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Walking Vacation Walking Costa Rica's Highlands​

Activity Level: Easy  |  Daily Mileage: 2 – 6 mi  |  Daily Walking: 2 – 4 hr
Pre-trip Extension:
Panama · 2 nights $345

Post-trip Extension:
Manuel Antonio National Park · 2 nights $445
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Detailed Itinerary

Day 1 - Arrive in San Jose, Costa Rica

Upon arrival at the San Jose's Juan Santamaria International Airport, meet your complimentary hotel shuttle curbside outside the customs area. The driver will be holding a VBT sign or a Wyndham San Jose Herradura sign. Then transfer by minibus (approximately 5-10 minutes) to your hotel in San Jose. 

The rest of the day is free to settle in and explore the city. Choose a restaurant for dinner on your own.

Please note: Flights from Los Angeles, JFK and Miami are early morning departures. If you arrive early, your hotel room may not be available until 3:00 p.m. You may store your luggage with the reception desk.

Our splendid San Jose hotel, Wyndham San Jose Herradura, is located just minutes from the International Airport and approximately 30 minutes from the center of the city. 

VBT provides you with a City Information Packet in your Final Travel Booklet that includes information and recommendations on what to see and do in San Jose during your stay.

Day 2 - Meet Trip Leaders / Warm-up ride / Welcome reception

VBT No-Air Package guests: Meet your VBT Trip Leaders and the rest of the group at 8:30 a.m. at our San Jose hotel (Wyndham San Jose Herradura, General Cañas Highway, 5 km. South from International Airport, San Jose, Costa Rica, phone +506 2209 9800).  Trip Leaders will be wearing VBT staff garments. Please be dressed for your first warm-up walk. If your arrival at the hotel is scheduled later than 8:30 a.m., or if you are delayed, you must take a taxi at your own expense to the Villa Blanca Cloud Forrest Hotel & Spa in the Los Angeles Cloud Forest near the town of San Ramon (approximately $100 USD).  Please contact the hotel if any travel delays or changes; the staff will pass the message on to your VBT Trip Leaders.

VBT Air Package guests & Pre-Trip Extension guests: Meet your VBT Trip Leaders at your San Jose hotel at 8:30 a.m. Trip Leaders will be wearing VBT staff garments. Please be dressed for your first warm-up walk.

From San Jose we transfer by private motor coach (approx. 60 mins) to the town of San Ramon, a close-knit village surrounded by dramatic mountain ranges. Locally, it's known as the “City of Presidents and Poets” since five of Costa Rica's presidents and several of its famed poets hail from the small town. Today, San Ramon is known for its sugarcane and coffee. There'll be time to walk along its charming main square, visit the impressive cathedral and experience the town's morning market where we will learn about the numerous varieties of tropical fruits and vegetables available in Costa Rica.

After our visit of San Ramon, it is just a short shuttle to the starting point of our warm-up walk.  After a safety and stretching session we will walk to the Los Angeles Cloud Forest and the conservation-focused Villa Blanca Resort, one of the elite “Green Hotels of Costa Rica.” Villa Blanca strives for absolute guest comfort while maintaining the highest standards of respect for its natural surroundings. Villa Blanca was given a “5-leaf” rating by the Certification Board of Sustainable Tourism, their highest score.

Get to know your fellow travelers over a welcome reception and dinner tonight at the resort's lovely El Sendero restaurant.

REMINDER:  It can be cool in the evenings and on cloudy days at the elevations visited on this trip. You will want to have a lightweight layer of warm clothing for travel in any month of the year.

Day 3 - Los Angeles Cloud Forest / Zip line through Rain Forest Canopy / Arenal Volcano

Those interested may join expert naturalists on an optional early morning guided bird-watching expedition through the Los Angeles Cloud Forest. Costa Rica is home to an estimated 840 bird species, so we will be treated to a variety of unusual sightings including a variety of colorful tropical hummingbirds darting through the forest. We might even spot the elusive resplendent quetzal.

After breakfast this morning we enjoy the thrill of a canopy tour, ascending high into the treetops and soaring through the canopy on a secure zip-cable line. It's an experience unlike any other, and a great way to get a magnificent view of wildlife in the rainforest. For those who would prefer keeping their feet firmly planted on the ground, you may take this time to explore one of the paths meandering under the rain forest canopy.

After flying high over the rain forest we shuttle to the northern lowlands close to the Arenal Volcano. Arenal is also the youngest volcano in Costa Rica; it erupted for the first known time around 7,000 years ago. We pass through small towns to the foothills of Arenal Volcano, which are dotted with yucca, pineapple and papaya farms.  En route we stop at typical working farm, to chat with some passionate farmers about their tropical plants and other nutritional products they harvest and market around the world. We'll take some time to stroll their gardens, maybe spotting some cacao and prickly fruit on low-hanging branches. They're all part of the delicate balance between nature and man that is nurtured here daily, and we hope to come away with a deeper respect for the ways in which the rainforest – Earth's most vital ecosystem – can enhance our lives.

We continue after lunch to our next tropical haven with views of the Arenal Volcano. Please note that the Arenal Volcano has been dormant since 2010 and most likely will not be active during your visit. Later this evening, put on your dancing shoes as we learn some steps from our local dance partners.

Day 4 - Canopy Adventure / Arenal Volcano

We begin today by walking on the western slopes of the Arenal Volcano, tracing short trails through secondary forests and cooled lava fields. Though this morning's walk along mostly dirt roads is easy, we may have gradual ascents and descents that require careful footing. You'll find the primeval, otherworldly landscapes fascinating. There are also options for more strenuous walks over the cooled lava fields.

Arenal is Costa Rica's youngest volcano, just a few thousand years old. Since its last major eruption 40 years ago, huge columns of ash have risen from its crater, the ground has rumbled underfoot and spectacular orange lava has flowed from its perfectly conical peak. It has served as a daily reminder that the Earth is very much alive in Costa Rica.

We return to our resort for lunch on our own and continue to independently explore the numerous trails that meander through the Lost Iguana resort or enjoy the award-winning spa.  We also will have an opportunity to ascend into the jungle, once again, for our hanging bridge walk through the rain forest later this afternoon.
 
Before dinner, we head to the Ecotermales Hot Springs, a masterpiece of masonry and flowing waters operated by the Hidalgo family. Immersed within the rainforest, this is the smallest and most private of Arenal's thermal baths. Amidst stone walls and terraces, we'll lose ourselves in a sanctuary of spring-fed waters. Relax in one of its four soothing pools or shower yourself under its refreshing waterfall. Afterwards, we continue to the nearby town of La Fortuna for dinner on our own at one of the town's several restaurants.

Day 5 - Historical towns / “Route of the Ox Carts”

This morning we will follow “the route of the Ox-Cart” through small historical towns such as Zarcero, famous for its main square decorated with animal topiaries. After lunch, we continue to the colorful town of Sarchi, where we learn the history of Costa Rica's National symbol – the colorful painted Ox-Cart. We will visit one of the oldest and most prestigious ox cart factories where we learn more about the significance of this national symbol.

Later this afternoon we will shuttle back to Costa Rica's central valley and our beautiful 5-star resort for the next two nights.

Day 6 - Poás Volcano / Doka Coffee Estate / Farewell dinner

This morning a shuttle transports us to Poás Volcano, which has seen occasional eruptions since 1828. From Poás we stop to visit a family-owned fruit stand where we'll taste some of Costa Rica's sweetest strawberries and discuss local agricultural practices with the farmers. Next, we'll shuttle to a working coffee plantation for our morning walk.in the award-winning Doka Coffee Estate. This is the country's largest family-owned plantation, operated by the Vargas-Ruiz family for 70 years. The estate's location on the slopes of Poás Volcano and its perfect altitude and climate make for an ideal coffee-growing environment. We'll tour the farm, pick a few coffee beans, head to the mill to learn about the coffee-brewing tradition of chorrear and, of course, taste some fresh-roasted coffees. Later this afternoon we return to our resort by shuttle.

This evening we gather for a festive farewell dinner at our resort.

Day 7 - Depart for U.S. / Begin optional Manuel Antonio National Park extension

Enjoy a leisurely morning at your resort with a swim in one of its pools, a spa treatment or a walk through one or many of its beautiful tropical gardens.

In the late morning, we transfer to the San Jose airport for our post-extension flight to Manuel Antonio or those flying home today will transfer to the near-by town of Alajuela for lunch on your own.

NOTE:  There is a departure tax that needs to be paid upon departing Costa Rica. The tax must be paid at the airport in US dollars, Costa Rican currency or by credit or debit card. The current tax is $28 US per person. VBT recommends that this be paid in cash as using a debit or credit card will incur additional fees.

VBT No-Air Package guests and VBT Air Package guests: We will assist you to the San Jose airport, and you'll fly back to the U.S. late this afternoon. Flight departures from San Jose airport prior to 3:00 p.m. are not recommended; those departing earlier must make transfer arrangements from the last hotel at their own expense.

VBT Post-Trip Extension guests: You will fly from San Jose to Quepos on the Pacific Coast. Please note that you are only allowed ONE piece of carry-on luggage, your luggage cannot exceed 30 pounds. Please visit http://www.flysansa.com/eng/tri/bag/bagbagpol.asp?hd=5 for all luggage guidelines and restrictions. Your leaders will provide you with your flight information and details about your transfers. Additional luggage may be stored in San Jose with a VBT local partner until you return for your flight home. Upon landing in Quepos you will transfer to your hotel overlooking Manuel Antonio National Park. VBT provides you with City Information in your Final Travel Booklet to help you explore on your own. It includes information and recommendations for your independent stay at the Si Como No Resort & Spa.

Please note: VBT transfer times and departure points are finalized in advance and cannot be modified for individual guests. If you extend your stay beyond the scheduled program dates, return transportation to the airport will be at your own expense.
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