Waterfalls pouring into jungle rivers, misty cloud forests, and coastal waterways teeming with wildlife: Costa Rica is a small country packed with natural wonders. Immerse yourself in a thousand shades of green as we explore three spectacular—and very different—forest regions. Keep an eye out for parrots, iguanas, and monkeys as we paddle kayaks along the channels of Tortuguero National Park. Go white-water rafting through the lush gorges of the Pacuare River, and hike deep into the rain forest and the cloud forest to encounter an astonishing array of species.
Arrive in San José, Costa Rica’s capital, where our staff awaits to transfer you to our National Geographic Unique Lodge, a bastion of Central America art perched amid coffee and banana trees in the hills overlooking San Jose. The remainder of the day is free to relax and have dinner on your own.
Begin the day with a scenic flight over the jungle to Tortuguero National Park, a lowland tropical wet forest accessible only by water or air. A short boat ride brings us to our secluded hotel, perched on the water’s edge. Enjoy breakfast before we gear up for our first kayak excursion. Navigate the still waterways that cut through the forest, encountering varied wildlife, from poison dart frogs to brilliant tropical flowers to spider monkeys. Gather for a welcome dinner tonight. (2–3 miles paddling, 3 hours).
After breakfast, a private motorboat takes us (and our kayaks) deeper into the park to paddle amid backwater lagoons and creeks. Keep your eyes peeled for howler monkeys, sloths, river otters, caimans, and a variety of lizards and birds. Return to the lodge for lunch and a free afternoon to relax at the pool or kayak the narrow channels that surround the lodge. (4–5 miles paddling, 4 hours)
Travel by boat and by road to the Pacuare River, where we set off on our white-water rafting adventure. From our put-in, paddle about eight miles downstream, entering lush primary forest and descending several technical drops. Stop for lunch and a walk in the forest, and look for sloths, river otters, anteaters, and an incredible variety of birds. In the afternoon, arrive at our thatched-roof eco-lodge perched on the river’s edge. (4-5 miles paddling, 2 hours)
Situated in the middle of pristine jungle, our lodge offers many opportunities for adventure, and we take the full day to explore. Go on an optional early morning bird-watching hike with guides to see toucans and many other species. Swing through the forest on a zip line to get an up-close perspective of the ecosystem of the canopy. Hike to waterfalls or trek deep into the Pacuare Nature Reserve. (4–5 miles hiking, 4 hours)
Today we raft a stunning stretch of wild water that curves past waterfalls on its way deep into lush gorges. Here, the rapids become more powerful and technical in nature, and we’ll have an exhilarating run over steep drops and churning white water. Stop for a snack and a swim in a placid part of the river, and take out near the town of Siquirres. Then journey into the cloud forest and settle into our lodge. (6-8 miles paddling, 3-4 hours)
Hike into the cloud forest and encounter a wide spectrum of wildlife, including, with luck, the quetzal, a beautiful but near-threatened bird that is endemic to Mesoamerica. Then take advantage of a free afternoon to explore the lodge and its gardens, go on another hike, or enjoy one of the optional activities offered in the area. (4–5 miles hiking, 4 hours)
Drive to Orosi Valley, one of the first areas of Costa Rica settled by the Spanish colonists and now a center of the coffee industry. After lunch at a coffee plantation, continue to Cartago for a visit to the Basilica de Los Ángeles, an ornate Byzantine-influenced church honoring Costa Rica’s patron saint. Late in the afternoon, arrive at our hotel and enjoy time at leisure before our farewell dinner. (1–2 miles hiking, 2 hours)
After breakfast, transfer to the airport and depart on your flight home.