Volcano, Hot Springs & Cloudforest
Day 1 San José/La Fortuna (1L,1D)
You'll be picked up from your San Jose Hotel (between 8am and 9am) for the trip to La Fortuna, with Arenal Volcano looming nearby. Explore for most of the day before heading to Tabacon Resort to enjoy the relaxing volcanic hot springs and a fabulous dinner before checking into your hotel. Note: If space is unavailable at the Tabacon Hot Springs, you will visit the equally lovely and relaxing Baldi Hot Springs for dinner and leisure time in the hot pools. 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), making Arenal one of the best windsurfing destinations in the world. 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. During the day, its reflection on Lake Arenal is truly enchanting. There are several attractions in the area aside from the lake and volcano. It is a birder's paradise, with over 600 species as permanent residents, and is inhabited by numerous species of frogs. You can also enjoy hiking the areas 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. After a long day of exploring, the local 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.
Day 2 La Fortuna/Arenal (1B,1L)
After breakfast, enjoy some terrific wildlife-spotting opportunities on your guided tour of Caño Negro Wetlands. Return to Arenal for the night. Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge is the perfect place to enjoy natural sightseeing. Since the refuge is found on the low-lying northern plains, water is the key word. During the area's dry season, the refuge can be accessed by road, but during the rainy season - boats are the answer. In the area of the lowland keep on the look out for sloths and anteaters in the treed area, while birders will find a cornucopia of subjects for their binoculars and cameras. White cranes and ducks abound in the shallow along the rivers.
Day 3-4 Monteverde (2B)
After breakfast, head to Monteverde - a small town located in the clouds. Check into your hotel, then enjoy a day exploring on your own. 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 2000 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 founder's 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.
Day 5 San José (1B)
After breakfast, head off to the biological reserve for a guided trek through the lush, thriving cloudforest. The rest of the afternoon and evening are free for you to enjoy.