Those on group flights will arrive in the evening and will be transferred from the airport to the hotel. Land Only clients are advised to meet at the hotel.
Heading northeast of San Jose, we swap the capital for the tropical cloud forest of Braulio Carrillo National Park, where the foliage consists of giant gunnera, busy lizzies and bright orchids. We pass through a large area of the park on our journey to the Sarapiqui region, another area blessed with abundant vegetation where we'll have a 2.5 hour guided safari float on the Sarapiqui River. Using 6-person rafts, naturalist guides will accompany us, pointing out the diverse flora and fauna of this verdant section of rainforest. Not using a motor enables us to appreciate the full range of sounds from the forest; we recommend that you bring binoculars to have a greater chance of seeing monkeys, caimans, iguanas and sloths, all of which live in the area. After lunch, we transfer for around 3 hours to the area surrounding Arenal Volcano. Following a massive eruption in 1968, Arenal was Costa Rica's most active volcano until recently when it entered a resting phase. Apart from the volcano, this region has plenty to offer, including thermal waters, waterfalls, Lake Arenal and plenty of wildlife.
There is a 2 hour guided hike this morning through Arenal Volcano National Park. The park has a good system of trails and we'll enjoy a relatively simple hike through them. The rest of the day is free to explore the area, either at your own pace or on one of the many optional excursions available. You could take a boat tour through the Cano Negro Wildlife Reserve (please note this is a full day tour and you will need to miss the guided walk to do it), walk across the hanging bridges of Arenal, join a moutain bike ride around Lake Arenal or take the Sky Tram adventure (with an optional zip wire through the canopy). In the late afternoon we visit Ecotermales Hot Springs for a relaxing thermal bath.
From the northern lowlands we travel through the Tilaran mountains to reach the cloud forest. Enjoy breathtaking views of the Gulf of Nicoya and the islands below as we ascend the hills to Monteverde. The road (which can be in poor condition, especially following rains) climbs to this forest-cloaked region whose name literally means 'Green Mountain'. Today's drive is about three and half hours, on bumpy dirt roads. Monteverde town is our location for the next 2 nights. You'll notice a real difference in the climate of this area; gone is the humidity of the lowlands and in its place is a cool mist, a steady stream of clouds and a much cooler average temperate, given the altitude of 1,440m. The perfect crop to grow in such a climate is coffee and so this afternoon we join a tour to the Don Juan Coffee Plantation, where guides talk us through the harvesting process. Coffee has shaped the history and socio-economic development of Costa Rica and our guides will explain all of this before we have the chance to taste some for ourselves!
This morning we start the day early with a visit to the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve, famous for its biodiversity. The forest is bathed in mist, the moisture from which supports a fantastic array of plantlife, with ferns and moss growing on every available tree trunk. There's a good system of trails through primary forest that lead to a number of look out points across the mountains - an unforgettable walk in the clouds! Santa Elena is one of the first community-managed reserves in Costa Rica, dedicated to conservation and also the improvement of local education standards. The afternoon has been left free to participate in one of the many optional excursions in the area; visit a tree top platform and appreciate the forest from above the canopy on a Sky Trek tour, walk across a series of suspension bridges amongst the trees on a Sky Walk tour, visit a conservation project at Selvatura park, or spend time at the Frog Pond Museum where 26 different species of toads and frogs can be found.
We travel southeast along the coast, following the Pan-Am Highway and passing plantations of African oil palms and teak. The drive takes around five hours. Manuel Antonio is a beautiful spot where the forest meets the sea and iguanas and White-faced monkeys can often be seen on the beach.
This morning we have a guided tour of the Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio to see its combination of tropical beaches, jungle and dramatic rocky headlands. Inside the park we may see monkeys (White-faced, Squirrel and Howler), iguana, sloths and agouti. The beaches in the national park are considered to be some of the most beautiful in the country and we have all afternoon to enjoy them, or alternatively, there are many optional activities available, such as canopy/zip-lining, sea canoeing, white water rafting or a sailing cruise.
A four hour journey takes us back to San Jose, where those on group flights will be transferred to the airport in time for their return flight. Land only clients end in San Jose.