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Arrive in San José at any time. A G Adventures representative will meet you at the airport and transfer you to our joining point hotel. There are no planned activities so check into our hotel and enjoy the city.
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 Cultura, 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 San José after your tour, there are a number of activities within the city and area 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.
NOTE: Like any city where tourism is on the increase, crime also tends to increase and while San José is not a noticeably dangerous city, there are certain precautions you should take. Make sure that you are aware of your things at all times and don't go out carrying expensive gear or jewellery.
A three-hour van trip brings us to La Fortuna, in the foothills of the spectacular Arenal Volcano. La Fortuna is one of the centres of adventure travel in Costa Rica. Once we arrive, there's time to relax in the hot springs that are fed from the volcano itself. For lunch today, experience an authentic cultural exchange with a local family at Doña Mara's home. Doña Mara will welcome the group with a tropical drink at her rancho (gazebo) where she will prepare a delicious lunch on her rustic wood-fired stove. We have the opportunity to try making tortillas out of fresh ground corn masa, Dona Mara will show us how to flatten the dough into perfect circles ready for cooking. The tortillas will then be served with lunch.
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. During our stay in La Fortuna, we have a free day to try rafting, rapelling or simply floating through the Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge. Depending on the age of your family, there is a selection of activities available to you.
From La Fortuna, we make our way by boat and van up to the misty mountain air of the Monteverde cloud forest. We spend 2 days exploring the town and nearby Forest Reserve, truly a bird lover’s paradise. Founded by Quakers in the 1950s the mountain dairy community of Monteverde has become an ecotourism haven due to the presence of the cloud forest reserve and the numerous other adventure options in the area.
The village of Monteverde was founded in the 1950s by Quakers from the United States. They wished to leave behind the constant fear of war and the obligation to support continued militarism through U.S. taxes and chose Costa Rica because it was committed to a non-militaristic economic path. Since its founding, Monteverde has grown slowly as other people, who shared the original Quaker founders’ ideals, moved to the area.
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 small piece of it remains. 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. Enjoy a guided walk in The Santa Elena Reserve, which boasts a variety of plant and animal species, best known for being an area to spot the elusive quetzal. All proceeds from this park profit the local community.
The white sand beaches and warm Pacific waters are the ideal atmosphere to relax at the end of your adventure. Manuel Antonio National Park offers excellent hiking, spectacular views, and abundant wildlife viewing. We have included a surf lesson for all the family while we are here. This will give even the youngest children the chance to learn how to ride the waves, as we learn everything from the very basics up to getting out in the water.
There are beautiful white sand beaches and the warm turquoise water is ideal for swimming, fishing, kayaking, boogie boarding, sailing or surfing - the perfect finale to an exciting family adventure! 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!
Overnight in Manuel Antonio.
Return to San José, where we say goodbye to our new-found friends as the tour ends. Please don't book onward travel on Day 8 until after 3pm.
Estimated Travel Time: 5 hours
Approximate Distance: 220 km