Costa Rica Highlights Tour with Teenagers

A 8 day trip to Costa Rica 
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Tear the kids away from the television and take them out of the worlds provided by their videogames for an 8-day immersive Costa Rica vacation. Instead of posting selfies from the mall they can photograph selfies with white-headed capuchin monkeys. Forget about instagraming their dinner and instead snapchat photos gliding upside down on a zip line over the rainforest canopy. Trade in the Tumblr for a travel journal and Facebook with the wildlife on a Costa Rica Highlights vacation connecting teenagers and families to the wonders of eco-friendly adventures.

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General Information

Photo Credit: Rainforest Chocolate Tour
River otter in Tortuguero National Park.
Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Arenal, Monteverde, Tortuguero, San Jose 

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Monteverde – Introduction to the Clouds

The bustling life of San Jose often surprises newcomers to Costa Rica with its blend of contemporary shopping and tropical colors washing over the homes, restaurants, and businesses coursing through the outskirts of the city center. The prestigious history of the 19th and early 20th century plantation owners continues to decorate the neighborhoods of Amon and Aranjuez with art deco and Victorian mansions. The wealth of pre-Colombian Costa Rica shimmers beneath the soft light of the Gold Museum located at the heart of the fast-paced city.

Your private transfer greets you at Juan Santamaria International Airport and escorts you away from the life inside the outdoor market at Museo Nacional or the blend of boutique and brand name shops inside the modern complex of Plaza Real Cariari. Markets with open walls present dangling bananas and plantains alongside vibrant watermelon cut in half to showcase the stunning red interior. You reach the comforts of your gorgeous lodge nestled into the dense trees of Monteverde’s Cloud Forest. The eco-resort has an unwavering commitment to the environment while providing unparalleled luxuries overlooking the forest canopy.

Your guide greets you in the hotel lobby after you’ve had a chance to relax. You step onto the trails crisscrossing the 74 acres of protected land in the fading light of the afternoon for your first introduction to Monteverde. It is also a unique welcome to your Costa Rica vacation. The nocturnal life of the forest fills the trees with sounds. You keep your flashlight close as the rich treetops darken the underbrush. Insects chirp as toucans sleep in the branches. You shine your flashlight on a radiant green snake winding its body across the surrounding leaves, captivating your teenagers immediately.

What’s Included: dinner, transfer, tour, accommodation

Day 2: Monteverde – Stepping After the Clouds

At breakfast the kids share their favorite memory of the previous night’s hike, ranging from finding a snake to discovering the unique way an anteater ambles through fallen trees. The scent of revitalizing coffee fills the dining room, accompanied by sweet pineapple and semi-sour passion fruit. Your guide greets you in the hotel lobby eager to escort you into the trees of the distinctive ecosystem. You notice the dew lingering on the blanketing moss. In the early mornings the clouds drift across the mountaintops along the highlands at over 4,650 feet above sea level.

The moss helps collect the moisture on which the trees, flowers, and bushes feed. Once in the trees, you walk along the six hanging bridges reaching a distance over a mile and a half. The suspension walkways move slightly with each step you take, making your exploration feel like an adventure story. The trees emanate an herbaceous aroma. Orchids grow in the shade and thrive in the lingering moisture. The cool, crisp air contrasts the tropical ambiance you expected.

Your guide explains how 90 percent of all known organisms in the rainforest are located in the canopy. Shade and dim light reaches the forest floor but the sun shines bright across the emerald treetops with forceful warmth, allowing for photosynthesis to lead to leaves, fruits, and seeds. You walk along the bridge nearly 1,000 feet long to enjoy the stunning perspective of the canopy, before your teenagers notice the troop of white-headed capuchin monkeys ambling in the branches.  

What’s Included: breakfast, tour, accommodation

Day 3: Arenal – Across the Lake and On the Water

You wake early to enjoy a delicious breakfast while watching the clouds drift through the trees outside the dining room. You have a view over the forest canopy, which offers front row seats to the ways the mist moves through the trees before dissipating, leaving dew its wake. You leave the view from the mountaintop and your lodge situated between the forest trees to reach your luxury resort at Arenal. Your 4x4 vehicle takes you along the unpaved road winding towards the shores of Lake Arenal. The glassy waters of the manmade lake reach depths of up to 200 feet.

The lake encompasses more than 30 square miles and offers a great panorama of the perfect cone of Arenal Volcano’s summit, which reaches nearly 5,500 feet above sea level. You travel across the water for a relaxing and scenic journey, coursing above the wild rainbow bass and machaca, a relative of the piranha known for its rows of sharp teeth. In the afternoon you continue to the banks of the Peñas River to board a raft. The tropical heat around Arenal is more what you expected to feel while in Costa Rica.

The river trickles against tall grass and fallen trees, dangling branches and rich leaves. The canyon walls reach heights of 700 feet. As the family drifts along the mellow waters you notice the wealth of natural life erupting along the banks. Iguanas perch on the sundrenched banks to soak in the warm light. Sloths sleep in the treetops visible from the shores below. You spot a floating log before realizing it is caiman waiting for a passing meal. A keel-billed motmot sits on a small branch with its tail feather dangling. Two tassels adorn the feather and waddle as you approach, a way for the motmot to say it notices your presence. 

What’s Included: breakfast, dinner, transfer, tour, accommodation

Day 4: Arenal – Wind the Face and Chocolate on the Tongue

At breakfast the scent of pancakes drizzled in coconut syrup fills the dining room. You listen to the waterfall spilling into the pool as the kids share their excitement for the coming zip line tour. After a detailed demonstration, you reach the first platform in the trees ready to glide over 600 feet above the rainforest grounds across seven lines, including a cable reaching nearly 2,500 feet long. The kids go before you. They scream with excitement as they soar above the canopy. Your guide straps you to the clamp. You lift your feet from the platform and fly down the line. The wind brushes your cheeks. Your heart races from the thrill. A white-tailed hawk circles overhead in search of sloths, rabbits, or fish.

You feel like the birds, enjoying the freedom of flying before stopping at the next platform. You continue your exploration of Arenal with a culinary tour discovering the evolution of chocolate. Your guide leads you on the trails of a plantation to view the large, distinct pods holding the seeds. The kids bang the pod against a table to open it. You suck on the creamy filling coating the seeds to find a tangy flavor and gelatinous texture. The tropical humidity helps the pods thrive. The aroma of roasting dried cacao fills the room. You help grind the nibs into a paste before tasting the velvety, decadent chocolate mixed with a small amount of sugar to balance the natural bitterness with sweetness. 

What’s Included: breakfast, tour, accommodation

Day 5: Arenal – A Ride in the Rainforest

Mount a horse after breakfast for an encompassing tour of the landscape around Arenal. The horses are calm and relaxed, eager to feed on the lush grass bordering the trail. Your guide creates an easy pace to follow. Keel-billed toucans call to one another in the trees. Their arched beaks shine with tropical red, blue, green, and orange hues against the bird’s vibrant yellow breast. They can grow to 22 inches in length with their bill reaching a third of the toucan’s overall size. Your kids point to the bird’s feet and comment on the unique blue color of their talons. The cacophonous call of a howler monkey echoes through the forest.

At first you think it might be a jaguar waiting in the trees. Your guide points to the troop of howlers above. Their unmistakable deep, guttural moan can be heard clearly up to three miles away. You dismount the horses at the beginning of a small trail to walk the remainder of the way to the waterfall. You can hear the trundling water before viewing the stunning 260-foot tall cascade. A small mist rises from where the water hits the waiting pool. More than 200 steps lead to the smoothed rocks along the riverbanks. The cascade resembles a pure jet stream arching over the hanging ridge surrounded by verdant vines and moss. 

What’s Included: breakfast, tour, accommodation

Day 6: Tortuguero – To Secluded Shores

You set out early in the morning with your private transfer to reach Cano Blanco dock. The 4x4 vehicle drives along the highway passing the heavy trucks traveling back and forth from between the Limon dock and San Jose. The Atlantic lowlands come into view. You reach the town of Cano Blanco and the small dock leading into the Caribbean waterways. Boats traverse the Parismina River to the coastline and carry passengers through the preserved landscape of Parque Nacional Tortuguero. Mangrove forests and swamps populate the riverbanks with rare birds resting beneath the tropical sun. You board the boat and take to the water traveling towards Tortuguero.

Spoonbills rest on the branches in the open sunlight, spreading their wings to dry from the earlier rains. Their distinctive beaks reassemble the wider brims of spoons, allowing them to dig into the muddy soil in search of crustaceans, insects, fish, and frogs. You reach the comforts of Hotel Pachira, an accommodation part of the Grupo Pachira boutique hotel association in the Tortuguero region. Hotel Pachira is located five minutes from the entrance to the national park situated along the scenic network of canals. The grounds encompass 34 acres creating a protected oasis amidst the wilderness. Their commitment to sustainable tourism practices includes recycling programs, water saving measures, and reusable energy resources, along with programs training local community members to contribute to the preservation of their surrounding natural resources.   

You continue to the village, during which your private driver explains the importance of the canals, being the only way to reach the Caribbean village of Tortuguero. The waterways also protect the population of nesting sea turtles. The Afro-Caribbean culture blends with the Costa Rican traditions beyond the foliage reaching 100-feet tall. Jaguars fill the jungle terrain and spider monkeys reach for nuts along the dangling branches. Bananas grow in abundance on the plantations outside of town. You can touch the trees finding an absence of bark along the stump, utilizing instead a type of husk that traps moisture.

What’s Included: breakfast, lunch, dinner, transfer, tour, accommodation

Day 7: Tortuguero – Early to Rise

Tortuguero National Park overtakes more than 120 square miles beginning at the southern edges of the village. In the early hours of the morning the scent of fried plantains and simmering beans emanates from the colorful homes along the main street. The Caribbean breeze floats through the towering palms as the gentle waves brush against the gold sands of the coastline. You step aboard a boat after an early breakfast to traverse the canals of the celebrated national park on a fabulous water safari. Between June and October travelers from around the world flock to the coastline for a view the emerging green turtles as they make their way from their nests to the sea.

The morning life of the national park highlights the different wilds spread throughout the rainforest. The tropical heat and seclusion makes you feel as though you’re traveling in the Amazon. More than 300 species of birds linger in the trees throughout the year. You travel upstream along the serene canals, listening for birds, monkeys, and big cats. A river otter splashes into the water in search of fish. Howler monkeys call to affirm their territory. As you float on the canal, your guide points to a West Indian manatee gliding in the shallow estuary. The rare mammal can reach up to 12 feet in length and weight nearly 1,200 pounds. The kids grasp the side of the boat and lean their heads closer to the clear water for a better look at the majestic manatee swimming below.

What’s Included: breakfast, tour, accommodation

Day 8: Tortuguero – Teenage Highlights

In the morning you can hear the active howler monkeys calling to one another in the surrounding forest. From the comforts of the dining room you notice a troop of spider monkeys grazing on the fruits in the treetops. The use their prehensile tails for support as they travel the flimsier branches. You sip a refreshing cup of coffee as the kids recount their favorite excursions during your Costa Rica vacation. You will miss the adventure and luxury, along with the enticing coffee and fresh, sweet pineapple. Your private transfer greets you at the hotel and escorts you to the small runway of Tortuguero’s airport. Your brief flight takes you to Juan Santamaria International Airport in San Jose, where you check-in for your flight home.

What’s Included: breakfast, transfer


Starting Price 

This trip is customizable for your private travel.

What's Included 

  • Accommodations
  • In-country transportation
  • Some or all guided tours and activities (dependent on season)
  • Expert trip planning
  • 24x7 support during your trip
The starting price is based on travel during the low season for a minimum of two travelers staying in shared 3-star accommodations. Please inquire for a custom trip quote based on your travel preferences and travel dates.