Explore the dazzling natural wonders of Guanacaste
Discover the treasures of one of Costa Rica’s richest regions, Guanacaste, on a six-day voyage. Snorkel and kayak among a multicolored galaxy of tropical fish and palm-lined beaches in the Guanacaste Conservation Area, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Hike, ride horseback, and zipline amid mist-shrouded volcanic peaks in Rincón de la Vieja National Park, where 32 rivers and streams cut their way through incredible biodiversity. As we venture from uninhabited isles to wildlife-rich jungles, bask in the “pura vida” that infuses this ecologically rich country.
Navigate the pristine coastline of Costa Rica’s Guanacaste region, snorkel crystalline waters, and explore wildlife-rich parks and preserves
Discover diverse tropical ecosystems while exploring via kayak and paddleboard, on foot, on horseback, and soaring by zipline
Spend an afternoon enjoying Isla Tortuga’s palm-shaded beaches before a barbecue dinner on the sand
Explore the volcanic landscapes of Rincón de la Vieja National Park and search for exotic wildlife, from monkeys to macaws
Discover Guanacaste: An Extraordinary, Holistic Experience
Costa Rica, Panama & Colombia, Wild Escapes
Day By Day
Each expedition is crafted to offer you the most in-depth experience of Costa Rica possible and maximize your time in the company of this region's immensely rich biodiversity. Flexibility is a hallmark of our expeditions, and we will change course or linger in our Zodiacs to take advantage of amazing birds and marine life sightings. Extraordinary adventure is a guarantee.
After arrival in San José this afternoon, we transfer to the Pacific Coast town of Puerto Caldera. This evening, we embark our ship National Geographic Quest and chart our course north to Costa Rica's Guanacaste Region. (D)
Zapotal Beach / Bahia Huevos
Drop anchor off remote Zapotal Beach, where we’ll spend the morning soaking up the sun or snorkeling in waters fringed by offshore islets, which create outstanding habitat for a variety of tropical fish. Or choose to walk along a rarely used four-wheel drive track, which takes us back into a beautiful gallery forest. The area is rich with bird and plant varieties, and our naturalists describe the intricate web of life in these oceanside ecosystems.
After lunch on board, we cruise north to the Papagayo Peninsula, dropping anchor in Bahia Huevos. Our Zodiacs take us on an exploration of the bay and the peninsula. If conditions, permit, we drop kayaks and paddleboards and explore the nearby mangroves (B,L,D)
Santa Rosa National Park / Guanacaste Conservation Area
Depending on conditions today, we may choose to explore Santa Elena Bay in Santa Rosa National Park, Junquillal Wildlife Refuge, or Cuajiniquil Bay, all part of the extraordinarily biodiverse Guanacaste Conservation Area. While venturing out by kayak or taking a relaxing Zodiac cruise, we immerse ourselves in the tropical environment, alive with color. Yellow and black great kiskadees sally from exposed perches looking to capture a flying insect for an evening meal, and orange-fronted parakeets chatter overhead. Predators such as mangrove hawks may take wind, setting out on a late afternoon hunt, while ringed kingfishers, richly colored in brick red and deep blue, wait patiently, watching the shallows for a fish’s silvery flash. (B,L,D)
**Please note: National Geographic Quest will sail to Nicaragua overnight where necessary immigration requirements will be completed prior to returning to Costa Rica on Day 4.
Rincón de la Vieja National Park / Hacienda Guachipelin
Our adventure today continues as we set off inland to explore Rincón de la Vieja National Park. This mountainous region is also a part of the Guanacaste Conservation Area and encompasses more than 34,000 acres. The area, with its forests carpeting the sides of two active volcanoes, is alive with geothermal activity as gurgling, bubbling mud pots spout and steam rises above the canopy. Choose between several enticing options today including a hike through the transition zone where tropical dry habitat meets the temperate cloud forest. Here, we keep an eye out for exotic wildlife, with the possibility of encountering mantled howler monkeys and regionally special birds including the noisy and conspicuous white-throated magpie-jay. Alternatively, after a short hike into the forest, opt to swim below Las Chorreras Waterfall. Or choose to ride horseback across lush meadows, or soar through the canopy by zipline before enjoying a sumptuous lunch served poolside at Hacienda Guachipelin while local marimba guitarists play and fresh ceviche is prepared. (B,L,D)
Curu National Wildlife Refuge / Isla Tortuga
Along the coast of the Nicoya Peninsula, and in many ways demarcating the line between the wetter jungles of the south and Guanacaste’s drier environment, sits Curu National Wildlife Refuge, Costa Rica’s first private national wildlife reserve. Learn about the hundreds of species of birds, reptiles, and mammals that inhabit this thriving ecosystem while exploring the park’s tracks and trails. Here we look for white-faced capuchin monkeys, turquoise-browed motmots, and with luck, scarlet macaws. The northern tamandua resides here, and while often elusive and quiet, this primarily arboreal member of the anteater family may be spotted.
Later, as we enjoy lunch on board, we cruise to a cluster of offshore islets collectively called Isla Tortuga. Choose to stand-up paddleboard, kayak, or simply relax on the beach shaded by swaying palms and tropical vegetation. As the sun begins to set on our Guanacaste adventure, a waterside barbecue dinner awaits—the perfect way to finish our voyage. (B,L,D)
Puerto Caldera / Disembark / San José / U.S.
Disembark after breakfast in Puerto Caldera. Drive to the
airport in San José for flights home. (B)
Visit itinerary dates to view additional staff and guests
National Geographic Explorer and photojournalist Jen Guyton applies her ecological science background to crafting compelling conservation stories. As a graduate of UC Berkeley and recipient of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship in Mozambique, Jen is most passionate about how changing landscapes and society influence one another.
National Geographic Explorer and Volcanologist Arianna Soldati has studied volcanoes on La Réunion in the Indian Ocean, Arenal and Poas in Costa Rica, Pacaya and Fuego in Guatemala, and well beyond. As a professor at North Carolina State University, she is currently developing a citizen science app to empower locals to report volcanic activity.
Join her on the Nov. 26 and Dec. 1, 2023, departures.
Book by January 13, 2023, to save 10% when traveling as a group of 6 or more people on select departures. Take advantage of these great savings while enjoying traveling with your friends and family. Valid for new bookings only, subject to availability, not applicable on extensions, and may not be combined with other offers. Call for details.
FREE ROUND-TRIP AIRFARE ON SELECT DATES
Book by January 13, 2023, to receive free roundtrip airfare from Miami to San Jose on select departures. Complimentary air is based on economy group flights and must be ticketed by Lindblad Expeditions. In the case that Lindblad's group flight is not available at time of booking, we reserve the right to issue a credit. Baggage fees may be additional. New bookings only and may not be combinable with other offers or pre- or post-extensions. Call for details.
TRAVELING AS A GROUP
Save 5% when traveling as a group of 8 or more people. Take advantage of these great savings, while enjoying traveling with your friends and family. This savings is applicable to voyage fares only, and is not valid on extensions or airfare. Deposit, final payments, and cancellation policies for group travel vary from our regular policies.
Certain offers may be combinable, up to two savings opportunities, except where noted otherwise. For example, travel with a group of 8 or more on back-to-back expeditions, and take advantage of both savings.
EARLY BOOKING SAVINGS
Book 2024 departures and get 2023 rates if booked by January 13, 2023. Valid for new bookings on departures on Lindblad-National Geographic ships, Delfin II, and The Jahan, subject to availability, not applicable on extensions, and may not be combined with other offers. Call for details.
Save 10% on any consecutive journeys taken on board one of our expedition ships. This savings is applicable on voyage fares only, and are not valid on extensions or airfare.
CELEBRATE LIFE'S MILESTONES
Join us and celebrate your great milestones, including birthdays, anniversaries, family reunions, retirements, and more. Beginning in 2023, groups of 8 or more traveling together in celebration receive 5% off and a complimentary group photograph, while the cabin-of-honor receives onboard ship credit, beautiful cake, and more onboard celebrations. Milestone celebration must be communicated at time of booking. Milestone amenity package is one per group, intended for the guest celebrating the Milestone event. Group discount is applicable to cruise portion only, and does not apply towards additional services such as hotels, extensions, airfare, etc. Group cancellation terms also apply. Not combinable with certain offers.
BRINGING THE KIDS
We believe sharing an expedition with your kids or grandkids is a life-enhancing experience. So take $500 off for each child under the age of 18.
4TH GUEST TRAVELS FREE
4th person travels free on select 2022 departures. Bookings of three full-paying guests may bring a fourth person for free. Offer applicable only on bookings of two double-occupancy cabins, and second cabin must be in same category or lower as first cabin. Valid on select 2022 departures, for new bookings only, subject to availability, not applicable on airfare or extensions, and is not combinable with other offers. Call for details.
FREE BAR POLICY
Enjoy free beer and wine (excluding super-premium brands) on all 2023 departures aboard National Geographic Venture, National Geographic Quest, National Geographic Sea Bird, and National Geographic Sea Lion. Starting in 2024, your full bar tab (excluding certain super-premium brands) will be included.
Costa Rica has many very successful stories related to initiatives to protect our flora and fauna. On the southern end of the Nicoya Peninsula in 1963, a Swedish couple, Karen & Olof Wessberg, encouraged the creation of the first officially protected area in Costa Rica, Cablo Blanco Absolute Reserve. Starting in the 1970s, other conservation projects associated with our federal government and private territories added buffer zones and biological corridors to the newly created national parks. Among those private sectors on the Nicoya Peninsula, the Schutt-Croix family purchased land with the main intention to farm it. After realizing the natural beauty of the mangroves and forest, they decided to set aside several hundred hectares for pure conservation. On this property, Curu Wildlife Refuge, wildlife can migrate between the mangrove vegetation at sea level to around 1,000 feet above sea level. Curu has an area of 1,416 hectares, and 70% is devoted to conservation. White-throated capuchin monkeys were the stars of the day. We observed at least three different troops during our walks. We also enjoyed incredible sightings of northern tamandua anteaters, white-nosed coatimundis, crab-eating raccoons, mantled howler monkeys, and white-tailed deer, a national symbol for Costa Rica. All of these observations were fantastic additions to our morning walk on Curu Wildlife Refuge. Later in the day, biologist Maguil Céspedes offered a great presentation that provided insight into his work with the people of the mangroves at Isla Chira inside the Gulf of Nicoya. The galley made preparations to serve a farewell dinner on the beach with a barbecue on Tortuga Island. The evening was splendid. We all gathered on the beach to enjoy our last hours onboard National Geographic Quest as our fantastic exploration of Northwest Costa Rica draws to a close.
On a beautiful morning, we arrived at a small bay in front of Zapotal Beach. After National Geographic Quest anchored, we started our exploration activities. Some of our guests decided to go to the mainland for a walk, while the vast majority chose to spend the morning snorkeling in the Brunel Islets. Those who went for a walk found howler monkeys, green iguanas, pale woodpeckers, and many other typical birds of the dry forest. Those who went to the islets enjoyed several hours in the water in search of pufferfish, starfish, angelfish, and hawksbill turtles. After repositioning National Geographic Quest in Huevos Bay in the afternoon, we disembarked at one of the nearby beaches. Some guests decided to take a Zodiac cruise to tour a nearby mangrove, while others took to one of the trails near the beach. Other guests combined a bit of kayaking with paddleboarding, or they simply enjoyed the seashore in this charming place. Of course, those who went to the mangrove spotted various species of waterfowl, while those who went on the walk and/or stayed on the beach were able to see howler monkeys passing along the trail.
During sunrise, National Geographic Quest sailed to drop anchor between Muneco Islet and Junquillal Wildlife Refuge. On our way, the humpback whales showed up again and put on a show. At this time of the year, individuals from the Northern Hemisphere head down to give birth to their young. After breakfast, some guests headed to Muneco Islet for our first snorkeling outing. The backside of the islet gave us a protected cove. The beautiful geological formation bears witness to the magnificent uplifting of this unique region. Guests observed sea stars, damselfish, surgeonfish, bicolor parrotfish, and cornetfish. The experience was enhanced by the wonderful calls of the whales. What a beautiful way to snorkel! As a second activity, we enjoyed downtime at the wildlife refuge. We walked on a secluded beach where we spotted birds, such as white-throated magpie-jays and crested caracaras. Orange-fronted parakeets appeared to show off their colorful plumage. In the afternoon, photo instructor Jose Calvo gave us a great lecture that included useful photography tips. We enjoyed different options to explore Junquillal Bay Refuge. Some guests worked out their upper bodies by paddling kayaks while exploring mangroves, and others observed the scenery on Zodiac cruises. We all observed species like ringed and green kingfishers, little blue herons, spotted sandpipers, whimbrels, white ibises, and more. We talked about the habits and behaviors of the different species. The impressive root system of the mangroves welcomed us, and we were transported to a place with scenery that looked like it came from a story. We learned about this unique system and the challenges it faces to adapt and survive in high salinity environments. Other guests chose hikes through the tropical dry forest and enjoyed amazing views of the spectacular Peninsula de Santa Elena. Recap and dinner were followed by a wonderful presentation by the Director of Guanacaste Conservation Area, a UNESCO World heritage site. The speaker put in perspective the high importance of this protected part of Costa Rica, including its contributions to the world.
At the break of dawn, humpback whales escorted National Geographic Quest on our inaugural visit to Guanacaste’s pristine gulf and Santa Elena Bay. Through a special arrangement with the authorities of the national park system and the local community of Cuajiniquil, we were granted permission to anchor inside Santa Elena Bay. This location has a unique management system. The Guanacaste Conservation Area created a marine buffer zone with the local community to support sustainable management of fisheries and visitation to this well protected bay. By midmorning, guests had the opportunity to walk the one-mile long trail called Pintadero (the painted one). They saw a profusion of the most intricate elements of flora found in this tropical dry forest. We observed gumbo limbo or jinocuabe trees (Bursera simaruba), guapinol trees (Hymenaea courbaril), and guanacaste trees (Enterolobium cyclocarpum). The guanacaste tree is a national symbol of Costa Rica due to its majestic shape and beautiful wood. We also spotted many organisms that can survive the drought that usually occurs November through April. This natural setting connected us to Matapalito Beach, a delightful white sand beach where our guests and staff were the only human presence in the area. By noon, National Geographic Quest repositioned to another new destination: the village of Cuajiniquil with its deserted, light-colored sand beach. Many guests tried the always-challenging paddleboarding; all partakers were able to stand up on the board. Other guests kayaked leisurely. These experiences connected our guests with plunging brown pelicans and gently flying frigatebirds. Guests also enjoyed swimming and walking an access road covered with forest. In my case, the nature walk was extremely satisfying with rare sightings of birds, including white-necked puffbirds, thicket tinamous, and boat-billed herons. Sunset brought a fantastic coloration to the Continental Divide in our background, the majestic Orosi-Cacao volcanic complex, and the active Rincon de La Vieja Volcano. In order to understand the complexity of these geological formations, expert geographer Ronald Calvo provided a very insightful talk after dinner. Tomorrow, we open a new chapter to this story!
After a great experience crossing the Panama Canal and learning about some of the islands in the Panama Bay, we crossed the Azuero Peninsula and stopped in Coiba. The name Coiba comes from indigenous leader Quiebo. When the Spanish first explored the area, they called it Cobaya and Coyba. Known as the jewelry of Panama and the Pacific Ocean, Coiba Island is part of a very important marine corridor shared with Costa Rica, Colombia and the Galapagos Islands. About 80% of the national park is rainforest, and 20% is a beach with white sand. We stopped in this important place and offered two activities to guests: a walk around the ranger station to spot wildlife or snorkeling in Cocos Islet. As we walked, we heard howler monkeys in the distance and saw colorful birds. We spotted crimson-backed tanagers and yellow-faced grassquits. Some guests saw scorpions. After the walk, we returned to the ship. Some guests decided to snorkel in the crystal waters. They spotted many kinds of tropical fish including parrotfish, surgeonfish, razz fish, trumpetfish, guinea pufferfish and bicolored parrotfish. They also observed green sea turtles swimming slowly along the reef. We had the opportunity to kayak and paddleboard in the morning and afternoon. We gathered onboard by midafternoon to begin our departure to Costa Rica.