Costa Rica: Southern Rainforest & Coast

Guided Walking Tour, Costa Rica: Southern Rainforest & CoastGuided Walking Tour, Costa Rica: Southern Rainforest & Coast

Costa Rica

Southern Rainforest & Coast

overview

If you’re looking for a Costa Rica well off the beaten track, head for these primeval wildernesses. Largely unvisited, these natural wonders encompass a UNESCO World Heritage site and have been called “the most biologically intense place on Earth.” This hypnotic journey takes you from cool cloudforests at 10,000 feet to virgin coastal rainforests, where towering trees shelter countless rare plants and animals such as jaguars and tapirs. The spectacular quetzal may startle as you cross deep gorges and untamed rivers. Verdant trails lead to waterfall-fed pools ready for a dip. Expect the unusual: our naturalist guides carry viewing scopes for remarkable wildlife sightings. Meals in village homes will nourish you with organic local delicacies like blackberry juice and mountain trout. The visual feast continues in Corcovado National Park, Central America’s last significant rainforest. From mysterious 1,000-year-old stone spheres to jungle trails and Pacific sunsets mere steps from your accommodations, you’ll discover a wild beauty not found in tour books.

 

Activity Level
Moderate;
4-6 miles daily
Meet
San José, Costa Rica
Depart
San José, Costa Rica
Daily Itinerary
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itinerary
Reading List
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From our blog

Guided Walking 
8 days, 7 nights Trip Includes 

Trip Includes

  • Two expert, local guides (for groups of 8 or more), with you 24/7
  • All meals; local wine or beer included with dinners
  • All accommodations while on tour
  • Transportation from the meeting to the departure point
  • Entrance fees and special events as noted in the itinerary
  • Basic travel insurance coverage
  • The unbeatable and cumulative experience of the CW staff
per person double occupancy
Single supplement + $550
 

Solo surcharge + $0
 

$150 airfare additional

Call 800.234.6900 to book this trip.

REQUEST RESERVATION
Number of Travelers
Total in your party
Price From
per person double occupancy
Single supplement + $0 
$150 airfare additional

Call 800.234.6900 to book this trip.

REQUEST RESERVATION

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Itinerary and Accommodations

Days
Destination
1
San Gerardo de Dota
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2
San Gerardo de Dota
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3
Uvita
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4
Uvita
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5
Osa Peninsula
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6
Osa Peninsula
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7
Osa Peninsula
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8
Osa Peninsula
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Day 1

San Gerardo de Dota

Los Quetzales National Park; 3-4 miles, moderate (elevation of walk is 8,200 feet)

The tour begins this morning by heading south from San José on the Pan-American Highway, until recent years the only main road leading south from the capital. The Pan-American Highway climbs into the Talamanca Mountain Range, which stretches nearly 200 miles between San José and Panama, and is also the day’s destination, site of Los Quetzales National Park and La Amistad National Park, which straddles the border of Costa Rica and Panama. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983 for its unique character and geography, the Talamanca Range is the third-most-diverse biological hotspot in the world, providing a habitat for the interbreeding of both North American and South American species of flora and fauna. As you wind your way along the road, climbing Cerro de la Muerte (part of the Talamanca Mountain Range) from the north, you follow the Continental Divide, with alternating vistas from the Pacific to the Atlantic coasts.

This two-hour drive takes you into the heart of rural Costa Rica, unchanged since the road was built in the 1950s. Turning off onto a side road, you arrive at the home of Eladio and Maria Salazar. A park volunteer, born and raised with this high montane cloudforest as his backyard, Eladio accompanies you on the day’s walk. But first, he and his lovely wife welcome you into their home for delicious tico (Costa Rican) coffee and a small snack. Afterward, you set off with Eladio into Los Quetzales National Park. Extending over 12,000 acres, this national park is Costa Rica’s newest and protects significant portions of the Savegre River watershed, which you follow from the mountains to the coast on this tour. Los Quetzales is aptly named for the stunning resplendent quetzal, frequently sighted in the park. In the heart of the Talamanca Mountain Range, with the highest peak at 11,000 feet above sea level, the park comprises tropical oak cloudforest and subalpine vegetation. Here many different members of the plant community are familiar because of their close affinities with temperate zone relatives.

The first walk takes place in the Quetzales Paradise farm owned by the Serrano family and also part of the Quetzales National Park—one of the few sites awarded the Costa Rican Government’s Blue Flag for its conservation efforts in watershed protection. You walk amid a forest of tall oak trees, centenary mountain cypress, and magnolias, among many others, their branches and tree trunks hung with hundreds of epiphytes. This magical landscape is in a constant mist that covers the canopy almost year-round, creating the unique cloudforest habitat, with famous resident birds such as the elusive resplendent quetzal, the beautiful but noisy emerald toucanet, and the elegant violet sabrewing. Animals occasionally seen in the area are two-toed sloths, spider monkeys, mountain rabbits, kinkajous, coatis, spiny green lizards, and gray foxes. It is important to note that this first walk of the week takes place at an elevation of 8,200 feet and weather can be variable—please be prepared with layers.

You arrive at the family-owned lodge that is your home for two nights, and whose founders were the first pioneers to arrive and establish a farm in this scenic valley, in 1954. In addition to welcoming guests to their lodge and extensive grounds, they also grow apples, plums, and peaches, all served at the lodge’s restaurant. The proud recipient of “four leaves” (out of five) from the Costa Rica Tourism Institute and their Certification in Sustainable Tourism Program, their hard work and efforts are evident, and by staying here you support their good work. The best part—you are welcomed in absolute quality and comfort in your lodging and dining!

If time allows, you may have the options to go horseback riding or revitalize with a spa treatment at the new facility along the Savegre River (these two options are at your own cost). You gather for dinner this evening at the lodge’s Las Bromelias Restaurant, where you may try freshly caught trout from the river, cooked to perfection.

Savegre Hotel, Natural Reserve & Spa

San Gerardo de Dota, Costa Rica

Situated in a private reserve at over 7,000 feet in the midst of a cloudforest valley, this mountain hotel provides comfortable and spacious rooms surrounded by lush gardens, walking trails, and an excellent restaurant and facilities, adhering to high standards of environmental sustainability.

Day 2

San Gerardo de Dota

Los Robles and Cascada trails, 6 miles, moderate with challenging sections; elevation gain and descent of 1,000 feet

Today you explore the unique ecosystem of the region. More than 30 miles of trails lead into the hotel’s private cloudforest reserve. Located in the environs of the Cerro de la Muerte in the Talamanca Range, 75 percent of its 1,000-acre property is protected. At an elevation between 7,220 and 8,500 feet above sea level, 80 percent of the reserve is virgin forest, with the newer growth of the remainder reforested with native species, especially wild avocado. Known worldwide for its diversity of plant life, including ancient oaks, wild avocado, orchids, and bromeliads, the reserve is a living research laboratory for institutions such as the Institute of Systematic Botany (New York) and the Field Museum of Natural History (Chicago), both of which study mushrooms endemic to the area. Two German universities, in conjunction with the University of Costa Rica and the Costa Rican National Institute of Biodiversity, carry out research on the hydrological significance of the epiphytes in the region. The reserve’s animal life includes more than 170 species of birds, as well as numerous mammals, amphibians, reptiles, and insects.

The walking route explores the higher part of the lodge’s property—a pristine primary oak forest. The undulating trail, with short but steep ascents and descents, has several small stream crossings, and in places can be muddy with some roots and rocks. Here in one of Costa Rica’s most beautiful and unique forests, you may spot an astounding variety of birds. Species range from those known in North America such as the red-tailed hawk and hairy woodpecker to those of Central America such as the resplendent quetzal, sulphur-winged parakeet, black guan, collared trogon, and flame-colored and spangled-cheeked tanagers, to name only a few. Tonight you enjoy an exceptional in-home experience. You are welcomed to the home of the Chacon family for a dinner of watercress soup, fresh trout, and plenty of lively conversation.

Savegre Hotel, Natural Reserve & Spa

San Gerardo de Dota, Costa Rica

Situated in a private reserve at over 7,000 feet in the midst of a cloudforest valley, this mountain hotel provides comfortable and spacious rooms surrounded by lush gardens, walking trails, and an excellent restaurant and facilities, adhering to high standards of environmental sustainability.

Day 3

Uvita

Siberia de Pérez Zeledón, 3½ miles, moderate (elevation of walk 9,840 feet). Transfer to Dominical and Playa Uvita, 3 hours

For early risers, a short optional bird-watching walk around the gardens of the lodge is a tranquil start to the day. After an ample buffet breakfast, you depart for the 3-hour drive to the Pacific Coast, which is broken up with one stop. The drive follows the Pan-American Highway to the small community of Siberia de Pérez Zeledón. This small village of only 100 inhabitants makes a living on blackberries and dairy farming.

Your walk today leads down a traditional ox-cart road through paramo and native oak forest. The destination is the home of Martin Salazar, where you are welcomed to a typical lunch of soup accompanied by rice and beans and finished off with a glass of blackberry wine—and maybe even blackberry pie! Continuing the journey, the road takes you along the foothills of Talamanca, through small Costa Rican villages mainly supported by coffee and dairy farming. The journey ends in the south Pacific region of Playa Ballena, at Uvita and Dominical beach, within walking distance of the Ballena Marine National Park—Latin America’s first and Costa Rica’s only marine national park. In the early evening, you arrive at your welcoming hotel, overlooking Costa Rica’s southern Pacific coast. Perched between the beach and rainforest-covered mountains in a private nature reserve of over 600 acres, this hotel offers many amenities, including spectacular sunsets. Cristal Ballena is dedicated to marine and terrestrial conservation and environmental education. A recipient of 4 out of 5 leaves for sustainable tourism, this lodge offers sustainable comforts without sacrificing quality. After settling into your room, you gather at the open-air restaurant for a fine dinner, perhaps of fresh ocean fish.

Cristal Ballena Hotel & Spa

Uvita, Costa Rica

Perched high above the beach, this four-star hotel provides stunning views over the Pacific Ocean and is cooled by down-slope rainforest breezes. Spacious Mediterranean-style rooms, a large swimming pool with poolside restaurant and bar, and a spa are all contained in 30 acres of beautifully tended tropical gardens.

Day 4

Uvita

Campesinos Reserve, 7 miles, moderate

After awakening to a breakfast spread of homemade breads, pastries, yogurts, and eggs to order, today is designated your tico day, delving into true Costa Rican culture. The destination is the Campesinos Reserve, located on a beautiful mountain range between the Naranjo and Savegre rivers’ watersheds.

A one-hour drive takes you to the town of Santo Domingo, where a short walk joins the Savegre River. A steady ascent brings you to the Campesinos Reserve, which contains more than 80 acres of primary and secondary forest. Some paths in the reserve’s extensive network of trails have exposed rocks and roots, while others are smoother and wider. Campesinos is also a cooperative of the local farming community of Quebrada Arroyo and is managed by Don Miguel Mora, his brother Visaí, and his wife Doña Juanita, and is a wonderful example of rural tourism, in which both visitors and local farmers benefit. Along today’s route you may stop for a swim in a refreshing natural pool beneath a waterfall. The walk continues to a suspension bridge over a deep river gorge (crossing the bridge is optional). In the lowlands, birdlife includes toucans, parrots, and tanagers. After lunch, the trail continues along this rural path for 5 miles to the small town of Londres, where your driver is waiting to bring you back to Uvita.

Upon your return to the hotel, there is time to relax or perhaps refresh with a swim before meeting for a sunset drink to toast your perfect Costa Rican day. Dinner this evening is at your hotel’s restaurant.

Cristal Ballena Hotel & Spa

Uvita, Costa Rica

Perched high above the beach, this four-star hotel provides stunning views over the Pacific Ocean and is cooled by down-slope rainforest breezes. Spacious Mediterranean-style rooms, a large swimming pool with poolside restaurant and bar, and a spa are all contained in 30 acres of beautifully tended tropical gardens.

Day 5

Osa Peninsula

Transfer to Corcovado National Park; 2-4 miles, easy to moderate, with moderate sections

This morning you check out and depart for the Corcovado National Park, located on the Osa Peninsula, jutting into the Pacific in southwestern Costa Rica. The park contains the last remaining Pacific lowland rainforest of sustainable size in Central America. Corcovado is the “crown jewel” of Costa Rica’s world-renowned national park system, described by National Geographic as “the most biologically intense place on earth.” And your lodge for three nights is an environmentally sensitive oasis, the lodging closest to the park, which can only be reached by boat. Following breakfast this morning, you depart for Palmar Sur to board a boat for the Osa Peninsula. You make a stop en route at the newly established Finca 6, the Stones Spheres Park, owned by the National Museum of Costa Rica and managed by local leaders from Plantain Fields Cooperatives. A short walk takes you to these magnificent and mysterious spheres, some constructed more than 1,000 years ago by the local natives. Soon after, you embark on a boat in the Sierpe River for the two-hour ride to one of the world’s most famous neotropical parks. The Sierpe River leads directly to the open waters of the Pacific, and here, where the river meets the ocean, the waters can be turbulent. Once on the ocean, the boat skirts the coastline to Drake Bay, and finally on to the private landing of Casa Corcovado on the border of the Corcovado National Park. Keep on the lookout for the occasional humpback whale and dolphins; Costa Rican waters are visited by humpbacks from the northern and southern Pacific oceans!

The boat ride is a dramatic approach to the lodge, and you might even get wet getting on and off because the boat pulls up directly onto the beach. We recommend wearing water shoes on this day. The lovely lodge is tucked on the coast in the primary rainforest of a 170-acre private reserve bordering Corcovado National Park, and provides the ideal base for an in-depth rainforest experience. Following an introductory meeting and lunch, you settle into individually appointed bungalows. The jungle lodge has earned Costa Rica’s highest recognition for sustainable tourism, the coveted “five leaves,” awarded for the hotel’s commitment to the environment and local communities.

This afternoon you begin your rainforest exploration on one of the trails through the preserve, through the lush and unique lowland rainforest of Corcovado. Because it is the rainforest, the walking terrain has roots in many places and can often be muddy. After a welcome drink at the sunset bar and dinner at the lodge’s dining room, you fall asleep to the sounds of the rainforest.

Casa Corcovado Jungle Lodge

Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

An elegant hotel combining luxury and the highest environmental standards offers Spanish colonial-style individual bungalows in a beautifully landscaped jungle setting with two swimming pools, a private beach, fine dining, and extensive network of walking trails.

Day 6

Osa Peninsula

Casa Corcovado — San Pedrillo ranger station; 5-7 miles, easy to moderate

The cry of howler monkeys welcomes the morning in this nature lover’s paradise. You begin with an optional early-morning bird watch over a cup of delicious Costa Rican coffee. Several species, including the scarlet macaw, white hawk, short-billed pigeon, and white-tipped sicklebill are among the birds that may visit the lodge this morning. After a hearty breakfast, you begin a walk through a lush primary rainforest, always on the lookout for the abundant bird and animal life. The park is home to four species of Costa Rican monkeys: howler, spider, white-faced, and squirrel monkeys, which may be perched in the canopy above. The land where Corcovado National Park is situated was once an island that millions of years ago drifted to the mainland. With this unique geography, in addition to hundreds of species of animals, plants, and birds, it is also one of the last places for jaguars, tapirs, and white-lipped peccaries in Central America.

From the lodge you descend into the forest, where, if you listen carefully, you may hear more of the raucous howler monkeys. Later, after crossing a pristine mountain stream, the trail leads through the dense rainforest and past unspoiled waterfalls. Reinvigorated, you continue the walk over some rougher forest trails to one of the few ranger stations in the national park. Here, you enjoy a picnic lunch before the return walk to the lodge. If the ocean tides are right, much of the return walk can follow along the beach, where several species of marine birds can be seen. In the evening, you gather for a feast of local specialties, which may feature the catch of the day prepared in classic Casa Corcovado style.

Casa Corcovado Jungle Lodge

Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

An elegant hotel combining luxury and the highest environmental standards offers Spanish colonial-style individual bungalows in a beautifully landscaped jungle setting with two swimming pools, a private beach, fine dining, and extensive network of walking trails.

Day 7

Osa Peninsula

Caño Island Biological Reserve; snorkeling; optional walk, guide’s choice. Free afternoon

After breakfast at the lodge, you board a boat for the half-hour trip to Caño Island, which may be accompanied by playful dolphins swimming alongside. The island’s surrounding waters offer some of the finest snorkeling in Costa Rica—within 50 feet of the beach, a wide variety of brilliantly colored tropical fish and coral species make their home in the island’s reef. Not only do the waters surrounding Caño Island contain some of the most abundant and varied marine life in the world, but the island also possesses several pre-Columbian archaeological artifacts.

If you do not wish to partake in the full-day trip to Caño Island, options are available to spend the day on a longer walk or to simply enjoy the grounds of the property, the pools, or the new spa featuring local treatments (at your own expense). Back at the lodge, you savor your final celebratory evening in the rainforest, accompanied by a beautiful sunset, tropical drinks, and the ever-present howler monkeys in the distance.

Casa Corcovado Jungle Lodge

Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

An elegant hotel combining luxury and the highest environmental standards offers Spanish colonial-style individual bungalows in a beautifully landscaped jungle setting with two swimming pools, a private beach, fine dining, and extensive network of walking trails.

Day 8

Osa Peninsula

Departure from the Osa Peninsula

The departure journey begins with a 30-minute boat ride back to Drake, where a private bus is waiting for the 20-minute drive to the local airstrip, in turn followed by the 45-minute flight to San José. Please note luggage restrictions outlined in the packing list. Your flight path leads you along the Savegre watershed and over the mountain range, allowing a unique vantage point to the terrain explored on tour. A waiting van takes you to San José’s International Airport to check in 3 hours before your scheduled flight.

Itinerary Disclaimer

Bear in mind that this is a typical itinerary, and the actual activities, sites, and accommodations may vary due to season, special events, weather, or transportation schedules. We reserve the right to alter the itinerary since tour arrangements are made up to a year in advance, and unforeseen circumstances that mandate change may arise. Itinerary changes are made to improve the tour and your experience. If you are currently booked on a CW adventure, an itinerary has been sent to you for your exact departure date. Please call CW at 800.464.9255 if you have any questions about the exact itinerary or hotels selected for any of our tours.

Guides

Leonardo Chaves

After attending the University of Costa Rica and Costa Rica's National Institute of Learning, Leonardo Chaves has dedicated himself to guiding groups for 14 years. Leo is our expert birder, having spent the past five years recording bird songs all over Costa Rica and working on surveying and banding projects. Leo is well-known and respected by other guides as one of the best birding guides in the country, he is never shy to share his knowledge with fellow guides, students and visitors when guiding trips.

Jimmy Tosso

A native of Costa Rica, Jimmy Tosso has traveled extensively throughout Europe and Latin America -- but his heart remains in Costa Rica, where his engaging personality and commitment to professional guiding is well known. Jimmy has enjoyed sharing his knowledge of Costa Rica’s natural history, ecology, wildlife and culture for the past 14 years.

Marco Fallas

Born and raised in Costa Rica, Marco “Tex” Fallas has worked in the tourism industry for more than 15 years, where his unmatched enthusiasm and energy level feed from his love of nature. Marco leads groups in exploration of the diverse regions of this country, always eager to share his knowledge with our guests and leaving them with unforgettable memories -- leading them to refer to him as Pura Vida! (full of life).

Jackie Garcia

Born in San Jose, Jackie grew up with a blend of Costa Rican culture, having a mother from Guanacaste and a father from the Osa Peninsula. She has a passion for conservation, local culture and music, and sports that bring her in contact with nature, such as hiking, kayaking, snorkeling, rafting and especially surfing! Jackie also practices Capoeira Angola, combining Afro-Brazilian elements of martial arts, playful games, dance, and music. She is proud to be “Tica” and loves showing visitors the culture and beauty of Costa Rica.

Onik Morrisson

From a young age, Onik has been fascinated and inspired by the natural beauty of Costa Rica. She has traveled extensively, exploring almost every corner of Costa Rica, on to the Galapagos and as far as Asia, Europe, and Africa! Recently Onik has completed her BA in Biology and is currently working on her Master’s degree with an emphasis on Environmental Interpretation and a special interest in birds. Onik’s enthusiasm is as contagious on the trail as off!

Viviana Porras

Viviana, also known as Vivi, is both a Languages and Management of Natural Resources student. Certified by the National Biodiversity Institute, she has been working as a professional tour guide for the past several years and has traveled to Argentina, the United States, Canada, France, Portugal, Spain, and Morocco. As a member of the volunteer program at the University of Costa Rica, she has been involved with environmental and social projects throughout Costa Rica. Her love for nature extends to her love of art, especially with regard to literature, photography, music and drama. Her desire to share her culture and herself make a CW trip an unforgettable experience.

Guest Comments

R. Ansell, New Hampshire, January 2013

Even for veteran travelers, staying at the jungle lodge was an extraordinary adventure. We were awakened in a most lovely cabin each morning by the birds and howler monkeys. I loved it!

H. Junkin, New Hampshire, November 2011

Exceptional, beautiful & rewarding.

R. Widmann, Pennsylvania, January 2012

The passion the guides have for Costa Rica, their vast knowledge of all the plants and animals, and their concern for all the customers made the trip very enjoyable.

L. Wright, Oregon, January 2012

The walk had lots of variety: the metal tram ride across the river, a good hike, welcome refreshments @ the reserve, crossing the suspension bridge, swimming at the waterfall, return to the reserve for a delicious lunch, a viewpoint stop @ a local farmer's home and the return trip on the tram. Always, the guides were very solicitous of our drinking enough water, pacing ourselves, protecting against the sun, etc.

C. Lanava, Massachusetts, January 2012

Tour was well-paced. Felt very well taken care of by the guides. Accommodations were excellent. Loved eating with local host families. I also felt the guides went above & beyond to make our experiences memorable & great.

J. Moyer, Pennsylvania, January 2012

I enjoyed seeing all the wildlife in Corcovado. But I loved all the walks, especially in many places where we were the only ones there.

C. Ryan, Pennsylvania, March 2012

We saw a good variety of Costa Rica: cool, mostly cloudy mountains, hot jungle national park, pretty Provencal like hotel by the sea. Jimmy was an excellent guide—very personable, knew the facts about the terrain and animals in the area, adept with his binoculors/telescope that let us see the birds, monkeys, etc., kept the group lively. He was top-rate and made the trip.

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