Day 1: Transfer In
Upon your arrival in Costa Rica, you will be welcomed by our English-speaking airport guide, he/she will hand you over your documents and is available for any questions you may have. Afterwards transfer to your hotel in San José, where you spend the first night. Enjoy you first night in Costa Rica and get ready for an unforgettable experience.
* Depending on the time of arrival, the rooms may not be ready for occupancy. In this case the luggage can be kept and the hotel's facilities can be used. A guaranteed check-in right after arrival in the hotel is only possible, if the rooms are already reserved from the day before (against surcharge).
Day 2 San José - Poás Volcano - Boca Tapada
After breakfast, you will be picked up by your guide and driver from ARA Tours. On your way you first pass Alajuela, Costa Rica's second biggest city and hometown of the national hero Juan Santamaría. Then you continue through coffee plantations, peaceful villages, and fern, flower and strawberry plantations until the Poás Volcano and its national park of the same name, located on 2´708m above sea level. After a short walk, you reach the main crater that, with its diameter of 1.8 km, belongs to the largest geyser craters in Costa Rica. From the lookout point, with a little bit of luck, you may enjoy a breathtaking view of the blue sulphur lake and observe steam and gas escaping from the crater. Afterwards, you go for another 30-minute walk to a former side crater, today the beautiful blue Botos Lagoon. During the walk, you will observe the pristine flora and luckily spot a variety of native birds.
After the visit, you drive towards today’s destination Boca Tapada, in the northern lowlands of the country. The last kilometers must be driven on a gravel road (from Pital to the lodge). In order to get to the hotel, you have to cross the river San Carlos, which only takes 5 minutes, but already gets you in touch with the amazing biodiversity.
The Maquenque Eco Lodge is located in the middle of a new 60-hectare reserve located just north of Boca Tapada, San Carlos, and offers easy access to the newly created Maquenque National Wildlife Refuge. A local family created this ecolodge to maintain and conserve wildlife habitat while providing visitors with high-quality accommodations and service in a unique framework, creating an unforgettable rainforest experience or nature holiday in this privileged region, still off the beaten path. Enjoy a 2,5 Km walk through this reserve along with your private guide.
Day 3 Boat tour San Carlos River
At the hotel´s pier, you board a boat and begin the trip downstream on the San Carlos River. While gliding down the river, with a little bit of luck you can see crocodiles, tortoises, bats, herons, kingfishers, king vultures, and many more interesting species of animals and birds. Very close to the Nicaraguan border, you will visit a small village and enjoy a snack on a local ¨finca¨ (farm). Afterwards continue back to the lodge with the boat.
Rest of the day at your disposal. Since the rates additionally include planting a tree, maybe you want to be part of the proyect and use this time to plant a tree. You can also organize with your guide another walk to look for new bird species, among the road there are lot of birds that can be spottet or perhaps you wish to use the lodge’s canoes.
Day 4 Boca Tapada - Sarapiquí
If you wish you can wake up early in the morning, before breakfast and walk again with your guide among the hotel’s reserve, please feel free to do it. Just make sure you make it on time to breakfast. Afterwards travel to Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí.
Upon arrival take a walk through the hiking trails of the Tirimbina’s reserve. About 875 different bird species have been recorded so far in Costa Rica. This high concentration of avifauna exceeds the diversity of the United States and Canada together, although their territory is 378 times bigger than small Costa Rica.
In the Northern Lowlands, where the Tirimbina Reserve is situated, around 54 % of the country’s species have been registred, so it is a prosperous place to go for birdwatching. During the hike and with the help of your guide you will have the oportunity to discover a great variety of different birds.
At night you can optionaly book the Bat Tour (not included in the price). About 950 different species of bats are known around the world. Only in Costa Rica 113 types of bats have been encountered so far and represent 50 % of the country´s mammals. Bats are the only mammals capable of powered flight. But in our society the fame of bats could be described as ambivalent as it was mostly caused by mithology, legends and movies. The real honor those animals deserve will be explained right at firsthand at the research centre of Tirimbina and you will get to know the reality about bats and their crucial role in nature. A trained local spanisch/english speaking guide will provide you with the chance to watch bats at close range safely. These have been caught in the early evening for research purposes and will be released again after less than two hours. The guide will also show you the nets being used and explain the catching methode without hurting the animals.
Accommodation/Room type: Standard Class Hotel **(*), Tirimbina Lodge, Standard
Emblematic birds: Great Green Macaw (Ara Ambiguus), Sunbittern(Eurypyga helias) , Keel-billed Toucan(Ramphastos sulfuratus)
Other important species: Red-eyed Tree Frog, Brown Two-toed Sloth, Black Mantled Howler Monkey, Mountain Almond Tree, Blue Jeans Poison Frog
Day 5 La Selva - Chocolate Tour
Today you wake up very early in the morning in order to be already around 05:45 starting todays tour at the La Selva Biological Station. This Biological Station is one of the fineness places for bird watching in the country. It’s excellent trail system and knowledgeable naturalist guides would lead birdwatchers through a variety of habitats, from dense primary rain forest to open pasturelands. Todays walk is approximately 2 hours.
Afterwards, drive back to the hotel where another activity awaits for you, the chocolate tour. Experience the traditional process of making chocolate during this interesting tour! Cocoa, the legendary fruit from Central America, was not only an ancient currency with a huge impact on history but also one of the most important products for the Mayan, Aztec, and other Central American cultures.
The tour begins with a short walk to a former cocoa plantation, located in a part of Tirimbina forest. In former times, cacao was grown here in the traditional way, the cocoa trees grew in the forest, surrounded by other species of trees. On the way, you receive interesting information on the natural and cultural history of the cocoa tree. Once arrived, you are shown the artisanal process which transforms the cocoa fruit into chocolate, while learning about pre- and post-colonial chocolate. Of course, you will also have the opportunity to taste different kinds of chocolate prepared on the spot in the traditional way!
Accommodation/Room type: Standard Class Hotel **(*), Tirimbina Lodge.
Day 6 Sarapiquí - La Fortuna
The Tirimbina reserve has 5 hiking trails available from 6:00am in the morning to be discovered by it’s visitors. 3 of these hiking trails can be walked in about 40minutes. If you wish you can go today along with your guide and spot some new species before breakfast time.
Later on you continue your trip, this time until La Fortuna, which is, without a doubt, still one of Costa Rica’s most popular tourist destinations. Although Volcano Arenal is inactive since 2010, it still has a fascinating presence. Your hotel today is located directly between the Arenal Volcano and the Lake Arenal. It is safely located 2.7 kilometers (1.7 miles) from the south side of Arenal Volcano. If the weather permits it, you can have a wonderful view to the volcano from here.
The hotel offers also eleven kilometers of well-maintained hiking trails. It is a 870-acre property, through primary and secondary rainforest, past waterfalls and across verdant pastures. Plenty of wildlife lives in the area, including three kinds of monkeys, anteaters, coatis, raccoons, deer, and more than 400 species of birds.
Today in the afternoon go on a hike through the hotels trails in order to discover as much species as possible.
Accommodation/Room type: Comfort Class Hotel***, Arenal Observatory Lodge, Smithsonian
Emblematic birds: Crested Guan (Penelope purpurascens), Golden-hooded Tanager (Tangara larvata), Keel-billed Toucan (Ramphastos sulfuratus), Passerini's Tanager (Ramphocelus passerinii), Red-lored Parrot (Amazona autumnalis)
Other important species: Howler Monkey, White-faced Monkeys, Chestnut-mandibled Toucan, Coati
Day 7 Morning walk - Playa Hermosa
Included with your stay at the Arenal Observatory Lodge is a free guided walk along the property trails with the hotel’s naturalist guide. The walk departs from Reception at around 8:30 am and lasts approximately 2.5 hours.
The walk takes you across hanging bridges, through lush tropical gardens, and into primary and secondary rainforest. The local spanish/english speking guide will stop along the way to point out any wildlife and to tell you about the plants and trees of the tropical rainforest that you are seeing. Your destination is the beautiful jungle waterfall of the Danta River. The walking tour finishes by the cattle pastures, where the open-air “Jungle Bus” will bring you back to the hotel.
Afterwards pack your luggage for a beach experience. Today you will get to know the beatiful beach of Playa Hermosa at the Pacific, located in the Guanacaste’s northerly shoreline. Alluring topography, astonishing vegetation, and overwhelming sunsets are some of the expectations you may have.
The rest of the day ist at leisure for enjoying the beach. A large overflow pool and a well-groomed tropical garden complex create a wonderful environment for rest and relaxation. Located on the second floor of the main building, the bar “Nya“ features a large terrace with a fantastic view of the ocean. The hotel also has a small spa offering massages, just in case you wish to go for one (optional).
Accommodation/Room type: Comfort Class Hotel***(*), Bosque del Mar, Junior
Day 8 Playa Hermosa - Abangaritos
Enjoy the morning at the beach at a relaxed environment, take a walk through the shoreline, enjoy the pool and take some beautiful pictures of this wonderful destination.
Head south until Abangaritos near Costa de Pájaros at the Gulf of Nicoya, 43 km south of Cañas.
A restful place to stay with splendid views out onto the Gulf of Nicoya. La Ensenada is a hacienda-fashioned lodge that has actually become a Wildlife Refuge. This lodge is, in reality, a more than 400ha farm dedicated to cattle, horse and hay production and thanks to their three-step reforesting programme they managed to become a Wildlife Refuge. Birdwatching is implied at all times.
Day 9 Palo Verde Nationalpark
Enjoy an early breakfast today and get ready for the Palo Verde National Park. You travel through Cañas around 60km until reaching. Along the last track of the gravel path, just before arriving at the National Park, there are rice fields on both sides of the road. Keep your eyes wide open, there is a lot of avifauna to be seen.
Palo Verde includes 45 500 acres of protected dry forest and wetlands. It is mostly sustained by Tempisque river, which in rainy season floods and irrigates the wetlands. This vast sections of flooded areas provide a sustained source of food for migratory birds which happens to fly away from the cold winter of North America. These circumstances also make an ideal place for nesting and growing the chicks.
In result over 300 species of birds populate Palo Verde, which sums to more than 26 species of mammals, several reptiles such as crocodiles, iguanas, basilisks, other small lizards and above 600 species of plants and trees.
During your visit, you will take a walk inside the park and spot as many species as possible.
Accommodation/Room type: Standard Class Hotel **(*), La Ensenada Lodge, Standard
Day 10 Abangaritos - Tárcoles River - Turrubares
From Abangaritos take the Interamerican, the José María Castro Madriz and the Costanera Sru Highways until Guacalillo. Where you take an afternoon boat tour at the Estuary of Guacalillo and the Tarcoles River, located on the Central Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. Observe one of the largest populations of American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) in America, also discover the mangrove area with a high percentage biodiversity among which there is a large number of waterfowl and one of the most important conservation area of the Scarlet Macaw in the country.
This ride will show you an extensive mangrove ecosystem composed impressive four mangrove species, all of them represent an important nesting ground for birds that inhabit it, so that in turn represent their shelter and nutrients area for many fish and invertebrates also mangrove swamps are extremely important for marine productivity.
As the boat approaches the sand banks around the river, you will have the opportunity to see up close crocodiles up to five meters long in its wild habitat.
The crocodiles were common in mangroves and coastal shores, but in recent decades trappers severely decimated its population, today, thanks to conservation programs, the last inventory along the Tarcoles River in the area of Carara Biological Reserve resulted in 50 to 150 individuals per kilometer
Furthermore, in the area of mangroves and the river can be found a population of over 250 different birds such as kingfishers, roseate spoonbills, basiliscus, herons and anhingas The Tarcoles River is one of the most important feeding sites for resident and migratory birds, as well as for a meeting place for mating and also a shelter for mammals and reptiles.
Afterwards continue towards El Sur de Turrubares. Take the road in direction Jacó until reaching the Río Tarcolitos intersection, where a left turn road sign is to be seen. Follow the uphill road for about 18km through Bijagual and the village of Delicias until reaching the lodge’s entrance.
The Macaw Lodge is a ¨tico¨-owned hotel that comprises 107 ha of a nature reserve that represents a sanctuary for an infinity of animals and plants.A road fringed with traveller’s palms on both sides will be welcoming you at the property entrance. The lodge is surrounded by a tropical botanical garden and a beautiful lagoon, attracting many species of animals, especially birds. A strong commitment to the environment and the nearby communities is one of the philosophies of the lodge, for instance, it has been constructed by local craftsmen and nearly entirely with nature-friendly materials such as plantation wood and black bamboo, recycled and recovered wood and stones from the nearby river.
Today’s evening is perfect for taking a night hike with your guide through the property looking for nocturnal birds, or if preferred relax in one of the hammocks, contemplating the peaceful lagoon and enjoying the tranquility of this special place.
Day 11 Turrubares - San Gerardo de Dota
Macaw Lodge with its two-storey main building and its interesting octagonal shape will attract your eyes from far. Surrounded by five hectares of tropical botanical gardens with a large collection of palm trees, heliconias, bromeliads, bamboo and aquatic plants in the lagoon in front, it offers excellent possibilities for animal sightings, especially birds, more than 150 species of these feathered fellows have been sighted here. Sustainability is one of the main principles of the lodge. It is not connected to the public grid, all electricity is produced by solar panels. The water comes from natural springs and is treated without chemicals. There is a bio-digester and the grey waters pass through a water bed and are reused for irrigation. The operation of the farm employs several sustainable agricultural practices.
Early in the morning go for a walk through the hotel’s path’s, you can visit the medicinal garden, the greenhouse or the cacao and coffee plantations along with your guide in order to spot bird species during their most active time.
After breakfast you visit the hotel’s waterfall and can enjoy a refreshing bath over there. After lunch continue your trip, this time to the clod forests of San Gerardo de Dota. The Cerro de la Muerte with its altitude of nearly 3'500 m is one of the highest mountain passes and one of the most popular destinations for birders and people who take nature seriously.
Coffee growing areas, tropicalized apple orchards and strawberry fields, as well as quiet bucolic spots for trout fishing are also part of the diverse landscape.Its quiet location in thick forest with abundant possibilities for hiking makes it the ideal place for nature enthusiasts and bird watchers – if you are lucky, you might even spot the famous quetzal, the pretty, colourful bird sacred to the Mayas and Aztecs.
The cosy cabins of Sueños del Bosque are arranged around a small, artificial lake where guests can row out as they please in boats provided by the lodge.
Accommodation/Room type: Standard Class Hotel **(*), Sueños del Bosque, Standard
Emblematic birds: Resplendent Quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno), Long-tailed Silky-flycatcher (Ptilogonys caudatus) , Collared Trogon (Trogon collaris), Highland Tinamou (Nothocercus bonapartei)
Other important species: Tapir, Black Oak, White Oak, Montane Alligator Lizard, Fly Orchid, White Orchid
Day 12 San Gerardo de Dota
Enjoy a hike in the morning and in the afternoon through the beautiful surroundings, there are plenty of trails to be discovered along with your private hike.
Accommodation/Room type: Standard Class Hotel **(*), Sueños del Bosque, Standard
Day 13 San Gerardo de Dota - Turrialba
After another morning hike before breakfast and getting everything packed up, our trip goes towards Turrialba, famous for its white soft cheese. On the way, you will also pass through small towns that can show you the country lifestyle in this part of Costa Rica and its beautiful landscapes. Your hotel today is specialised in birdwatching experiences, it is also known for its culinary dishes, made in an artisanal way and with fresh ingredients. Here you will combine a relaxed and familiar ambience with the sounds of the birds and the beautiful gardens.
Several species of hummingbirds, as well as many other birds, can be seen right from the spacious balcony where you also have a great view of the distant smoking Turrialba volcano. It’s a wonderful getaway for birders, photographers, and naturalists.
During an afternoon’s hike you can have the oportunity to spot over 450 species of birds that have been recorded in the private forest reserve and within the local area.
Day 14 Turrialba
The hotel has a private reserve with trails at you disposal waiting for being discovered along with your guide. On the balcony at Rancho Naturalista, the hummingbird feeders are renowned for attracting many species of hummingbirds, keep you eyes wide open and see how many species you can identify.
Enjoy all three meals today and the welcoming hospitality in this lodge.
Other activities you can consider while staying in Turrialba (at an additional price to be paid on the spot):
- Cultural tours: Sugar mill tour, Spanish lessons, dancing lessons, painting class, cooking class
- Adventure tours: Swim in a mountain stream, horseback riding, whitewater rafting, canyoning and zip-lining.
Accommodation/Room type: Standard Class Hotel **(*), Rancho Naturalista, Standard
Day 14 Turrialba - Juan Santamaría International Airport or extension program
Enjoy your last day at this bird’s paradise. Depending on you flight’s departure time you drive towards the international airport.
If your flight departs early in the morning we recommend booking an additional night in the Central Valley.
You can also book an extension program to the wonderful beaches of the Caribbean (optional).
Accommodation/Room type: none