Natural Magic - Family holiday Trip Notes

At Imaginative Traveller we always aim to provide accurate information for our travellers. Unfortunately information such as the price of optional activities is occasionally subject to change, and this means that we are constantly revising our trip notes. In order to ensure that you have the most up to date information for your trip we suggest that you check the trip notes for your tour around one month before departure.

Trip code : FQCFR
Trip length : 16

highlights

  • Explore a tropical paradise of volcanoes & beaches
  • Look out for toucans & tree frogs
  • Navigate the rainforest by boat & through the tree canopy

Costa Rica stands on the isthmus of Central America, between the Caribbean and the Pacific. A cordon of volcanoes testifies to the volatile underground forces at play. The result is an extraordinary variety of landscape, climate and ecosystem - particularly tropical forest. National parks, wildlife refuges and private reserves protect over twenty five per cent of the country - more than in any other in the world. Along with the surrounding “buffer zones”, these areas harbour around seventy five per cent of all species in Costa Rica, including many that have long since disappeared in neighbouring countries. The richness of its colourful bird population is enough to stir enthusiasm in even the least ornithologically interested visitor! With at least two nights in each location the Costa Rica family holidays are designed to allow you to get the most out of this amazing country at a relaxed pace.

daily-itin

Day
1

San Jose

Your trip starts in San Jose. Check into your hotel.
Tryp Sabana Hotel (AAA) - 2 nights

Day
2

San Jose

Please meet your tour leader in the hotel reception at 08.00. San José (1150m), the capital city, stands at the heart of the country in the fertile Central Valley, where the majority of the Costa Rican population is concentrated. Today you begin with a guided tour by bus around the sights of the city including visits to visit the National Museum and ‘INBio Park’, an educational and recreational centre. You visit the famous Doka Estate for a guided tour of the coffee and plantation sugar cane mill, as well as the fascinating butterfly farm. This provides a fascinating introduction to the natural history of Costa Rica by way of interactive exhibits and interpretative trails through assorted habitats. (B)

Day
3-4

Tortuguero National Park

Today you depart early and stop for breakfast en route (approx. 1 ¼ hour’s drive) before boarding a launch to navigate the waterways into the Tortuguero National Park (approx. 2 hours). Los Canales were dug during the 1960s to connect the coastal lagoons to a maze of natural channels in order to transport lumber by boat. They now form a long highway (100km) through dense rainforest. Every now and then you see a clearing in the thick forested banks where settlers eke out an existence from slash-and-burn agriculture and fishing. Everyone fishes here: an iridescent flash marks the flight of a kingfisher; anhinga and several species of heron can be seen perching in the shadows along the water’s edge, waiting to strike. Your riverbank lodge stands amidst Caribbean rainforest where tonight you’ll fall asleep to the unearthly cry of the howler monkey, and wake in the morning to the screech of toucan and oropendula.

This area has long been associated with the catching of turtle (tortuguero means turtle-catcher). The original indigenous inhabitants used turtles as a sustainable resource, but the arrival of Europeans led to major exploitation. Tortuguero National Park, established in 1970, is now home to 13 of Costa Rica’s 16 endangered mammals. Among them are manatee, ocelot and jaguar, as well as over 300 bird species. First and foremost, however, it is the nesting ground of the green turtle, which comes ashore between August and October to lay its eggs on the sandy beaches. Lesser numbers of the critically endangered hawksbill turtle, plus loggerhead, and giant leatherback turtle also nest within the park at different times of year. You will go on excursions by boat and on foot, using the experienced eyes of your boatman or guide to maximise opportunities of spotting wildlife. Pachira Lodge (AAA) - 2 nights - Swimming Pool (B2 L2 D2)

Please note - If you visit between August and October and are interested in the nesting ground of the green turtle, it is necessary to wear dark colours.

 

Day
5-6

Sarapiqui

After breakfast you take the boat transfer back to Freeman (2 hours), keeping your eyes open for more animals and birdlife. You then transfer to the Sarapiqui area, passing palms (used to produce palm heart), banana and papaya growing along the roadside (approx. 2 hours drive). You stop for lunch and have time to stretch your legs before continuing (approx. 1 ½ hours) to your destination – Sarapiqui, known as one of the richest areas in Costa Rica for bird watching. On the banks of the Puerto Viejo River and next to the Braulio Carrillo National Park, this place is a nature lovers paradise. The diversity of lowland bird life is impressive. A biological research station and several nearby forest lodges have made this undisturbed habitat accessible to scientists and travelers.

The rest of the day and all of tomorrow are free to relax and enjoy this area. The first choice of most families is to take an optional full day rafting trip along the Pacuare River for some exhilarating fun. The level of rafting here is very suitable for families, but please note that the minimum age is 12 years. Alternatively, you could take a boat trip to observe the flora and fauna of the area or if you prefer a land-based activity, you could horse ride or hike in the forest. There is also the chance to take an optional half day visit to the Rainforest Alliance Banana Project. La Quinta de Sarapiqui (AAA) - 2 nights - Swimming Pool (B2 L)

Day
7

Arenal Volcano

Today you travel to Arenal (approx. 2-3 hours) and have the chance to visit the still active volcano. The Arenal volcano soars out of the surrounding countryside to 1633m in a perfect cone and to many people, illustrates perfectly what they expect a volcano to look like. The lower slopes, covered in nutrient-rich volcano soil, are covered in lush vegetation whilst the top often spews smoke, ash and even lava up into the sky, a spectacular sight at night that you might see. The volcano’s inner workings also mean that the area has a number of thermal springs where hot, lava-heated water gushes to the surface. These springs have been turned into a number of thermal pools and waterfalls, often surrounded by foliage, an ideal chance to relax. The pools are probably best visited in the evening when, if you are lucky and the cloud is not low, you may get to see a great pyrotechnic display from the volcano. (Thermal pools visit is an optional extra). Hotel San Bosco (AAA) - 2 nights - Swimming Pool (B)

Day
8

Arenal Volcano

This morning you head out for a guided tour in Arenal National Park. The trails of this national park pass through interesting dwarf cloudforest where the rich bird life includes several species of hummingbird and Costa Rica’s national bird, the clay-coloured robin; renowned for its melodious song. The afternoon is free for optional activities in the local area, and as the park covers 29,692 acres, there should be plenty here to keep you occupied in your free time. You may want to head further afield and take a day trip to Cano Negro; a wildlife refuge, great for migratory and resident birds as well as river wildlife – both mammals and reptiles. Horse riding is also available in the Arenal area. (B)

Day
9

Monteverde

Today you transfer along the Arenal Lake - a famous hangout for avid windsurfers - via Tilaran to Monteverde de Santa Elena (approx 4-5 hours). There are some great views across the lake looking back towards the Arenal Volcano as well as some arty wayside stopping points offering great homemade cakes and refreshments. As you climb up to Monteverde you’ll feel the climate becoming cooler and see the difference as the vegetation changes from tropical to cloudforest. On the surrounding hills are a number of coffee plantations as the area is famous for producing some of the best coffee beans in the country, with many of the growers belonging to fair-trade co-operatives. In the afternoon there may be time to visit a butterfly farm (optional). Hotel El Establo (AAA) - 2 nights - Swimming Pool (B)

Day
10

Monteverde

Monteverde was founded as an agricultural community in 1951 by a group of North American Quakers; they cleared virgin forest to create verdant pastures ideal for dairy farming. These environmentally aware settlers were conscious of the danger that unrestricted farming could cause to this precious habitat. Consequently they established a small privately-owned wildlife sanctuary, which has since grown to become the internationally-renowned Monteverde Cloudforest Biological Preserve. Variation in temperature and rainfall in this area creates eight distinct habitats covering both the Atlantic and Pacific slopes of the mountains.

Today you explore the forest which is home to the reclusive resplendent quetzal, the blue-crowned motmot, the emerald toucanet and some 30 species of iridescent hummingbird - to cite but a few of the 400-odd bird species recorded here! As if this were not enough, more than 100 mammal species, 1200 amphibian and reptile species and many thousands of insect species live here, all in addition to an astonishing variety of plant life.

One of the highlights for many is the chance to see the forest from the height of the canopy instead of always looking up into the trees. As an included activity you will walk across hanging bridges (Sky Walk) suspended through the trees. It’s not designed for vertigo suffers but provides a fantastic chance to get in amongst the foliage and experience the forest from a great vantage point!

Monteverde also has a number of other optional activities you may be interested in doing including horse riding, visiting orchid farms and the thrilling ‘Sky Trek’ where you zipline with harnesses on ropes between platforms in the trees. (B)

Day
11

Central Pacific coast

On departing Monteverde you descend to the Pan-American Highway which you follow southward across the flat coastal plain. Your journey takes you along a coastline of fine sand beaches, separated by the occasional area of mangrove and endless plantations of African palm. Your journey ends at at the central Pacific coast where your hotel is located. (approx. 6 hours drive plus stops). Punta Leona (AAA) - 3 nights - Swimming Pool (B)

Day
12-13

Central Pacific coast; Manuel Antonio NP

Manuel Antonio NP stands a few kilometres south of Quepos on the beach lined shores of the Pacific. Its magical beaches and abundant forests make a stunning finale to your trip in this great setting. During your two days in the region you’ll enjoy a three-hour guided walk along the trails within the park and have plenty of time to relax on one of the idyllic palm-lined bays, with the ocean crashing in on the beach and white-faced capuchin monkeys peering out from the trees. (B2)

Day
14

San Jose

You retrace your steps northward along the coastal road, stopping at Carara Biological Reserve where you walk for two or three hours through the rainforest in the hope of seeing the rare scarlet macaw and the black and green poison dart frog which are endemic to this region. Carara’s position between the dry tropical forest of the north and the wet rainforest of the south endows it with a uniquely high diversity of flora and fauna in spectacular colours throughout the year. Continuing onwards from Carara, the route turns inland to follow the main Pacific Highway through the agricultural towns of Orotina and Atenas back to San José for your final night (approx. 5 hours drive plus stops).
Tryp Sabana Hotel (AAA) - 1 night (B)

Day
15

San Jose; trip ends

The trip ends for Land Only clients. Those on our group flights to the UK transfer to the airport and fly home. (B)

Day
16

Arrive Home

trip-grade

Standard

Ideal for those that enjoy the quirkier side of a destination without roughing it. Join inquisitive travellers of all ages for a fun, informative experience.

  • A number of included activities
  • Tourist class, family-run hotels
  • Various meals included throughout
  • Public & private transportation

This tour is operated by our partners The Adventure Company


overview

Costa Rica stands on the isthmus of Central America, between the Caribbean and the Pacific. A cordon of volcanoes testifies to the volatile underground forces at play. The result is an extraordinary variety of landscape, climate and ecosystem - particularly tropical forest. National parks, wildlife refuges and private reserves protect over twenty five per cent of the country - more than in any other in the world. Along with the surrounding buffer zones, these areas harbour around seventy five per cent of all species in Costa Rica, including many that have long since disappeared in neighbouring countries. The richness of its colourful bird population is enough to stir enthusiasm in even the least ornithologically interested visitor! With at least two nights in each location the itinerary is designed to allow you to get the most out of this amazing country at a relaxed pace.

fitness

Anyone in reasonable health should be able to take part. The trip involves some fairly easy walks in tropical conditions, and you do not have to carry more than a daypack. Some activities may be changed as a result of the weather.
Minimum age: 5 years. (Please note – the minimum age for the white water rafting on the Pacuare River is 12 years).

preparing-to-travel

Baggage

For your comfort we recommend you travel as light as possible; many airlines impose a maximum weight limit of 20kg – we advise you to take 10kg as you will be on the move a good deal! For domestic flights using light aircraft the usual weight limit is 15 kg.
One main piece (a soft bag or rucksack, not a hard suitcase).
A daypack (25-30 litres), large enough to carry what you need for the day including camera, water, etc.

Travel tips

Mosquitoes are attracted to dark colours so avoid wearing dark blue or green t-shirts.

SUGGESTED READING:
Your Child’s Health Abroad – Matthew Ellis & Jane Wilson-Howarth (Bradt Publications)
Travel with Children – Maureen Wheeler (Lonely Planet)
Costa Rica: The Forests of Eden - K. Schafer
Monkeys Are Made of Chocolate: Exotic and Unseen Costa Rica - Daniel Quinn & Jack Ewing
Costa Rica: A Traveller’s Literary Companion – Barbara Ras
In the Shadow of the Sphere: A Journey of Heart & Spirit – Thomas Youngholm

FOR YOUNGER READERS:
Costa Rica (Letters from Around the World) - Patrick Cunningham
Monteverde (Venture Books--Science) - Sneed B.

Accommodation

Rooming Arrangements

For most trips prices are based on sharing a twin room. Therefore, if you’re a solo traveller you’ll be paired with someone from the group of the same sex, unless you decide to pay a single room supplement. Details of this supplement can be found on the Extensions & Extras tab on our website. Occasionally we use multiple-share or dormitory accommodation – particularly when stating in remote places.

Rooming arrangements – Family trips

If you’re a family of 2 you’ll be accommodated in a twin room. If you’re a family of three you will usually be accommodated in a triple room. If you’re a family of four you’ll probably be accommodated in two twin rooms and we’ll do our best to ensure they’re as near as possible. We cannot always guarantee a triple room. If a triple room is not available, an adult from your family will automatically be roomed with a fellow adult member of the group of the same sex. If you prefer to have a room of your own we can sometimes offer a single room for the entire trip or on selected nights within a trip. However a single room supplement applies, look on the Extensions & Extras tab on our website or ask our Travel Consultants for details.

money

Local Costs - Costa Rica

Approximate costs are given for guidance only, and may vary widely according to location and type of establishment.

  • Coffee/tea USD$2-$5
  • Soft drink USD $2-$5
  • Medium beer USD $3-$7
  • Local snack lunch USD $10
  • 3-course dinner* USD $35
  • Bottle of wine USD $40
  • Bottle of water USD $2

*reasonable mid-range tourist class restaurant.

visa-information

Visas & Permits - Costa Rica

Holders of UK & IRL passports do not require a visa to enter Costa Rica, but if travelling via the United States must have a machine-readable passport or a visa will be required for transiting the US. Usual U.S. immigration restrictions apply. Nationals of all other countries should contact their local embassy or consulate. Information can also be found on www.travcour.com.

If you are travelling to or through the USA after 1st September 2008, the US authorities have introduced a requirement for passengers travelling under the Visa Waiver Programme to register for Electronic Travel Authority NO LATER THAN 72 HOURS BEFORE TRAVEL. The on line application is available at https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov

Please note with effect from 8 September 2010 the US will introduce an ESTA fee of $14. The total fee for a new or renewed ESTA will be $14.00.

This information is given in good faith, but may be subject to change without warning. Please note that, where appropriate, obtaining a valid visa is ultimately your responsibility. Please consult a visa agency or the consular authorities 4-6 weeks before departure for the most up-to-date information

Medical---prep

Vaccinations - Costa Rica

The following are recommended:

  • Hepatitis A
  • Malaria
  • Polio
  • Typhoid
  • Tetanus

For detailed information and advice concerning vaccinations go to:www.fitfortravel.scot.nhs.uk
Vaccination requirements change periodically so we advise that you check with your nearest specialist travel clinic 4-6 weeks before departure to get up-to-date information. A specialist travel clinic should also be able to advise regarding any special vaccination requirements for your children.

International rules for carrying medicines vary. Some countries do not allow certain medicines to be imported, or require official documents, such as a doctor’s letter, to prove drugs have been prescribed by a doctor and obtained legally. It is sensible to contact the relevant embassy or high commission of your destination to check what their drug transportation rules are before you travel.

single-room-sup

A single supplement is available for this trip priced from 358 GBP. This does not guarantee a single room for all accommodation. please contact us to discuss this.

responsible-travel

At Imaginative Traveller we love helping our clients experience the beauty and cultures of the destinations we visit. However, hand in hand with this we have always been aware that we have a responsibility to minimise any negative impacts that tourism can bring.

Responsible Travel is twofold. It's about taking people to the places they want to go in a safe and responsible manner but also about respecting and maintaining the natural and often delicate balance of the destination. Economic gain from tourism is often fundamental to a country, but should never be at the expense of its culture or the environment.

Our Aims

  • It is our aim to provide journeys that have minimal negative and maximum positive impact on the places we visit.
  • We do not believe that, as visitors, we should impose our own cultures on others; rather that we should experience foreign cultures and appreciate them for what they are.
  • Whilst it is our aim to show destinations and cultures in a positive light, we do not believe in papering over the cracks or shielding visitors from the realities of life. This does not mean, however, that we condone or endorse certain situations or regimes that may be in place.

Our guidelines are meant not as rigid instructions but rather as suggestions to make our holidays more enjoyable – for everybody. As cultural and environmental sensitivities vary from country to country more specific guidelines can be found in our individual country and trip dossiers.

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Your feedback is important to us and to our tour guides and helps shape the quality of our trips. It tells us what we're doing right, what you believe could be done better and what improvements you feel could help future travellers choose and enjoy Imaginative Traveller. Just go to http://on.fb.me/16wYISa for our easy to fill out form. We’d love to hear what you have to say!

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