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Natural Jewels of Costa Rica


Costa Rica nature tour mapDay 1: San Jose, Costa Rica
Our Costa Rica adventure tour begins on arrival in San Jose, where we transfer to our hotel. This evening, gather for a welcome dinner with our Expedition Leader.

Day 2: Tortuguero National Park / Private Boat Cruise
A morning chartered flight takes us directly to Tortuguero, considered by many the best place to view wildlife in Costa Rica. We’re quickly immersed in tropical wilderness as we make our way by boat through the canals to our ecolodge. This morning, we explore the river mouth and visit the Sea Turtle Conservancy. Tortuguero is famous for its green sea turtles, which nest here from approximately July to October. We’ll learn in detail about these endangered creatures, then take a walk through Tortuguero village to renowned Miss Junnie’s restaurant for a typical Caribbean lunch. Chat with a local resident to learn about the importance of coconuts as a food source during Tortuguero's initial settlement and their continuing prominence in the Caribbean diet, and taste the coconut water inside the freshly cracked fruit. This afternoon, a private boat cruise reveals plentiful wildlife as we navigate the maze of canals that lace the dense rain forest. We may see spider, howler and white-faced capuchin monkeys, tree sloths, caimans and a spectrum of colorful birds.

Please Note: All travelers will have the complimentary opportunity to "adopt" an endangered sea turtle during our visit to the Sea Turtle Conservancy. The adoption process includes material about this conservation program, an adoption form and a free one-year membership to the conservancy. Membership allows participants to track the status of their turtle. Guests traveling from July through October may be able to book an optional excursion to see sea turtles on the beach late at night. Though we can't book this activity in advance or guarantee availability, our Expedition Leader can arrange it upon arrival through the lodge, if space is available.

Day 3: Tortuguero—Private Boat Cruise & Hike
A dawn birding excursion is an option for early risers. Tortuguero is home to hundreds of different bird species including the endangered green macaw, Amazon kingfisher, egrets, herons and toucans. After breakfast, we take a morning boat cruise through the canals that wind through the jungle. Here in the tropics, steady sunlight, constant rain and warm temperatures create an intense incubator for a profusion of species. Traveling by boat allows us to traverse a large swath of Tortuguero's rain forest, revealing fascinating microhabitats and varied wildlife not easily viewed on land. Later, we explore a network of private trails on foot in search of more tropical wildlife before enjoying one last private boat cruise. The lagoons, canals and beaches—where the ocean and freshwater meet—create an environment rich in biodiversity that's endlessly fascinating for nature lovers to explore. 

Day 4: Tortuguero / Osa Peninsula—Corcovado National Park
Our destination today is the Osa Peninsula, which juts out into the ocean at the southern end of Costa Rica's Pacific coast. Just getting to our accommodations at Casa Corcovado Jungle Lodge is an adventure. We fly direct via chartered plane to the Osa Peninsula, where 4-wheel-drive vehicles transport us to the village of Agujitas at Drake Bay. Here, we board a boat and make a wet landing on the beach, then ride tractors up the hill to reach our accommodation for the next three nights: a luxury ecolodge on the edge of Corcovado National Park, the crown jewel of Costa Rica’s national park system. Casa Corcovado offers convenient access to Caño Island Biological Marine Reserve and Corcovado National Park, which National Geographic has described as the “most biologically intense place on Earth.” Situated on a 170-acre private reserve on the edge of the park, there is extensive rain forest to explore. Here among Costa Rica’s largest trees, we find Central America’s densest populations of scarlet macaws, tapir and the elusive jaguar.

After a late lunch, we walk the Sendero Azul, a short private trail on the lodge reserve. Woody vines, towering trees and walking palms line the way. Meandering along this rolling route, we’re introduced to the diversity of the lush Corcovado rain forest as we search for sloths, monkeys, agoutis, coatis and intriguing birdlife including Baird’s trogons, spectacled owls and black-cheeked ant tanagers.

Day 5: Exploring Corcovado National Park
Explore more of Corcovado's treasures on two nature walks today. As our long journey to reach this place attests, the Osa Peninsula is a wild and remote locale. It supports one of the world's largest remaining lowland rain forests and is considered Costa Rica’s last wilderness frontier. Corcovado National Park, which covers 100,000 acres and one-third of the peninsula, includes at least 13 ecosystems and protects a multitude of endemic wildlife and plant species. This biological diversity stronghold supports half of Costa Rica’s species, including scarlet macaws, toucans, parrots, all four monkey species found throughout the country and jaguars, although these shy cats are rarely seen. On guided walks, we look for the many fascinating creatures at home in Corcovado's ancient forests.

Day 6: Isla del Caño / Corcovado National Park
Bird lovers can rise early to join our Expedition Leader on an optional birdwatching outing. After breakfast, we board a boat for a 45-minute cruise to Isla del Caño Biological Reserve. En route, we may see a variety of marine life including flying fish, dolphins, frigate birds and whales. Caño is a forested island biological reserve with a beautiful sandy beach and clear waters that protect an abundance of marine life best appreciated from below the surface. While snorkeling this morning, we discover many species of fish and coral as we explore the underwater rock formations on the ocean floor. After a picnic lunch back at the lodge, an afternoon nature walk unveils more wildlife as we learn more about the intricate ecosystems of Corcovado. 

Please note:
On our special active walking departures, Day 6 features an alternate hiking itinerary from the Sirena Ranger Station in the heart of Corvocado National Park.
Our green season departures during July and August include an extended boat excursion to Isla del Caño to look for whales, dolphins and other sealife, instead of snorkeling on Day 6.

Day 7: Corcovado / San Jose / Monteverde Cloud Forest

Return to the Drake Bay airstrip via boat and 4x4 for the short chartered flight back to San Jose. Then, leaving the city behind, we begin the winding drive from coastal lowlands into the cool heights of Monteverde. Monteverde means “green mountain,” though moisture here doesn’t typically come from rain but rather from the constant mists that swath the mountaintops. Straddling the spine of Costa Rica’s continental divide, the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve supports 2.5% of worldwide biodiversity including 100 species of mammals and 161 species of amphibians and reptiles. Many of these are indicator species that act as “canaries in the coal mine,” which means they are sensitive to environmental changes and can alert us when an ecosystem is threatened. Some of these unique creatures are found only in the high mountains of Costa Rica and neighboring Panama.

Our secluded ecolodge offers the ideal base from which to explore, surrounded by lush gardens, dense forest and the melodious calls of birds in the canopy. This evening, we visit the nearby Monteverde Institute to hear a talk about the three-wattled bellbird. Just four populations of this Central American endemic remain, one of which is in found in the Monteverde area. This private talk by an expert biologist will cover conservation, restoration and reforestation of the Pacific slope habitats of this fascinating bird with its distinctive chiming call.

Day 8: Exploring the Cloud Forest—Canopy Skywalk
The entire day is devoted to discovering Monteverde. This magnificent example of tropical montane cloud forest is the most studied in the world, and one of the world's most threatened ecosystems. Monteverde harbors an estimated 2,500 species of plants, including giant strangler figs, a profusion of epiphytes that drape the forest from canopy to floor, nurtured by the perpetual mists that blow in from the coast, and 300 different kinds of orchid. On a morning walk in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, spot wild relatives of many familiar houseplants such as philodendrons, bromeliads, ficus trees, and ferns, and look for colorful butterflies flitting among the leaves. More than 400 tropical bird species flourish here, including the rare resplendent quetzal, the iridescent bird sacred to the indigenous people of these remote mountains. Other highland endemics include the three-wattled bellbird, umbrella bird and emerald toucanets. A hundred mammal species live in the cloud forest, too, and we may catch glimpses of various monkeys, sloth, olingo, porcupine, coati and agouti.

The intricate web of life in the cloud forest is on display via the Skywalk, a network of suspension bridges that lifts us into the canopy for a toucan's-eye view. In recent decades, biologists have discovered that about 90% of all organisms in a rain forest live in the canopy, where the sun strikes the treetops to produce abundant food. Look for animals in the branches as we wander along the 1.5-mile system of elevated walkways. For the more adventurous traveler, our Expedition Leader can also arrange an optional zip line tour through the forest canopy. 

Day 9: Curi-Cancha Reserve / Xandari 
Our day begins with a nature walk through the cloud forest habitat of the Curi-Cancha Reserve, within the greater Monteverde region. This private nature sanctuary is laced with trails that beckon exploration, and frequented by a great variety of birds including the resplendent quetzal and bellbird. Curi-Cancha is 50% virgin forest, with most of the remainder restored to native forest from pastureland over the past five decades. With fewer visitors than the Monteverde reserve, Curi-Cancha offers a more serene experience of wild nature. Mammal sightings may include agouti, coati, armadillo, kinkajou, ocelot, sloth, and three species of monkey: mantled howler, white-faced capuchin and spider monkey.

After this final forest immersion, we return to San Jose, stopping en route for lunch. Our destination, Xandari Resort & Spa, lies within a coffee plantation on a high hillside overlooking the broad Central Valley. Xandari offers miles of nature trails leading through tropical fruit orchards to waterfalls, plus swimming pools and an outstanding spa, which you will have time to enjoy at your leisure. We'll enjoy a farewell dinner together this evening.

Day 10: San Jose / Depart
Our Costa Rica adventure ends with a transfer to the airport this morning for departing flights, or an onward journey to Arenal Volcano for guests who have booked that extension.

Physical Rating: Moderate

Interested in adding a few days to your trip? See our extensions:
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Arenal Volcano Extension

Arenal Volcano Extension

Visit Costa Rica’s most dramatic landmark, Arenal Volcano, whose slopes are blanketed with dense rain forest filled with wildlife.
3 Days / Year-Round, From $1450
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