Volcanoes, Rivers, and Rain Forests
of Costa Rica
and Rain Forests of
Welcome to Costa Rica where Pura Vida! is the local saying which encompasses their commitment to live a pure and true life in harmony with nature. We will have the grandest adventures, see the wonders of nature, experience scintillating culture, this trip has all the necessary components of an ideal vacation. This lovely country is the only one in Central America with no standing army, it enjoys continuing stability after a century of almost uninterrupted democratic government. Tourism, which has overtaken bananas as Costa Rica's leading foreign exchange earner, bolsters the economy. A quarter of the land has protected status; as you will see, the beauty of rain forest preserves draws more and more visitors.
Day 1 — (Saturday) Arrive and meet at Juan Santamaria International Airport. Once all parties have arrived, our private van, with our driver Marcos will take us to our lodgings for the evening. On the way there we will stop and have a hearty local dinner which will include fresh local fruit drinks and delicious Costa Rican fare.
Once everyone is settled in, Greg will make introductions, go over the week’s agenda, and answer any questions regarding the trip. Our hotel, near the Poas Volcano, is a stunning and unique mountain lodge. It is nestled into rolling pastures, with breathtaking views of the Poas Volcano and the northern Caribbean Plains. The Lodge is distinctly located on a farm, on the edge of Poas Volcano National Park.
Day 2 — (Sunday) Get ready to hit the ground running! After a traditional hearty Costa Rican breakfast, we will head to a highly sought out, privately owned ecological attraction in Costa Rica. It features the most famous waterfalls in Costa Rica, incredible hiking trails and a rescued wildlife preserve with over 100 species of animals. Our local tour guide will show us all the wonders of this amazing park and we will have a chance to see many species of animals including: birds, butterflies, snakes, sloths, frogs and possibly many others, you never know what exciting creature you will run into in Costa Rica!
After our tour we will head to lunch and our next adventure in the lovely town of Sarapiqui. Take a rest on the bus as we will have one of our most exciting water adventures next. Get ready to get wet in the Sarapiqui River! The moderate class III rapids of this river are ideal for novices and families.
A rafting trip on this river is a perfect balance of excitement and relaxation, as there is plenty of opportunity for wildlife viewing on the calm stretches between rapids. Originating from clear mountain streams the Sarapiqui River runs from the Central Mountain Range and north of San Jose to the San Marcos River which runs along the shared border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua. As we float along in the tropical wet forest environment, the crystal water river travels along green pastures and farmland, lush vegetation of towering trees, vines and flowers, cascading mountains and the La Selva Biological Reserve, a scene that is worth at least 1,000 words. This environment is the habitat to several different species of monkeys, sloths, crocodiles, river turtles, iguanas, toucans, hummingbirds, woodpeckers and much more. We will enjoy a snack along the way and have an opportunity to take a cool dip along the bank or the more adventurous can plunge in and float down off a higher bank. Look forward to a remarkable journey that will certainly be a highlight of our visit to this lovely region.
After our journey down the river we will take a short ride to our hotel for the evening. You will enjoy dinner on your own and rest up for a few hours. We will be staying in the hotel Tirimbina, a unique location that is an educational, scientific and ecotourism destination. It is ideally situated between the forests and rivers of the northern region of Costa Rica. The hotel offers numerous hiking trails and is home to Costa Rica’s longest suspension bridge. We will take an evening jungle walk where you will be able to experience Costa Rica with all your senses. We will discover the wonders of the forest when most species are theire most active. During the two-hour walk, a naturalist guide will tell you about the vibrant history of the various nocturnal species of the region. The guide will focus on nocturnal species such as: insects, frogs and nocturnal mammals amongst others, giving you a different perspective of the rainforest. The suspension bridge is used by humans and animal alike, When I was there last I saw a mama sloth and her baby using it to cross over the river! This is truly a unique experience! What a day! You will lay your head on the pillow with a smile as you tuck into your cozy accommodations lulled to sleep by the memories of the day!
Day 3 — (Monday) You will wake up refreshed and greeted by all of the jungle sounds this morning! After enjoying a lovely breakfast full of delicious fruits, main dishes and fabulous coffee! we will head out to the Arenal Volcano Region. Our drive will take us through lovely mountain scenary and quaint little towns. We will arrive in Arenal in mid morning and check in to our hotel.
Our hotel is ideally located to offer spectacular views of the Arenal Volcano. The accommodations are surrounded by lush tropical gardens and walking paths. A highlight of the hotel is their 14 swimming pools all fed by natural spring water! With the added health benefit of being high in mineral content you will certainly want to get a good soak in.
Some pools are smaller and intimate, while others are quite large. The pool temperatures range from 107°F to 78°F. In addition to these pools, the hotel also offers guests use of their private trails, which spread throughout the hotel’s 160 acres, a thoroughly enjoyable property. After we check in we will be off to explore the town of La Fortuna and take a walk to a beautiful local waterfall where we will enjoy a picnic lunch. The afternoon will be your choice to either kayak on beautiful Lake Arenal or take a hike up the volcano! Both are fun options that offer the history of the area - the volcano hike will feature my favorite guide Franklin, who will help us to explore medicinal plants, local history and show us incredible vistas from the top. This tour requires the ability to climb some rocky terrain but it is well worth it. If we are there around sunset many of the monkeys become active and we may be able to spot them in the trees! The Kayak adventure will put you in a large man made lake that has a city underneath it! The history of this lake and Costa Rica’s commitment to natural and renewable energy are fascinating topics that will amaze you as you learn about how this little country of 3 million people is leading the world in clean energy! Tonight you will have the choice to ride into La Fortuna and enjoy some of their fine restaurants. From casual, fun dining to more upscale you will have several choices all at reasonable prices. After dinner you may want to grab some of their famous ice cream and souvenir shop. This is a good town for shopping and you can bargain some if you want to. You may also elect to stay at the hotel and eat there either way you should enjoy a late night dip into the mineral baths.
Day 4 — (Tuesday) Today our adventures will be a feast for all of your senses! We will have a large, buffet breakfast with delicious fresh Costa Rican coffee in our hotel. You do not need to pack as we will spend another night in this lovely property. Allowing you to soak in the views of the Arenal volcano and giving you another chance to enjoy the mineral baths. After breakfast Marcos will drive us to the Penas Blancas river. Here we will have a wonderful adventure kayaking down this river. The Penas Blancas river is a clear water river fed by the pristine waters of several private cloud forest reserves in Monteverde and is surrounded by lush rainforest, natural volcanic hot springs, waterfalls and forested canyons that measure upwards of 700 feet (213m) in height.
In other words, the Peñas Blancas River is an indisputable scenic adventure.Much of the river is relatively calm, but parts boast class II through IV rapids. Most visitors to the river enjoy a calm safari float to take advantage of the hot springs, waterfalls and abounding wildlife which includes monkeys, sloths, river turtles, crocodiles, iguanas and many bird species. Halfway through our float we will stop and have a snack at a farm that is over 100 years old and just got electricity a few years ago! They farm is run by the daughters of the owner who recently passed at 103 years old! It is a wonderful property that allows you to experience life in Costa Rica over the last century. Our hosts will prefer a tasty snack and you can relax and enjoy all of the scenery that surrounds you. After our respite we will head back down the river to finish our journey. Hopefully, we will also get to visit with the rivers loudest inhabitants, the howler monkeys. They are a site to see and to definitely hear!
After we finish our river kayak we will head out to the Vida Campesina grabbing a light lunch on the way. The Vida Campesina is a family run farm that is very impressive. From their commitment to sustainable practices to their innovative farming techniques you will enjoy learning about all of the native plants of Costa Rica. Especially an American favorite, coffee! Ever wonder how coffee is roasted? how chocolate is farmed? Sugar cane? Well on this tour we will see all that plus much more and enjoy samples as we move along and enjoy their wonderful property. After our tour we will take a rest and have a lovely farm to table dinner cooked by their family. Their food is delicious and even better when enjoyed on their beautiful outdoor verandah overlooking a river. A serene and beautiful location that is a feast for the eyes and palette. A truly remarkable place that can only be seen to be fully appreciated. To end our meal we will sip on their famous honey scented coffee. Then we are back off to our hotel to have one last night to enjoy all that it offers. Sleep well and get a good soak in!
Day 5 — ( Wednesday) Today we will wake up early, enjoy breakfast and say goodbye to La Fortuna as we hit the road off to our next adventure. After a ride through the country we will arrive at a truly wonderful location, the Rio Celeste located in Tenorio Volcano Regional Park. You have never seen anything like this and it is truly a wonder of the world! This hike could be classified as moderate and is about 3 hours. You will need good hiking shoes and quick dry clothing as it often rains in the rain forest! The hike to the Rio Celeste waterfall is moderately difficult with some steep inclines and a few straightforward stream crossings by rope handrail or rickety bridge. The trails are well maintained but almost always muddy. You’ll find yourself looking down at the ground quite a bit as you navigate in search of solid ground and around the huge tree roots. The scenery is beautiful, however, and makes it all worthwhile. As the park is at a high elevation, it hosts primary cloud forest as well as rainforest and is home to an abundance of wildlife. The real draw at the park though is, of course, the Rio Celeste. The trail meanders along the serene river, where you can see the Tenideros, the point where two rivers converge and the water turns from crystal clear to stunning blue. Here, you might also detect a strong odor as the chemical reaction between sulfur and calcium carbonate occurs. Another sight is the Poza Azul, a lovely blue pool where you’ll want to take plenty of photos. When you reach the waterfall, it’s a long 250 steps down a nicely constructed staircase. The area around the falls is closed off and no swimming is permitted but you’ll be close enough to get some amazing shots. After our hike we will have a hearty and well deserved lunch at a restaurant which serves fresh local cuisine. We will then take a short ride to our hotel which is located between the Tenorio and Miravalles volcanoes at an altitude of 1,640. Each bungalow has an exceptional view towards the Tenorio volcano. Rooms are spacious, elegant, and perfectly set out for your greatest comfort. Built on 17 acres property, in the middle of Heliconias gardens, of fruit trees and tropical vegetation surrounding two natural ponds, the Lodge was designed to offer its guests quietness, relaxation, and serenity. In this peaceful environment, along our trails, you will observe hundreds of birds, learn about native trees or take a dip in one of our two red cedar hot tubs. You will enjoy dinner on your own at the hotel or you may elect to go back into town to find a quaint local restaurant.
Day 6 — (Thursday) We will awake today to be surrounded by the sounds of nature. After breakfast we will head onto Monteverde, our next stop. Set atop the spine of Costa Rica’s continental divide, Monteverde is a world above the coastal towns that dot the country's famous shoreline. It is a place of cloud forests and coffee plantations, monkeys, mist, and friendly locals. It has a wonderful history including how in 1949 pacifist American Quakers resettled here and made the region their own. Opening many of the towns hotels, restaurants and famous ecological reserves. The town of Santa Elena is small and quaint, filled with tasty restaurants and folksy artisan shops, while the nearby rainforest hosts a remarkable amount of biodiversity. Due to its high altitude – some 4,662 ft (1,440 m) above sea level – Monteverde is privileged to receive a steady supply of clouds and the life-giving moisture that they contain. This moisture, often in the form of fog, catches on the branches of the tallest trees and drips down to the other organisms below. This helps to support a complex and far-reaching ecosystem, one that harbors 2.5% of worldwide biodiversity, including over 100 species of mammals, 400 species of birds, tens of thousands of insect species, and over 2,500 varieties of plants, 420 of which are orchids alone. It is truly a natural wonder. You will explore today solo and can choose to do one of the many eco tours, hanging bridges or forest hikes. Lunch and dinner are also on your own today and you will find many tasty choices in St. Elena. There is also a very efficient and economical laundry service available if you need it while you are here. We will stay at a charming mountain lodge with a cozy atmosphere. We will be walking distance from town, as well as nearby the famous Canopy Tours, lookouts, scenic mountain, waterfalls, Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve etc. You can choose to relax today and enjoy the beautiful mountain views or jump right into the many local activities that are available.
Day 7 — (Friday) You will wake to beautiful mountains shrouded in billowing clouds. Breathe it in, it is truly marvelous! After another hearty and delicious Costa Rican breakfast we will head on to our last destination. Believe me after this week it will be hard to imagine breakfast without mouth watering pineapple, delicious breads and even beans and rice! Today we will be heading to Sarchi which is called the “cradle of Costa Rican handicrafts,” both international tourists and locals alike visit here for its more than 200 stores and small family-operated woodworking and leather workshops. Our local guide will take us to see what Sarchi is most famous for - colorfully painted oxcarts and oxen yokes – national symbols of Costa Rican folklore and traditions. The tradition of painting and decorating oxcarts started in the early 20thcentury. Back in the day, wooden carts pulled by a pair of oxen were the main mode of transportation in the mountainous country, especially to transport coffee beans to markets. Originally each region of Costa Rica had its own particular oxcart design, which identified a driver’s origin by the painted patterns on his cart’s wheels. Today, oxcarts still play a principal role in parades and religious celebrations. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization honored Costa Rica’s vibrantly painted oxcarts in 2005 for their contribution to the heritage of humanity. You can see the “World’s Largest Oxcart” – built in 2006 to get the town’s name into The Guinness Book of World Records – in the Central Park in front of the main church. Our guide will hit several iconic stops in the town as it is truly, an important part Costa Rican cultural heritage. You can grab lunch as we walk around and sight see. We will have plenty of time for shopping and browsing. Tonight we will have a local dinner and check into a lovely hotel near the airport. This will allow for travelers to easily accommodate their departure times back to the United States. Our hotel still holds a few last Costa Rican touches of hospitality as it is not simply an overnight airport hotel. The hotel, located in Alajuela Province, is known for having ideal weather 300 days of the year. The perfect climate is one of the reasons our boutique hotel thrived as a small coffee plantation in the last century. In another past life, it was owned by a botanist, and we can thank this devoted gentleman for the over seven acres of lovely grounds that team with wildflowers and ripe fruit trees, and the birds and butterflies they invite. So you will begin and end your trip to Costa Rica in beautiful, natural surroundings teaming with wild life and flora and fauna.
Day 8 — (Saturday) Enjoy your last Costa Rican breakfast and make sure to have an extra cup of their delicious coffee! You will transfer to the airport and catch your flights as needed. The airport is easy to navigate and not very large. It does have a lot of souvenir shops and you can buy some very nice gifts and liquors there from the duty free shops. There is possibly an exit tax, depending on your airline, of $29 that you will need to pay upon checking in. Most airlines have included in the ticket but be sure to check. We will say goodbye to you and wish you Pura Vida! May the beauty of Costa Rica and the smiles of their hospitable people stay in your hearts as you leave their beautiful country.Book Tour