Day 1: San Jose
Our family Costa Rica trip begins upon arrival in San Jose, where we'll transfer to our hotel. We meet our Expedition Leader at an orientation dinner this evening.
Day 2: Rafting / Sarapiqui
After breakfast, we make our way north to the protected rain forest around Sarapiqui, an outstanding ecotourism destination. Here we experience the thrill of a jungle rafting excursion on the Sarapiqui River. Later, we’ll visit the Tirimbina Rainforest Center to learn about bats found in this region. On a night walk into the forest, we find the mist nets that scientists have erected to trap bats.
Day 3: La Selva / Sarapiqui
This morning we 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! After lunch, visit Hacienda Pozo Azul, a working ranch that offers some of the best nature adventures in Costa Rica. Here, we explore the trails on horseback, hoping to spot Howler monkeys, three-toed sloths and the myriad birds that thrive in this region.
Day 4: Sarapiqui / Arenal
During the Chocolate Tour at Sarapiqui, we learn how the cacao bean is transformed into the locally made organic chocolates we have a chance to sample. Later, we drive to the Arenal area, stopping en route at Ecocentro Danaus for a close-up look at Costa Rica’s famed red poison dart frogs, red-eyed tree frogs, sloths and other wildlife. This private biological reserve focuses on conservation programs, environmental education, and training in sustainable land use and resource production. Trails through secondary forest reveal a wide variety of plants and animals in their natural habitat, including more than 150 different kinds of birds. One of the main attractions at Danaus is the butterfly farm, with about 30 species on site. The eco-center's botanic gardens contain some 500 different plant species, while a medicinal plant garden showcases 60 varieties used to support health and healing. Afterwards, relax with a soak in the hot springs, where a waterfall offers a natural massage. This evening, we overnight across from Arenal volcano at the Arenal Observatory Lodge. The lodge is set high on a ridge facing the famous volcano, surrounded by thousands of acres of tropical rain forest. Though the volcano has been in a resting phase since late 2010, it was Costa Rica's most active volcano for 43 years. Seismologists from the Smithsonian Institute and the National University of Costa Rica intensively monitor the volcano from their research station at the lodge. Though Arenal Volcano is currently in a dormant phase, the juncture of the two tectonic plates that lie beneath it creates periodic friction, forcing molten rock up through fissures, where it emerges as fiery magma.
Day 5: Arenal
Arenal Observatory Lodge is the only lodge situated within Arenal National Park, where more than 15 miles of private trails through the foothill rain forest await. On a nature hike this morning, we’ll explore the trails in search of wildlife, enjoying views of the volcano along the way. This region hosts an amazing 400 bird species, including an incredible diversity of hummingbirds. Few places in tropical America have such an extensive bird list. There are also great opportunities to encounter spider monkeys, howler monkeys, coati, brocket deer, tamandua anteaters and peccaries. Later, we venture into the rain forest to explore the treetops on a canopy tour. A tram ride takes us 125 feet above the forest floor, moving slowly to experience the diverse life of the rain forest at varying levels. To descend, there are two choices: the Sky Trek canopy zip line tour, zinging down a series of cables running between the mountains (the minimum age for the zip line is eight years), or a return via the tram. We finish the day with a visit to Vida Campesina, a self-sustaining organic farm that produces more than 60 crop species, including native and introduced plants. On a short tour, we learn about many of the crops and the challenges and benefits of farming organically in the tropics, including techniques that support farming in an environmentally sustainable way. We’ll learn to prepare traditional recipes, then share a delicious family dinner with our hosts.
Day 6: Arenal / San Jose
This morning, return to San Jose, where we spend our final evening at Xandari Plantation Hotel. Those who have booked beach extensions will continue by road from Arenal to Costa Rica’s North Pacific Riviera.
Day 7: San Jose / Home
Our family Costa Rica trip comes to a close today as travelers transfer to the airport for homeward flights, or continue with the Tortuguero extension.