Costa Rica Wilderness Explorer

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2024-25 Itinerary

Itinerary Map
Day 1: San Jose, Costa Rica
Arrive in the capital of San Jose and transfer to our relaxing resort hotel high in the foothills north of the city, where our Costa Rica ecotour begins with a welcome dinner. If you reach the hotel early, enjoy a walk around the lavish gardens, home to abundant birdlife.

Day 2: Private Coffee Estate Tour / La Catalina Orchid Farm / Xandari Trails
Our day begins with a look at an agricultural pursuit Costa Rica is famous for: growing some of the world’s finest coffee. On a tour of the Doka coffee plantation, we learn all about best practices in coffee production, from seed germination to cultivating the plants and processing the beans. Our guide tells us about the local history and geography of coffee as we start in the seedbed, then progress to the historic processing plant, on the Architectural Heritage for Humanity list. Continuing to the roasting room and café, we finish with a chance to sample the different blends made on the Doka Estate.

Continue to the Cinchona hummingbird lookout, one of the best places in Costa Rica to observe a variety of these brilliant, tiny birds—Costa Rica is home to more than 50 different species, and here we are likely to spot brown violetears, green thorntails, violet sabrewings, coppery-headed emeralds, and many more. Tanagers, toucanets, barbets and guans also feed here, and any bird aficionados in our group will quickly be elated. Next, we visit La Catalina Botanical Gardens, famous for its more than 450 species of orchids on display, before we returning to walk in the impressive gardens and forest trail network of our own Xandari lodge, with views of the Central Valley far below.

Day 3: Private Flight to Golfito / Tiskita Jungle Lodge
Transfer to the local airport this morning to board chartered planes for our direct flight to Golfito on Costa Rica’s remote southern Pacific coast. Once we land, we stop for lunch en route to Tiskita Jungle Lodge, which we reach by mid-afternoon.

At the heart of an 800-acre private rain forest reserve, Tiskita is the only lodging in this undeveloped area just a few miles from the Panama border. Its hand-built cabins, crafted from fallen hardwood trees, survey the sea from a high ridge. Wildlife abounds: look for squirrel monkeys, howler monkeys and white-faced capuchins swinging through the trees, sloths clinging to high branches, and agouti in the underbrush. More than 275 bird species thrive in this lush habitat, and we look for some of them on a guided walk around the grounds. A coveted sighting is the scarlet macaw, successfully reintroduced by Tiskita's owners and now flourishing on the reserve.

Day 4: Private Cruise on Golfo Dulce / Tiskita Rain Forest Walk
After breakfast this morning we drive to Playa Zancudo to meet our privately chartered boat for a cruise around Golfo Dulce on Costa Rica’s remote southern Pacific coast. In search of marine wildlife, we look for bottlenose and spotted dolphins, and rarer sightings of hammerhead sharks, whale sharks and rays. Few visitors to Costa Rica make it to this intensely biodiverse region along the Osa Peninsula, surrounded by the country's largest tracts of untouched primary rain forest. National Geographic identified Golfo Dulce—a rare tropical fjord biome—as one of the world's most pristine seas.

Returning to Tiskita after lunch, we explore more of this private biological reserve in greater depth. An extended rain forest hike reveals more wild creatures, while a night walk offers a chance to look for red-eyed tree frogs, tiny endangered granular poison dart frogs and other intriguing amphibians.

Day 5: Tiskita Reserve—Sea Turtle Hatchery
A highlight at our secluded ecolodge are meals prepared with fresh ingredients from the property, utilizing some of the 125 types of organic tropical fruit grown on the estate. On a walk through the grounds, we examine a wide array of fruit trees, and, if certain fruits are in season, we may get to taste some exotic varieties. This is also an excellent chance to see birds and monkeys attracted to the orchards and open areas.

This afternoon, we walk to the beachside village of Punta Banco to visit a community sea turtle hatchery, with a talk by a local biologist running this grassroots conservation program. Learn firsthand the critical value of controlled hatcheries that are helping to increase endangered sea turtle populations worldwide. For groups visiting during turtle-hatching season from November–January, we may have the opportunity for a pre-dawn visit to the beach to see baby olive ridley turtles emerging from their nests and being released to the sea.

Day 6: Golfito / Private Flight to San Isidro / Savegre Natural Reserve
Transfer to Golfito by road to meet our private chartered plane, which takes us north to San Isidro. Here, we board vans for one of the most spectacular drives in Costa Rica, ascending narrow, winding roads into the Talamanca Mountains. Our route crosses Cerro de la Muerte, the highest point along the Costa Rican section of the Pan-American Highway at just under 11,000 feet. The views are thrilling, when the frequent mists clear enough to reveal waterfalls on steep slopes and green valleys far below. Along the way, we stop for lunch at the home of a local family, savoring traditional home-cooked fare and learning about rural life in Costa Rica. Our hosts live on a small farm where they grow mushrooms on oak logs and make delectable blackberry wine, both of which feature in our meal.

Our destination is the cloud forest along the Savegre River, which rushes down a narrow, high mountain valley at 7,200 feet. Our lush surroundings are replete with flowering tropical plants and myriad colorful birds—the resplendent quetzal is the biggest prize among the more than 600 different bird species found here. Once we’re settled in to our lodge along the river, we’ll take a guided walk through the gardens on the grounds.

On a guided hike through the forest, 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 they remain carefully hidden and are very rarely seen. 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 and many endemics. We set out very 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 a shot of 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 spy the emerald toucanet, golden-browed chlorophonia and spangle-cheeked tanager, among many others.

Return to the lodge for breakfast, then depart for Los Quetzales National Park, encompassing more than 12,000 acres of pristine cloud forest and 14 different ecosystems. The park protects wild sections of the Savegre River, which originates high up on the Cerro de la Muerte. A highlight is 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 photo opportunities. Later this afternoon, we'll visit Batsu Gardens, where every detail has been intentionally designed to enhance outstanding bird photography opportunities in a lush natural space. This evening, our nature adventure comes to a close over a farewell dinner at a special local restaurant.

Day 8: San Jose / Depart
After breakfast, a group transfer is provided to the San Jose airport to connect with departing flights. Please schedule flight departures no earlier than 1:30 pm today.

Physical Rating: Moderate

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