The following itinerary is a sample. To customize this itinerary to your wishes and preferences, please contact an Adventure Specialist at 800-543-8917.
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 will provide 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 thrill of a rafting through the jungle on the Sarapiqui River. 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. Spent the next two nights at the ecolodge run by the center.
Day 3: Sarapiqui — La Selva / Hacienda Pozo Azul
Another landmark location for global rain forest research is La Selva, an international biological research station located 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 Hacienda Pozo Azul. On this working ranch, explore trails on horseback as you keep a keen eye out for howler monkeys, three-toed sloths and an array of exuberant birdlife. Return to Tirimbina to spend the night.
Day 4: Chocolate Tour / Danaus Ecocenter / Arenal
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. En route, stop at Danaus Ecocenter for a close-up look at Costa Rica’s famed red poison dart frogs, red-eyed tree frogs, sloths and other wildlife. This private ecological reserve focuses on conservation, environmental education, and training in sustainable land use and resource production. Trails through secondary rain forest reveal a wide variety of plants and animals in their natural habitat, including more than 150 different kinds of birds. A top attraction at Danaus is the butterfly farm, with about 30 species on site, including the large blue morpho. The botanic gardens contain some 500 different plant species, while the medicinal plant garden showcases 60 varieties used to support health and healing.
After your walkabout, enjoy a soak in one of the geothermal hot springs in the Arenal area, where a waterfall offers a natural massage. Spend the night across from Arenal volcano at Arenal Observatory Lodge. 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.
Day 5: Arenal National Park / Canopy Zip Line / Vida Campesina
The wonders of Arenal National Park are unveiled via more than 15 miles of trails that lace the rain forest blanketing the volcano’s lower slopes. As you search for wildlife in the forest, look for intermittent views of the volcano’s summit. Though it’s often buried under a cap of clouds, it dominates the landscape in clear weather. The park is home to 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.
Then, venture higher into the rain forest to explore the treetops on a canopy tour. A tram transports you 125 feet above the forest floor, ascending slowly to observe the diversity of life at each elevation. Then it’s time to descend via zip line, flying between the mountainsides along a series of cables (minimum age is 8), or return via the tram if you prefer. Round out the day with a visit to Vida Campesina, a sustainable organic farm that produces more than 60 different crops including native and introduced plants. Learn about the items grown and the challenges and benefits of farming organically in the tropics, including techniques that support environmentally sustainable methods. While you're there, learn to prepare traditional recipes made from locally grown products, then share a delicious family-style dinner with your hosts.
Day 6: Arenal / San Jose
Return to San Jose and settle in for relaxing evening at Xandari Plantation Resort. There will likely be time to explore the substantial trail network surrounding the lodge, or to take a swim in one of several swimming pools with scenic views. Or, choose a beach extension and travel by road from Arenal to Costa Rica’s North Pacific Riviera today.
Day 7: San Jose / Home
Transfer to the airport for homeward flights, or continue with the Tortuguero extension.