The beautiful cone of its namesake volcano soars above Volcán Arenal National Park

In 2001-02 and 2002-03, Rutahsa Adventures organized and led two spectacular turn-of-the-year trips to Guatemala, a wonderful way to start a new year. And now we are branching out into Costa Rica to offer our travelers the same opportunity to leave Old Man Winter and the stateside rush and pressures of the Christmas season behind you by joining this special exciting end-of-the-year excursion to beautiful Costa Rica, Central America's primo eco-adventure destination.

This trip will be ground-breaking for Rutahsa Adventures. Though we have traveled in Costa Rica enough to know our way around, this will be the first time we offer a group excursion to this popular country. And the trip will include more adventure activities than most of our culturally oriented trips: whitewater rafting, canopy tours, zip lines, and a secluded beach accessible only by 4WD. At the same time the trip provides more luxury than Rutahsa Adventures travelers are accustomed to-- our lodgings for this trip include a luxury jungle lodge, a spa and an all-included resort. All in all, this will be a GREAT way to start off a new year!

The itinerary covers many of the best-known attractions of Costa Rica-- Monteverde cloudforest preserve and active Arenal volcano-- plus a special place we found many years ago that still remains seldom visited-- Playa Naranjo in Santa Rosa National Park. We will ring in the new year in an exotic rainforest eco-lodge reached by rafting down a whitewater river! The trip maintains a high level of activities, but staying two nights at most hotels keeps the pace relatively relaxed. So take a look at our plans and e-mail us if you want an application blank!

Here's our itinerary:

Sat., Dec. 29: Today is mainly a flight day, from the US (or wherever you start your trip), to Costa Rica. You will land in Juan Santamaría International Airport, named after Costa Rica's national hero from the 19th century "National War". In 1856, Costa Rica spearheaded Central American efforts to liberate Nicaragua from the grip of the Tennessee adventurer William Walker and his army of soldiers of fortune. During the Battle of Rivas (in Nicaragua), Juan Santamaría set fire to the house in which Walker and his men were holed up. Santamaría's brave action forced the American "filibusters" into retreat, but he paid with his life. While Walker is virtually forgotten in the US today, Santamaría remains a martyr to Central American unity and a hero to all Costa Ricans.

You will be picked up at the airport and taken to the Hotel Clarion Amón Plaza in the heart of the capital city. Here you will have a chance to rest up from your flight down, as our group assembles for the beginning of the excursion tomorrow.

Those who arrive San José early in the day will have time to do some independent exploring of this pleasant highland city. We recommend visits to the National Museum in the old Bellavista Fortress and to the ornate National Theater built in the mid-1890s with coffee-baron money.

Sun., Dec. 30: Today our adventures begin. We will board our charter bus before breakfast and drive eastward out of San José, passing through the colonial capital of Cartago, en route to the Río Pacuare. Don't worry about those rumbling stomachs, before reaching the river embarkation point we will stop for an authentic Costa Rican breakfast.

Upon reaching the embarcadero on the Pacuare River we will board our rafts (after a quick safety course!) and set off downstream into the river gorge. The float trip is exhiliarating and the dense rainforest scenery is beautiful. Perhaps the only drawback is it will be over too soon...we'll reach Pacuare Lodge in time for lunch, appetites sharpened by river adventures.

[N.B.: Anyone preferring not to travel by raft may opt to reach Pacuare Lodge by 4WD vehicle and a short walk; however, in order to arrange the 4WD transport we must be advised well in advance of the excursion start.]

After lunch, optional activities at Pacuare Lodge include a guided hike into the rainforest-cloaked mountainside, the Pacuare Canopy Adventure, or just enjoying lazing about and relaxing in enchanting surroundings.

A candlelight supper, prepared by guides trained by a French chef, is included with the lodging at Pacuare. For a preview of the lodge, click here: Pacuare Lodge. Included meals: B, L, D

Mon., Dec. 31: After a hot breakfast, we will take a guided hike into the rainforest surrounding the lodge. Here you can see tropical birds and butterflies, exotic plants and animals in a stunning natural paradise. Truly hearty hikers can take a five or six hour hike to visit a settlement of indigenous Cabecar families. But whether you opt for an easy hike or a long one, we'll all return to Pacuare Lodge for happy hour and a fine New Year's Eve dinner. We'll see the old year out and toast the new one in accompanied by the sounds of the jungle's nocturnal critters!

Second night in Pacuare Lodge. Included meals: B, L, D

Tues., Jan. 1: HAPPY NEW YEAR! And what a fine place to be to start a new year! Today, after another good hot breakfast, you'll have a bit more time to enjoy the surroundings of Pacuare Lodge before we once again load the boats and head downstream. Rafting becomes more exciting today, and you'll have opportunities to apply your experience and skills picked up on the first day on the river. But it won't be all whitewater-- Our guides will put the boats ashore at various points to take us up hidden trails to pristine waterfalls and natural waterslides. This will be a fun, wet day!

Lunch will be served at a convenient spot somewhere en route along the river.

Around 1:30 PM we'll reach our take-out point where we reboard our bus and continue on to the Arenal volcano area, about a 3 1/2 hour drive. Enjoy the scenery gliding by as you rest up from the river trip. Sighting Arenal, a big, active volcano with the soaring profile of a classic composite cone, will signal the end of our travels today. But --depending on the volcano's mood-- not necessarily the end of the day's excitement. Arenal frequently can be heard rumbling and grumbling into the night! If we are lucky, Arenal will cooperate with a nighttime display of natural fireworks from Vulcan's Forge to cap off our New Year's Day!

Our lodgings tonight will be in the hotel Linda Vista del Norte, from which you can view the active lava flows descending the cone of Arenal. Volcanoes are temperamental, and there is no guarantee the lava will be flowing in January, but it has been for sometime now, and the prospect of watching the red hot flows at night is the main reason we have selected this hotel. Included meals: B, L

Weds., Jan. 2: After breakfast at our hotel, we will go for a hike and a closer look at Volcán Arenal. We will hike through rainforest, again admiring the flora and fauna, to reach the "lava wall" where we can walk on old lava flows and observe ongoing activity such as boulders tumbling down the steep flanks of the cone or possibly ash and cinders erupting from the peak. Though Arenal is very active and classified as an explosive and potentially dangerous volcano, it is visited and enjoyed by thousands of national and international travelers annually. The volcano is carefully monitored by Costa Rican vulcanologists, and our guide knows how to get us to good viewpoints while keeping us out of harm's way.

Second night at the Hotel Linda Vista del Norte. Included meal: B

Thurs., Jan. 3: After breakfast we will set off for a change of scenery. While our private bus takes all our luggage around the long way, we will boat across Lake Arenal to the little town of Río Chiquito, then switch to microbus transport to drive 1 1/2 - 2 hours up into the mountains to reach the famous Monteverde cloudforest preserve.

Monteverde was founded about 40 years ago by a group of conservation-minded Quakers looking for a peaceful place to pursue their agrarian lifestyle. The Monteverde cloudforest reserve is one of the best-known and most outstanding wildlife sanctuaries in tropical America. The high elevation forest contains miles of trails and excellent opportunities for spotting tropical birds, including the Resplendant Quetzal which is often sighted here during the months of January to July.

The quetzal, a member of the trogon family, is a magnificent creature. Both the male and female of the species are beautiful, but in the case of the male the plumage is truly extravagant: his head is a cockade of emerald green, and his shoulders are draped with shimmering metallic emerald green plumes that hang off him like the exaggerated epaulettes of some pompous 19th-century Central American general, while his breast is a screaming crimson. But his greatest glory are his four auxiliary tail plumes --which are up to two or three feet long, emerald in color, and, serving no function other than to make him more attractive to his mate-- stream behind him in flight like the tail of a horse at gallop. A truly amazing and beautiful bird-- Let us hope the bird spirits and forest genies smile on us and allow us to see both the male and the female quetzales. Because of its quetzals Monterverde attracts more visitors than any other private preserve in Costa Rica. But whether or not the quetzales reveal themselves, there is much more to see and enjoy here-- you could spot the three-wattled bellbird or an emerald toucan, or other avian species including parrots and of course hummingbirds. Bromeliads, orchids and other types of exuberant tropical vegetation, the cool mountain air and the peaceful ambience make up the constant backdrop that completes Monteverde's charms.

Overnight in the Hotel Fonda Vela. Included meal: B

Fri., Jan. 4: This morning we will explore the top of the cloud forest by means of the "Sky Walk", a complex of suspended bridges, platforms and paths within the forest at Monteverde. The hike starts and ends at ground level, but takes you up into a world above, one that is nearby, yet almost invisible from the ground: the forest canopy.

After the Sky Walk, the adrenaline level goes up a notch with the famous Sky Trek Canopy Adventure. Rather than walking along suspension bridges through the canopy, you can zip from one treetop platform to another over a series of cables ("zip lines") totaling 1.3 kilometers of thrilling arboreal adventure. Although breath-taking, the ride is perfectly safe, with special equipment holding you securely in place while you flash from platform to platform. [The entry costs for both the Sky Walk and Sky Trek are included in the trip fee.]

Second night in the Hotel Fonda Vela. Included meal: B

Sat., Jan. 5: Today we head down to the Pacific coast, to Ocotal Beach in the province of Guanacaste, about 4 1/2 hours distant from Monteverde. We'll stop for lunch somewhere en route.

Our hotel for the next two nights, the Ocotal Resort, will make our stay here very pleasant indeed. Included meal: B

Sun., Jan. 6: Be ready for a really full day! This morning we leave at 7:30 AM to drive about two hours to Santa Rosa National Park. At the park we will first visit the site of La Casona, where on March 26, 1856, Costa Rican troops surprised and utterly routed an invading force of mercenaries sent by General William Walker from Nicaragua. This defeat of Walker's troops paved the way for the ultimate success of the Costa Rican army against Walker's main forces in Nicaragua.

After our history lesson, we will take a hike on trails leading through dry tropical forest, an environment and habitat utterly different from the rain- and cloudforests we visited earlier on the trip.

Finally, around 11:30 AM, we will board 4X4 vehicles to travel about an hour down to Playa Naranjo, a wonderful beach of fine sand stretching for miles between the rolling Pacific in front and a brackish water lagoon behind. We'll have a picnic lunch, swim and surf, and enjoy the sun and sand.

Around 4 PM we will leave the beach to head back to the Ocotal Resort. Included meals: B, Picnic lunch at Playa Naranjo

Travelers preferring a more laid-back day can, of course, opt to spend the full day at Ocotal Resort, enjoying their many amenities.

Mon., Jan. 7: The morning will be free time to enjoy the resort's facilities and the beach. After lunch and check out we board our bus again and head back to San José, about five hours away on good highways.

In San José we will return to our familiar lodgings at the Hotel Clarion Amón Plaza. Included meal: B

Tues., Jan. 8: After breakfast we drive to the city of Alajuela, where we will make a brief stop to see the monument to its famous native son, Juan Santamaría. Continuing on, we will climb up once more into the cool temperatures of the cloudforest zone to reach Poás Volcano National Park. Poás has multiple craters, some inactive and one very wide crater where volcanic activity is still quite evident.

From Poás we will continue in the direction of the Caribbean zone to visit the La Paz Waterfall Gardens, a nature park with beautiful trails, numerous waterfalls, an aviary, a reptile house, a tropical frog house, and the largest enclosed butterfly observatory in the world. Here you can walk among plants and numerous beautiful tropical butterflies floating about like winged jewels.

After a fine lunch we will return to San José and a final night at the Hotel Clarion Amón Plaza. Included meals: B, L

Weds., Jan. 9: Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and today is the day you head to back to the Juan Santamaría International Airport to wing your way back home, carrying lots of photos and other souvenirs of your travels, the addresses of your traveling-companions-become-friends, and a million memories. Airport shuttle service will be provided at the appropriate time for your particular flight schedule.

Included meal: B


NOTE: Trip prices DO NOT include US-Costa Rica-US air fare. Travelers are responsible for arranging their own air travel to and from Costa Rica. For excellent prices on air fares to Costa Rica, Rutahsa Adventures gladly recommends Solar Tours at 1-800-388-7652; ask for Veronica at extension 158, and tell her you are going on Rutahsa Adventures' Costa Rica trip.

A minimum of 10 travelers is necessary to make this trip go; a maximum of 16 will be allowed.

To make an enquiry about Rutahsa's Costa Rica New Years Excursion, e-mail Dr. Ric Finch at

To make a reservation, please request a trip application blank, fill it out and send it with your deposit of $450 to Rutahsa Adventures at 299 Allen Hollow Rd., Cookeville, TN 38501. Once your trip application blank has been received and your deposit accepted by Rutahsa Adventures, Inc., you will be guaranteed a space on this excursion. Your deposit will be fully refunded if for any reason the trip is canceled. If you decide to cancel your reservation, your deposit will be fully refunded provided cancellation is made before Oct. 1, 2007. After Oct. 1 there will be a cancellation penalty of $225 if cancellation is made before Nov. 1. In the event of cancellation after Nov. 1 the full deposit is subject to retention.

Thanks for visiting!