Costa Rica Tropical Highlights

Tortuguero canals, Arenal National Park environs, Monteverde cloud forest


Journeys International continues to offer travel experiences to Costa Rica that pay proper homage to the country's riches, and it continues to deserve accolades for the value and attention placed on preservation of fantastic bio-diversity. On this group itinerary, you visit three of the original gems in Costa Rica's environmental crown -- the waterways of Tortuguero National Park on the Caribbean coast, Arenal National Park (with its now-dormant, but still imposing volcano), and the world-famous Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. When you adopt the plan as we present it here, you join small groups of like-minded nature enthusiasts on a set schedule with premier naturalist guides.

Continue to detailed itinerary...


  • Day 1: arrive san jose

    Upon arrival in San Jose you will be met and transferred to a specially selected hotel, a converted Victorian mansion that maintains the warmth and comfort of a private home while offering the amenities of a fine hotel. It is located on a quiet street close to the city center, near restaurants, theaters and shops.  The afternoon and evening are yours free to relax or explore.

    Hotel Park Inn (or similar)
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  • Days 2-3: tortuguero rain forest immersion
    Explore the lush waterways of Tortuguero

    Travel by road and river to Tortuguero National Park for two incredibly full days of exploration. For this module of your trip, you'll will be part of a group of 10-20 people, in the care of the professional team from your jungle lodge. All group members will be picked up by a mid-size tour bus at their San Jose hotels, and will travel together by road, approximately 90 minutes, to the river port, stopping for breakfast en route. At the port you'll board your open-sided riverboat which allows for unobstructed viewing of abundant waterfowl, as you make your way, about an hour, to your lodge on the edge of the National Park. Many travelers report that their river "cruise" begins with a dramatic sighting of scores of large pink roseate spoon bills.

    Tortuguero National Park borders the Caribbean and contains a network of canals and waterways through protected jungle that is home, year-round, to myriad species of tropical wildlife. Each day, for the hours leading up to dusk and following dawn, when animal and birdlife is most active, your group will slowly travel the waterways with a one of the expertly trained naturalist guides from the lodge.  Search for manatees, caimans, monkeys, sloths, river otters, poison dart frogs, and the 300 species of birds, including the roseate spoonbill, American fin foot, great green macaws, trogons, oropendulas, and frigate birds. 

    Mid-day, you can choose to walk trails in the forest near the lodge, stroll the rocky beach, visit Tortuguero town, view exhibits at the National Park Visitors Center, or relax in the pool or gardens of the lodge. Meals are buffet-style, and delicious, and offer opportunity for conversation, reflection and learning with your group. 

    A highlight of a visit to Tortuguero is learning about the green sea turtles that nest here. Those who travel here in nesting season, July-October, can make special arrangements to add a night-time beach walk to their program, in the hope of witnessing (early in their season) the large turtles digging their nests and laying their tennis-ball sized eggs, or (late in the season) the tiny babies emerging and heading into the surf. The giant leatherbacks nest in March and April and hatch in May and June. Even those who don't witness the spectacle first-hand, will see the beaches and learn about the phenomena from their guides.

    Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Evergreen Lodge (or similar)
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  • Day 4: arenal observatory
    Hike the area and see Arenal which, although inactive right now, is an awesome sight

    Fly from Tortuguero to San Jose (note: 30 lbs baggage limit), then set off for the Arenal vicinity.  En route to Arenal, visit Silencio Lookout or Danaus Tropical Gardens.

    After lunch, drive through mountains and agricultural lands to Arenal, until 2010, Costa Rica's most active volcano. During your two-night stay, you will enjoy guided hikes in one of the most spectacular parks in Costa Rica, Arenal National Park. The volcano was active from 1968 to 2010, and the park now offers a landscape to learn with your guide about the materials expelled from the volcano, rock formation from recent lava flows, and the natural regeneration of flora and fauna in the area. The volcano, with its perfect imposing cone, is surrounded by exuberant vegetation and sits at the side of the engineering masterpiece of Arenal Lake.

    Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Arenal Observatory Lodge (or similar)
  • Day 5: waterfalls/lava flow hike/hot springs
    Admire pristine La Fortuna waterfalls

    In the morning you will visit La Fortuna Waterfalls. Located just 3 miles away from the town of La Fortuna, this beautiful 200' waterfall receives its cool, clear waters from the pristine forests of Arenal National Park. En route and near the falls one may see parrots, toucans, and tropical hummingbirds. The steep trail to the waterfall goes down through dense, lush rain forest and ends at a large pool at the base of the falls. In addition to seeing a majestic waterfall in a beautiful setting, visitors to the falls are helping the local community, with fees used for important community projects such as schools, the town orphanage, recycling projects, water quality , roads, and an educational center.

    Lunch is at the farm of Juan Bautista, a former teacher and principal living in the town of La Fortuna.  He is now a local farmer who owns a small five-acre farm and uses it to show visitors how to live in an environmentally friendly way with the nearby rainforest. He'll explain the use of every plant he finds on his farm's trails. He grows sugar cane which visitors can crush at his sugar cane mill to drink. Then take a turn at making your own tortillas for lunch.

    After lunch, head out on a lava flow hike near the town of La Fortuna and Arenal Volcano, where you'll learn about the history of volcanic activity in the area, plus the local flora and fauna.

    In the evening, relax at the base of Arenal Volcano in the Ecotermales hot springs, where natural springs and thermo-mineral water polls provide unparalleled relaxation. Have dinner here and return to your hotel for the night.


    Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Arenal Observatory Lodge (or similar)
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  • Day 6: hanging bridges/lake arenal/monteverde
    Look for poison dart frogs and other Monteverde residents

    Today you will visit the Arenal Hanging Bridges, a complex of suspended bridges and trails through a beautiful rain forest. The lush vegetation contains palms, heliconias, and tall trees that you will view from ground level to above the tree tops as you meander along the trails and on the bridges. From some of the bridges, there are also panoramic views of nearby Arenal Volcano. As you walk through the forest, you may encounter a variety of the forest wildlife, including toucans, motmots, trogons, poison dart frogs, howling monkeys, spider monkeys, and white-faced capuchin monkeys.

    After your rainforest bridges walk, travel via lake crossing into the mountains on your way to Monteverde. Your journey will bring you through small rural Costa Rican villages passing coffee and dairy farms.

    Monteverde is both a community and forest reserve. The world-famous Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve protects a mountain forest characterized by majestic trees densely covered by thick, wet and heavy “carpets” of epiphytes, including orchids and wild relatives of familiar tropical house plants – philodendrons, ferns, and ficus trees.

    The beautiful Resplendent Quetzal spends about half the year here and the forest is home to hundreds of other bird and mammal species. This private reserve has been intensely studied by scientists since its founding in 1972, and is the site of important pioneering research on the effects of climate change in tropical ecosystems. Several resident biologists are renowned experts on tropical bats, plants, and amphibians

    The communities outside the reserve include Monteverde, Cerro Plano, and Santa Elena. The small mountain farms of these towns are owned by “campesinos” (country farmers) who grow a small variety of crops. The most important farm products are organic coffee (which can be purchased in local stores) and milk for the local Monteverde Cheese Factory. The factory has been producing a variety of high-quality cheeses in Costa Rica since shortly after Quakers from the United States settled the area in 1950s. Near and around the community centers, a large selection of restaurants, and other visitor attractions are found, such as butterfly gardens, horse rentals, treetop forest canopy tours, an orchid garden, art galleries, and an excellent educational bat exhibit among others.

    Breakfast, Dinner
    Fonda Vela (or similar)
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  • Day 7: monteverde/canopy tour
    Have a blast on a zipline canopy tour

    In the morning, you'll go on an exciting and interesting zipline tour of the Monteverde canopy, with opportunities to learn more about the area and to see birds and other wildlife. Your guide will also provide interesting history on the plants and human activity in the region.

    After lunch, enjoy a guided visit to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, entrance fee included. Located in the Tilaran Mountain Range of Puntarenas Province, the Reserve is one of the premier natural history destinations in Costa Rica. Later in the afternoon the forest may be cool and misty from low cloud cover, so bring a light jacket for your walk.

    The forest consists of lush, verdant vegetation containing understory palms, majestic canopy trees, arching “ropy” lianas, bizarre “strangler” fig trees, and epiphytes -- small plants that grow on the trees. Outstanding among the epiphytes are orchids -- although most are small and high in the tree canopy, more orchid species (>500!) are found in Monteverde for its size than any other place yet known. As you walk through the forest, you may encounter a variety of wildlife. Frequently-sighted mammals include white-faced capuchin and howler monkeys, white-nosed coatis, two-toed sloths, kinkajous, and agoutis. Of the 400 bird species found in or nearby the reserve, outstanding species you may see include the legendary crimson and iridescent-green Resplendent Quetzal (which spends about half the year in the area during its breeding season from February or March to July), Emerald Toucanets, Black guans, Keel-billed toucans, Blue-crowned Motmots, Orange-bellied Trogons, Three-wattled Bellbirds (approximately April to August), and hummingbirds such as Purple-throated Mountain-gems, Violet Sabrewings, and Magenta-throated Woodstars. The wonderful songs of many of these birds will accompany you as you travel through the forest.

    Breakfast, Dinner
    Fonda Vela (or similar)
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  • Day 8: san jose
    Say goodbye to the rainforest. (Resplendent Quetzal by Alex Arias)

    Depart the Monteverde area this morning and head for your lovely hotel just outside of San Jose, a family owned and operated inn set in12 acres of beautiful gardens featuring over 50 species of bromeliads, Costa Rican native trees, numerous species of orchids, herb, and cacti gardens, and radiant hummingbirds.

    Hotel Bougainvillea (or similar)
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  • Day 9: san jose/onward
    Say farewell, or sign up for an extension

    Transfer to the San Jose International Airport for your flight home.

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Price and Date Details

Price and Date Details

Land Cost:
price includes domestic flights in Costa Rica.
Single Supplement:
Flexible departures joining small groups
Privately on Request
Need to Know

Need to Know

9 days
The number of days, or duration, in a destination corresponds with the itinerary as published. This is the time period covered by the land cost.
Comfort Level:
(see full descriptions)
Unique eco-lodges
Activity Level:
(see full descriptions)
Optional hikes
Group Size:
The stated range indicates minimum required for guaranteed departure and maximum accepted on the scheduled dates. Exceptions can often be made for private departures.
Terms & Conditions: 


Included in costs: Meals as noted, each night in double occupancy accommodations, land transfers between components, English speaking guides, park or site entry fees, surface transport, equipment other than personal gear, government tax, airport transfer assistance, in-country ticket reconfirmation and check-in assistance (where permitted), complete pre-departure packet, toll-free pre-departure phone assistance.

Not included in costs: Meals not noted as included, gratuities, beverages (except tea or coffee at meals), international or domestic airfare unless specified, airport departure taxes not included with air tickets, visas, itinerary changes after confirmation, any services not included in itinerary, any costs incurred due to canceled or delayed flights, acts of nature or other happenings beyond our control, or other costs as are more fully described in Journeys Terms & Conditions.

Deposit and payment schedule: $500 per person per trip or the applicable amount based on the trip and the proximity of the departure date. Custom trips and private departures require $800 per person deposit. A second deposit of $800 per person is due four months prior to departure, and final payment for land arrangements is due 60 days prior to departure.  Any applicable permit fees required in advance are non-refundable as well.  Airlines require full payment when tickets are issued. The deposit may be made by Visa, Master Card, Discover, American Express, or check, and the Reservation Form may be submitted via our website, mail or FAX. Full payment schedule and cancellation penalties are described in our Terms and Conditions as noted in our Global Expedition Catalog, on our website, and elsewhere. Please request these if you do not have them before advancing a deposit.

Air fares: Journeys can make complete air arrangements applicable to your trip as noted in this itinerary. If you wish to redeem frequent flyer mileage or arrange flights directly with the airline, you may do so on your own at no penalty. If you do, please consult with us on exact arrival and departure dates and times before having your tickets issued to avoid errors.

Insurance: When you make your application, we strongly recommend the purchase of comprehensive travel insurance in case of emergency situations. Please contact us for a recommended policy.

Itinerary Change Fee: There will be a $40 fee for changes once an itinerary has been confirmed and approved. Additional cancellation penalties or change fees may apply as per our terms and conditions. The passenger is responsible for such fees.

Trip Extensions

Trip Extensions

Casa Corcovado Jungle Lodge

Duration: 4 days

Tucked away in the trees and cooled by the Pacific Ocean, is a 170 acre private reserve bordering Corcovado National Park. Carefully designed and built by an American naturalist with over twenty-five years of local experience, this unique lodge offer... read more

Tiskita Rainforest Reserve

Duration: 3 days

Delve deeper into the rainforest at Tiskita Jungle Lodge. Enjoy birdwatching, hiking in the rainforest trails, swimming in the ocean or in freshwater jungle pools. You may also take the opportunity to visit Corcovado National Park.

Download Trip Itinerary

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comfort level
Choose accommodations and amenities that fit your personal style
●○○○○ Simple
Our most natural accommodations. Bath facilities often shared, sometimes rustic.
●●○○○ Delightful
Comfortable and especially personal. Small to mid-sized lodges, typically with private bath.
●●●○○ Superior
Lodges and hotels with additional amenities, refined artistry, or extra-special settings.
●●●●○ Deluxe
Exclusive or luxury lodges, hotels, or safari camps with fine dining options.
●●●●● Uncommon
The most indulgent accommodations arranged specially for private trips.
activity level
Match the trip’s intensity to your ability and motivation.
●○○○○ Gentle
Easy walking, with opportunities for low-key physical activity.
●●○○○ Active
Energetic exploration with optional day hikes, leisurely cycling, or light canoeing.
●●●○○ Vigorous
Day-long active excursions and options for demanding activity in varied environments.
●●●●○ Challenging
Strenuous hiking or other intense activity that may be at high altitude or over rough terrain.
●●●●● Demanding
Multi-day trekking and other activities requiring endurance or strength. Steep trails. No technical expertise necessary.