By Jean Strauber, Travel Editor
Smithsonian Journeys is offering 10 Remote and Exotic Escapes for those who want to venture off the beaten path. You’ll travel to far-flung locales in the company of extraordinary experts and enjoy the insider’s access that Smithsonian Journeys provides.
One of those 10 Escapes is to a country nestled between the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean — Costa Rica. Here’s a description of that tour in detail:
During guided walks, witness the variety of wildlife at Monteverde’s biological reserve, renowned for the dramatic but elusive resplendent quetzal, as well as a spectacular hummingbird gallery and butterfly garden. Enjoy excursions to Poas Volcano, Arenal Volcano, the Luna Nueva private rain forest reserve, and a special orchid botanical garden.
Plus, you’ll learn about Costa Rica’s coffee production and handicrafts, take part in a private cooking class and visit with students at an elementary school. Conclude your tropical journey at a secluded Pacific beach resort, where you can relax on exotic black sand beaches or engage in more active pursuits.
First, your group, limited to 18 travelers, will enjoy pristine landscapes and exotic flora and fauna. Skim treetops from hanging bridges in the rain forest canopy, and float along the Tempisque River to view birds and wildlife from below.
Your day-by-day itinerary:
Day 1 — Depart for San Jose, Costa Rica Arrive in the Costa Rican capital and transfer to the suburb of Heredia and your hotel, set amid a 12-acre country garden. This afternoon and evening are at leisure. Your accommodation will be at Hotel Bougainvillea for the next two nights. The 81-room Hotel Bougainvillea is decorated with paintings and sculptures by local artists and surrounded by 10 acres of lush gardens.
Day 2 — San Jose. Embark on an excursion through the Central Valley to Poas Volcano National Park (pictured above). View the world’s largest crater (a steaming, bubbling caldron), and take a guided walk along park trails. Continue to the Doka Coffee Estate, located on the fertile slopes of Poas Volcano, where you learn about coffee-making and Costa Rica’s coffee industry, one of its largest exports. After lunch at the Doka Estate, return to your hotel late afternoon. Tonight enjoy a welcome dinner at the hotel.
Day 3 — San Jose, Arenal. Leave San Jose this morning bound for the Arenal region, passing picturesque villages along the way. En route visit a traditional mask-maker, then stop in La Garita at the Botanical Orchid Garden, which features trails, exhibits, nurseries, and gardens dedicated to the wondrous orchid plant and its many varieties. After time to explore here, travel on to Arenal and your hotel, which offers magnificent views of Arenal Volcano. Your hotel: Arenal Manoa for the next two nights. The Hotel Arenal Monoa offers panoramic views of Arenal Volcano while surrounded by meditative gardens and a Costa Rican farm. La Palma River runs through the property, nourishing a gallery forest complete with a vast selection of bird and plant life.
Day 4 — Arenal Region, Luna Nueva Rain Forest. This morning visit a local elementary school to enjoy a cultural exchange with the children and learn about Costa Rica’s vaunted educational system – the country boasts a literacy rate of more than 95 percent. During this afternoon’s excursion to the Luna Nueva private rain forest reserve, take a nature walk to witness the bio-diversity up close. Residents here include monkeys, poison dart frogs, and many bird species. At the Sacred Seed Sanctuary learn about the connections between medicinal plants, survival of the rain forest, and cultural knowledge. Then enjoy time for more volcano viewing at your hotel before and after dinner.
Day 5 — Arenal Region, Monteverde Cloud Forest. Travel today to the “green cathedral” of Monteverde. Check in at your hotel, with time for lunch on your own. In the afternoon, stop at the CASEM handicrafts cooperative, a non-profit organization helping local women artisans. Visit Monteverde’s delightful Butterfly Garden, with more than 50 different species, including the stunning Blue Morpho, the unique Calico butterfly which produces sound, and the virtually transparent Glass-Wings butterfly. Your hotel: El Establo Mountain Hotel for the next three nights. This 155-room lodge is nestled in the misty cloud forest of Monteverde. The hotel has two heated indoor pools, spa, gym, restaurant, bar, tennis court, canopy tour (zip lines), and hiking trails.
Day 6 — Monteverde. This morning embark on a guided walk through Monteverde’s biological reserve, learning about the amazing bio-diversity in this relatively small area. Also tour the Hummingbird Gallery, where feeders attract seven different species of the delicate hummingbird. After lunch, visit the Monteverde Bat Jungle to learn about Costa Rica’s diverse – and important – bat population.
Day 7 — Monteverde. Early today visit the hanging bridges Sky Walk, where you have the opportunity to experience this natural preserve from the canopy level, high above the rain forest floor. Your naturalist guide will point out some of the 100 species of mammals, 400 species of birds (including 30 kinds of hummingbirds), and 2,500 species of plants (including 420 kinds of orchids) that are known to exist in this unique setting.
Day 8 — Monteverde, Guanacaste. Depart by coach this morning for Guanacaste, Costa Rica’s stunning northwest Pacific coastal region lined with pristine white-sand beaches and home to several national parks. Stop for lunch along the way, reaching your beachfront resort hotel mid-afternoon. The remainder of the afternoon is at leisure. Later this afternoon enjoy a private cooking class and learn how to prepare a traditional tamale with local, market-bought ingredients. Your hotel: Casa Conde del Mar for the next three nights. Surrounded by lush vegetation and Costa Rican wildlife, Casa Conda del Mar stands along the mile-long Playa Panama Beach, one of the country’s most pristine and serene beaches. Your accommodations in Monteverde will be an environmentally compatible lodge, which is comfortable but not luxurious. Although you may not have air conditioning, television, or telephones in your room, most travelers find the accommodations to be an excellent complement to the natural environment.
Day 9 — Guanacaste. A float safari on the Tempisque River highlights this morning’s excursion to Palo Verde National Park, which is both an extraordinary wetland and also one of the world’s last tropical dry forests. You should see abundant bird species and wildlife, possibly including monkeys, iguanas, and crocodiles in this unique ecosystem. Following your safari enjoy lunch at a local restaurant then return to your hotel mid-afternoon. The remainder of the day is at leisure along one of Costa Rica’s most pristine beaches.
Day 10 — Guanacaste. Today is at leisure to enjoy the beautiful white-sand beach and other amenities of your hotel, including an outdoor pool. Optional activities include snorkeling, kayaking, sailing, and diving.
Day 11 — Guanacaste, San Jose. Return to San Jose and arrive at your hotel in Heredia early this afternoon. Enjoy time to relax and refresh before tonight’s farewell dinner at your hotel.
For only $3681 per person/double occupancy and includes airfare, airline taxes and departure charges. For more information consult your travel professional or me at the Corporate Travel Center (800) 870-9345 or e-mail email@example.com.
Nestled between the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, Costa Rica possesses a wealth of natural beauty and a variety of wildlife that belies its diminutive size. Join our small group tour (limited to just 18 travelers!) for an exciting adventure as you enjoy pristine landscapes and learn about exotic flora and fauna and the unique environments of cloud forest and rain forest. You’ll skim the treetops from hanging bridges in the rain forest canopy, float along the Tempisque River to view birds and wildlife from below, and much more.
During guided walks, witness the variety of wildlife at Monteverde’s biological reserve, renowned for the dramatic but elusive resplendent quetzal, as well as a spectacular hummingbird gallery and butterfly garden. You’ll enjoy excursions to Poas Volcano, Arenal Volcano, the Luna Nueva private rain forest reserve, and a special orchid botanical garden. Plus, learn about Costa Rica’s coffee production and handicrafts, take part in a private cooking class, and visit with students at an elementary school. Conclude your tropical journey at a secluded Pacific beach resort to relax on exotic black-sand beaches or engage in more active pursuits.