17988
Costa Rica
At Your Pace: The Natural Wonders of Costa Rica
Boasting more than 5% of the world’s biodiversity, 121 volcanic formations and 801 miles of coastline, Costa Rica is a true Mecca for nature lovers. Come explore at your pace.
Rating (5)
Program No. 17988VPS
Length
11 days
Starts at
2,089
Flights start at
455
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11 days
10 nights
28 meals
10 B 9 L 9 D
Getting There
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DAY
1
Arrivals, National Theater, Orientation, Dinner on Own
San José
Hotel Balmoral

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: We'll meet our Group Leader/s in the hotel lobby and walk a couple of blocks to the National Theater. The historical significance of coffee production will be discussed during the visit to the National Theater, which was built midst Costa Rica's coffee boom in the late 1800’s. We'll walk back to the hotel in time for a 6 p.m. program orientation. Orientation: The Group Leader will greet everyone 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 questions. Periods in the schedule labeled “Free Time” and “At Leisure” offer opportunities to make the program more meaningful and memorable while going out to explore on your own, engaging in available activities independently, making new friends among fellow Road Scholars, or simply relaxing. The Group Leader will always 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: On your own to explore local fare. Your group leader will be available to offer dining suggestions.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
2
Transfer to Sarapiqui, National Theater and Gold Museum
Sarapiqui
B,L,D
Sarapiquis Rainforest Lodge

Activity note: The bus transfer from San José to Sarapiqui in the Caribbean lowlands takes approximately 2 hours.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: Lecture: An Overview of Costa Rica. Enjoy a field trip to the National Theater and Gold Museum. Costa Rica's historical National Theater and the Grand Hotel Costa Rica are just a short drive or walk from the hotel. The historical significance of coffee production will be discussed during the visit to the National Theater, which was built midst Costa Rica's coffee boom in the late 1800’s. There is ample seating in the plaza where people-watching will stimulate a discussion on demographics and the socio-economic distribution of the population. Participants will understand what it means to be a ‘Tico.’ The National Theater is conveniently located adjacent to the Gold Museum. This unique underground museum showcases a large collection of pre-Colombian gold. The 2,000-pieces weigh over 20,000 troy ounces, making the museum one of the wealthiest spots in the nation. Visitors with an interest in stamp and/or coin collecting might appreciate the philatelic museum and the adjoining numismatic museum. The visit to the Gold Museum will include a limited number of exhibits, thus reducing the amount of time participants will be required to remain standing (approx. 30 minutes).

Lunch: At the hotel.

Afternoon: Depart for Sarapiqui, situated in the Caribbean lowlands and 40 miles from San José. Sarapiqui 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 at the lodge and check-in. Orientation to the lodge.

Dinner: At the lodge.

Evening: At leisure. Meet with new Road Scholar friends on the porch, enjoy a nightcap while relaxing to the sounds of the rainforest, or get a good night's sleep in preparation for the full day tomorrow.

DAY
3
Nature Walk, Indigenous Cultures, Pineapple Plantation
Sarapiqui
B,L,D
Sarapiquis Rainforest Lodge

Breakfast: At the lodge.

Morning: Early risers are welcome to join the Group Leader in an optional birding session in lodge environs before heading to breakfast. Later, enjoy a short walk in the grounds of the lodge to identify the characteristics of local and introduced plants. Field trip to a local pineapple plantation to see first-hand the pineapple growing process. A site lecture will focus on 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.

Lunch: At the lodge.

Afternoon: After lunch, join a member of the Maleku tribe on a history and culture walk through the lodge's archaeological site that includes pre-Columbian tombs, stone sculptures and petroglyphs. Learn about the region's indigenous groups and their traditions, including the use of medicinal plants for healing. For thousands of years, the Maleku (or Guatuso) people made their home in the northern reaches of Costa Rica and southern areas of Nicaragua. Their numbers began a steady decline with the arrival of Spanish settlers who used them for slave labor and introduced new diseases. During the 18th and 19th centuries, concentrated efforts to convert the natives to Catholicism further weakened the Maleku communities. It is estimated that there are less than 200 members still living in Costa Rica. Enjoy a little bit of leisure time before dinner to relax and enjoy the lodge's amenities.

Dinner: At the lodge.

Evening: Free time.

DAY
4
Nature Boat Ride on Sarapiqui River, Life in Puerto Viejo
Sarapiqui
B,L,D
Sarapiquis Rainforest Lodge

Breakfast: At the lodge.

Morning: Morning nature boat ride on the Sarapiqui River, followed by time spent in the river frontier town of Puerto Viejo. The boat ride will introduce the birds and animals that frequent the riverine vegetation, including caimans and a variety of water birds. A site lecture during the boat ride will draw attention to the land utilization on the river banks and the human impact on the ecology of the river system. The lifestyle of those living in the frontier town of Puerto Viejo will be part of a site lecture during a drive through town. Before lunch, enjoy a talk on the cultivation of heart of palm (known locally as "palmito") and sample some snacks made from this mild and crunchy vegetable.

Lunch: At a local restaurant.

Afternoon: Return to the hotel. Time at leisure. Lecture: The Mesoamerican Biological Corridor. This lecture will address the importance of creating a biological corridor between Braulio Carrillo Naitonal Park and the Caribbean coast.

Dinner: At the lodge.

Evening: Time at leisure.

DAY
5
Local Community Visit, Transfer to Arenal
Arenal
B,L,D
Arenal Manoa Hotel

Activity note: The bus transfer from Sarapiqui to Arenal takes approximately 2.5 hours.

Breakfast: At the lodge.

Morning: Field trip to a local village and a pepper plantation in the Sarapiqui region for a first-hand experience of rural life in Costa Rica. Transfer to the town of La Fortuna, located within the shadow of Arenal Volcano.

Lunch: At a local restaurant.

Afternoon: Arrive at the hotel and check-in. After check-in, enjoy a brief orientation to the hotel. The Arenal Volcano looks like it could have been imagined by Hollywood. A perfect conical shape, the active volcano provides frequent thrills and threatens danger, but its activity occurs at a distance from the people of nearby towns. This combination of geography, scenery, and activity, has drawn countless visitors. Time at leisure to enjoy the hotel's thermal pools.

Dinner: At the hotel.

Evening: Free time at the hotel.

DAY
6
Arenal Volcano National Park, La Fortuna Town
Arenal
B,L,D
Arenal Manoa Hotel

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: This morning's field trip commences with a bus ride to the Arenal National Park's observation pavilion. For those who want to walk the short trail (half an hour) this will be done while the rest of the group remains in the area near the restrooms. We will discuss the moods of the volcano and the impact of its emissions on the human development and flora and fauna of the region. Transfer to the Arenal Observatory Lodge for a self-directed stroll through their museum. Enjoy more close-up views of the volcano from the observation platform before breaking for lunch. Participants who would like a little added exercise are welcome to walk to the lodge dining room via one of two trails. The program bus will transport remaining participants to the lodge dining room.

Lunch: At the Arenal Observatory Lodge.

Afternoon: Take a little time to relax after your meal and enjoy the lodge's patio and its stunning views of Arenal Volcano. Excursion to the town of La Fortuna for happy hour. Hang out among locals at one of their favorite "after work" establishments. This community has undergone a dramatic transformation from a sleepy rural town to a bustling resort town as a result of tourism associated with the volcano. The plaza is still the central point of the town and participants will have the opportunity visit some of the meeting spots recommended by the locals. Once a small agricultural community, Fortuna has grown in the shadow of the colossus that once burned and devastated large areas in 1968. Tourism is now the most important income for the region. Although 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.

Dinner: At a local restaurant.

Evening: Return to the hotel and free time.

DAY
7
Visit to Local Farm, Agricultural Practices in the Region
Arenal
B,L,D
Arenal Manoa Hotel

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: Transfer to a local farm to learn about the history of the estate and discuss some of the agricultural practices in this fertile region. Enjoy a folkloric dance presentation held by local school children before visiting the farm's sugar cane mill for a lesson in traditional methods sugar cane processing. Before lunch, wake-up your inner chef (and your appetite!) by joining in a tortilla making activity. Learn how to make fresh tortillas and cook them on a wood stove.

Lunch: Traditional meal at the farm hosted by the family.

Afternoon: Return to the hotel. The rest of the afternoon will be at your leisure. Enjoy a swim in the pool, soak tired muscles in the invigorating thermal spring, and pamper yourself with some spa treatments (additional cost), or maybe just sit back and lose yourself in the pages of a good book.

Dinner: At the hotel.

Evening: Free time.

DAY
8
Transfer to Punta Leona, Tárcoles River
Punta Leona
B,L,D
Hotel Punta Leona

Activity note: The bus transfer from Arenal to the Punta Leona takes approximately 4 hours. Travel is broken up by en route stops for program activities and lunch.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: Transfer to Costa Rica's Central Pacific Region.

Lunch: At a local restaurant en route.

Afternoon: Boating field trip on the Tárcoles River to view wildlife and investigate the mangrove forest. Group leader discussion on the life history of Costa Rica's crocodiles. Arrive at the hotel and check-in, followed by an orientation to the property and its amenities. Time at leisure to enjoy the beach or hotel pools. At the appointed location/time we'll regroup to enjoy a presentation by a local expert before we head to dinner.

Dinner: At the hotel.

Evening: Time at leisure.

DAY
9
Outrigger Activities at Playa Agujas, Jaco Beach
Punta Leona
B,L,D
Hotel Punta Leona

Breakfast: Late breakfast at the hotel.

Morning: Excursion to Playa Agujas for an outrigger canoe ride (approximately 1 hour) along the coast. Enjoy the opportunity to observe wildlife and the various geological formations. Return to the hotel.

Lunch: At the hotel.

Afternoon: Enjoy some time at leisure to relax and enjoy the many hotel amenities. Later in the afternoon, transfer to Jaco Beach for a site lecture on the growth and development of the town and its reputation as a surfing mecca in Costa Rica. Cap your day’s activities with a Pacific sunset and a sundowner in Jaco before returning to the hotel.

Dinner: At the hotel.

Evening: Time at leisure.

DAY
10
Sarchi Crafts, Transfer to San José, Farewell Dinner
San José
B,L,D
Wyndham San José Herradura Hotel & Convention Center

Activity note: The bus transfer from Punta Leona to San José takes approximately 2 hours. Travel is broken up by en route stops for program activities and lunch.

Breakfast: Late breakfast at the hotel.

Morning: Depart to San José via the crafts town of Sarchi where ox carts, traditional furniture and other artifacts are created and on display.

Lunch: At a local restaurant en route.

Afternoon: Continue the transfer to San José. Arrive in San José and check-in at hotel. Time at leisure.

Dinner: Farewell dinner at the hotel.

Evening: At leisure. 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
11
Program Concludes, In Transit from Program
In Flight
B

Activity note: Check out by 11 a.m. See your program’s travel details regarding transfers at the conclusion of the program.

Breakfast: At the hotel (dependent on flights).

Morning: Transfer to the airport for flight to U.S. This concludes our 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!