On these tours you will travel through varied landscapes of mountains, farmlands and small rural villages of northwestern Costa Rica, before arriving at your destination.  Your tour to Arenal Volcano will bring you to one of Costa Rica’s most active volcanoes. It has occasional flows of hot pasty lava and is set in a large national park dominated by rainforests below it’s imposing peak. Combining your tour of Arenal with Monteverde will bring you to a magical “forest in the clouds.” The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve protects one of the world’s premier and rare tropical mountain rainforests. We highly recommend travelling with one of our experienced and certified naturalist guides, who will enhance your travels with explanations, communications with local residents and by pointing out wildlife that you might otherwise miss.

#1   Brief Trip Outline
#2   Detailed Day to Day
#3   Selling points
#4   Brief descriptions of some of the new additions to our tour, and tour highlights
#5   Full description as shown on our web site

#1   Brief Trip Outline to all AR/MV´s

Arenal- Monteverde 5 days/4 nights
D1,   Farmer’s Market, Cocora Cloud Forest and Gardens, Home lunch, Arenal
D2,   La Fortuna Waterfall, Organic Farm, Danaus Ecological Center
D3,   Arenal Hanging Bridges, Monteverde
D4,   Monteverde Reserve, Sugar Mill and Coffee Tour
D5,   To San Jose, departure or beach extension

Arenal- Monteverde 4 days/3 nights
D1,   Farmer’s Market, Cocora Cloud Forest and Gardens, Home lunch, Arenal
D2,   Arenal Hanging Bridges, Monteverde
D3,   Monteverde Reserve, Sugar Mill and Coffee Tour
D4,   To San Jose, departure or beach extension

Arenal Volcano 3 days/2 nights
D1,   Farmer’s Market, Cocora Cloud Forest and Gardens, Home lunch, Arenal
D2,   La Fortuna Waterfalls, Organic Farm, Danaus Ecological Center
D3,   Arenal Hanging Bridges, transfer to San Jose or beach extension

#2   Detailed Day to Day, Arenal- Monteverde 5 days/4 nights

Day 1. Farmer’s Market, Cocora Cloud Forest, Home Lunch, Arenal (L)
08:00 am         Departure from San Jose, travel to San Ramón
09:20 am         Visit Town Park and Farmer’s Market in San Ramón
10:45 am         Arrive at El Cocora Cloud Forest. (Located 15 minutes after entrance to Villa Blanca) Visit the Butterfly exhibit, short forest walk (some 1000 feet) to hummingbird feeders and pond
12:30 pm         Lunch in the house of Doña Rosa in the town of Blue Valle (located between the town of Chachagua and la Fortuna)
13:15 pm         Depart for Arenal.
15:30 pm         Arrival at hotel Arenal Observatory Lodge (Smithsonian Room)

Day 2. La Fortuna Waterfall, Organic Farm, Danaus Ecological Center (BL)
06:00 am         Optional early morning birdwatching
07:30 am         Buffet Breakfast at hotel
08:30 am         Departure for La Fortuna Falls
10:15 am         Hike to La Fortuna Waterfall
12:00 md         Typical lunch at Organic Farm of Don Juan or Vida Campesina.  Lunch usually includes rice and beans, squash “hash”, fried yuca, chicken, salad, fruits and a soft drink
13:30 pm         Walk at Ecological center Danaus. (Located 15 minutes from center of la Fortuna en route to town of Muelle
15:30 pm         Depart from the ecocenter
17:00 pm         Arrive at Arenal Observatrory Lodge (Smithsonian Room)

Day 3. Arenal Hanging Bridges, Monteverde (B)
06:00 am         Optional early morning birdwatching
07:00 am         Buffet breakfast at the hotel
08:00 am         Depart from the hotel, visit the rainforest suspension bridges
09:00 am         Walk on rainforest trails and bridges followed by lunch in local restaurant (at your own expense)
13:00 pm         Depart for Monteverde
17:00 pm         Arrival at hotel Fonda Vela (Standard room)

Day 4. Sugar Mill & Coffee Tour, Monteverde Reserve (B)
06:00 am         Optional early morning birdwatching
07:30 am         Breakfast at hotel
09:00 am         Depart for “El Trapiche” Sugar mill & farm tour
10:00 am         Tour activities
12:00 pm         Lunch in area restaurant (at your own expense)
13:15 pm         Depart for Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
14:00 pm         Hike in Reserve (afternoon hikes give the advantage of fewer visitors in reserve)
17:00 pm         Return to hotel Fonda Vela. (Standard room)

Day 5. Return to San Jose, or continue on to beach extension (B)
07:00 am         Breakfast at hotel
08:00 am         Optional time given for brief visit to center of town in Santa Elena, Monteverde cheese factory, women΄s cooperative gift shop “Casem” or artisan galleries in town before departing for San Jose or other destination
13:00 pm         Arrival at hotel

#3   Selling Points

  1. Driver/guide modules are focused on Nature and Wildlife viewing, however, we have added aspects such as: home lunches with local families, town markets and sustainable organic farm visits. All this in an effort to follow Sustainable Tourism practices involving the average “tico” that otherwise does not have access to be a part of the industry.
  2. Guaranteed daily departures with a minimum of 2 participants, allows more flexibility when putting together itineraries yet clients get the benefits of group pricing. Modules are less expensive & better value compared to if we costed it out individually. We won’t cancel.
  3. Small groups  – maximum group size of 8. Personalized attention, flexibility with regard to activities and stops enroute
  4. Trips are all lead by bilingual licensed naturalist guides. Guides have all participated in company’s guide training, have binoculars, spotting scopes, bird and wildlife colour plates and guide books. We have the very best guides in the business, passionate about our country, happy to share their knowledge, intimately familiar with the areas we visit and committed to taking care of your every need.
  5. No hidden costs. Driver/guide is available at all times during the tour.
  6. With driver/guide client is able to experience things that they wouldn’t be able to do so on their own. Like visit a local town market or stop in at Doña Rosa for a typical home cooked meal.
  7. No extra transport costs or hazzles of having to get local taxis to get around once you are in Arenal and Monteverde. No worries.
  8. There is built in free time in the tour to either enjoy some free time on own or with driver/guide do some extra walks or early birding walks.
  9. Sustainable Good Practices are followed in the conduction of the modules. We favor hotels that have received certification from Rainforest Alliance, CR Tourism Institute or otherwise have demonstrated they too follow Good Sustainable Practices. We include activities like La Fortuna Waterfalls and Danaus that have strong local community programs.
  10. We offer the highest level of customer service and personal care to every guest. We are committed to exceed your expectations.

#4   Brief Descriptions of some of the new additions to our tour and tour highlights

  1. Cocora Cloud Forest & Gardens: Gently bathed in mist from low lying clouds, the Cocora Cloud Forest is a mountain rainforest whose trees are densely covered by small plants including mosses, lichens, ferns, bromeliads and orchids and are entire minature ecosytems in themselves. Cloud forests are rare types of rainforest found along mountain ridges that are frequently enveloped in clouds. The abundant mist not only imparts high humidity but actually fertilizes the foliage resulting in particularly lush growth. Tropical cloud forests host many bird and plant species that are only found in these unique habitats. Located in San Ramon just off the main route to Arenal Volcano and a little over an hour’s drive from the international airport outside the capital of San Jose, the Cocora Cloud Forest reserve offers visitors the opportunity to walk along trails in the forest to enjoy the wonders of this marvelous habitat. Owner and local resident Silvia Gonzales has also created a hummingbird garden where visitors can admire (and perhaps photograph) resident species up close such as the large Violet Saberwing, colorful White-Bellied Mountain Gem, and tiny Coppery-Headed Emerald among numerous others. The reserve also features a tropical butterfly garden where guests can see numerous native species that include giant Blue Morphos, Owls (Caligos) and Swallowtails as well as smaller species such as, Monarchs, Julias, wing snapping Crackers, Green Malachites and Glasswings. Silvia also has an orchid garden where visitors can admire these amazing and tenacious native plants that survive in the often harsh, sun-drenched and windswept environment of the forest canopy. Apart from welcoming guests into the reserve, Silvia and her father also produce trout for sale and operate a small pulperia, or general store which is a typical “supermarket” of small and rural communities. Silvia ventured into hosting visitors on her family’s farm with these projects two years ago, we are pleased to help support her as part of our “sustainable rural tourism” tour programs.
  2. Home Lunch Valle Azul, road to San Ramon – La Fortuna; Doña Rosa María Quirós: Doña Rosa is a cheerful person and typically prepares a lunch with rice and chicken, refried beans, fried yuca, homemade tortillas, salad and a fruit juice. Rosa has lived in the area for 40 years and is one of the original pioneers. She lives with her two sons Erian, and Diego and his wife Cyndy and their newborn daughter Tamara. The farm where she now lives was granted to them by the national Agriculture evelopment Institute in an effort to increase regional farming. This area has only been developed relatively recently: the roads were first paved in1986! Rosa’s family has been farming cattle, and crops including cassava (a starch root crop used like potatoes and source of tapioca), beans, plantains (cooking bananas), and ñampí (another starch root crop used like potatoes). With two streams on the property, the family has used the water to create a small pond where they raise carp, tilapia, and guapote (“rainbow bass”). Diego now works as a waiter at Arenal Observatory Lodge, while in his spare time his brother Erian is a self-taught artist who uses recycled materials including tires, coconuts, plastic packaging, glass bottles, and pieces of wood gathered from sawmills to create his pieces of art.
  3. La Fortuna Waterfall: This beautiful 200 foot-tall waterfall receives its cool clear waters from the pristine forested mountains of Arenal National Park. The steep trail (700mts) to the waterfall goes down through dense, lush rain forest. In addition to seeing a majestic waterfall, visitors to the falls are helping the local community. The fees collected are used for important community projects such as supporting area schools, buying books, and helping cover some of the expenses for the town orphanage.  Additionally funds are used for recycling projects, maintenance of the community water supply, improvement of the local roads and sidewalks and construction of an educational center. Option for swimming if wheather permits.
  4. Danaus Ecocenter: The center offers much to visitors in its small area. It has a butterfly garden, tropical plant garden featuring heliconia and ginger flowers, live frog exhibit, a large pond with the only population of boat-billed herons in the entire Arenal area, and wildlife including colorful birds, caimans, basilisk lizards, green iguanas, and sloths. The center also has plantations of cacao (chocolate source) and coffee, and a plant nursery of local plants. The area now also hosts a group of the regional indigenous people, Malekus, who work on native crafts such as masks and decorated gourds called jicaras (that were traditionally used as canteens). The Center owners are residents of the local communities of La Fortuna and San Carlos, and are members of the regional conservation association. Throughout the year they give environmental education talks and activities to area children and students at no cost, and are members of the Arenal Volcano Foundation (Fundevolca in Spanish). The sale of handmade souvenirs from the Maleku artists helps support their community and traditional ways of living.
  5. Luch and tour at Organic farm in Arenal: At the farm you will see how farming techniques can be practiced in an environmentally sound way. The farm produces more than 60 crop species, including native and introduced plants. With your guide, you will learn about many of the crops and the challenges and benefits of farming organically in the tropics.
  6. El Trapiche (Sugar mill) Monteverde: First started in 1948 and open for tourists in 2005. Runned by a local family, though the name means sugar mill, the tour also demonstrates how coffee is produced and you will learn about other crops grown on the farm. Perhaps the tour would be better named as general agriculture tour with emphasis on sugar production! To make it more interesting the family has made the tour partly ‘hands-on’. The bilingual guide will walk with you through their small forest, help you feed the tilapia fish, pick coffee if possible and take you an ox cart ride back to the main building – a unique Costa Rican experience! Here you can enjoy a refreshment of sugar cane juice or lemonade, eat picadillo de arracache (a typical Costa Rican food) and make candy out of sugar cane (everyone makes their own candy!).

Arenal Nature Highlights: There are more than 400 birds recorded around the volcano lush rain forests and open areas, including: Olive Tanager, White-lined Tanager, Black and yellow Tanager, Hepatic Tanager, Crimson-collared Tanager, Emerald Tanager, White Hawk, Ornate Hawk-Eagle and Laughing Falcon. Among hummingbirds: Green Thorntail, Green Hermit, White-necked Jacobin, Purple-crowned Fairy, Blue-chested Hummingbird, Blue-throated Goldentail, Black-crested Coquette. Five species of toucans have been seen: Emeral Toucanet, Chesnut-mandibled  Toucan, Keel-billed Toucan, Collared Aracari and Yellow-eared Toucanet. Also found Keel-billed Motmot, Broad-billed Motmot and Rufous Motmot, White-necked Puffbird and White-fronted Nunbird. Mammals: Howler, White-faced Capuchin and Spider monkeys, Three-toed Sloth, Collared Peccaries, Brocket Deer, White-nosed Coati and Tamandua Anteater. Among reptiles and amphibians: Basilisk Lizard, Spectacled Caiman,  Eyelash Viper, Central American Whip-tailed Lizard, Green Anole Lizard and Green Iguana.

Monteverde Nature Highlights: The most studied of the cloudforest in the world is home for the sacred bird of Central America, the Resplendent Quetzal. Other bird species seen in Monteverde are : Emerald Toucanet, Keel-billed Toucan , Golden-browed Chlorophonia, Spangled-cheeked Tanager, Black Guan, Orange-bellied Trogon, Blue-crowned Motmot, Three-wattled Bellbird, Long-tailed Manakin, Azure-hooded Jay, Gray-breasted Wood-Wren, Collared Redstart, Slate-throated Redstart, White-eared Ground-Sparrow. Among hummingbirds: Purple-throated Mountain-gem, Violet Sabrewing, Green-crowned Brilliant, Steely-vented Hummingbird, Green Violet Ear, Coppery-headed Emerald and Magenta-throated Woodstar. Other animals that may be seen in their natural habitat are: Kinkajou, Olingo, White-nosed Coati, Agouti, Howler, White-faced Capuchin and Spider monkeys, Two-toed sloth, Collared Peccarie, Red Brocket Deer, Mexican Porcupine, Central American Woolly Opossum and Gray Fox.

#5   Full description as shown on our web site

ARENAL VOLCANO & MONTEVERDE CLOUD FOREST RESERVE
Duration: 5 days/4nights
Departs: Daily with a minimum of 2 participants

This tour combines two natural highlights of Costa Rica: Arenal -a steaming, lava-producing volcano, and Monteverde, a beautiful cool mountain cloud forest-each an outstanding destination! Other tour features include lunch with local families, a visit to a butterfly and hummingbird garden, a hike to a magnificent waterfall and a canopy bridge and trail walking tour through a lush rainforest.

  • Day 1: Farmer’s Market, Cocora Cloud Forest and Gardens, Home lunch, Arenal
  • Day 2: La Fortuna Waterfall, Organic Farm, Danaus Ecological Center
  • Day 3: Arenal Hanging Bridges, Monteverde
  • Day 4: Monteverde Reserve, Sugar Mill and Coffee Tour
  • Day 5: To San Jose, departure or beach extension

Day 1, COCORA GARDENS; TRANSFER TO ARENAL VOLCANO

Your journey will begin by traveling northwest along the Interamerican Highway for an hour or so and then turning off to head north through the town of San Ramon. Here you will take a short break and visit the community’s agriculture town market. This market offers a variety of tropical fruits and vegetables, including some that are rarely seen outside the tropics. Depending on the season, visitors may encounter the farmers’ stands with familiar and delicious! local varieties of bananas, mangoes, and pineapples; as well as lesser-known cassavas, carambolas, mamon chinos, guanabanas, tamarinds, cas, guayabas, annonas, papayas, plantains and others.

After taking a break at the market, you will continue on with a visit to the Cocora Private hummingbird and butterfly gardens en route to Arenal Volcano. Cocora is located in the cloud forest belt at 3000 feet elevation.

Cloud forests are dominated by dense vegetation and tall trees covered by carpets of mosses, lichens, ferns, bromeliads and orchids. A beautiful butterfly garden offers the visitor attractive tropical plants and colorful butterflies. One may see giant Blue Morphos, Zebra Butterflies, Small Postman, Glasswings, Monarchs, Julias, Owl butterflies, “Halloween” Butterflies, wing-snapping Crackers (yes, the male butterlies make noise!), Brown peacocks, Giant Swallowtails, Sulphurs and other species. You may also find rare hummingbirds like Green Thorntail, Coppery-headed Emerald and White-bellied Mountain-gem.

Lunch at Doña Rosa´s house. Doña Rosa Quiros and her family have been living in the beautiful Blue Valley area of Alajuela Province for more than 40 years. Their small farm is surrounded by mountains, rivers, and farmlands of bean, cassava, plantain, and sugar cane plantations. Some farms have fish ponds stocked with tilapia and rainbow bass. Doña Rosa’s two sons Diego and Erian take care of the farm and their Brahma cows. Erian is a self-taught local artist that works with recycled materials. For your lunch, Doña Rosa will cook a traditional Costa Rican meal for you. This will usually include a “picadillo de papas,” fresh hand-made tortillas, rice and beans, cassava (a root crop from which tapioca can be made), and fresh lemonade, among other tico goodies. A visit to Doña Rosa´s farm will take you back in time to an era when rural Costa Rican families always welcomed weary travelers walking or riding horseback through the countryside into their homes with a ready smile and a great meal!

After lunch you will continue on to your Arenal area hotel, travelling in the north central lowlands of Costa Rica among plantations of tropical crops and cattle ranches. (L)

Hotel: Arenal Observatory Lodge or similar (2 nts)
Meals Incl: 2B

Day 02, FORTUNA WATERFALLS & DANAUS ECOLOGICAL CENTER

In the morning you will visit the Fortuna Waterfalls. Located just 3 miles away from the town of La Fortuna, this beautiful 200 foot-tall waterfall receives its cool clear waters from the pristine forested mountains of Arenal National Park. En route and near the falls one may see parrots, toucans and tropical hummingbirds. The steep trail to the waterfall goes down through dense, lush rain forest and ends at a large pool at the base of the falls. In addition to seeing a majestic waterfall in a beautiful setting, visitors to the falls are helping the local community. The fees collected are used for important community projects such as supporting area schools, buying books, and helping cover some of the expenses for the town orphanage. Additionally funds are used for recycling projects, maintenance of the community water supply, improvement of the local roads and sidewalks and construction of an educational center.

Later you will have lunch at a local organic farm in the town of La Fortuna. At the farm you will see how farming techniques can be practiced in an environmentally sound way. The farm produces more than 60 crop species, including native and introduced plants. With your guide, you will learn about many of the crops and the challenges and benefits of farming organically in the tropics.

After lunch you will have a natural history walk at the Danaus Ecological Center. This small biological reserve east of the town of La Fortuna near Arenal Volcano is a model of conservation. Visitors will see that it is possible to restore a rainforest. This reserve was once open farmland, but has been allowed to revert back to forest which now teems with wildlife. Slow-moving sloths live here, and along the main trail visitors may see a number of the 154 bird species recorded here. This trail passes by a small lake where boat-billed herons and alligator-like caiman reside. Tiny native red poison dart frogs can be seen in a little forest ranario (frog farm) and many different species of butterflies flit about the reserve. A nursery on the property is used to propagate native trees- including species in danger of extinction-for reforestation projects. (L)

Day 03, ARENAL HANGING BRIDGES; TRANSFER TO MONTEVERDE

Today you will visit the Arenal Hanging Bridges. This is a complex of suspended bridges and trails through a beautiful rain forest. The lush vegetation contains palms, heliconias and tall trees that you will view from ground level to above the tree tops as you meander along the trails and on the bridges. From some of the bridges there are also panoramic views of nearby Arenal Volcano. As you walk through the forest, you may encounter a variety of the forest wildlife, including toucans, motmots, trogons, poison dart frogs, howling monkeys, spider monkeys and white-faced capuchin monkeys.

After your rainforest bridges walk, you will travel up into the mountains on your way to Monteverde. Your journey will bring you through small rural Costa Rican villages passing coffee and dairy farms.

Monteverde is both a community and forest reserve. The world-famous Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve protects a mountain forest characterized by majestic trees densely covered by thick, wet and heavy “carpets” of epiphytes, including orchids and wild relatives of familiar tropical house plants – philodendrons, ferns and ficus trees.

The beautiful Resplendent Quetzal spends about ½ the year here and the forest is home to hundreds of other bird and mammal species.This private reserve has been intensely studied by scientists since its founding in 1972, and is the site of important pioneering research on the effects of climate change in tropical ecosystems. Several resident biologists are renowned experts on tropical bats, plants and amphibians. The reserve staff strives to educate international as well as local students about ecology and the importance of its conservation, and the reserve serves as an example of how a protected forest can be of great value to the region’s residents.

The communities outside the reserve include Monteverde, Cerro Plano, and Santa Elena. The small mountain farms of these towns are owned by “campesinos” (country farmers) who grow a small variety of crops. The most important farm products are organic coffee (which can be purchased in local stores) and milk for the local Monteverde Cheese Factory. The factory has been producing a variety of high-quality cheeses in Costa Rica since shortly after Quakers from the United States settled the area in 1950´s. Many visitors and local residents visit the cheese factory to buy cheese or enjoy their delicious milk shakes and ice cream! Near and around the community centers, a large selection of restaurants, and other visitor attractions are found, such as butterfly gardens, horse rentals, treetop forest canopy tours, an orchid garden, art galleries, and an excellent educational bat exhibit among others.

Hotel: Fonda Vela or similar (2 nts)
Meals Incl: 2B

Day 04, MONTEVERDE RESERVE; SUGAR MILL & COFFEE TOUR

In the morning you will visit the Trapiche (‘sugar mill’) and coffee farm, that first began operation in 1948. The Monteverde Trapiche is run by a local family, and on your tour you will not only learn about the local process of making sugar, but also about the other most important agricultural products of the region. Your tour will be partly ‘hands-on,’ and your hosts may invite you to participate in the processing of the sugar cane! You will also have a short walk on the farm and see how tilapia fish are raised, and also learn about the production of coffee (and if in season, pick some). Following your walk, you will then take a ride back to the main building in a traditional farm ox cart! There you will enjoy a refreshment of sugar cane juice or lemonade, eat picadillo de arracache (a typical Costa Rican food) and make candy out of sugar cane (everyone makes their own candy!).

After lunch enjoy a guided visit to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, entrance fee included. Located in the Tilaran Mountain Range of Puntarenas Province, the Reserve is one of the premier natural history destinations in Costa Rica. Later in the afternoon the forest may be cool and misty from low cloud cover, so bring a light jacket for your walk.

The forest consists of lush, verdant vegetation containing understory palms, majestic canopy trees, arching “ropy” lianas, bizarre “strangler” fig trees and epiphytes-small plants that grow on the trees. Outstanding among the epiphytes are orchids-although most are small and high in the tree canopy, more orchid species are found in Monteverde for its size than any other place yet known (some 500!). As you walk through the forest, you may encounter a variety of wildlife. Frequently-sighted mammals include white-faced capuchin and howler monkeys, white-nosed coatis, two-toed sloths, kinkajous, and agoutis. Of the 400 bird species found in or nearby the reserve, outstanding species you may see include the legendary crimson and iridescent-green Resplendent Quetzal (which spends about ½ the year in the area during its breeding season from February or March to July), Emerald Toucanets, Black guans, Keel-billed toucans, Blue-crowned Motmots, Orange-bellied Trogons, Three-wattled Bellbirds (approximately April to August), and hummingbirds such as Purple-throated Mountain-gems, Violet Sabrewings, and Magenta-throated Woodstars. The wonderful songs of many of these birds will accompany you as you travel through the forest.

Day 5, TRANSFER TO SAN JOSE (OR BEACH EXTENSION)

Explore the main community of the area, Santa Elena, before going back to San Jose or being transferred to the beach or other destination. You may just want to take advantage of banks and supermarkets or visit the local cheese factory, women’s cooperative (CASEM) or one of the many art and craft galleries to purchase some souvenirs or gifts for the folks back home. Local coffee, wood sculptures, embroidered clothing, and paintings by resident artists are just some of the offerings available.

Included: As specified in the above itinerary, lodging, transportation within Costa Rica, meals [B=breakfast, L=lunch, D=dinner], specified entrance fees to National Parks & private Reserves, guide services, ground operator support within Costa Rica and taxes.

Not Included: International airfare, airport departure taxes, meals not specified in the itinerary, alcoholic beverages, personal equipment, extras in hotels (laundry, phone calls, room service), gratuities, or costs associated with changes in your itinerary for reasons beyond our control.