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Whether it's the twin volcanoes reflected in the water of Lake Nicaragua, the smell of rich morning coffee in the streets of San Jose, or exploring the misty canopies of Monteverde's cloud forests - there's an unmistakeable allure to Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Discover this enticing pocket of Central America on an adventure where you can do as much or as little as you like. Grab a mountain bike and tackle the hills of Monteverde, swing through the trees on a zip-line, or simply soak in thermal springs heated by the impressive Arenal Volcano. Hedged in by sprawling forests filled with plenty of exotic wildlife, this is the greatest playground on Earth.
Day 1: Granada
Bienvenidos a Nicaragua! This adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm today. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader. For dinner tonight, perhaps head out with your group and sample solomillo a la pimienta (pork loin in creamy pepper sauce), a local specialty.
Day 2: Granada
Today is all yours, so explore the city at your own pace. You may want to take a more comprehensive self-guided tour of the city, bargain hard in the markets or wander the cobblestone streets snapping photos of the colourful buildings. Hundreds of evergreen islets dot the waters of vast Lake Nicaragua, and you can spend a few hours exploring them by boat. Or perhaps hire a kayak and find your own way around, stopping to wave at fisherman who live in wooden huts on the islets, or the monkeys who live in the trees the huts are built from. Just remember not to take a dip, as freshwater sharks live in the water! Alternatively, you could take a day trip out to Mombacho or Masaya Volcano National Park.
Day 3: Ometepe Island
Have a morning of leisure in Granada. Perhaps start the day with a classic Nicaraguan breakfast of eggs, rice and beans, soft cheese, plantains and strong coffee. Then maybe hit the Convento y Museo San Francisco and view the collection of indigenous stone statues. At 2 pm take a local bus to Rivas (approximately 1.5 hours) and transfer to the port of San Jorge to catch a 1-hour ferry across the seemingly endless waters of Lake Nicaragua to Ometepe Island. Hourglass-shaped Ometepe is formed by two volcanoes rising out of Lake Nicaragua, one active and one extinct. The island is home to fruit plantations, deep jungle and exotic wildlife such as howler monkeys, caiman and parrots. Spend the evening on the island, and maybe head out for a beer at one of the waterfront bars.
Day 4: Ometepe Island
Spend your free day however you wish on Ometepe. You can hike both Concepcion or Maderas Volcano, however, at 1700 and 1340 metres above sea level, the treks are no walk in the park. If you are going to tackle them, ask your leader for a recommendation for a local guide. You should also be aware that even for the very fit, both volcanoes will likely take all day (8–10 hours) to summit and then descend. Instead, you might prefer to splash around in the clear waters of the natural springs, soak up the sun on the beach or check out the ancient petroglyphs (rock carvings) scattered about the island. While the restaurants on the island are of decidedly mixed quality, your leader can give you the lowdown on which places to avoid and which to eat at. Stick to local fare and you'll have more luck – perhaps try indio viejo: a stew of corn, beef, onion, tomatoes and capsicum.
Day 5: Monteverde
Today is a big travel day, with an early start beginning at 7 am. Take a 1.5 hour ferry to the mainland and then a 1.5 hour transfer to Penas Blancas before crossing the border into Costa Rica. Pease note a USD 3 fee is required when exiting Nicaragua. Reaching the Costa Rican border requires a 1km/0.6mi walk carrying your luggage. Proof of onward travel is normally required to enter Costa Rica. If you're flying out of San Jose, bring a printed copy of your flight details in case the border officials ask to see them. Once in Costa Rica, travel by private minibus for 5 hours to Monteverde. After arriving in town and taking an opportunity to freshen up, your leader will take you on an walking tour of Monteverde.Monteverde was founded as an agricultural community in 1951 by a group of North American quakers. These environmentally-aware settlers also established a small wildlife sanctuary, which has since grown into the internationally-renowned Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve. Cloud forests are similar to rainforests, but instead draw their water from a semi-permanent cloud covering the region. This is a nature lover's paradise, with more than 2,000 plant species, 320 bird species and 100 mammal species calling the reserve home. Be sure to keep an eye out for the resplendent quetzal, one of the most elusive birds in the world.
Day 6: Monteverde
You’ll have a free day to discover the lush reserve at your own pace. Perhaps take a hike through the cloud forest, check out the area by mountain bike or fly over the thick canopy on a zip line tour. Another way to see the forest from above is to take a Sky Walk tour along a series of suspension bridges. You can explore the park on your own or arrange for a local guide to accompany you. Guided tours are particularly helpful for those interested in learning more about the local flora and fauna, as well as the different roles wildlife play in Mesoamerican mythology. You can get guaranteed sightings of exotic insects and snakes at the Butterfly Garden or the Serpentarium.
Day 7: La Fortuna
Leave Monteverde at 2pm and take the scenic route to La Fortuna. Travel by shared minibus for 1.5 hours to the shores of Lake Arenal, which you'll then cross by boat – a further 1.5 hour journey. On a clear day you'll see fantastic views of the surrounding area. On the other side of the lake, re-board the minibus and continue on to your hotel. La Fortuna is a small town situated just a few minutes from Costa Rica's most famous volcano – the majestic Arenal. While you're here, make sure you take some photos of the volcano reflected spectacularly in the lake.
Day 8: La Fortuna
Good morning! Why not start today with a smoothie and plan how you want to explore. Perhaps take a guided nature hike through the lush forest surrounding Arenal Volcano, keeping an eye out for rare plants and animals. You can also see the forest from a series of hanging bridges, which is a great vantage point for spotting wildlife like sloths and rainbow-coloured birds. The volcano’s inner workings also mean that the area is home to several thermal hot springs, an ideal way to relax in the middle of nature. Or instead, check out the 70-metre-high La Fortuna waterfall set in the middle of evergreen rainforest. Active types might want to hit the lake on a stand-up paddleboard. Otherwise, a boat safari down the Celeste River offers the opportunity to see lizards, crocodiles and tropical birds in their natural habitat.
Day 9: San Jose
Watch the volcano fade into the distance as you begin the 5-hour local bus ride to Costa Rica's capital, San Jose. Head out on a walking tour with your leader on arrival to see the main highlights. Later, perhaps visit the Gold Museum, which has an amazing collection of pre-Spanish gold art. If you're in the mood for a bit of shopping, head to the outdoor market in the Plaza de la Cultura or the city's Central Market, where you can buy anything from handicrafts to seafood.
Day 10: San Jose
There are no activities planned for the final day so you are free to depart at any time. Haven’t seen enough in San Jose? Check out the offerings of Urban Adventures tour, from craft beer tours to day-trips to the countryside. Find out more at urbanadventures.com/destination/San-Jose-tours. There's a lot to see and do in and around San Jose, so if you'd like to extend your visit and need further accommodation, we’ll be happy to assist (subject to availability).
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The trip was both both educational and exciting. I very much enjoyed the sights and culture.
The itinerary was just as I expected! The guide was very good as were the accomodations
Intrepid did such a great job. I never had to worry about where I was supposed to be and it felt so good not to worry about a thing but just to enjoy myself. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable about culture and history.
Taiwan people very friendly. Accommodation were centrally located and easily accessible. Did extra activities then in brochure which was greatly.
Larus our tour guide did an excellent job and was very attentive to our needs. He is very knowledgeable and has a great sense of humor.
Our guide Tarang chandola was exceptional. Courteous, knowledgeable, organized, polite, professional and went above and beyond taking care of our needs and requests offen anticipating what that might be. He made sure we all had the best possible time and offered suggestions to meet the needs of everyone on the tour. This made the trip even more enjoyable.
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