Trip Number: 13525A
Staff: Susan Kozacek
- Search for quetzals, scarlet macaws, monkeys, and sloths
- Hike, swim, and snorkel in a tropical paradise
- Explore jungle waterways by riverboat
- All meals, lodging, and gratuities
- Airport transfers and on-trip transportation
- Expert guides
Photo: Angela White
The treasure-seeking conquistadors called it the "Rich Coast," but
Costa Rica offers much more than gold, and the government has made conservation
a national priority. We’ll visit five national parks and two private reserves,
exploring diverse biological zones. The country's exotic plants and flowers,
colorful bird life, and unusual wildlife will delight your senses. We'll get
close to nature in a variety of ways, from rainforests and oak forests to mangrove
swamps and seashores. Though our days will be filled with as much activity as
you like -- hiking, bird watching, and snorkeling -- you'll also have the freedom
to just relax in this tropical wonderland.
We’re likely to see a variety of wildlife, including monkeys, coatis,
sloths, bats, the resplendent quetzal, toucans, and hummingbirds, as well as
an incredible range of insects, reptiles, and brilliantly colored amphibians.
The flora includes orchids, bromeliads, ginger, and the ceiba -- the sacred
tree of the indigenous people of Costa Rica.
We'll travel comfortably by small bus and enjoy spectacular scenery along the
way, feasting on tropical fruits and healthy, fresh, local cuisine. While this
isn't a luxury trip, we will stay in very pleasant lodges.
Photo: Susan Kozacek
Day 1: Arrive at San Jose’s international airport, where
you are met by our hotel bus. In the evening, get to know your traveling companions
at a welcome dinner.
Days 2-3: After breakfast, drive south along the Talamanca
Mountains, heading toward 11,450-foot Cerro de la Muerte. Stop briefly to study
the unique paramo grass and shrub ecosystem at about 9,300 feet before dropping
2,000 feet down to our lodge adjacent to the Savegre Biological Reserve. Our
guide helps us search for the quetzal and other exotic birds, and we will have
time to enjoy a hike in an unusual oak forest.
Days 4-6: Today, we head to our lodge at Ballena Marine National
Park, Costa Rica’s newest. This park is dedicated to protecting the nesting
grounds of brown boobies, frigate birds, and ibises. While at Ballena, we have
opportunities to spend time at the beach, take a snorkeling tour along the reefs,
hike on the trails (including a guided nighttime walk), identify as many birds
as we can from the comfort of the lodge's deck, or just relax in a beautiful
Day 7: We continue on to a stop at Manual Antonio National
Park, where we're almost sure to see large numbers of monkeys on our walk. The
beach here is thought to be one of the country's most attractive, so we take
time to enjoy it. Then we drive to our hotel adjacent to Carara National Park,
where we hope for sightings of crocodiles and the colorful scarlet macaw.
Day 8: After exploring by boat the mangrove forests of the
Tarcoles River and its abundant wildlife, we drive to Palo Verde National Park,
where we settle into our lodge, relax, and get ready for a big day tomorrow
in the wetland area of the park.
Photo: Susan Kozacek
We start out the day with a riverboat tour along the
mangrove forest of the Tempisque River and then hike a short distance to our
lunch stop. Along the way, we hope to see some of the wildlife that abounds
here, such as peccaries, anteaters, crocodiles, and a myriad of bird species,
including the world’s largest stork, the jabiru.
Days 10-11: Through the verdant countryside, we travel to
Arenal Volcano National Park and our hotel on the flank of the volcano. We take
time to relax in some lovely hot springs. The following day, we hike in the
park and enjoy a bird’s-eye view of the rainforest from a treetop-canopy
Day 12: Today we begin our return journey to San Jose, first
stopping at the top of Poas, a dormant volcano, to walk short paths for spectacular
views into the crater. Afterward, we will tour a local coffee plantation and
then return to our first hotel in San Jose. In the evening, we enjoy a farewell
dinner together, reliving our adventures with newfound friends.
Day 13: After breakfast, we are shuttled to the airport for
our flights home.
The trip begins and ends in San Jose, Costa Rica. You must make your own travel
arrangements to San Jose. It is served from the U.S. by several of the major
airlines. Airport transfers are included and will be arranged by the leader.
You will need a passport that is valid for at least six months beyond the trip
date. This trip does not include San Jose or attractions in the Central Valley.
The leader will be happy to assist participants who wish to extend their stay.
Accommodations and Food
Although we won’t have the luxury of four-star hotels, we will stay in
very nice lodgings. Rooms will be double-occupancy, so if you’re a solo
traveler, you will be assigned a roommate of the same gender. For days four
to six, some of the rooms may be triple occupancy. If you have special dietary
needs other than vegetarian, please contact the trip leader to see if they can
Photo: Susan Kozacek
This is an active leisure trip, though you'll have plenty of opportunities
for more strenuous pursuits. The trip is suitable for old and young alike (minimum
age is 12), as long as you are in reasonably good health, enjoy the wilderness,
and have a good-humored and flexible approach to traveling in Latin America.
Keep in mind that Costa Rica is still a developing country -- things don't always
run exactly like they do at home. Rain will fall, clothes will get muddy, and
plans will change, but that's all part of the charm of international travel.
The bus rides between lodgings are three to four hours with stops along the
way. We'll be on good roads most of the time, and the views will be great. The
hikes are optional but a very important part of the experience. The most challenging
one takes about four hours and climbs about 200 feet if you go all the way.
The others are mostly on level terrain. The pace is slow because we take time
to observe and study the plants and animals. We recommend that you work on your
conditioning in order to get the most out of the trip.
To take advantage of the dry season, we've scheduled this trip during February.
Temperatures vary with elevation. The Central Valley, which includes San Jose,
is known for its eternally spring-like weather, with average temperatures in
the high 60s. At lower elevations it is likely to be warm and humid. Cloud-forest
nights and mornings can be chilly.
Equipment and Clothing
Binoculars, camera, and a day pack (preferably waterproof) are highly recommended.
Snorkeling gear is furnished. The leader will send a detailed packing list to
each registered participant.
- Kricher, John, Neotropical Companian. This book has a second edition
that is updated and more expensive. The first edition is fine. This book goes
into a lot of detail about tropical ecosystems and it takes some time to digest
all the information, but is considered a classic for the neotropics and excellent
for anyone wanting to learn about this ecosystem (the book explains the term
neotropics as compared to tropics in general).
- Lonely Planet, Watching Wildlife: Central America. This book has
excellent information on the various wildlife we might see and discusses the
natural history of many of the species.
- Garrigues, Richard, The Birds of Costa Rica: A Field Guide. This
book is the easiest of the bird books to haul around and it has good bird
- Stiles, Gary, A Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica. This is the bird
book for the serious birder -- it is thick and has all sorts of detailed information.
Serious birders usually cut out the plates and leave the rest of the book
- Zuchowski, Willow, Tropical Plants of Costa Rica: A Guide to Native
and Exotic Flora. This is a great book for helping identify and learn
about plants we might see.
- Costa Rica, Borch Map, 2006.
- Costa Rica, National Geographic 2008.
Photo: Susan Kozacek
In Costa Rica, we will get an up-close look at the effects of 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% of Costa Rica's land area. When forest reserves and wildlife refuges are
included, the country's federal lands total about 25%. By comparison, the U.S.'s
national parks cover about 3% of our total land area.
There are severe problems, however, and signs of a weakening in this protection.
Outside of the national parks and reserves, almost the entire country has been
deforested. The nation's forests are falling at a faster rate than anywhere
else in the western hemisphere, and, as a percentage of national land area,
reportedly nine times faster than the rainforests of Brazil. The present government
(and the electorate) must be convinced of the need for true and permanent protection
of the environment. As we travel the country, we will learn about the conservation
successes and pitfalls that the Costa Ricans have encountered.
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.
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.
Susan Kozacek is a veteran leader of National Sierra Club trips in the past. She has spent the last 20 years trotting across the globe exploring the environments of Central and South America, Africa, Australia and the South Pacific. Susan spent more than two years living in the tropics of Panama as a Peace Corps volunteer in an indigenous village and has a repertoire of stories to share of this enlightening experience. Susan is a wildlife biologist and botanist by training and enjoyed a long career in her chosen fields. She continues to be an avid, life-long student of the environment and finds tropical ecosystems especially fascinating. New discoveries occur on every trip. She enjoys sharing her knowledge and experiences with trip participants and makes it her personal goal to insure that participants have a rewarding, safe and enjoyable trip. In addition to traveling, Susan enjoys bird watching, hiking, camping, scuba diving, gardening and art. Susan has found Costa Rica to be one of the easiest Central American countries to visit and looks forward to sharing her passion of Costa Rica's environments and culture. Susan welcomes any questions you may have about this trip. Please contact her e-mail address:
General Notes About Sierra Club Trips