This is a sample of a custom designed privately guided Costa Rica vacation. If you haven't already, read our travel philosophy to understand the difference between standard tourism in Costa Rica and Serendipity's very unique style of custom and private expedition travel.

Costa Rica naturalist vacation - Pure Nature

green tree frog in Costa Rica lowland forests

Green tree frogs are nocturnal, and hard to spot when asleep

Costa Rica nature travel - quiet, private, comfortable luxury

Your Costa Rica naturalist vacation, designed and operated around your travel dates, your priorities for species (birds? turtles? mammals? reptiles? orchids? old growth forest? whales and other cetaceans?) and your accommodation requirements.

While we're designing your travel we're also thinking about which Serendipity guide best fits your interests.

This Costa Rica family vacation itinerary was designed for two couples in their 60's who travel the world to see nature and the environment. So a goal was also to see how Costa Rica's people work to preserve their natural heritage.

Trip Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Costa Rica to a boutique naturalist destination - and lovely eco hotel

bar nestled in branches of ficus tree at Vista del Valle hotel,

Vista del Valle is for romantics, families, and most of all people who love nature. The bar near the pool is nestled in a huge fig tree's branches. Frequent visitors on nearby branches are iguanas, birds, and geckos.

We'll meet your arrival flight into San Jose (SJO) airport. Our first destination is your boutique 17 room hotel on the western edge of the Central Valley, a jungle for nature in the heart of the coffee country. Their nature trails, with hundreds of native species, put the birds right in front of you. The abundant birdsong and scents from wild plants will stop you in your steps. You can descend to the waterfall base, 150 feet below the cliff where the hotel is perched, for real jungle sounds and sights. Owners Mike and Jo have developed sustainable agriculture on the grounds of the hotel, which both feed their guests and serve as a regular destination for local schools, to learn agriculture techniques to preserve the environment and eliminate the use of chemicals.

Day 2: Cloud forest with orchid research

After breakfast we're leaving to climb to a cloud forest, about 2 hours away.

The famous cloud forest in Costa Rica is Monteverde. That fame has almost ruined the sanctity of the cloud forest.

tiny orchid bloom seen through microscope with head of needle for size comarison

Tiny orchid, the size of a speck of dust, when viewed through a microscope. Note needle head at bottom of photo, for comparative size

Serendipity's favorite small and private cloud forest is on the slopes of Poás volcano, where the Quetzals outnumber the guests and rarely do you share a trail with other humans. Large sections of the forest are exclusive for Serendipity, because the trails are not maintained.... so we carry a machete to remove debris or branches that may stop us.

The silence is loud in the cloud forest - and your Serendipity guide can pick out the sounds of specific birds, finding them under branches. Unimproved trails means the area really belongs to the "natives" - birds, small mammals and lizards.

One treasure of this cloud forest is the orchid study. The laboratory is equipped with microscope and reference plates showing the more than 300 species on the property. Have you ever viewed a full grown flower through a microscope? Note the pin head in this photo....

Day 3: Frog farm, then lunch in the treetops in a primary forest

How does a rainforest develops? Let our friend Claudio show you. His farm was built from dissipated pastureland, one tree at a time. Now, 30 years later, he has built a spectacular tiny forest where he grows indigenous rain forest plants to sell to green houses.

Claudio discovered the rainforest plants need insecticides, which are expensive and unpleasant. The natural insecticide is Claudio's frogs. While we see them as specks of beauty, he sees them as his farming partners.

Primary forest is so old that some trees were adults when Columbus arrived. Our platform overlooks this forest from 110 feet aloft. Hanging from Abraham's branches, the view is what the birds will see, the smells what the birds will smell. It is not so much a matter of seeing wildlife from up here as enjoying the sensation of what only creatures with wings experience - life above the jungle floor.

Getting up and down can be as easy as sitting and we bring you up... or, if some in your hand-picked travel companions feel like a challenge, they can climb using their own strength.

Day 4: Costa Rica nature from our private small boats - floating with the animals

Some birds and most amphibians live under tree branches. The small silent boats can access these places without disturbing them.

Today is all about riparian nature in our silent electric kayaks - quieter than paddling a canoe. The Caño Negro wetlands preserve concentrates the bird, reptile and mammal population of northern part of Costa Rica.

The waterway connects the midlands of Costa Rica with the Caribbean Ocean, and is Costa Rica's most precious wetlands conservation. Filled with monkeys (capuchin, spider and howler), lizards -- from ostentatious basilica lizards to cayman and snakes, and more than 200 bird species. The river supports the same biodiversity of the famous Tortuguero area, but without the crowds of motorized boats. The silence is broken only by animal noises - from splashes of diving aningas to howler monkeys. Your Serendipity naturalist guide will spot animals which are so expertly camouflaged in the shoreline.

After sunset we will gop to the base of Arenal volcano. If the "fireworks" are active, we can drive to the best viewing location. Even if not active, the hot springs still justify the journey.

Day 5: The Osa Peninsula: Home of more than half of Costa Rica's species

We'll leave San Carlos early, to catch the morning flight from San Jose to Drake Bay. Your Serendipity guide stays behind, but your new hosts will share their amazing world with you.

swinging in hammock on ocean view patio in La Paloma Lodge, Osa Peninsula

Enjoy at La Paloma the gentle breezes, the deep blue ocean, and a very comfy hammock.

Costa Rica's Osa Peninsula is world renowned for biodiversity and for pristine nature. Your host for the next three days are Mike and Sue at La Paloma Lodge.

This is the best of all worlds -- true unspoiled jungle, excellent food, comfortable accommodations, and surprising nature. This is one of Serendipity's favorite hotels in all of Costa Rica, because it is authentic, because it proves conservation can live harmoniously with pampering, and because nature here is the Supreme Ruler. We also have outstanding nature exploration based here in Drake Bay, from snorkeling and scuba to hiking and sea kayaking. This is one place you will always want to come back to

Day 6: Snorkeling with whales and dolphins

The waters off the coast of the Osa is a prolific breeding area for cetaceans - whales and dolphins - with superpods of dolphins from mid December through May, and turtles and large marine life year round.

boy nd moter in deep water snorkel off Osa Peninsula

Snorkeling is wonderful, regardless of age or experience, and deep ocean pelagic diving is good all year round.

The leading advocate for a marine national park centered around Caño Island is Shawn Larkin, who will be your guide on an extraordinary snorkel voyage in deep blue waters. Unlike shallow water snorkeling, Shawn will take you where the sea is endlessly deep, and where the large mammals will come to you.

This is more than swimming with dolphins -- it is truly sharing the open ocean with wild species.

After dinner is a night hike in the jungle, when the realm belongs to insects and reptiles. Exploring with Tracie, The Bug Lady, will rid you of fears - and introduce you to species as spectacular as the most colorful birds and fish. The insect world has its own stars, from furry spiders to sleeping butterflies, from Muppet-like caterpillars to comical beetles, from sloth to snakes. Tracie and/or Gianfranco, who live with the varmints they talk about, will be your guides.

Day 7: Hike in Corcovado National Park and Sea kayak in Agujas River

2 person sea kayaks in quiet river in Osa Peninsula

Sea kayaking in Agujas River in crystalline water, smooth and clear. If you start upstream when the tide is coming in, tide swells push you along.

Costa Rica's crown jewel, Corcovado National Park is the most remote and pristine nature areas in Costa Rica. Over half of all species found in Costa Rica are found here. The Sirena Wildlife Station entry is the more distant, and more private, entrance into Corcovado National Park. Your guide will be from La Paloma Hotel, an expert in spotting the hidden treasures of this area.

Sea kayaking up the Agujas river is most fun when the tide is coming in. Tidal swells push you upstream about a mile, through a great green gorge. The water is clear and cool and fresh, inviting you to swim, or lay face-down over the nose of the kayak and try to catch fish with your bare hands.

Day 8: Through the Mangroves and back to civilization

powerboat up Sierpe River drives through mangrove canals

Slow trolling through the mangrove canals - a wetlands sanctuary with "windows".

The route back to San José can be directly, by air, or the traditional way, through the sea. The boat leaves first along the coast line until the Sierpe River. After breaking across incoming swells, the boat meanders for two hours in this broad serpentine river. We will take a detour to pass through the canals cut through the mangroves. Early settlers built these canals for fishing, and today they offer a window on some of the richest wetlands in Costa Rica.

Once you reach Sierpe you'll catch the flight back to San José and meet with Serendipity one more time - to pick up luggage and spend the rest of today exploring Lankester botanical gardens, part of the University of Costa Rica.

Day 9: Your return to "civilization"?

Your return flight from Costa Rica. We'll  head for the airport at 11:00 to catch your flight at 12:55 (they really want you there at least 2 hours before flight time). This leaves a whole morning for shopping (perhaps to buy fresh orchids? Or Sarchí, for some woodwork?)

For now you have to leave behind splendid Costa Rica, and you already know that you'll be back.

arrow pointing to page for costs for Pure Nature itinerary


For information on how much this trip would cost you, please see our Costa Rica Vacation: Pure Nature pricing.

Detailed TERMS, DIRE WARNING! - please READ this before making a reservation.

The first step to enjoying a Serendipity adventure is to contact us.


I was surprised how unbelievably hassle-free traveling with Serendipity turned out to be. There were no issues with waiting in lines, waiting for tables, tipping, etc. -- it was so relaxing.

The trip was way more than I expected due largely to (Serendipity guide) Roger relating well to my kids. His temperament was ideal for my two girls, who are inquisitive and eager learners.

—John E., Palo Alto, CA, April, 2007