SPECIAL INTEREST: ORCHID COLLECTIONS

Day 1

Upon your arrival to the San Jose International Airport, our representative will meet and greet you, and give you all information about your trip. Then, we will whisk you away in your private transportation to the fabulous Costa Rica Marriott Hotel in San Jose. The beautiful colonial hacienda-style resort sits on a 30-acre coffee plantation, and perfectly blends an “old world” feel with all of the modern amenities and conveniences you expect. Tonight, enjoy a wonderful Welcome Dinner at the hotel.

Overnight: Costa Rica Marriott Hotel

Day 2

This morning, after breakfast, we will have our first visit to the magical world of orchids at the La Catalina Orchid Garden. The Hernandez family, who owns and operates this beautiful garden in Alajuela, warmly welcomes you to learn about these amazing flowers with them. Orchids are surprisingly difficult to see in the wild, since they usually grow high in the forest tree canopy. The same is true for many of the other interesting epiphytes in Costa Rica. Fortunately, La Catalina has more than 500 species of orchids from all over the world growing organically. Most are displayed at eye level for easy viewing, and the huge number of plants will be blooming when you visit. We will stroll along walking trails and visit the “El Mirador” rustic-style rancho, discovering orchids. After our tour, we will enjoy a delicious traditional Costa Rican lunch with the Hernandez family. In the afternoon, we will tour another beautiful orchid exhibition: the Claudio Salas Orchid Garden. Our specialist tour guide will dynamically explain about the fascinating orchid life cycle and orchid cultivation. The permanent orchid exhibition is housed in a spacious greenhouse, perfect for displaying the great variety of hybrids and orchid species in their collection. 

Overnight: Costa Rica Marriott Hotel

Day 3

 

Today we will travel to the beautiful area of Paraiso de Cartago to visit the renowned Lankester Botanical Gardens – one of the most important botanical institutions in Central America. Officially founded in 1973, the Lankester Botanical Gardens cultivate more than 15,000 scientifically documented specimens of orchids from close to 1,000 species, most of which are native to Mesoamerica. There is a heliconia’s collection of more than 100 native and exotic heliconia species growing along with similar species, such as bird of paradise, prayer plants, banana plants, gingers, and cacti. Additionally, at the gardens, you will enjoy one of the most important collections of bamboo in the country, including a small forest of Golden Bamboo. After our tour at the gardens, we will continue to the charming, pastoral town of Turrialba, which features some of the most stunning views of Costa Rica’s rural countryside by the Turrialba Volcano. In the town, we will visit a small elementary school to share time with the kids. During our school visit, a donation of supplies will be given to support the children’s education. We will spend this evening on the lovely country estate of the luxurious Hotel Casa Turire in Turrialba.

Overnight: Casa Turire Hotel

Day 4

 

This morning, we will visit the fascinating Tropical Agronomy Research and Learning Center (CATIE) in Turrialba, famous for its valuable collection of plant genetic material preserved for research and education. CATIE houses more than 4,000 genetic samples representing about 400 species of plants from different parts of the world’s tropics. In their laboratory, plants from tropical America, Asia, Africa and Oceania, some of which are endangered, are observed and interpreted. Walking through CATIE’s tranquil setting is enchanting, surrounded by bird songs, the whisper of gigantic Guanacaste Trees and imposing 100-year-old Ceiba Trees (Kapok, or Silk-cotton tree). Get your camera ready to capture the multicolor palette of bougainvilleas, heliconias, gingers, orchids, robust stands of bamboo, and many more tropical beauties. During our visit, you will have the opportunity to taste an unimaginable variety of exotic tropical fruits with very particular shapes and colors. It is also possible to see a lot of animals here, especially birds, reptiles, butterflies, insects and some mammals. After our tour of CATIE, we will travel to the major Costa Rica ecotourism destination of Monteverde, with its world-famous cloud forest known for amazing biodiversity and rare bird species. This evening, we will participate in a very interesting night walk in the forest of Monteverde to see and hear the magic of forest life after dark. It is estimated that approximately 80 percent of wildlife in the rainforest is more active at night, from frogs to nocturnal bats, wild cats, kinkajous, armadillos and more. Tonight, we will stay at the elegant mountain hotel El Establo in Monteverde.

Overnight: El Establo Mountain Hotel

Day 5

This morning, we will enjoy a sumptuous breakfast buffet at the hotel. Then, we will visit the San Bosco Orchid Garden in Monteverde. The Monteverde region is known for harboring the largest number of orchid species in one location in the world. The total number of known species here surpasses 500, and of these, 34 species were new to science at the time of their discovery. The family-owned San Bosco Orchid Garden presents more than 525 species of orchids, most of them native to the area, including a wide variety of mini-orchids and the smallest orchid in the world at just over 2 millimeters (0.08 inch) in size. Also, in the gardens you can find heliconias, bromeliads, and many kinds of trees, all surrounded by lush rainforest. Our next stop is the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve. Administered by the Santa Elena High School board, this private reserve of 765 acres (310 ha) of cloud forest is a prime example of how a community working together can protect and develop its own environment and use tourism as a benefit. During our hike in the reserve, you will see a great variety of plants, including orchids, ferns, heliconias, epiphytes and trees, in addition to hundreds of resident and migratory birds, like the Resplendent Quetzal and the Three-wattle bellbird. The Santa Elena Reserve is particularly special for its great abundance of epiphytes, which make up 29% of the flora with 878 species. Epiphytes are the richest life form of plants in Monteverde. 
 
Overnight: El Establo Mountain Hotel

Day 6

Continuing our love affair with orchids, today we will visit the Monteverde Orchid Garden. This beautiful garden has a large collection of more than 425 different species of orchids, many of which are endemic to Monteverde. During our visit, we will learn about where and how they collect orchids, and about the main characteristics that make orchids unique. The garden is divided into three sections: The first section is a great collection of miniature orchids that are very common in the cloud forest. In the second, you will find bigger species, such as: Onciduim, Epidendrum, Maxillaria and others. The last section is where we find the hybrid and introduced orchids made by cross pollination in labs. Each species is identified with its scientific name next to it.  After this very interesting tour, we will travel to La Fortuna, home of the majestic Arenal Volcano, one of the country’s most active volcanoes. The Arenal area is home to eight of Costa Rica's 12 life zones, with 16 reserves in the region between the Guanacaste and Tilaran mountain ranges, including Lake Arenal. At Arenal we will stay at the spectacular Tabacon Grand Spa and Thermal Resort, frequented by movie stars, and known for its marvelous hot springs and gardens.  

Overnight: Tabacon Grand Spa and Thermal Resort

Day 7

 

After a wonderful breakfast at the hotel, we will venture out to enjoy the beauty of Mother Nature in this new region. Our first visit will be to the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park, where we will walk well-maintained trails and across 16 hanging and suspension bridges through the rainforest. The strategic position and height of each of the bridges allows you to observe from different perspectives the thousands of species that inhabit the rainforest tree canopy and forest floor. From several of the bridges, you have excellent views of the massive Arenal Volcano. Lunch will be at Don Rufino Restaurant, a wonderful family restaurant in the La Fortuna town center. After lunch, we will tour the Danaus Ecocenter to see its diversity of wild life and tropical plants, including orchids, heliconias, bromeliads, ferns and palms, and sloths, iguanas, frogs and butterflies. This evening, you will celebrate with an unforgettable culinary experience at Tabacon Resort Hotel.

Overnight: Tabacon Grand Spa and Thermal Resort

Day 8

We will have an early breakfast at the hotel, and then depart in our private transportation to Juan Santamaria International Airport by San Jose. On the way, we will stop at the Doña Lucia Orchid Garden in the city of Palmares – a small garden dedicated only to growing types of orchids from Costa Rica, including the famous purple orchid Guarianthe skinneri, Costa Rica’s national flower. 

* Late departure flight is required. *

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