Walking the "costa rica" – a name meaning rich coast – of Central America, awakening each day to the sounds of the living forest.
Costa Rica Nature Tour Overview
Costa Rica is nature at its inspiring best – from the wild jungles of the Caribbean coast, to the Monteverde Cloud Forest, to the impressive Arenal Volcano – it is one of the most biologically diverse places on earth. Monkeys, sloths, coatimundis, and an array of colorful birds accompany us on our journey. Our adventure unfolds in the remote Tortuguero National Park, a fascinating system of islands and twisting waterways in the Caribbean rainforest. Here, our naturalist guides lead us as we look for howler monkeys in the thick forests, and venture by motorboat into mangrove lagoons. Next, we move to the unspoiled central highlands, where we hike in the beautiful Monteverde Cloud Forest, alive with butterflies and Resplendent Quetzals, and take a boat ride across serene Lake Arenal. Our grand finale is a zip line tour through the rainforest of Arenal National Park, followed by a soak in the area’s natural hot springs.
Itinerary at a Glance
Day 4-5: Fly and drive to Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. Visit the small town and artists’ cooperative of Monteverde. Make chocolate and sample coffee at Don Juan’s farm, and hike through a private wildlife refuge.
Days 6-7: Cross Lake Arenal by boat, and walk through lava fields of the Arenal Volcano. Explore the forest canopy at eye level from suspension bridges. Hike to the majestic La Fortuna waterfall and zip through the forest canopy. Enjoy early morning birdwatching and a relaxing dip in natural hot springs.
Day 8: Depart from San José, Costa Rica.
The Boundless Journeys Advantage
- A passion for travel. Simply put, we love to travel, and that is woven into every one of our journeys.
- Unique, award-winning itineraries. Our flexible, hand-crafted journeys have received accolades from the world’s most revered travel publications.
- Insider connections. There is simply no substitute for traveling with a knowledgeable insider.
- Small groups. We tread softly, and our average group size is just 6-8 guests.
- Flexibility to suit your travel style. We offer both small-group departures and Private Collection trips, so that you can choose which works best for you.
- Customer service that goes the extra mile. There is no request that is too big – or too small – for our staff to handle.
- Sustainability. We are committed to traveling responsibly – striving to preserve traditions and cultures around the world, and to protect fragile natural habitats.
Our tours often fill months in advance, and our maximum group size is smaller than most tour operators. It's very quick and easy to reserve a trip. Give us a call at 800-941-8010 or complete the online Reserve a Trip form. We will confirm your reservation with a $500 per person deposit, payable by check or credit card.
Trip Rating (1 Easiest - 5 Most Strenuous)
Traveling to and from
Most Convenient Airport:
Juan Santamaria International Airport, San José, Costa Rica (airport code SJO).
Meeting Time and Place:
A Boundless Journeys driver will meet you at the airport in San José to drive you to your hotel (you will find the driver holding a sign with your name, or Boundless Journeys, on it after clearing customs, and exiting the right-hand side of the terminal).
Departure Time and Place:
On the last day of the trip we will be driving from La Fortuna back to San José. We are scheduled to arrive in San José by noon. At the very earliest, flights out on the last day of the trip should be scheduled after 3:00 p.m.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Boundless Journeys’ trips are designed for energetic and flexible individuals who like to be active and have a spirit of adventure and a positive attitude. The walks on this trip range from 1-5 hours. The terrain is usually gradual, although you may encounter occasional steep sections. Most walks are on unpaved paths and trails, with minimal vehicle support. Trails, at times, may be wet and slick with mud. There is also an optional zipline adventure, that can be enjoyed by anyone in good health.
Preparing for this Trip
It is very important that you realistically assess your physical condition with regard to the demands of this trip. The more well-prepared you are for the activities, the more you will enjoy yourself! Please engage in moderate aerobic activities (walking, hiking, or cycling) for at least 30-45 minutes several times a week for 4-6 weeks before your departure. If you live in a flat area, try to incorporate some stairs into your workout, or use a treadmill with varying incline capability. Consult your doctor before undertaking any new fitness program.
The Tortuguero Experience
19,000-hectare Tortuguero National Park protects the nesting beach of the green, leatherback, and hawksbill turtles, and is one of the most important nesting sites in the western Caribbean. If you join our August tour, you can watch turtles come ashore at night to lay their eggs. This tour is an additional $40 per person and must be reserved in advance. Please inquire with the Boundless Journeys office at least 60 days prior to your tour if you are interested in adding this to your itinerary.
Aside from turtles, which primarily come ashore to nest in the rainy season, Tortuguero shelters a fabulous array of wildlife, including more than 300 bird species, among them the Great Green Macaw. It also houses 57 species of amphibians, 111 reptiles, and 60 mammal species, including: jaguars, tapirs, ocelots, cougars, river otters, and manatees. Commonly seen birds include toucans, aricaris, oropendolas, Swallow-tailed Hawks, several species of herons, kingfishers, anhingas, parrots, and jacanas. The wide-open canals make viewing easier than at many other parks – superb for spotting crocodiles, giant iguanas, basilisk lizards, hawks, vultures, and caimans.
Getting to Tortuguero is an adventure in itself – there are no roads to Tortuguero National Park; access is only by river boat or airplane. Arriving in Tortuguero by river boat is a two-hour adventure through scenic waterways to our jungle lodge. To make the most of our time, we expedite our return by choosing to fly back to San José, and have included this flight in the trip price.
The temperature in Costa Rica is influenced by altitude, and varies little over the course of the year. In San José, average temps are between 59 and 79 degrees Fahrenheit. When cold fronts move in, as they can at any time of year, the weather can turn cooler and wetter, typically for a few days. The coastal areas are typically much warmer, with the Caribbean coast averaging lows in the mid to upper 70s and highs in the mid 90s. In the afternoons, humidity is in the mid-to-high 60 percent range. You may obtain more detailed weather information by visiting www.weatherbase.com.
When to Go
The dry season is from December to April. The highlands are truly dry at this time of year, typically with only one or two rainy days per month (although if a cold front comes, in a rainier pattern can prevail, even during the dry season). The Caribbean coastal region tends to have more consistent rainforest weather patterns, and can have rain year-round, usually limited to afternoon showers in the dry season.
The rainy season (or green season) begins in May and lasts until late October. During the day, skies are generally sunny, though they may give way to afternoon showers.
It is important that you come prepared for a variety of weather conditions regardless of the time of year. Over the course, of your trip you will likely encounter both cool, rainy weather and warm, sunny weather. Please be prepared with clothing for both.
Costa Rica Accommodations
Overview: Comfortable San José hotel and perfectly located nature lodges with many amenities and unrivaled scenery. All with private baths.
Night 1: Hotel Bougainvillea
Santo Domingo de Heredia, Costa Rica
Located in a quiet suburb of San José, Hotel Bougainvillea offers charming accommodations and a tranquil place to rest after your travels.
Nights 2 & 3: Pachira Lodge
Tortuguero National Park, Costa Rica
Set in the rainforest alongside the slow-moving canals of Tortuguero, with Tortuguero National Park just a five-minute boat ride away. Rooms are basic but comfortable, and a swimming pool allows for cooling off midday. Meals are buffet-style, with a nice selection of regional foods available.
Nights 4 & 5: Hotel Fonda Vela
Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, Costa Rica
Overlooking the Gulf of Nicoya, and adjacent to the Monteverde Reserve, Hotel Fonda Vela provides a wonderful retreat after days of exploring the cloud forest.
Nights 6 & 7: Arenal Observatory Lodge
Arenal National Park, Costa Rica
Situated on a ridge 1.6 miles from the Arenal Volcano, this former Smithsonian research station offers one of the area’s most stunning views of the volcano and Arenal Lake. All rooms have large observation windows.
A Boundless Moment in Costa Rica...
As our boat chugs steadily along the canal, the last traces of sunset begin to fade, sharpening the silhouette of trees against the horizon. Our captain cuts the motor, and we coast nearer to shore, gripping the sides of the boat, listening. What begins with the low, metallic click of insects slowly builds to a hum, joined by the muffled hoots and chirps of other species, calling from within the darkness, adding their own songs to the deep, nighttime music of the forest.
COSTA RICA DETAILED ITINERARY
Arrival in San José
Our trip begins upon the arrival of your flight into Juan Santamaria International Airport in San José. After clearing customs, you are met by a Boundless Journeys driver and transferred to our hotel, where you can enjoy a swim or a walk in the beautiful gardens. This evening you are free to dine on your own at the hotel or in downtown San José.
Hotel Bougainvillea, San José
Tortuguero National Park
Walk – easy to moderate, on nature trails, 1-2 hours.
This morning we depart San José and drive east through the central mountains, descending through valleys of banana plantations on our way to the launch point of our rainforest adventure. Next, we board our private river boat and make our way through the twisting rivers of the Caribbean lowlands to our home for the next two nights – a comfortable jungle lodge bordering Tortuguero National Park. We arrive in the early afternoon, in time for a delicious lunch followed by a hike in the forest, where our guide introduces us to the mysteries of Tortuguero and its complex ecosystems.
Tortuguero National Park protects one of the last large areas of tropical rainforest in Central America. Eleven habitats are found here, providing homes to three species of monkeys (spider, howler, and white-faced capuchin), three-toed sloths, and river otters. Caiman, iguanas, river turtles, basilisk lizards, and poison dart frogs inhabit the area as well, along with more than 320 species of birds, including: kingfishers, toucans, eight species of parrots, and the uniquely named Slaty-tailed Trogon, White-collared Manakin, Purple-throated Fruitcrow, and White-fronted Nunbird.
After our hike, we take a colorful walk through Tortuguero Village to the Caribbean Conservation Center, where we learn about the area’s marine turtle conservation project. We may also enjoy a walk on the beach where thousands of turtles return each year between June and September to lay their eggs.
This evening, we enjoy dinner together at our lodge.
Pachira Lodge, Tortuguero
Tortuguero National Park
Morning kayak – easy, 2 hours (no experience necessary); afternoon exploration by motor boat – approximately 2 hours.
This morning we explore the waterways of Tortuguero by kayak. The wide-open canals are superb for viewing howler monkeys, Chestnut-mandibled Toucans, crocodiles, iguanas, and dozens of other species.
Lunch will be back at our lodge, perhaps followed by an early afternoon swim in the pool, or a siesta on one of the hammocks throughout the property.
As afternoon draws to a close, we venture again into the canals for a sunset tour by motor boat, keeping our eyes and ears alert for forest creatures. Our guides have an amazing ability to spot wildlife that remains hidden to the untrained eye.
After our boat tour, dinner awaits us back at the lodge.
Pachira Lodge, Tortuguero
Flight to San José; transfer to Monteverde
Coffee Farm Tour; walk – easy to moderate, on hiking trails, about 2 hours.
Early this morning we say goodbye to the rainforest as we board our plane at a nearby airstrip for our flight back to San José. The approximately one-hour flight is scenic and offers us a new perspective on this special part of Costa Rica. Upon arrival in San José, we begin our overland drive to Monteverde (approximately 4 hours).
By mid-afternoon, we arrive in Monteverde, our home for the next two nights. The Monteverde Cloud Forest is one of the richest and most diverse tropical cloud forests in the world, best known as home to the Resplendent Quetzal, as well as hundreds of other bird, mammal, and plant species.
Our first adventure in Monteverde is a visit to the Don Juan coffee farm. Here we have the opportunity to learn about the process of growing and harvesting coffee beans in a volcanic area, and how the authentic coffee used by our grandparents’ generation was cultivated. We also immerse ourselves in the world of chocolate, from the cocoa bean to the finished product. We try our hands at mixing exotic flavors, and then indulge ourselves in tasting the chocolate that we’ve made.
Before we leave the farm, we learn about the historical reasons why many farmers had sugarcane mills on their farms. Together we extract sugarcane in the traditional way, and then enjoy a glass of pure sugarcane juice, as well as a few pieces of the cane itself.
As dusk approaches, we take a fascinating hike in the Ecological Sanctuary, a 75-acre wildlife refuge with trails that meander through secondary forest. Along the way, we may observe birds, tarantulas, gray foxes, snakes, insects, amphibians and many other nocturnal species.
After dinner in the village, we make ourselves comfortable at our hotel on the edge of the forest.
Hotel Fonda Vela, Monteverde
Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
Walk – easy to moderate, on hiking trails and suspension bridges, 4-5 hours.
After breakfast, we have the unique experience of seeing the wonders of the virgin cloud forest from a bird’s-eye view in the canopy, on suspension walkways high above the forest floor. Meandering through the trees at our own pace, we enjoy the vantage point from eight different bridges of various lengths, spanning nearly two miles of lush forest.
Come midday we enjoy lunch at a local restaurant, perhaps sampling casado (rice and beans with meat) – a favorite of the locals. The area’s abundant fresh fruit is also refreshing at this time of day.
This afternoon, we hike through the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, where we experience first-hand the misty, dense vegetation and majestic trees. Along the way, our naturalist guide explains the specific cycles of life in this unique and complex ecosystem. The tropical cloud forest is confined to mountain ridges where, due to frequent cloud cover, the mist moistens and fertilizes the land, resulting in the dense growth of small plants (known as epiphytes) in the trees. From the forest floor to the canopy, it is a place that is full of life.
Tonight we enjoy one more evening at our rainforest retreat.
Hotel Fonda Vela, Monteverde
Transfer to Arenal Volcano National Park
Scenic boat ride; walk – easy, on hiking trails, 1-2 hours.
In the morning we say goodbye to the cloud forest and depart Monteverde for the small town of Rio Chiquito, where we board a boat for a 30-minute ride across Lake Arenal. Along the way, our guide explains the history of this man-made lake and the original town of Arenal, which now lies deep under the surface.
On the other side of the lake, our vehicle is waiting for a short ride to the Vida Campesina, a small, organic farm owned by Erasmo Gonzales and his children. Here, we learn how to make tortillas, and enjoy a traditional lunch with freshly harvested vegetables.
This afternoon we walk through lush rainforest to the majestic La Fortuna waterfall. This beautiful, 200-foot waterfall receives its cool, clear waters from the pristine, forested mountains of Arenal National Park. Those who brought their bathing suits may wish to take a dip in the refreshing water below the falls. All proceeds from our visit today are reinvested into local conservation efforts.
This evening, we return to our lodge, perched high on a ridge less than two miles from Arenal Volcano. From our rooms we have an impressive view of this volcanic giant, set amidst lush tropical rainforest.
Arenal Observatory Lodge, Arenal Volcano National Park
Arenal Volcano, Sky Tram and Zip Lines, and Ecotermales Hot Springs
Hike – easy to moderate, on hiking trails, 2-3 hours.
Arenal Volcano National Park encompasses thousands of acres of pristine rainforest and teems with tropical birds and wildlife – it is also our grounds for exploration today.
This morning a leisurely or heart-pounding adventure is in store – the choice is yours. We board gondolas, providing a smooth and peaceful ride through the rainforest. Once at the observation deck, we take some time to simply enjoy the magnificent view of the volcano’s south face.
From here, we have two options for returning to the base. The first is to ride back down on the gondola, noticing how the vegetation varies as the altitude changes once again. The other option is to zip your way to the bottom along a series of fast-moving canopy zip lines – a great option for those seeking a rush of adrenaline!
This afternoon, we continue to explore the rainforest with a hike around the volcano, learning about its fascinating history and current activity.
Early this evening, we enjoy the benefits of this geothermal area with a refreshing dip in the Ecotermales hot springs – one of the less-frequented but most scenic springs in the Arenal region. Here we have time to relax before a celebratory dinner at a local restaurant.
Arenal Observatory Lodge, Arenal Volcano National Park
We depart Arenal early, arriving at Juan Santamaria International Airport in San José by late morning in time for mid-afternoon international flights home.
Please note that this is a typical itinerary, and actual activities may vary to take advantage of weather conditions, local events, and to allow serendipity to play a hand in your experience. Accommodations are as outlined in the itinerary, although we reserve the right to change these should the need arise.
- Nov 14–21, 2015
- Feb 20–27, 2016
- Mar 12–19, 2016
- Nov 05–12, 2016
2015 Land Cost
$3,495 per person, No Single Supplement*
Accommodations (hotels, tents, cruise cabins) are based on double occupancy. A single supplement is paid by participants who specifically request single accommodations, subject to availability. If you reserve at least 120 days prior to departure, you may be eligible for a reduced or free single supplement.* This is generally limited to the first one or two solo travelers to reserve, and the reduction is outlined in the pricing for each trip. Please note, free or reduced single supplements are not combinable with other offers or promotions.
If you are traveling alone and wish to share accommodations, we will try to match you with a roommate of the same gender. If you reserve at least 120 days ahead and a roommate is not available, you will only be charged a “forced” single supplement in the amount of 50% of the standard single supplement* (unless otherwise noted in the detailed itinerary). Single accommodations are limited so you are encouraged to reserve early!
*This does not apply to cruises in the Galapagos Islands. Please see these trip pages for more details.
- Expert leadership
- All accommodations
- All meals, except dinner on Night 1
- All transportation during the trip, including boat transfers and an internal flight
- Park fees
- All activities as noted in the itinerary
Please complete the following information to request a reservation. A trip deposit of $500 per person is required to confirm your reservation (payable by check or major credit card). Once we receive your request we will contact you within one business day to confirm availability and answer any questions you may have.
About our guides
With a Boundless Journeys guide, your experience is that of friend and local adventurer. We believe strongly in working with local guides, experts in the areas to which we travel, and they hold the keys to unlocking the hidden delights of your chosen destination. Although you will never know they are at work – the mark of a truly great leader – our guides make magical things happen and add a dimension to your trip that you could not experience on your own.
Over the years we have forged bonds with some of the best guides in the world, and we typically work with a small team of guides in each region. You will be informed of the guide for your trip one month prior to your departure.
Marco Fallas: Marco, an Ecotourism Specialist who is locally known as “Tex”, is full of energy and has a contagious sense of humor. With over 20 years of experience in the tourism field in Costa Rica, Marco knows his home country intimately and with enthusiasm. Combined with his vast experience in the field, Marco continues to further his local education and in the off-season has taken many courses including studies in ornithology, ecology, history, and recently nature photography. His travels in the United States have included the Grand Tetons, Minnesota, Sedona, and Michigan, and this has helped him to better understand temperate climate ecology and international culture. With his ready laugh and caring manner, it is no wonder Marco is one of our most popular tour leaders!
Nancy Madrigal: A native to San Jose, Costa Rica, Nancy was studying advertising when she was asked to train and guide in Tortuguero National Park. This experience led her to follow her childhood dream to work in nature. She is proud to celebrate 22 years of leading groups in Costa Rica and abroad. As a licensed Costa Rica guide, Nancy has taken extensive courses in natural history, botany, ornithology, and archaeology, among many others. Along with her husband Glenn, she enjoys nature walks, bird watching, photography, music, traveling and cooking. She is also a volunteer for and founder of a grief support group in Costa Rica. Nancy is a favorite guide for family tours!
Alex Arias: Alex is a passionate outdoorsman and has led nature tours for nearly 15 years in the many regions of Costa Rica’s rich landscape. We are proud to have such an active and enthusiastic Tour Leader on our team as adults, families, and children alike have all had wonderful experiences. Alex has also led adventure tours involving mountain biking, kayaking, fishing, canyon exploration, and rappelling, and has competed with adventure teams in Mexico, Nicaragua, and Panama. To keep things exciting, Alex has led groups of travelers and locals up to the peak of Chirripo – the highest peak in Costa Rica – several times.
Jimmy Tosso: Jimmy has traveled extensively throughout Europe and Latin America; he has visited Spain, England, Italy, France, Holland, Turkey, Germany, Greece, Mexico, and Panama. This has helped him acquire a very good understanding of other cultures which he has been able to apply as a tour guide. Jimmy admits that Italy was his favorite destination which he first visited over 12 years ago, when he first discovered his talent for Italian cooking. Jimmy is fluent in English, Italian and French. He obtained his guide license 13 years ago from the National Institute of Learning. With an exceptional sense of humor, he excels in sharing his knowledge on Costa Rican culture and nature in a refined and unique manner. Jimmy has lead groups of all different nationalities, making him an expert in the Costa Rican guiding field.
Julio Madriz: Julio grew up on a farm in rural Costa Rica where he developed his interest in the natural world. At Costa Rica University in San José, he studied microbiology before returning to farming and becoming a naturalist guide. His involvement in the production of several nature films has afforded Julio opportunities to travel throughout Europe and the Americas. He has five sons and daughters whom he considers his best gift. His hobbies include reading, running, trekking, and enjoying the outdoors. He also gets great satisfaction from introducing people of all ages to his country. He is a very enthusiastic guide and a pleasure to travel with.
What other guests have said about our guides in Costa Rica:
"There is no doubt that our guide on this visit to Costa Rica (Marco “Tex” Fallas) was the best guide I have experienced anywhere. His knowledge, experience, and enthusiasm for not only the wildlife but also the culture of his country is undoubtedly an inspiration. He made this trip outstanding. He will live long in my memory and heart." – R.K., Hertfordshire, UK
“Julio was an outstanding guide and friend to the five of us and treated us like family! We have an image burned in our minds that can not be erased because he was so fantastically exciting and positive. He must be the most popular guy in Costa Rica since everyone seemed to know him; and now, just add us to his list of friends!” – E.R., Glenside, PA
"Thank you for putting together the best family vacation we have been on thus far! Everything flowed seamlessly. Our accommodations were beautiful, our guide Alex was excellent, and the itinerary was perfect. We felt like wherever we went we got special treatment because we were on a Boundless Journeys trip. Alex was so good to us and great with the kids – we all loved him. I sang praises to all I met on vacation about Boundless Journeys! Thank you for such a memorable vacation!" – H.H. & S.H., Keene, NH
“Jimmy was the best guide ever – in over 30 trips I have taken!” – A.S., Crescent Springs, KY
“We just wanted to write a short note to let you know how wonderful our guide, Nancy Madrigal was on our trip. Her incredible knowledge of nature, history, flora, and birds was what made the trip such an extraordinary experience for both of us. She really expressed Costa Rica’s charm and warmth, and gave us all her personal attention as well as did an extraordinary job in planning and executing all of the tour details. Her favorite expression to describe various parts of our trip was “Unbelievable!” and we have to say that this is also a great description of her. We thank Boundless Journeys for asking her to be our guide, and will highly recommend your company for our friends of similar interests.” – D.W. & M.W., Salisbury, NC
Picture Yourself Here:
Discovering Tortuguero by motorized longboat and kayak.
Rich biodiversity, including monkeys, sloths, tapirs, and amazing birdlife.
Learning about the traditional methods of cultivating coffee and chocolate.
Naturalist guides offer an in-depth understanding of Costa Rica’s natural treasures.
- Nov 14–21, 2015
- Feb 20–27, 2016
- Mar 12–19, 2016
- Nov 05–12, 2016
You may also be interested in:
Prefer a private departure?
Please contact our Costa Rica expert to discuss the many possible options.
What others have said...
"Jimmy was the best guide ever, in over 30 trips I have taken!"
- A. Sparks, Crescent Springs, KY
Latest Blog Posts About Costa Rica
"On our Royal Rajasthan trip we were treated like royalty. From the incredible hotels, to feeling like a queen when the village children raced to see us…a wonderful enlightening experience."
- Kathy Larson, India: Royal Rajasthan