Costa Rica Family Explorer: Nature's Classroom

7-Day Guided Vacation: Trip begins and ends San Jose, Costa Rica

Do you have a budding naturalist or scientist in your family? Is your child fascinated by animals? Then this well-rounded itinerary is perfect for your family! Kids will love the fun-filled adventures that take them from butterfly gardens and frog ponds to hot springs waterslides. See more journeys in our eCatalog!

Highlights include:
• Explore Tortuguero Jungles, Tirimbina Biological Reserve and Arenal Volcano.
• Visit a cacao farm and learn about bats, Costa Rica's most abundant mammal.
• A naturalist guide accompanies you at no additional cost with four or more adults.**
All meals, family-friendly resorts, ground transportation and activities.

From $1,500
per adult;* $620 per child* (age 11 and under)
Tours start every Saturday through November 2015
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Special Interest: Family-Friendly, Guided, Outdoors
Travel Provider:  AAA Sojourns

Package details include

Two young caucasian boys on forest canopy walkwaysCosta Rica is truly a nature lover’s paradise, home to five unique ecosystems and at the forefront of eco-travel and sustainable tourism. Its success in protecting its precious jungles, forests and waterways also makes it an ideal destination for kids of all ages to explore and discover nature at her finest. Costa Rica's natural landscapes in themselves help stimulate curiousity, wonder and learning.

And as Judith Pivarnick, AAA Travel Counselor in San Mateo, CA explains: "The Costa Rica Family Explorer is a great way for the whole family to explore together. It’s exciting to see monkeys in the wild and observe up close tiny fruit bats that pollinate bananas. Families will enjoy learning about the process of transforming cacao beans into chocolate and participating in hands-on activities with naturalist guides."
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A tropical bird in Costa RicaDeparting every Saturday, this active yet fun-filled itinerary features one nature-focused or educational activity each day. Highlights include Tortuguero National Park, where a guided boat tour through dense rainforests reveals monkeys, tree sloths, river otters, crocodiles and caimans. At Tirimbina Biological Reserve, learn to interpret the secrets of the rainforest on a guided nature walk.

See the entire process of chocolate making–from cacao fruit to cocoa, on a chocolate tour and tasting. Conclude your time in Arenal with a half-day adventure. Choose between horseback riding to a waterfall, canopy tours, rafting and stand up paddling. Follow up with an afternoon and evening at Baldi Hot Springs Resort where everyone will love the three waterslides, swimming pools and hot springs.

Father and son on ziplinePrice includes:
6 nights accommodations: 1 night in San Jose, 2 nights in Tortuguero, 1 night in Tirimbina and 2 nights in Arenal
Meals - Daily breakfast, 5 lunches and 5 dinners
• All on-tour transportation and transfers
Guided Nature Explorations – Accompanied by a naturalist guide, visit the butterfly farm, frog pond and gardens at Mawamba Lodge; take a wildlife spotting boat tour of Tortuguero National Park; enjoy a natural history walk in Tirimbina Biological Reserve and learn about bats
Educational & Fun – See how chocolate is processed from cacao fruit on a chocolate tour and enjoy an afternoon of aquatic hijinks at Baldi Hot Springs with its three giant waterslides
Activities - Your choice of a half-day activity in Arenal area on Day 6; choose from canopy tours, horseback riding or stand up paddling

Monteverde Extension from $290 per adult, $150 per child*
Extend your vacation with 3 days in Monteverde National Park. Package includes 2 nights at Cloud Forest Lodge, a Sky Walk Tram tour and more. See full itinerary in Itinerary Section.

**Note: A naturalist guide will accompany all tour departures with four or more adults at no additional charge and will remain with the group throughout the tour. For tour departures with less than four adults, local guides will be available to assist in the excursions and activities given in the itinerary but these guides will not be with the group throughout the entire tour.

Note: An optional 3-day/2-night Monteverde Family Adventure is available; see full itinerary below.


7-Day Nature’s Classroom Itinerary

Itinerary mapDay 1 - Arrive in San Jose, Costa Rica
Arrive in San Jose, Costa Rica where you will be met at the airport and transferred to your hotel. There will be time for the kids to enjoy the pool before dinner.
Accommodation: Hotel Bougainvillea (Mountain View room) - 1 night

Day 2 - Tortuguero
Meet the tour escort early this morning in the hotel lobby for a land transfer through Braulio Carrillo National Park, stopping en route for breakfast. After breakfast, continue to La Pavona to board the boat for a scenic jungle river cruise to Tortuguero and the Mawamba Lodge. Lunch will be served on arrival. Later in the afternoon, enjoy a guided walk to the village of Tortuguero.
Accommodation: Mawamba Lodge - 2 nights

Day 3 – Mawamba Lodge & Tortuguero National Park
After breakfast at the lodge, your naturalist guide will take you to the butterfly farm, frog pond and gardens. This visit is combined with a walk through the trails at the lodge.

After lunch, there is time to relax and enjoy the pool before departing for an afternoon boat tour of Tortuguero National Park. (Note: A $10 per person Tortuguero Park entrance fee is not included and is payable directly at the entrance to the park.) Explore Tortuguero's network of scenic waterways in special boats designed for better visibility. As you wind your way through dense rainforest, keep an eye out for monkeys, tree sloth and birds. The natural vegetation of the area progresses from swamp forests in the lowlands near the coast to tropical wetlands and forests at higher elevations further inland.

Day 4 – Tirimbina Biological Reserve
After breakfast, start the morning with a boat transfer to Rio Danta for lunch, then proceed to Tirimbina for a learning experience about science and natural history. Tirimbina is a non-profit organization created to conserve the rainforest and to provide environmental education and scientific research. Conservationists and researchers from around the world use Tirimbina to study important relationships among species.

At 3pm, experience a guided natural history walk along the reserve's trails, to search for, find and interpret the secrets of the rainforest. Your guide will also teach you more about the area’s history and the objectives of the reserve. We will continue into the evening with a very informative Bat Program. Did you know that bats represent almost 50% of the mammals in Costa Rica (113 species)? The activity consists of a multimedia presentation of about 30 minutes regarding the natural history of bats, their classification, diversity, adaptations, reproduction, threats and more.
Accommodation: Tirimbina Lodge - 1 night

Day 5 – Chocolate Tour and on to Arenal Volcano
Did you know that chocolate is originally from Central America? It was one of the most important products for the Mayan and Aztec cultures. The naturalist guide will take you to the cacao growing plot where the history of the cacao tree will be explained. The artisanal process with which the cacao fruit is transformed into chocolate will be demonstrated, (harvest, fermentation, drying, etc.), while the story of pre- and post-colonial chocolate is told. At the site, one may taste different kinds of chocolate, which are prepared on the spot in the traditional way. By showing this processing of cacao to chocolate, the tour aids in the conservation of our native plants, the cultivation of which is one of the friendliest to the environment.

Lunch will be served at Tirimbina and then we transfer to the Arenal Volcano area. Enjoy the natural hot springs at the Montaña de Fuego Hotel in the afternoon.
Accommodation: Montaña de Fuego Hotel & Spa – 2 nights

Day 6 – Choice of Morning Activity in Arenal & Baldi Hot Springs
After breakfast at Montaña de Fuego, choose one of the following tours or learn how to “Walk on Water” by taking the fun Stand Up Paddling (SUP) class on Lake Arenal.

Stand Up Paddling – Stand up paddling has its roots in ancient Polynesia and looks exactly as it sounds: You stand up on a large, wide, super buoyant surfboard and paddle yourself forward with a long paddle. The great thing is you don't have to wait for the waves - for that reason, it's attracted all types of paddle enthusiasts -- young and old alike! And you can SUP on the beautiful Lake Arenal for an incredible day at the base of the majestic Arenal Volcano. The kids can take the skills they learn in Costa Rica and apply them to the sport back home after their vacations. "It's a great workout for your core, builds balance and is less daunting and more consistent than regular surfing," Be a part of this exciting new trend and learn how to SUP in Costa Rica. Minimum age 6 years old.

Hanging Bridges: This is a great tour for all ages. The hanging bridges forest reserve comprises 243 hectares of protected forest. Kids especially enjoy the feeling of the swaying bridges suspended over the forest. The bridges have different lengths and heights and were made with the intention of viewing the flora and fauna vantage points. It is possible to locate animals and birds along the path. No age limits.

La Balsa River White Water Rafting: The Balsa River is ideal for first-time river rafters rated Class II and Class III. No prior experience is necessary but it is advised that you know how to swim, even though you will be given life jackets to wear. This tour is recommended for ages 7 to 65 whether you are a first-timer or an expert. Lunch is included after the rafting.

Canopy Zipline Adventure: Kids and adults love this tour! Fly high over the canopy of the rainforest and feel the adrenaline as you enjoy different platforms where you can see the impressive canyon of the Arenal River and the area’s extraordinary flora and fauna. Restrictions apply for children under 5 years old but children these ages are allowed to go with a guide.

Arenal River Horseback Riding Tour: Horseback riding to the canyon of the Arenal River. This tour takes place inside a private farm surrounded by primary and secondary forest. The horses are well trained and recommended for beginner adults and children. Riding time is only 1.5 hours so just enough time for the kids to enjoy horseback riding. At the river, you can swim if you like in the cool shallow river. Even the horses like to get into the river! Restrictions apply for children under 5 years old but children these ages are allowed to go with a guide.

After lunch at your hotel, transfer to Baldi Hot Springs Resort for some great fun, especially for the young ones. Everyone will enjoy the waterslides, pools and hot springs. There are three great waterslides that will amaze and entertain kids of all ages: One slide is104 feet long, the second 122 feet long and the third 325 feet long. Later enjoy dinner at Baldi before returning to the hotel.

Day 7 - Depart Costa Rica
After breakfast at the hotel, transfer back to San Jose International Airport for your flight home. (Note: There is a $29 departure tax for all visitors leaving by air. This tax must be purchased prior to check-in.)


3-Day Monteverde Family Adventure Itinerary

Day 1 – Transfer to Monteverde / Sky Walk & Sky Tram
Early this morning, transfer to Monteverde where upon arrival, you’ll enjoy a Sky Walk (Suspended Bridges) & Sky Tram (Aerial Tram) tour. These six suspension bridges, some nearly 1,000 feet long, allow a unique perspective within the canopy. Learn about the flora and fauna of the area walking through and over the treetops. The Sky Tram ascends along a beautiful cloud forest ridge and allows for stops along the way to observe plants and animals. The Sky Tram leads up to the Costa Rica Continental Divide and one of the highest mountains of Monteverde. Later, check-in to your lodge for the night.
Accommodation: Cloud Forest Lodge – 2 nights

Day 2 - Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve Hike & Hidden Valley Night Tour
Enjoy a morning guided tour of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, one of the most outstanding wildlife sanctuaries of the Americas and including eight distinct ecological zones. Rising nearly 5,000 feet into misty skies, it is the most famous wildlife spot in Costa Rica. The variable climate and large altitudinal gradient has helped produce an extremely high biodiversity. With your guide you will learn the relationships that exist between the different species of animals and plants. Monteverde rainforests have majestically tall trees festooned with bromeliads, ferns, vines, mosses and 420 varieties of orchid. Visitors feel like they're walking in a grand green cathedral.

There is time this afternoon to explore Monteverde on your own before the Hidden Valley Night Tour. The tour begins at 5:30pm, just before nightfall when the nocturnal creatures are just beginning to wake up. In addition to a flashlight, each participant is given an animal identification card. These cards explain the various creatures they’re likely to see and will help participants spot and recognize various animals, insects and amphibians within the reserve. These include snakes, spiders (most notably, hole-dwelling tarantulas), blue-crowned mot mots, agoutis, porcupines, tree frogs and more. Naturalist guides will explain the reason that these creatures’ habits (most of which involve feeding or breeding) are best suited for the dark. The tour ends around 7:30pm. You will then be dropped off at your lodge.

Day 3 - Depart Costa Rica
After breakfast at the hotel, transfer back to San Jose International Airport for your flight home. (Note: There is a $29 departure tax for all visitors leaving by air. This tax must be purchased prior to check-in.)

Limitations & Restrictions

*Prices are per person based on double occupancy, are subject to availability at time of booking, and may change without notice. Child rate applies to children 11 years of age and younger sharing a room with two adults. Maximum of two adults and two children per room. Single supplement may apply. Except for packages including air transportation, unless stated otherwise, airfare, taxes and government fees are not included. Offers valid for new bookings only. Member Benefits are per person and apply to first and second traveler only. Member Benefits are available only with advertised fare and are subject to change without notice. Your travel arrangements may be modified or canceled subject to the travel providers’ policies. Blackout dates and other restrictions may apply. We make every effort for accuracy at time of printing but reserve the right to correct errors. AAA Travel strongly recommends the purchase of trip protection insurance. Except for packages including air transportation, fares may not reflect additional fuel supplement or port charges and vary by provider.

CST #1003968-80. Registration as seller of travel does not constitute approval by the State of California.