Impactful Journey to the Heart of Costa Rica

Immersive experiences in pristine nature
FromUSD$3,990
Immersive experiences in pristine nature
FromUSD$3,990
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Build a Custom Tour



Looking for something a little different? At Impactful Travel, we specialize in crafting custom itineraries tailored to your unique travel desires and ethical values.

Build Your Trip

  • Duration18 Days, 17 Nights
  • Starting point SJO Airport (San Jose)
  • Bookings At least 3 days in advance
  • Year-round
  • Group tripfor more than 2 people please enquire
  • Price range: $3984 - 4076 this is the price p.p. when two people are travelling together (depending on trip version)

Welcome to a journey like no other. This meticulously crafted route is tailored for the intrepid explorer – those who yearn for authentic adventure and are ready to dive into the rich diversity and pristine ecosystems of Costa Rica, while actively contributing to their conservation. Embrace breathtaking hikes, immerse yourself in the ethereal Clouded Forest, spend nights in biological stations, and explore Costa Rica’s vibrant cultural hub. This adventure goes beyond the usual – it’s more remote and more unique than any other trip you’ll find in Costa Rica, resulting in truly invaluable experiences.

However, while this is not a luxury trip, it’s not uncomfortable either. It’s an immersion into unique, distinctive experiences that directly support conservation efforts. Importantly, these special elements set us apart from other operators. They may come at a cost, but they significantly enrich your journey. We understand everyone’s needs are different, and we’re happy to adapt the itinerary as you wish.

With the help of Julian, your journey can be personalized to meet your desires, requirements, and budget.

This trip will soon be available in both self-drive and private driver versions. The latter includes comfortable car transfers with a private driver, although you may need to take local taxis for non-included activities or restaurant visits. The self-drive option is ideal for those who relish driving longer distances on challenging roads and seek an authentic adventure. You can make your choice during the booking process.

If you have limited time, don’t worry! Our shorter 10-day journey in Costa Rica covers many highlights while still making a positive impact. Click the link to choose a faster route that doesn’t compromise on the essentials. Or: request a custom trip to Costa Rica!

Day by Day

Day 1 Arrival in San Jose & transfer to San Gerardo de Dota

Welcome to Pura Vida Land! Upon arrival, a drive of approximately 2:30 hours will take you straight to San Gerardo de Dota.

“Dota” is a magical and unique destination that captivates visitors with its enchanting blend of pristine natural beauty and serene tranquility. Nestled within the lush Talamanca Mountains, this picturesque valley is a haven for biodiversity, showcasing a vibrant flora and fauna, including the Resplendent Quetzal. The area’s mystical cloud forests, shimmering waterfalls, and meandering rivers create an immersive and otherworldly atmosphere.

Allow yourself some leisure time at the outset of your journey to comfortably acclimate and harmonize with the new environment. Let the serene surroundings serve as a gentle transition, helping you consciously shift from the hustle and bustle of your routine life, to the laid-back ‘Pura Vida’ lifestyle that awaits in Costa Rica. This initial period of adjustment helps you to prepare your mind for the enriching experiences that lie ahead. 

Day 2In the Search for the Quetzal

Enjoy awakening with the songs of birds, the morning breeze, and fresh air. Then head out on an early morning guided bird-watching and nature tour into the cloud forest. Whether you are a true birder or a complete newbie, San Gerardo de Dota will make for an unforgettable experience. Here you’ll be able to explore a beautiful forest with tall, moss-covered oaks and an abundance of wildlife and tropical plants.

You’ll be accompanied by one of the expert nature guides of the area who spots birds and other wildlife in the blink of an eye, allowing you to get some of the best wildlife shots. A gentle 1.5 Km walk through the cloud forest will lead you to the Quetzal´s habitat. The hike will take approximately 2 hours.

Once back at your accommodation the rest of the day is free for you to enjoy the magical Clouded Forest Ecosystem.

Day 3Free day in San Gerardo de Dota

Today is left free for you to enjoy the majestic Cloud Forest at your own pace. Choosing to visit one of the bird gardens of the properties nearby, join a birdwatching tour, do a gentle walk through the hotels’ compound, or if you feel like doing something more intense you can choose to hike through the Talamanca highlands.

Day 4Transfer to Puerto Jimenez & Kayak Bioluminescence Tour

Today you will continue this unforgettable journey. After a drive of approximately 5 hours, we assure you that the next destination will enhance your senses and stay engraved in your memory forever.

If you had the chance to track wildlife in a rainforest in the past, you already know how elusive the animals in the jungle tend to be. We want to introduce you to the Osa Peninsula and its National Park, Corcovado. The remote Peninsula is a glimpse into Central America’s wild past, covered in lush primary jungle. The national park has one of the highest densities of biodiversity in the world, thus observing species that are rare in other places is quite frequent here.

Puerto Jiménez, located on the Osa Peninsula, is a charming coastal town that serves as a gateway to the spectacular Corcovado National Park and many other impressive natural activities, including dozens of environmental impact projects working towards conservation efforts. Surrounded by lush rainforests and bordered by the Golfo Dulce, Puerto Jimenez offers a laid-back atmosphere with colorful buildings.

After settling in Puerto Jimenez you will embark on a memorable kayaking adventure along the captivating coast of Puerto Jimenez and the Preciosa-Platanares Wildlife Refuge. The guide will lead you in search of the resident dolphin population that thrives in these pristine waters. As you paddle through this rich ecosystem, you will have the opportunity to spot a variety of marine and coastal bird species and observe fascinating reptiles such as crocodiles and iguanas.

Witness a natural phenomenon like no other

As the day draws to a close, indulge in the awe-inspiring spectacle of the sunset, as it transforms the sky with its vibrant hues. And once the night unfurls its darkened embrace, prepare yourself for a truly extraordinary encounter – bioluminescence. This captivating natural phenomenon, where living organisms in the ocean emit a mesmerizing glow, continues to captivate scientists and nature enthusiasts alike.

Day 5Insect & Fungi Workshops

Following breakfast, jump in the car to get to two captivating workshops guided by passionate naturalists. Immerse yourself in the realm of the region’s lesser-known and inconspicuous inhabitants, unraveling their intriguing stories and hidden wonders.

Entomology (Insects) Workshop:

This is a unique and immersive experience led by Jim, an expert naturalist with a passion for conservation, scientific knowledge, and environmental education. As the founder of BioSur, a grassroots non-profit organization based in the Osa Peninsula, Jim has spent years studying and preserving the natural wonders of this stunning region. Now, he invites you to join him on an exciting journey of discovery into the fascinating world of insects.

This workshop offers a one-of-a-kind opportunity to learn about insect classification, identification, and naming through an interactive exchange. Afterward, Jim will take you on a guided expedition to explore the natural habitats of insects in the area. You will have the chance to observe their behaviors and adaptations up close, gaining a deeper understanding of their role in the delicate balance of the ecosystem. With Jim’s expert guidance and knowledge, you’ll gain a newfound appreciation for the incredible diversity of the natural world around you.

Mycology (Fungi) Workshop:

There are some more than 5 million species of fungi in the world, and they do very well in the tropics. Costa Rica is home to more than 4,000 species properly identified, but it is estimated that there are over 70,000 species. Eida Fletes will guide you on a tour that will take you to identify edible, medicinal, or toxic fungi.

Eida is a local farmer, mother, and scientist born in the community. She has studied mushrooms for years and participates in constant research projects. The fascinating adaptations of these incredible species will make you remember this experience forever!

The workshop begins with a half-hour exchange where you will learn more about how mushrooms grow, where they live, their reproduction, and their uses. Then, you will go for a walk for an hour to see some mushrooms in Eida’s garden, and if in season, you will pick some for the meal. You will return to identify them in a small laboratory before enjoying a delicious meal with cooked mushrooms.

Day 6Corcovado National Park: Hike to Sirena Biological Station

Wake up early and head to the meeting point by 5:15 am. After a quick breakfast in a local bakery, and buying your packed lunch, you and your guide will proceed to drive to Carate. It lasts an hour and a half by car with road stops if necessary.

Note: if you choose the rental car version of this trip, you will leave your car in Puerto Jimenez (in coordination with the hotel) and take a private transfer to the meeting point, and onwards to Carate.

Immerse yourself in one of the parks with the most biodiversity

Today’s goal is to reach the Sirena Ranger Station, which will be your base for the following days’ jungle exploration. The Station is a simple but clean place, it is the only lodging option available inside the park, and rooms and toilets are shared. We believe this is absolutely worth it for the unique experience of being inside one of the world’s most biodiverse parks; but if you think otherwise please enquire to design a different experience for you.

Once in Carate, you will walk for an hour until you get to La Leona Station, there you will have some minutes to sign the visitor’s book, use the toilets, refill the water bottles, and then start walking towards Sirena. This hike, including stops to have lunch and observe flora and fauna, will last about 7-8 hours, on a flat trail parallel to the beach (bring your sun hat!). The pace of the hike will depend on the tides since you have to cross beaches and rivers. It’s a long hike but not difficult and apart from one stretch where there won’t be shadow, it’s quite pleasant because there is so much to see!

Your efforts will be rewarded since Corcovado is a privileged spot on earth, where commonly shy animals let themselves be seen. The park safeguards one of the last substantial regions of lowland tropical forests worldwide and the most extensive primary forest on the Pacific coastline of the Americas.

Once checking in and settling in your bunk bed with mosquito net, the rest of the day is for you to explore the station and rest. The dinner and the following meals will be served at the station’s dining room.

Note: if preferred, you can reach the station by a 1.5 hours boat ride rather than hiking.

Day 7 Exploring La Sirena Trails

Today you will have the whole day to explore the park trails, which pass through rivers, dense jungles, and the beach.

Start early morning and intercalate the hikes with breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the station. Our guides are strictly selected among the most experienced and best trackers in the area. They will carry a telescope making it more enjoyable to see animals that live in the forest canopy and birds.

You will have the chance to see 3 different species of monkey, tapir, Scarlet Macaw, Imperator Boa, two types of sloth, anteater, colorful frogs, and if you are lucky maybe even one of the 5 species of feline that call the Peninsula home, being the Puma the most commonly seen.

Day 8Boat back to Puerto Jimenez

After an early morning jungle trek, get ready to take the boat back to Puerto Jimenez, which lasts around 1.5 hours. After arriving at Puerto Jimenez check in at your accommodation and take a well-deserved rest after the jungle days.

If you have energy you can join an optional night walk in the forests that surround Puerto Jimenez (not included). On this tour, you visit El Ñeque, a community located 15 minutes away from Puerto Jimenez. This trail is close to a stream where you’ll look for nocturnal animals like frogs, snakes, kinkajous, raccoons, nocturnal birds, bats, and spiders, among other incredible species.

Day 9Transfer to Tierra Amiga Organic farm

Today after breakfast, you will hit the road again in the direction of the beautiful coffee land of Tarrazu (approximately 5 hours drive). Leaving the dense rainforest of the Osa Peninsula behind, the landscape will slowly shift into enchanting villages with wooden houses covered with flowers and heartwarming rural landscapes. The reason for you traveling to Terrazu is that here you will find Minor & Lucidia’s organic farm called Tierra Amiga.

A visit to Tierra Amiga farm will give you the chance to immerse yourself in the lifestyle of the farmers of Central America, with the added value of visiting a 100% organic and sustainable farm. With Minor, Lucidia, and their daughter Ruth as hosts, a complete and personal explanation of the art of organic and sustainable farming is guaranteed. You will be received in their houses where they grow vegetables, fruits, coffee, and cacao, and will have the chance to taste a homemade lunch, accompanied by fresh coffee, bread from the traditional kiln oven, and homemade kombucha.

We are sure that you will value and enjoy this unique chance to have an exchange with local farmers and learn a not-so-well-known side of Costa Rica.

Day 10Transfer to Finca la Amistad Cacao Lodge & Chocolate Tour

Today you will continue this unforgettable journey. But first, a 6-hour drive awaits before reaching your next destination.

Finca la Amistad Cacao Lodge lies at the foot of the Tenorio Volcano National Park and is very close to the inspiring Rio Celeste River. In this ‘Finca‘, you will learn about life on a Costa Rican cacao farm, observe wildlife, experience nature, and get to know how cocoa and chocolate are made.

After settling in your accommodation you will get your hands a bit dirty and your stomach full by experiencing the “from seedling to chocolate bar” tour. You will be part of the world of cacao on one of Costa Rica’s most sustainable cacao farms. Follow the cocoa production process from the sprouting seedlings to the dried beans. You’ll have the opportunity to make your own fresh chocolate here on the farm.

Day 11Rio Celeste - Volcán Tenorio National Park

Following breakfast, you’ll embark on an early morning adventure from the lodge, accompanied by a knowledgeable naturalist guide. A brief drive separates you from the entrance of Volcan Tenorio National Park, where you will start your hike through this humid forest ecosystem, with the chance to observe various animal species and exuberant flora.

Along the walk, you will discover the magnificent falls of the Rio Celeste. A legend tells that after God was done painting the sky, he washed his brushes in the river that now bears the name of Rio Celeste (Cyan River). This fast-flowing stream seems to tear the green hill before falling 20 meters lower into a basin of such a sky-blue color that will bring out the most spontaneous expressions of wonder. Your stroll will take you upstream to a mesmerizing spot known as ‘Los Teñidores’. It is at this very place where the enchanting hues of the water originate.

Following jungle trails, your guide will then take you to a volcanic field where bursts of hot water, steam, and other fumes rise into the air, making this unique hike complete.

Day 12Travel to the Caribbean

Set your playlist to Calypso as today you’ll arrive at the Caribbean town of Puerto Viejo after a 6-hour drive.

This little Creole town is a fascinating melting pot of Afro-Caribbean, BriBri Indian, Tico, and Creole cultures as well as a significant European population made up of travelers who came to Puerto Viejo, fell in love with the town and never left. This mix of cultures gives the town a relaxed atmosphere where everyone feels at home.

Depending on the time of your arrival in Puerto Viejo and having settled into your accommodating dome at the lovely Faith Glamping, the rest of the day is free to take a stroll around town and explore some of the great, small independent shops selling local crafts.

But if you can’t wait any longer to feel the warm, white sand and crystal-clear Caribbean waters, we recommend grabbing a tuk-tuk or renting a bike and heading out to nearby Punta Uva or Cocles, where you’ll find the best beaches.

Day 13Free Morning & Recycled Plastic Workshop

Today you will retribute a bit to Mother Nature for all the magic received in the past days.

The Plastic Free Workshop offers a multi-dimensional approach to combating plastic pollution, blending practical activities with educational components. You will kick off the day with a beach cleanup, and then gain firsthand insights into the recycling process by visiting a recycling station. The workshop also includes a hands-on element, since you will separate and clean bottle caps and participate in the production process, transforming collected materials into new items.

After your hard work, the rest of the day is free for you to enjoy the beach at your own pace.

Day 14Bribri Indigenous Community Cultural Exchange

In the lush Talamanca mountains reside the Bribri communities, the most numerous indigenous populations in Costa Rica. As we journey into their world, you’ll explore the Alta Talamanca-BriBri and Alta Talamanca-Cabécar Territories, nestled near the La Amistad National Park. Cloaked in rich culture, these territories are self-governed by the Indigenous people following the 1977 Indigenous Act.

Your adventure begins as you leave Puerto Viejo, bound for Bambú. A traditional dugout canoe awaits, guiding you along the scenic Yorkín River. Marvel at the flourishing rainforest and the panoramic views of the Panamanian mountains. Touching down in Yorkín, find refuge in the Stibrawpa women’s house lodge, a haven for cultural exchange.

Engage with a local guide, unraveling the story of the Stibrawpa women’s organization. Take a guided stroll along a natural trail, immersing yourself in the wisdom of the land, and learning about crops, medicinal uses, and the vibrant flora. Savor a traditional meal, witness the artistry of chocolate making, and engage in indigenous arts and crafts.

Day 15Extended Cultural Tour & Free Afternoon in Puerto Viejo

Awaken to the rainforest’s symphony and relish a traditional breakfast, setting the stage for a day steeped in cultural exploration. Immerse yourself in daily life, participating in interpretative hikes, basket weaving, and traditional meal preparation. Learn snippets of the Bribri language and absorb tales of history and folklore.

As the day unfolds, bid a fond farewell to the community, concluding this enriching cultural experience with a return journey along the Yorkín River in the comforting embrace of a traditional dugout canoe.

Upon arrival in Puerto Viejo check in at your accommodation and have a good rest.

Day 16Jaguar Rescue Center Visit & Caribbean Cooking Class

Have your breakfast, take a drive and at 9:00 you should be at the Jaguar Rescue Center.

Once there you are going to be warmly welcomed by passionate guides who will provide a brief overview of the center’s mission. The tour then delves into a behind-the-scenes exploration of the rehabilitation facilities, including the veterinary clinic and rescue enclosures. You will be introduced to the diverse residents, such as jaguars, monkeys, sloths, and birds, as guides share stories of their rescue and rehabilitation. The experience includes witnessing feeding time and enrichment activities, allowing guests to understand the center’s commitment to the well-being of the animals.

Be part of the Afro-Caribbean Culture

After your visit to the Jaguar Conservation Center get ready to enrich your taste buds with the Afro-Caribbean Cuisine Cooking Class! You will embark on a flavorful journey, immersing yourself in the rich and diverse culinary traditions of the region.

The class begins with a warm welcome from Carleen, a knowledgeable and passionate chef with deep roots in Afro-Caribbean culture. The atmosphere is vibrant, filled with the enticing aromas of exotic spices and fresh ingredients. Carleen will expertly guide you through the preparation of traditional dishes, emphasizing the importance of key ingredients and cooking techniques that define Afro-Caribbean cuisine.

As the class progresses, you will engage in hands-on cooking, learning to create dishes like coconut-infused rice and beans, jerk chicken, and plantain delicacies. Carleen weaves in cultural anecdotes, sharing stories that provide context to the flavors and the historical significance of each dish. The class is not just a culinary experience but a cultural immersion, fostering a sense of appreciation for the Afro-Caribbean heritage in Costa Rica.

The session concludes with a delightful feast, where participants savor the fruits of their labor, celebrating the fusion of flavors that define Afro-Caribbean cuisine.

After returning to your accommodation the rest of the day is free for you to enjoy.

Day 17Puerto Viejo at Leisure

Enjoy a last leisurely day at the Caribbean beach. Just relax in the white sand and think about all the adventures you lived in the last days and how the amazing experiences will remain engraved to your heart forever.

Also, feel grateful for the positive impacts you’ve made in the lives of the people and towards the conservation projects you’ve visited.

Day 18Departure

Today is the last drive (4.5 hours) in this beautiful country and you should be at the San Jose International Airport 3 hours prior to your scheduled flight. So, depending on your departure time you might need to leave very early. Of course, we can adapt the schedule if you wish to stay overnight close to the airport.

Please enquire about a tailor-made version of this trip!

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What makes this experience Impactful?

Experience more than just sightseeing on this multiactive adventure through a country at the forefront of environmental protection. And with our unique touch, this journey becomes socio-culturally valuable and economically beneficial for everyone involved.

We offer four educational and diverse workshops, covering topics such as insects, fungi, plastic waste, and cacao.

Throughout your journey, we incorporate emblematic animals, places, and phenomena to create a meaningful connection and raise awareness about the destination.

By visiting two National Parks, Corcovado and Volcán Tenorio, you actively contribute to their conservation and maintenance.

Additionally, you’ll have the opportunity to gently glide through the waters of a wildlife refuge while canoeing, without disturbing the tranquility of its residents, and also witness the importance of a wildlife rescue center.

We will immerse you in the intricacies of working on an organic farm and discover the positive implications for the planet and your health.

And, as no journey is complete without meaningful cultural exchange, we will introduce you to different communities, including aboriginals, mestizo, and creole.

Not to mention, every aspect of this tour, from accommodation to food and transportation, is carefully selected to meet sustainability standards. In addition to offering a leisurely travel itinerary and exploring lesser-known destinations, it also amplifies its impact.

Details

Price Includes

  • Private transportation (or guided self-drive) during the whole trip
  • Accommodation17 nights including Bungalows, Hotel Rooms (Standard, Deluxe an Jr. Suite)
  • ActivitiesIncludes all the mentioned activities, excluding the optional ones that are only suggested
  • Entrance feesAll included
  • Meals 17 breakfasts included (except on day 1, and day 18 depending on the scheduled flight). Lunch included on days 5, 7, 9, 14. Dinner on days 6, 7, 14.

Price Excludes

  • Breakfast on day 1, and on day 18 (depending on the scheduled flight)
  • Lunch on days 1-4, 6, 8, 10-13, 15-18
  • Dinner on days 1-5, 8-13, 15-18
  • FlightsInternational or domestic
  • Other items not specifically indicated as includedLike early check-ins or late check-outs, souvenirs, laundry, tips, insurance and other personal expenses.
  • Optional items or direct paymentOptional excursions, additional services and additional entrance fees can be paid on site in cash
  • Read our Terms and Conditions (click here).

What to Bring

Frequently Asked Questions

About this trip

What are some tips for spotting and identifying the Quetzal during our bird-watching tour?

The tips for spotting and identifying the Quetzal on your bird-watching tour include remaining as silent as possible and starting your search during the early morning hours when these birds are most active. Look for the Quetzal’s vibrant plumage that features a striking combination of green, red, and blue against the lush backdrop of the cloud forest. Also, keep an ear out for their distinctive calls and stay patient — the Quetzal can be shy and may take some time to reveal itself.

Do you have any recommended places or activities for our free day in San Gerardo de Dota?

On your free day in San Gerardo de Dota, consider a peaceful hike along the trails that meander through the valley. The local landscape is perfect for leisurely walks or more vigorous hiking. Additionally, trout fishing is a popular activity that offers both relaxation and excitement, or simply relax and appreciate the serenity of your surroundings.

Can you explain more about the phenomenon of bioluminescence that we will witness during the kayak tour?

The phenomenon of bioluminescence you will witness during your kayak tour is caused by dinoflagellates, which are tiny marine plankton. These organisms emit light through a chemical reaction when disturbed, creating a magical glow in the water. This natural light show is truly breathtaking and best observed on nights with little to no moonlight to detract from the luminous display.

What can we expect from the hike to Sirena Biological Station in terms of difficulty and terrain?

The hike to Sirena Biological Station in Corcovado National Park is considered challenging due to the varied terrain, which includes forested paths, river crossings, and potentially muddy conditions. It’s crucial to wear sturdy boots and to be prepared for a hike that can take several hours, depending on the pace and conditions.

What are some of the highlights of Puerto Jimenez?

Puerto Jimenez is known for its vibrant waterfront and the warmth of its community. Highlights include mingling with the locals, who often share tales of the town’s history and culture, exploring the colorful streets, and enjoying the laid-back atmosphere that defines the Costa Rican lifestyle.

General questions

For questions about booking a tour, prices, preparation for your trip, health and safety or other themes, please check our Frequently Asked Questions page. If you can’t find your question & answer, email us and we’ll add it!

Reviews
Your Travel Designer

Julian Stivelman

I’m thrilled to extend a special invitation to you for an extraordinary journey that promises not just adventure, but a deep connection with the heart of Costa Rica. 

This journey is designed to immerse you in the vibrant culture and breathtaking landscapes of this country, from the lush rainforests to the picturesque coastlines, offering you the chance to engage with local communities and support them in a truly impactful way.

You’ll have the opportunity to witness the positive effects of sustainable tourism and actively contribute to the preservation of this beautiful destination as every step of this trip will be filled with awe-inspiring experiences and transformative encounters. 

I hope you’ll join me (as your omnipresent guide) on this incredible journey to the heart of Costa Rica.

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