Trip Number: 13760A
Price: $2,425 (12-15)
$2,795 (or fewer)
Staff: Mary Menconi
- Explore active volcanoes and search for nesting turtles on a remote
- Kayak volcanic islands in Lago Colcibolca, the largest lake in Central
- Hike national parks and UNESCO reserves, searching for colorful birds
and exotic plants
- Full-time bilingual naturalist guide
- Accommodations, all meals, entrance fees, and gratuities
- Transport by private air-conditioned coach
The Thanksgiving holidays are a perfect time for an adventure to two fascinating
countries: Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Both countries have active volcanoes, verdant
jungles, and colorful birds. Wildlife and plants from north, south, east, and
west all mingle in this land of incredible biodiversity. Nicaragua is fast becoming
a popular destination for adventurous travelers. And Costa Rica has long been
famous for its outstanding natural areas.
On this trip we will hike volcanoes, explore cloud forests, search for nesting
turtles, and experience firsthand why these countries are such a magnet for
nature lovers and adventurers. We will also appreciate the cultural richness
of this fascinating area as we visit historical sites and meet local people
who understand the value of protecting their environment. Nicaragua and Costa
Rica are exciting, colorful destinations for travelers seeking an experience
rather than an arm-chair tour. You just might fall in love with this “Crossroads
of the Americas”!
Photo: Jose Vargas
This is our planned itinerary, but some activities are weather dependent, and
high winds or hard rain may require us to change our plans. Also, we may adjust
our schedule to take advantage of a local festival or special event in the area
we are visiting.
Day 1: Our trip begins in the late afternoon at the Sandino
International Airport in Managua, Nicaragua. Our private bus will meet us there
to take us to our lovely accommodations in the colonial city of Granada, an
historic gem of Spanish colonialism dating to the early 16th century. In the
evening we meet our fellow travelers at dinner, our first meal together, and
settle into our comfortable hotel for the next four nights.
Day 2: After a brief drive, we enjoy a morning hike at nearby
Masaya Volcano National Park to see and learn about one of the most active volcanoes
in Nicaragua. Lunch will be served at a delightful viewpoint over the Apoyo
Lagoon in Santa Catarina, where we savor the local flavors and color. We visit
the Mercado Viejo, the premier market for handmade crafts in the country, to
see the works of artisans from the nearby Pueblos Blancos (White Villages),
famous for their traditional festivals and unique folk arts. We return to Granada
for dinner together this evening.
Day 3: This morning we take to the water to kayak Las Isletas,
an archipelago formed 20,000 years ago by an eruption of Volcan Mombacho. It’s
a premier place for water birds, and we may see some of the local islanders
who maintain their traditional fishing lifestyle using dugout canoes, so we
will take the time to enjoy our surroundings. After lunch we will have a walking
tour of Granada to visit the many historical sites in this well-preserved colonial
city. Tonight we will eat dinner together in Granada.
Photo: Mary Menconi
Day 4: We adventure to the nearby Mombacho Volcano Nature
Reserve. From the base of this dormant volcano, the park eco-mobile carries
us to the biological station where we will spend the morning hiking moderate
trails around the crater. The cloud forests of Mombacho protect the most important
watershed of this area and are home to hundreds of different bromeliads and
orchids, as well as three kinds of monkeys and many species of birds, reptiles,
and amphibians. After lunch at the park we will return to Granada for some free
time and dinner together in the evening.
Day 5: Today we board a ferry for Isla de Ometepe, about an
hour’s travel across the largest lake in Central America. Formed by twin
volcanoes rising out of Lake Colcibolca, Ometepe was sacred to the Nahuatl Indians,
and was declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 2010. The island is home to troops
of howler monkeys, flocks of noisy parakeets, and a number of farming cooperatives
that welcome visitors. We will be hosted by one of these cooperatives as guests
of their “community based tourism” and will learn how they have
managed to thrive on this isolated island. We will have lunch and a swim at
Charco Verde, a forest reserve providing habitat to monkeys and water birds,
and popular with Nicaraguan families. Late in the day we will return to the
mainland and cross the very narrow isthmus between the shore of Lake Ometepe
and San Juan del Sur, a lovely beach town and fishing harbor. This will be our
home for the next two nights.
Photo: John Hickok
Day 6: We will celebrate Thanksgiving Day at the beautiful
Playa el Coco. This area is one of the major nesting sites of the endangered
Olive Ridley sea turtle, and we will meet with a turtle conservation organization
that's working with local residents to help save the species. While we cannot
guarantee that we will see turtles in the wild, our visit will be during their
major nesting time. Tonight we go to the beach with the hope of seeing an arribada,
the mass arrival of egg-laying females.
Day 7: Today we get our passports stamped at the Costa Rican
border and head for the volcanic Rincon de la Vieja National Park. This entire
area was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1999, and protects one
of the largest areas of dry forest in Central America. This is also one of Costa
Rica's finest bird watching areas. Toucans, parrots, magpie jays, and collared
aracaris are common. After lunch we will spend several hours hiking in the park,
and add some new species to our bird list. This evening we stay at a cozy ecolodge
in the gorge of the Rio Colorado, which will be our home for the next two nights.
Photo: Kath Giel
Day 8: This morning we visit Santa Rosa National Park, where
a short hike brings us to the historic Hacienda Santa Rosa, La Casona. Here
the volunteer army of Costa Rica defeated the mercenary forces of William Walker
in 1856, and the invasion forces of Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza in
1955. We will eat lunch on a remote Pacific beach and swim in its warm tropical
water. We return to our mountain lodge on the Rio Colorado to share our last
evening together at a farewell dinner.
Day 9: After breakfast our bus will transport us to the International
Airport in Liberia or onward to San Jose. We say "Adios" until next
This trip begins in Managua, Nicaragua and ends in Liberia, Costa Rica, with
an optional bus ride to San Jose. American, United, Taca, and other airlines
have flights into Managua and out of Liberia or San Jose. If possible, please
plan to arrive in Managua in the afternoon instead of at night as we will be
staying in Granada, about an hour from the Managua airport. Transportation from
Managua to Granada is included in the trip price.
Liberia is very well located for additional explorations of Costa Rica, including
the extensive beaches of Guanacaste and the Nicoya Peninsula, and the famous
cloud forest reserves of Monteverde. We also provide a complementary bus ride
to San Jose, the capital city of Costa Rica, for those wishing to explore that
part of the country, or to depart from San Jose. The leader is happy to assist
those who wish to extend their stay to enjoy more of this enchanting country!
Accommodations and Food
Photo: John Hickok
Our accommodations are small hotels and charming ecolodges that are clean and
comfortable. Rooms are double occupancy with a roommate arranged for those who
are traveling solo. All meals are included and we will have the opportunity
to enjoy traditional foods and abundant tropical fruits, vegetables, and local
fish. Vegetarians can easily be accommodated but it may be difficult to provide
a range of options for vegans.
This is an active leisure trip, and is suitable for all who are in reasonably
good health, enjoy nature, and have a good-humored and flexible approach to
travel. As with all active trips, you will enjoy the trip more if you are in
good physical condition for the activities described above.
Most of our hikes will be 2-6 miles, with some steep sections. Trails in Central
America tend to be muddy, rocky, and with many exposed tree roots so it is easy
to trip and fall. You should have adequate balance, wear hiking shoes with good
treads, and consider bringing hiking poles. Our kayaking will be leisurely so
we can bird watch from our boats, however wind can make paddling more difficult.
Temperatures in November are likely to be in the 70s and 80s, but it can feel
much hotter with the high humidity typical of the tropics. In the cloud forest
we are likely to have cool mists, and we will often experience heat and chill
in the same day as we move up and down in elevation. We’ll be traveling
toward the end of the rainy season so we can also expect some tropical showers.
All of these situations can add to the difficulty of the trip.
Keep in mind that both Nicaragua and Costa Rica are developing countries --
things don't always go exactly as planned and no specifics in our itinerary
can be guaranteed to happen exactly as presented in this brochure. Nicaragua
is one of the poorest countries in the Americas and standards may not be what
we are used to. Again, a flexible attitude and sense of adventure will add to
your enjoyment of this trip!
Equipment and Clothing
You will need a passport that is valid for at least six months beyond the
trip date, but visas are not required. No specific vaccinations are required
for the areas we will be visiting, but check with your doctor or the CDC for
current recommendations. You must have a current tetanus booster, and vaccination
for Hepatitis is advised.
Our trip is toward the end of the rainy season, so you will need rain gear
and hiking shoes with good treads as trails are wet, muddy, and slippery. Packing
light in soft-sided luggage is recommended because our bags may be carried on
top of the bus. If your luggage is not waterproof we recommend bringing a large
waterproof bag or pack cover to protect it from rain. A detailed packing list
and other information will be provided by your leader.
- 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.
- Pariser, Harry S., Explore Costa Rica.
- Lonely Planet guidebooks for Nicaragua, Costa Rica.
- Nicaragua map and Costa Rica map, International Travel Maps Vancouver,
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 both Nicaragua and Costa Rica we will get an up-close look at conservation
in action. We will have opportunities to see both pristine and developed areas,
and to discuss their impacts on local communities. As in the U.S., Nicaraguans
and Costa Ricans are challenged by balancing environmental protection with economic
Costa Rica is a more prosperous country with a long history of peaceful democracy.
It has been better able to protect natural areas and to reforest its land, and
is now receiving substantial economic benefit from ecotourism. However, many
areas have also been damaged by traditional tourist development, especially
along the Pacific Coast.
Nicaragua, on the other hand, has faced dictatorships, revolutions, and major
earthquakes and hurricanes. Logging and farming are a way of life for many Nicaraguans.
Even so, great natural beauty and abundant wildlife still exist. Nicaraguans
want to protect their natural areas, but often there isn’t the money or
training for protection. Our visits and tourist dollars will demonstrate the
value of these resources and will help encourage Nicaraguans to preserve their
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.
Mary Menconi fell in love with Central America on her first trip, and has returned many times since then. It's partly the amazing nature, and partly the friendly people that draw her back time after time. An amateur naturalist, she particularly enjoys tropical environments. She has traveled extensively throughout Latin America, and has led Sierra Club trips to Costa Rica and Nicaragua. She brings a lively humor and a passionate interest in the natural world to her trips.
General Notes About Sierra Club Trips