Nature Discovery Journeys

Costa Rica's Nature, Indigenous Culture and Sustainability


costa-rica-indigenous-traditionsCosta Rica is located in Central America, between Nicaragua (North) and Panama (South), and between the Caribbean (East) and the Pacific Ocean (West). It covers 51 100 square kilometers: that represents only 0,03% of the surface of our planet, but it holds approximately 6% of the world's biodiversity, making the country the world's most diverse, biologically speaking, per unity of measure. This is why over 25% of our country is environmentally protected. 

Costa Rica´s climate is pleasant with natural breezes cooling down most of the coastal areas. Temperatures in the highlands and the mountains are warm by day and brisk at night. Those conditions do not vary drastically all year long. The average temperatures range from 31.7°C (95°F) on the coast to 16.7°C (65°F) inland. The rainy season lasts from May to November.

The Indigenous People of Costa Rica
There are about 104,000 (2.4%) indigenous peoples in Costa Rica located throughout the country. They often do not receive the same attention as other indigenous groups around the world, because they are not as well known. In a way of not becoming modernized, they emphasize the importance of their culture and traditions. They want to help preserve their language and traditions in whichever way possible. In 1977, the government passed the Indigenous Law, which created reserves. There are a total of 22 reserves located throughout Costa Rica.

The Nature of Costa Rica
About 25 percent of tiny Costa Rica’s land area has been set aside in national parks and protected areas — perhaps not surprising given the government’s goal for it to become the first carbon-neutral country by 2021. Its features include mountains, volcanoes, waterfalls, lakes and islands.

Its largely tropical climate supports a rich variety of flora (including numerous orchids) and fauna (from monkeys and sloths to birds and reptiles).



Main content of the trip: natural history, volcanoes & rainforest, Indigenous culture, eco-adventure, agriculture and sustainable development.


Our guide will meet you at the airport and welcomes you to Costa Rica. He will give you a little briefing, while escorting you to the hotel, and help you check-in.  Then you will have a welcome dinner in San José.

Night: Casa Conde
Meals: Dinner included.

DAY 2// November 28 - SAN JOSE // SARAPIQUÍ

Poas Volcano Costa RicaHighlights

  • Poás Volcano: 1.5 hours.
  • Heart of Palm Plantation: 45 minutes.

You’ll have an early start in order to visit Poás Volcano National Park, an enormous active crater with a sulfur lake and fumaroles, located at 9 thousand feet above sea level, considered as one of the biggest and most enchanting craters of the world. Poás has breath taking views over the Central Valley, and its beautiful craters are all surrounded by Tropical Cloud Forest vegetation. Then, you’ll continue heading north and descend to the lowlands of the Caribbean slope. Enjoy a wonderful lunch at a very rustic restaurant in the middle of a heart of palm plantation, and learn about the harvesting and production process of this delicacy.

Night: Centro Neotrópico Sarapiquis
Meals: Breakfast and dinner included.

DAY 3// November 29 - SARAPIQUÍ

Rafting The Rio SarapiquiHighlights:

  • Tirimbina Rainforest hike and Cocoa Plantation, 2.5 hours
  • White water rafting, 2.5 hours
  • Optional : Night Walk in the rainforest. 1.45 hours

Start your morning with a 2.5 hour tour that will open the secrets and wonders of the Rainforest as well as one of mankind’s favorite foods: chocolate, the way the pre-columbian cultures used to prepare it.  Originally from Central America, this plant has an extraordinary history; it was one of the most important products for the Mayan and Aztec cultures, as well as other Central American cultures. The discovery of America led to the introduction of chocolate in Europe, transforming it into the product we all know today.

You will enjoy an afternoon of adventure as you raft on the white water rapids of one of the cleanest rivers in Costa Rica. Our professional guides will help you enjoy this class 2-3 river.

Before dinner, and if you still want to learn more about the Rainforest, go back inside  the forest to experience for almost two hours, a different perspective as some animals go to sleep, and some others will start their activity, join us on this optional night walk excursion.

Night: Centro Neotrópico Sarapiquis
Meals: Breakfast and dinner included

DAY 4// November 30 - SARAPIQUÍ // LA FORTUNA

Arenal VolcanoHighlights:

  • Indigenous culture museum: 45 minutes
  • Transfer to Arenal: 2.5 hours
  • Arenal Volcano National Park hike: 2 hours

After breakfast you will visit the Sarapiquis Museum that emphasizes the theme "Man and Nature": here you will learn about ethnology and the eight remaining indigenous cultures of Costa Rica.  This is the largest on-site museum of rainforest ecology and indigenous and prehispanic history in Central America, but it will take you only 45 minutes to an hour to engage in this learning experience.

After this visit you will transfer to La Fortuna region where the Arenal Volcano is located. Once at Fortuna, we will check in to the hotel. In the afternoon you will hike for about two hours, the Old Lava Flows at Arenal Volcano National Park, a great opportunity to see from close this magnificent mountain, and the beautiful Lake Arenal at its slopes, a man-made reservoir that has one of the country most important hydroelectric plants.  

Dormant for centuries, Arenal Volcano exploded in a massive eruption of molten lava and ash in 1968.  Since that time, it has continued to spew great clouds of ash and occasional lava.  It is now one of the world’s most active volcanoes and volcanologists from all over the world come here to study this tropical volcano.

Night: Los Lagos
Meals: Breakfast and dinner included

DAY 5// December 1 - LA FORTUNA

la fortuna fallsHighlights:

  • Canopy tour: 2 hours
  • La Fortuna Waterfall : 30 minutes
  • Maleku tribe village – indigenous culture : 1.5 hours
  • Hot Springs: 2 hours

Today you will go on the canopy tour where you’ll have an adrenaline rush swinging from platform to platform attach to a harness as you do the zip lines.  After the adrenaline rush, you will then visit a Maleku village. With direct Mayan influence, the Malekus established themselves in the northern area of Costa Rica, they still conserve some of their traditions like their own language - Maleku-Haika - and craft. They are distributed in three different families, but are consider the smallest native community in the Americas, with less than 600 Malekus left.

After this, you will hike down La Fortuna waterfall and swim on a natural pool at its base, to refresh yourself and relax in nature.  Then you will wrap up your afternoon and evening by enjoying the world famous Hot Springs of the Arenal region, a wonderful place of thermal water pools, waterfalls and rivers, surrounded by exotic gardens and tropical vegetation that you can enjoy while having a refreshing tropical fruit juice.

Night: Los Lagos
Meals: Breakfast and dinner included


Don Juan Organic FarmHighlights:

  • School visit: 2 hours
  • Organic farm: 2 hours
  • Transfer to the Central Pacific: 4 hours

Improve your intercultural exchange as you visit a local elementary school, then visit Don Juan Educational farm, where you will learn the importance of conservation, recycling and the viability of organic and sustainable practices in agriculture and tourism.  Then you’ll depart for the central pacific region, with the opportunity to experience different landscapes at you leave the rain forest behind and travel trough tropical dry forest ( dry from December to April) and into the transition forest of the Central Pacific.

Night: Punta Leona
Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner included

DAY 7// December 3 - CENTRAL PACIFIC

White Sand Beaches of Costa RicaHighlights:

  • Optional hike at Carara or Manuel Antonio National Park
  • White sand beaches

Today you will have all day free so you can enjoy the beaches at Punta Leona, relax and rest from the previous activities in your itinerary. 

If you feel energetic you can visit the neighbor Carara or even Manuel Antonio National Parks: both of them are among the most popular national parks due to the great variety of wildlife that can be seen, from the famous sloths, white face cappuccino monkeys and the avifauna.

Night: Punta Leona
Meals: Breakfast and dinner included


Bird Watching Costa RicaHighlights:

  • Crocodile safari – bird watching on Tárcoles River: 1.5 hours
  • Transfer to San José: 3 hours
  • Sarchí oxcart factory: 1 hour

Transfer from the Central Pacific Region to San Jose. Stop on the way at the town of Tárcoles for a photo safari boat ride: this river has the highest concentration of wild crocodiles in the country: your guide will step ashore into the gooey mud and draw one of these giants up onto the bank to snatch chicken from his hand! You’ll also see a great variety of birds, such as roseate spoonbills, whistling ducks, storks and even scarlet macaws.  

Once in the Central Valley, stop at the town of Sarchí. This is the Costa Rican home of artisans where you learn about a Costarican national symbol and World´s Cultural Heritage: The hand painted Oxcart, also will be a great opportunity to do your souvenir shopping. Continue to the capital city of San José.

Night: Casa Conde
Meals: Breakfast and dinner included


Farewell to Costa Rica. Transfer out to Juan Santamaría International Airport in San Jose, say good bye to your new friends, and…. SEE YOU NEXT YEAR!!! HAVE A GOOD FLIGHT HOME!!!

Meals: Breakfast included at the hotel.

This itinerary includes: Private transportation for the group according to the program (mini bus with A/C, driver and gasoline) all transfers specified in the itinerary. Full-time services of a Professional Bilingual Naturalist Tour Director & Guide. Overnight stays on double occupancy, twin or double standard rooms with private bathroom on every hotel or lodge according to the itinerary, no extras, all breakfast and dinner included at the different hotels; some lunch according to the itinerary. Entrance fees to the national parks and other programmed activities; and of course all the natural beauty, and the friendship of some peace loving people that Costa Rica has to offer …COSTA RICA, NO ARTIFICIAL INGREDIENTS !!!

This itinerary does not included: airline tickets, meals other than breakfast or any not mentioned in the description, extras at the different hotels (phone calls, laundry, mini bar, etc), optional tours or activities not specified, tips, porterage, personal insurance, airport taxes or anything not specified on the itinerary.

The hotels reserved are 3 star hotels, rooms are neat and comfortable but simple. Most of the hotels will have the Certificate for Sustainable Tourism or demonstrated good practices.  Not all of the rooms have A/C, but at least a fan. They don’t have a mosquito net, they have a screen on the window so if you keep your door close you will have no problem with mosquitoes.

We always reserve breakfast at every hotel. If we reserve all of the meals you’ll have no flexibility to choose the time to spend and activities to do in every region, this way you can choose the restaurants where you’ll like to eat on site. Also will give you the chance to manage your own dietary restrictions and of course more variety in meals.

It’s important to know that in order to go from one region to the other it takes time because of the bad condition of the roads in the country, but is the only way to get to know the country better, anyways the landscapes are beautiful and we make several stops on the way. The sun in Costa Rica rises around 6.00 hrs and goes down around 18.00 hrs so we have 12 hours of sunlight per day all year round to enjoy the different activities, on this itinerary  all activities and visits are possible to do by leaving the hotels around 7.30 am or 8.00 am.

Sustainability and Education

Elemento Natural sees tourism as a golden opportunity to create environmental awareness and provide education to our visitors.  If done responsibly, tourism can bridge spread the wealth the industry brings among the diversity of participants during an itinerary: local towns, guides, restaurants, hotels and lodges, shops and others. 

We have carefully chosen our suppliers to ensure your trip is a responsible one and therefore making our activity as sustainable as possible. 

On top of that, Elemento Natural will donate a percentage of the profits to Costa Rica Unida Foundation, a non-profit organization that works in promoting education and environmental protection in indigenous communities.  Additionally, Elemento Natural supports and donates to the Friends of the National Parks Program, who directly works with the National Park Administration Office.

In your itinerary you will have specific activities to learn from the experts in the following fields:

  • State of the rainforest conservation and research in Costa Rica: environmental threats and sustainability by TIRIMBINA Rainforest Center (Tirimbina is an educational, scientific and ecotourism destination, situated between the forests and rivers of the northern region of Costa Rica.)
  • Nature and Culture: how to reconcile indigenous culture and conservation with tourism, by Neotropical Center Sarapiquis (an organization that combines nature, eco-development, education and scientific research.)
  • A successful agro-eco-touristic project: how sustainability can be applied to many fields to form a profitable activity that minimizes the environmental impact and provides food security, by Educational Farm Don Juan.
  • The guidance during 100% of the trip of a professional naturalist guide with 20+ years experience in neo-tropical expeditions.

Our 10 healthy tips for eco-tourism 

  • Enjoy without destroying or interfering: just watch!
  • Help to preserve nature: eco-tourism is, by definition, an active type of tourism.
  • Make an educational experience out of your tourism activities: think and learn.
  • Get involved all year long, not just during your vacation.
  • Make sure that the company you use to plan your vacation is really "eco driven" and committed to nature preservation, and that they are not just using the eco word.
  • Make sure you notify the local authorities whenever you see bad ecological practices.
  • Minimize your waste: reuse and recycle every time!
  • Minimize the use of your car: use public transportation, your bike or your legs as often as you can.
  • Support the local business when you travel: buy their products, try their food, learn their culture!
  • Tell this to your friends: if you like it, preach it!

This Nature Discovery Journey made available from our friends at Elemento Natural 

Elemento Natural

With the accelerated increase in tourism in Costa Rica, and the decreasing existence of our natural resources, diminished by the human activity, it becomes more important than ever to minimize the print we leave behind when we travel and visit Mother Nature. Even though what Costa Rica has to offer is its natural resources, most of the itineraries that are offered today by tourism companies include a maximum of 2 hours per day in National Parks and the rest of the time is spent out of the protected areas.

That is the reason why ELEMENTO NATURAL offers a unique alternative for those who really want to enjoy Costa Rican ecosystems 100% naturally, spending most of the days into the conservation areas: camping and natural adventure is our best way to enjoy wilderness and minimize our print at the same time!


MBA. Alonso Madrigal González
Professional Naturalist Tour Director
Tourism and Marketing Services
CR Tourist Board (ICT) Guide Licence # 468
e-mail:  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

ENG. Roberto Lizano Ramon
General Manager
Elemento Natural
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The Trip Summary







Nov 27

San José


Casa Conde


Arrival and check-in

Nov 28




B, D

Poás Volcano, heart of palm plantation

Nov 29




B, D

Tirimbina, cocoa plantation, rafting, night walk

Nov 30



Arenal Paraíso

B, D

Indigenous musuem, Arenal National Park

Dec 1



Arenal Paraíso

B, D

Maleku village, canopy, waterfall, hot springs

Dec 2

Central Pacific


Punta Leona

B,L, D

School, organic farm

Dec 3

Central Pacific


Punta Leona

B, D

Manuel Antonio National Park

Dec 4

San José


Casa Conde

B, D

Crocodile safari, Sarchí oxcart factory

Dec 5





Transfer out

Meals: B=breakfast; L=lunch; D=dinner

PRICING: $1,500 per person on double occupancy


Telephone: 2227-4232
Telephone:  2761-1004
Telephone: 2479-1090
Telephone: 2231-3131

All the hotels are prepaid. Under no circumstances will you have to pay extra for your room or breakfast. In case of discussion or incomprehension from the hotel clerk or manager please do not hesitate to call us.


SPACE IS LIMITED FOR ALL ISC-AUDUBON NATURE DISCOVERY JOURNEYS. PLEASE RESERVE AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE. In keeping with the principles of sustainable tourism and nature study, ISC-Audubon limits the number of people that can join each Nature Discovery Journey. Not only will this diminish any impacts that we as a group have on the nature of Costa Rica, but it will also provide for a more personal experience for those who join us on the journeys.

A 50% non-refundable deposit is required to reserve your space on this trip.  However, if the trip is canced by ISC-Audubon for any reason the full amount will be refunded. 

TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THIS TRIP OR TO PLACE A RESERVATION PLEASE CONTACT ERIC DODSON AT 727-733-0762 OR EMAIL ERIC AT  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


$25 Annually $100 Annually $250 Reg / $100 Annually


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ISC-Audubon is a coalition of non-profit organizations and initiatives that include The International Sustainability Council (ISC), Audubon Lifestyles, Audubon Outdoors, Planit Green, Broadcast Audubon, and the Audubon Network for Sustainability. 

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