- 12 days
About the challenge
Costa Rica has a huge variety of landscapes, climates and environments and it is home to 5% of the planet’s biodiversity - From palm tree-lined tropical beaches to smoking volcanoes, cloudforest, rainforest and mangrove swamps – it all awaits us in Costa Rica! Our coast to coast challenge is an adventurous journey on foot and by raft from the Pacific to the Caribbean Coast! Our route takes us from traditional farming communities through coffee plantations and oak forests, deep into cloudforest and dense tropical rainforest, serenaded by howler monkeys and exotic bird calls. We take in the country’s highest active volcano before our challenge ends with an unforgettable journey by raft and boat to a beautiful tropical beach.
Dates & prices
|Departs||Days||Charity||Availability||Registration fee||Fundraising target||Payment option|
|15 Nov 2014||12||Open challenge||Spaces||£399||+||£3500||Or||£1550||Book now|
|31 Jan 2015||12||Open challenge||Spaces||£399||+||£3600||£1600||Book now|
|14 Nov 2015||12||Open challenge||Spaces||£399||+||£3600||£1600||Book now|
|30 Jan 2016||12||Open challenge||Spaces||£399||+||£3750||£1650||Book now|
|12 Nov 2016||12||Open challenge||Spaces||£399||+||£3750||£1650||Book now|
Day 1: Fly London – San Jose
Drive approx 4 hrs; trek approx 12 km / 5 hrs
We arrive late afternoon/early evening, transfer to our hotel and relax! Night hotel.
Day 2: San Jose – Pacific Coast – Londres
After an early morning breakfast and trip briefing, we transfer by bus to a beach near Quepos on the Pacific Coast. Turning inland, we start our trek at Finca Maritima and set off on our adventure across Costa Rica! Our route takes us through palm oil plantations and agricultural land which is predominantly flat, before reaching the foothills of the more remote and forested highlands. Londres, the site of our evening’s camp, is a small farming community.
Day 3: Londres – San Isidro
Trek approx 18 km / 8 hrs
Today we trek from Londres to the small village of San Isidro along good tracks and paths that gradually climb up to the edge of the rainforest. There are several demanding ascents and descents and several stream crossings and it can be quite muddy, but we are rewarded by fabulous views down to the Pacific Coast. We pass through thriving rural communities that provide us with a great insight to life in this part of Costa Rica before arriving at our homestead, where we camp for the night.
Day 4: San Isidro – Betania
Trek approx 8km / 5 – 6 hrs
After a good night’s sleep we rise early and head off into the rainforest. Our trail is initially steep with several stream crossings as it takes us into dense vegetation, very different to our surroundings yesterday. Watch out for wildlife such as beautiful tree frogs, some no larger than your fingernail, which are perfectly camouflaged amongst the leaves and vegetation of the forest. It is often quite dark and damp in the dense vegetation of the rainforest as sunlight cannot penetrate the canopy above our heads. The trail is slippery and we have to clamber over and under enormous roots and fallen trees as agile spider monkeys mock our progress from above. We continue until we reach a clearing and our accommodation at Betania in the Cascades area. Night camp.
Day 5: Betania – Naranjo – Quetzal y TucanT
Trek approx 17km / 10 – 12 hrs
Today is our most strenuous day: a long route on challenging terrain with demanding, muddy ascents and descents. We start early; a steep, narrow and often muddy ascent takes us up to a high ridge in dense rainforest (1765m). Keep your eyes open for the many wonderful birds and the occasional small group of howler monkeys – small but extremely loud! Our track then undulates continuously, climbing to another ridge where we have lunch. Our tracks are narrow with thick vegetation towering up to each side, and we cross several rivers and cascades. Reaching our high point of 1965m, we descend sharply to the Rio Brujo. We cross a stream and embark on a steep climb along a narrow trail on the other side. Following slightly better trails that undulate through the jungle with further stream crossings, the track becomes wider as we make our way further into cloudforest to our farmstead at Quetzal y Tucan. Night camp.
Day 6: Quetzal y Tucan – Santa María de Dota
Trek 19 km, approx 7 hrs
Today’s trek takes us through small communities and agricultural land to our camp near the small town of Santa Maria de Dota. We leave this amazing area of rainforest with its huge variety of flora and fauna behind us with mixed feelings; sad to leave such an incredible habitat behind us, but perhaps glad to rejoin less challenging paths! We trek on wider, easier tracks, but there are still several steep climbs before us, which take us to a high-point of 2045m. We then descend towards Santa Maria de Dota. Very picturesque, the town lies in a green valley surrounded by coffee plantations, forested hills and distant mountain peaks and feels very busy after our time in the rainforest. Night camp.
Day 7: Santa María de Dota – Volcan Irazu – Rio Pacuare
Total drive approx 4 – 5 hrs; trek approx 6km / 2 hrs
An early start sees us driving to the spectacular Volcan Irazu (3432m), the highest active volcano in Costa Rica. We have time to explore the crater rim, with its views over the vivid green lake in one of the craters, and if there is minimal cloud we will be able to see neighbouring Volcan Turrialba. On a really clear day it’s possible to see both the Caribbean and Pacific coasts! We then have a further drive to the start of our trek, which takes us uphill on relatively good tracks though farmland and jungle before a challenging descent takes us on a narrow mud track through rainforest to the banks of the Rio Pacuare. Time permitting, there may be a chance for a refreshing river swim on arrival. Night camp.
Day 8: Rafting Rio Pacuare
Raft approx 4 – 5 hrs; trek approx 1 hr
After breakfast we prepare ourselves for a day of rafting! We will be rafting for around 30km (19 miles), which will take about 4 or 5 hours, depending upon the water level. The beautiful stretch of water includes several white-water rapids (grade III – IV; no experience necessary) but also plenty of time to sit back and enjoy the scenery. This is considered one of the best rafting rivers in the Americas, not just because of its exciting waters, but also because of the lush vegetation that surrounds it. There is a chance to swim in the river, and keep your eyes open for wildlife – there’s often a better chance of glimpsing creatures from the river than when walking through the dense vegetation. We will trek up to a waterfall and have a break for lunch during the course of the day, but this will be an exhilarating day that becomes a trip highlight for many. We camp again on the banks of the Pacuare River.
Day 9: Rio Pacuare – Caribbean Coast
Drive approx 2 hrs; trek approx 12km / 3 - 4 hrs
After an early breakfast and a last look at the river, we meet our vehicles and have a lovely drive along the beautiful palm-tree-lined coastline towards Cahuita National Park. The final section of our Costa Rica trek takes us, very aptly, along the beach – a wonderful end to our challenge! Our wide, level track turns into a narrow trail which winds alongside the white sands of the Caribbean coast. We may see wildlife such as capuchin and howler monkeys and crab-eating raccoons. We reach our hotel in the small town of Cahuita, and for the first time in a week can enjoy the comforts of a hotel! We meet later in the evening for a slap-up barbeque and celebrate our huge achievement. Night hotel.
Day 10: Cahuita
Cahuita’s black-sand beach is within walking distance of the town, and you can swim or surf in the warm Caribbean waters. Slightly further away there are white-sand beaches and coral reefs perfect for snorkelling, and the Cahuita National Park with its diverse wildlife. We have the day free to relax and enjoy our surroundings. Night hotel. (Lunch and dinner not included)
Day 11: Depart San Jose
Drive 5 – 6 hrs
We have an early morning drive back to San Jose and to the airport for our afternoon flight back to the UK. (Occasionally flights depart in the morning, in which case we’ll drive to San Jose the evening before). (Lunch not included if not in-flight).
Day 12: Arrive UK
Discover Adventure reserves the right to change the route or itinerary for safety reasons should local conditions dictate.
The cost includes all accommodation as well as all flights and transport; camping equipment (except sleeping bag and sleeping mat); all meals except three as specified in the itinerary; white-water rafting equipment, guides and instruction; entrance to Reserves and any sites visited as part of the itinerary. Experienced Discover Adventure leaders and doctor (depending on final group size) are also included, along with a local support crew of horses, guides, cooks and drivers.
It does not include personal travel insurance, airline fuel supplement if charged by the airline, (capped at £200 by Discover Adventure), three meals as specified, tips for local crew, or international departure tax. It also does not include any entrance fees to any optional sites or attractions. Remember to allow extra for drinks, souvenirs and other personal expenses. Please note that costs may fluctuate and we have no control over any changes. We strongly recommend you carry a credit card in case of personal emergency.
Group flights leave from London Heathrow or Gatwick, (we regret that we are unable to book connecting flights), and are booked through Discover Adventure Ltd under ATOL licence 5636. By travelling with Discover Adventure you are protected by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). We are most likely to fly with Iberia Airlines, however, we don’t always fly with the same airline so this is a guideline only. You will usually receive confirmed flight details several months before departure. Our itineraries are always based on current flight schedules and are therefore subject to change by the airline. If you prefer to book your own flights please ask us for a land-only cost.
We camp for 7 nights during the trek in a combination of tents and wooden sleeping-platforms or rooms that are usually part of a homestead or permanent camp. Some have facilities such as kitchens, dining areas, toilets and showers, others are a little more basic. They are wonderful places to stay, often with open-sided verandahs looking out at incredible views. When in tents you will be sharing with another person on the challenge; in homestead rooms we bed down on the floor in larger groups. The remainder will be in hotels which are comfortable, clean and with private facilities, but not luxurious. Please do not expect the same standards as you would in the UK!
All food is included except three meals as specified in the itinerary. The food is great and there is plenty of it.
Being vegetarian or having other dietary requirements is not usually a problem provided you let us know well in advance. Please do not expect as much variety as you would have access to at home – we will be in rural areas and among people of a different culture who may not understand your requirements, however willing they are to help. If you know there are plenty of foods you cannot eat you may wish to bring extra snacks from home so you can top up your energy supply. Please feel free to ask us for advice. Any meals not included are listed in the itinerary and are generally when we are in towns or cities and you are free to explore and try other culinary experiences! There is always something to suit every budget.
Discover Adventure Crew
Your trip will be led by experienced Discover Adventure leaders. Our leaders are selected for their experience in harsh wilderness environments, knowledge of travel in remote areas, friendliness and approachability, sense of humour and ability to safely and effectively deal with any situation that arises. You are in very safe hands with a Discover Adventure leader.
All our leaders are from the UK or other English-speaking countries. Most work for us on an ad-hoc basis and have ‘real’ jobs in-between trips! We never send our leaders to the same destination for months on end – we want them to be as enthusiastic about your trip as you are. Although our leaders are trained in expedition first-aid, they are accompanied by an expedition doctor or medic (dependent on group size), who is there to look after the well-being of the whole group and deal with any incidents. They help the leaders to ensure the trip runs smoothly and encourage you when things get tough. The number of crew looking after you will depend on the final size of your group, but an average-sized group in Costa Rica would be led by two leaders and a doctor. At Discover Adventure we pride ourselves on our high leader: trekker ratio and believe it leads to greater trip enjoyment as well as excellent trip safety.
Local Support Crew
Our local support crew is made up of local guides, drivers and cooks, and horses where appropriate. Your local guide knows the local area well, and is a great source of knowledge about local customs and lifestyles. Drivers, cooks and horse-men do not always speak English but are very friendly and approachable. The Discover Adventure crew work closely with the local crew to ensure your trip runs smoothly and safely. Your leader will arrange a collection of tips for the local support crew at the end of your trek. Tipping is not obligatory, but once you see how hard they work on your behalf you will be happy to donate something! All our local crew are paid wages, but bear in mind that the average wage in this country is far below what you would spend on a normal night out.
Vehicles take the group to the start of the trek and pick us up at the end. All luggage, food, water and camping equipment is carried by vehicles or horses. Space in camp is limited and hard-sided luggage is not recommended, so we suggest your kit is packed in a soft rucksack or expedition kitbag. Ask us about our specially-designed low-cost kitbags if you don’t have one already. Bags must be waterproofed – wrap the contents in durable plastic bags, especially your bedding. You should bring a small daypack to carry for items needed during the day as you will not have access to your main luggage until the evening.
Your safety, and that of the rest of the group, is our highest priority. Our trips are designed and planned with safety in mind. Your crew will be equipped with radios and emergency satellite phones, extensive medical kit and other safety apparatus where necessary. They always have access to our 24-hour emergency UK back-up. Our leaders are responsible for safety on the trip, and will make any changes to the itinerary they deem necessary should local conditions dictate. Pre-trip administration – such as compulsory medical questionnaires and travel insurance – is all done with your safety in mind.
Preparing for the challenge
Terrain varies from clear wide tracks and small village roads to muddy, root-covered, slippery paths in the rainforest. This terrain is very challenging. There are many steep inclines and descents, made more challenging in wet conditions. There are also many stream/river crossings in the rainforest; leaders and guides are always on hand to help you cross. You will trek approximately 95km on this trip overall.
Clothing & Equipment
We are travelling through remote terrain where we could be exposed to bad weather at any time so be prepared for quickly changing conditions and temperatures. We provide you with a detailed packing kit-list on registration, as well as details on useful discounts you are entitled to as a Discover Adventure customer. We are always available if you need advice.
The weather will vary based on the ecosystem and our elevation: in hillier regions it may be cooler at night. Generally, it will be hot and humid. When in a rainforest it rains – expect to get wet!
Our challenges attract people of all levels of experience and fitness, all ages and backgrounds. We expect all participants to train hard in advance to achieve this challenge, but we respect everyone’s limits. We design our challenges so that everyone can go at their own pace: this is not a race. For logistical and safety reasons we sometimes need to re-group, so the front-runners will find themselves waiting for the slower ones. Please relax, and remember that this is a team effort that enables people to achieve their personal goals and earn sponsorship.
All safety equipment will be provided, along with a full safety briefing and support staff. It does not matter if you have never been white-water rafting before – you just need a sense of adventure! Rafting is a participatory team event, so your paddle is not just for decoration, but between the rapids the river is calm and beautiful – relax and enjoy it!
Passport & Visa
A valid ten-year passport is essential; it should be valid for at least six months after return from Costa Rica. There is currently no visa requirement for UK citizens. Other nationalities should check entry requirements.
We insist that you have had a Tetanus injection in the last ten years, and highly recommend protection against Polio, Hepatitis A and Typhoid. Although malaria is not prevalent in the majority of the regions we trek through, there is a risk in the coastal areas where we finish. We therefore strongly advise you to take malarial prophylaxis. A Yellow Fever certificate is essential only if arriving from an infected country. You should always check with a GP or travel clinic for up-to-date travel health advice as it does change.
Worldwide Sustainable Tourism
Long before Responsible or Sustainable Tourism became a recognised phrase, we designed and ran our trips to ensure they made minimum impact on the environment and a positive impact on the local communities we pass through.
Discover Adventure Projects
We are supporting a tree-planting project in Peru and a children’s home in Tanzania on a long-term basis. If you would like to ‘give something back’ please consider donating £5 to our projects when you sign up.
We encourage all our customers to offset emissions connected with their trip. You can offset at any time in the lead-up to departure by visiting Climate Care via our website and making a donation to a worthwhile project supported by them. Alternatively, if you wish to take more practical action in the UK you can volunteer for a day with TCV and work on an environmental project local to you. Work may include construction footpaths, dry stone walling, creating wildlife habitats or planting trees in your community. Volunteer today at http://www.tcv.org.uk/volunteering or call 01302 388883.
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The human story
Sara Walked the Great Wall
I completed The Great Wall of China in April 2010. My target to raise was £3,600 but I actually raised a staggering £9210.51 for the Helen Rollason Cancer Charity.