Waterfalls pouring into jungle rivers, misty cloud forests, and coastal waterways teeming with wildlife: Costa Rica is a small country packed with natural wonders. Immerse yourself in a thousand shades of green as we explore three spectacular—and very different—forest regions. Keep an eye out for parrots, iguanas, and monkeys as we paddle kayaks along the channels of Tortuguero National Park. Go white-water rafting through the lush gorges of the Pacuare River, and hike deep into the rain forest and the cloud forest to encounter an astonishing array of species.
Kayak through the lush rain forests of Tortuguero National Park and look for howler and capuchin monkeys, caimans, toucans, and more.
Set off on a white-water rafting adventure down the Pacuare River and spot monkeys, sloths, colorful birds, and more along the way.
Hike into the cloud forest in search of the rare quetzal bird, and sail through the rain forest canopy on a zip line.
Stay in stunning eco-lodges and hotels nestled within pristine forest.
Itinerary - 9 Days
Days 1 & 2 — San José, Costa Rica/Tortuguero National Park
Arrive in San José, where our staff awaits to transfer you to our hotel. Begin the next day with a scenic flight over the jungle to Tortuguero National Park, a lowland tropical wet forest accessible only by water or air. A short boat ride brings us to our secluded hotel, perched on the water’s edge. Enjoy breakfast before we gear up for our first kayak excursion. Navigate the still waterways that cut through the forest, encountering varied wildlife, from poison dart frogs to brilliant tropical flowers to spider monkeys. Gather for a welcome dinner tonight. (Day 2: 2–3 miles paddling, 3 hours).
Xandari Resort & Spa or Finca Rosa Blanca; Tortuga Lodge & Garden (B,L,D)
Day 3 — Tortuguero National Park
After breakfast, a private motorboat takes us (and our kayaks) deeper into the park to paddle amid backwater lagoons and creeks. Keep your eyes peeled for howler monkeys, sloths, river otters, caimans and a variety of lizards and birds. Return to the lodge for lunch and a free afternoon to relax at the pool or kayak the narrow channels that surround the lodge. During nesting season (July and August) join an optional night walk (additional fee applies) to search for the Atlantic sea turtles for which the park is named. The turtles return here each year to nest, and the hatching of their young is a harrowing but fascinating ritual that dates back millions of years. (4–5 miles paddling, 4 hours) Tortuga Lodge & Gardens (B,L,D)
Day 4 — Pacuare River
Travel by boat and by road to the Pacuare River, where we set off on our white-water rafting adventure. From our put-in, paddle about eight miles downstream, entering lush primary forest and descending several technical drops. Stop for lunch and a walk in the forest, and look for sloths, river otters, anteaters, and an incredible variety of birds. In the afternoon, arrive at our thatched-roof eco-lodge perched on the river’s edge. (4-5 miles paddling, 2 hours) Rios Tropicales Lodge (B,L,D)
Day 5 — Pacuare River
Situated in the middle of pristine jungle, our lodge offers many opportunities for adventure, and we take the full day to explore. Go on an optional early morning bird-watching hike with guides to see toucans and many other species. Swing through the forest on a zip line to get an up-close perspective of the ecosystem of the canopy. Hike to waterfalls or trek deep into the Pacuare Nature Reserve. (4–5 miles hiking, 4 hours) Rios Tropicales Lodge (B,L,D)
Day 6 — Pacuare River
Today we raft a stunning stretch of wild water that curves past waterfalls on its way deep into lush gorges. Here, the rapids become more powerful and technical in nature, and we’ll have an exhilarating run over steep drops and churning white water. Stop for a snack and a swim in a placid part of the river, and take out near the town of Siquirres. Then journey into the cloud forest and settle into our lodge. (6-8 miles paddling, 3-4 hours) Trogon Lodge (B,L,D)
Day 7 — San Gerardo de Dota
Hike into the cloud forest and encounter a wide spectrum of wildlife, including, with luck, the quetzal, a beautiful but near-threatened bird that is endemic to Mesoamerica. Then take advantage of a free afternoon to explore the lodge and its gardens, go on another hike, or enjoy one of the optional activities offered in the area. (4–5 miles hiking, 4 hours) Trogon Lodge (B,L,D)
Day 8 — Orosi Valley and Cartago/San José
Drive to Orosi Valley, one of the first areas of Costa Rica settled by the Spanish colonists and now a center of the coffee industry. After lunch at a coffee plantation, continue to Cartago for a visit to the Basilica de Los Ángeles, an ornate Byzantine-influenced church honoring Costa Rica’s patron saint. Late in the afternoon, arrive at our hotel and enjoy time at leisure before our farewell dinner. (1–2 miles hiking, 2 hours) Xandari Resort & Spa or Finca Rosa Blanca (B,L,D)
Day 9 — San José
After breakfast, transfer to the airport and depart on your flight home. (B)
National Geographic Active Expeditions are unique, active itineraries for intrepid travelers that combine spectacular places, cultural interaction, and physical challenge. You'll explore fascinating, off-the-beaten-path places with top guides, and wherever possible, meet National Geographic experts in the field.
Prices are per person, double occupancy. For a single room, add $1,100. Airfare to/from San José, and within Costa Rica, is not included in the expedition cost. The group flight within Costa Rica is $200 (subject to change). For the December departures, there is an additional holiday surcharge of $200 per person.
This trip is suitable for beginner and expert kayakers and rafters alike; no previous experience is necessary. We will be paddling stable, two-person kayaks for an average of 2 to 5 hours, and will be rafting 2 to 4 hours (approximately 4-8 miles per day) on Class II-IV rapids. We will be hiking 2-4 hours (1-5 miles) on multiple days.
Click here for a description of all activity levels.
What To Expect
We will stay six nights in comfortable, ideally located lodges and resorts and two nights in charming, rustic bungalows at an eco-lodge accessible only by foot or waterway.
Contact Us: 1-888-689-2557
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