Trip Number: 12750A
Price: $2,565 (11-14)
$2,965 (or fewer)
Staff: Rochelle Gerratt
- Watch endangered Green Sea Turtles lay eggs on remote Caribbean beaches
- Hike, swim, and view wildlife in verdant rain and cloud forests
- Soak in natural hot springs and hike an active volcano
- All meals, lodging, on-trip transportation, and gratuities
- Expert naturalist throughout the entire trip
- Admission to canopy walk, parks, and butterfly garden
Photo: Kathleen Giel
Please note that the trip dates have changed from what was originally published. If you
have questions, please
From lush rainforests to volcanic craters, Costa Rica's collection of wildly
diverse ecosystems provides 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
Costa Rica is paradise for nature lovers. Its name means "rich coast,"
but Costa Rica offers so much more than just beaches or gold. Costa Rica is
rich with exotic plants, colorful birds, unique wildlife, and fascinating cultures.
This trip is designed to showcase the real wealth of Costa Rica -- its twin
gems of biodiversity and conservation!
On this Costa Rican adventure, our explorations will take us from the high
cloud forests of Monteverde to the lush Caribbean coast. From our starting point
of San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica, we drive to the famous Monteverde Cloud
Forest, where we will enjoy the plants, colorful birds, and other assorted animals
of this special ecosystem. Our adventures then take us to the very active Arenal
Volcano, where we may witness eruptions, hike on fresh lava flows, and soak
in hot springs. Finally, we will hike and boat through Tortuguero National Park
and observe the magic of rare Green Sea Turtles laying their eggs in the Caribbean
black sands. We will also search the rain forest along the canals for exotic
animals, such as manatees, sloths, monkeys, toucans, and more. On this trip
you're likely to see a wealth of wildlife, from unique birds such as Scarlet
Macaws and the endangered Quetzal, to an incredible range of insects, reptiles,
and brilliantly colored amphibians. The flora includes orchids, bromeliads,
tree ferns, ginger, and the ceiba -- the sacred tree of the indigenous people
of Costa Rica.
We travel comfortably by private tourist bus with our own driver and naturalist,
and enjoy spectacular scenery along the way, feasting on tropical fruits and
healthy, fresh, local cuisine. While this isn't a luxury trip, we stay in very
pleasant lodges, most of which have merited the Costa Rica's Certificate of
Photo: Kathleen Giel
Note: The following day-to-day itinerary may vary according to conditions at
the time of our trip.
Day 1: Arrive at San Jose's Juan Santamaria International
airport. Our hotel van will shuttle you to our beautiful lodging, which overlooks
San Jose and is surrounded by gardens and coffee plantations. In the evening,
we meet each other over a welcome dinner.
Day 2: After breakfast we'll drive along the Pan-American
Highway and begin our climb to Monteverde, a rich ecosystem supporting many
species of birds, mammals, insects, reptiles, flowering plants, and trees. With
a bit of luck, we may be rewarded with the sighting of the Resplendent Quetzal.
Later in the day we enjoy a hike in the Children's Eternal Rainforest. A lovely
eco-lodge reminiscent of an alpine chalet is our home base for the next two
nights, and we will enjoy a night walk this evening.
Day 3: This morning our local naturalist guides us in the
Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve to add more fascinating information to our trip
and bird species to our list! Keen observers may be able to spot the Resplendent
Quetzal. At the conclusion of the hike, we may visit a garden where many species
of hummingbirds feed. In the afternoon, there will be free time to further explore
the trails or in town, or enjoy one of these two activities: a canopy skywalk
to view the treetop world or the famous zip line in Monteverde. 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 travel to Arenal National Park, home to one
of the most active volcanoes in the world. From the little village of Fortuna
we enjoy a guided hike from Monteverde to Lago Arenal, where we board a small
boat, cross the lake, and drive to the Arenal Observatory Lodge. We'll spend
three nights here to enjoy the many opportunities for hiking, wildlife viewing,
and, of course, volcano watching! We will hike in the preserve around the lodge,
where the secondary forest environment and hardened lava flows provide diverse
microhabitats for a wide range of plants, animals, and birds. The spectacular
local residents include Three-wattled Bellbirds, Fasciated Tiger-Herons, Sunbitterns,
Laughing Falcons, Red-lored Parrots, Great Curassows, Northern Jacanas, Steely-vented
Hummingbirds, and Keel-billed Toucans. Here we will stay at a lovely lodge with
front-row volcano viewing from the deck, infinity swimming pool, and hot tub.
Photo: Kathleen Giel
Day 5: After breakfast we'll hike in the Arenal National Park,
through a forested area and onto the new lava flow beds. We'll learn about the
volcano's history from our local guide. In the afternoon we visit Ecotermales
Hot Springs Resort, where we will luxuriate in their hot springs.
Day 6: Today is our "free day" to just relax, or
enjoy the optional activities of birdwatching (on a tour or on your own), zip-lining,
going on a horseback ride tour, visiting the observatory museum, or enjoying
a short hike to a waterfall. Other options include relaxing in the gardens and
tropical pools, hiking up Cerro Chato, an extinct volcano to a crater lake,
or visiting a nearby organic farm.
Day 7: Today we travel east to the Caribbean coast. Our destination
is Tortuguero National Park, famous as the nesting ground for endangered sea
turtles including the Hawksbill, Loggerhead, Green, and Leatherback. We will
enjoy a hearty breakfast along the way. When we reach the park, we will travel
by boat to our hotel, which is surrounded by jungle waterways. In the afternoon
we visit the quaint town of Tortuguero. In the afternoon we will hike to Tortuguero
Town and visit the Turtle Conservation Research Station.
Photo: Kathleen Giel
Day 8: Today we take a boat tour through the canals, searching
for manatees and caimans on the water, and monkeys and sloths in the forest
above us. We’ll look for birds, too, such as Kingfishers, Herons, Toucans,
Parrots, and many other species. We will then hike in Tortuguero National Park
to experience the rain forest and learn about this vital and endangered ecosystem.
In the afternoon we will have free time to enjoy the pool and relaxed atmosphere
of our hotel before taking a night walk to the beach to witness the ancient
turtle nesting ritual.
Day 9: After breakfast we transfer out of Tortugero by boat
and then by our bus to our hotel in the historic area of San Jose and enjoy
a farewell dinner.
Day 10: Sadly, our trip comes to an end after breakfast. !Adios,
y pura vida!
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. You will be met at the
airport and transferred to our hotel. The leader will be happy to assist you
if you wish to extend your stay on either end of the trip.
Accommodations and Food
Photo: Rochelle Gerratt
Although this is not a luxury trip, we will stay in charming, locally owned
lodges and comfortable modern hotels. Most of our hotels carry and support Costa
Rica’s Certificate for Sustainable Tourism, which is a commitment to sustainability
not only at the lodge or hotel but also in the community. Rooms are double-occupancy;
if you come alone, you’ll be sharing with another person of the same gender.
A single supplement for solo travelers may be available. The food will be delicious
-- a mix of local and continental dishes, with a variety of tropical fruits
and vegetables. We'll travel by comfortable, private minibus. There will be
a few long drives, but the scenery along the way is spectacular.
This trip is suitable for individuals 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 some trails may
be steep with muddy spots and uneven terrain.
Although August is considered the end of the dry season, rain can fall at any
time in the tropics. Rain will not restrict our movements or our enjoyment of
the forests or coast. The Central Valley, which includes San Jose, Arenal, and
the Monteverde area, are noted for their eternally spring-like weather. The
lowland rain forest of Tortuguero is likely to be warmer, but not unpleasantly
Equipment and Clothing
Photo: Rochelle Gerratt
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
Photo: Rochelle Gerratt
The Sierra Club is an environmentally focused entity. We are concerned about
conservation and sustainability of resources, both locally and globally. Our
work is accomplished by volunteers and aided by a salaried staff, encouraging
grassroots involvement. Our outings seek to empower participants toward environmentally
understanding parallel concerns at home and abroad. In Costa Rica, we will get
an up close look at conservation in action. The country has long been committed
to protecting, rather than exploiting, its natural resources. Indeed, as Pulitzer
Prize-winning author Robert Cahn puts it, the Costa Rican park system is "in
some ways the most remarkable national park system in the world." All told,
it contains 34 protected areas, including 28 national parks, and the entire
system encompasses about 11 percent of Costa Rica's land area. When forest reserves
and wildlife refuges are included, the country's federal lands total about 25
percent. By comparison, our national parks cover about one-thirtieth of our
total land area.
There are, however, problems, regarding this protection. Outside of the national
parks and preserves, many areas have been deforested. Traditional tourist development
has impacted several areas, particularly the Pacific Coast. The present government
(and the electorate) are challenged by the need for true and permanent protection
of the environment while balancing economic development. We will have opportunities
to see both pristine and developed areas, and discuss the impact on communities
and the country on this trip.
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.
Rochelle Gerratt loves Costa Rica for its rich biological diversity, amazing scenery, and friendly people. She enjoys designing and leading natural history trips in the United States, Central and South America, Europe, and the Mideast. Rochelle has been leading international trips for Sierra Club Outings since 2000 and this will be her fourth trip to Costa Rica. Her trips feature contacts with local people, good food, and authentic cultural experiences. An avid birder and traveler, Rochelle works as a career coach when she is home. She looks forward to sharing Costa Rica's treasures with you.
General Notes About Sierra Club Trips