Arrive in San José at any time. Check into our hotel and enjoy the city. Please try to arrive before 6pm for an important group meeting where you can meet the Chief Experience Officer (CEO) and the other group members.
*Please note: if you have pre-booked the Costa Rica Adrenaline Bundle your CEO will inform you when you will do each activity throughout your tour, days are subject to change: Canyoneering (Day 9, half day - Arenal), ONE of the following: Stand up paddle, half day hike, venado cave or kayak (Day 9, half day - Arenal) and ziplining (Day 12 - Monteverde) . For more information on the Bundle see the Optional Activities section.
Located in the central highlands, San José enjoys a moderate climate. The heat and humidity of the coast and lowland areas may affect you, with a general sense of lethargy and/or loss of appetite. This is no cause for alarm, it is simply your body’s reaction to the heat. Be sure to drink plenty of water (bottled water is available everywhere) and do not attempt too much in any given day. We prefer fan-cooled rather than air conditioned rooms to avoid having to acclimatize to the heat and humidity every time you go outside. This is also a more eco-friendly approach.
Like most cities, San José has its good and bad sides. It is the centre of government, theatre, and art, as well as of air pollution and congestion. It has beautiful parks and museums, and a few beggars on the streets. It is big and often noisy, but even from its crowded downtown streets, you’ll often enjoy a view of the surrounding lush mountains.
Start your exploration of the city in the main plaza, a great place to people-watch. A mime, juggler, marimba band, magician, or storyteller may be performing for whatever is collected when the hat is passed. Artisan booths are common, creating a regular arts and crafts fair atmosphere. A source of pride for the ticos (as Costa Ricans are known) is the National Theatre. Inaugurated in 1897, the building was paid for by coffee growers through a voluntary tax on every bag of coffee exported. The National Museum, housed in the Bellavista Fortress, offers exhibits on pre-Columbian art, colonial art and furniture and religious art within a 19th century building that was converted from a military fortress after the army was abolished.
The Museum of Costa Rican Art, located in La Sabana Park, was once the international airport; the museum is now housed in the old terminal building. The Jade Museum is on the 11th floor of the Instituto Nacional de Seguros building. In addition to the marvellous collection of jade objects, there are pre-Columbian ceramic and stone works as well as displays with archaeological and ethnographic information. The Gold Museum is located underneath the Plaza de la Cultura. Its spectacular collection of indigenous gold art belongs to the Central Bank of Costa Rica.
The best and least expensive places to buy souvenirs in San José are the markets. The two main ones are the ones in Plaza de la Democracia, which is an outdoor open market, and the Central Market, where handicrafts are sold along with boots, fish, flour, herbal remedies, shirts and everything else you can imagine. Always watch your belongings and be ready for crowds. If you plan on spending a few days in or around San José after your tour, there are a number of activities within the city and outside city limits that you can participate in, many of them outdoors.
Probably the hardest thing you will do in San José, other than get safely across busy streets, is keep the street numbering systems straight. Street and avenue numbers are posted on buildings at the corners of some intersections. Keep looking as you walk, and you will eventually find one.
Begin with an incredible bus ride over the mountains to the Caribbean coast. The picturesque village of Puerto Viejo de Talamanca’s fourteen kilometres of incomparable white and black sand beaches are surrounded by exotic tropical vegetation. There are several optional activities available. Rent a bike, or hike to Monkey Point through the Gandoca - Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge. Try snorkelling or take it easy and explore La Isla Botanical Gardens.
Rent a boogie board if the waves are calling, dance the night away to reggae and calypso, taste flavourful Afro-Caribbean cuisine, and succumb to the natural beauty of this tropical paradise. This area of Costa Rica was quite isolated until a road was built a only a couple of decades ago, and it still hasn’t lost its charm.
Estimated Travel Time: 5 hours
Approximate Distance: 410 km
A morning road trip and boat ride takes us from Puerto Viejo to Tortuguero, with spectacular scenery un route. The unique village has walking paths that extend into the national park.
Tortuguero National Park was created in 1975 to protect the four species of sea turtles which nest along the beaches. The approximately half-day boat ride along rivers and canals starts just outside the town of Limón and ends in the village of Tortuguero, just outside the park perimeter. We may see herons, egrets, spoonbills, as well as amphibians and reptiles like the “Jesus Lizard” (it walks on water) and caimans. The tropical rainforest gives way to prime beaches, ideal nesting grounds for Green, Loggerhead, Hawksbill and Leatherback Turtles. The latter nests from mid-March to May, the rest from July to September. The Caribbean Conservation Center, just outside of town, is an excellent source of information about the turtles and their tropical habitat.
Estimated Travel Time: 8 hours
Approximate Distance: 140 km
The journey up to the jungle retreat is half the adventure as we begin by travelling along two rivers, the Tortuguero and the La Suerte. Back on land we board a van then a tractor-drawn cart excellent for navigating the jungle along rugged uphill terrain on the way to our special jungle oasis.
The bumpy trip takes approximately two hours. On our journey in we ford two rivers, by tractor when the water is low, or cross foot-bridges when water levels rise with the rains. Along the way you will see first-hand how rainforests have been cut down whenever they are near roads.
We enter into primary rainforest bordering Braulio Carrillo National Park. At 700 m (2000 ft) above sea level, the climate is usually cool and comfortable year-round. There is a lot of rain (it's rainforest!), but mosquitoes are generally not a problem. However, weather is always unpredictable and changeable, so you never know when the rain will let up enough to let the sun (and mosquitoes) in to heat things up. Once you arrive at the Sarapiquí rainforest, your naturalist guide will take you into the rainforest and teach you about the plants and wildlife and the complex relations between them. There will also be the opportunity to swim in large crystalline pools in a pristine river that goes in front of the lodge and in the rainforest, weather permitting.
Experience the richness and splendour of the most diverse environment on earth. The Sarapiquí Rainforest is a new way to save rainforest while learning about it. Over 360 species of birds have been found and there is a good chance to see monkeys and anteaters, as well as the tracks of tapirs and jungle cats. The treetops are full of vines, lianas, bromeliads, and orchids and there are more kinds of plants, birds, and butterflies here than in all of Europe.
Our accommodation is in a rustic lodge which is based on a multi-share basis, as are bathroom facilities.
The access to the Sarapiquí Rainforest is difficult and can seem extreme for those who are not mentally prepared for the experience. Thus it’s not recommended for pregnant women or people with serious back problems. Also, all Sarapiquí Rainforest trails are natural, with uneven and sometimes slippery footing, so it’s not recommended for people with difficulty walking on uneven terrain.
Today we also visit a coffee cooperative in the small village of San Miguel de Sarapiquí and take a traditional coffee tour. We will have a delicious local lunch, there's even fresh tilapia farmed onsite, and then tour the grounds of the cooperative to learn about the coffee process from bean to cup. We visit this particular coffee cooperative because we have identified it as one that needed economic support through tourism due to a major earthquake that left the village without access to economic opportunities for several years. In concert with a 3-year initiative with the Multilateral Investment Fund (an arm of IDB), G Adventures and its foundation, Planeterra, are working with the cooperative to further develop the tour, provide tourism training, and develop other local businesses to be linked to the cooperative. Your visit ensures we are providing continued income to the cooperative and its more than 130 member farmers and their families. Additionally, you have the unique opportunity to visit this type of cooperative, meet the people whose lives are changed by this opportunity and enjoy a delicious local lunch.
Estimated Travel Time: 5 hours
Approximate Distance: 80 km
La Fortuna, the town near the foot of Arenal Volcano is an excellent base for adventure. Hike the area’s nature trails, swim in chilly La Fortuna waterfall or go canyoneering (rappelling) and catch a bird’s eye view of the forest greenery. Other optional activities include full-day white water rafting on the Toro or Arenal Rivers, mountain biking, caving, horseback riding, or a tour of the Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge. Like much of Costa Rica, the area is a birders’ paradise, with over 600 species as permanent residents. Finally, after a long day of exploring, you can choose to take a relaxing soak at Baldi Hot Springs.
Set on the northern plains of Costa Rica, Arenal Volcano sits on the southeast shore of artificial Lake Arenal (77 square kilometres, or 48 square miles). Separating the mountain ranges of Guanacaste and Tilarán, the lake was created by a hydroelectric dam. Winds sweeping off the Caribbean Sea reach speeds of 48 to 72 km/hr (30 to 45 mph), across Lake Arenal you can find one of the best locations in the world to go windsurfing. The volcano, once quite active, has been in a dormant state since the beginning of 2011 but still is a dramatic backdrop to the town of La Fortuna.
Estimated Travel Time: 6 hours
Approximate Distance: 110 km
From the central valley, we ascend into the cool, misty mountain air of the Monteverde cloud forest region. Here spend a couple of days exploring the town and a cloud forest reserve, truly a bird lover's paradise. This unique community has several co-operatives worth visiting.
Local guides are extremely knowledgeable about the area and passionate about conservation of this precious ecosystem. The unique community has several local co-operatives worth visiting including artist collectives and a cheese factory. If you're there at the right time of year, you may be lucky enough to see the Resplendent Quetzal, one of the most beautiful and elusive birds in the world. Optional activities include the Sky Walk, a series of suspension bridges through the jungle canopy, a butterfly garden and a thrilling canopy zip line.
Monteverde or Green Mountain, is exactly what you find at the end of the long, rutted dirt road through the mountains. The surrounding pastures were once covered with dense forest, but today only a few small pieces of it remain. One piece of forest has been preserved is the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve, where all proceeds from the park profit the local community.. A cloud forest is much like a rainforest, but much of the moisture comes not from falling rain but from the condensation left by the nearly constant cloud cover that blankets the tops of mountains in many parts of the tropics. Monteverde Reserve covers 1600 hectares of forest and is home to a great variety of wildlife. More than 2,000 species of plants, 320 bird species and 100 different species of mammals inhabit this small area.
Quakers from the United States founded the village of Monteverde in the 1950s. Looking to leave behind the constant fear of war and objecting to being forced to support continued militarism through their taxes, the Quakers chose Costa Rica because of its commitment to a non-militaristic economic path—Costa Rica’s army was dissolved in the 1940s. Since its founding, Monteverde has grown slowly as others who shared the original Quaker founders’ ideals moved to the area. Although the Quakers came here to farm the land, they recognized the need to preserve the rare cloud forest that covers the mountain slopes above their fields. The community is very different from those on the coast, and offers several souvenir shops and the Quaker cheese factory, which is definitely worth a visit. Make sure to try their ice cream!
Estimated Travel Time: 4 hours
Approximate Distance: 60 km
This small town on the Pacific coast is a great place to relax and enjoy the sun and nearby sea. A short distance away, Manuel Antonio National Park offers beautiful white sand beaches and warm turquoise water, ideal for swimming, fishing, kayaking, boogie boarding, sailing or surfing.
Quepos sits on the outskirts of the Manuel Antonio National Park (about 20 min drive) and is a great introduction to the laid-back “Tico” lifestyle. This town is very popular with the younger set of international travellers, and the nightlife in the area is also some of the best in the country. If you have the jungle in mind, then we recommend that you head into the National Park. Although this is Costa Rica’s smallest National Park, it is also one of the most popular and it won’t take you long to see why. This park has fabulous beaches, abundant wildlife, and a great trail system for those who want to spend the day hiking. Look for monkeys, armadillos, coatimundis, sloths and some of the over 350 species of birds that are present in the park!
Estimated Travel Time: 6 hours
Approximate Distance: 220 km
Return to San José for some last minute shopping and a final night on the town.
Estimated Travel Time: 5 hours
Approximate Distance: 190 km
Depart at any time.