DAY 1 ARRIVE SAN JOSÉ Arrive to San José at any time. There are no planned activities during the day, so check into the hotel and explore 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.
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 getting safely across busy streets, is keeping 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.
Please note it will be necessary to repack your bags according to the packing list provided for La Danta as it is an early departure on the morning of day 2.
DAY 2-3 PACUARE RIVER Morning transfer to Turrialba.
For the first day of rafting down river we stop along the way for several short hikes that explore towering waterfalls and scenic, hidden canyons. In the evening you stay at a jungle camp on the banks of the Pacuare River but don’t worry about roughing it—this is ‘luxury camping’ where mattresses, full bathrooms, and personal chefs are just part of your ‘Pacuare’ experience!
The morning of the second day is the real treat, a hike into the rainforest to a local village of the Cabecar Indigenous Tribe. After the hike, you head back out to the white water and raft out the rest of the river. This combination of nature and adventure is the perfect ingredient for an unforgettable Costa Rican vacation.
DAY 4-5 SARAPIQUÍ The journey up to the jungle retreat is half the adventure as we begin by travelling along two rivers, the Tortuguero and the La Suerte. Back on land we board a van then a tractor-drawn cart excellent for navigating the jungle along rugged uphill terrain on the way to our special jungle oasis.
The bumpy trip takes approximately two hours. On our journey in we ford two rivers, by tractor when the water is low, or cross foot-bridges when water levels rise with the rains. Along the way you will see first-hand how rainforests have been cut down whenever they are near roads.
We enter into primary rainforest bordering Braulio Carrillo National Park. At 700 m (2000 ft) above sea level, the climate is usually cool and comfortable year-round. There is a lot of rain (it's rainforest!), but mosquitoes are generally not a problem. However, weather is always unpredictable and changeable, so you never know when the rain will let up enough to let the sun (and mosquitoes) in to heat things up. Once you arrive at the Sarapiquí rainforest, your naturalist guide will take you into the rainforest and teach you about the plants and wildlife and the complex relations between them. There will also be the opportunity to swim in large crystalline pools in a pristine river that goes in front of the lodge and in the rainforest, weather permitting.
Experience the richness and splendour of the most diverse environment on earth. The Sarapiquí Rainforest is a new way to save rainforest while learning about it. Over 360 species of birds have been found and there is a good chance to see monkeys and anteaters, as well as the tracks of tapirs and jungle cats. The treetops are full of vines, lianas, bromeliads, and orchids and there are more kinds of plants, birds, and butterflies here than in all of Europe.
Our accommodation is in a rustic lodge which is based on a multi-share basis, as are bathroom facilities.
The access to the Sarapiquí Rainforest is difficult and can seem extreme for those who are not mentally prepared for the experience. Thus it’s not recommended for pregnant women or people with serious back problems. Also, all Sarapiquí Rainforest trails are natural, with uneven and sometimes slippery footing, so it’s not recommended for people with difficulty walking on uneven terrain.
DAY 6-7 ARENAL/LA FORTUNA Set on the northern plains of Costa Rica, Arenal Volcano is on the shores of Lake Arenal, (77 square kilometres, or 48 square miles), created by a hydroelectric project. Winds sweeping off the Caribbean Sea reach speeds of 48 to 72 km/hr (30 to 45 mph), making Arenal one of the best sail boarding locations in the world. The lake actually separates the mountain ranges of Guanacaste and Tilarán. The volcano is set on the lake’s southeast end. The Arenal volano was quite active until the beginning of 2011, but the volcano's presence towering over the town and landscape is still quite impressive.
There are several attractions in the area aside from the lake and volcano. It is a birders’ paradise, with over 600 species as permanent residents, and is inhabited by numerous species of frogs. You can also enjoy hiking the area’s nature trails, or if you’re more daring, you can opt to climb a ladder to participate in one of the canopy tours and catch a fresh glimpse of the forest greenery.
If you have pre-booked the Costa Rica Adrenaline Theme Pack, your rafting and canyoneering adventures will be on either Day 6 or 7.
Located at the base of the magnificent Arenal Volcano, La Fortuna has much to offer the adventurous traveller We have plenty of free time to take advantage of the town’s many exciting optional activities including biking, kayaking, rappelling, hiking the Arenal volcano, hiking to one of the many waterfalls and, of course, enjoying a frosty beverage in the swim-up bar at the local hot springs.
Take an guided hike around the base of the volcano to see the top glowing an eerie red, accompanied by a soundtrack of monkeys and the rumblings of the volcano in the distance. Try stand up paddling, developed in Hawaii from its original roots in Polynesia where it was used as an early form of transportation between islands. Now, its the latest craze among water enthusiasts.
DAY 8-9 MONTEVERDE From La Fortuna travel by van to the shores of Lake Arenal where our mountain bikes will be waiting for a two-hour cycling journey (challenging with some hills and bumps). Anyone wishing to opt out of this activity may, though some waiting for the group might be required. Afterwards, board a boat for the half hour boat ride across, When we arrive at Rio Chiquito, we switch to waiting vans to drive the final leg up into the cool, misty mountain air of the Monteverde cloud forest.
You will have some free time to explore the area or get a bird's eye view of the forest from atop canopy bridges, check out the butterfly garden, or try the famous canopy zip-line. This mountain dairy-producing community is full of arts collectives, environmentalists and free spirits. A big draw to the area is the vast cloud forest, where one can marvel at the teeming life in the reserve, which abounds with local birds and wildlife.
Monteverde or “Green Mountain” when translated into English, is exactly what you will find at the end of this long, rutted dirt road, that we use to travel to this area. The surrounding pastures were once covered with dense forest, but only a small piece of it now remains. That piece of forest has been preserved as the Reserva Biologica Bosque Nuboloso Monteverde, the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve.
A cloud forest is much like a rainforest, but much of the moisture comes not from falling rain but from the condensation left by the nearly constant cloud cover that blankets the tops of mountains in many parts of the tropics. Monteverde Reserve covers 1600 hectares of forest and is home to a great variety of wildlife. More than 2,000 species of plants, 320 birds species, and 100 different species of mammals inhabit this small area.
The village of Monteverde was founded in the 1950s by Quakers from the United States. They wished to leave behind the constant fear of war and the obligation to support continued militarism through U.S. taxes and chose Costa Rica because it was committed to a non-militaristic economic path. Since its founding, Monteverde has grown slowly as other people, who shared the original Quaker founders’ ideals, moved to the area. Although the Quakers came here to farm the land, they recognized the need to preserve the rare cloud forest that covers the mountain slopes above their fields. The community is very different from those on the coast, and offers several souvenir shops and the Quaker cheese factory, which is definitely worth a visit. The Santa Elena Reserve, is another park in this area that is less well known and visited, but also worth seeing. All proceeds from this park profit the local community.
Estimated Travel Time: 3 hours
Approximate Distance: 60 km
DAY 10-11 MANUEL ANTONTIO NATIONAL PARK We continue along to the beautiful Pacific coastline. Manuel Antonio National Park offers excellent hiking, spectacular views, and abundant wildlife viewing. There are beautiful white sand beaches and the warm turquoise water is ideal for swimming, fishing, kayaking, boogie boarding, sailing or surfing.
We take a guided hike through the national park following trails through the forest. Keep an eye out for the wildlife that we might see through the trees. The following morning we have a guided kayaking expedition through the mangroves of Damas Island.
DAY 12 SAN JOSE Return to San Jose.
DAY 13 SAN JOSE Depart at any time.