Trip Number: 14500A
Staff: Carol Marty
- Search for quetzals, scarlet macaws, dolphins, sloths, monkeys, and
- Kayak through a beautiful bay and ancient mangrove swamps
- Hike and enjoy hot springs near the Arenal Volcano
- All meals and lodging
- Guides and on-trip transportation
- Kayak rental and instruction
Photo: Martha Greason
The treasure-seeking conquistadors called it the "Rich Coast," but
Costa Rica offers much more than gold. The country's exotic plants and flowers,
colorful birds, unusual wildlife, and diverse biological zones will delight
your senses. We get close to nature in a variety of ways, from rainforest and
oak forest to mangrove swamps and seashores. Though our days are filled with
as much activity as you like -- hiking, bird watching, snorkeling, horseback
riding, and kayaking -- you also have the freedom to just relax in this tropical
You're likely to see a variety of wildlife including monkeys, coatis, sloths,
bats, the endangered and 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 travel comfortably by tourist 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 stay in very pleasant lodges. We will also enjoy a lovely
thermal pool area near the Arenal Volcano.
Photo: Martha Greason
Note: The following day-to-day itinerary may vary according to the availability
Day 1: Arrive at San Jose's international airport. The leader
will meet you and our hotel van will shuttle you to our lodging overlooking
San Jose. In the evening, we'll meet each other over a welcome dinner.
Day 2: After breakfast, we'll drive south from San Jose, stopping
along the way at the famed La Paz Waterfall and Gardens, where we enjoy the
exhibitions of butterflies, frogs, snakes, and hummingbirds. The area attracts
a huge number of butterflies and birds -- there are at least 800 varieties here
alone. After lunch we continue to the misty and beautiful cloud forest. At elevations
of over 7,000 feet, nights here can be chilly, but our lodge will be warm and
Day 3: Today we'll start with some early-morning bird watching,
which should reward us with sightings of quetzals, scarlet macaws, tropical
warblers, collared trogons, many hummingbirds, and any of 200 other species.
In the afternoon, you can hike the local trails or take a horseback ride to
a waterfall (not included in the trip price).
Photo: Martha Greason
Days 4-6: Following an early-morning birding walk and breakfast,
we will follow the Pan American Highway south, climbing steeply to the 10,600-foot
Cerro del Muerte, high above timberline. Here, we'll stop briefly to visit the
paramo highland scrub and tussock fields. This unique ecosystem is found only
here and in the Andes, in South America. Passing the city of San Isidro del
General, we'll head south to the lowland tropical rainforest of the Osa Peninsula.
Owing to its isolation, biological diversity, and large areas of old-growth
forest, the Osa Peninsula is one of Costa Rica's most important natural areas.
Here we are surrounded by the rainforest, and just outside your room are the
magical sounds, sights, and smells of this complex and majestic environment.
During our time here, we visit the mangrove environment of the Gulfo Dulce,
relax at the beach, and then kayak along a shore populated by flocks of scarlet
macaws and other species endemic to the mangrove. We will take a day trip to
Drake Bay and Corcovado National Park. Drake Bay was believed to be used by
Sir Francis Drake in the 16th century and was the location of one of the British
pirate's fabled hidden treasures. We take a boat to Corcovado National Park,
the only remaining old-growth wet forests on the Pacific coast of Central America.
There are 13 major ecosystems here, including lowland rain forest, highland
cloud forest, jolillo palm forest, and mangrove swamps, as well as coastal marine
and beach habitats. We will hike and swim, and may spy some anteaters, crocs,
and small, beautiful (but venomous) frogs. The Osa Peninsula is truly a "hidden
Photo: Martha Greason
Days 7-9: We'll head north, stopping in the town of Palmar
Sur to take a close look at the mysterious spheres made by the indigenous population
that lived in this area 1,000 years ago. A short while later we stop at a private
reserve overlooking the sea where an extremely attractive ecolodge will welcome
us for the next three nights. Our accommodations overlook the beautiful coast
of Ballena Marine National Park. This is one of Costa Rica's newest parks, dedicated
to protecting nesting grounds for brown boobies, frigate birds, and ibises.
From December to April, humpback whales and their offspring ply the waters here.
Our days will be spent hiking, exploring the tide pools, enjoying the private
beach, whale and dolphin watching, swimming, and snorkeling. There are miles
of trails, and the birdlife in the forest reserve is prolific. Our half-day
snorkeling trip should provide us the opportunity to observe and enjoy a variety
of marine life. You will also have a free day for optional activities (not included
in the trip price) to go snorkeling and whale watching at Cano Island, horseback
riding to a waterfall, hiking in the hills behind the lodge, or just relaxing.
Days 10-11: We will stay in a nearby lodge adjacent to Carara
National Park for two nights. This park protects the northernmost region of
the Pacific rainforest and is the beginning of the transition zone into the
tropical dry forests of the northwest. Carara National Park has excellent hiking
and birdwatching, which will be our morning activity. In the afternoon, we will
do some hiking in the area around our lodge. On the second morning, we'll awake
once again to the chattering monkeys and the calls of toucans, then tour the
Tarcoles River by boat for incredible bird watching and crocodile sighting.
Photo: Martha Greason
Days 12-15: Heading north along a scenic highway, we reach
Arenal National Park. Our hotel is located on the flank of the Arenal Volcano,
offering incredible views (weather permitting!). In the evening we might see
lava pouring out of the cone, for Arenal is currently one of the world's most
active volcanoes. The next morning, we will hike the Hanging Bridges of Arenal,
which is sure to delight everyone. We will hike in Arenal National Park in the
afternoon, and relax at Ecotermales Hot Springs in the evening. We will then
have a free day to enjoy zip-lining, horseback riding, or white-water rafting,
which is optional and not included in the price of the trip. After lunch, we'll
board our private minibus and head back to San Jose for our farewell dinner.
Day 16: Departure day. After breakfast, you can take an easy
taxi ride to the airport.
The trip begins and ends in San Jose, Costa Rica. You must make your own travel
arrangements to the starting point. 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 lodges. Rooms will all be double-occupancy, so if you're a solo traveler,
you will be assigned a roommate. For days five to seven, a few of the rooms
may be triple-occupancy, but these rooms are extra-large.
Photo: Martha Greason
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, 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
as they do at home. There may not be hot water or air conditioning in some of
our accommodations, rain will fall, clothes will get muddy and/or wet, and plans
will change, but that's all part of the charm of international travel. A few
of the bus rides will be long, but we'll mostly be on good roads, and the views
will be great.
To take advantage of the dry season, we've scheduled this trip during December
and January. The main part of our trip takes place in or near the Osa Peninsula,
which has year-round tropical weather, so it will be very-warm-to-hot and humid.
We can expect daily rain showers. (Rain occurs in every season in the tropics.)
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
The leader will send a detailed packing list to each registered participant.
- Lonely Planet Guidebook for 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 map, International Travel Maps Vancouver, B.C. Canada
Photo: Martha Greason
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.
The rate of deforestation has been reduced somewhat in the last decade and
there is a lot of reforestation and natural regeneration going on throughout
the country. Ecotourism has been an incentive for private conservation (about
3% of Costa Rica land currently) to preserve the environment. Parks, however,
lack money for facilities and staff. The entire country has a long way to go
in terms of recycling and waste management as well. The present government (and
the electorate) must be convinced of the need for true and permanent protection
of the environment in this beautiful country.
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.
Having spent some of her formative years living overseas, Carol Marty enjoys sharing her appreciation for other cultures and the outdoors in the hope that we can all be responsible global citizens. She is happiest when engaging in activities in the outdoors, from hiking to kayaking, skiing, snowshoeing, or snorkeling. Carol has led national Sierra Club trips for the past 10 years in the Caribbean and California, and three years ago she began leading internationally. Carol has traveled in 22 countries and has lived in many parts of the United States. She lives in Annapolis, Maryland, where she enjoys kayaking the rivers off the Chesapeake Bay.
General Notes About Sierra Club Trips