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. 17988RJ
Length
11 days
Starts at
2,089
Flights start at
455
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11 days
10 nights
29 meals
10 B 9 L 10 D
Getting There
See travel details and required documents
DAY
1
Arrive to San José, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
San José
D
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: 6 p.m. program orientation at the hotel. 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. 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. 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: Welcome dinner at the hotel with water, coffee, tea. Other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure.

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

Activity note: 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). There will be places to sit at the National Theater during our visit. If the theater is closed, we'll hold our discussions outside the building while we admire its Neoclassical architecture. The drive from San José to Sarapiqui in the Caribbean lowlands is about 56 miles; approximately 2 hours by bus.

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

Morning: A local expert will join us at the hotel to give us an informative overview of Costa Rica, offering insights into the country's history, culture and geography. Next, we'll take a short walk from our hotel, along the pedestrian walk, to the National Theater and then to the Gold Museum. These visits will be enhanced by the accompanying historical information provided by a local expert. 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.

Lunch: At a local restaurant with coffee and water. Other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: Depart for Sarapiqui, situated in the Caribbean lowlands. 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. After checking in we'll get our room assignments and enjoy a brief orientation to the lodge.

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

Evening: Time 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

Activity note: Walking at a relaxed pace on mostly flat, paved paths at the lodge. Visit to archaeological site includes some walking on irregular terrain and climbing/descending a few stone steps.

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 dining room for breakfast. Next, we'll enjoy a short walk in the grounds of the lodge with our Group Leader and learn to identify some of the characteristics of local and introduced plants. 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. Costa Rica is one of the world's top 5 producers and exporters of pineapples. Return to the lodge.

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

Afternoon: After lunch, we'll walk to an archaeological site on the lodge premises that includes pre-Columbian tombs, stone sculptures and petroglyphs. We'll join a member of the Maleku tribe on a history and culture walk through the site to 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. After our walk, we'll return to the main lodge building to enjoy a presentation on the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor. A local expert will address the importance of creating a biological corridor between Braulio Carrillo National Park and the Caribbean coast.

Dinner: At the lodge.

Evening: At leisure.

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

Activity note: Some walking on irregular paths, ascending/descending steps with handrail and getting in and out of a river boat. The drive from the hotel to Puerto Viejo is about 9 miles, less than a 1/2 hour; Puerto Viejo to Nature Pavillion (a.k.a Dave and Dave's Costa Rica Nature Park) is about 9.5 miles, less than 1/2 hour; Nature Pavillion to the hotel is about a 1/2 mile.

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. During the boat ride, our Group Leader will introduce us to the birds and animals that frequent the riverine vegetation, including caimans and a variety of water birds. We'll also take this opportunity to observe land utilization along the river banks and consider the human impact on the ecology of the river system. Disembark in Puerto Viejo and ride by motorcoach to a local restaurant. Before lunch, we'll 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 with coffee and water.

Afternoon: Back at the hotel we will have some free time to rest and freshen up before our next activity. Later in the afternoon we will board our motorcoach and drive to the Costa Rica Nature Pavillion for an opportunity to observe hummingbirds and a large number of colorful birds such as Collared Aracaris, Green Honeycreepers, Blue-gray Tanagers, Crimson-collared Tanagers and Great Kiskadees. Our Group Leader will assist us in identifying the bird species as they come to eat at the multiple feeders located around the viewing porches. The Costa Rica Nature Pavilion was founded by Dave Lando-- an American expat experienced in the field of tropical agriculture and passionate about habitat restoration efforts. Putting some of his research to the test, he began planting carefully selected native trees and plants on a large tract of land he purchased in the Caribbean lowlands of Costa Rica. Through this process, he successfully recreated a number of small ecosystems within his property. The reforested lands at the Nature Pavilion now attract more than 230 bird species including migrants.

Dinner: At the lodge.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare luggage for check out in the morning.

DAY
5
Macaw Farm, Transfer to Arenal
Arenal
B,L,D
Arenal Manoa Hotel

Activity note: The drive from Sarapiqui to Arenal is about 61 miles; approximately 2.5 to 3 hours with pit stops.

Breakfast: At the lodge.

Morning: After check out we'll board our motorcoach and journey to a local farm to view semi-wild Great Green Macaws and Scarlet Macaws that like to frequent the property. These colorful and vocal birds can usually be spotted perched on surrounding trees or flying about the farm. During our visit we'll get to meet one of the owners and learn how the family is helping to restore local macaw populations. Next, we'll transfer to the town of La Fortuna, located within the shadow of the Arenal Volcano.

Lunch: At a local restaurant.

Afternoon: After check in we'll enjoy a brief orientation to the hotel and some "down time" to enjoy the hotel's thermal pools. 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. A presentation by a local expert will introduce us to the history of La Fortuna town and the Arenal Volcano. Then we'll head to dinner.

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

Evening: At leisure.

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

Breakfast: At the hotel with coffee and water.

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. The lodge once served as a makeshift field station for scientists from the Smithsonian Institute who came to study the Arenal Volcano. 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 Arenal Observatory with coffee and water. Other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: Take a leisurely stroll on the lodge's nature trails or enjoy the stunning views of Arenal Volcano from the hotel patio before we board the bus back to our hotel. Free time at the hotel.

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

Evening: Return to the hotel and time at leisure.

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

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: We'll travel this morning to a local farm where a member of the family will talk about the history of the estate and discuss some of the agricultural practices in this fertile region. Next, we'll 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.

Afternoon: On our drive back to the hotel, we'll make a quick stop at La Fortuna town for a casual walk around the charming main square. 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. Returning to the hotel, the remainder of the afternoon is free. You might like to swim in the pool, soak tired muscles in the invigorating thermal spring, or just sit back and lose yourself in the pages of a good book.

Dinner: At the hotel.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare for check out and transfer in the morning.

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

Activity note: From Arenal to the Punta Leona/Pacific Coast is about 100 miles, approximately 4 to 4.5 hours with pit stops.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: We'll check out of the hotel, board our bus and begin our transfer to Costa Rica's Central Pacific Region. The area around Punta Leona 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.

Lunch: At a local restaurant en route.

Afternoon: Reaching the Tárcoles River, we’ll embark on a boating field trip to look for crocodiles and other riverine wildlife along the river banks and mangroves. Our Group Leader will discuss the life history of the Tarcoles' resident crocodiles. These large reptiles 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. We’ll continue our transfer to the hotel and check-in, followed by an orientation to the property and its amenities. The remainder of the afternoon is free. We'll regroup before dinner for a presentation given by a local expert.

Dinner: At the hotel.

Evening: At leisure.

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

Activity note: Outrigger canoe activity lasts approximately 1 hour. Please wear a bathing suit and water shoes or sport sandals. Apply sunscreen well before water activity.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: We'll depart on a field trip to Playa Agujas for an outrigger canoe ride along the coast, with an opportunity to observe wildlife and the various geological formations. We'll then return to the hotel.

Lunch: At the hotel.

Afternoon: After some “down” time, we’ll transfer to Jaco Beach to learn about the town’s growth, development, and reputation as a surfing mecca in Costa Rica. We’ll cap the day’s activities with a Pacific sunset and a sundowner in Jaco before returning to the hotel.

Dinner: At the hotel.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare for check out and transfer in the morning.

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

Activity note: The drive from Punta Leona to San José is about 60 miles; approximately 2 hours. Travel is broken up by en route stops for program activities and lunch.

Breakfast: Late breakfast at the hotel.

Morning: After check out, we'll board our motorcoach and begin our transfer to San José. During our journey back to the Central Valley we'll make en route stop at La Garita to visit the Botanical Orchid Garden. While walking along garden paths our Group Leader will provide instruction on the garden's vast collection of orchids as well as heliconias, palms, and gingers. Claudio Salas, a Costa Rican botanist, dreamed of creating a place that would showcase native trees and plants and—most importantly—his beloved orchids. Over the course of 30 years, he transformed a former coffee plantation into the beautiful tropical haven that is now the Botanical Orchid Garden. Trail signs make it easy for guests to follow the paved trails to the various landscaped areas including attractive water gardens. The botanical garden also houses a nursery, a laboratory, and an orchid show room. The nursery features a display explaining the life cycle of orchids—revealing the various steps in an orchid’s transformation from seed to flower.

Lunch: At a local restaurant en route.

Afternoon: We’ll continue our transfer to San José. Upon arrival, we’ll check in at the hotel with time to freshen up and relax before dinner.

Dinner: At the hotel, enjoy a farewell dinner with new Road Scholar friends. Share your favorite experiences.

Evening: At leisure. Say farewells, finish packing, and get a good night's rest for departure tomorrow.

DAY
11
Program Concludes, In Transit from Program
In Flight
B

Activity note: Hotel Check out by 11:00 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 to check in for flights returning to North America. This concludes our program. 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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