Summary : Discover the treasures of one of Costa Rica’s richest regions, Guanacaste, on a six-day voyage. Snorkel and kayak among untouched corals and palm-lined beaches in the Guanacaste Conservation Area, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Hike, ride horseback, and zipline amid mist-shrouded volcanic peaks in Rincón de la Vieja National Park, where intriguing archaeological sites provide insight into Costa Rica’s ancient past. As you venture from uninhabited isles to wildlife-rich jungles and friendly surf towns, bask in the “pura vida” that infuses this ecologically-rich country.
Navigate the pristine coastline of Costa Rica’s Guanacaste region, snorkel crystalline waters and explore wildlife-rich parks and preserves. Discover diverse tropical ecosystems while exploring via kayak and stand up paddleboard, on foot, on horseback, and soaring by zipline. Spend an afternoon enjoying Isla Tortuga’s palm-shaded beaches before a barbecue dinner on the sand. Explore the volcanic landscapes of Rincón de la Vieja National Park, soaking in hot springs and searching for exotic wildlife, from tapirs to toucans.
Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography, Snorkeling, Dedicated Solo Cabins
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Upon arrival in San José, the capital of Costa Rica, transfer by land to Puerto Caldera and embark the ship. Enjoy a sunset dinner onboard as you chart a course for the Guanacaste region on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast.
Drop anchor off remote Zapotal Beach, where you’ll spend the morning soaking up the sun or snorkeling in waters fringed by offshore islets which create outstanding habitat for a variety of tropical fish. Or, choose to walk along a rarely used 4-wheel drive track which takes you back into a beautiful gallery forest. The area is rich with bird and plant life and your naturalists describe the intricate web of life in these oceanside ecosystems.
After lunch on board, cruise south to the community of Tamarindo. The town, busy with its surfing lifestyle, is bordered by a healthy mangrove system that you set off to explore, navigating the estuary in local boats. In these waters, busy with wildlife, you may spot reddish egrets, wading the shallows, with dagger-like bills ready to strike, or hot pink roseate spoonbills sieving the water for briny shrimp. Here, white ibis wing through the channels or roost in bordering trees while crocodiles may languidly lounge amongst the mangroves or may surface in the estuarine waters. Or, choose to spend the afternoon hours enjoying Tamarindo, relaxing on the beach, or strolling the streets, lined with colorful craft shops and cafés.
Today set your sights on Islas Murcielagos (also known as the Bat Islands) in the World Heritage-designated Guanacaste Conservation Area. Weather permitting, don a snorkel and fins to discover a rich underwater world or hike into the upper reaches of the islands for commanding views over the full length of this rarely visited archipelago.
Back onboard, sail towards the mainland while enjoying a delicious lunch on board. Depending on conditions, the guides may choose to explore Santa Elena Bay in Santa Rosa National Park, Junquillal Wildlife Refuge, or Cuajiniquil Bay, all part of the extraordinarily biodiverse Guanacaste Conservation Area. While venturing out by kayak or taking a relaxing Zodiac cruise, immerse yourself into the tropical environment, alive with color. Yellow and black great kiskadees sally from exposed perches looking to capture a flying insect for an evening meal and orange-fronted parakeets chatter overhead. Predators such as mangrove hawks may take wind setting out on a late afternoon hunt, while ringed kingfishers, richly colored in brick red and deep blue, wait patiently, watching the shallows for a fish’s silvery flash.
**Please note: National Geographic Quest will sail to Nicaragua overnight where necessary immigration requirements will be completed prior to returning to Costa Rica on Day 4.
Your adventure today continues as you set off inland to explore Rincón de la Vieja National Park. This mountainous region is also a part of the Guanacaste Conservation Area and encompasses more than 34,000 acres. The area, with its forests carpeting the sides of two active volcanoes, is alive with geothermal activity as gurgling, bubbling mud pots spout, and steam rises above the canopy. Choose between several enticing options today including a hike through the transition zone where tropical dry habitat meets the temperate cloud forest. Here, keep an eye out for exotic wildlife, with the possibility of encountering mantled howler monkeys, and regionally special birds including the noisy and conspicuous white-throated magpie-jay. Alternatively, after a short hike into the forest, opt to swim below Las Chorreras Waterfall. Or, choose to ride horseback across lush meadows, or soar through the canopy by zipline before enjoying a sumptuous lunch served poolside at Hacienda Guachipelin while local marimba guitarists play and fresh ceviche is prepared.
Along the coast of the Nicoya Peninsula, and in many ways demarcating the line between the wetter jungles of the south and Guanacaste’s drier environment, sits Curu National Wildlife Refuge, Costa Rica’s first private national wildlife reserve. Learn about the hundreds of species of birds, reptiles, and mammals that inhabit this thriving ecosystem while exploring the park’s tracks and trails. Here look for white-faced capuchin monkeys, turquoise-browed motmots, and with luck, scarlet macaws. The northern tamandua resides here, and while often elusive and quiet, this primarily arboreal member of the anteater family may be spotted.
Later, enjoy lunch onboard, cruise to a cluster of offshore islets collectively called Isla Tortuga. Choose to stand-up paddleboard, kayak, or simply relax on the beach shaded by swaying palms and tropical vegetation. As the sun begins to set on your Guanacaste adventure, a waterside barbecue dinner awaits--the perfect way to finish your voyage.
Disembark after breakfast in Puerto Caldera. Drive to the airport in San José for flights home.
This itinerary is subject to change. ExpeditionTrips is not responsible for itinerary changes.
Lindblad-National Geographic Certified Photo Instructor:
On all departures, a certified photo instructor will be at your side and at your service to inspire and assist you. Take advantage of talks, presentations, slideshows and “laptop gallery” sharing events. All skill and interest levels are welcome; the instructors can meet you wherever you are on your journey. All you need to participate is a camera— point-and-shoot, smartphone, DSLR, whatever—and a sense of adventure. And you’re sure to return home with amazing photos.
Transfers between airport and ship if booked on recommended flights; shipboard accommodations; kayaking, snorkeling; stand up paddleboarding; certified photo instructor; video chronicle of your trip; gear on loan (snorkeling gear and wetsuit); all meals onboard ship; soft drinks onboard ship. Subject to change without notice.
Air transportation; extensions; passport, visa, immigration fees if applicable; meals not indicated; baggage/accident/travel protection plan; items of a personal nature such as alcoholic beverages, Internet, laundry, etc.; gratuities to ship's crew at your discretion; fuel surcharge may apply.
Photos ©: Ralph Lee Hopkins; Sven-Olaf Lindblad; David Vargas