Trip Number: 12580A
Staff: Angela White
- See monkeys, sloths, tropical butterflies, and some of the world's most
- Hike the fresh lava flows of Volcan Arenal and soak in its hot spring
- Meet local farm families, and learn all about chocolate
- All meals, lodging, on-trip transportation, and gratuities
- All guides and admissions
- On-trip naturalist
Photo: Mary Menconi
From lush rainforests to volcanic lava flows, Costa Rica's wildly diverse ecosystems
provide a haven for tropical wildlife of all kinds. Forming the land bridge
between North and South America, the country is a peaceful biological treasure,
with more species of mammals and birds than the continental United States and
Canada combined. The country also boasts exquisite flora, including more than
3,000 species of orchids, and a world-famous national park system.
On this trip, we'll explore Costa Rica's natural wonders, from tropical rain
and cloud forests to hot springs, waterfalls, and dramatic valleys. We'll look
for exotic plants and wildlife as we hike the trails of public and private reserves,
and traverse the forest canopy on a series of interconnected skywalks. We'll
hike the new lava flows of Volcan Arenal, search for exotic birds in the forest
canopy, visit a butterfly garden, and learn about tropical bats at a research
Bat Jungle. An English-speaking naturalist will accompany our trip, helping
us understand the amazing relationships between tropical plants, animals, and
This is a land of extraordinary biodiversity, and conservation is a national
priority. You're likely to see a variety of mammals, including the white-faced
capuchin monkey, coatimundi, agouti, sloth, and anteater. There are hundreds
of species of birds, including the resplendent quetzal, toucans, parrots, hummingbirds,
blue and gold tanagers, motmots, and bellbirds. Then there's the incredible
range of butterflies, insects, reptiles, and brilliantly colored amphibians.
The flora includes innumerable kinds of flowering plants -- such as orchids,
bromeliads, and ginger -- as well as the many forest tree giants, such as the
strangler fig, cow tree, and cieba.
Our days will be filled with as much activity as you like -- hiking, birdwatching,
and exploring the local area -- but you'll also have the freedom to just relax
in this tropical wonderland. With its many options, this trip can make for either
a very active or a relaxed vacation. It's your choice.
Photo: Joyce Smith
Day 1: Arrive at San Jose's international airport and transfer
to our nearby hotel to relax and meet everyone at the welcome dinner and orientation.
Day 2: After breakfast we drive north along the Pan-American
Highway and begin our climb to Santa Elena, a rural village high in the Tilaran
Mountains. This drive will require several hours, but the scenery along the
way is spectacular. In the afternoon we will join local naturalist guides at
the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, a rich ecosystem supporting many species
of birds, mammals, insects, reptiles, flowering plants, and trees. The Monteverde
area is our home base for the next three nights.
Day 3: Today we enjoy a canopy skywalk to view the unique
life of the treetops. We will also visit a butterfly garden, and a herpetarium
to learn about Costa Rican reptiles. In the evening, we may meet with local
biologists to learn about the intricacies of tropical forest ecology and conservation
efforts in Costa Rica.
Day 4: Today we hike to the gorgeous San Luis Valley for lunch
with a local farm family, and then to one of Costa Rica's most beautiful waterfalls.
Those who prefer a less active day can explore the mountain villages of Santa
Elena and Monteverde, visit wildlife exhibits, or tour the galleries of local
artisans and sample the famous Monteverde coffee and ice cream.
Day 5: On the move again, we cross Lake Arenal by boat to
the town of La Fortuna, nestled at the foot of Volcan Arenal. Arenal is one
of the most active volcanoes in the world, and we spend two nights here to enjoy
some of the many opportunities for hiking, wildlife viewing, and, of course,
Photo: Mary Menconi
Day 6: After breakfast we hike in Arenal National Park, through
a forested area and onto the new lava flows. We hear the rumblings of the volcano's
current activity, and learn about its history from our local guide. In the afternoon
we soak in natural waters heated by the volcano, surrounded by lush tropical
vegetation. Very relaxing after our morning's hike!
Day 7: This morning we visit an ecological center with botanical
and butterfly gardens. We’ll share lunch with a local family and tour
their small organic farm to learn about tropical crops. At midday we travel
to our home for the next two nights, a stunning eco-lodge and environmental
center built in harmony with the surrounding lowland rainforest. In the afternoon
we can search for colorful poison dart frogs hidden in the jungle vegetation,
or explore the banks of the scenic Sarapiqui River. We take a night hike to
search for the creatures that come out after dark and perhaps catch a glimpse
of the owl moth, who confuses its prey by spreading its wings and revealing
huge owl-like "eyes."
Day 8: We wake to the calls of beautiful birds and the low
roar of howler monkeys high in the treetops. Today's hike takes us to a biological
research station located in lowland rainforest, home to numerous species of
butterflies, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and, of course, birds -- including
snowcap hummingbirds, toucans, blue and gold tanagers, and umbrella birds. We’ll
cool off in the afternoon whitewater rafting on the scenic Sarapiqui River though
a tropical wonderland.
Day 9: In the morning we visit the Tirimbina Rainforest Reserve
to see how chocolate is grown and processed. After lunch, we drive through another
of Costa Rica’s famous National Parks on our way back to San Jose to enjoy
our farewell dinner in the evening.
Day 10: After breakfast at our tropical hotel we transfer
to the airport.
Book your flight into and out of Juan Santamaria International Airport near
San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica. San Jose is served by several airlines,
including American, Continental, Delta, and US Airways.
Accommodations and Food
Although this is not a luxury trip, we will stay in charming, locally owned
lodges and modern hotels. Rooms are double-occupancy; if you come alone we'll
give you a roommate. We'll travel by comfortable, private minibus. The food
will be delicious -- a mix of local and continental dishes, with a variety of
tropical fruits and vegetables. Vegetarians are welcome.
Photo: Mary Menconi
This trip is suitable for people who are in good health, get regular exercise,
enjoy nature, and have a good-humored approach to traveling in Latin America
-- where things might not go as predictably as they do at home. Our trip is
not strenuous, and can be considered leisurely-to-moderate most days. Elevation
gains and losses on most hikes are minimal; however the trail to the San Luis
waterfall has steep, muddy spots and uneven terrain.
Although we will be traveling in the dry season, rain can fall at any time
in the tropics and will not restrict our movements or our enjoyment of the forests.
The Monteverde area is noted for its spring-like weather. The lowland rainforest
of Sarapiqui is likely to be warmer and more humid. Most days we drive only
short distances and our longest drives will be on the first and last days.
Equipment and Clothing
No special equipment is needed. However, binoculars and a camera are highly
recommended. Your leader will provide a comprehensive packing list well in advance
of the trip.
- Lonely Planet, Costa Rica.
- Pariser, Harry S., Explore Costa Rica.
- Coates, Anthony G., Central America, a Natural and Cultural History.
- Foster, Lynn V., A Brief History of Central America.
- Kricher, John C., A Neotropical Companion.
- Costa Rica, International Travel Maps, Vancouver, B.C., Canada.
The Sierra Club is an environmental organization concerned about conservation
and sustainability, both locally and globally. Our work is accomplished by volunteers,
aided by a salaried staff, with grassroots involvement. On this trip, we'll
have the opportunity to see the effects of real conservation in a country committed
to protecting, rather than exploiting, its natural resources. We will learn
about Costa Rican conservation issues, and how those issues are related to environmental
concerns in our own neighborhood, region, and nation.
This trip requires a $200 per-person deposit. An additional payment of $300 per person is due six months prior to trip departure. International trip prices are subject to change and are based on double-occupancy or group accommodations as described above. Single rooms may not be available or may cost more than the listed price. If you have any questions regarding double occupancy, please contact the trip leader.
See the How to Apply for an Outing
section for more details on registering for this trip and details
about our Reservation and Cancellation
The payment of a deposit does not confirm you as a member on the
trip. Participants must be approved by the trip leader. After signing
up for this trip, you will be sent a confirmation packet containing
approval materials (Participant Approval Questionnaire, Medical
Form, Liability Release Form). Each applicant (including those on
the waitlist) must fill out these forms and promptly mail them to
the trip leader. The leader will review the approval materials and
notify you of your acceptance in a timely manner.
The Sierra Club accurately and fairly budgets and prices our trips. However, unforeseen costs such as devaluation of the dollar compared to other currencies and fuel surcharges assessed by our international providers may necessitate adjustment in trip price. We will make every effort to mitigate and absorb these fees. If a price increase is necessary, however, you will have 14 days after announcement to cancel without penalty.
Angela lives in Truckee, just North of Lake Tahoe, with Les, her significant other. She has led, assisted, or cooked on Sierra Club service, lodge, backpack, Hawaii, and International trips. She has led many trips to Costa Rica and regards the country as her second home. She is excited to share this beautiful location with you and her motto is "Pura Vida!"
General Notes About Sierra Club Trips