Stride climate

Trip Type : Small Group Tour
Natural Highlights of Costa Rica tour

Natural Highlights of Costa Rica

Sierra Club Outings
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Travel Style: You will have solid amounts of both free time and structured time with some activities and meals included. Mixed
Physical Level: Full day hiking or trekking over medium to long distances. Moderate expectation of physical fitness. Strenuous
Lodging Level: You'll stay in no-frills, but clean and comfortable, hotels or guesthouses. A 'Basic' trip might also involve a few nights of camping. Basic - 2 star
13 days
From: $ 3,545 $ 273 / day
Checking price



  • 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

Short Description

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 several private reserves, exploring diverse biological zones. The country's exotic plants, 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.

Small groups are usually defined as between 10 and 24 travelers, often less. If you're the kind of person who enjoys more intimate experiences and personal service this is a good choice. All else being equal you will pay a premium for this style vs a larger group tour.
Trip Type Small Group Tour
Spend most of the time outdoors. Common trip themes and activities include cycling, hiking, kayaking, whitewater rafting.
Itinerary Focus Active
You'll stay in no-frills, but clean and comfortable, hotels or guesthouses. A 'Basic' trip might also involve a few nights of camping.
Lodging Level Basic - 2 star
Flights & Transport Only ground transport
Start City San Jose
End City San Jose

Trip Includes

  • All meals, comfortable lodges and eco-lodges, and all gratuities
  • Airport transfers and on-trip transportation in a private mini-bus
  • An expert naturalist who accompanies the entire trip, and local guides

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Day 1

Arrive at San Jose’s international airport. You will be met by our hotel shuttle bus. In the evening, get to know your traveling companions at a welcome dinner.

Days 2-3

After breakfast, we drive to Poas Volano National Park. From there we drive south along the Talamanca Mountains, heading toward 11,450-foot Cerro de la Muerte. We stop briefly at the 10,000-foot high pass before dropping 3,000 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. We will have time to enjoy two hikes; one to a waterfall and another through an oak cloud forest.

Days 4-6

Today, we head to our amazing eco-lodge adjacent Ballena Marine National Park, one of Costa Rica’s newest national park. This park is dedicated to protecting the migrating whales and 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.

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 toward 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 hike in Palo Verde National Park, 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. After lunch we will enjoy a River Floating Tour at the Coribici River just next to our lodge. In the evening we tour the grounds to see deer and the nightjars on the paths.

Day 10

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.

Day 11

In the morning we enjoy a bird’s-eye view of the rainforest from a treetop-canopy walkway, where we will see monkeys and hopefully peccaries and sloths. In the afternoon, you will have the option of zip-lining above the treetop-canopy or you may go back to relax at the hotel grounds.

Day 12

Today we begin our return journey to the San Jose area. On the way we stop to hike in the Arenal National Park, walking through the lava flows to see up close the rejuvenation and ecological changes after a major eruption. 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 friends.

Day 13

After breakfast, we’ll be driven to the airport for our flights.


Checking price
Price From $ 3,545
Price Per Day: $ 273 per day
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  • Deposit Price: $ 200

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Flights & Transport

Only ground transport

Group Size:

Small Group - 24 max

Maximum Number of People in Group: 15

Capacity: 15


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 it is essential that you contact the trip leader to see if these needs can be accommodated.

Additional Information:

Trip Difficulty

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 mini-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 they are a very important part of the experience. The most challenging one takes about four hours (round trip) and climbs about 400 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.

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.

Trip ID#:


Trip Excludes

  • International Flights
  • Passport and Visa Charges
  • Personal Expenses

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