7-Day Family Costa Rica Adventure
Day 1: San Jose, Costa Rica
Our representative meets your family on arrival at the airport in San Jose, Costa Rica’s thriving capital, and joins you on the transfer to your hotel. Get a preview of the lush flora and fauna in store as you wander the paths around the hotel’s extensive tropical gardens, home to a wide variety of colorful birds. At dinner this evening, your naturalist guide provides an overview of the highlights ahead, plus details about tomorrow’s adventures.
Day 2: San Jose / Sarapiqui—Rafting / Tirimbina Rainforest Center
Depart the city and head north to the protected rain forest in the tropical lowlands of Sarapiqui, an outstanding ecotourism destination where you’ll experience the wonder of rafting through the mangroves and jungle on the Sarapiqui River, brimming with birdlife. Continue to Tirimbina Rainforest Center, an 850-acre reserve dedicated to research and environmental education, and learn about the region's bats. Joined by a resident guide, make a night excursion into the rain forest on foot to examine the mist nets that scientists put up to trap and study bats. Spend the next two nights at the ecolodge run by the center.
Day 3: Sarapiqui—La Selva / Pierella Ecological Garden
Another landmark location for global rain forest research is La Selva, an international biological research station in the Sarapiqui region. Spend a morning learning about global efforts to conserve rain forests while taking a guided walk through a section of the reserve. Along the way, look for monkeys, sloths, peccaries, iguanas and some of the 400 different species of birds found here. After lunch, head to Pierella Ecological Garden. Established originally as a butterfly nursery, it has grown to encompass 12 acres of diverse habitat including restored rain forest that has attracted troops of howler monkeys, two- and three-toed sloths, rare white Honduran bats, and even ocelots, though the latter are usually hidden in the undergrowth. Take a tour of the excellent birding trails through the gardens and enjoy a lunch of traditional Costa Rican fare. Return to Tirimbina to spend the night.
Day 4: Chocolate Tour / Fortuna Waterfall Hike / Arenal Volcano
On a final morning at Tirimbina, visit a local cacao plantation to learn how cacao beans are transformed into organic chocolate, and enjoy a sample before departing by road for Arenal. Stop along the way to hike to La Fortuna Waterfall, where the Arenal River pours off a cliff more than 230 feet high to form this stunning plume of water. This afternoon, check in to Arenal Observatory Lodge located directly across from the volcano. Although Costa Rica’s most famous volcano has been dormant since 2010, it was the country's most active for 43 years, and its profile is still striking. Seismologists from the Smithsonian Institute and the National University of Costa Rica monitor the volcano intensively from their research station at the lodge. Before dinner this evening, there’s time to wander some of the extensive trail network around the lodge, with more than 15 miles of paths lacing the rain forest.
Day 5: Arenal National Park / Campesino Experience / Canopy Zip Line or Hot Springs
The wonders of Arenal National Park are unveiled on nature trails through the rain forest that blankets the volcano’s lower slopes. As you search for wildlife in the forest, look for intermittent views of the Arenal’s summit. Though it’s often buried under a cap of clouds, it dominates the landscape in clear weather. The park is home to some 400 bird species, including a great diversity of hummingbirds, along with spider monkeys, howler monkeys, coati, brocket deer, tamandua anteaters, peccaries and the elusive ocelot.
Nearby, visit a sustainable organic farm run by a local family where you will see, learn about and taste some of the abundant fresh produce grown in the orchards and fertile lands surrounding Arenal Volcano, including tropical fruits, tubers and spices. Learn about the challenges and benefits of farming organically in the tropics, including techniques that support environmentally sustainable methods. Wildlife sightings are also abundant on the farm, and you may spy toucans, parrots, sloths and iguanas as you explore the trails that traverse the plantations and forest. A savory home-cooked lunch is prepared by our hosts, followed by a fresh cup of Costa Rican coffee with dessert.
This afternoon, choose between a soak in a geothermal hot springs where a waterfall offers a natural massage, or explore the tree tops on a zip line tour. A tram transports you 125 feet above the rain forest floor, ascending slowly to observe the diversity of life at each elevation until you reach the canopy. Then it’s time for the exhiliarating descent via zip line, flying along a series of cables down the mountainside.
Day 6: Arenal / San Jose
After a last opportunity to wander the trails around the lodge and admire views of Arenal Volcano, it’s time to return to San Jose and settle in for a relaxing afternoon at Xandari Plantation Resort. There’s time to explore the substantial trail network surrounding the lodge or take a swim in one of several swimming pools with scenic views. Or, choose a beach extension instead and travel by road from Arenal to Costa Rica’s North Pacific Riviera today.
Day 7: San Jose / Depart
A transfer to the airport is included this morning to meet departing flights.