DAY 1 SAN JOSÉ
in San José at any time. 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.
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 your body’s reaction to the heat. Be sure to drink plenty of water
(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. This
is also a more eco-friendly approach.
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.
Start your exploration of the city in the main plaza, a great 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 (as Costa Ricans are known) 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, was once the
international airport; the museum is now housed 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 after your tour, there are a number of
activities within the city and area that you can participate in, many of them
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.
NOTE: Like any city where tourism is on the increase, crime also tends to
increase and while San José is not a noticeably dangerous city, there are
certain precautions you should take. Make sure that you are aware of your
things at all times and don't go out carrying expensive gear or jewellery.
DAY 2-3 LA FORTUNA / ARENAL
Fortuna, the town near the foot of Arenal Volcano is an excellent base for
adventure. Optional activities in this area abound. 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 Balsa 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, enjoy an
included soak in one of the area's natural thermal baths and rivers under the
shade of the surrounding canopy.
If you have pre-booked the Costa Rica Adrenaline Theme Pack, your choose your
adventure and canyoneering activities will be on Day 3.
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. During the day, its reflection on Lake
Arenal is truly enchanting.
Estimated Travel Time: 4 hours
Approximate Distance: 150 km
DAY 4-5 MONTEVERDE (1L)
La Fortuna travel by jeep to the shores of Lake Arenal for the half hour boat
ride across the lake. Vans will drive you up the picturesque mountains into the
Monteverde Cloud Forest. Don't forget your camera because the backdrop for this
adventure is the stunning Nicoya Peninsula. Spend two days exploring Monteverde
and the Forest Reserve, truly a nature lover's paradise. Local guides are
extremely knowledgeable about the area and passionate about conservation of
this precious ecosystem. The unique community has several local co-operatives
worth visiting including artist collectives and a cheese factory. If you're
there at the right time of year, you may be lucky enough to see the Resplendent
Quetzal, one of the most beautiful and elusive birds in the world. Optional
activities include walking across a series of suspension bridges through the
jungle canopy, a butterfly garden and a thrilling canopy zip line.
Enjoy an included "El Trapiche Tour" to learn more about Costa Rican
culture, including sugar cane processing, coffee production and other aspects
of local agriculture. This hands on included tour is not to be missed and will
leave you with a better understanding of Costa Rica. While you're here,
tantalize your taste buds with a traditional Costa Rican lunch.
If you have pre-booked the Costa Rica Adrenaline Theme Pack, your ziplining
experience will be on either Day 4 or 5.
Monteverde or Green Mountain, is exactly what you find at the end of the long,
rutted dirt road through the mountains. The surrounding pastures were once
covered with dense forest, but today only a small piece of it remains. That
piece of forest has been preserved as the Reserva Biologica Bosque Nuboso
Monteverde, the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve. 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 bird species and 100 different species of mammals
inhabit this small area. The Santa Elena Reserve, another park contiguous with
Monteverde, is less well known and visited but also worth seeing. All proceeds
from this park profit the local community.
Quakers from the United States founded the village of Monteverde in the 1950s.
Looking to leave behind the constant fear of war and objecting to being forced
to support continued militarism through their taxes, the Quakers chose Costa
Rica because of its commitment to a non-militaristic economic path—Costa Rica’s
army was dissolved in the 1940s. Since its founding, Monteverde has grown
slowly as others 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. Make sure to try their ice cream!
Estimated Travel Time: 4 hours
Approximate Distance: 50 km
DAY 6-7 QUEPOS / MANUEL ANTONIO NATIONAL PARK
small town on the Pacific coast is a great place to relax and enjoy the sun and
nearby sea. A short distance away, Manuel Antonio National Park offers
excellent hiking, spectacular views, and abundant wildlife viewing. As well as
beautiful white sand beaches and the warm turquoise water is ideal for
swimming, fishing, kayaking, boogie boarding, sailing or surfing.
Quepos sits on the outskirts of the Manuel Antonio National Park (about 20 min
drive) and is a great introduction to the laid-back “Tico” lifestyle. This town
is very popular with the younger set of international travellers, and the
nightlife in the area is also some of the best in the country. If you have the
jungle in mind, then we recommend that you head into the National Park.
Although this is Costa Rica’s smallest National Park, it is also one of the
most popular and it won’t take you long to see why. This park has fabulous
beaches, abundant wildlife, and a great trail system for those who want to
spend the day hiking. Look for monkeys, armadillos, coatimundis, sloths and
some of the over 350 species of birds that are present in the park!
Estimated Travel Time: 4 hours
Approximate Distance: 220 km
DAY 8 SAN JOSÉ
day's travel on local buses takes us back to the capital, San José, in time to
shower and head out for a final night on the town.
Estimated Travel Time: 5 hours
Approximate Distance: 190 km
DAY 9 SAN JOSÉ
at any time.