The Lowlands & Southern Caribbean of Costa Rica

President's Picks | Big Five Tours

 

 

I have a thing for volcanoes, ever since I saw my first active volcano at age 14, in Costa Rica. This program not only takes me back to that moment, but it also gets our travelers past the all inclusive resorts and into the real Costa Rica through community based tourism.

 

Ashish Sangrajka

 

 

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President’s Picks

COUNTRIES VISITED

Costa Rica

STARTING AT..

Price starts at 600. Land per person, per day, double occupancy.

TOUR LENGTH

12

Tour Highlights/Full Description

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  • Stroll through Cartago City, Costa Rica’s former capital and one of the oldest towns in the country. Although partially destroyed by a volcanic eruption in 1732, it has retained many of its past treasures and well-preserved ruins.
  • Hike along the trails of Guayabo National Monument, an important historical site that dates back to 1000 AD. These ruins make up the largest pre-Columbian city ever discovered in Costa Rica.
  • Get your adrenaline on with a rafting excursion on the Pacuare River, paddling through class III and IV rapids that cut through spectacular landscapes.
  • Spend a night with the BriBri, Costa Rica’s “hidden people” who have managed to retain their language, traditions, and culture. This indigenous community is located in Yorkin, only accessible by boat.
  • Discover the secrets of Caribbean cuisine in a hands-on cooking class where natural ingredients and Caribbean flavors steal the show.

DAY 1: ARRIVE SAN JOSE, Costa Rica

Welcome to Costa Rica. On arrival in San Jose, clear immigration, collect luggage, and proceed through customs. In the arrivals hall, you are met by a representative from Big Five Tours & Expeditions holding a sign with your last name. You are greeted, assisted with your luggage, and transferred to your hotel. GRAN HOTEL COSTA RICA – Junior Suite

 

DAY 2: SAN JOSE

Today, let us introduce you to San Jose like a friend would show you the local aesthetics. From public libraries that were torn down to become corky parking lots, to hidden pieces of the Berlin Wall as well as kitsch canteens nestled in the local markets, San Jose is a constantly changing “chepe” city. After lunch at a local restaurant, you will meet an artist that is committed to using Costa Rica’s resources to innovate and create beautiful designs. He will invite you to a short workshop where you will be able to produce your own masterpiece to take back home.  GRAN HOTEL COSTA RICA – Junior Suite Room (B,L)

 

DAY 3: SAN JOSE / TURRIALBA

At a pre-arranged time, join your guide for the 2-hour drive to Turrialba. En route, stop for a walk in Cartago City, Costa Rica’s first capital. For a glimpse into the rich history of Costa Rica, explore the central market to see the ruins, which date back to the 16th century. In 1723, an eruption of the Irazu Volcano nearly destroyed the entire town that left the unfinished temple in ruins.  Continue to Guayabo National Monument, an ancient pre-Columbian city. Thought to have been first inhabited more than 3,000 years ago, this historic site makes up the largest pre-Columbian city ever discovered in the country. This ancient civilization is believed to have been home to nearly 10,000 people during its prime around AD 800. The excavations at Guayabo have revealed a network of cobblestone causeways and streets, open and closed aqueducts, cisterns, stairways, mounds, petroglyphs, monoliths, tombs, and sculptures that belong to this city, which was inhabited between 1000 B.C. and 1400 A.D. Accompanied by your guide, stroll through the entire park to learn about the excavations and the history of the people that once lived there.

The enchanting little town of Turrialba is well known for its farming, adventure, and volcano. It is made up of vibrant green pastures and incredible natural scenery. Agriculture is the principal industry here as well as the only place allowed to produce the popular Costa Rican cheese “Turrialba”, which has a designation of origin. Here you will see an abundance of cattle ranches, milk processing plants, and acres of land for growing Arabica coffee, sugar cane, and deliciously large macadamia nuts. CASA TURIRE – Suite (B)

 

DAY 4: TURRIALBA

Hop on your bike to explore in and around the plantations and botanical gardens of CATIE, a regional center dedicated to research and graduate education in agriculture, and the management, conservation, and sustainable use of natural resources. Your ride begins with a visit to the cattle ranch, dedicated to both dairy and beef production. Here you will see the types of feed used, the milking process, and the different species of cattle. Continue pedaling past sugar cane and coffee plantations as well as a collection of cacao plants. A part of the excursion involves learning about the main administrative and research buildings, the lake with its amazing variety of bird species, the schools, and part of the history that CATIE encompasses for the world.  Stop for a quick visit to CATIE’s botanical garden for an explanation about the extensive diversity of forest and fruit plantations as well as some exotic species that were brought in mostly from other tropical countries. Depending on the time of year and stage of production, sample fruit from the plantations. Return to the hotel to refresh and have lunch, payable direct. This afternoon, saddle up for a guided horseback ride on Casa Turire’s property. After an introduction to your horse and a safety debrief, enjoy an easy ride surrounded by nature. CASA TURIRE – Suite (B)

 

DAY 5: TURRIALBA

Join your guide for a walk to the Bosque Quemado del Silencio (Silencio’s Burned Forest) to admire the impressive forest, canyons, mineral rivers, lava flows, which are unique landscapes at Hacienda La Central. The hacienda is located outside of the government’s security ring of the Turrialba Volcano. Over the last few years, the volcano has made headlines with its eruptions, spewing ash over San Jose and the Central Valley. Though volcanic activity has been noted since the ’80s, it has been gradually getting stronger every year since 2010 with three large eruptions in 2015.  CASA TURIRE – Suite Room (B)

 

DAY 6: TURRIALBA / PUERTO VIEJO

The Pacuare River is ranked as one of the best five rivers in the world for white water rafting, offering all those who visit an experience of adventure and contemplation of nature. Adrenaline junkies will encounter class III and IV rapids that cut through a tropical rain forest. Join your guide for the drive to the Tres Equis community, one hour east of Turrialba. Before entering the river, the rafting guides will discuss the necessary commands and safety directives and will have you respond to and practice these instructions. Shortly after entering the water, the excitement ramps up as you reach the first fast Initiation. It is quickly understood why some of the rapids have been labeled with their specific names, such as the Huacas, Dos Montañas, El Indio, and Cimarrones. Halfway through the excursion, stop for a picnic lunch and to enjoy the panoramic views and the flora and fauna of the region. After lunch, continue the adventure by the river, one more challenge, new rapids, and new surroundings. The trip ends at a bridge in the town of Siquirres.

Here you will change clothes and join your vehicle for the drive Puerto Viejo. The southern Caribbean gives sense to the word “crossroads” as it is the place where everything and everyone meets to create a culturally rich, complex, and unbelievably relaxed way of life. This region offers amazing Caribbean beaches and world cuisine, and out of this world gourmet chocolate. It is where the lush tropical jungle meets the sand, and where the Afro-Caribbean people have paired with the local indigenous communities and European immigrants to create a wonderfully cosmopolitan Caribbean town where you can experience deep respect for nature, peace, and calm. AGUAS CLARAS – Bungalow (B,L)

 

DAY 7: PUERTO VIEJO 

Today embark on a wondrous journey through Cahuita National Park as an introduction to its reefs, abundant marine life, and park´s trails. Join your captain and guide and travel by boat to the coral reef where you will snorkel for two hours in two different areas of the park. Return to the beach to rest and snack on tropical fruit.  Continue with a 90-minute hike through the national park in search of the many species of monkeys, sloths, frogs, butterflies, and birds that call the park home.  The park’s coral reef includes approximately 240 natural habitats. There are 123 different species of fish, 44 species of crustaceans, 140 shellfish, and 1281 various algae that have been identified so far. You also can observe 35 different coral species such as fire coral and the red and black coral which is unique to this area.  At the end of the hike, rejoin your vehicle for transfer back to your hotel. AGUAS CLARAS – Bungalow (B)

 

DAY 8: PUERTO VIEJO / YORKIN

Join your guide who will be with you the next two days for a cultural engagement with the Bribri indigenous community who live almost 2 hours away from Puerto Viejo. On arrival at Bambú, a boat driver and the indigenous local guide will be waiting for you for transfer by canoe up the Yorkin River, the geographic boundary between Costa Rica and Panama. Once there, you’ll take a walk through the community and stop to check out some organic banana and cacao plantations. Enjoy a light snack before going to the hanging bridge over the Skui River, to swim in some of the natural swimming holes. Enjoy a typical indigenous lunch and for dessert, you’ll learn how chocolate is made.  After dinner, take advantage of a genuine cultural exchange, where you’ll hear ancient stories about their ancestors, an oral tradition that’s been passed down from generation to generation.  STIBRAWPA RURAL LODGE – Private Room (B,L,D)

 

DAY 9: YORKIN / PUERTO VIEJO

This morning, feast on a hearty breakfast that will give you all the energy you need for a 3-hour hike. You will cross the Yorkin River, along various trails to a community of an indigenous Bribri group ”Women Watching Over the Forest – Arakupa Kakonu” – on the Panamanian side of the border. On arrival, share a light snack with them and sit back for a presentation on coffee and banana cream. Afterward, take a walk through the forest, listening to stories along the way. Back in Yorkin, relax over a Bribri-style dish for lunch, followed by a discussion on how the organization got started, its conservation efforts, and a demonstration on how the Bribri “weave” their roofs.  Return to Bambú by canoe and then land transfer to Puerto Viejo. AGUAS CLARAS – Bungalow (B,L)

 

DAY 10: PUERTO VIEJO

This morning join your guide for a peaceful walk on the Old Harbour. After a stop to sample a delicious Caribbean snack, head off to a remote lookout point for stunning views of the Caribbean Sea. As you stroll along the trail, keep watch for sleeping sloths tucked away in the canopy above.  This afternoon, you will be introduced to a local cook for a hands-on lesson in the flavors and cooking styles of the Caribbean! Although this individual is not a professional culinary instructor, this is the best way to experience the real local flavor, know the community’s food, and learn about their culture. Using fruits and veggies typical to Coastal Talamanca, you will prepare patacones, breadfruit, rice, and beans in coconut milk, batidos, fish, or chicken in Caribbean sauce!  AGUAS CLARAS – Bungalow (B,L)

 

DAY 11: PUERTO VIEJO

Spend the day at your leisure to enjoy the beach, go bicycling (or hire a tuk-tuk and explore) Puerto Viejo, visit the Jaguar Rescue Center or Ara Manzanillo to see the Great Green Macaw (entry fees not included). AGUAS CLARAS – Bungalow (B,D)

 

DAY 12: PUERTO VIEJO / SAN JOSE, Costa Rica / Depart

After breakfast, it’s time to say goodbye to the Southern Caribbean.  At a pre-arranged time, you are transferred to the Limon airstrip to board the scheduled flight back to San Jose.  On arrival, you are met and escorted to the main terminal and assisted with check-in procedures for your international flight.  (B)

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