From lush cloud forests to towering volcanoes, Costa Rica is home to an extraordinary wealth of biodiversity—with 12 distinct life zones squeezed into its narrow isthmus. Discover the country’s wild wonders on a journey from the palm-fringed Pacific coast to the misty highlands. Hike through the jungles of the Osa Peninsula in search of monkeys, tapirs, and colorful birds, and swim at beautiful waterfalls and beaches. Explore the rain forests of Arenal National Park, soaring from tree to tree on zip lines strung through the canopy. Then venture into the Villa Blanca cloud forest to experience one of the planet’s most unique ecosystems. Along the way, stay at eco-friendly retreats situated within stunning nature reserves—including Lapa Rios Eco Lodge, a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World celebrated for its wildlife conservation efforts.
Arrive in San José, Costa Rica’s capital, where our staff awaits to drive you to our National Geographic Unique Lodge, set on a coffee plantation overlooking San José. The remainder of the day is free to relax and have dinner on your own.
This morning, fly south to the Osa Peninsula, home to some of the most pristine tropical lowland rain forests on the Pacific coast. At the peninsula’s tip is Lapa Rios, a 1,000-acre private reserve created to protect the area’s precious biodiversity. Settle into your bungalow at Lapa Rios Lodge, a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World celebrated for its wildlife conservation efforts in the surrounding region. Gather for a welcome lunch, enjoying spectacular views of the shimmering waters where the Pacific Ocean meets the Golfo Dulce. During our stay at the lodge, we will experience the natural treasures of the Osa Peninsula on a variety of excursions. Hike to waterfalls and secluded beaches to go swimming, learn about the medicinal uses of local plants, and experience the magic of the rain forest on a nighttime walk. With the help of a naturalist, spot an array of wildlife include white-faced capuchin monkeys, poison dart frogs, sloths, and more. (Day 2 and 3: 2–4 miles hiking, 4-5 hours)
After an early breakfast, catch a flight back to San José. Drive into the northern highlands to Arenal National Park, named for the 7,000-year-old volcano that rises above the rain forest canopy. Monkeys, parrots, and many other species make their homes at the volcano’s base. Check into our lodge and head out on a naturalist-led hike in the afternoon. If you wish, rise early the next morning to join a birding walk, searching for toucans, hummingbirds, and tanagers. After breakfast, embark on an aerial adventure that will send you soaring from tree to tree on zip lines strung through the rain forest canopy. Have lunch in the town of La Fortuna. In the afternoon, visit thermal hot spring pools owned and operated by a local family and soak in soothing waters heated by the volcano. Enjoy an authentic, home-style dinner. (Day 4: 2–4 miles hiking, 2 hours; Day 5: 1–2 miles hiking, 1 hour)
Venture into the rain forest canopy surrounding Arenal Volcano along a network of suspension bridges that loop through the treetops. Observe a variety of colorful birds, and keep an eye out for monkeys, sloths, snakes, and frogs. Then journey into the Villa Blanca Cloud Forest Hotel and Nature Reserve, a 75-acre mountain retreat nestled within the vast Los Angeles Private Biological Nature Reserve. Settle into your private casita situated amid a lush backdrop of rolling hills and botanical gardens. Before dinner, head out on a twilight walk in the jungle to search for tropical owls, kinkajous, and gray foxes. (2–4 miles hiking, 2–4 hours)
Today, experience the complex ecosystems and rich biodiversity of the cloud forest. Search for a variety of wildlife as we hike along forest trails adorned with ferns, mosses, and looping vines. Keep an eye out for butterflies and resident bird species such as motmots and toucanets. With luck, we’ll spot the rare resplendent quetzal—a sacred bird in Maya and Aztec cultures. The brilliant red and iridescent green male has a white streamer tail that wafts behind him as he flies through the forest. (2–3 miles hiking, 1–3 hours)
After a morning birding walk, depart from our lodge and return to San José. Enjoy a festive farewell dinner at our hotel this evening.
Transfer to the airport and depart on homeward-bound flights.