Tropical Trails, Turtles, Toucans, and Rainforests of Costa Rica
- Watch endangered Green Sea Turtles lay eggs on remote Caribbean beaches
- Hike, swim, kayak, and view wildlife in verdant rain and cloud forests
- Soak in natural hot springs and hike an active volcano
- All lodging, meals (except one lunch), gratuities, and on-trip transportation, including boat rides and airport transportation
- Expert resident naturalist throughout the entire trip
- Admission to canopy walk, parks, zip line, bat exhibition, and chocolate tour
|Dates||Jul 27–Aug 5, 2014|
From lush rainforests to volcanic craters, Costa Rica's collection of wildly diverse ecosystems provides a haven for tropical wildlife of all kinds. Forming the land bridge between North and South America, the country is a peaceful, biological treasure, with more species of mammals and birds than the continental United States and Canada combined. The country also boasts exquisite flora, including more than 3,000 species of orchids, and a world-famous national park system.
Costa Rica is paradise for nature lovers. Its name means "rich coast," but Costa Rica offers so much more than just beaches or gold. Costa Rica is rich with exotic plants, colorful birds, unique wildlife, and fascinating cultures. This trip is designed to showcase the real wealth of Costa Rica -- its twin gems of biodiversity and conservation!
On this Costa Rican adventure, our explorations will take us from the high cloud forests of Monteverde to the lush Caribbean coast. From our starting point of San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica, we drive to the famous Monteverde Cloud Forest, where we will enjoy the plants, colorful birds, and other assorted animals of this special ecosystem. Our adventures then take us to the active Arenal Volcano, where we may witness eruptions, hike on fresh lava flows, and soak in hot springs. Finally, we will hike and boat through Tortuguero National Park and observe the magic of rare green sea turtles laying their eggs in the Caribbean black sands. We will also search the rain forest along the canals for exotic animals such as manatees, sloths, monkeys, toucans, and more. On this trip you're likely to see a wealth of wildlife, from unique birds such as scarlet macaws and the endangered Quetzal, to an incredible range of insects, reptiles, and brilliantly colored amphibians. The flora includes orchids, bromeliads, tree ferns, ginger, and the ceiba -- the sacred tree of the indigenous people of Costa Rica.
We travel comfortably by private tourist bus with our own driver and naturalist, enjoying spectacular scenery along the way, and feast on tropical fruits and healthy, fresh, local cuisine. While this isn't a luxury trip, we stay in charming lodges, most of which have merited the Costa Rican Certificate of Sustainable Tourism.
Note: The following day-to-day itinerary may vary according to conditions at the time of our trip or other factors that are out of the leader’s control.
Day 1: Arrive at San Jose's Juan Santamaria International airport. The hotel van will shuttle you to our beautiful lodging, which overlooks San Jose and is surrounded by gardens and coffee plantations. In the evening, we meet each other over a welcome dinner.
Day 2: After breakfast we'll drive along the Pan-American Highway and begin our climb to Monteverde, a rich ecosystem supporting many species of birds, mammals, insects, reptiles, flowering plants, and trees. With a bit of luck, we may be rewarded with the sighting of the resplendent Quetzal. Later in the day we will enjoy a picnic lunch and a three-mile hike in the Children's Eternal Rainforest. A lovely eco-lodge reminiscent of an alpine chalet is our home base for the next two nights.
Day 3: This morning our local naturalist guides us in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve to add more fascinating information to our trip and bird species to our list! At the conclusion of the four- to five-mile hike, we will visit a garden where many species of hummingbirds feed. After lunch at a local eatery, we will have a guided visit to a bat exhibition and time to visit the local women’s cooperative or an art gallery. In the evening, we will meet with a local biologist to learn about the intricacies of tropical forest ecology and conservation efforts in Costa Rica.
Day 4: We start the day with your choice of a canopy skywalk or a zip line adventure to view the treetop world of Monteverde. After lunch, we will travel to Lake Arenal, where we board a small boat, cross the lake, and drive to our lodging near Arenal National Park. We'll spend three nights here to enjoy the many opportunities for hiking, wildlife viewing, and, of course, volcano watching! We will hike over hardened lava flows, which provide diverse microhabitats for a wide range of plants, animals, and birds. The spectacular local residents include three-wattled bellbirds, fasciated tiger-herons, sunbitterns, laughing falcons, red-lored parrots, great curassows, northern jacanas, steely-vented hummingbirds, and keel-billed toucans. Our lodging here includes a swimming pool.
Day 5: After breakfast we'll hike three to four miles in Arenal National Park through a forested area and onto the new lava flow beds. We'll learn about the volcano's history from our local guide. We will lunch at an organic farm with time for shopping in town afterwards. In the late afternoon we will luxuriate in hot springs heated by the volcanic activity in the area.
Day 6: Today is our "free day" to just relax or to enjoy optional activities that range from horseback or ATV riding to canyoning to hiking to a waterfall. The cost for these optional activities and of lunch today is not included in the trip price.
Day 7: After breakfast we drive to our river lodge, which is also a research station. We will learn all about chocolate here, and depending on water levels, we may have a optional rafting trip on the Sarapiqui River. The cost for the rafting trip is not included in the trip price.
Day 8: Today we travel east to the Caribbean coast. Our destination is Tortuguero National Park, famous as the nesting ground for endangered sea turtles, including the Hawksbill, Loggerhead, Green, and Leatherback. We will enjoy a hearty breakfast along the way. When we reach the park, we will travel by boat to our lodge, which is surrounded by jungle waterways. In the afternoon, we hike to the quaint town of Tortuguero and visit the Turtle Conservation Research Station.
Day 9: Today we take a boat tour through the river canals, searching for manatees and caimans in the water and monkeys, birds, and sloths in the forest above us, as we learn about this vital and endangered ecosystem. In the afternoon we will have free time to enjoy the pool or kayak the canals before taking a night walk to the beach to witness the ancient turtle nesting ritual.
Day 10: After breakfast, we transfer out of Tortugero by boat and then board our bus to travel back to our hotel in San Jose for our farewell dinner. On the way we will stop for lunch and have an opportunity to look for colorful frogs. We will also stop at a large grocery store to buy coffee or other local treats for the trip home.
Day 11: Sadly, our trip comes to an end after breakfast. !Adios, y pura vida!
Book your flight into and out of Juan Santamaria International Airport near San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica. San Jose is served by several airlines, including American, Continental, Delta, and US Airways. Our hotel provides free transportation to and from the airport.
Accommodations and Food
We will stay in charming, locally owned lodges. Most carry and support Costa Rica’s Certificate for Sustainable Tourism, which is a commitment to sustainability, not only at the lodge, but also in the community. Rooms are double-occupancy; if you come alone, you’ll be sharing with another person of the same gender. A single supplement for solo travelers may be available. The food will be delicious -- a mix of local and continental dishes, with a variety of tropical fruits and vegetables. Vegetarians can be accommodated. Please discuss dietary restrictions with the leader prior to signing up for the trip. We'll travel by a comfortable, private, 22-seat minibus. There will be a few long drives, but the scenery along the way is spectacular and sloth sightings are possible!
This trip is suitable for individuals who are in good health, get regular exercise, enjoy nature, and have a good-humored approach to traveling in Latin America -- where things might not go as predictably as they do at home. Our trip is not strenuous and can be considered leisurely-to-moderate most days. Elevation gains and losses on most hikes are minimal; however most trails will have muddy spots and uneven terrain.
Although August is considered the end of the dry season, rain can fall at any time in the tropics. Rain will not restrict our movements or our enjoyment of the forests or coast. The central valley, which includes San Jose, Arenal, and the Monteverde area, is noted for its eternally spring-like weather. The lowland rain forest of Tortuguero is likely to be warmer, but not unpleasantly so.
Equipment and Clothing
A daypack, water container, and sturdy hiking shoes will be needed for this trip. Binoculars and a camera are highly recommended. Your leader will provide a comprehensive packing list well in advance of the trip.
- Lonely Planet, Costa Rica.
- Pariser, Harry S., Explore Costa Rica.
- Coates, Anthony G., Central America, a Natural and Cultural History.
- Foster, Lynn V., A Brief History of Central America.
- Kricher, John C., A Neotropical Companion.
- Costa Rica, International Travel Maps, Vancouver, B.C., Canada
The Sierra Club is concerned about conservation and sustainability of resources, both locally and globally. Our outings seek to empower participants toward environmentally understanding parallel concerns at home and abroad. In Costa Rica, we will get an up close look at conservation in action. The country has long been committed to protecting, rather than exploiting, its natural resources. Indeed, as Pulitzer Prize-winning author Robert Cahn puts it, the Costa Rican park system is "in some ways the most remarkable national park system in the world." All told, it contains 34 protected areas, including 28 national parks, and the entire system encompasses about 11 percent of Costa Rica's land area. When forest reserves and wildlife refuges are included, the country's federal lands total about 25 percent. By comparison, our national parks cover about one-thirtieth of our total land area.
There are, however, problems, regarding this protection. Outside of the national parks and preserves, many areas have been deforested. Traditional tourist development has impacted several areas, particularly the Pacific Coast. The present government is challenged by the need for true and permanent protection of the environment while balancing economic development. We will have opportunities to see both pristine and developed areas and will discuss the impact on communities and the country on this trip.
Notes for Sierra Club Outings
- Carbon Offsets
- Electronic Billing and Forms
- Electronic Devices
- How to Apply for a Trip
- Leader Gratuities
- Liability Release and Assumption of Risk
- Medical Issues
- Non-discrimination Statement
- Participant Approval
- Reservation and Cancellation Policy
- Seller of Travel Disclosure
- Travel Insurance
- Trip Feedback
- Trip Price
- Wilderness Manners