Featuring Nectandra Cloudforest Garden, Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve and Butterfly Garden, a walk on a canopy walkway with views of the active Arenal Volcano, a canopy zip line experience, remote Tortuguero National Park with boat trips through the rain forest.
Min. age 12 years. All ages accepted on Family Trips. For Dates & Prices go to the Dates & Prices page.
(B) Breakfast, (L) Lunch, (D) Dinner
(NG) Naturalist Guide; (TG) Transfer Guide; (LG) Local Guide
DAY 01:Arrival San José, Costa Rica (No meals) (TG)
Arrive at Juan Santamaría International Airport, a modern airport designed to function just like other international airports around the world.
Follow signs to immigration to get your passport checked and stamped. Next, continue to baggage claim and customs. Grab a free cart in the baggage claim area while you wait for your luggage.
If your flight arrives between 7 am- 10 pm, you may see a representative of the national chamber of tourism. He or she will give you a sticker that identifies you to customs as a tourist. If you don’t see them don’t worry; the sticker is a courtesy and not a necessity.
Once you have your luggage get in line to go through customs. You’ll put your luggage through an x-ray and give the Customs Official the form you filled out on the plane. Once you’ve retrieved your luggage you can exit the airport.
IMPORTANT: When you exit the building there’ll be a crowd, and taxi drivers may approach you for a fair, you can politely tell them it’s not necessary. Before stepping into the crowd; take a moment to scan it for your Costa Rica Expeditions guide.
You’ll recognize your guide by their bright orange or yellow shirt. He or she will be holding a sign with your name on it. On the sign we will have clipped a flashing red light to be sure we stand out from the crowd.
You can count on the guide being there, even if your flight arrives late, no matter how late. It’s our first chance to have you experience that your vacation will go smoothly.
Here is a photo of the sign and transfer guide Priscilla Montero, in the uniform.
Overnight at: Studio Hotel. Studio Standard (or similar)
Number of Nights: 1
DAY 02: San Jose / Nectandra Gardens / Monteverde (BLD) (NG)
After a welcome orientation breakfast; join your guide for the 1 ½ to ride to Nectandra Cloud Forest Garden.
Located 80 km Northwest of San Jose, going north from San Ramon, it is the centerpiece of 104 hectares (257 acres) of primary and secondary forest. With few exceptions, most of the plants featured in the horticultural observation area are from the preserve and its immediate surroundings. Some of the plants in the design are included as pure aesthetic elements, others for their importance in medicinal, indigenous and cultural uses. A small number of changing exhibits highlight scientific information on the ecology of the cloud forest.
Beyond the confines of the Garden, the remaining biological preserve is restricted to scientific field research carried out by a non-profit organization, the Nectandra Institute. Current scientific activities include botanic inventory, preparation and identification of herbarium specimens of dominant and unusual plants, and investigation into the variables influencing natural reforestation in cloud forests.
In addition to information offered by the naturalist guide along the way, visitors will have ample opportunity to hear the sounds of the forest, observe the fauna and flora, and experience the serenity of the place.
After Lunch at the Gardens 3 – 3 ½ hour drive to the Monteverde area. The first 1 ½ hour are on the Pan-American Highway and the last 2 hours on a winding gravel road. Arrive at your Monteverde Hotel.
Overnight at: Monteverde Lodge and Gardens. Forest View Downstairs Room.
Number of Nights: 2
DAY 03: Monteverde (BLD) (NG)
Guided walk to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
After breakfast, guided excursion to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve Originally just 4,000 acres, the Monteverde Reserve now includes a protected area of approximately 25,000 acres, comprising six different life zones. So many habitats in such a small area, along with extensive trail improvements, allow visitors to enjoy a rich diversity of flora and fauna with relatively short distance and easy walking. The Reserve was founded in 1972 and extends down both slopes of the Tilarán Mountains (elevation 2,300 to 5,600 ft.). It encompasses six different ecological life zones and is home to more than 100 species of mammals, 400 species of birds and 1,500 species of plants. From January to July, depending upon your luck and patience, you may observe the Resplendent Quetzal (occasionally a dozen or more individuals at once). Other species include the Three-wattled Bellbird, the Emerald Toucanet, and White-faced and Howler Monkeys.
Afternoon visit to the Butterfly Garden
Your visit to the Butterfly Garden begins in the nature center with a general overview of spiders and insects. This includes close looks at scorpions, spiders, and all kinds of tropical insects. The Garden philosophy is to educate the visitor about the great biodiversity of the Monteverde region. Next continue into 4 enclosed butterfly gardens. Each of the 4 gardens represents a different local habitat including the hot lowlands, mid-elevation forest edge, deep forest and cloud forest. The tour finishes at a special exhibit on Leaf Cutter Ants, one of Costa Rica’s most enterprising insects. While it’s easy to watch them working on the forest floor, the Garden provides a way to see them working underground.
DAY 04: Monteverde / Arenal (BLD) (NG)
Morning departure on a land and boat transfer to Arenal. Depart Monteverde in a 4 wheel drive vehicle for the 2 hour ground transfer to Rio Chiquito, a small town on the shore of Lake Arenal. Board a boat for the transfer across the lake (approximately 30-40 minutes depending on wind conditions). The boat will dock near the Arenal Dam where your transportation will be waiting to continue with the activities of your day. Total transfer time from Monteverde to the Arenal area via Lake Arenal is approximately 3 hours.
Overnight at: Arenal Manoa. Junior Suite. (or similar)
Number of Nights: 2
DAY 05: Arenal (BLD) (NG)
Guided walk to the Arenal Hanging Bridges
After breakfast, depart for a morning hike to the Arenal Hanging Bridges. This project consists of eight fixed bridges, ranging in length between 8 and 22 meters, and six hanging bridges, built with the latest techniques and designed with an eye for both beauty and safety. The hanging bridges are between 48 and 98 meters long. All the bridges are made of galvanized steel and high-strength aluminum. The safety mesh and the suspension cables are all galvanized steel. The entire project was designed to blend with the natural environment, leaving the forest virtually intact. The trails, covering a distance of about 3.1 km, are right inside the forest. As you walk, you can appreciate a great diversity of flowers and wildlife that are typical of the rain forest as well as some imposing views of the Volcano (weather permitting).
Sky Trek Adventure in Arenal Theme Park
Depart from the hotel to a private reserve near the north-facing slopes of the Cordillera de Tilarán which offer volcano views, to be enjoyed from an aerial Sky Tram that rises 236 meters in a 1250 meters ride, taking visitors up to a Mirador (lookout point) where starts the Sky Trek zip line circuit. There are currently ten zip line cables and they range in height from 30 meters to 200 meters and in length from 200 meters to 750 meters. Before leaving the main building to start your tour, you will be fitted with all of the necessary safety equipment (harness, helmet, gloves), which the guides will take care to properly adjust. Afterwards the guides will deliver a safety speech detailing proper form and the innovative braking system. Zipping along nearly two miles (three kilometers) of cables, you will see the rain forest as well as get a panoramic view of the volcano and lake from a whole new perspective
Ecotermales La Fortuna
Owned and ran by the local Hidalgo family, native settlers and entrepreneurs of La Fortuna their Hot Springs are a good alternative for hot springs experience in the Arenal Area. The springs consist of 5 free-flowing pools set in a natural river gorge. Water temperature ranges from 100ºF (38ºC) to 109ºF (43ºC) depending on the pool. An assortment of blended smoothies and cocktails are prepared at the bar located in the pool area (additional cost). A Costa Rican Home style meal in the restaurant, modeled after the first house that Don Manuel and Doña Hortemida Hidalgo built when they settled on the farm in 1940 is included. The hot springs are located 700 meters off the main road that connects between Lake Arenal Dam and the town of La Fortuna.
Overnight at: Arenal Manoa. Junior Suite (or similar)
DAY 06: Arenal / Tortuguero (BLD) (NG)
After an early morning breakfast, drive 5 hours to the Caño Blanco dock, where you will meet the boat for the 1 ½ -hour boat ride to Tortuguero. The last part of the drive, will take you through banana plantations. Until the 19th century, Costa Rica was very poor with an economy based on subsistence agriculture. Then the introduction of coffee provided a product suitable for export. Coffee was followed by bananas; both remain two of the most important crops in Costa Rica today. The canals of Tortuguero provide refuge for many animals and birds and along the ride to Tortuguero you may have the opportunity to sight some of these animals and birds. Arrive at Toruga Lodge mid to late afternoon.
Overnight at: Tortuga Lodge and Gardens. River View Downstairs Terrace
DAY 07: Tortuguero (BLD) (NG)
In the morning explore the inner creeks of the Tortuguero National park with your guide. Originally intended to protect a major nesting beach of the Atlantic Green sea turtle, Tortuguero National Park now protects 51,870 acres, one of the last large areas of tropical rain forests in Central America. Additional boat trips are available at extra cost. There will also be time to wander on the deserted beach (swimming is discouraged for safety reasons) where thousands of green sea turtles come to nest from June through October (there are special night excursions available in this season).
Visit the Sea Turtle Conservancy Visitor Center
Visit the museum founded by the Sea Turtle Conservation, formerly known as the Caribbean Conservation Corporation (CCC). The late Dr. Archie Carr began to study and tag the thousands of Atlantic Green Sea Turtles that every year, from June through October, come to Tortuguero Beach to lay their eggs. The study began in 1959 and has continued without fail ever since, under the auspices of the STC. It is the longest-running continuous study of its kind in the world, their work has greatly improved the survival outlook for several species of sea turtles and it has had a profound effect on the community of Tortuguero. The organization began its work in Costa Rica, but has expanded its research and conservation efforts throughout Central America and the Wider Caribbean.
DAY 08: Tortuguero / San Jose (BLD) (NG)
Morning departure from Tortuga Lodge, cross the Tortuguero River by boat and board your 30 minute Costa Rica Expeditions light charter flight (seat in plane) from Tortuguero to San José. Upon arrival transportation is provided to a Coffee Plantation.
DOKA ESTATE COFFEE TOUR – FROM THE SEED TO THE CUP
Located in the coffee capital of Costa Rica, Sabanilla, Alajuela. The farm belongs to the Costa Rican Vargas Ruiz family, pioneers of coffee production for more than 70 years. The main objective of the Coffee Tour is to educate and inform the local and international population with regard to the complete production process as well as the processing of coffee. The tour takes place on the Doka Estate, where you can learn about production and harvesting as well as the processing plant and roasting of the grain. The tour takes you through all stages beginning with a seed bed and ending in the Coffee House with the finished product. Tonight Farewell dinner.
Overnight at: Studio Hotel. Studio Standard (or similar)
DAY 09: Departure (TG)
Transfer to the International Airport at least three hours prior to the departure time for your flight out of the country.
AVERAGE TEMPERATURES & ALTITUDES
San José: 69°F; 3,500 ft.
Monteverde: 65°F; 5,000 ft.
Arenal: 65°F; 1,700 ft.
Tortuguero: 79°F; sea level