From Quetzals to Capuchins, Discover a Wilder Side of Costa Rica
Day 1: San Jose, Costa Rica
Arrive in San Jose, the country's capital, where our Costa Rica ecotour
begins with a welcome dinner.
Days 2 & 3: Tiskita Jungle Lodge
This morning, board chartered planes to fly to Tiskita Jungle Lodge on Costa Rica’s remote south Pacific coast. Secluded Tiskita, in the heart of a 800-acre
private rain forest
reserve, is the only accommodation in this undeveloped area. Squirrel monkeys, howler monkeys, white-faced capuchins
and sloths swing through the trees, and 270 bird species thrive in the lush habitat. Tiskita’s hand-built cabins, crafted from fallen hardwood trees, survey the sea from a high ridge. Meals are prepared with fresh
local fare, utilizing more than 125 types of organic tropical fruit grown on the estate. On a hike through the grounds, we’ll examine a wide array of exotic fruit trees, and, if certain fruits are in season, we may get to taste some unfamiliar varieties. This is also an excellent chance to see birds and monkeys that are attracted to the orchards and open areas. An in-depth rain forest
hike reveals more wild creatures and luxuriant vegetation, while a night walk offers a chance to look for red-eyed tree frogs and other intriguing amphibians. During our stay, we'll walk to the beachside village of Punta Banco where we learn about the community's involvement with a local sea turtle conservation project.
Day 4: Ballena Marine National Park / Uvita Beach
Following the Pacific coast northward by road, we stop along the way to look for toucans and other wildlife as we pass the Sierpe Terraba National Wetland and Piedras Blancas National Park. The thick rain forest
is home to a number of rare trees and five species of wild
cat: ocelot, margay, jaguarundi, puma and jaguar. After lunch at a local restaurant, we arrive at our hotel on a hillside above Ballena Marine National Park, a system of coral reefs and islands that harbors
some of the richest undersea life in Costa Rica. Hiking paths leave from the hotel grounds, offering a chance to look for wildlife including howler monkeys and green iguanas. Weather and surf conditions permitting, we'll visit Uvita Beach, a spot known for its unique whale’s tail shape, turquoise waters and serenity, since few travelers venture here. Swim or dip your feet in the ocean, rest in the shade of palm trees rustling in the breeze, or take advantage of sunset photo opportunities before we return to our hotel for dinner.
Day 5: Sierpe River Cruise / Stone Spheres
Traveling along the central coast, we reach the languid Sierpe River, where we board a private boat to explore its vast mangrove ecosystem. The Terraba and Sierpe rivers flow from their headwaters on the southern slopes of the Talamanca Mountains to the Pacific Ocean where they form a river delta that comprises the Sierpe Terraba National Wetland. This network of channels weaves through Costa Rica's largest mangrove swamp, protecting prolific birdlife and wild animals. Floating down the opaque tropical river, we may see American crocodiles, rainbow boas, green iguanas, white-face capuchin monkeys, long-nosed bats, roseate spoonbills, ospreys, kingfishers, frigate birds and a variety of egrets. Next, we stop at Palmar Sur to visit the Finca 6 archaeological site. At this UNESCO World Heritage Site, we observe the mysterious pre-Columbian stone spheres discovered here in the 1930s when the United Fruit Company was clearing land for banana plantations. These perfectly carved orbs range in size from a bowling ball to massive spheres weighing 16 tons. Their purpose, and the means of creating them,
remains open to speculation.
Day 6: Talamanca Mountains—Cerro de la Muerte
Leaving the coast behind, we ascend narrow, winding roads into the Talamanca Mountains, crossing Cerro de la Muerte, the highest point along the Costa Rican section of the Pan-American Highway. The views are magnificent,
when the frequent mists clear enough to reveal waterfalls on steep slopes and green valleys far below. Along the way we'll stop for lunch at the home of a local family, enjoying traditional home-cooked fare and learning about rural life in Costa Rica. Our destination is Savegre Mountain Hotel, tucked along a rushing river at the base of a narrow mountain valley at 7,200 feet in elevation. Within this private biological reserve, replete with flowering tropical plants, we find myriad colorful birds including the resplendent quetzal, the biggest prize among the more than 600 different bird species found here. On a guided hike through the cloud forest, we pass vivid bromeliads and orchids while we scout for wildlife. This region is home to Baird’s tapir, wild boar, monkeys
and coati. The rich 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 are extremely elusive. Ferns and mosses flourish in the constant drip of the mists, while birds add dashes of color to the canopy.
Day 7: Los Quetzales National Park
This high-altitude ecosystem will thrill bird lovers, as it is home to a multitude of vibrant species including many endemics. We set out early this morning with the goal of spotting the resplendent quetzal, a revered and endangered creature of striking beauty. Listen for their deep, melodious calls as we quietly track these elusive birds. Photographers come from all over the world in hopes of capturing the quetzal's splendid plumage, with its electric green head, scarlet breast
and long, iridescent turquoise tail. Our dawn nature walk reveals a wide array of birds, and we may also see the emerald toucanet, golden-browed chlorophonia
and spangle-cheeked tanager, among many others.
After breakfast we depart for Los Quetzales National Park, Costa Rica's newest national park, encompassing more than 12,000 acres of pristine cloud forest and 14 different ecosystems. Previously the Los Santos Reserve, the park protects wild sections of the Savegre River, which originates high up on the Cerro de la Muerte. We stop for lunch at Paraiso Quetzal—"Quetzal Paradise"—an ecolodge perched on a steep mountainside. From the outdoor deck
we're sure to see dozens of hummingbirds buzzing around several feeders, offering superb close-up photography opportunities. Then, from our own lodge later this afternoon, a guided walk along a flowing stream reveals a cascading waterfall fed by the Savegre River. This evening, our nature adventure comes to a close over a farewell dinner.
Day 8: San Jose / Depart
After breakfast, a group transfer is provided to the San Jose airport to connect with departing flights. Travelers who have added the Arenal Volcano extension will continue on to Arenal today.