Costa Rica Hike and Explore
Beaches, Cloudforests, and Eco-lodges on Costa Rica's Wild Side
Pura Vida, the good life, is what you will experience in Costa Rica with Wilderness Inquiry. This is a place known for its natural wonders, and this trip will take you to them. WI has been doing trips in Costa Rica for many years and by gradually migrating to the southern, and some would say less-traveled, part of the country, we have developed a very unique and exciting itinerary you won’t find anywhere else. On this adventure, you’ll travel to Corcovado National Park on the famed Osa Peninsula—a place the National Geographic Society calls “the most biologically intense place on Earth.” Observe monkeys, iguanas, sloths, dolphins and a wide variety of birds at Hacienda Baru. Conclude your trip by hiking the amazing cloud forests of Mount Chirripo, the country’s tallest mountain. Stay in small, locally-owned hotels and cabanas.
For standard meeting places and times, see Dates & Fees tab.
Day 1: Arrive in San Jose and make your way 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. Hike to and spend the night in a remote rainforest jungle camp. Take an optional night hike to see nocturnal animals at the peak of their activity.
Day 3: Awaken to the sounds of the rainforest and hike back down to the beach after breakfast. Enjoy a relaxing afternoon visiting the butterfly enclosure, reading in a hammock under the trees, or swimming in the pool.
Day 4: Rise in the morning to enjoy a fresh breakfast, then depart Baru 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 channel continuing out onto the Pacific Ocean for an incredibly scenic ride along palm-lined beaches. Settle into your lodge before relaxing on a beautiful beach adjacent to Corcovado National Park.
Day 5: Wake up early and get ready for a full day of adventure. Spend the morning snorkeling in the coral reef off the warm waters of Cano Island. This area is one of the very best places to snorkel in clear water among abundant sea life. In the afternoon, take to the trees for a zip line tour of the dense canopy!
Day 6: After breakfast 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. Travel back to your resort for a quiet evening 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 lunch and a bit of 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: Wake early for a trek 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, share dinner with your trip mates 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: This trip is a hikers' dream, with a variety of levels of challenge. Trails are rustic in most places, 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. Consider hiking poles if uneven or steep terrain is a concern.
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 4 hours long, and can be steep. 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 on 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. Humidity levels are often high.
YOUR GROUP: The group size ranges from 8-12 participants, plus one to two Wilderness Inquiry staff. Each group consists of people of various ages, backgrounds and abilities, including people with disabilities.
ACCOMMODATIONS: Throughout the trip we will be staying in small local hotels, eco-lodges, and tent cabins. Typically there are 2 people per room, matched by gender or requests to room together. Your “night in the jungle” may have up to 6 people per room. 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.
SINGLE TRAVELERS: If you are traveling alone, you will feel at home with a welcoming group. 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.
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 but the purchase of alcoholic beverages is not included in the trip fees.
EQUIPMENT AND CLOTHING: Wilderness Inquiry will provide all group equipment. You will need to provide your personal gear as outlined in the packing list. If you are new to outdoor activities, you do not need to spend a lot of money. Wilderness Inquiry can usually arrange for you to borrow most items.
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's website for the most up-to-date entry requirements.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.
The Central American country of Costa Rica offers visitors a lush tropical paradise, with nearly one-third of the entire nation protected in nature preserves stretching from the nation’s eastern shores on the Caribbean up to the mountain tops and down to the western shores on the Pacific.
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 6% 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 one-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 land mass 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 of 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.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Do I need international travel insurance if my health insurance doesn’t cover me on an international trip?
If your health insurance doesn't cover you while abroad, it is a good idea to consider a basic travel-specific insurance. We refer our participants to Travel One for travel insurance needs. You can reach Travel One at 800-247-1311 or click here to visit their website.
Which immunizations do you recommend when traveling to an international destination?
Prior to departure, we recommend that you check with your doctor as early as possible to ensure you are up to date on your standard immunizations. Your doctor is in the best position to recommend specific vaccinations to specific destinations.
Can I pay more to have my own room on a lodge-based trip?
Yes, most times a single supplement is available on a lodge-based trip. Exact cost and availability depends on the trip.
How safe are international trips with Wilderness Inquiry?
Safety is our top priority on all Wilderness Inquiry trips. We maintain awareness of all State Department travel advisories and ensure our itineraries follow appropriate routes. We have an excellent record of safety on all international trips and only run trips when we feel comfortable and confident in participants having an excellent experience.
Is the Zika virus in Belize and Costa Rica?
The Zika virus has been in the news a lot lately. We're concerned about our travelers' health and are monitoring the situation closely. We want to make sure you have the most up to date information about the Zika virus for our two Central American destinations. There are no travel warnings about the Zika virus in Belize. We will keep this post up to date if that situation changes. Costa Rica has only detected two people infected with the mosquito-borne virus as of February 2016, so the risk to travelers remains low. The U.S. Center for Disease Control has issued an "Alert Level 2 - Practice Enhanced Precautions" about Zika in Costa Rica. For the most up to date travel warnings, visit the CDC webpage about Zika in Central America. The CDC suggests that you use abundant caution to avoid mosquito bites and to not travel to the Costa Rica if you are or are planning to get pregnant.
For more information, visit these links:
Single Room Supplement
You can elect to guarantee a single room for the duration of the trip for $525 during the registration process.
Standard Meeting Places and Times
Start: Hotel Bristol Aeropuerto (formerly Hotel Villa Dolce) at 4:00 PM (local time)
End: San Jose International Airport at 11:30 AM (local time)
This trip officially begins at 4:00 PM at the Hotel Villa Dolce near the San Jose International Airport, where your group leader will meet you. The trip ends at 11:30 AM on the last day when your group leader takes you back to the San Jose International Airport. Participants should schedule flights that depart after 1:30 PM. Detailed meeting place instructions will be sent to you when you are confirmed for the trip.