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Costa Rica: Pura Vida!

On this intensive 9-Day program you will experience everything for which Costa Rica is famed: volcanos, fumaroles, mud baths, thermal springs, sky-blue waterfalls, crystal-clear swim holes, bird watching, horseback riding, rainforest zip-lining, caving, a river cruise, surfing lessons, amazing beaches, great food, and the best chocolate and coffee in the world.

You also spend a day volunteering at a wildlife rescue clinic where you can get up close (even touch) wildlife you would normally only see from a distance, and another day canyoning and tubing on the Rio Colorado or whitewater rafting on the Rio Tenorio (there are amazing wildlife spotting opportunities from the raft as it drifts between the rapids).

As with our other destinations we take maximum advantage of our small group footprint - whenever possible we pair up with private guides, start early, and take the trails less travelled.

Five National Parks, Wildlife Rescue Center & River Adventure

Rincon de la Vieja National Park

Protects over 54 square miles and is home to some of Costa Rica's most fascinating geology. Steam and sulphur pour out of the ground at fumeroles, pools bubble with boiling hot volcanic water, and the mud froths and explodes out of the ground.
There are almost a dozen waterfalls, rivers cross the trails and there is an enormous variety of vegetation and wildlife.
This is where we'll enjoy a sunset horseback ride and geo-thermal trail hike.

River Adventure (on 9-day only)

The Colorado is a small river with lots of huge boulders, natural water slides, pools of water warmed by the sun, and waterfalls. It's perfect for a relaxed day of river tubing, rope swings, swimming and canyoning.
The Cucaracho starts at the confluence of 4 rivers, winds for 12 miles through an amazing canyon, and includes 70 sections of Class III, Class IV, and Class V whitewater. It's perfect for an adrenaline packed day of rafting.
Which will you choose?

Arenal Volcano National Park

Home of La Fortuna Waterfall, Chato Volcano, 850 species of birds, and a wide variety of plant life. The lava on Arenal stopped flowing in 2010 and the crater is off limits, so we're here to hike up to the Chato Crater from La Fortuna waterfall.
The hike will give us our best chance to see some of the most elusive wildlife in Costa Rica (including the resplendent Quetzal) and the crater is filled with a green lagoon (swim in the brisk water, if you dare).

Wildlife Rescue (8-day and 9-day)

Human development and the accompanying destruction of natural habitat, not to mention illegal hunting, have led to a precipitous decline in wildlife populations across Costa Rica, causing many species to be in danger of extinction. The wildlife rescue center helps injured wild animals and educates the public on the struggle of these animals.
We'll help prepare meals, building enclosures, or cleaning and painting them. We'll get close enough to touch many animals we would normally only see from a distance.

Monteverde Cloudforest Reserve

The cool, misty forests are home to an incredible range of plants and animals - this cloud forest is home to more than 400 bird species, more plant speciesthan in the United States and Canada combined, and the largest concentration of orchids in the world.
This is where we'll wake up early for a dawn birding hike, go ziplining, and enjoy a trapiche (sugar and coffee) tour.

Barra Honda Caverns National Park

Home to a mesa that rises almost 1000 feet over the Tempisque valley. The mesa was formed when an ancient coral reef was forced upwards by a tectonic shift over 70 million years ago, and over the millennia rain has carved the limestone into caves filled with awe-inspiring calcite formations. We'll first climb to the top of the mesa, then we'll descend into the caves by ladder and spend a few hours exploring with guide.

Palo Verde National Park

One of the most important sanctuaries in Central America for migrating and resident waterfowl. The park itself encompasses a rich mosaic of tropical dry forest and magnificent wetlands, the Río Tempisque estuary supports a variety of mangroves, and Isla Pájaro is the most important nesting colony for wading birds in northwest Costa Rica. We'll board a private skiff with our guide for a two hour wildlife cruise.

Nicoya Peninsula

Famed for turtle nesting, surfing and endless beaches. We’ll end our trip unwinding here with a morning of surf lessons in Tamarindo, a half day exploring the best beaches, and some shopping!


1Rincón de la ViejaMeet your Group Director at the airport for an early morning flight to Costa Rica! Board your private shuttle for a ride to our hotel in Rincón de la Vieja Volcano National Park. We’ll stop along the way for lunch at a “soda” (a small family-run restaurant with typical Costa Rican dishes) and then again at a local grocery store to stock up on essentials like water, sunblock, and bug spray (Costa Rican grocery stores are also an opportunity to explore local snack foods like coconut flavored soda or ketchup flavored chips). On arrival at the hotel we’ll enjoy out the hot springs (we’re on the side of a volcano) before heading out across the hills on horseback to catch the sunset. The day ends with dinner at the hotel’s restaurant (we provide you with a cash stipend so you can order anything you like from the full menu).
2Whitewater Rafting
Canyoning & Tubing
Board shuttle for a ride to the Rio Tenorio or the Rio Colorado. Both are great experiences! The Rio Colorado is a small river, well suited to tubing and canyoning. The Rio Tenorio has great sections of Class IV whitewater rapids with lots of wildlife spotting during the quiet sections.
3Las Pailas Trail
Swimming Hole
Transfer to Arenal
Wake up to the smell of Costa Rican coffee and enjoy buffet breakfast before taking a morning hike along the Las Pailas Trail. This 2 hour guided hike around the base of the volcano will take us across dry forest, past geysers, and through a rainforest. We’ll keep our eyes open for toucans, spider monkeys, lizards, turkeys, birds and the rarely spotted sloths. Lunch then board our shuttle van for the transfer to our hotel in La Fortuna (the town at the base of Arenal Volcano). We’ll stop along the way to swim in a natural pool at the base of a huge waterfall. The day ends with dinner at a restaurant of your choice in La Fortuna (we have lots of recommendations, and your cash stipend).
4Wildlife RescueRelaxed breakfast and then we’re off to a wild animal rescue center, where you can spend the morning helping prepare meals suited to the diets of the various animals, getting up close to the animals (ever shake hands with a spider monkey?) and building, cleaning, or painting enclosures. The day ends with dinner at a restaurant of your choice in Santa Elena (we have lots of recommendations, and your cash stipend).
5 La Fortuna Waterfall
Guided Crater Hike
Transfer to Monteverde
Today we’re off to the Arenal Observatory we’ll find the trailhead for our hike up to the Cerra Chato Crater. On this guided hike we’ll pass through three different types of primary forest – rainforest, transition forest and cloud forest (as we get close to the summit). In the cloud forest we’ll keep our eyes open for the Emerald Toucanet, Black Guan and Black-faced solitaire. The views of Arenal Volcano on the way up are incredible, as are the views of the emerald pool from the lip of the crater before we descend down to the water’s edge. On our return we’ll have lunch and then board our shuttle van for a scenic drive around Lake Arenal to our hotel In Santa Elena (the town nearest Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve). We’ll stop for a swim in Lake Arenal along the way. The day ends with dinner at a restaurant of your choice in Santa Elena (we have lots of recommendations, and your cash stipend).
6Guided Birdwatching
Early breakfast! We’re off in search of Costa Rica’s most sought-after birds and morning is the best time to hear (and find) them. Monteverde is home to more than 400 species of bird including the Quetzal (always an OMG moment when we see one), azure-hooded jay, prong-billed barbet, black-faced solitaire and orange-bellied trogon. Next up, the canopy zipline tour: We’ll zipline from tree to tree hundreds of feet above the ground, sometimes crossing valleys on with cable distances over 1km! Students looking for an even bigger adrenaline rush can try the tarzan swing. After the canopy tour we’re off on a Trapiche Tour where we’ll learn about the production of coffee and sugar cane before making chocolate and candy (you can take it home). The day ends with dinner at a restaurant of your choice in Santa Elena (we have lots of recommendations, and your cash stipend).
7Barra Honda Caving
Rio Tempisque Cruise
Choratega Pottery
Early breakfast! Today we leave for the surfer's paradise of Tamarindo on the Nicoya Peninsula. Along the way we'll visit Baria Honda National Park, Palo Verde National Park, and Guaitil de Santa Cruz. Baria Honda is home to a mesa that rises almost 1000 feet over the Tempisque valley where we'll descend into the cave by ladder and spend a few hours exploring with guides. Palo Verde is home to the estuary of the Rio Tempisque which we'll explore by boat. Guaitil is home to Chorotega-style pottery which we'll see being crafted. On arrival in Tamarindo we’ll get oriented with a walk around town and then we'll have some free time to explore before meeting for dinner at the restaurant of your choice (we have lots of recommendations, and your cash stipend).
8Surf Lessons
Beaches Tour
Surf's up! After a relaxed breakfast we meet our instructors for two hours of surfing lessons in warm, crystal-clear, turquoise waters. After the lessons we’ll take some time with our boards to hone our new skills then we’ll board our private shuttle to go swimming at the top three beaches in Tamarindo. We’ll start with the beach that has the best restaurant (it’s right on the beach), then we’ll go to the one with the best views, then we’ll end with the one that has the nicest sand. The day ends with some time to go souvenir shopping in Tamarindo before farewell dinner at the restaurant of your choice (we have lots of recommendations, and your cash stipend).
9AirborneBoard your private shuttle for a ride to the airport. Flight home. ¡Adiós Costa Rica!

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