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The Road Less Traveled
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Costa Rica's natural diversity and incredible wildlife are waiting for travelers who want something more than the usual, and an escape from the crowds. Start out with the must see region of Arenal volcano, but then leave the beaten path and head to Rincón de la Vieja with its slot canyons and geothermal features. On the second half head to a Hacienda inside a national wildlife refuge against Playa Barú on the central Pacific coast where you'll find tropical lowland forest, mangrove estuaries, snorkeling (SCUBA optional); and finally you'll explore the rivers, waterfalls, paramo and cloud forest right outside the door of your lodge at San Gerardo de Dota.

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Hotel Arenal Springs Resort (4 Nights)
Hotel Arenal Springs Resort (4 Nights)
Day 1 — Your VIP greeter will be waiting to assist with your luggage and get you on your way to La Fortuna as soon as your flight touches down at the international airport. Shift into vacation mode when you arrive at Arenal Springs Ecoresort, sip a drink on your private terrace while enjoying the exuberant tropical gardens and the best views of Arenal volcano. Relax this evening because tomorrow the adventures start in earnest.
                  
Arenal Volcano Guided Hike
Arenal Volcano Guided Hike
Costa Rica photos
Day 2 — Arenal Volcano dominates every view from anywhere in the region, but to really see the eruptive action and lava flows you need to be in the right place at the right time. The right place is the observation clearing at the end of a short walk through the rain forest and the right time is late afternoon and early evening when your guide will accompany you on the volcano viewing hike.

Baldi Termale Hot Springs
Baldi Termale Hot Springs
After the thrill of Arenal rumbling and erupting you're in for a relaxing evening at Baldi Hot Springs enjoying the geothermally heated mineral waters as the volcano continues to rumble in the background. The kids area (big kids or little) features water slides while the adults can enjoy a more sedate romantic atmosphere and swim up bar.

Río Balsa White Water Rafting
Río Balsa White Water Rafting
Day 3 — Challenge yourself paddling through rolling class III rapids with names like "Morning Coffee" and "Rock around the Croc" and play in tranquil river pools in an isolated rain forest canyon - this isn't like rafting in the Rockies, the water is warm and no wetsuit required!

If you'd like to step up the adrenaline ask about the raging class IV Río Toro whitewater rafting trip.

Optional Guided Hike to Celeste Waterfall in Tenorio National Park
<em>Optional Guided Hike to Celeste Waterfall in Tenorio National Park</em>
Costa Rica photos
If you're not up for paddling you may want to choose a hike in one of Costa Rica's most isolated parks. Superlatives barely suffice for what might be the single best hike in all of Costa Rica. Depending on how far you'd like to walk (~2 to 7 km) you can see the amazing copper dyed catarata Celeste, Teñiderios, borbollones, Laguna Azul, and the natural hotsprings (bring your swimsuit) with your naturalist guide explaining the wonders of the virgin wet forest environment on either side of the entire trail.

Full day adventure includes door-to-door transportation, bilingual naturalist guide, and lunch.


Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge
Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge
Costa Rica photos
Day 4 — The Río Frío and ever changing seasonal Lago Caño Negro make up a wetland refuge that includes some of the best wildlife viewing anywhere in Costa Rica. Visit the protected breeding grounds of dozens of species of aquatic birds that's also home to three species of monkeys, both types of sloths, caiman (cousins of crocodiles) , turtles and even bull sharks by covered jungle riverboat. Lunch included.

Hacienda Guachipelín (3 Nights)
Hacienda Guachipelín (3 Nights)
Costa Rica photos
Day 5 — Now that you've had your introduction it's time to head our on your own. We'll deliver your SUV to you at Arenal Springs then you'll drive around the lake and up the slopes of Rincón de la Vieja to Hacienda Guachipelín Adventure Ranch. A working horse and cattle ranch combined with an ecotourism center featuring canyon exploration from above on zip-lines and tarzan swings and from below in inner tubes or rafts; plus natural hot springs, virgin rain forests, jungle waterfalls and volcanic mud pots.
               
Cañon Canopy Tour
Cañon Canopy Tour
Day 6 — There are hundreds of zip-lines in Costa Rica, but the Canyon Canopy Adventure is like no other. Soar on over and through a slickrock canyon in the midst of the endangered tropical dry forest. Then slip on your five tennies because you'll need the traction for the rock climbing and rappelling segments. People who've tried dozens of canopy tours invariably claim this as their favorite.

Optional Volcán Rincón de la Vieja National Park
<em>Optional Volcán Rincón de la Vieja National Park</em>
Costa Rica photos
Day 7 — No scheduled activities today because we'd like to encourage you to enjoy the trails, natural hot springs, waterfalls, and incredible virgin forest of Rincón de la Vieja National Park (entrance not included). There's something for everyone. A short (1-2 hour) self guided walk around the geothermal sites to investigate the boiling hot mud springs, sulfur springs, steam vents, and fumaroles are abundant of Las Pilas and Las Hornillas. Much longer trails lead to the eastern entrance of the park and through the amazing elfin cloud forest to the peak of the volcano, each with it's share of side trails to magnificent waterfalls and natural hot springs.

Hacienda Barú (3 Nights)
Hacienda Barú (3 Nights)
Costa Rica photos
Day 8 — Head down out of the volcanic highlands and along the Pacific coast to Hacienda Barú. This is one of the most incredible spots we have found in nearly two decades of traveling Costa Rica. A True Eco lodge from the recycled roof tiles and solar water heaters to the location inside the National Wildlife Refuge you won't find a more natural destination and will be amazed at the amenities and comfort possible in perfect harmony with the environment.
                    
Barú National Wildlife Refuge, Playa Barú
Barú National Wildlife Refuge, Playa Barú
Guests at the Hacienda enjoy unlimited access to the wildlife refuge and kilometers of trails though half a dozen habitats. Near the lodge there is a canopy observation tower perfect for spotting birds, pizotes, monkeys and other wildlife and the frog pond, butterfly garden and caterpillar nursery are only steps from the restaurant. You'll want to save some energy to walk the nearly deserted kilometers long playa Barú at sunset.

Snorkel Isla del Caño
Snorkel Isla del Caño
Costa Rica photos
Day 9 — The trip to Caño Island is a full day. The boat launches from Playa Uvita in Marino Ballena National Park south of Dominical and is nearly always accompanied by spotted, or bottlenose dolphins while crossing the Bahía de Coronado to Isla del Caño.

Snorkel from the boat in the clear warm waters featuring five coral platforms then enjoy a picnic lunch in the shade under the palms. In the afternoon take a break from the mask and fins on the well maintained hiking trails through virgin rainforest. Investigate the mysterious stone spheres and other artifacts at the pre-Columbian cemetery or climb to the mirador.

Try to resist the temptation to nap on the way back to the mainland because these waters are the calving grounds for two distinct populations of humpback whales and chances are good to see them spy hopping or breaching from July all the way through April. (4 person minimum for this activity / Scuba Diving is available for $45 per person additional – Must be PADI Certified)

Hike to Nayauca Waterfall
Hike to Nayauca Waterfall
Day 10 — Cataratas Nauyaca are a favorite hiking and horseback riding destination. Today your guide will lead you along the trail to the amazing multiple falls on the Río Barucito where you can cool down in the refreshing turquoise pools. This is some of the best birdwatching territory anywhere in Costa Rica so keep your eyes peeled for mot-mots and trogons along the way.


Cerro de la Muerte
Day 11 — One of the most interesting drives in Costa Rica from the Pacific coast up over Cerro de la Muerte where the cloud forest gives way to the rainy paramo ecosystem. Most of the world's paramo is found in Ecuador but the northernmost occurrence of this unique high altitude tropical tundra habitat is in Costa Rica. A short gravel road from the pass leads to the peak, the paramo and unmatched panoramas and the Trogon lodge is just a few minutes further along after you return to the highway.

Trogón Lodge (2 Nights)
Trogón Lodge (2 Nights)
Day 12 — Welcome to the Trogón Lodge nestled in the idyllic and tranquil Savegre river valley and immersed in nature. Enjoy unrivaled birdwatching along the trails though their private reserve of tropical oaks hundreds of years old then return to the "El Quetzal” Restaurant and enjoy a family style meal that might include a rainbow trout you caught yourself if you're so inclined.
         
Resplendent Quetzales Walk
Resplendent Quetzales Walk
Costa Rica photos
The most famous inhabitant of the cloud forest is the Resplendent Quetzal (Pharomacrus mocinno) and not surprisingly San Gerardo de Dota bordering the newly created Los Quetzales National Park is the best place to see them (yes, way better than the more famous Monteverde). The best way to see them is with the aid of a pair of keen eyes, years of experience, professional grade binoculars and spotting scopes provided by your guide on this easy walk. The exact location of the walk will be determined by the guide who knows where to go when for the best viewing.

Catarata Savegre Trail
Catarata Savegre Trail
Costa Rica photos
Day 13 — It's only a couple of hours back to San José so take the morning to enjoy the area around the Trogon Lodge. A well maintained trail along the Río Savegre with railed stairs on steep sections and a steel bridge so you can cross the river to reach the first waterfall easily and safely (1.2 km one way). This is sometimes called cave falls because of the opening that allows you to get behind the water.

From here the trail gets a little steeper and rougher for the last 0.7 km to the spectacular Catarata Savegre (total 1.9 km one way). - typically self guided, but expert naturalists are are available to accompany you on request.

Adventure Inn (1 night)
Adventure Inn (1 night)
In the afternoon you'll drive down from the cloud forest back to civilization, drop off the rental car and we'll transfer you to the Adventure Inn, a modern Costa Rican hotel bed and breakfast inn in the quiet San José suburb of Ciudad Cariari, close enough to head to the city if you'd like to explore the mercado central, pre-Colombian jade or gold museums, ethnic restaurants or other attractions and only ten minutes from the international airport.
           

Adiós ¡Hasta Luego!
Day 14 — You've got to head home sometime, but we're always happy to welcome you back. We'll schedule it so you arrive at the international airport the required 3 hours before your flight departs.

Thank you for traveling with us and of course ¡Pura Vida!


Included in your Costa Rica Vacation (mouse over name to show location)



This trip is specifically designed to allow you to get familiar with the country using provided transportation to your first destination (Arenal) before your rental SUV is delivered for some exploring on your own.

Transportation alternative are available but may add considerably to the cost.
Better Business Bureau, Costa Rican Tourism Board (ICT) and  certification seals


† Toucan Maps Inc./Costa Rica Guide.com is based in Colorado and an accredited member of the Better Business Bureau (BBB) in good standing with an A rating.
‡ Pacific Trade Winds S.A. is based in Nuevo Arenal Costa Rica and certified by the Costa Rica National Chamber of Tourism/Camara Nacional de Tourismo (Canatur) and a green member (#900185097) in good standing of the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA).