Costa Rica's Natural Treasures
Discover exotic flora and fauna as you traverse treetop bridges, float along the Tempisque River, trek to a volcano, and take guided walks at Monteverde's biological reserve.
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This tour is specially designed for a small group of 18 Smithsonian travelers and offers outstanding travel value. Prices include airfare, airline taxes, fuel surcharges, and departure fees.
Nestled between the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, Costa Rica possesses a wealth of natural beauty and a variety of wildlife that belies its diminutive size. Join us to discover its pristine landscapes and learn about exotic flora and fauna and unique environments of cloud and rain forests. Tortuguero Post-Program option available.
- Monteverde Biological Reserve: Learn about this unique cloud forest, featuring hundreds of species of plants, mammals, and birds (including the dramatic but elusive Resplendent Quetzal), plus a hummingbird gallery and butterfly garden.
- Volcanoes: Gain insight into geology at Poas Volcano and during night viewing at Arenal Volcano.
- Active Adventure: Explore the forest canopy from hanging bridges and enjoy “float safaris” on two different rivers featuring wildlife sightings. Plus, engage in optional active adventures at a resort overlooking the Pacific.
- Cultural Experiences: Learn about coffee production and attend a cooking class.
Day 1 — Depart for San Jose, Costa Rica
Arrive in the Costa Rican capital and transfer to your hotel located in the Belen area outside the city. This afternoon and evening are at leisure.
Day 2 — San Jose
After meeting your fellow travelers at this morning’s breakfast briefing, embark on an excursion through the Central Valley to Poas Volcano National Park. View the world’s largest crater (a steaming, bubbling caldron), and take a guided walk along park trails. Continue to the Doka Coffee Estate, located on the fertile slopes of Poas Volcano, where you learn about coffee-making and Costa Rica’s coffee industry, one of its largest exports. After lunch at the Doka Estate, return to your hotel late afternoon. Enjoy a welcome dinner tonight at a local restaurant. (B,L,D)
Day 3 — Arenal
Leave San Jose this morning bound for the Arenal region, passing picturesque villages along the way. En route visit a traditional mask-maker, then stop in Carrizal at the family-owned Botanical Orchid Garden, which features trails, exhibits, nurseries, and gardens dedicated to the wondrous orchid plant and its many varieties. After time to explore here, travel on to Arenal and your hotel, which offers magnificent views of Arenal Volcano. (B,L,D)
Day 4 — Arenal Region, Penas Blancas River
This morning visit a local elementary school to enjoy a cultural exchange with the children and learn about Costa Rica’s vaunted educational system – the country boasts a literacy rate of more than 95%. Continue to Ecocentro Danus, a biological reserve focused on conservation, environmental education, and sustainability. A series of trails wind through the secondary forest, where you see diverse flora, including orchids, bromelia, and heliconia, along with some of the preserve’s 150 species of birds, sloths, and bats, among other fauna. Highlights include a butterfly farm with 30 different species and a natural water spring that attracts waterfowl, alligators, and iguana. Later today there’s time for more volcano viewing before and after dinner (at a local restaurant) from a comfortable perch at our hotel.(B,L,D)
Day 5 — Monteverde Cloud Forest
Travel today to the “green cathedral” of Monteverde. Check in at your hotel, with time for lunch on your own. In the afternoon, stop at the CASEM handicrafts cooperative, a non-profit organization helping local women artisans. Dine tonight at a local restaurant in Monteverde. (B,D)
Day 6 — Monteverde
This morning embark on a guided walk through Monteverde’s biological reserve, learning about the amazing bio-diversity in this relatively small area. Also tour the Hummingbird Gallery, where feeders attract seven different species of the delicate hummingbird. After lunch, visit the Monteverde Bat Jungle to learn about Costa Rica’s diverse – and important – bat population. Late this afternoon return to your hotel for time at leisure and dinner on your own. (B,L)
Day 7 — Monteverde
Early today visit the hanging bridges Sky Walk, where you have the opportunity to experience this natural preserve from the canopy level, high above the rain forest floor. Your naturalist guide will point out some of the 100 species of mammals, 400 species of birds (including 30 kinds of hummingbirds), and 2,500 species of plants (including 420 kinds of orchids) that are known to exist in this unique setting. This afternoon is at leisure. (The hotel facilities include a water-purified heated pool.) (B,D)
Day 8 — Monteverde and Guanacaste
Visit Monteverde’s delightful Butterfly Garden, with more than 50 different species, including the stunning Blue Morpho, the unique Calico butterfly which produces sound, and the virtually transparent Glasswing butterfly. Then, depart by coach this morning for Guanacaste, Costa Rica’s stunning northwest Pacific coastal region lined with pristine white-sand beaches and home to several national parks. Stop for lunch along the way, reaching your beachfront resort hotel mid-afternoon. The remainder of the afternoon is at leisure. Later this afternoon enjoy a private cooking class and learn how to prepare a traditional tamale with local, market-bought ingredients. (B,L,D)
Day 9 — Guanacaste
A float safari on the Tempisque River highlights this morning’s excursion to Palo Verde National Park, which is both an extraordinary wetland and also one of the world’s last tropical dry forests. You should see abundant bird species and wildlife, possibly including monkeys, iguanas, and crocodiles in this unique ecosystem. Following your safari enjoy lunch at a local restaurant then return to your hotel mid-afternoon. The remainder of the day is at leisure along one of Costa Rica’s most pristine beaches. Dinner tonight is on your own. (B,L)
Day 10 — Guanacaste
Today is at leisure to enjoy the beautiful black-sand beach and other amenities of your hotel, including an outdoor pool. Optional activities include snorkeling, kayaking, sailing, and diving. Dine tonight at your hotel. (B,D)
Day 11 — San Jose
Return to San Jose and arrive at your hotel in Heredia early this afternoon. Enjoy time to relax and refresh before tonight’s farewell dinner at your hotel. (B,D)
Day 12 — Depart for the U.S.
Transfer to the airport mid-afternoon for your return flights to the U.S. (B)