short guided walk around the lodge grounds to look for nocturnal species.

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 1/2 hours. The bus drive from the dock to Sarapiqui takes approximately 2 1/2 hours.

Breakfast: At the lodge.

Morning: After checkout, we'll take a 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 plus coffee and water.

Afternoon: Arrive at the lodge. Later in the afternoon, we'll enjoy a rainforest hike in the lodge's private reserve accompanied by our Group Leader who will point out native flora and fauna. Back at the lodge, a local expert will provide instruction on the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor.

Dinner: At the lodge, buffet plus coffee, tea, water.

Evening: Overview of next day's activities.

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

Activity note: Early morning birding will be done mostly on flat trails and lodge paths. Wear comfortable clothes, walking shoes and insect repellent; binoculars a plus. For river rafting please wear a bathing suit and water shoes or sport sandals. Apply sunscreen well before water activity.

Breakfast: At lodge, buffet with juice, coffee, tea, water. Other beverages available for purchase.

Morning: Early risers and/or wildlife aficionados are welcome to join our Group Leader on an early morning, pre-breakfast, birding walk in lodge environs. Return to the lodge for breakfast. After breakfast, we'll enjoy an exhilarating river rafting excursion. Then return to the lodge to freshen-up and change clothes before taking a short ride by motorcoach to a local heart of palm plantation. A walk through the plantation with a local expert will reveal details about the cultivation process and how the heart of palm is extracted. During lunch we'll have the opportunity to sample dishes made with some of the freshly harvested hearts of palm.

Lunch: At the plantation.

Afternoon: We will drive to a pineapple plantation to learn about agricultural practices in the region. At the plantation, a local expert will lead us through the fields in an open vehicle to show us how this delicious fruit is grown and harvested before returning to the sorting building to view how pineapples are processed for shipping. In the event this farm is not available, we will enjoy a visit to another local plantation. Return to the lodge.

Dinner: At the lodge.

Evening: Overview of next day's activities and time at leisure. 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 is approximately 61 miles; about 2 1/2 to 3 hours with pit stops. Walking on irregular terrain including forest trails and lava rocks at the Arenal Volcano National Park. Las Coladas Trail is approximately 2.5 miles (round-trip); about a 1 hour walk.

Breakfast: At the lodge.

Morning: Check-out of the lodge and begin transfer to Arenal. Upon arrival at the town of La Fortuna town, we'll 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 with coffee and water. Other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: We will drive on to Arenal National Park in preparation for our afternoon field trip. Our Group Leader will take us on a 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. A local expert will discuss the history of cacao during a pre-dinner presentation at the hotel.

Dinner: At the hotel with coffee and water. Other beverages available for purchase.

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

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

Activity note: Walking on forest trails and hanging bridges. Comfortable clothing and closed walking shoes suggested. Although not required, participants oftentimes enjoy bringing colored pencils, markers and other basic supplies to donate during the school visit.

Breakfast: At the hotel with coffee, juice and water.

Morning: Field trip to Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges. We'll enjoy a walking exploration of the rainforest from ground to canopy level. Our Group Leader will highlight the different levels of the forest and its characteristics as well as point out local flora and fauna. 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 with coffee and water. Other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: Free time to explore La Fortuna town and to sample hotel amenities such as the hotel's thermal springs. Later in the afternoon we'll board our motorcoach and drive to a local school where we'll enjoy a charming dance presentation performed by local children. Next, we'll drive to a nearby farm where we will learn about the history of the estate and the agricultural practices of this fertile region. We will also 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.

Evening: Return to the hotel and time at leisure.

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 is approximately 100 miles; about 4 to 4 1/2 hours with pit stops.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: After check out, we'll begin our 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: Before we reach our hotel, we'll stop for a crocodile safari boat ride on the Tarcoles River. As we navigate up the river, a local expert will provide background information on the resident crocodiles. 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. After arriving at Punta Leona, we'll check in and settle into our rooms. Then we'll join our Group Leader in an orientation to the hotel, followed by a presentation by a local expert on the conservation and development in the Central Pacific Region.

Dinner: At the hotel, buffet with coffee and water. Other beverages available for purchase.

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

Activity note: Early morning birding will be done on flat trails and paved lodge paths. Wear comfortable clothes, walking shoes and insect repellent; binoculars a plus. At Carara we will be walking on undulating, paved park trails. Closed toed shoes, a hat, sunscreen, and insect repellent are recommended.

Breakfast: At the hotel, buffet with coffee, juice and water.

Morning: Early risers and/or wildlife aficionados are welcome to join our Group Leader on an early morning, pre-breakfast, birding walk in lodge environs. Return to the lodge for breakfast. This morning our bus will drop us off at nearby Carara National Park. Our Group Leader will introduce us to the flora and fauna of this unique transition zone during a nature walk on park trails. 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 sizable population of endangered Scarlet Macaws. Return to the hotel.

Lunch: At the hotel, buffet meal with water and coffee. Other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: Free time to enjoy the beaches, pools, and other amenities at your hotel.

Dinner: At the hotel, buffet with coffee and water. Other beverages available for purchase.

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: The transfer from the Pacific Coast to San Gerardo de Dota covers a distance of approximately 131 miles and takes about 4 1/2 - 5 hours by bus. The drive will take us through the Cerro de la Muerte, up to 11,000 ft, before descending to approximately 7,000 ft at San Gerardo de Dota. Travel is broken up by en route stops for program activities and lunch.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: Check-out of the hotel. Board the motorcoach to begin our journey along the coast (1 1/2 hours) to Hacienda Baru National Wildlife Reserve. At the reserve we'll learn about local conservation efforts from a local expert during a walk on a short loop trail. A presentation on Baru's reforestation project will cap our experience. 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 coastal ridge.

Lunch: At a local restaurant en route.

Afternoon: Continue our journey to San Gerardo de Dota located in the scenic Talamanca Mountains. Arrive at the lodge, check-in and settle into our rooms. Our Group Leader will lead us on an exploratory walk around the cloud forest grounds of the hotel for an introductory look at this unique habitat and its characteristic flora and fauna. At the lodge, we'll meet the member of a local family who will present a firsthand account of 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 with coffee and water. Other beverages available for purchase.

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: Hotel checkout before lunch. Early morning birding will be done mostly on irregular forest trails and lodge paths. Wear comfortable clothes, walking shoes and insect repellent; binoculars a plus.The drive to San José is approximately 93 miles; about 2 1/2 - 3 hours.

Breakfast: At the lodge with coffee and water.

Morning: Early risers and/or wildlife aficionados are welcome to join our Group Leader on an early morning, pre-breakfast, birding walk in lodge environs. Return to the lodge for breakfast. Later, we'll join our Group Leader on a nature walk in the Savegre Forest, adjacent to Los Quetzales National Park. During this activity, we will have the chance to learn about the life history of the Resplendent Quetzal and get a more in depth look at 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 our nature walk, we'll have access to our rooms so that we can freshen up before we have to check out. Check out will take place before we head to the lodge restaurant for lunch.

Lunch: At the lodge with coffee and water. Other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: We'll say farewell to Savegre and begin our transfer to San José. Upon arrival we'll check in and enjoy some free time to 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 Transit from Program
In Flight
B

Activity note: See your program’s travel details regarding transfers at the conclusion of the program. If you are an independent traveler (POP status), see “Ground Transportation from Last Location. 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 departure times) with coffee, tea, water.

Morning: Transfer to the airport for flights home. This concludes the program. Safe travels! If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for the next program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Please join our Facebook page and share photos of your program. Visit us at www.facebook.com/rsadventures. Best wishes for all your journeys!






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