When planning your Costa Rica getaway there are several questions you need to ask yourself as you would with any trip if you would like to travel on a guided tour or if you would like to be on your own. A major plus to a guided tour to Costa Rica is that you would not have to drive on the horrendous roads. Here are a few of my tips for traveling to Costa Rica and a guided tour suggestion on a fantastic Costa Rica vacation with Alexander and Roberts.
I chose to feature Alexander and Roberts because they include unique experiences that you cannot have just anywhere. For Costa Rica, they offer a intimate dinner with Marvin Rockwell, a Quaker settler that made his way to Costa Rica in the 1950’s. You will get a true in depth vision of the country, culture and everyday life of a Costa Rican.
Costa Rican Roads are awful! You will have to plan to be on the road for quite awhile to get from the airport to the hotel or from hotel to hotel, allow yourself a couple of hours. Especially if you are catching a flight.
Plan for busy season. Costa Rica’s dry season is December to April. December tends to be a pretty high and expensive time especially around Christmas. It is especially rainy September to November.
You are visiting the rainforest, the weather is not going to be perfectly dry and sunny even when visiting in the dry season. Bring rain gear with you!!
Pick a place to stay inland (such as the Arenal Volcano area) and a place along the coast to get a very well rounded Costa Rican experience. I would suggest at least 7 nights, if not more!
Costa Rica is one of the safest countries in the world, but use street smarts when traveling. Do not leave items in the car, don’t flash money around, tips and taxes are included in your bill at restaurants, and do not walk around alone at night.
Costa Rica vacation with Alexander and Roberts
Day 1 – Welcome to San Jose, Costa Rica
On arrival at the airport, you’ll be warmly greeted and escorted to the Hotel Buena Vista. Built in Spanish Colonial style, our enchanting boutique hotel is surrounded by landscaped tropical gardens with commanding vistas over the Central Valley. Settle in to your guestroom and delight in the marvelous views from your private balcony.
Late this afternoon, join our Trip Leader Jorge Leiton and meet Jack Donnelly, the author of Costa Rica: Folk Culture, Traditions and Cuisine. Drawing from the personal experiences featured in his book, this informal talk with Mr. Donnelly promises a great introduction to life in Costa Rica. Then enjoy some light refreshments as Jorge presents an overview of your upcoming travels together. After dinner, gather around the pool for coffee and an intimate acoustic guitar performance.
Day 2 – Onward to Arenal
After breakfast and check-out, you’ll join Jorge for a tour of the Doka Estate. Here on this working coffee plantation, you’ll learn about – and see firsthand – the sustainable processes that bring the fine beans of the Central Valley to your morning cup of coffee. Continue your scenic journey, stopping for lunch along the way, and arrive at Arenal in the mid-afternoon. Check in to your spacious suite at the Arenal Kioro Hotel and take in the spectacular view of the Arenal Volcano from your balcony or en suite Jacuzzi. Before this evening’s dinner, you’ll also have time relax by the pool or enjoy the soothing thermal waters of Kioro’s hot springs.
Day 3 – From the Forest Canopy to Town
This morning’s Sky Tram adventure offers an exciting and enlightening view of the dense forests that surround Lake Arenal and the volcano. Ascending the mountain, traveling gently through the canopy high above the forest floor, you’ll gain a new perspective on this eco-system. These open-air tram cars afford spectacular views of the lake and Arenal Volcano, and immerse you in all the sights and sounds of the forest. At the top of the mountain, you can just enjoy in the panoramic vistas from the wide observation platform or join a guided nature walk along the forest trails of the summit.
After this aerial adventure, Jorge will take you to the nearby town of La Fortuna de San Carlos for lunch at Nene’s, an inviting local restaurant with a diverse menu ranging from steaks and sandwiches to ceviche – a local favorite. After lunch, you’ll have free time to explore this charming town at your own pace. You can stroll through the town’s central garden with its fine views of Arenal Volcano, mingle with locals along the town’s lively main street, shop for handmade artisan crafts, or stop by POPS for their much-loved coconut ice cream. Tonight’s dinner will be enlivened by a private Salsa dancing lesson which we’ve arranged for our guests!
Day 4 – Hanging Bridges Adventure + On to Monteverde
After breakfast and check out, you’ll join Jorge for another rainforest adventure. Ranging in elevation from just 5 feet above the ground to more than 145 feet high over the forest floor, this network of bridges and hanging bridges winds its way through the jungle and offers a unique way to view the biodiversity of this eco-system – from the darkened forest floor to the sun-dappled canopy. Sit down to lunch at Café & Macadamia, a charming restaurant with wonderful views of Lake Arenal, and then continue to Monteverde to visit the Butterfly Garden. In addition to more than 50 different species of butterflies, arachnids and insects, this is a great place to see and learn about other Costa Rican wildlife including White-faced Capuchin monkeys, agoutis and coatis!
Then check in to El Establo, our inviting hotel nestled in the misty cloud forests of Monteverde. As the afternoon wanes, we’ll take you to a prime vantage point to watch the sun set over the mountain ridges and the distant waters of the Gulf of Nicoya. This evening, we’ve arranged for you to dine with Marvin Rockwell, one of the original Quaker pioneers who settled in Monteverde in the 1950’s. The fine cuisine of Morpho’s Restaurant and Mr. Rockwell’s colorful stories promise a memorable evening.
Day 5 – Explore the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
After breakfast, you’ll join Jorge for a guided nature walk into the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. With moisture-laden trade winds blowing upward along the mountain slopes of the region, you’ll find clouds and fog hovering almost continuously in the upper canopy of the forest. Condensing onto the leaves and plants below, the moisture contributes to the extraordinary biodiversity of the Cloud Forest. With expert insight from Jorge, you’ll learn about the myriad species that thrive here: More than 2,000 varieties of plants (420 of which are orchids!), 400 species of birds including the elusive Resplendent Quetzal, 5,000 different types of moths, 400 mammal species including cats, deer, tapir and sloths, and 1,200 species of reptiles and amphibians! At the nearby Hummingbird Garden, you can see up to 14 species of these lively colorful birds in a setting of extraordinary beauty!
After lunch, visit the Monteverde Orchid Garden to see and learn about these extraordinary blooming plants. In a natural tropical forest with well-maintained paths, you’ll discover an impressive collection of more than 460 species of orchids. Many of them are miniature varieties that are indigenous to the Monteverde region, including some with delicate flowers measuring less than one inch! This evening, you’ll dine at Café Caburé under the direction of Susana Salas – a wonderful Argentine-born chef.
Day 6 – Macaw Sanctuary + Onward to the Pacific
Descending from the cool of the Cloud Forest this morning, you’ll visit the Natuwa Macaw Sanctuary where you’ll see a variety of endangered bird and mammal species. Established in 1994 to protect Scarlet and Great Green Macaws from threats to their habitats, this pioneering conservation sanctuary has grown into a refuge, breeding and rehabilitation center for numerous animals including primates and big cats.
Sit down to a delightful lunch at Villa Caletas, set on a hilltop overlooking the Pacific. Then continue to Si Como No, our inviting resort at Manuel Antonio National Park. Our guests enjoy Superior Guestrooms with private balconies overlooking the jungle-clad hillsides stretching down to the Pacific.
Day 7 – Discover Manuel Antonio National Park
This is one of the country’s smaller national parks, but with pristine tropical forests, spectacular ocean beaches and dramatic rocky headlands, Manuel Antonio is regarded by many as the crown jewel of Costa Rica’s extensive system of National Parks and Reserves. In Jorge’s engaging and knowledgeable company, you’ll set out after breakfast to explore along the accessible and well-maintained trails of the Park. Learn about the unique flora and biodiversity of the region and keep your eyes peeled for its wild residents – including sloths, iguanas, the rare squirrel monkey, diminutive red land crabs, and a wide variety of tropical birds.
In the afternoon, you’ll discover another one of Manuel Antonio’s remarkable eco-systems. Setting out in a covered boat, you’ll explore the pristine estuaries and lush mangroves that surround Damas Island. In addition to the unique plant life that thrives in these brackish wetlands, this adventure offers a chance to espy white-faced monkeys, colorful birds and a variety of reptiles and amphibians. This evening you’ll dine at Café Milagro.
Day 8 – Depart San Jose
After breakfast, we’ll take you to the airport in San Jose for your departure flight.