Explore Rain Forest, Cloud Forest, Volcanoes, Rivers & Ocean Coast—Plus Granada's Rich History
Day 1: San Jose, Costa Rica
Arrive in Costa Rica's capital of San Jose, where you are met at the airport and transferred to our hotel. Meet your Expedition Leader and traveling companions at a welcome dinner and orientation this evening.
Day 2: Talamanca Mountains / Savegre Nature Reserve
On a stunning drive into the Talamanca Mountains, cross 11,322-foot Cerro de la Muerte, the highest point along the Pan-American Highway. En route, we stop for lunch at Quetzal’s Paradise, perched high on the side of a bluff surrounded by misty cloud forest. Myriad hummingbirds flit around the lodge, and we’ll hope to see the namesake quetzal as well, with its striking green, turquoise
and scarlet plumage. Continuing to Savegre Mountain Hotel, the afternoon is devoted to exploring this 1,000-acre private biological reserve. Nature walks through the lush forest reveal a variety of bromeliads and orchids among many flourishing species of flora. Ferns and mosses also thrive in the constant veil of mist, while birds add splashes of color to the canopy. Looking for wildlife, we keep an eye out for Baird’s tapirs, wild boar, coati
and monkeys. The lavish habitat is also the territory of six species of neotropical cats including jaguar, puma, ocelot, margay, oncilla and jaguarundi, though we are not likely to see them as they generally remain hidden in the dense undergrowth.
Day 3: Savegre Nature Reserve
Today is devoted to exploring the wondrous biodiversity of the cloud forest. A gentle hike along the Los Robles Trail showcases the magnificent tropical oaks found here, some of which are more than 700 years old and up to 200 feet tall. This high-altitude habitat will delight bird lovers,
as it is home to more than 600 different species including many endemics. A nature walk reveals a wide array of vibrant birds, and we may see the emerald toucanet, golden-browed chlorophonia
and spangle-cheeked tanager. This habitat is ideal for the resplendent quetzal, a revered and endangered creature of striking beauty. Listen for their deep, melodious calls as we quietly track these elusive birds. We’ll also walk along a stream to a cascading waterfall fed by the Savegre River. This evening, enjoy an authentic home-cooked meal with a local family.
Day 4: Sarapiqui / La Tirimbina Bat Tour
Transfer this morning to the Sarapiqui region with lunch en route. Humid and carpeted with fruit plantations, Sarapiqui also shelters some of the best-preserved premontane rain forest
in Costa Rica, making it an outstanding ecotourism destination. This evening, we head to Tirimbina Rainforest Center to learn about bats—113 species comprise almost half of Costa Rica’s mammals. On a short night walk into the forest we learn in detail about the fascinating natural history of bats and find the mist nets that scientists have erected to trap them for research purposes.
Day 5: La Selva Biological Station / Wildlife Boat Tour
An exciting day of discovery is in store today as we explore the rain forest on visits to two field education centers in the Sarapiqui area. Learn about global efforts to conserve rain forests on a guided walk through La Selva, an international biological research station. During our short hike
we may see monkeys, sloths, peccaries, iguanas and up to 400 different kinds of birds! This afternoon we embark on a 2-hour private boat tour on the Sarapiqui River, enjoying views of the exuberant flora and fauna along the riverbanks. We’ll have opportunities to observe monkeys, iguanas, crocodiles, caimans, sloths, otters, toucans and a wide diversity of other birds in their verdant tropical habitat.
Day 6: San Carlos, Nicaragua / Morgan's Rock
This morning we take a private boat cruise on the Sarapiqui River to Los Chiles, a small town close to the Nicaragua border. En route we learn more about the Sarapiqui rain forest
and river ecosystem. Wildlife viewing possibilities on the riverbanks and in the trees overhead may include howler, spider and white-faced monkeys, sloth, crocodile, spectacled cayman
, river otter, Jesus Christ Lizard, black river turtles and green iguanas. We may even spot anteaters and porcupines sleeping in the tree trunks. Upon landing in Los Chiles, we fly to Costa Esmeralda, Nicaragua and head to Morgan's Rock Hacienda & Ecolodge, where stunning ocean views and a private tropical beach await. After dinner, wander the grounds to listen for nocturnal wildlife on an optional night walk.
Day 7: Morgan´s Rock Nature Reserve
Located on a 4,000 acre
expanse of Nicaraguan jungle on the country's southern Pacific coast, nearly half of Morgan's Rock is a government-protected reserve. The remainder of this breathtaking family-run estate is set aside for low-impact agriculture and sustainable tropical forestland. The mile-long sandy beach is frequented year-round by nesting sea turtles. We spend today exploring the reserve with our Expedition Leader, which harbors a variety of wildlife including spider, howler and capuchin monkeys, sloth, deer, agouti, reptiles, and many native and migrant birds. The day's adventures conclude at sunset, as we enjoy appetizers and drinks while watching the streamers of color over the Pacific Ocean.
Day 8: Granada
Today we make our way to Granada, the oldest city in Nicaragua. Founded by Spanish conquistador Cordoba in 1524 and named for the city of Granada in Spain, this long-standing center of commerce located on Lake Nicaragua has witnessed many battles and invasions from English, French and Dutch pirates trying to take control of the region. Granada, also known as La Gran Sultana, reflecting its Moorish and Andalusian appearance, is known for some of the best-preserved colonial architecture in Latin America, its cobblestone streets lined with pastel-colored buildings decorated with ornate white balconies.
This afternoon we'll visit the ChocoMuseo, a cacao and chocolate museum located in a mansion in the historic center of the city, where we'll take part in an interactive chocolate-making workshop. We start by examining a cocoa tree and its fruits while learning how beans were used throughout history. During this feast for the senses, roasted cacoa
beans are peeled, crushed and turned into a chocolate paste, which we’ll then use to create a traditional chocolate drink with notes of cinnamon and spices. Finally, we mix sugar with the leftover chocolate paste and mold it into bars that we can take home.
Day 9: Granada / Las Isletas Boat Tour / Masaya Volcano National Park
The splendors of colonial Granada are on display during a morning city tour. A highlight is a visit to Hamacas
Tio Antonio, an artisan hammock-making workshop where handcrafted products are made by handicapped or otherwise disadvantaged youth. One of these intricately woven hammocks was even made for Pope Francis.
We then head out to the lake for a private motorboat excursion among "Las Isletas." When the massive Mombacho Volcano that towers over Lake Nicaragua erupted violently some 20,000 years ago, it threw huge rocks into the water, creating 365 islets in front of where the city is today. From tiny lava outposts graced with a few palm trees to habitable small islands home to local fishermen as well as the extravagant villas of Nicaragua's upper class, the islets are ideal for exploring via boat, which offers an impressive vantage point on the immensity of Lake Nicaragua. Our local guide points out varied birdlife, and we may see cormorants, herons, parrots, hawks, vultures and many others. A stop at the 18th-century Fort of San Pablo, built on one of the islets to keep pirates out, provides a historical interlude.
This afternoon we visit a traditional maraca workshop in the small town of Monimbo. We'll meet Juan Pastor Moreno and his family who handcraft hundreds of maracas every week, made from fresh green tropical gourds harvested from local trees. We'll have a chance to help paint some of the maracas, working alongside the artisans on site. Traveling on to Masaya Volcano National Park, we arrive just before sunset to view the active crater from the rim. With luck, we might catch a glimpse of the bright green chocoyos
(Pacific parakeets) diving inside the crater. Remarkably, these birds have adapted to the sulfuric smoke from the active volcano and actually roost within the crater. The two active volcanoes inside the park have had a dramatic impact on the environment, with lava and volcanic ash covering much of the surrounding area. Over a farewell dinner tonight, we'll have a chance to recap personal highlights of our grand odyssey.
Day 10: Managua / Depart
After breakfast, a group transfer is provided to the Managua airport, about a 2.5 hour
drive north from Morgan's Rock. We'll plan to arrive around 11 am, and guests are advised to book departing flights no sooner than noon.