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This discovery trip in Costa Rica is designed for pupils to encounter different ecological environments, experience natural habits and try new activities. Groups can take part in a rainforest research programme, explore cave systems, climb volcanoes and walk above the treeline through the cloud forest. This is an exciting itinerary to expand pupils' understanding of the natural world through field study and exploration.

The 12 day itinerary begins in Costa Rica’s capital, San José. After an evening to relax from the flight, the first visit is to Poas National Park. Here you will see the Poas Volcano, considered to be the largest geyser in the world.  Your next stop is the Braulio Cloud Forest, where pupils take a guided tour through the canopy and learn about the range of bio-diversity found in the forest.

At La Trimnina National Park, the whole day is dedicated to rainforest field studies, designed to identify different species and measure bio-diversity in the living rainforest.  At Sarapiqui National Park, the group take park in a nature hike, led by a local naturalist, to spot a variety of mammals, birdlife and insects.

A highlight of the tour is a visit to Arenal National Park, which gives pupils the opportunity to hike close to the summit of Arenal Volcano. Afterwards, you travel to Moneteverde Cloud Forest and pupils will zip line through the rainforest. The itinerary culminates with a visit to Manuel Antonio National Park, renowned for containing 100 different species of mammals and 184 bird species, alongside stunning beaches.

Typical itinerary

  1. Day 1: Fly to San José

    You depart on a daytime flight to San José, the capital of Costa Rica, arriving in the late afternoon. The rest of the day is free to relax at the hotel before dinner.

  2. Day 2: Poas Volcano & La Paz waterfalls

    After breakfast, depart for Poas National Park, observing dairy farms and flower plantations en route. At 2,800 metres above sea level, Poas is an active volcano and considered to be the largest geyser in the world. There will be time to explore the geothermal landscape before moving onto the ancient crater, Lake Botos.

    In the afternoon, continue to La Paz waterfalls, where you can explore the gardens, before reaching the viewpoint of the falls to see the dramatic water cascading down. Later you will visit the butterfly observatory and spend time learning about the variety of species found in Costa Rica. 

  3. Day 3: Sarapiqui National Park

    After breakfast, depart the capital for the Braulio Carrilo Cloud Forest. On arrival you take a guided tour of canopy walkways and observation points to learn about the bio-diversity found in the cloud forest, as well as an insight into rainforest conservation. You should see plenty of endemic bird species and other wildlife during the walk.

    After lunch, continue to Sarapiqui Reserve. After checking into the lodge, you will visit a reforestation programme in the local area, where you will be guided through the project and learn about the different ecological challenges facing rainforests in Costa Rica, before seeing reforestation activities taking place 

  4. Day 4: Rainforest study day & night hike

    Today you will enjoy a full day researching rainforest ecology at La Trimbina National Park.  The group will be divided into small study groups and will work on two different research programmes throughout the day. After dinner, embark on a forest night trek, where pupils can discover the wonders of the forest once night falls. During the two hour walk, the naturalist guide will focus on nocturnal species such as insects, frogs, and nocturnal animals.

  5. Day 5: Sarapiqui day hike & bat workshop

    After breakfast you will take to the trails in the reserve for a nature hike, approximately nine kilometres. Crossing suspension bridges, you will discover the rainforest on foot, with a local naturalist guide helping you to spot a variety of mammals, birdlife and insects which inhabit the forest. 

    In the evening, you will join a bat workshop to learn about this important species in Costa Rica’s ecological make-up. Bats represent almost 50% of the mammals in Costa Rica (113 species). To start the workshop, there will be a presentation on the natural history of bats, their classification, diversity, adaptations, reproduction and threats. At the end of the presentation, a trained guide will provide you with a safe opportunity to observe up close some of the bats that were captured during the evening for research projects.

  6. Day 6: Venado caves & Ecocentro Danaus hike

    After breakfast, depart Sarapiqui Reserve for the Venado Caverns, a 2,700 metre stretch of limestone caves, with stalactite and stalagmite formations. The caves were formed by underground streams, and are believed to be between 15 and 20 million years old. A tour should bring sightings of monochrome frogs, bats, fish and marine fossils, many of which are endemic to this region.

    After a lunch stop, you will visit the Ecocentro Danaus, a special reserve of rainforest, naturally regenerated through a conservation programme. Accompanied by a specialist naturalist guide, you will trek through the forest trails, observing the resident flora and fauna and learning how forest regeneration is actively being managed.

    After the walk, you will continue onto Arenal National Park and check into your hotel before dinner.

  7. Day 7: Las Hornillas Geothermal Energy Plant & Arenal Volcano

    In the morning, visit the Las Horniallas Geothermal Energy Plant, a family-run project, where you will have the unique experience of hiking within an active crater. During the walk, pupils will observe pools of hot water, bubbling mud, fumaroles and sulphur deposits. After the guided walk, enjoy the mud baths and thermal pools

    In the afternoon, enjoy a hike into the Arenal Volcano National Park. Starting with a drive to the now dormant western side of the volcano, you will continue on a hiking trail which traverses the rainforest and crosses over a large lava flow. It is possible to observe a great variety of plants, wildlife and magnificent lava rock formations, and once on the top of the lava flow you will have a beautiful view of Arenal Lake. The hike ends at a viewpoint, where if the weather allows, you should see the different factors that makes Arenal an active volcano.

  8. Day 8: Monteverde National Park, zip line & night hike

    In the morning, you will travel along the Arenal Lake to Monteverde Cloud Forest, and after checking into the hotel and an early lunch, head out for afternoon and evening activities.

    In the afternoon, there will be a canopy tour. The walkways 15 cables and 18 platforms stretch out over three kilometres, enabling you to feel truly immersed in the rainforest environment. There is also a 'Tarzan Swing', which will allow you to swing right out above the forest. Local well-trained guides will give an introduction and safety briefing, and pupils will be equippped with harnesses, before being shown the correct techniques for 'riding the cables'.

    After dinner, you will join a night walk through Monteverde’s rainforest, looking out for a wide range of nocturnal wildlife. The most common animals to see are sloths, coatis, agoutis, porcupines, grey fox, tarantulas, frogs, insects and many sleeping birds.

  9. Day 9: Drive to Manuel Antonio National Park

    Departing Monteverde on Pan American Highway Nº 1 northwards, the drive passes near the port of Puntarenas to continue through the Central Pacific coastal road to arrive at Tárcoles. Continuing past the cities of Jacó and Quepos, you eventually arrive at Manuel Antonio National Park. The scenery varies greatly from grasslands to vast plantations of palm oil trees on the Parrita plains next to the coast.

    After arriving at Manuel Antonio, you will head into the park for a guided walk to discover the rainforest and enjoy the beautiful beaches. You will visit the 'tómbolo', or Cathedral Point, which connects the ancient Cathedral Island to the mainland. There will also be a visit to the blowhole at Escondido Port and Serrucho Point, a deeply eroded cliff with sea caves. There are many different habitats in Manual Antonio National Park and over 100 registered species of mammals and 184 of birds.

  10. Day 10: Manuel Antonio National Park, return to San José

    In the morning, there will be som free time to relax and enjoy Manuel Antonio’s famous beaches, before departing later in the afternoon for the drive back to San José (approximately four hours). 

  11. Day 11: San José city tour, depart

    Join a sightseeing tour of Costa Rica’s capital, stopping at the Plaza de la Cultura and the National Theatre. Continuing to the Bella Vista Fortress, home of the National Museum and then the National Park, the Legislative Assembly, the Metallic Building the Parque España and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the tour ends at Barrio Amón with its beautiful houses dating to the late XIX Century.

    Afterwards, there will be time to collect bags and freshen up before transferring to the international airport for you flight home. 

  12. Day 12: Arrive UK

    Arive back into the UK this morning.

Key info

This suggested itinerary is based on personal recommendation and can be tailored to suit your requirements.
  • Destination: Costa Rica
  • When to go: Mar to Oct
  • Duration: 12 days
  • Trip type: Explorer
  • Subject: Biology
  • Itinerary highlights:
    • Canopy walk through cloud forest
    • Rainforest research day
    • Night-time nature walks
    • Zip line through the rainforest
    • Trek to a volcano
  • Related project: Costa Rica: Regenerating Rainforests
  • Activities:
    • Nature walk

    • Rainforest canopy tour

    • Trekking

  • Accommodation: Hotels & lodges
  • Ideal for: Ages 15 to 16
  • Travellers will need:
    • High level of fitness
    • Appreciation for outdoor adventure
    • Interest in encountering new cultures

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Featured locations:

Monteverde Cloud Forest

Resplendent quetzal in Costa Rican rainforest

Monteverde Cloud Forest is the ultimate location in Costa Rica to seek diversity, beauty, and virgin forest. The reserve also undertakes important conservation contributions and research.

Arenal Volcano

View of Arenal Volcano with vegetation

One of the most active volcanoes in Costa Rica, Arenal is also arguably the most picturesque. With its symmetrical shape and a flourishing national park, Arenal is a stunning part of the country.

Manuel Antonio National Park

White faced capuchin monkey looking out from tree in Manuel Antonio

Located on the Pacific Coast in central Costa Rica, Manuel Antonio National Park is a beautiful paradise with primary rainforests, white sand beaches, bountiful wildlife and tropical islands.