Arrive to San José at any time. There are no planned activities during the day, so check into the hotel and explore 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. If you arrive early enough, you'll have time to head into the city to visit a museum, shop or people-watch in the main plaza. As it is located in the central highlands, San José enjoys a moderate climate. 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. Probably the hardest thing you will do in San José, other than getting safely across busy streets, is keeping 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. The plaza is a good 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 (Costa Ricans) 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 used to be the international airport and this museum is 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 prior to or after your tour, there are a number of activities within the city and area that you can participate in, many of them outdoors. Please note it will be necessary to repack your bags according to the packing list provided for La Danta as it is an early departure on the morning of day 2.
Located on the lush Caribbean slopes of the Central Volcanic Mountain Range, La Danta Salvaje was founded in 1988 as a non-profit private forest reserve in an effort to protect the Costa Rican rainforest. Consisting of over 1000 acres of primary growth bordering Braulio Carrillo National Park, the reserve forms part of the invaluable buffer zone necessary in preserving the integrity of the park and its surrouding areas. Day hikes, along a trail system originally forged by wild tapirs, provide visitors the chance to experience first hand the stunning display of natual landscapes, waterfalls and plant species endemic to the region, including heliconias, orchids, giant ferns and many others. The area is home to a great variety of animal species, including several in danger of extinction, such as the tapir, crested guan, jaguar and silky anteater. We embark on a 4 day/3 night excursion deep into the Jungle, using a rustic lodge situated in the heart of the rainforest as our base of operations. We hike remote and unspoiled primary forest located in the central volcanic mountain range on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica. Hike along the rainforest and enjoy the view of different waterfalls, including one that’s 150 metres high. Opportunities to see wildlife abound and if you’re really lucky, you may catch a glimpse of an endangered species such as tapir, puma or jaguar. Day hikes provide visitors the chance to experience first hand the stunning display of natural landscapes, waterfalls, and plant species endemic to the region. Each afternoon the group returns from the hikes to the comfort and safety of the lodge. Located near one of the many beautiful waterfalls cascading down the rim of the canyon, the lodge provides a spectacular view of the canopy and the seemingly never-ending rainforest. The evening of day 5 we head to the town of Guapiles to overnight. Guapiles is the commercial and social centre for the banana and vegetable farmers of the surrounding area. To La Danta Private Reserve Estimated Travel Time: 8 hours Approximate Distance: 210 km Hiking specifics: Day 2 - The hike from the trailhead to the lodge takes approximately 3 hours, including a couple of breaks. The distance covered is approximately 6 kilometers, involving frequent ups and downs, crossing rivers, etc. Day 3-5 - The day hikes move at a slower pace as time is taken to look for wildlife and talk about the forest, along with breaks for lunch and swimming stops. Distance covered each day is approximately 5-6 kilometers and the hikes will last around 5-6 hours each day.
Our rafting adventure begins with a trip down the thrilling Reventazon River. The next day we set off on the Pacuare River, known for its spectacular canyons and virgin rainforest. Afternoons and evenings are spent at a remote tent camp. The Pacuare Protected Zone and Pacuare River are located between the coastal lowlands and the country's highest mountain range and constitute one of the isthmus's most important protected areas. This area is still inhabited by the Cabecar Indians, whose hut dwellings are spaced far apart over large distances, rather than being clustered, as was true of most native tribes. Located strategically inside this zone of protected wilderness is our very special jungle getaway, the Pacuare Lodge, accesible to travelers through our multiday white-water rafting tours on the Pacuare River. Considered by many experienced rafters to be one of the most scenic rivers in the world, the Pacuare offers an adventurous ride filled with stunning natural beauty and exciting rapids. To Guapiles (start of rafting): Estimated Travel Time: 5 hours Approximate Distance: 150 km
Set on the northern plains of Costa Rica, Arenal Volcano is on the shores of Lake Arenal, (77 square kilometres, or 48 square miles), created by a hydroelectric project. Winds sweeping off the Caribbean Sea reach speeds of 48 to 72 km/hr (30 to 45 mph), making Arenal one of the best sail boarding locations in the world. The lake actually separates the mountain ranges of Guanacaste and Tilarán. The volcano is set on the lake’s southeast end. The Arenal volano was quite active until the beginning of 2011, but the volcano's presence towering over the town and landscape is still quite impressive. There are several attractions in the area aside from the lake and volcano. It is a birders’ paradise, with over 600 species as permanent residents, and is inhabited by numerous species of frogs. You can also enjoy hiking the area’s nature trails, or if you’re more daring, you can opt to climb a ladder to participate in one of the canopy tours and catch a fresh glimpse of the forest greenery. If you have pre-booked the Costa Rica Adrenaline Theme Pack, your rafting and canyoneering adventures will be on either Day 9 or 10. Located at the base of the magnificent Arenal Volcano, La Fortuna has much to offer the adventurous traveller We have one free day to take advantage of the town’s many exciting optional activities including biking, kayaking, rappelling, hiking the Arenal volcano, hiking to one of the many waterfalls and, of course, enjoying a frosty beverage in the swim-up bar at the local hot springs. We will get you fitted out on your bikes and then you will set off on the first of your 2 guided bike tours. The first ride starts on an easy-going gravel road along the lake and continues on well maintained country roads, surrounded by lush rainforest, the cycling is moderate level with rolling hills. On clear days you will have the perfect view of the behemoth Arenal Volcano in the background. You’ll ride for about 2 hours (about 12-15 miles). The next day's bike ride will take you through small, rural communities, a couple of hills and then down to the Burrito River for a swim in the secret swimming hole. We make a stop at the Ecocenter Danaus private garden to learn about the surrounding rainforest and then head out again and finish the ride at the Desafío River House for a nice snack and cold water. Riding time is again approximately 2 hours (12-15 miles). Both rides are supported by a back up vehicle and a mechanic. NOTE: If the group for the second day of bike riding would like a more-challenging ride, there is the option to take a more difficult route up to the Lost Canyon which includes an additional 20-30-minute uphill section. If you'd prefer to try a different activity for your second day in La Fortuna, we can offer several other options to substitute. After a long day of exploring, one of the many local volcanic hot springs might just be the answer to your tired muscles. Soak in one of the natural thermal baths under the shade of the surrounding canopy. Estimated Travel Time: 6 hours Approximate Distance: 180 km
From La Fortuna travel by van to the shores of Lake Arenal where our mountain bikes will be waiting for a two-hour cycling journey (challenging with some hills and bumps). Anyone wishing to opt out of this activity may, though some waiting for the group might be required. Afterwards, board a boat for the half hour boat ride across, When we arrive at Rio Chiquito, we switch to waiting vans to drive the final leg up into the cool, misty mountain air of the Monteverde cloud forest. You will have some free time to explore the area or get a bird's eye view of the forest from atop canopy bridges, check out the butterfly garden, or try the famous canopy zip-line. This mountain dairy-producing community is full of arts collectives, environmentalists and free spirits. A big draw to the area is the vast cloud forest, where one can marvel at the teeming life in the reserve, which abounds with local birds and wildlife. If you have pre-booked the Costa Rica Adrenaline Theme Pack, your ziplining experience will be on either Day 11 or 12. Monteverde or “Green Mountain” when translated into English, is exactly what you will find at the end of this long, rutted dirt road, that we use to travel to this area. The surrounding pastures were once covered with dense forest, but only a small piece of it now remains. That piece of forest has been preserved as the Reserva Biologica Bosque Nuboloso Monteverde, the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve. 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 birds species, and 100 different species of mammals inhabit this small 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. 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. The Santa Elena Reserve, is another park in this area that is less well known and visited, but also worth seeing. All proceeds from this park profit the local community. Estimated Travel Time: 3 hours Approximate Distance: 60 km
Head to the Pacific coast for one final day of vacation before returning to Costa Rica's capital city. Playa Hermosa is a small town frequented by surfers. It's a great spot to take your first surf lesson, fine-tune your skills, go for a swim or just chill out on the black sand beach. Every August, the International Quicksilver Championships are held at Playa Hermosa. There is also a nearby wildlife regfge that is the host to the olive ridley sea turtles who come ashore to nest during certain seasons of the year. Estimated Travel Time: 6 hours Approximate Distance: 170 km
We return to San José for our final evening and dinner on the town. Estimated Travel Time: 6 hours Approximate Distance: 170 km