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*The red tour trail on the map does not represent the actual travel path.

COSTA RICA (14 DAYS)

Livin' La Pura Vida
Discover how Costa Rica earns its reputation as a natural wonderland on this two-week adventure through one of the most exciting, striking, and socially progressive countries in Central America. Literally translated as the 'rich coast', Costa Rica is a land of varied topography and broad spectrum of ecosystem; between its borders, Costa Rica encompasses white-sand Caribbean beaches, volcanic mountainscapes, lush, velveteen jungle, low-lying plains and swampland, all of which combine to house enormous populations of diverse wildlife.

A short foray into Nicaragua gives us the opportunity to see historic churches, cathedrals and stone-carved statues, as well as enjoy some first-rate animal sightseeing. We finish at Manuel Antonio National Park where we enjoy some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.
ITINERARY
Day 1 • Arrival in San Jose
Today we arrive in San Jose, Costa Rica. This evening we have a welcome dinner at gay-owned Cafe Mundo. After dinner we'll have a 'Night Out' city tour to explore San Jose's gay nightlife, visiting some of the best gay spots in the San Jose area.

Overnight in San Jose.
Meal plan: Dinner
Day 2 • San Jose - Tortuguero
This morning we travel by bus from San Jose through Braulio Carillo National Park, one of Costa Rica's largest. If season / harvest time permits, we will visit a working banana plantation and then pass through a region known for its cocoa production. We then board our riverboat and spend the afternoon journeying through myriad interconnecting rivers and canals that take us finally to the Caribbean coast and Tortuguero Park.

The park is a water thoroughfare which is a 160 km (100 mile) stretch of natural rivers, lagoons and estuaries, and connecting man-made waterways that run almost to the Nicaraguan border. The canal is the main "highway" of the northern coastal region, complete with directional signs and branches from the main trunk route.

As we go along the canal, keep a keen lookout for views of pastel-coloured toucans and monkeys of various type; if we're lucky, a lazy sloth hanging from a branch, and maybe a coati or two roaming the forest. Stands of mangroves and water hyacinth appear here and there. Scattered along the way are people, too -- fishers and farmers whose dugouts serve all the purposes of pickup trucks elsewhere. Mostly the banks remain wild, and the calls of monkeys and whistles of birds predominate over the noises of humans.

Overnight in Tortuguero.
Meal plan: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
Day 3 • Tortuguero: Forest Walk & Village
Tortuguero Park is a fascinating place to explore. An early morning boat ride offers an opportunity to observe an awakening coastal rain forest full of lush vegetation and unique bird life.

After lunch we visit the village of Tortuguero accessible only by river boat; you may choose to walk on the Caribbean beach where several turtle species lay their eggs each year. We will visit the Tortuguero Museum with its excellent displays pertaining to the ecology of the area and an informative video presentation specific to turtle conservation in Tortuguero and the entire Caribbean region.

NOTE: The exact order of our activities in Tortuguero may vary depending on weather and other variables.

Overnight in Tortuguero.
Meal plan: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
Day 4 • Tortuguero - Baldi Hotsprings - Arenal Volcano
After an early breakfast we travel by boat 1½-hour from Tortuguero to the Cano Blanco dock. From there we continue by road (+/- 5 hours) to the La Fortuna / Arenal area.

We travel through rolling hills covered with sugar cane fields to overnight near Arenal Volcano. The volcano's regular eruptions and lava flow can be heard and seen in the night sky from afar on a clear night. We make a stop at the Baldi Hotsprings (located near Arenal and outside the Risk Zones established by the National Prevention of Risks and Emergency Commission). Here a geothermally-heated river flows through beautifully landscaped grounds featuring many plant and tree species and great birdlife. We will have time to relax in or around the various pools (bring a towel). The springs feature ten hot pools with different temperatures fed by individual springs and two swim-up bars.

This evening (weather permitting) we can view the volcanic activity which may include explosions and lava flows.

Overnight in Arenal area.
Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner
Day 5 • Arenal - Monteverde Cloud Forest
Today we travel through a rustic rural countryside to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve area (+/- 4 hours).

Covered in a mantle of moss, ferns and orchids, this private reserve is home to over 400 species of birds and a great number of animals. The forest is created by the winds, particular temperature and moisture conditions, and mountainous topography which combine during the dry season to hold a steady cloud cover along the continental divide. The rains and the moisture in the air nourish trees and plants rooted in the ground, as well as many plants that live at the upper levels of the forest, and take their nutrients directly from the mist and dust that pass through the air. The result is an enchanted fairy-tale environment where trees are laden with orchids, bromeliads, mosses and ferns that obscure their branches, where the moisture and mild temperatures and sunlight filtered by the forest canopy encourage the exuberance of begonias, heliconias, philodendron and many other tropical plants in every available space on the ground.

This afternoon we have a guided tour of the "Butterfly Garden" where butterflies and other endemic insects are raised and protected in a controlled environment allowing scientists to study them -- their place in the food chain and their response to things like increased pollution and climate change.

Overnight at Monteverde.
Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner
Day 6 • Monteverde Cloud Forest
We have a full morning exploring the cloud forest reserve with the help of a local naturalist guide. There is more to the forest than the trees and lesser plants. Of over 320 bird species, the most notable is the quetzal with its long arc of tail feathers. Assorted trogons in addition to the quetzal inhabit the reserve, along with more than 50 varieties of hummingbird. About 500 kinds of butterfly are found at Monteverde. Among the more than 100 mammalian species are howler, white-faced and spider monkeys, coatis and their cousins, raccoons; as well as the rarely observed pumas, ocelots, jaguars, tapirs, and kinkajous.

This afternoon you may choose to go on an optional "Canopy Walk" excursion, located within the cloud forest. Suspension foot-bridges are strung across deep gorges allowing one to get a bird's eye view of the forest from a totally different perspective than we experienced this morning. At a leisurely pace, one can complete this easy and fascinating walk in about 90 minutes. Your Tour Leader can help you plan this activity (optional cost approx $25-40, subject to change).

REMEMBER: This can be a wet and windy place by definition. You should be prepared for varied conditions.

Overnight at Monteverde.
Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner
Day 7 • Monteverde - Quepos
Today we travel to Quepos, the gateway to Manuel Antonio National Park, an unspoiled haven of natural beauty on the shores of the Pacific and a mecca for the local and international gay community. Quepos is a very progressive place and the gay/lesbian tourist is welcomed by the locals as well as the people that have relocated there.

Evening at leisure to enjoy Manuel Antonio's gay night life.

Overnight in Quepos.
Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner
Day 8 • Manuel Antonio National Park
This morning we enjoy a leisurely walk through part of Manuel Antonio Park. While strolling the forest trails and the white sand beaches, we'll encounter monkeys, iguanas, sea creatures and bird life of infinite variety. Manuel Antonio beach is one of the few places in Costa Rica where unspoiled primary forest grows right to the high-tide mark, allowing visitors to bathe at times in the shade. After our morning walk, we will have time to relax on one of the park's beautiful beaches.

Later this afternoon we have a Sunset Sailboat Cruise. We sail away into the sunset and glory in the splendor of Quepos from sea. Included are swimming, snorkeling, tropical fruits, an open bar and a freshly prepared meal. Local dolphins frolic in the warm waters around this sleepy, coastal village and find joy in playing around the bow of this stately ketch as she plies her way through the gentle waves. Unlimited beer, wine and soft drinks are included.

Sensational gourmet desserts cap a delightfully relaxing day on the teak decks of this classic yacht. (NOTE depending on availability, this activity may occur elsewhere in our programme).

Overnight in Quepos.
Meal plan: Breakfast and Lunch
Day 9 • Quepos - Rincon de la Vieja
Today we head north again on the Pan-American Highway and travel to Rincon de la Vieja National Park.

The Rincon de La Vieja National Park is located in the mountain range of Guanacaste, province of Guanacaste and Alajuela. The active volcano's slopes are covered with both wet and dry forests that contain hidden lakes, rivers and waterfalls and an abundance of wildlife -- the resplendent quetzal, three-wattle bellbirds, morpho butterflies, tapir, coatimundis and three kinds of monkeys.

Overnight near Rincon de la Vieja National Park.
Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner
Day 10 • Rincon de la Vieja National Park
Known for its stunning diversity of flora and fauna, this national park is home to two volcanoes, the Rincon de la Vieja and the Santa Maria, as well as six different volcanic peaks and thirty two rivers and streams. The park has small geysers, bubbling mud pots and mineral hot springs that have earned it the name, "Costa Rica's Yellowstone". One more thing that is unique from Rincon de la Vieja Volcano is the Vrizea Vulcanicola bromeliad, endemic to this park and Costa Rica.

We will have a full morning with a somewhat CHALLENGING walk (undulating, uneven terrain - talk to you Tour Leader re your suitability) along Las Pailas Trail to view the best volcanic activity you can see in the country. The trail takes us through cloud forest, open grassy slopes and near a wide array of volcanic features including impressive boiling mud pots, fumaroles and thermal streams.

This afternoon you can continue your on-foot exploration on your own or take part in a number of optional activities, including river tubing, horseback riding and / or hot springs soaking. Or you can simply relax and enjoy the birdsong and magnificent views.

Overnight near Rincon de la Vieja.
Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner
Day 11 • Rincon de la Vieja, Costa Rica - Granada, Nicaragua
Today we continue north to Granada, Nicaragua (have your passports handy!).

Granada is set by Lake Nicaragua with views of volcanoes on Island Ometepe and is one of the most beautiful cities in Central America. Countless historical buildings share the city's cobblestone streets with elegant homes and tranquil parks, an urban elegance complemented by nearby natural attractions.

Overnight in Granada.
Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner
Day 12 • Granada: Walking Tour & Boat Trip
We will visit the most interesting sites in this city, including the Fort La Polvora, the Xalteva Church, the Xaltera walls, and the church La Merced. We walk through the Main Square Colon and visit the Cathedral, the Casa de los Leones, and the old Convent of San Francisco where you can admire the impressive stone-carved statues with animal and human form.

There are 350 small emerald-green islands near Granada, all created when the Volcan Mombacho erupted and lava flew into the lake forming small islands. The area is now a haven for birdwatchers, with herons, ducks and cormorants. On our boat tour of the islands we include a visit to El Castillo San Pablo, a fortress built in 1784 to protect Granada from the British.

Overnight in Granada.
Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner
Day 13 • Granada - Managua: City Tour
Today travel to Managua and have a city tour on arrival.

En route we stop at the Masaya Volcano National Park which comprises two volcanoes and five craters. The volcanoes have erupted several times in history, and were feared by both the indigenous people and the Spanish conquerors. The eruptions have had a dramatic impact on the surroundings. Rocks and volcanic ashes still cover the area surrounding the volcanoes. The nature is rough yet peaceful. Different types of vegetation appeared after the eruptions. Visitors can peek over the edge at the Masaya Volcano and look into the impressive crater, which is continuously emitting smoke and sulfur gases. We also stop at Laguna de Apoyo, the larfest crater lagoon in Central America at 6 km across.

In Managua, we will visit historical sites such as the Old Cathedral, destroyed by the earthquake of 1972; the Presidential House, the National Palace of Culture, the waterfront and the National Museum. We also stop for a photo at the new Metropolitan Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception of Mary.

Overnight in Managua.
Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner
Day 14 • Departure
Departure from Managua.

BUEN VIAJE!
Meal plan:

For detailed itinerary (PDF), click here
For hotel samples, click here
INCLUSIONS
  • Breakfast daily and most dinners (hotels and local restaurants)
  • All transport, accommodation, sightseeing and entrance fees for sites noted as 'visited' in the detailed itinerary
  • Gratuities for local guides, drivers, restaurant staff, hotel porters (if available)
  • Airport transfers for land & air customers arriving / departing on tour dates
EXCLUSIONS
  • Tour Leader gratuity, lunches, drinks, personal items (phone, laundry, etc), departure taxes, and international air taxes (if applicable)
  • Airport transfers for Land Only customers
  • Optional trip cancellation insurance
  • Our post-reservation trip notes offer further guidance on not included meal costs, shopping, and locally paid departure taxes
OUT FACTOR
In the past ten years Costa Rica has emerged as one of the world's premier vacation hot spots. And in disproportionate numbers, gay travellers have descended upon this eco-friendly destination with full force. It's a very comfortable place for gay travellers, and most of the foreigners who have moved there to open inns and accommodations (e.g., Americans, Canadians, Europeans, etc.) tend to be on the left-leaning, eco-conscious, and gay-friendly side.
PLEASE NOTE
This itinerary is correct at time of publishing. For a more detailed itinerary, download a PDF here. We reserve the right to make changes as necessary due to reasons beyond our control. For booking terms and conditions, please refer to our Booking Terms.
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TRIP NOTES
Group size
10-18 plus Tour Leader
Staff & Support
Tour Leader, driver(s), and local step-on guides at various locations.
Accommodation
Well-located, heated/air-conditioned, mid-range (3-star) hotels with en suite toilet and bath throughout (probably shower only). Single rooms are limited and likely smaller than doubles. Hotel porter service is sometimes available though you should be independent with your luggage. Some hotels have outdoor swimming pools.
Transport & travel conditions
Road transport by private air-conditioned motor coach, 12-30 seats depending on ultimate group size (see 'group size'). Costa Rica's roads are generally good though we do have some long (though scenic) road journeys. Numerous nature walks and walking tours on uneven surfaces.
Weather/seasonality
This tour is offered throughout the year. In the Central Valley, where the main centres of population are located, the average temperature is 22C (72F). In the coastal areas the temperature is much hotter and humid. The "green" season runs May-November. The warm dry season is Dec-May, though temperature differences between summer and winter are slight.

The following is a sampling of our preferred properties in some of the locations visited on this tour and is meant to be indicative only. Hotel properties are not confirmed until 30-60 days before trip date. You can click on the hotel photo to view the official hotel website (if available). For sample hotels in other locations on this tour, please contact us.

Sleep Inn


Rating: 3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation
Location: San Jose
Country: Costa Rica

The Sleep Inn San Jose conveniently located in the heart of the city, only fifteen kilometers from the Juan Santamaria International Airport. It is only a short distance from tourist attractions like the Teatro Nacional, Museo de Jade, and Museo de Oro.

Click here to visit hotel website

Pachira Lodge


Rating: 3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation
Location: Tortuguero
Country: Costa Rica

The lodge is strategically located only 5 minutes away from the extraordinary Tortuguero National Park, and right across the main "canal" facing the town of Tortuguero. Surrounded by a network of very scenic canals, this is considered one of the most exotic regions of the world, characterized by its rich in flora and fauna.

Click here to visit hotel website

Hotel Manuel Antonio


Rating: 3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation
Location: Quepos
Country: Costa Rica

The hotel is conveniently located within minutes from the World Famous Manuel Antonio National Park and the small sport fishing town of Quepos. All rooms feature well-appointed bathrooms, telephone, air conditioning, TV.

Click here to visit hotel website

Rincon de la Vieja Lodge


Rating: 3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation
Location: Rincon de la Vieja
Country: Costa Rica

This lodge is almost a rustic museum, an old Hacienda house, constructed of wood with 49 double rooms with private bath and hot water surrounded by forest. There is a bar, a small swimming pool, a family style restaurant, telephone, fax & internet service and TV area. Electricity provided falling water into a turbine, 24 hours a day.

Click here to visit hotel website

Hotel El Patio del Malinche


Rating: 3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation
Location: Granada
Country: Nicaragua

Hotel El Patio del Malinche is situated in a renovated, colonial house where the original style of houses from Granada has been combined with modern hotel amenities like wireless internet, a pool, and air conditioning. There are two interior patios in the hotel. The central location, only a few blocks from Granada's central park, makes it possible to easily reach the interesting sites in town.

Click here to visit hotel website