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 San José, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
San José
D
Radisson Hotel San José - Costa Rica

Activity note: Hotel check-in 3:00 p.m.

Afternoon: Check-in at the hotel then take some time to freshen up and relax. Orientation: 6:00 p.m. The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. 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 included in the program price are coffee and water; other beverages are usually available for purchase. Travel and transfers will be via air-conditioned bus unless specified otherwise. The bus does not have a restroom on board; however, there will be stops at least every two hours for program activities, meals, and/or basic pit stops to break up longer travel times. Periods in the daily schedule designated as “Free time” and “At leisure” offer opportunities to do what you like and make your experience even more meaningful and memorable according to your personal preferences. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances/conditions. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding.

Dinner: At the hotel; coffee and water included, other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure. Continue getting to know your fellow Road Scholars. Prepare for hotel check-out and transfer in the morning.

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

Activity note: Getting on/off a bus with several steps. Walking at an easy pace; mostly flat terrain.

Breakfast: At the hotel, we’ll have a buffet breakfast with juice, coffee, tea, water.

Morning: We’ll be joined by a local expert for a presentation that will provide insights into Costa Rica’s famed biodiversity. We’ll then board our bus and ride to the Museo Nacional de Costa Rica — the National Museum. There, our Group Leader will take us on an informative museum walk detailing the country’ cultural history. The museum stands proudly in San José’s Plaza de Democracia, housed in the former Bellavista Fortress directly across from the Legislative Assembly. Its work is focused on scientific investigation, education, exhibition, and defense of the country’s natural and cultural heritage. The collections and exhibits trace significant aspects of Costa Rica’s human and natural history, culture, and heritage from pre-Columbian times to the present day. Next, we will reboard our bus and ride to the Café Britt coffee farm in Barva de Heredia.

Lunch: At Café Britt, we’ll have a buffet lunch with coffee and water included; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: At Café Britt, the country’s first established gourmet coffee roaster, an expert will take us on an interactive walk through the coffee farm to see how coffee is grown, harvested, and processed for consumption. We will learn from a “cupper” (a professional coffee taster) the proper way to taste coffee in order to identify the quality of the brew. Returning to the hotel, the remainder of the afternoon is free.

Dinner: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to enjoy what you like. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Evening: We’ll re-group at the hotel for an overview of tomorrow’s activities. Prepare for hotel-check out and early morning transfer.

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

Activity note: Getting on/off a bus, on/off a river boat. Driving about 75 miles, approximately 3.5 hours including stop. River boat ride to Tortuguero approximately 1.5 hours.

Breakfast: After early morning hotel check-out, we will drive to a local restaurant for a buffet breakfast with juice, coffee, and water included.

Morning: We will to a local dock and board a river boat to Tortuguero National Park on the Caribbean coast, south of Nicaragua and 50 miles north of the principal port of Limon. The park comprises Caribbean beaches, swamp forest, lowland rainforest, and a picturesque network of natural waterways. There is an incredible diversity of plant and animal life including more than 100 reptile species, 60 mammal species, and hundreds of bird species. Tortuguero gets its name from the large sea turtles that come ashore each year from July through October to nest on the 27-mile long black sand beach. Arrive at the lodge, we will check in with some time to freshen up and relax before lunch.

Lunch: At the lodge, we’ll have a buffet meal with coffee and water; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: Next, we’ll take a quick boat to the local village where we’ll accompany our Group Leader on a walking in the community to see how folks live. We’ll then walk from the village to the Sea Turtle Conservancy field station for video/slide show presentation to learn about their mission and to find out why Tortuguero Beach is so important for the survival of endangered green turtles. Return by boat to the lodge, we’ll have a presentation by a long-time resident on the history of Tortuguero.

Dinner: At the lodge, we’ll have a buffet meal with coffee and water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: After a review of tomorrow’s activities, the remainder of the evening is at leisure. Overview of next day’s activities and time at leisure.

DAY
4
Canal Safari 1, Forest Hike, Canal Safari 2
Tortuguero
B,L,D
Pachira Lodge

Activity note: Early morning (pre-breakfast) canal safari in Tortuguero National Park to spot local wildlife. Getting in/out of motorized river boats. Walking 1-2 miles; often muddy forest trails; wear comfortable clothes and closed-toe shoes you can get dirty; hat, sunscreen, insect repellent, binoculars, walking stick recommended.

Breakfast: At the lodge after our early morning canal safari, the breakfast buffet includes juice, coffee and water; other beverages available for purchase.

Morning: With our Group Leader, we’ll set out on a hike along secondary forest trails to 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: Lodge buffet.

Afternoon: We’ll have some time to relax before our afternoon field trip. You might like 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. Mid-afternoon, we’ll embark on a boat safari on local canals. As we navigate these waterways, we will 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, the unique flora of this lush region including trees and plants such as the kativo, almendro, sangrillo, and pachira. We’ll return to the lodge at the end of our field trip.

Dinner: Lodge buffet.

Evening: After an overview of tomorrow’s activities, our Group Leader will take us on a walk around the lodge grounds to look for nocturnal species. Then prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

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

Activity note: River boat ride from Tortuguero to boat dock approximately 1.5 hours; bus drive from dock to Sarapiquí approximately 2.5 hours.

Breakfast: Lodge buffet.

Morning: After checkout, we’ll take a boat and land transfer to our lodge in Sarapiquí, 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 restaurant en route, we’ll have a buffet lunch with coffee and water included.

Afternoon: Arriving at the lodge, we’ll check in with some time to freshen up before our next activity. Later in the afternoon, we’ll go on a rainforest hike in the lodge’s private reserve with our Group Leader who will point out native flora and fauna. We’ll return to the lodge for a presentation by a local expert on the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor (MBC) initiated in 1997. This system of land planning consists of four types of areas, from protected ecosystems for the preservation of species to mixed use areas and the corridors connecting them.

Dinner: At the lodge, we’ll have a buffet meal with coffee, tea, water.

Evening: We’ll have an overview of tomorrow’s activities, then enjoy the lodge amenities.

DAY
6
Early Morning Birding, River Rafting, Plantation Field Trips
Sarapiqui
B,L,D
Selva Verde Lodge

Activity note: Early morning (pre-breakfast) birding walk in lodge environs. Wear comfortable clothes, walking shoes, insect repellent; binoculars recommended. For river rafting, wear a bathing suit and water shoes or sport sandals; apply sunscreen well before water activity.

Breakfast: Lodge buffet after returning from early morning birding walk.

Morning: We’ll enjoy an exhilarating river rafting excursion where we’ll participate in paddling. Each raft will have its own rafting expert who will sit at the back to navigate and direct participants on how and when to paddle. We’ll return to the lodge to freshen-up and change clothes, then board our bus and ride to a local heart of palm plantation. A local expert will lead our walk through the plantation to learn 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, we’ll have an opportunity to sample dishes made with some of the freshly harvested hearts of palm.

Afternoon: Next, we’ll drive to a pineapple plantation to learn about agricultural practices in the region. A local expert will lead us through the fields in an open vehicle and explain how this delicious fruit is grown and harvested. At the sorting building, we’ll see how pineapples are processed for shipping. We’ll return to the lodge after our field trip.

Dinner: Lodge buffet.

Evening: After an overview of the activities for tomorrow, including check-out and transfer to Arenal, the remainder of the evening is at leisure. This is a great time to listen for the rainforest’s nocturnal inhabitants. You might be relaxing in your hammock as you try to distinguish one call from another. Frogs, owls, bats, tepezquintles (pacas), moths, and various other creatures of the night come out 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: The drive to Arenal is about 61 miles, approximately 2.5 to 3 hours including stops. Walking approximately 2.5 miles, about 1 hour; irregular terrain including forest trails and lava rocks. Opportunity to use hotel thermal pools during free time.

Breakfast: Lodge buffet.

Morning: Checking out of the lodge, we’ll begin our transfer to Arenal with a stop en route in the town of La Fortuna, where we’ll have an opportunity to stretch our legs and walk along 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 dominates the countryside with its perfectly conical shape and occasional smoke and gas emissions. While minor activities excite visitors, they are rarely acknowledged by local people who have learned to them 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 nature lovers.

Lunch: At a restaurant en route with coffee and water included; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: We will drive on to Arenal National Park and set out on a walking field trip with our Group Leader along Las Coladas trail. We will observe up close views of the volcano and witness the regeneration process of the vegetation that was once affected by past volcanic activity. There are also excellent views of the Arenal Lake and surrounding areas during our 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. We will learn how periodic lava flows have contributed to the erratic growth of vegetation in the areas around the volcano. Arriving at the hotel, we will check in with some time to freshen up. We’ll then have a pre-dinner presentation by a local expert who will discuss the history of cacao.

Dinner: At the hotel with coffee and water included; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure. You might like to have 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; wear comfortable clothing and closed-toe walking shoes.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: We’ll board our bus for a field trip to Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges in Fortuna de San Carlos. This private nature reserve features a network of standing bridges, hanging bridges, and trails that crisscross more than 600 acres (250 hectares) of tropical rainforest. The park’s mission is to provide natural history education in a responsible and sustainable way. We will view the rainforest from different angles and heights, from ground level to canopy level, learning firsthand about this fascinating and biologically diverse environment. We’ll then return to the hotel.

Lunch: At the hotel; coffee and water included, other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: We’ll have some time to explore La Fortuna town, enjoy the hotel’s thermal springs, or just relax. Mid-afternoon, we’ll board our bus and ride to a school for a charming dance presentation performed by local children. Next, we’ll drive to a nearby farm to learn about the history of the estate and the agricultural practices of this fertile region. We’ll also work-up an appetite while learning to make tortillas and cooking them on a traditional wood stove.

Dinner: At the farm, we’ll have a traditional meal hosted by the family.

Evening: Returning to the hotel, the remainder of the evening is at leisure. Prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

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

Activity note: The drive to the Punta Leona/Pacific Coast is about 100 miles, approximately 4 to 4.5 hours including stops.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: After check out, we’ll begin our transfer to Punta Leona, 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. Punta Leona is just a short distance from the important Carara National Park.

Lunch: At a restaurant en route.

Afternoon: En route to 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 series and specials. After arriving at Punta Leona, we’ll check in and settle into our rooms. Then we’ll join our Group Leader for an introduction 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, we’ve have a buffet meal including coffee and water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure. Get a good night’s rest in preparation for early morning activities tomorrow.

DAY
10
Carara National Park, Free Time
Punta Leona
B,L,D
Hotel Punta Leona

Activity note: Early morning (pre-breakfast) birding walk; paved lodge paths, flat trails. Wear comfortable clothes, walking shoes, insect repellent; binoculars recommended. At Carara, walking on undulating, paved park trails; wear closed toed shoes, a hat, sunscreen, and insect repellent.

Breakfast: At the hotel after returning from our birding walk, we’ll have a buffet meal with juice, coffee, water included.

Morning: We’ll take our bus to nearby Carara National Park where we’ll take a walking field trip on park trails with our Group Leader to learn about the flora and fauna of this unique transition zone 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. If we’re lucky, we might see some of these birds that mate for life. We’ll return to the hotel after our field trip.

Lunch: Hotel buffet.

Afternoon: Free time. You might like to go out independently to enjoy the beaches, the hotel amenities, or just relax.

Dinner: Hotel buffet.

Evening: After an overview of the activities for tomorrow, including check-out and transfer to San Gerardo de Dota, the remainder of the evening is at leisure.

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 drive to San Gerardo de Dota is about 131 miles, approximately 4.5 to 5 hours including stops. The drive will take us through the Cerro de la Muerte up to an elevation of 11,000 feet before descending to approximately 7,000 feet at San Gerardo de Dota.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: We’ll check-out of the hotel, board the bus, and begin our journey along the coast for about 1.5 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. We’ll also have a presentation on 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 coastal ridge.

Lunch: At a restaurant en route.

Afternoon: We’ll continue our journey to San Gerardo de Dota in the scenic Talamanca Mountains and check in to the lodge upon arrival. After freshening up, we’ll go on an exploratory walk with our Group Leader around the cloud forest grounds of the hotel for an introductory look at this unique habitat and its characteristic flora and fauna.

Dinner: At the lodge, we’ll have a buffet dinner with coffee and water included; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: We’ll gather for a review of tomorrow’s activities including check-out and transfer. The remainder of the evening is at leisure.

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

Activity note: Early morning (pre-breakfast) birding walk; paved lodge paths, flat trails; wear comfortable clothes, walking shoes, insect repellent; binoculars recommended. Check-out before 12:00 Noon. The drive to San José is about 93 miles, approximately 2.5 to 3 hours.

Breakfast: At the lodge after returning from our birding walk, we’ll have a buffet breakfast with coffee and water included.

Morning: Next, we’ll join our Group Leader on a nature walk in the Savegre Forest, adjacent to Los Quetzales National Park. We will 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. We’ll have access to our rooms after the field trip to freshen up before we check out prior to lunch. Next 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 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.

Lunch: At the lodge.

Afternoon: We’ll say farewell to Savegre and begin our transfer to San José. Upon arrival we’ll check in with the remainder of the afternoon free to explore independently, relax, and freshen up before dinner.

Dinner: At the hotel. Share favorite experiences with new Road Scholar friends during our farewell dinner.

Evening: At leisure. Enjoy our last evening together as a group in Costa Rica. Finish your packing and get a good night’s sleep in preparation for check-out and departure in the morning.

DAY
13
Program Concludes, In Transit from Program
In Flight
B

Activity note: Check-out 11:00 a.m. See your program’s travel details regarding transfers. 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 today are on your own.

Breakfast: At the hotel depending on airport transfer and flight departure times. This concludes our program.

Morning: If you are returning home, safe travels. If you are staying on independently, have a wonderful time. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that 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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