Nicaragua & Costa Rica
10 days with Intrepid Travel Rating:
Day 1 Granada
Bienvenidos a Nicaragua! This adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6pm today. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.
For dinner tonight, perhaps head out with your group and sample "solomillo a la pimienta" (pork loin in creamy pepper sauce), a local specialty.
Day 2 Granada
Today is free to explore Granada's charming cobblestone streets. You can choose to join a guided tour of the city, bargain hard in the markets or wander the town snapping photos of the colourful buildings. Another option is to cruise the islets of Lake Nicaragua by boat. If you feel like something more active, perhaps hire a kayak or a bicycle and find your own way around, or hike out in the surrounding countryside. Alternatively, you could take a day trip out to Mombacho or Masaya Volcano National Park to get close to these steaming giants. Your friendly leader will be on hand to help you organise any or all of these activities. In the evening, perhaps visit the local restaurants and try 'gallo pinto', a traditional dish made with beans and rice.
Day 3 Ometepe Island
Take the morning to say farewell to Granada. At 2pm travel by local bus to Rivas (approximately 1.5 hours) and transfer to the port San Jorge to catch a 1-hour ferry across Lake Nicaragua to the island of Ometepe. Hourglass-shaped Ometepe Island is formed by two volcanoes rising out of Lake Nicaragua ('Ometepe' literally means 'two volcanoes' in the Nahuatl language). The island is home to fruit plantations, deep jungle and exotic wildlife such as monkeys and parrots. The world's only species of freshwater shark circle in the surrounding lake. A great experience is to sit on the shore and watch fishermen return from a long day on the water with their catch.
Day 4 Ometepe Island
Today is a free day to discover the island. Perhaps take a hike up to the summit of either the Concepcion or Maderas Volcanoes. Be warned - at 1,700 and 1,340 metres above sea level respectively, these treks are no walk in the park. You might prefer to splash around in the natural springs, soak up the sun on the beach or check out the island's petroglyphs (ancient rock carvings).
Day 5 Monteverde
Today is a big travel day, with an early start beginning at 7 am. Take a 1.5 hour ferry to the mainland and then a 1.5 hour transfer to Penas Blancas before crossing the border into Costa Rica. Pease note a USD3 fee is required when exiting Nicaragua. Reaching the Costa Rican border requires a 1km/0.6mi walk carrying your luggage. Proof of onward travel is normally required to enter Costa Rica. If you're flying out of San Jose, bring a printed copy of your flight details in case the border officials ask to see them. Once in Costa Rica, travel by private minibus for 5 hours to Monteverde. After arriving in town and taking an opportunity to freshen up, your leader will take you on an walking tour of Monteverde.
Monteverde was founded as an agricultural community in 1951 by a group of North American quakers. These environmentally-aware settlers also established a small wildlife sanctuary, which has since grown into the internationally-renowned Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve. Cloud forests are similar to rainforests, but instead draw their water from a semi-permanent cloud covering the region. This is a nature lover's paradise, with more than 2,000 plant species, 320 bird species and 100 mammal species calling the reserve home. Be sure to keep an eye out for the resplendent quetzal, one of the most elusive birds in the world.
Day 6 Monteverde
Make the most of a full day free to explore the reserve. Perhaps take a hike through the cloud forest, go for a ride on a mountain bike, or fly over the canopy on a zip line tour. Another way to see the forest is on a Sky Walk tour, which takes you high through the treetops along a series of suspension bridges. You can explore the park on your own or arrange for a local guide to accompany you. The guides are very knowledgeable and happy to show travellers around the reserve. For a guaranteed wildlife encounter, visit the butterfly and insect gardens or the serpentarium. There are also several cooperatives worth visiting in the local communities. Your leader will be able to provide you with more details and help organise activities.
Day 7 La Fortuna / Arenal Volcano National Park
Leave Monteverde at 2pm and take the scenic route to La Fortuna. Travel by shared minibus for 1.5 hours to the shores of Lake Arenal, which you'll then cross by boat - a further 1.5 hour journey. On a clear day you'll see fantastic views of the surrounding area. On the other side of the lake, re-board the minibus and continue on to your hotel. La Fortuna is a small town situated just a few minutes from Costa Rica's most famous volcano - the majestic Arenal. While you're here, make sure you take some photos of the volcano reflected spectacularly in the lake.
Day 8 La Fortuna / Arenal Volcano National Park
There are plenty of optional activities to take part in today. Perhaps take a guided nature hike through the lush forest surrounding Arenal Volcano, keeping an eye out for rare plants and animals. You can also see the forest from a series of hanging bridges. Check out the 70-metre high La Fortuna waterfall, or get active with some water sports on the lake, such as stand-up paddle boarding. The volcano’s inner workings also mean that the area is home to several thermal hot springs, an ideal way to relax in the middle of nature. Alternatively, a boat safari down the Celeste River offers the opportunity to see lizards, crocodiles and tropical birds in their natural habitat.
Day 9 San Jose
Board a local bus for the five-hour journey to Costa Rica's capital, San Jose. Situated in the fertile Central Valley and home to over half the country's population, San Jose is filled with lively markets, intriguing museums and a dynamic atmosphere. Your leader will take you on a walking tour around the city's main highlights. A good place to start your exploration is the main plaza. Artisan booths are common here, so you never know when an art fair will pop up. The Gold Museum has an amazing collection of indigenous gold art. If you're in the mood for a bit of shopping, head to the outdoor market in the Plaza de la Cultura or the city's Central Market, where you can buy anything from handicrafts to seafood.
There are number of highly recommended Urban Adventures to choose from in San Jose. Ask your leader for assistance.
Day 10 San Jose
Today your adventure comes to an end. There are no activities planned for the final day.
As there's a lot to see and do in and around San Jose, we recommend staying on for a few days to make the most of the city. If you'd like to extend your visit and need further accommodation, our reservations team would be happy to assist (subject to availability).
All This Included
Whether it’s the twin volcanoes reflected in the water of Lake Nicaragua, the smell of rich morning coffee in the streets of San Jose, or exploring the misty canopies of Monteverde's cloud forests – there’s an unmistakeable allure to Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Discover this enticing pocket of Central America on an adventure where you can do as much or as little as you like. Grab a mountain bike and tackle the hills of Monteverde, swing through the trees on a zip-line, or simply soak in thermal springs heated by the impressive Arenal Volcano. Hedged in by sprawling forests filled with plenty of exotic wildlife, this is the greatest playground on Earth.
Hotel (9 nights)
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* The prices shown are U.S. dollars per person, based on double occupancy, and subject to availability. Prices quoted for land/cruise arrangements are subject to increase without notice. Once we have received your deposit, land/cruise prices are guaranteed. Air prices quoted via phone or email are subject to increase and are guaranteed only from the time that full payment is received. Also, air prices or air promotions mentioned on this site or on the phone do not include baggage fees imposed by airlines.