Misty cloud forests teeming with wildlife, virgin
rain forests edged by black-sand beaches, tumbling
waterfalls, and simmering volcanoes—Costa Rica
is a small country packed with natural wonders. On
an expedition to three national parks, explore the
crater of Poás volcano and hike off the beaten path
with a naturalist in the Sarapiquí River Valley. Keep
an eye out for parrots, iguanas, and poison dart
frogs as we glide up the waterways of Tortuguero
National Park, and learn about the fascinating life
cycle of the green sea turtle.
Encounter diverse wildlife from white-faced capuchins and howler monkeys to sloths, caimans, basilisk lizards, toucans, and hundreds of butterflies.
Go white-water rafting through the jungle on the Sarapiquí River, and enjoy a private animal safari cruise on the serene waterways of Tortuguero National Park.
Discover Costa Rica’s diverse ecosystems, exploring rain forests, lush jungles, and the Caribbean coast.
Witness firsthand the ancient nesting ritual of the green sea turtles, or see their hatchlings embark on an epic crawl from beach to ocean (during the nesting season, from July to October).
Itinerary - 7 Days
Day 1 — U.S./San José, Costa Rica
Depart for San José, Costa Rica’s capital city, and transfer to our hotel upon arrival. After an orientation and time to explore the hotel’s spectacular tropical gardens, meet for a welcome reception and dinner. Xandari Resort & Spa (D)
Day 2 — Poás Volcano National Park
A morning excursion brings us to Poás Volcano National Park. See the volcano’s steaming crater lake and learn about the surrounding ecosystem. Then head to a nearby coffee farm to watch how coffee beans are harvested and processed, and taste the lucrative local grano de oro (golden bean). Take advantage of the spa amenities at our hotel before dinner. Xandari Resort & Spa (B,L,D)
Day 3 — La Paz Waterfalls/ Sarapiquí
Journey to the Sarapiquí region, an area known for its incredible biodiversity. Stop en route to visit the magnificent La Paz Waterfall Gardens. Set off into the cloud forest on foot to explore breathtaking waterfalls and gardens brimming with colorful tropical species; and see a mind-boggling array of butterflies, birds, and reptiles. Next, dive into the history of Costa Rica’s native peoples with a tour of the archaeological artifacts at the Museum of Indigenous Cultures. Later this afternoon, settle into our hotel, a Spanish colonial hacienda set in the foothills of Braulio Carrillo National Park. Hacienda La Isla Lodge (B,L,D)
Day 4 — Sarapiquí
The day begins with a white-water rafting adventure (or a river safari float) on the Sarapiquí River. Keep an eye out for wildlife along the river’s edge, including sloths, iguanas, crocodiles, and numerous species of monkeys and birds. Later this afternoon, relax back at the lodge and stroll through the extensive orchards, bursting with orange, banana, papaya, mango, avocado, and grapefruit trees. Or, if you wish, choose from several optional afternoon activities: sail through the forest canopy on a zip line; go for a horseback ride; visit a historic cacao plantation; or learn about the cultivation of pineapples, Sarapiquí’s most important crop. Hacienda La Isla Lodge (B,L,D)
Day 5 — Sarapiquí/Tortuguero National Park
Join a naturalist at a biological research station to examine the unique flora and fauna of the rain forest. Then learn about another important Costa Rican export: the palmito, or heart of palm—a culinary specialty harvested from the core of certain palm trees. On our way to the coast, take a tour of a working banana plantation, and learn the intricacies of the banana industry. Then climb into a boat on the Caño Blanco river, and navigate the still waterways that cut through lowland tropical wet forest of Tortuguero National Park. Disembark at our secluded hotel, perched right on the water’s edge. This incredibly rich ecosystem supports a wide spectrum of wildlife, from poison dart frogs to spider monkeys to the park’s namesake— green sea turtles who return each year to nest. Take advantage of a rare opportunity to watch these turtles nesting and their young hatching, a harrowing but fascinating ritual that dates back millions of years (during the nesting season, from July to October). Tortuga Lodge & Garden (B,L,D)
Day 6 — Tortuguero National Park
A private motorized jungle boat waits to take us deeper into Tortuguero’s complex system of backwater lagoons and creeks. The morning hours are an especially active time for this tropical wildlife kingdom, so keep your eyes peeled for howler monkeys, sloths, river otters, caimans, and a variety of lizards and birds. Later, learn about conservationists’ efforts to restore and protect Tortuguero’s long stretch of beach where the turtles make their nests. Or, as an optional activity this afternoon, hop in a kayak and explore narrow channels reachable only by small, hand-propelled boats. Gather for a festive farewell dinner at the lodge tonight. Tortuga Lodge & Garden (B,L,D)
Day 7 — Tortuguero National Park/San José/U.S.
After a final breakfast in our jungle paradise, board a private charter plane back to San José, and connect to your flight home. (B)