Costa Rica Hike and Explore
Beaches, Cloudforests, and Eco-lodges on Costa Rica's Wild Side
Sample ItineraryDay 1: Arrive in San Jose and transfer to the hotel in Alajuela. Enjoy dinner with the group and a program orientation by the pool.
Day 2: Leave San Jose early in the morning, traveling by van to the Pacific Coast town of Quepos for lunch. After lunch, continue traveling to Baru where you'll stay on a pristine preserve a mile out of town. There are no developments on these beaches where endangered turtles lay their eggs. Hike to and spend the night in a remote rainforest jungle camp. Take an optional night hike to see the nocturnal animals at the peak of their activity including pacas, agoutis, and the beautiful but tiny poison dart frogs.
Day 3: Wake up deep in the rainforest and hike back down to the beach after breakfast. Take a zip line tour of the forest canopy and get eye to eye with a variety of monkeys, iguanas, and even a sloth! End your day visiting the butterfly enclosure, relaxing in a hammock under the trees, or swimming in the pool.
Day 4: Get up from your cozy little cabana for a leisurely breakfast. Depart Baru today for the Osa Peninsula, our home for the next several days. Travel by bus to the village of Sierpe, then by boat through a mangrove lined river inhabited by numerous species of birds and an occasional crocodile (don’t worry, you are perfectly safe!). Continue out onto the Pacific Ocean for an incredibly scenic ride along palm-lined beaches that go on for miles. Relax on a beautiful beach adjacent to Corcovado National Park—one of the truly wild places left on earth. Out here you will enjoy frequent sightings of dolphins and humpback whales.
Day 5: Spend the day snorkeling in the coral reef off a sandy beach in warm waters off Cano Island eight miles off the coast. This area is one of the very best places to snorkel in clear water among abundant sea life. End your day lounging in a hammock, letting the wildlife come to you (an anteater crawled out on a limb to greet us on our first visit there!) or taking a hike down miles of pristine beaches.
Day 6: An early morning boat ride takes you to Corcovado National Park where you will spend the morning exploring one of the earth’s remaining rare wild places. Hike through the rainforest jungle and beaches looking for spectacular birds and wildlife of all kinds: monkeys, crested guams and other creatures live here in abundance. Return to the ranger station for a picnic lunch on the beach.
Day 7: Start the day off with an early morning boat ride back to Sierpe, then travel by van through the mountains to San Isidro, a typical Costa Rican town nestled in the mountain valley. After an afternoon of lunch and shopping, travel on to San Gerardo, a small town on the flanks of Mt. Chirripo. Spend the remainder of the day taking short hikes and/or birdwatching.
Day 8: Trek up into the cloud forest adjacent to Mt. Chirripo in Cloudbridge Preserve. A beautiful loop trail takes you through a fantasy world of hanging moss, huge old growth forest and amazing vistas. It is a strange and wonderful feeling to look down at the clouds! At the end of the day, reminisce with your new friends over a celebratory evening meal.
Day 9: Start your day with a short hike around Talamanca and observe the many species of birds that call the mountains their home. Keep your eyes peeled for the gorgeous Violet Sabrewing Hummingbird, the largest hummingbird in Costa Rica. After a leisurely lunch, drive down the mountain and return to Alajuela.
Day 10: Rise early and take a tour of the Doka Coffee Estate, a pioneer of coffee production for more than 70 years. This is the perfect opportunity to stock up on Costa Rican coffee before returning home. After the coffee tour, travel back to the San Jose airport around noon. Flights should depart after 1:30 pm.
Travel, Terrain, Etc...TERRAIN/ROUTE CHOICES: This trip is a hikers' dream, with a variety of levels of challenge. Trails are rustic in most places, and they can be narrow and rocky and sometimes require fording a stream. Some hikes are on flat areas through the jungle, others are on steep hills. Good hiking footwear is essential.
TYPE OF TRAVEL/DISTANCE: Travel is primarily in a mini bus, by powerboat and by foot. This trip does involve a fair amount of hiking, but no previous experience is necessary to complete this trip. Hikes can range from 45 minutes to four hours long, and they can be steep. If you are able to hike five miles per day you should have no difficulty. We do not recommend this trip for persons who use wheelchairs, but if you use a wheelchair and are interested in going, please call to discuss the trip with us. Some of these areas are not accessible for wheelchair users.
WEATHER: Temperatures between January and March can range from 60ºF at night to 95ºF during the day at the coast and from 40ºF at night to 80ºF during the day in the mountains. Rainfall will vary, but you should plan for it during portions of several days.
YOUR GROUP: The group size ranges from 10-15 participants, plus one to two Wilderness Inquiry staff. Each group consists of people of various ages, backgrounds and abilities, including people with disabilities. There are few to no camp chores on this trip. We stay in hotels and cabanas and take our meals at restaurants and local eateries.
ACCOMMODATIONS: Throughout the trip we will be staying in small local hotels, eco-lodges, and tent cabins. Typically there are 2-4 people per room, matched by gender or requests to room together. In most rooms, solo travelers have single beds and couples share beds. Our hotel accommodations will be simple yet comfortable. Costa Rican hotels and other public facilities typically make very few accommodations for people with disabilities. As always, WI staff will assist participants who require additional help in every way possible. We make every effort to ensure privacy and cleanliness.
MEALS: Kick back and relax while all meals are made for you. You'll indulge in typical Costa Rican fair (including casadas–rice, beans, eggs, cheese, fresh fruits and chicken, fish or beef). The water in Costa Rica is almost always safe to drink right out of the tap. The only exception is on the Osa Peninsula, where treated and bottled water are readily available. We'll enjoy happy hours and such, but the purchase of alcoholic beverages is not included in the trip fees—it is an extra.
EQUIPMENT AND CLOTHING: If you are new to outdoor activities, you need not spend a lot of money on gear. All you need to provide is your personal gear, such as clothing and a water bottle. A detailed equipment list will be sent to you upon confirmation of your participation. If you need to borrow personal gear that can usually be arranged.
SINGLE TRAVELERS: If you are traveling alone, you will feel at home with a welcoming group. When rooms are shared, we match same gender solo travelers. If you would like to have your own room throughout the trip, you may purchase a single supplement for an additional fee. Please email or call us if you would like this option.
HEALTH: There are no required vaccines needed to visit Costa Rica, however we do recommend that you talk with your doctor regarding any health concerns related to traveling in Costa Rica or outside of the United States. We also encourage you to check the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's website for the most up-to-date recommendations.
PASSPORT/VISA: U.S. citizens need a passport to enter Costa Rica. One blank passport page is typically required for entry stamp. No tourist visa is required for U.S. citizens for stays under 90 days, though a return ticket must be presented. We encourage you to check the State Department website for the most up-to-date entry requirements. To leave the country, the airport charges an exit fee of approximately $28. More information about entry and exit requirements can be found by calling (202) 234-2945/46.
A note about the itinerary: Our trips are real adventures in the outdoors. While we'll make every effort to follow the itinerary listed here, elements may change due to weather or reasons beyond our control.
Twelve major life zones provide habitat for over 10,000 kinds of flowering plants, 850 bird species, 3,000 butterfly species, and 209 species of mammals. Volcanoes, rainforests, cloud forests, lowland jungles, the Pacific coastline, and tranquil Caribbean beaches stretch across seven provinces. Thirty percent of the land is protected by national and private reserves, which harbor nearly six percent of the entire world’s plant and animal species.
Costa Rica covers only 0.03% of the surface of the planet but supports about six percent of the world’s biodiversity. Visitors encounter beaches, rivers, mountains, and an abundance of flora and fauna.
The Caribbean region of Costa Rica provides a variety of aquatic ecosystems and its beautiful white and black sand beaches, providing a picturesque setting for activities such as sport fishing, snorkeling, and sun-bathing. The Pacific coast offers some of Costa Rica’s most famous beaches for surfing.
Costa Rica boasts 20 national parks, eight biological reserves, and a wealth of other protected areas to enchant those who marvel at the wonders of nature. It draws eco-tourists from around the globe. Activities include horseback riding, hiking mountainous paths in the cloud forests, and guided bird-watching tours.
La Amistad International Park (PILA) ranks not only as the biggest natural park in Costa Rica with almost 200,000 hectares (almost 500,000 acres), but also the only bi-national park, created by the governments of Costa Rica and Panama in 1982. It could explain the name La Amistad, which means friendship in Spanish. The total extension of this amazing portion of protected land in both countries covers 401,000 hectares (nearly 1 million acres), which covers a great variety of humid, rain and cloud forests in the Pacific and Atlantic sides, as well as indigenous reserves.
Species in great danger of extinction such as the jaguar, the largest feline in the Americas and third largest worldwide, live in the park as well as a great variety of wildlife, which includes 400 species of birds, 263 species of amphibians and reptiles, and 213 of mammals. Many other species are found only in this giant rainforest.
As part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, Costa Rica’s volcanoes rank among the most mesmerizing volcanoes in the world. In fact, the present-day landmass known as Costa Rica resulted from complex volcanic activity that took place some 75 million years ago and still continues today.
Counting every location or crater where an eruption has occurred within its borders, Costa Rica volcanoes total a stunning 112 sites throughout the country. Most Costa Rica volcanoes and their surrounding areas have been made into national parks.
In 2009 the American Association of Civil Engineers declared the most important archeological site in Costa Rica, the Guayabo National Monument, located near Turrialba Volcano National Park, as a World Engineering Heritage. Guayabo is the third archaeological site in Latin America to receive this distinction after Machu Picchu and Tipón in Perú.
The reason for such a designation: Guayabo’s over-700-year-old aqueduct, still functional today, and its calzada, a stone walkway used as a transit route and part of the drainage system. The calzada leads towards a ceremonial center, where visitors can still observe several mounds that at one time served as supports for the famous conical roofed straw and reed structures of South American influence. The stone commonly used in Guayabo to build a system of sidewalks and walls also helped prevent erosion and landslides. Guayabo also includes stone tombs decorated with pebbles, flagstones, and engravings or petroglyphs.
Ticos, as the modern people of Costa Rica now call themselves, are famously hospitable, and quite happily live up to this reputation. They seem well aware that their country’s special attributes, and they go out of their way to accommodate their visitors, sharing their culture, pointing out unique sights, and helping make their stay as enjoyable as possible.
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This trip officially begins at a hotel near the San Jose International airport, where your group leader will meet you at 4 pm in the afternoon of Day 1. The trip ends when your group leader takes you back to the airport at approximately noon on the last day. Participants should schedule flights that depart after 1:30 pm. To make your travel arrangements for this trip we recommend that you consult with our travel agency, Travel One, at (800) 247-1311. They are very familiar with our trips and can help you make the best flight connections at the best prices. Detailed meeting place instructions will be sent to you when you are confirmed for the trip.
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The Keel-billed Toucan is commonly found in the lowland rainforests.
The highly adaptable capuchin monkey can be found in large social groups throughout Costa Rica.
Scarlet Macaw eating advacados in the wild in Costa Rica's Corcovado National Park.
Hiking the beaches of Costa Rica's Osa Peninsula. This is a tropical paradise.
The howler monkey is the largest of the New World monkeys. Sounds like a lion in the trees--a cool, primal sound.
Paula gets ready to ride the zip line. Note her new "ears" courtesy of Victor, our zip line guide.
Conseula snorkeling in the Pacific Ocean off Cano Island
Group pauses near a giant old-growth tree, estimated to be a thousand years old.
Blue Jean poison dart frog. Beautiful, but tiny. Don't touch!
Jack Ewing at Hacienda Baru shows aerial photos of Baru from 1960's cattle ranch back to pristine rainforest.
Trip leader Chad with a bromeliad found on our beach hike.
Hikes in Costa Rica's Corcovado National Park take you to refreshing pools and falls. Corcovado is considered the "most biologically intense place on earth."
Our clubhouse on Costa Rica's Osa Peninsula, great for cocktails!
Getting ready to hike at Cloudbridge Preserve.
Granular Poison Dart Frog observed on a night hike. These guys are about the size of a thimble, and their skin was used by natives as a toxin added to hunting arrows--hence the name.