Natural Magic - Family holiday Trip Notes
Trip code: FFCR
Trip length: 15 days
- Beaches & national parks
- Exotic birds & animals
- Rainforests & volcanoes
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.
Your trip starts in San Jose. Check into your hotel. Fleurs de Lys Hotel (AAA) - 2 nights
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)
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.
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
Manuel Antonio NP
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)
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)
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). Fleurs de Lys Hotel (AAA) - 1 night (B)
San Jose; trip ends
The trip ends in San Jose. (B)
About The Imaginative Traveller
Our aim has always been to provide exceptional travel experiences. We believe that adventure travel should be stimulating, and that it should give you an authentic experience of a place. We want our travellers to relish the amazing diversity of countries and cultures the world has to offer. Our focus is on innovation, not imitation.
Obsessed with quality
One of our strengths has been our obsession with quality. We've always believed that our commitment to you doesn't end as soon as you've paid for your holiday. On the contrary, it is just beginning. Whilst most operators simply get a local company to handle the day to day operation of their tours, we do it all ourselves. We have managers for each of our key destinations around the world and all our small groups are escorted by our own leaders. Our local teams include guides, drivers, administration staff and contacts in the local community who help us ensure that our adventures are active and involving.
For comparability, all prices in this dossier are quoted in one currency. We use the US Dollar since that is familiar to most. However, once on tour you will need to pay for all goods and services in the local currency. See your Country Dossier for details of exchange rates.
Trip gradesBeach / coastal
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: 8 years. (Please note – the minimum age for the white water rafting on the Pacuare River is 12 years).
Transport - Minibus, on foot, boat.
Accommodation - Small hotels/lodges (14nts)
Meals - 14 breakfasts, 3 lunches & 2 dinners.
Single room supplementA single supplement is available for this trip priced from 333 GBP. This does not guarantee a single room for all accommodation. please contact us to discuss this.
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.
Mosquitoes are attracted to dark colours so avoid wearing dark blue or green t-shirts.
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.
Local Costs - Costa Rica
Approximate costs are given for guidance only, and may vary widely according to location and type of establishment.
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.
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
Vaccinations - Costa Rica
The following are recommended:
- Hepatitis A
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.
The itinerary and supplementary information has been compiled with care and provided in good faith. However it may be subject to change, and does not form part of a contract between the client and The Imaginative Traveller.
Responsible Travel - Travellers' Guidelines
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.
- 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.
Before you depart try to spend some time familiarising yourself with the destination you will be travelling to – their culture and customs. The country dossiers on our website offer detailed information about all the regions we visit. They also include some useful phrases in the local language for you to use on your trip! A few words of the local language can open up many more opportunities for you to interact with the people you will meet.
Although it is tempting to give out pens, sweets and money to people begging, and particularly tempting to give to children, we feel that this encourages a begging mentality and has a long-term negative impact on communities. If someone begging earns more than someone in the same community who works this can discourage local employment. If children regularly bring home money it may discourage their parents from sending them to school. It is of course your own personal choice but you could consider giving to registered charities or contributing to our Responsible Travel fund instead. Money donated through our fund to our worldwide projects is matched pound for pound by Imaginative Traveller and used to help local grassroots projects.
Always ask permission to photograph local people and respect their decision if they would prefer not to have their picture taken.
Respect local dress codes, especially at religious sites. Our tour leaders are always on hand to give you advice about this.
In many of the countries we visit you might see examples of animal cruelty (for example dancing bears, performing monkeys and snake charmers). Please do not take photographs of this or offer money as it encourages the activity.
Respect the environment you are in. It sounds obvious but do not throw litter, take it with you or use rubbish bins! You may see locals throwing rubbish on the street but do not follow their example!
When shopping in countries where haggling is the norm – enjoy it and only pay what you feel is a fair price for the goods you are purchasing. However, remember that the shopkeeper does have to make a living so do stop once you have reached a price you are happy with. Bargaining should be fun but always remember that a small amount can mean much more to the vendor than to you.
Endeavor to take home souvenirs made locally; the money you spend can be very important to the local communities. However, do use your common sense and don’t buy anything that you think might be made out of endangered animals or plants.
To help keep as much money as possible in the host country - try to eat in locally owned restaurants and order local drinks and produce rather than international brands.
In hotels do be conscious of how much water you are using. Many of the areas we visit regularly have shortages; try not to have hour long showers! Don’t leave lights, air conditioners or fans on when you leave the room – you wouldn’t at home!
Respect the environment you are in, especially when in national parks or reserves. Pay attention to rules about keeping on paths, keeping a distance from animals and not removing any of the natural habitat.
Relax and immerse yourself in the differences of the culture you are in – you’ll be back home in the familiar soon enough (and wishing you were still on holiday!). These cultural differences are part of what makes your experience special.
If you would like to offset the carbon dioxide that will be produced on your flights you can do this on our website (on our Responsible travel page). We work with climatecare, who will reduce the equivalent amount of carbon dioxide that you produce in another part of the World through their emission reduction projects. These projects are low carbon efficient technologies in developing countries and not only serve to reduce emissions but also help to spread the adoption of low carbon technologies and improve the quality of life for local communities. Details of climatecare’s projects can be found on their website.
If you would like to contribute to our Worldwide projects, helping communities all over the World, you can also do this on our website or with a sales consultant. Please refer to our responsible travel page on the website for details of our current projects. Any donation you make will be matched £ for £ by Imaginative Traveller (up to a maximum of £1000).
Have a great trip!
Please do let us know if you have any comments about responsible travel at firstname.lastname@example.orgThe Imaginative Traveller & The Adventure Company. This trip is operated by our partner company, The Adventure Company. They have more than 10 years experience in adventure travel and they share our ethos for offering unique holiday adventures. As this is a codeshared departure you can expect there to be both Imaginative Traveller and Adventure Company travellers on your trip.