Real Affordable Costa Rica

Terms & Conditions

Trip Date
Number of Days
14
Highlights & Inclusions
  • International airfare, airport transfers, government taxes, fees, and airline fuel surcharges unless you choose to make your own air arrangements*
  • All land transportation
  • Accommodations for 13 nights
  • 32 meals—13 breakfasts, 10 lunches, 9 dinners (including 1 Home-Hosted Lunch)
  • 14 small group activities
  • Explore in a small group of 8-16 travelers (average group size of 13)
  • Services of a local O.A.T. Trip Experience Leader
  • Gratuities for local guides, drivers, and luggage porters
  • 5% Frequent Traveler Credit toward your next adventure

*Airport transfers are only available for travelers arriving and departing to/from the same airport and on the same arrival/departure dates as the main trip

 

Please note:
Deposit requirement on land trips is $350
Past traveler savings of 5% if you traveled from 2018 onward
New travelers get $100 savings

Itinerary

Once you begin your Costa Rica travel, you will discover a country roughly the size of West Virginia with an incredible amount of biodiversity. More than one-quarter of the nation is protected land, and swirling white-water rivers thrill ... hot springs soothe ... and tropical forests enthrall, making Costa Rica an adventure-seeker’s paradise.

In addition to exploring its prime locales by horseback, raft, and trail under the guidance of our expert local Trip Experience Leader, we’ll also discover Costa Rica’s other great natural resource—its people. Traveling with such a small group, we’ll spend A Day in the Life of a local village, where we'll engage in intimate interactions and candid conversations. We'll enjoy a Home-Hosted Lunchwith a local family, discuss Controversial Topicslike trawling and immigration, and meet children at a village school—supported in part by Grand Circle Foundation. From the rapids of the Río Sarapiquí to the tropical forests of Tirimbina, from the mountains of Alajuela to the sun-drenched Pacific Coast, Costa Rica beckons us with countless wonders, all summed up by a popular saying among Costa Ricans: pura vida—this is the life.

Thanks to the small group size—just 8-16 travelers, with an average of 13—expert Trip Experience Leaders can bring you behind the scenes and off the beaten path to have authentic cultural experiences with local people. And whenever you’d like, you have the freedom to explore more of Costa Rica on your own: Break off from the group for independent discoveries—like visiting the opulent National Theater in San José or taking a rain forest chocolate tour in La Fortuna—during free time.

 

DAY 1

Depart U.S. • Arrive San José, Costa Rica
Destinations: San José, Costa Rica
Accommodations: Parque del Lago Boutique Hotel or similar

Afternoon/Evening: You depart the U.S. for San José, Costa Rica today. Upon arrival at the airport, an O.A.T. representative meets us and assists with the 30- to 45-minute bus transfer to our hotel. There, we meet our Trip Experience Leader and our fellow travelers, including those arriving from the pre-trip extension to Antigua & Tikal: Guatemala's Colonial Capital and Mayan Ruins or New! El Salvador: Colonial Suchitoto, San Salvador & the Flower Route. Rooms at your centrally-located hotel in San José should include complimentary wireless Internet and air-conditioning, as well as a safe, minibar, coffee- and tea-making facilities, cable TV, and private bath with a shower and hair dryer. The evening is free to relax or explore on your own.

DAY 2

Discover Escazú • Explore San José
Destination: San José
Meals included: B L
Accommodations: Parque del Lago Boutique Hotel or similar

Breakfast: Served at the hotel featuring Costa Rican and American dishes, beginning at 6am.

Morning: Today begins with a Welcome Briefing with our Trip Experience Leader around 9am. During this 1-hour briefing, we will introduce ourselves and review our itinerary in more detail (including any changes that may need to occur). Our Trip Experience Leader will also discuss logistics, safety and emergency procedures, and answer any questions we may have.

Then, around 10:15am, we’ll depart by private motorcoach for a 20-minute drive to the nearby suburb of Escazú. We’ll arrive a little after 10:30am and set out with our Trip Experience Leader for a 30-minute walking tour of this neighborhood, which is popular among Costa Rica’s expat community. We’ll learn about a popular local tradition when we visit a monument dedicated to the Dia de los Boyeros, an annual parade of brilliantly-painted ox-drawn carts which celebrates Costa Rica’s agrarian heritage. We’ll also walk through the downtown district of San Antonio de Escazú to see highlights such as the city church, and connect with some of the locals as they go about their daily lives.

Next, we’ll walk to a local mask-making workshop where we’ll spend an hour trying our hand at this local craft tradition. We’ll learn about the role that mascaras—traditional Costa Rican masks—play in local culture. Most notably, these expressive visages are worn during the annual masquerade that takes place each year on October 31. An expert artisan will show us some examples of their craft, and guide us through the steps as we try making some mascaras of our own.

Our tour will conclude around 12pm, and we’ll depart to a nearby restaurant for lunch.

Lunch: We'll gather for a Welcome Lunch at a local restaurant in San Antonio de Escazú around 12:15pm to enjoy local specialties.

Afternoon: After lunch, we’ll return to San Jose and begin a 30-minute panoramic tour of the downtown area. Our Trip Experience Leader will point out some of the landmarks of the city, such as the National Park, San José’s largest park, or the National Theatre, considered one of the country’s most impressive architectural accomplishments.

Our tour will conclude around 2pm, when we’ll be dropped off near the city’s central park. We’ll then have the rest of the day to explore independently. Your Trip Experience Leader will be happy to suggest activities to suit your interests—perhaps you'll mingle with locals and sample the gourmet offerings and craft beer at Barrio Escalante, the city's trendy gastronomic neighborhood.

Dinner: On your own during your free evening. Perhaps you’ll seek out casado, a popular dish of rice, beans, plantains, salad, and picadillo—ask your Trip Leader for the best place to find this traditional meal.

Evening: You have the freedom to spend the rest of your evening as you wish. Consider experiencing this vibrant city by night or taking advantage of your hotel’s amenities.

DAY 3

Explore Poás • Visit coffee finca • Controversial Topic: Nicaraguan immigration with plantation owner Don Miguel & migrant worker Nery • Overland to Sarapiquí
Destination: Sarapiquí
Meals included: B L D
Accommodations: La Quinta Sarapiquí Lodge or similar

Exclusive O.A.T. Activity: Today's experiences include a conversation about the Controversial Topic of Nicaraguan immigration in Costa Rica with plantation owner Don Miguel and Nicaraguan migrant worker, Nery Tinoco. During this discussion, we'll learn about the economic and political factors that have driven hundreds of thousands of Nicaraguans to Costa Rica in search of a better life. We’ll also hear about immigration from the perspective of local business owners who employ them. Read more about this activity below.

Activity Note: The coffee farm we visit this morning is at an elevation around 6,500 feet. We recommend staying hydrated and eating light while at high altitude. Travelers may rest at the hotel if necessary.

Breakfast: Served buffet-style at the hotel featuring Costa Rican and American dishes from 6am-8am.

Morning: We will explore the town of Poás by meeting its people and learning about their livelihoods today. Departing from our hotel around 8:30am, we will drive a little over an hour by bus to visit a family-owned coffee finca, or farm, located on the fertile slopes of Poás Volcano. After arriving around 10am, we’ll enjoy a tour of the finca, learning how this world-renowned coffee is grown, harvested, processed, and packaged. The owner, Don Miguel or “Pancho,” will also explain the benefits and challenges of competing with larger coffee plantations as a smaller family-owned business. Our tour will conclude with a demonstration of roasting methods, at which point we will then delve into a conversation about a Controversial Topic currently affecting Costa Rica: the (often illegal) immigration of Nicaraguans. To illuminate the issue, we’ll sit down with Don Miguel and his wife Jeanette, as well as Nery Tinoco, a Nicaraguan migrant and coffee picker.

Drawn by the promise of a better life, Nery migrated illegally to Costa Rica in 2000. More than 20 years later, she still resides here—along with her four Costa Rican-born children—and fortunately, she was recently granted residency. However, as we’ll learn, it hasn’t been an easy road—in fact, Nery’s mother was only able to come to Costa Rica a few years ago, while her father and siblings were sent to work in neighboring communities. Migrant families, like Nery’s, are forced to make unimaginable sacrifices, and we’ll come to understand some of them as her story unfolds. In stark contrast to the migrant experience, we’ll also hear from Don Miguel and Jeanette about the difficulties of running an artisan coffee plantation, like the constant struggle of balancing operating costs and quality. Like other plantation owners, they built their lives around this operation—and they, too, are presented with challenging decisions every day.

Nicaragua is the poorest country in Central America, with 48% of the population living below the poverty line. The country was decimated by civil war in the 1980s and continues to suffer from political instability and militia violence today. In comparison, Nicaragua's southern neighbor Costa Rica offers universal healthcare, a robust educational system, relative economic prosperity, and political stability. No wonder then that there are now 287,000 Nicaraguans living in Costa Rica (though unofficial estimates put this number closer to half a million).

Of course, increases in foreign immigration are often tied with rises in xenophobia, and Costa Rica is no exception. Many Costa Ricans resent the influx of Nicaraguans, who benefit from Costa Rica's hearty social policies but sometimes do not pay taxes. But as Nery attests, life in Costa Rica for Nicaraguan immigrants is rarely easy: the only jobs available to them are often in low-wage, seasonal positions or in physically demanding agricultural roles, jobs that Costa Ricans typically don't want. Still, migrants like Nery are fortunate to have escaped the poverty that many Nicaraguan immigrants find themselves in, a poverty that sometimes forces them into the drug trade or even prostitution.

We'll hear Nery, Don Miguel, and Jeannette speak about the issue for approximately 20 minutes this morning. Then, we'll have about 40 minutes to ask any questions we have. You might ask how the attitude towards Nicaraguans in Poás compares to that in the capital of San José. Or you may be curious to hear about Nery’s experience becoming a Costa Rican citizen after living in the country for more than 20 years.

Lunch: At the finca with the owners around noon featuring olla de carne, a traditional soup made with meat and vegetables.

Afternoon: Following lunch around 1pm, we'll walk board our bus and embark on our 3-hour bus journey to Sarapiquí. We arrive at our comfortable lodge outside the town of La Virgen around 3:45pm. Typical rooms at the rain forest lodge feature doors opening onto a deck where you can observe birds and wildlife and a private bathroom. The grounds may include gardens and a small pool, while hotel facilities may include a bar and restaurant. Upon arrival, we’ll have about two hours of free time to settle in.

Dinner: Around 6:30pm at the hotel, featuring traditional hot and cold dishes.

Evening: You have the freedom to spend the rest of your evening as you wish. After today’s transfer, you may choose to relax at the lodge, enjoying the natural scenery around you.

DAY 4

River rafting • Visit a local cantina
Destination: Sarapiquí
Meals included: B L D
Accommodations: La Quinta Sarapiquí Lodge or similar

Breakfast: Served at the lodge featuring Costa Rican and American dishes from 6am-8am.

Morning: Around 8:30am, we'll drive about 20 minutes by bus to the nearby Río Sarapiquí. Flowing into the San Juan River and the Lake of Nicaragua, the Sarapiquí is one of several rivers that run down from Costa Rica's mountainous central highlands, the Cordillera Central. The surrounding land varies in altitude from 112 to 9,500 feet, which is a big reason so many migratory birds congregate in the region—more than 300 species of them at last count. Here you have a choice: rafting on Class I-III rapids of the Sarapiquí, or learning about tropical flora and fauna during a walk along its banks.

Costa Rica is a destination for rafters from around the world, and we surveyed several of its rivers before selecting the Sarapiquí for the quality of its rapids, which are sporty enough to be fun, but mild enough to be enjoyed by first-timers. Those who opt to raft will get about a 20-minute introduction to river safety from our professional boatmen before we board the raft and enjoy the ride. We'll embark around 10am and spend just under two hours exploring the rapids of this river.

For those who prefer not to raft, a local guide will lead a nature walk through the gardens and gallery forest that surround the Sarapiquí. This walk will provide the opportunity to spot some of the region's more elusive animal species, and to view the rich flora of this verdant environment up close. Both the river rafting and the nature walk last about two hours, after which the two groups will come together for time to relax in the mid-day sun and compare notes about our morning's discoveries. We'll board our bus around noon and drive about 10 minutes to a nearby lodge where you'll have the opportunity to change clothes and sit down for lunch.

Lunch: Around 12:15pm at the lodge's restaurant featuring local dishes.

Afternoon: Following lunch around 1:15pm, we'll walk about 10 minutes back to our bus and begin the 10-minute drive back to the lodge. We return to the lodge around 1:45pm when you’ll have about four hours of free time. Perhaps you'll choose to spot indigenous wildlife at either the Wildlife Center Snake Garden or Dave & Dave Nature Park.

Dinner: Around 6:30pm at the lodge, featuring traditional hot and cold dishes.

Evening: Around 7:30pm, we'll drive in to town by private motorcoach for about 5 minutes to visit a local cantina. We’ll spend about an hour here, and enjoy the opportunity to have authentic and unscripted people-to-people interactions as we mingle with the townsfolk who have come to relax and enjoy a drink at the end of a hard day’s work. You might try drinking local specialties like a pint of Imperial, the local beer, or Cacique Guaro, a local rum-like liquor made from sugarcane.

We’ll return to our lodge at around 8:30pm, where you'll have the remainder of the evening free for your own discoveries. Perhaps you'll relax in your room, or enjoy a drink with fellow travelers at the lodge's bar.

Pineapple Farm - $35/person

You've probably savored some of this sweet, delicious fruit from Costa Rica—now see where it's grown. Join us on an in-depth tour of a family-owned pineapple finca (farm) to discover how the region's fertile, volcanic soil nurtures these tropical plants, learn about their past and present cultivation techniques, tour the finca's fields and facilities, and enjoy a taste of the "Fruit of Kings."

DAY 5

Tirimbina nature walk • Travel to Chachagua
Destination: Chachagua
Meals included: B L D
Accommodations: Chachagua Rainforest Hotel or similar

Activity Note: Today's transfer will take about three hours, including one stop along the way.

Breakfast: Served buffet-style at the lodge featuring Costa Rican and American dishes, beginning at 6am.

Morning: We'll depart the lodge around 8am for a 10-minute drive to visit the Tirimbina Biological Reserve, an innovative education and research center devoted to the preservation of this endangered tropical forest ecosystem. We'll enjoy a 2-hour nature walk led by your Trip Experience Leader along the reserve's woodland trails, crossing the nearly 860-foot suspension bridge over the Río Sarapiquí. Around 10am, we'll drive about 10 minutes back to the lodge where we'll have about 1.5 hours of free time to relax before lunch.

Lunch: Around noon at the lodge featuring a selection of hot and cold dishes.

Afternoon: At about 1pm, we’ll check out of our lodge and depart by bus for our hotel in Chachagua, located on a private rain forest reserve, about a 2.5-hour transfer. Along the way, we’ll stop around 2pm to visit a local town, where we’ll have about 30 minutes to explore before we board our bus and continue on to Chachagua. During our transfer, we’ll learn to speak as the locals do during a Spanish language lesson.

After arriving at our hotel around 4pm, we’ll take an orientation walk around its lush grounds and spend about two hours exploring on our own. Depending on where you stay, hotel amenities may include an outdoor swimming pool, access to hiking trails, and a restaurant. Typical rooms feature wireless Internet, and a private bath. At about 6pm, our Trip Experience Leader will lead an optional 1-hour conversation about Costa Rica’s educational system.

Dinner: Around 7pm at the lodge, featuring local and international cuisine.

Evening: You’ll be free this evening to relax after today’s transfer or enjoy a nightcap at the hotel bar.

DAY 6

A Day in the Life of San Juan de Peñas Blancas village • Grand Circle Foundation visit: San Juan de Peñas Blancas school • Home-Hosted Lunch
Destination: Chachagua
Meals included: B L D
Accommodations: Chachagua Rainforest Hotel or similar

Exclusive O.A.T. Activities: Today's discoveries feature A Day in the Life of San Juan de Peñas Blancas village. This exclusive O.A.T. activity offers an intimate glimpse into the day-to-day lives of everyday people as we immerse ourselves in a local community and join them where they live and work. We'll also visit a Grand Circle Foundation-sponsored elementary school to see how your fellow travelers' contributions are making a difference. Finally, we’ll enjoy a Home-Hosted Lunch with a local family, during which we’ll break into smaller groups of no more than 5 in order to develop personal connections with our hosts. Read more below.

Breakfast: Served buffet-style at the lodge featuring Costa Rican and American dishes, beginning at 6am.

Morning: Today we’ll depart the lodge by bus around 9am and drive about 15 minutes to a local grocery store, where we’ll pick up some fresh produce and other necessities for the lunch we’ll later enjoy. Take this opportunity to speak with local people as they go about their shopping and observe the daily rhythm of life. At about 9:45am, we’ll board the bus again for a 10-minute ride to San Juan de Peñas Blancas, a small village where we’ll spend A Day in the Life. Here. Our time here includes a visit to a local elementary school, supported in part by Grand Circle Foundation, as well as a stop by a women’s association followed by lunch in the home of a local family.

Upon arrival around 10am, we'll meet with community leader and women’s association manager, Rocio Trejos. When Rocio moved to San Juan de Peñas Blancas, it was lacking basic services and even roads. After starting a family here, Rocio was inspired to join other residents in making a difference in the community—from collecting money for the local school to sponsoring the renovation of an important bridge and funding drug recovery programs. Today, she serves as the elected President of the Community Association, as well as the manager of a women’s cooperative we’ll visit later this morning.

Shortly after meeting Rocio, she’ll guide us to the local elementary school—supported in part by Grand Circle Foundation—where the children will warmly welcome us in colorful costumes and perform a dance traditional to the area. Founded in 1987, San Juan de Peñas Blancas School was originally a one-room education center that grew over the years to encompass six classrooms. Currently, the school has about 75 full-time students that range in age from 6-17 years old. Being that this is a remote area, most (if not all) of the children come from families that work in the agricultural sector, many of whom never received a formal education.

During our visit, we’ll spend some time with the students one-on-one, talk with their teachers, meet the principal, and learn about Costa Rica's universal educational system. Long a national priority—and a focus of government spending following the abolition of its army—Costa Rica's policy of universal education has resulted in a literacy rate of 96%. Take this opportunity to ask any questions you may have about the Costa Rican education system—perhaps you’re curious to know what prompted the country to put such an emphasis on education, or maybe you’ll ask if everyone agrees with the abolition of its army.

After discussing the education system, we’ll head outside to see how Grand Circle Foundation is making a difference at the school. We’ll begin by touring the orchard garden, butterfly garden, and henhouse—new additions to the grounds—where the children can learn about local ecosystems, sustainable gardening, nutrition, and more. Guided by their teachers, students are responsible for caring for and developing expertise about the plants and animals. Depending on the weather, our small group may have an opportunity to get our hands dirty and help the children with daily tasks, such as tending the vegetables and feeding the chickens. Take this opportunity to ask any questions you may have about curriculum, or perhaps you'll ask the children what they like best about outdoor learning.

Around 11:30am, Rocio will then lead us on a 30-minute walk through the village, introducing us to some of the local residents and bringing us into various shops. One of the organizations we’ll visit is the local women’s association Rocio manages. As we’ll learn, this grassroots organization aims to help women start their own businesses and thrive in the workforce. During our visit, we may have an opportunity to meet some of the women who produce a variety of goods—from cleaning products to chocolate and artisan bread. Each of these female entrepreneurs is the breadwinner of their family, and we’ll have a chance to ask them about this responsibility. We also may have the opportunity to help some of them with their work.

At about 12:15pm, we'll split into smaller groups of no more than 5 for our short drive to the homes of some local families for a Home-Hosted Lunch. Upon arrival, we'll be greeted by members of our host family, and then get to know them better while we work together to prepare our lunch with some of the ingredients we purchased earlier this morning.

Lunch: Around 1pm, we’ll sit down with a local family in their home for lunch. Costa Rican cuisine is simple and wholesome, and today's lunch will be a casado, a traditional Tico meal of rice and beans, salad, and a main dish prepared with of vegetables, meat, or fish. We'll also take advantage of any seasonal crops from the family's garden, which might include items like palm, plaintains, a type of summer squash called chayote, and cilantro. Our homemade beverage will likely consist of tropical fruits like bananas, pineapples, maracuya, oranges, or lemons.

We’re afforded this special privilege by our small group size; by dining in groups of no more than 5, we’re given the chance to enter local homes and connect on a one-to-one level, and to even share a little with our hosts about who we are and what has brought us to Costa Rica. This will be a great opportunity to ask them about rural life, any customs they practice, and more.

Afternoon: Around 2pm, we'll bid our generous hosts farewell and make the 20-minute drive back to our lodge, where you'll have about 3.5 hours of free time. Perhaps you’ll discover Costa Rica’s native flora during a stroll around the property, or you may try to catch a glimpse of the region’s eclectic wildlife, including toucans and sloths.

Dinner: Around 7pm at the lodge, featuring local and international cuisine.

Evening: Tonight is free to spend as you wish. You may ask your Trip Experience Leader for recommendations.

DAY 7

Travel to La Fortuna • Arenal Volcano National Park
Destination: La Fortuna
Meals included: B D
Accommodations: Villas Eco Arenal or similar

Breakfast: Served at the lodge featuring Costa Rican and American dishes from 6am-8am.

Morning: We’ll enjoy about 1.5 hours of free time following breakfast to enjoy the lodge’s amenities. Then around 9:30am, we'll depart by private motorcoach for a 30-minute drive to Arenal Volcano National Park. Upon arrival around 10am, we'll begin a 1.5-hour nature walk along the Peninsula Trail and the shores of Lake Arenal, where we’ll get a closer look at the volcano—one of Costa Rica’s most active volcanoes—and an opportunity to spot the tropical wildlife. The national park is home to more than 500 species of birds, including toucans as well as monkeys and coati.

Following our discoveries, we board our private motorcoach and drive for 30 minutes to La Fortuna. Known as the "front yard of the Arenal Volcano," La Fortuna is a town of thermal spas and verdant hills.

Lunch: We’ll arrive in La Fortuna around 12:30pm, and enjoy lunch on our own. Your Trip Experience Leader can recommend a restaurant.

Afternoon: About 2pm, we'll drive to our lodgings in La Fortuna. Our home for the next two nights, it offers sweeping views of Arenal Volcano when weather permits. Typical rooms at our hotel are air-conditioned and include cable TV, a mini-fridge, safe, and a private bathroom with hair dryer. After we check in, you'll have about 2.5 hours of free time to relax or explore independently. Perhaps you’ll take advantage of the hotel’s hot springs, or immerse yourself in nature with a hike around the trails surrounding the lodge. Then, at about 5:30pm, you can join your Trip Experience Leader and fellow travelers at the lodge for a hands-on lesson on preparing Costa Rican bocas (appetizers) before dinner.

Dinner: Around 7pm at the hotel, featuring a selection of hot and cold dishes.

Evening: You are free to spend the evening as you wish. You may retire early, relax with other travelers at the bar, or go for a walk around the vicinity.

DAY 8

Cruise the Río Frío
Destination: La Fortuna
Meals included: B L
Accommodations: Villas Eco Arenal or similar

Breakfast: Served buffet-style at the lodge featuring Costa Rican and American dishes from 6am-8am.

Morning: Around 8:15am, we’ll set off on a 2-hour drive by bus to the Río Frío. While driving, we'll have ample opportunity to take in the Costa Rican countryside, teeming with local farms and native teak and pineapple trees. Upon arrival around 10:15am, we'll walk about 10 minutes to board a small boat and explore this complex inland waterway during a 2-hour cruise. With the help of our Trip Experience Leader and their expertise on the region and its wild inhabitants, we'll keep an eye out for wading birds—like northern jacanas and wood storks—as well as turtles and butterflies during our cruise. Keep your binoculars and camera ready—we might be lucky enough to spot larger animals, like the spider and howler monkeys, sloths, and caimans that live by the river. We'll end our tour around 12:30pm and walk about 10 minutes back to our bus. Here, we'll board and drive about 15 minutes to our lunch spot.

Lunch: Around 1pm at a local restaurant serving local dishes.

Afternoon: Following lunch, we'll make the 1.5-hour drive by bus back to our hotel. Upon arrival around 4pm, the remainder of your afternoon is free for your own discoveries. Perhaps you'll continue viewing the wild inhabitants of the region on a nature walk with the hotel. Or, if you're looking to indulge your sweet tooth, perhaps you'll sample local organic chocolate during the Rainforest Chocolate tour.

Dinner: On your own—ask your Trip Experience Leader for a recommendation. Perhaps you'll seek out Costa Rican seafood stew or trout filet, two popular local dishes.

Evening: Your free time extends into the evening when you may continue walking around the town or relax back at the hotel.

DAY 9

La Fortuna • Cacao farm visit • Travel to Alajuela
Destination: Rincón de la Vieja
Meals included: B L D
Accommodations: Blue River Resort or similar

Activity Note: Today's transfer will take about seven hours, including a 2-hour stop for a tour of a cacao farm and lunch.

Breakfast: Served buffet-style at the lodge featuring Costa Rican and American dishes, beginning at 6am.

Morning: At around 9am, we board our private motorcoach and begin our transfer to the district of Alajuela. We’ll stop at around 11am at a local organic cacao farm to learn more about one of Costa Rica’s most prized agricultural products. We’ll tour the grounds to learn about the production process, and see how Costa Rican chocolate is planted, harvested, and processed.

Lunch: Included at the cacao farm at around 12:30pm.

Afternoon: We continue our drive around 1:30pm, arriving in Rincon de la Vieja around 4pm. We’ll check into our hotel and have about 2 hours of free time. Our lodge is situated in the foothills of Rincón de la Vieja Volcano. From the lodge, hiking trails lead into wild expanses of tropical dry forest where we may spot peccaries, armadillos, motmots, capuchin, and howler monkeys, as well as white-fronted Amazon parrots, spectacled owls, and more than 270 other avian species. Other amenities may include a restaurant, swimming pools, and bar while typical rooms offer private baths.

Dinner: Around 7pm at our lodge, featuring traditional Costa Rican dishes.

Evening: You may spend the evening as you choose, exploring the grounds of your lodge, sipping a nightcap in the bar, or retiring early after today’s transfer.

Forest Canopy Ride - $65/person

Take a thrilling ride through Costa Rica’s lush forest canopy with a local guide. A slow paced, 20-minute uphill hike is followed by a safety talk at the departure point. Then, strapped into your harness and wearing thick leather gloves, you walk to a platform where the instructor sends you off on the ride of your life. Whizzing from tree to tree on a zip-line, you experience the thrill of flight while being safely suspended. For those more comfortable with a little assistance, a “taxi ride” is also available. This means that you and an instructor zip through the canopy together—the instructor handles the braking while you enjoy the ride.

DAY 10

Alajuela • Horseback ride to waterfall
Destination: Rincón de la Vieja
Meals included: B L D
Accommodations: Blue River Resort or similar

Breakfast: Served buffet-style at the lodge featuring Costa Rican and American dishes beginning at 7am.

Morning: Shortly before 9am, we'll walk over to the stables and prepare for an elective 1-hour horseback ride that takes us through the jungle to a lovely waterfall and natural pool near our lodge. After a safety talk and riding lesson from our Trip Experience Leader, we'll saddle up and ride through sloping pastureland and along the tropical dry forest's narrow trails. Drawing on their knowledge of the area and horseback riding, our Trip Experience Leader will guide our small group and help us appreciate the surrounding landscape.

Getting close to nature is part of the Costa Rica experience, as we'll discover when we arrive at the waterfall around 10:30am. We'll have just under an hour to enjoy the natural wonders before us, perhaps to take a refreshing dip in the pool formed by the cascading waterfall. Following our visit, we'll head back to the lodge by 4 X 4 vehicles for lunch.

Lunch: At the lodge around 12:30pm featuring regional specialties.

Afternoon: Following lunch, enjoy about 4 hours of free time to explore on your own. Spend your free afternoon at the lodge, where you can enjoy a nature walk on your own, go for another round of independent birding on the grounds, or take advantage of the hotel's mud bath. You'll enjoy a typical therapeutic mud regimen, starting with a pore-opening sauna near a fumarola, a thermal vent in the Earth's crust. Next, you'll enjoy a "facial"—Costa Rican style—by covering our faces with warm, mineral-rich mud transported here from bubbling pools deep within the volcano. Finally, when the mud hardens, you'll rinse it off and dip into a warm, relaxing thermal pool to wash the rest of your tensions away. It's a tranquil, rejuvenating, and—when you're caked in soothing gray mud—amusing experience.

Dinner: Around 7pm at our lodge, featuring traditional Costa Rican dishes.

Evening: You’re free to spend the evening as you wish—ask you Trip Experience Leader for recommendations.

DAY 11

Travel to Pacific Coast • Controversial Topic: Trawling in Costa Rica with local co-op fisherwoman Jeanette Naranjo & industrial fisherman David Chacón • Visit fishing cooperative
Destination: Puntarenas
Meals included: B D
Accommodations: Hotel Punta Leona or similar

Exclusive O.A.T. Activity: This morning's activities feature a conversation surrounding the Controversial Topic of trawling with local co-op fisherwoman Jeanette Naranjo & industrial fisherman David Chacón. We'll learn about the contentious harvesting method at the root of this controversy, and gain insight into its economic and environmental impacts. This conversation will shed light on the struggle between small and big business, as well as the effort to adapt to a changing planet. Read more below.

Activity Note: Today's land transfer will take approximately 5.5 hours, with two 1-hour stops along the way.

Breakfast: Served buffet-style at the lodge featuring Costa Rican and American dishes beginning at 6am.

Morning: Today, we will depart our hotel around 9am for our 3.5-hour drive by bus to Puntarenas along the Central Pacific Coast with stops included along the way. Our first stop will be about 2.5 hours into our transfer.

Lunch: On your own around 11:45am during a rest stop. Traditional Costa Rican food, pizza, and café options will be available.

Afternoon: Around 1pm, we continue our drive. We’ll then arrive around 1:45pm at Coope Tárcoles, a fishermen’s cooperative founded in 1986 with the goal of promoting environmental and social responsibility. Members of this cooperative—who often rely on fishing for their livelihood—follow a strict set of rules to ensure they are fishing responsibly and protecting marine resources. To further our understanding of what it means to fish ethically, we’ll explore the Controversial Topic of trawling in Costa Rica with local co-op fisherwoman Jeanette Naranjo & industrial fisherman David Chacón. Trawling is a fishing technique that involves pulling a fishing net through the water behind one or more boats. These nets or “trawls” are towed through the water to either catch a variety of species or targeted species—though it’s important to note that the nets are only capable of being so selective.

Jeanette Naranjo is an associate member and managing counselor at Coope Tárcoles. She hails from a long line of family members in the fishing industry, including her mother and father, and her own children have even joined the family business. For more than 20 years, she has advocated for ethical, sustainable fishing methods because, as we’ll hear today, she’s witnessed firsthand the detrimental impact of commercial practices. Our other speaker, David Chacón, is also a seasoned fisherman and the sitting president of Coope Tárcoles. However, in contrast to Jeanette, David is a proponent of trawling. Over the years, he has partnered with local legislators to establish regulations that would make the practice more sustainable. When carried out “responsibly,” he believes the economic benefits of trawling outweigh the negative impacts.

Thousands of Costa Ricans make a living with trawling, a reliable method that dates back to the 19th century. As more and more independent fishermen—like many of those at Coope Tárcoles—struggle to make ends meet, many make the difficult decision to enter the controversial industry. Those who justify the practice argue that the high demand for fish and stiff competition with commercial fishing leaves them with no choice, particularly as fish stocks dwindle.

But scientists warn that giving in to these pressures isn’t the answer. Costa Rica has seen large-scale destruction over the years from trawling, including coral shattering, habitat destruction, a reduction of seaweed, and a negative impact on endangered populations like sea turtles. In fact, the risk of being caught in trawls is so high for sea turtles that special devices known as turtle excluder devices (TED) were introduced to help them escape the net. However, this device is only so effective, and if habitat is lost, turtles are still gravely affected.

Fisherwomen like Jeanette are also critical of trawling because roughly 80% of industry jobs pay below minimum wage. As is the case in many big industries, these operations are extremely top heavy, with higher-ups at the companies making hundreds of times what the fishermen make. But soon, these fishermen will have to make a choice: a presidential election is approaching in February 2022, and trawling—one of the hottest subjects of debate in a country famous for valuing its extraordinary biodiversity—is on the ballot.

We'll hear Jeanette and David speak about the issue for about 20 minutes before opening up the conversation to a 40-minute Q&A. Perhaps you’ll probe deeper into David’s support for trawling, or maybe you’ll ask Jeanette how she’s preparing her children for an ever-changing marine environment.

Then around 3:15pm, we walk back to the bus and drive 1 hour to our hotel in Puntarenas. Upon arrival, we’ll check in and enjoy about two hours of free time to explore. Depending on which hotel we stay in, amenities may include a swimming pool, restaurant, snack bar, and wireless Internet access. Typical rooms feature air-conditioning, cable TV, telephone, mini-fridge, safe, and private bath with hot water. Perhaps you'll enjoy the views from Mantas Beach before we gather at the hotel for dinner.

Dinner: Around 7pm at our hotel, featuring local and international options.

Evening: You have the evening free to explore the grounds, walk along the beach, or relax at the hotel.

DAY 12

Punta Leona nature reserve • Optional Forest Canopy Ride • Rio Tarcoles crocodile cruise
Destination: Puntarenas
Meals included: B L
Accommodations: Hotel Punta Leona or similar

Breakfast: Served at the hotel featuring Costa Rican and American dishes beginning at 6am.

Morning: We’ll spend our morning exploring Punta Leona, a 750-acre private reserve located on Costa Rica’s Central Pacific coast. Due to its unique location in the transitional zone between the dry forests of the northwest and the rainforests further south, the reserve is home to flora and fauna quite unlike any other place on Earth, and is an important locale for Costa Rica’s conservationists.

Beginning at around 8:30am, we’ll set off on an hour-long walking tour of the reserve with our Trip Experience Leader. Punta Leona is still relatively undiscovered by tourists, and our small group size will allow us to take our time to enjoy the wildlife discoveries that the reserve has to offer. The forest is home to more than 300 species of bird, including the endangered Scarlet Macaw, as well as many exotic mammals such as white-nosed coatimundis, spider monkeys, and kinkajous.

Our tour will conclude at around 9:45am, and we’ll then have a couple of hours to relax or continue exploring independently. Because of our hotel’s proximity to the reserve, you can choose to head back into the forest to hike the trails and make your own wildlife discoveries. You might also choose to go to Punta Leona’s butterfly garden, or head over to the pristine white sand beach to relax in the sun and gaze out upon the sparkling blue waters of the Pacific.

Or, you can fly above the rain forest on an optional Forest Canopy Ride. We’ll begin our optional excursion with a 20-minute uphill hike, followed by a safety talk. Then, strapped into our harnesses and wearing thick leather gloves, we’ll head to the first of ten platforms high up in the treetops, where we're sent off on the ride of our lives. Whizzing from tree to tree on the zip-line, we’ll witness stunning panoramic views of the forest below. You'll be back at the hotel in time for lunch.

Lunch: Included at around 12:30pm at our hotel’s restaurant.

Afternoon: You’ll have a few free hours after lunch to continue exploring independently. At around 3:30pm, we’ll drive for 30 minutes by private motorcoach to a spot on the Tarcoles River, where we’ll embark on an included cruise of a mangrove forest to search for the crocodiles that hunt in its waters. On a cruise of this lush wilderness, you’ll discover the many ways in which mangroves contribute to their environment.

The forest is a unique ecosystem of tropical trees growing in a saltwater marsh formed by a tidal estuary, and the trees provide a home for many kinds of fish and shellfish, as well as a hunting ground for larger predators such as crocodiles. As you float past the mangrove trees’ sinuous, exposed roots, your guide will help you spot and identify some of the colorful plants and animals that dwell in this wetland sanctuary, including crocodiles, monkeys, anteaters, iguanas, and coatis. This region is also home to more than 300 species of birds, including many types of egret and heron, as well as other species like the double-striped thick-knee, mangrove warbler, and American pygmy kingfisher.

At around 5pm, our cruise will finish, and we’ll return to our hotel via private motorcoach. The rest of the day is yours to spend as you choose.

Dinner: On your own. You may stay at the lodge to enjoy dinner, or you may venture to a nearby beach town to seek out local seafood in a beachside restaurant. Your Trip Experience Leader will be happy to provide you with dinner recommendations.

Evening: Your free time will continue into the evening, when you may enjoy a drink at the beach or prepare for tomorrow’s discoveries.

Forest Canopy Ride - $65/person

Take a thrilling ride through Costa Rica’s lush forest canopy with a local guide. A slow paced, 20-minute uphill hike is followed by a safety talk at the departure point. Then, strapped into your harness and wearing thick leather gloves, you walk to a platform where the instructor sends you off on the ride of your life. Whizzing from tree to tree on a zip-line, you experience the thrill of flight while being safely suspended. For those more comfortable with a little assistance, a “taxi ride” is also available. This means that you and an instructor zip through the canopy together—the instructor handles the braking while you enjoy the ride.

DAY 13

Outrigger canoe ride • Overland to San José
Destination: San José
Meals included: B L D
Accommodations: Parque del Lago Boutique Hotel or similar

Breakfast: Served buffet-style at the hotel featuring Costa Rican and American dishes beginning from 6am-8am.

Morning: At about 8:30am, we’ll set off for a 30-minute bus ride to Agujas Beach, a protected cove. Once we reach the beach, we’ll be briefed on safety procedures. Then, we'll embark on a 40-minute outrigger canoe ride led by a local guide to catch the spirit of pre-Columbian Costa Rica as we paddle along the ocean, passing steep cliffs and sandy beaches (and keeping watch for wildlife). We’ll disembark at Limoncito Beach around 10am, where you’ll have free time. Perhaps you'll stroll along the white sand beach and enjoy the views of this Costa Rican treasure, snorkel in the ocean to spot colorful sealife, or take a hike for coastal views.

Lunch: A picnic lunch will be provided at Limoncito Beach.

Afternoon: Around noon, we’ll return to Agujas Beach by a 30-minute canoe ride to shower and change our clothes (if desired) before beginning our 2-hour drive by bus to San José, with an included stop along the way.

We’ll arrive in San José around 3:30pm and check in to our hotel. Depending where we stay, rooms may include complimentary wireless Internet, air-conditioning, cable TV, and private bath with a shower and hair dryer. You’ll enjoy about two hours of free time once we arrive for you to make some final discoveries.

Around 6pm, we’ll gather at the hotel for a 45-minute farewell briefing before taking a 15-minute walk to a local restaurant.

Dinner: At about 7:30pm, we'll say adios to Costa Rica over a Farewell Dinner at a local restaurant with our Trip Experience Leader and travel companions.

Evening: We walk back to the hotel by around 8:30pm, when you’ll have time to reflect on your adventure with fellow travelers or prepare for your flight tomorrow.

DAY 14

San José • Return to U.S.
Meals included: B

Breakfast: Served buffet-style at the hotel featuring Costa Rican and American dishes beginning at 6am. Travelers with early morning flights home will receive a light breakfast provided by the hotel.

Morning: We’ll transfer by bus to the airport in San José for our flight home. Travelers taking our optional Costa Rica's Caribbean Coast: Tortuguero National Park or New! The Heart of Mexico: Taxco, Cuernavaca, Mexico City & Teotihuacán post-trip extension will fly to either Tortuguero or Mexico City this morning.

Latin America
As of September 20th 2021, Gutsy Women Travel moved our toll free number (866) 464-8879 to our former and now new operator Overseas Adventure Travel.
We are in the process of setting up group departures for 2022 and 2023. In the meantime, just mention you are Gutsy Women Travelers and our code #25972 to receive your past travel savings and book into any of their departures. No single supplement!!!
For inquiries on remaining 2021 departures or moveable deposits with Club Adventures AAA due to cancelled 2021 trips please call April Merenda, President of Gutsy Women Travel, at 516-285-5152.