DAY 1 SAN JOSÉ
Arrive in San José at any time. There are no planned activities so check into our hotel and enjoy the city. Please try to arrive before 6pm for an important group meeting where you can meet the Chief Experience Officer (CEO) and the other group members.
If you arrive early enough, you'll have time to head into the city to visit a museum, shop or people-watch in the main plaza. As it is located in the central highlands, San José enjoys a moderate climate. The heat and humidity of the coast and lowland areas may affect you , with a general sense of lethargy and/or loss of appetite. This is no cause for alarm, it is simply a reaction to the heat. Be sure to drink plenty of water (cold bottled water is available everywhere) and do not attempt too much in any given day. We prefer fan-cooled rather than air conditioned rooms to avoid having to acclimatize to the heat and humidity every time you go outside.
Like most cities, San José has its good and bad sides. It is the centre of government, theatre, and art, as well as of air pollution and congestion. It has beautiful parks and museums, and a few beggars on the streets. It is big and often noisy, but even from its crowded downtown streets, you’ll often enjoy a view of the surrounding lush mountains.
Probably the hardest thing you will do in San José, other than get safely across busy streets, is keep the street numbering systems straight. Street and avenue numbers are posted on buildings at the corners of some intersections. Keep looking as you walk, and you will eventually find one.
The plaza is a good place to people-watch. A mime, juggler, marimba band, magician, or storyteller may be performing for whatever is collected when the hat is passed. Artisan booths are common, creating a regular arts and crafts fair atmosphere.
A source of pride for the Ticos (Costa Ricans) is the National Theatre. Inaugurated in 1897, the building was paid for by coffee growers through a voluntary tax on every bag of coffee exported. The National Museum, housed in the Bellavista Fortress, offers exhibits on pre-Columbian art, colonial art and furniture and religious art within a 19th century building that was converted from a military fortress after the army was abolished.
The Museum of Costa Rican Art, located in La Sabana Park used to be the international airport and this museum is in the old terminal building. The Jade Museum is on the 11th floor of the Instituto Nacional de Seguros building. In addition to the marvellous collection of jade objects, there are pre-Columbian ceramic and stone works as well as displays with archaeological and ethnographic information. The Gold Museum is located underneath the Plaza de la Cultura. Its spectacular collection of indigenous gold art belongs to the Central Bank of Costa Rica.
The best and least expensive places to buy souvenirs in San José are the markets. The two main ones are the ones in Plaza de la Cultura, which is an outdoor open market, and the Central Market, where handicrafts are sold along with boots, fish, flour, herbal remedies, shirts and everything else you can imagine. Always watch your belongings and be ready for crowds. If you plan on spending a few days in San José prior to or after your tour, there are a number of activities within the city and area that you can participate in, many of them outdoors.
DAY 2-4 TORTUGUERO
Travelling east by shuttle from San José, then by boat through the canals we come to Tortuguero, an important nesting area for Green and Leatherback sea turtles (seasonal March to June for Leatherbacks, June to September for Green turtles). Here there is plenty of opportunity to see a variety of birds and wildlife.
The beaches around Tortuguero, a sleepy Afro-Caribbean town, host the nesting grounds of a variety of sea turtles. Walking paths extend through the village and into the National Park. Tortuguero National Park was created in 1975 to protect the four species of sea turtles which nest along the beaches. En route to Tortuguero, we may see herons, egrets, spoonbills, as well as amphibians and reptiles like the “Jesus Lizard” (it walks on water) and caimans. The tropical rainforest gives way to prime beaches, ideal nesting grounds for Green, Loggerhead, Hawksbill and Leatherback Turtles. The latter nests from mid-March to May, the rest from July to September. The Caribbean Conservation Center, just outside of town, is an excellent source of information about the turtles and their tropical habitat.
While here, you will experience two included guided kayaking excursions, a guided nature hike and a guided boat trip through the canals of Tortuguero National Park.
Estimated Travel Time: 7 hours
Approximate Distance: 270 km
DAY 5-7 LA FORTUNA / ARENAL
La Fortuna, the town near the foot of Arenal Volcano is an excellent base for adventure. Hike the area’s nature trails, swim in chilly La Fortuna waterfall or go canyoneering (rappelling) and catch a bird’s eye view of the forest greenery. Other optional activities include full-day white water rafting on the Toro or Arenal Rivers, mountain biking, caving, horseback riding, or a tour of the Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge. Like much of Costa Rica, the area is a birders’ paradise, with over 600 species as permanent residents. Finally, after a long day of exploring, you can choose to take a relaxing soak at Baldi Hot Springs.
Set on the northern plains of Costa Rica, Arenal Volcano sits on the southeast shore of artificial Lake Arenal (77 square kilometres, or 48 square miles). Separating the mountain ranges of Guanacaste and Tilarán, the lake was created by a hydroelectric dam. Winds sweeping off the Caribbean Sea reach speeds of 48 to 72 km/hr (30 to 45 mph), across Lake Arenal you can find one of the best locations in the world to go windsurfing. The volcano, once quite active, has been in a dormant state since the beginning of 2011 but still is a dramatic backdrop to the town of La Fortuna.
While here, you'll participate in an included kayaking trip and stand up paddling session on Lake Arenal.
Estimated Travel Time: 5 hours
Approximate Distance: 200 km
DAY 8 SAN JOSÉ
Return to San José for our final night on the town. If you have time, check out the sites you may have missed at the start of the trip or do some last minute souvenir shopping.
Estimated Travel Time: 5 hours
Approximate Distance: 150 km
DAY 9 SAN JOSÉ
Depart at any time.