Trip Number: 14765A
Staff: Shlomo Waser
- Search for quetzals, scarlet macaws, four kinds of monkeys, and sloths
- Hike, explore, swim, snorkel, and relax in a tropical paradise
- Explore jungle waterways by riverboat and raft
- All meals, comfortable lodges and eco-lodges, and all gratuities
- Airport transfers and on-trip transportation in a private bus
- An expert naturalist who accompanies the entire trip, and local guides
Photo: Mary Menconi
Please note that the dates and trip number have changed from what was originally published.
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 four 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, boating, 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 air-conditioned 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
and a few amazing eco-lodges.
Come on this trip and fall in love with the beauty, biodiversity, and friendliness
of Costa Rica!
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.
Photo: John Hickok
Days 2-3: After breakfast, we drive south along the Talamanca
Mountains, heading toward 11,450-foot Cerro de la Muerte. We stop briefly to
study the unique paramo grass and shrub ecosystem at about 9,300 feet before
dropping 2,000 feet down to our cozy lodge that's 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 to a waterfall and later through an amazing
oak cloud forest.
Days 4-6: Today, we head to our amazing eco-lodge adjacent
Ballena Marine National Park, Costa Rica’s newest national park. This
Park is dedicated to protecting the migrating whales, 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 hammock in one
of the most beautiful settings on Costa Rica’s west coast.
Day 7: We drive north along the Pacific Coastal Highway to
our hotel adjacent to Carara National Park. After lunch we will have a riverboat
birding and crocodile tour on the Tarcoles River, sighting crocodiles, boat-billed
herons, anhingas, and maybe even the elusive pygmy kingfisher. The night is
spent at a serene eco-lodge and small farm, and we hope to see the resident
spectacled owls searching for insects this evening.
Photo: Mary Menconi
Day 8: We start the day by witnessing the daily flight of
the scarlet macaws over our lodge and numerous hummingbirds in the flowers by
the dining area. We take a morning hike in Carara National Park, following the
trails of the pecarries along the paths by the stream. After the hike we drive
to Palo Verde National Park, where we settle into our lodge -- a former retreat
for a Costa Rican family -- and swim, relax, and get ready for a big day tomorrow
in the wetland area along the Tempisque River.
Day 9: Today we take a riverboat tour along the mangrove forest
of the Tempisque River, looking for some of the wildlife that abounds here,
such as crocodiles, and a myriad of bird species, including the world’s
largest stork, the jabiru. We take a short hike after lunch, and then retreat
to our lodge, enjoying the quiet reserve. In the evening we tour the grounds
so see deer and the nightjars on the paths.
Days 10-11: Through the verdant countryside, we travel to
Arenal Volcano National Park and our luxurious cabins, all with fabulous views
of the volcano. We take time to relax in lovely local hot springs in very natural
surroundings. The following day, we hike in the Arenal National Park, walking
through the lava flows and the rejuvenation and ecological changes after a major
eruption. In the afternoon we enjoy a bird’s-eye view of the rainforest
from a treetop-canopy walkway, where we will see monkeys and hopefully peccaries
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
learn about the entire coffee production process. We then return to our delightful
hotel on the outskirts with a fantastic view of the San Jose valley. In the
evening, we enjoy a farewell dinner together, reliving our adventures with newfound
Photo: John Hickok
Day 13: After breakfast, we transfer you 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 at least until July 2014. This trip does
not include San Jose tourist sights or attractions in the Central Valley. The
leader will be happy to assist participants who wish to extend their stay to
see San Jose or other areas of Costa Rica.
Accommodations and Food
Although we won’t have the luxury of five-star hotels, we will stay in
lovely lodgings, many of which are true eco-lodges. Rooms will be double-occupancy,
so if you’re a solo traveler, you will be assigned a roommate of the same
gender. If you would like a single supplement, please contact the leader for
availability. The food is healthy, fresh, and wholesome. If you have special
dietary needs other than vegetarian, please contact the trip leader to see if
they can be accommodated.
Photo: Kath Giel
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 nature, 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.
We will be traveling in an air-conditioned Toyota Coaster private bus. 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 January.
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, so you will need a fleece jacket and perhaps
some light gloves and a hat.
Equipment and Clothing
Photo: Kath Giel
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: Kath Giel
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.
Shlomo Waser was born in Israel but has spent most of his adult life in the USA. Currently he lives in California in the San Francisco Bay Area, which has been his base to travel to many countries around the globe. He loves nature and wilderness, and is active in many outdoor activities such as hiking, backpacking, mountain climbing, trekking, trail running, and backcountry skiing. He loves to share his enthusiasm for nature and its beauty with other participants, and enjoys meeting new people on these trips.
General Notes About Sierra Club Trips