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Costa Rica Wilderness Explorer

8 days with Natural Habitat Adventures   Rating: Deluxe

Itinerary
Click for Dates and Prices
Day 1: San Jose, Costa Rica
Arrive in the capital of San Jose, where our Costa Rica ecotour begins with a welcome dinner. If you reach the hotel early, enjoy a walk around the lavish gardens on the grounds, home to abundant birdlife.
 
Days 2 & 3: Tiskita Jungle Lodge
Transfer to the local airport this morning to board chartered planes for our direct flight to Tiskita Jungle Lodge on Costa Rica’s remote southern Pacific coast. At the heart of an 800-acre private rain forest reserve, Tiskita is the only accommodation in this undeveloped area just a few miles from the Panama border. Its hand-built cabins, crafted from fallen hardwood trees, survey the sea from a high ridge. Wildlife abounds on the reserve: Look for squirrel monkeys, howler monkeys and white-faced capuchins swinging through the trees, sloths clinging to high branches, and agouti in the underbrush. More than 275 bird species thrive in this lush habitat, and we look for them on early-morning walks. A coveted sighting is the scarlet macaw, successfully reintroduced by Tiskita's owners and now flourishing on the reserve.
 
Meals are prepared with fresh local ingredients, utilizing some of the more than 125 types of organic tropical fruit grown on the estate. On a hike through the grounds, we'll examine a wide array of exotic fruit trees, and, if certain fruits are in season, we may get to taste some unfamiliar varieties. This is also an excellent chance to see birds and monkeys attracted to the orchards and open areas. An in-depth rain forest hike reveals more wild creatures, while a night walk offers a chance to look for red-eyed tree frogs, endangered granular poison dart frogs and other intriguing amphibians. During our stay, we'll walk to the beachside village of Punta Banco to visit a community sea turtle hatchery in the company of a local leader running this grassroots conservation program. We learn firsthand the critical value of controlled hatcheries that are helping to increase endangered turtle populations worldwide. For groups visiting during turtle-hatching season from November–January, we may have the opportunity for an early-morning visit to the beach to see baby olive ridley turtles emerging from their nests and being released to the sea.
 
Day 4: Sierpe River Cruise / Finca 6 Stone Spheres 
Fly from Tiskita to Palmur Sur on a chartered flight this morning, then drive along the central coast to reach the Sierpe River for a private boat cruise into its vast mangrove ecosystem. The Terraba and Sierpe rivers flow from their headwaters on the southern slopes of the Talamanca Mountains to the Pacific where they form a river delta comprising the Terraba Sierpe National Wetlands. A network of channels weaves through Costa Rica's largest untouched mangrove estuary, protecting prolific birds and wildlife within the 67,000-acre reserve. Floating down the languid tropical river, we may see American crocodiles, rainbow boas, green iguanas, white-face capuchins, long-nosed bats, roseate spoonbills, ospreys, kingfishers, frigatebirds and a variety of egrets. If we're lucky, we might even spy some scarlet macaws in the trees.
 
After lunch in Sierpe Town, we visit the Finca 6 archaeological site at Palmar Sur. At this UNESCO World Heritage Site, observe the mysterious pre-Columbian stone spheres discovered here in the 1930s when the United Fruit Company was clearing land for banana plantations. These perfectly carved orbs range in size from a bowling ball to massive globes weighing 16 tons. Their purpose and how they were created remains open to speculation, but one thing is certain: they are impressive! Late this afternoon, arrive at our hillside hotel high above Ballena Marine National Park, a system of coral reefs and islands that harbors some of the richest undersea life in Costa Rica. Hiking paths leave from the hotel grounds, offering a chance to look for wildlife, including howler monkeys and green iguanas.
 
Day 5: Hacienda Baru / Bahia Ballena
The 800-acre Hacienda Baru National Wildlife Refuge protects large tracts of lowland rain forest, mangroves, wetlands and secondary growth. which we explore from a network of easy trails. Scientists at the conservation biology center on the refuge research plants and animals found within its bounds and surroundings habitats, including wooly opossum, anteater, sloth, armadillo and ghost bat, plus white-faced, spider and howler monkeys. Keep an eye out for northern raccoon and kinkajou, as well as abundant reptiles.  Birdlife is impressive, with nearly 400 recorded species. After lunch, join our Expedition Leader on a walk to Uvita Beach, part of Ballena Marine National Park. The little-visited stretch of sandy coast is famous for its whale’s tail shape, surrounded by the turquoise sea. If surf conditions permit, swim or dip your feet in the ocean. Back at our hotel, take advantage of outstanding sunset photo opportunities with a sweeping view over the ocean, before dinner is served on the terrace.
 
Day 6: Talamanca Mountains—Savegre River
For those who wish to rise early, our Expedition Leader offers guided birdwatching on the hotel's expansive grounds. After breakfast, leave the coast to ascend narrow, winding roads into the Talamanca Mountains. Along our route, cross Cerro de la Muerte, the highest point along the Costa Rican section of the Pan-American Highway. The views are thrilling, when the frequent mists clear enough to reveal waterfalls on steep slopes and green valleys far below. Along the way, we stop for lunch at the home of a local family, savoring traditional home-cooked fare and learning about rural life in Costa Rica. Our hosts live on a small farm where they grow mushrooms on oak logs and make delectable blackberry wine, both of which are featured in our meal.
 
Our destination is Savegre Mountain Hotel, in an exquisite setting along a rushing river at the base of a narrow, high mountain valley at 7,200 feet. Within this private biological reserve, replete with flowering tropical plants, we find myriad colorful birds—the resplendent quetzal is the biggest prize among the more than 600 different bird species found here. On a guided hike through the cloud forest, pass vivid bromeliads and orchids while we scout for wildlife. This region is home to Baird’s tapir, wild boar, monkeys and coati. The rich habitat is also the territory of six species of neotropical cats including jaguar, puma, ocelot, margay, oncilla and jaguarundi, though they are highly elusive and rarely seen. Ferns and mosses flourish in the constant drip of the mists, while birds add dashes of color to the canopy. 
 
Day 7: Los Quetzales National Park
This high-altitude ecosystem will thrill bird lovers, as it is home to a multitude of vibrant species and many endemics. We set out early this morning with the goal of spotting the resplendent quetzal, a revered and endangered creature of striking beauty. Listen for their deep, melodious calls as we quietly track these elusive birds. Photographers come from all over the world in hopes of capturing a shot of the quetzal's splendid plumage, with its electric green head, scarlet breast and long, iridescent turquoise tail. Our dawn nature walk reveals a wide array of birds, and we may also spy the emerald toucanet, golden-browed chlorophonia and spangle-cheeked tanager, among many others.
 
Return to the lodge for breakfast, then depart for Los Quetzales National Park, encompassing more than 12,000 acres of pristine cloud forest and 14 different ecosystems. The park protects wild sections of the Savegre River, which originates high up on the Cerro de la Muerte. A highlight is lunch at Paraiso Quetzal—"Quetzal Paradise"—an ecolodge perched on a steep mountainside. From the outdoor deck we're sure to see dozens of hummingbirds buzzing around several feeders, offering superb close-up photo opportunities. Later this afternoon, we'll visit Batsu Gardens, where every detail has been intentionally designed to enhance outstanding bird photography opportunities in a lush natural space. This evening, our nature adventure comes to a close over a farewell dinner at the hotel. 
 
Day 8: San Jose / Depart
After breakfast, a group transfer is provided to the San Jose airport to connect with departing flights or an onward journey to Arenal Volcano for travelers who have booked that extension.
Map
All This Included
Costa Rica is one of the world’s premier destinations for nature travelers. And it’s no wonder, because the natural marvels of Costa Rica are in a class all their own! So is this trip. It's a unique set of experiences that take you into less-discovered realms of this globally acclaimed nature travel hotspot. From a remote rain forest lodge on Costa Rica's south Pacific coast near the Panama border to the misty heights of the Talamanca Mountains, explore incredible biodiversity in varied habitats. Keep watch for mammals, reptiles and tropical birds as we wander through jungle and cloud forest, and float a tropical river through a vast mangrove estuary. Learn about the land and its people, too: tour a fruit orchard, enjoy a home-cooked lunch on a family farm, and find inspiration in local conservation efforts that are restoring landscapes to their original native beauty. Costa Rica is full of marvels—discover them on a rare ecotourism adventure off the standard tourist track.
  • Transfers between the airport and our tour accommodations
  • All activities
  • Accommodations and land transportation as detailed in the itinerary
  • All meals from dinner on Day 1 through breakfast on the final day
  • Drinking water throughout the trip
  • Non-alcoholic beverages with meals
  • Services of NHA Expedition Leader
  • Local guides and lodge staff
  • Most gratuities
  • All permits, entrance fees and taxes
Highlights
  • A Route Less Traveled: Guided by a top naturalist Expedition Leader, discover Costa Rica’s less-visited south Pacific coast, an unspoiled region rarely seen by the typical tourist
  • Outstanding Wildlife: Float the Sierpe River in search of monkeys, crocodiles, iguanas and birds, and look for resplendent quetzals in the cloud forests of the Talamanca Mountains
  • Distinctive Ecolodges: Stay at secluded ecolodges in Costa Rica's most tucked-away natural settings, where intimacy, hospitality and local ambience prevail, away from crowds
Accommodations
San Jose: Costa Rica Marriott Hotel Hacienda Belen
Punta Banco: Tiskita Jungle Lodge
Sur de Uvita: Cristal Ballena
San Gerardo de Dota: Savegre Mountain Lodge
Pre and Post Add-ons
Arenal Volcano Extension
3 Days / Year-Round, From $1450
 
Visit Costa Rica’s most dramatic landmark, Arenal Volcano, whose slopes are blanketed with dense rain forest filled with wildlife.
 
Natural Jewels of Costa Rica
10 Days / Year-Round, From $5995 (+air)
 
An all-encompassing nature expedition through the jungle canals of Tortuguero to the misty cloud forests of Monteverde and Corcovado's wild beaches—Costa Rica's best flora and fauna immersion!
 
Costa Rica & the Panama Canal
8 Days / Dec – Mar, From $6170
 
Explore tropical rain forests, wander pristine beaches, snorkel over colorful reefs, and cruise the legendary Panama Canal on this small-ship nature adventure.
Notes
  • Group Size: Approximately 10 Travelers.
  • Internal Air Cost: $885 per person. Internal air cost includes: Two private charter flights from San Jose to Tiskita and from Tiskita to Palmur Sur.
  • Not Included: Travel to and from the start and end point of your trip, alcoholic beverages, some gratuities, passport and visa fees (if any), optional activities, items of a personal nature (phone calls, laundry and internet, etc.), airline baggage fees, airport and departure taxes (if any), required medical evacuation insurance, optional travel protection insurance.
  • Physical Requirements: Moderate. This trip does not require a high degree of physical fitness, however, in order to participate, travelers should be able to walk 2-3 miles unassisted over uneven terrain with potentially muddy, slippery surfaces, up inclines involving some altitude gain, and at altitudes of up to 10,000 feet above sea level. We will be traveling by boat on the Sierpe River. In order to participate in this excursion, travelers will need to be able to enter and exit the boat in potentially unstable conditions. Travelers should be aware that the heat and humidity may be very high in Tiskita and along the central Pacific coast, while temperatures may be quite cold in the Talamanca Mountains, especially at night, and conditions are often damp.  Roads throughout the trip are often bumpy and sometimes winding. Travelers prone to motion sickness may wish to take precautions, both on drives and on the small plane flights to/from Tiskita.
  • Since the areas you will travel to on this trip are remote and wild (that's why we go there!), we require medical evacuation insurance for this program. If you decline the medical evacuation insurance coverage offered by Natural Habitat Adventures, we require that you send us documentation of the independent coverage you have selected. We recommend that your chosen independent insurance plan includes at least $250,000 in medical evacuation coverage. Please note that we will add the cost of Natural Habitat Adventures' medical evacuation policy (currently $48 per person) to your tour invoice until you provide our office with proof of coverage including your insurance company's name, phone number and your individual policy number. 
  • Arrive in San Jose by 4:30 pm in order to make it to the hotel in time for a 6 pm welcome dinner on Day 1. You may depart anytime after 1:30 pm on the final day. 
  • Please ask your Vacations To Go travel counselor for more information.
Terms and Conditions
For Natural Habitat Adventures terms and conditions, please click here.

* 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.