Our Costa Rica tour treks across the lush rainforests, cloud forests, mountains and coastline encounters a wealth of wildlife, but also allows time to bond with the friendly people during a relaxing dinner with locals and tour of a coffee plantation — encompassing the natural and human history of this rich land. Forming a natural bridge between North and South America, this peaceful country contains a phenomenally diverse concentration of birds, primates and butterflies, and its far-reaching national parks and reserves have long-been considered the showplace of tropical conservation. For a true rendezvous with nature, Costa Rica travel is calling!
Commotion in the Canopy
Spend your days on our Costa Rica tour with a host of wildlife! As you travel through the lowland jungles, monkeys create a commotion in the canopy, in the company of toucans and macaws. Daily guided rainforest excursions with our Master Naturalists are the perfect time to take in Costa Rica’s symphony of wildlife.
Discover Flexible Fun & Adventure
Not only will you experience the volcanic fireworks of Arenal, swim in natural hot springs and glide along Caribbean waters, IE’s Costa Rica tour features your choice of horseback riding, white-water rafting, trying a canopy zip-line and more!
Experience Culture on Our Costa Rica Tour
While the friendly locals in Costa Rica are often called “ticos,” you’ll be calling these welcoming people “friend!” Taking advantage of IE’s decades of travel to Costa Rica, your small group will be welcomed like family to a traditional meal hosted by Dona Mireya at the Hidalgo Family Hot Springs and when meeting Monteverde’s Quaker settlers on our Costa Rica tour.
Costa Rica Itinerary
- Day 1 Arrive San José Fly independently to San José, where we meet our guide and transfer to Grano de Oro Hotel.
- Day 2 San José / Sarapiqui Depart for the primary forests, swamps and banana plantations of Sarapiquí, an important region for conservation of birds, butterflies, insects and plants. The crystal Sarapiquí River snakes through the region, beginning in the old crater of the Poas Volcano – joining with the waters of several tributaries such as the Rio Sucio and Rio Puerto Viejo. The moderate rapids are particularly attractive to rafting enthusiasts, and we spend our morning rafting and ziplining through the rainforest canopy. Hike the jungle trails at La Selva Biological Station, home to 79 bird species as well as monkey and sloth. The station is operated by the Organization for Tropical Studies, a consortium of universities and research institutions from the United States, Costa Rica, and Puerto Rico Once we reach the station, discuss cutting-edge research being done to conserve the tropical rainforest with one of the scientists in residence. Spend tonight at Selva Verde Lodge (or similar). (B,L,D)
Sarapiqui / Tortuguero
Listen to the morning songs of the forest’s birds and frog as we enjoy a morning of hiking and tasting exotic fruits at a locally owned organic farm. Sit down over a homemade lunch with the owners before catching the boat to Tortuguero. Spend two nights at Evergreen Lodge (or similar). (B,L,D)
Tortuguero National Park
Our Costa Rica tour visits the flooded forests of Tortuguero, established to protect the largest nesting ground of green sea turtles in the Caribbean and the surrounding lowland rainforest — home to jaguars, manatees and the endangered great green macaw. During the summer months, thousands of turtles come ashore on these world-famous beaches to lay their eggs. By boat, we glide along the black waters surrounded by towering trees, looking for keel-billed toucans, colorful parrots and the basilisk lizard, also called the “Jesus Christ lizard” because it runs across the water! As we explore the park’s canals, look for all six species of New World kingfishers, as many as eight species of parrots, toucans, oropendolas and more, as well as the raphia palm, which has the largest leaves of any plant. Capuchin and spider monkeys may be seen crossing the river in daring leaps. (B,L,D)
Tortuguero / San José / Arenal
After breakfast, fly back to San José. From there, drive to the Arenal area. Explore the Arenal Hanging Bridges, fourteen bridges designed to blend with the environment. As we walk these trails, we’ll see flowers and wildlife typical of the rainforest, and enjoy imposing views of Arenal Volcano, active since 1968. In the afternoon we visit the Hidalgo Family Hot Springs for a chance to enjoy soaking in thermal waters surrounded by rainforest. Our accommodations for two nights at the Arenal Lodge (or similar) offer an unobstructed view of the volcano. (B,L,D) Day 6
Enjoy a morning of hiking along the trails at the private Ecocentro Danaus Ecological Reserve. As you stroll through the secondary forest, your naturalist points out sloths, iguanas, poison dart frogs, caimans and emerald basilisk lizards, as well as many tropical bird species. Meet members of the local Tonjibe community at the Maleku Indigenous Cultural House, which is dedicated to preserving the tribe’s traditional language, dances, diet, dressing, and the use of natural medicines while helping them adapt. After lunch, hop on a tractor to tour an estate before learning about Tico-style coffee and trying your hand at making corn tortillas! Cap off our day by joining local youth to learn folk dances and watch as they entertain with a demonstration. (B,L,D)
Arenal / Monteverde
A boat takes us across Lake Arenal to the Monteverde Cloud Forest region, the richest and most complex tropical cloud forest in the New World. The abundance of life associated with the cloud forest is astounding. Within the general heading of “cloud forest” there are actually six distinct forest types at Monteverde, each with its own separate, yet interwoven, plant and animal life. Stop for lunch at a coffee farm where guides will point out the most important aspects of coffee, its harvesting and processing. Your coffee guides will also highlight the importance of the golden bean on Costa Rica’s social, cultural and economic development. We’ll be visited by one of the area’s original Quaker settlers to learn about the history and current issues of this sprawling agricultural community. The community was founded in 1951 by a group of American Quakers, most from IE’s home state of Alabama. Spend tonight at the Monteverde Lodge & Gardens (or similar). (B,L,D)
Monteverde / San José
Our morning is spent at the wildlife enthusiast’s paradise of Curicancha Reserve. Alongside your guide, watch for resplendent quetzal, three-wattled bellbird, blue-crowned motmot and orange-bellied trogon. Other wildlife frequently spotted includes armadillo, coati, agouti, kinkajou, ocelot, two-toed sloth, and three species of monkey: mantled howler, white-faced capuchin and spider monkey. Tour the Butterfly Garden, with many kinds of brilliantly colored native butterflies along with medicinal plants and a leaf-cutter ant colony. After lunch, head back to San José. Savor a farewell dinner of French Mediterranean and tropically-influenced cuisine, while learning about Casa Luz, a community project supported by the restaurant. Casa Luz provides a safe environment for at-risk young mothers and their children. Spend tonight back at Grano de Oro Hotel. (B,L,D) Day 9
San José / Depart
Survey the city of San Jose, including stops at the Pre-Colombian Gold Museum and The National Theater. Transfer to the airport for your independent flight home. (B)
Optional Post-Trip Extensions
Custom Costa Rica Beach Escape
Cap-off your Costa Rica vacation with three days on the Pacific in a private nature reserve! Relax on the beaches of the Osa Peninsula or hike, meet the local wildlife, discover a variety of medicinal plants and more. And if you love sloths, we have a special treat—private lunch with babies at a rescue organization!
The itinerary below is a sample of what our Custom Travel Planners can create based on your interests, travel time and budget. Price for the program below starts at $4,300 per person. Day 10
San José / Osa Peninsula
Enjoy a scenic flight from San José to Puerto Jiménez. Once you arrive to Puerto Jiménez airstrip, transfer to Lapas Rios Ecolodge. Set in a private nature reserve spread over 1,000 acres of Central America’s last remaining lowland tropical rainforest; Lapa Rios overlooks the pristine point where the Golfo Dulce meets the wild Pacific Ocean, making it the destination that matches everyone’s idea of paradise. Lapa Rios is built in harmony with the surrounding forest and beach environment. (B,L,D) Day 11-12
Enjoy your choice of activities and guided tours, including birdwatching; hiking to a local waterfall, rainforests and beaches; learning about local medicine, even meeting the on-property pigs; and plant a tree to help contribute to the continued life of the rainforest. Of course, you are also free to simply enjoy your time on the beaches! (B,L,D Daily) Day 13
Osa Peninsula / San José
After breakfast, fly back to San José. Spend your afternoon at an animal sanctuary: The
Toucan Rescue Ranch. Be part of an educational walk adventure and join the Private Lunch with Babies Walk! Spend one hour with some of original staff while enjoying a delicious lunch from Sibu Chocolate Factory. During lunch you will sit with staff and watch as a sloth is fed, all the while, learning about what it’s like raising orphaned sloths and have one‐on‐one time with a sloth nanny. In addition to lunch, you’ll have the opportunity to see what TRR does and how it has grown and changed over the years: an introduction explaining our history, mission, and programs. A special perk of this walk is you’ll have an opportunity to view our clinic and speak with one of our excellent veterinarians about current patients and their rehabilitation journey. Finally, join one of our experienced guides for a walk around the property to learn about the many different rescued species of the Toucan Rescue Ranch! Afterwards, continue to your hotel in San José for your last night stay in Costa Rica. (B,L) Day 14
Transfer to the airport and board your flight home. (B)
Things to Know
What’s included in the price of our Costa Rica tour?
- Intra-tour air
- Accommodations on group dates
- Excursions, activities, and meals as listed in the itinerary
- Services of experienced English-speaking guides
- Arrival and departure transfers between the group hotel and airport regardless of day or time
- Selected beverages included with lunch and dinner
- Potable water
- Medical expense coverage and emergency evacuation insurance
What visas are required for Costa Rica travel?
There are no visas required for U.S. or Canadian citizens to enter Costa Rica.
What kind of weather can you expect on my Costa Rica tour?
Temperature in Costa Rica varies little from season to season and the main influencing factor is altitude. San José, at 5,085 feet, has a climate that the locals refer to as the “eternal spring.” Lows average a mild 59°F year round while highs are a pleasant 79°F. The coasts are much hotter with the Caribbean averaging 70°F at night and over 86°F during the day; the Pacific is 4-6°F warmer.
What are the luggage restrictions on our Costa Rica tour?
Luggage weight is restricted to one checked bag weighing no more than 40 lbs. per person for the flight to Tortuguero. That bag may not exceed 50 inches (length + width + height).
Grano De Oro Hotel
Voted “Top Hotel in Central America & the Caribbean” by Conde Nast, the boutique Grano de Oro Hotel offers wonderful views of the city lights and inventive dining. Your air-conditioned room offers the experience of staying in a cozy guest bedroom of a turn of the century mansion, with the luxuries of a fine hotel. Don’t forget to take advantage of the rooftop garden terrace, which features lawn beds and two Jacuzzis.
In Tortuguero your small group will spend two nights at the Evergreen Lodge, just a five minute boat ride from Tortuguero National Park’s main entrance. This lodge has 26 spacious rooms, with comfortable beds, private bathrooms, hot water and ceiling fans. During our leisure time at this accommodation, you may wish to relax at the swimming pool, enjoy music at the bar or treat yourself to a spa visit.
While in the lush cloud forests, we spend two nights on our Costa Rica tour at El Establo, set in a private 150 acre farm adjacent to the Monteverde Reserve. The rooms at El Establo feature excellent views of the Gulf of Nicoya on clear days, private bathrooms, orthopedic mattresses, cable TV and hair dryers.
La Quinta Sarapiquí Country Inn
The new La Quinta Sarapiqui Country Inn has 28 rooms in bungalows, surrounded by tropical gardens rich in heliconias, ginger and flowering trees. Rooms have private bathrooms, hot water, air conditioning, ceiling fan, walking closet area, hairdryer, safety box, and a beautiful thatched roof porch facing to the gardens with hammocks and rocking chairs, from where you can enjoy the view of flowers and birds.
Arenal Springs Resort
Your cabin at Arenal Springs Resort offers an impressive, unobstructed view of the Arenal Volcano. All of these air-conditioned cabins include vaulted ceilings, comfortable beds — you can see the volcano from your bed, air-conditioning and a ceiling fan, cable TV, telephone, safety box, mini-fridge, coffee maker, night tables with reading lamps, wardrobe, spacious bathroom with garden shower, hairdryer and hot water, and even private covered porch with traditional leather rocking chairs and coffee table.
Jonathan first studied nature and social sciences at the Cartago Community College and the National University of Costa Rica. Later, he received his doctorate for work related to the analysis of medicinal plants of the rainforest from the International University for Complementary Medicine in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Jonathan was awarded the status of Master Naturalist Guide in 2004. He has also volunteered for the National Park Service – at the Guayabo Archaeological Monument and Chirripo and Carara National Parks – and worked at Garrison Refuge in New York for the Audubon Society.