This morning we're off to Arenal. Dormant for centuries, Arenal Volcano exploded in a massive eruption of molten lava and ash in 1968. Since that time, it has continued to belch great clouds of ash and occasional lava. It is now one of the world's most active volcanoes and volcanologists from all over the world come here to study this tropical volcano. You'll spend the night at the Arenal Observatory Lodge where the Smithsonian Institute has set up its research facilities. The dining hall offers spectacular views of the conical volcano, and the lodge's 870 acres. The lodge borders the Monteverde Cloudforest Reserve and Arenal National Park, which provide miles of trails through pristine forest. Our drive to Arenal takes several hours and we stop for lunch at the famous Waterfall Gardens. On day 3, enjoy some freetime in the Arenal area. There are many optional excursions available in this area. You can go mountain biking, fishing, horseback riding or even take a hike in the miles of trails around the area. You could also visit the Ecotermales Hotsprings in the evening. Your guide is on hand to help you plan your day as you wish!
This morning we'll hike into the national park for close-up tours of lava flow. Mid-morning we leave the Observatory Lodge, driving around Costa Rica's Lake Arenal to the Monteverde Cloudforest Reserve, one of the richest and most diverse tropical cloudforests on the continent. Founded in 1972, the Reserve encompasses six different ecological life zones and protects more than 100 mammal species, 400 bird species, and upwards of 1,500 plant species. In our explorations we'll keep watch for one of the area's most famed residents, the Resplendant Quetzal. On the morning of Day 5, we'll be fitted into special gear to zip from platform to platform high above the forest floor, and try the famous Tarzan Swing drop! For the less adventurous, there's a nearby sky walk suspended in the canopy that's great for birding and learning more about the local ecology (please let us know ahead of time if you prefer this option). This afternoon we hike through the reserve, viewing the misty forest with its dense vegetation and majestic trees.
We leave in the morning to make the 4-5 hour drive to Quepos where we'll stay in a hotel near Manuel Antonio. In the afternoon, spend some hours exploring the popular Manuel Antonio National park.
This morning we rise and head to the Class II-III whitewater of the Naranjo River. Plunge through jungle clad gorges and float past cascading waterfalls. Along the way enjoy the variety of bird life such as egrets, osprey, kingfishers, cormorants, parrots and more. The four-hour trip on the Naranjo is one of the best whitewater adventures in Costa Rica. After the river trip, you'll continue south to La Cusinga Lodge located on the shores of the Ballena National Marine Park.
This morning you awake in Costa Rica's idyllic South Pacific. La Cusinga is set amidst thick jungle with magnificent views of the Pacific Ocean. Your days here are free to spend as you wish. Relax and wander the miles of secluded beaches of Ballena Marine National Park. Head into the jungle to learn about rainforest ecology, watching out for capuchin monkeys, toucans, coatimundis and more. Or you can arrange scuba diving or snorkeling on Isla del Caño, horseback riding on a nearby reserve, or even a flight through the jungle on a zip-line. La Cusinga offers wonderful seclusion, yet is near to some of Costa Rica's best-kept adventure secrets. In the afternoon of Day 10, you return to San Jose passing through cloudforest and crossing Cerro de la Muerta enroute to complete your Costa Rica travels.