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Costa Rica Wilderness Explorer (Photo Departures)

8 days with Natural Habitat Adventures   Rating: Deluxe

Itinerary
Click for Dates and Prices Day 1: San Jose, Costa Rica
Arrive in San Jose, the country's capital, where our Costa Rica ecotour begins with a welcome dinner. If you arrive early, enjoy wandering the lavish botanical gardens around our hotel. The owners have attempted to recreate the Central Valley's biodiversity on the 10-acre site, with bromeliads, orchids and a lush tapestry of native plants and flowers. The vegetation is a magnet for birds, with dozens of species on display. Among those we see most frequently are hummingbirds, blue-crowned motmot, palm tanager, tropical kingbird and boat-billed flycatcher.

Days 2 & 3: Tiskita Jungle Lodge
This morning, we transfer to the local airport to board chartered planes for Golfito, followed by a road transfer to Tiskita Jungle Lodge on Costa Rica’s remote southern Pacific coast. Tiskita, at the heart of a 800-acre private rain forest reserve, is the only accommodation in this undeveloped area just a few miles from the Panama border. Squirrel monkeys, howler monkeys and white-faced capuchins swing through the trees, while sloths cling to high branches. Some 270 bird species thrive in this lush habitat, and we have a chance to look for them on early-morning walks. Tiskita’s hand-built cabins, crafted from fallen hardwood trees, survey the sea from a high ridge. 

Lunch is served on arrival, and meals are prepared with fresh local fare, 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 that are attracted to the orchards and open areas. An in-depth rain forest hike reveals more wild creatures and luxuriant vegetation, while a night walk offers a chance to look for red-eyed tree frogs and other intriguing amphibians. During our stay, we'll walk to the beachside village of Punta Banco where we learn about the community's involvement with a local sea turtle conservation project.

Day 4: Tiskita / Bahia Ballena 
A final morning at Tiskita offers one more opportunity for a guided walk in the rain forest, looking for the abundant jungle wildlife at home in this secluded reserve. After lunch, we depart by road, winding our way north. Along the way, we stop to look for toucans and other wildlife that we often see along the roadside. Late this afternoon, arrive for a two-night stay 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. Take advantage of the outstanding sunset photo opportunities before dinner at our hotel, served on the terrace with a sweeping view of the Pacific Ocean. 

Day 5: Sierpe River Cruise / Finca 6 Stone Spheres 
Traveling along the central coast, we reach the Sierpe River, where we board a private boat to explore 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 birdlife and wild animals within the reserve's 67,000 acres. 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! Once we return to our hotel late this afternoon, join our Expedition Leader for 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.

Day 6: Talamanca Mountains—Savegre River
For those who choose to rise early, our Expedition Leader offers guided birdwatching on the hotel's expansive grounds. After breakfast, leave the coast behind 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, where we spend the next two nights. The lodge enjoys 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 very 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, a guided walk along a flowing stream reveals a cascading waterfall fed by the Savegre River. We also 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 served at the home of a local family. 

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
Traveling from the lush coastline to misty mountaintops, Costa Rica’s sparkling waters and verdant rain forests are filled with natural wonders ripe for a photography adventure. The biodiversity is rich, and we take you to the unspoiled places—like a private rain forest reserve, tangled mangroves and towering peaks—where your camera is immersed in vibrant wildlife and exotic landscapes. Point your lens at squirrel monkeys, howler monkeys and white-faced capuchins that swing through the trees. Search for toucans, roseate spoonbills, ospreys and resplendent quetzals—arguably one of the planet’s most beautiful birds. Enjoy the quiet advantages of traveling with just 10 guests, plus the expertise of our professional photography Expedition Leader and some of Costa Rica’s best local guides—a distinct advantage for spotting photogenic wildlife. You’ll stay close to where the nature action happens and receive personalized photo instruction in the field as you immerse with like-minded photographers who tend to have more patience pursuing that perfect shot of a slow-moving sloth or fluttering birdlife.
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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: Hotel Bougainvillea
South Pacific Coast: 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 $1350
Visit Costa Rica’s most dramatic landmark, Arenal Volcano, one of the most famous volcanoes in the world.

Natural Jewels of Costa Rica -10 Days / Year-Round, From $5995 (+internal 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 $5990
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 Limit: Approximately 10 Travelers.
  • Departures and prices after April 2019 are not yet confirmed and will be allocated to guests on a first-come, first-served basis. Guests who reserve their space prior to final pricing confirmation will receive the lowest rate within the range offered for that date
  • Not Included: Round-trip transportation from your home city to San Jose, Costa Rica, airport transfers to and from accommodations other than the ones used in our itinerary, private charter flight from San Jose to Golfito (to be added to your invoice), items of a personal nature (phone calls, laundry, etc.), alcoholic beverages, some gratuities, passport and visa fees, optional activities, airport and departure taxes, optional travel insurance, required medical evacuation 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 flight from San Jose to Golfito.
  • Important Information About This Trip: This carefully crafted Costa Rica nature expedition offers a small group of travelers an intimate journey into three distinct ecosystems—lowland rain forest, mountain cloud forest and tropical beaches—for a wide-ranging sampler of Costa Rica's natural habitats. Varied activities and visits with local people offer a deep and unique view into this legendary ecotourism destination. Please be aware that some fairly long drives along poorly maintained roads are often an unavoidable part of the itinerary, with our focus on less-visited locales.
  • Mandatory Insurance: Since the areas we travel to on this trip are remote and wild (that's why we go there!), we require medical evacuation insurance for our guests' safety. If you decline the medical evacuation insurance coverage offered by Natural Habitat, we request that you send us documentation of the independent coverage you have selected. We will add the cost of a medical evacuation policy to your tour invoice until you provide our office with proof of coverage including your insurance company's name, contact number and your individual policy number. Thank you for understanding that our policy exists exclusively in the interest of our guests' safety. 
  • Getting There & Getting Home: 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.