Costa Rica, Cuba, Galapagos and Ecuadorian Amazon Lodge. We had planned the trip around wildlife viewing plus a Cuban experience. The wildlife in Costa Rica, particularly birds, was outstanding. Cuba lived up to expectations with great music, awesome cars and fascinating history. As Darwin enthusiasts Galápagos Islands was all we expected and still managed to surprise on a daily basis. Four nights in the Amazon at Napo Lodge was a great finale to an outstanding holiday.
Why choose this trip?
Come with us and explore the pristine protected rain forest teeming with monkeys, tropical birds and sloths along the Caribbean Coast and then venture inland to experience different habitats, including a mist-shrouded cloud forest, a smouldering volcano, and picturesque lake. Add to that the rhythms of salsa, Cuba’s unique culture and mystical Mayan Ruins for an unforgettable journey on our Costa Rica, Cuba and Mexico tour.
What’s the Activity level?
We see and do a lot in three weeks, so there is quite a bit of travelling, but there is also time for relaxation, enjoying the beaches and free time in the local villages. This trip gives you a fabulous overview of three very different cultures, their way of life plus the history of Cuba.
What’s the transport and accommodation like?
Transport is a variety of private vans, taxis and flights. Even though there are about four long travel days and a couple of very early starts, we aim to make this trip fun, rewarding and the trip of a lifetime.
The hotels have private facilities and are typically locally owned small family run establishments. We stay in two eco lodges while in Costa Rica and in Cuba the home stay rooms are all very comfortable and clean, and the families will try to make you feel at home as much as possible.
*All our tours are non-smoking
Duration: 24 days San Jose to Cancun
Trip focus: Wildlife of Costa Rica, Cuban culture, music & history.
Accommodation: 14 nights hotels, 2 nights Eco Lodges, 7 nights Cuban home stay
Transport: Flight, van, launch, local bus
Group size: Maximum 12 + S.E.T. tour leader, Minimum 4
Single supplement: US$655 limited availability
- Bilingual tour leader and local expert guides
- All breakfasts, other meals as listed
- Guided boat trip on Tortuguero Canal
- Turtle Conservation Centre visit (as night walks to nesting grounds are not operating)
- Hot springs entry in La Fortuna
- Horse ride on the way to Monteverde – or van/boat/van if not riding
- Monteverde Cloud forest guided walk
- Coffee tour (with Ox cart if available that day)
- Manuel Antonio guided walk
- Half day walking tour of old Havana
- Cuban culture, music and dinner night
- Afro Cuban Religion tour in Havana
- Che Guevara Memorial museum in Santa Clara
- Guided visit to Chichen Itza Mayan Site
- All land and air transport during the itinerary from San Jose to Cancun
- The cost of entry and tips for all included tours
- Local payment of US$400
- All hotel accommodations
- Your Cuban Tourist card is included and will be obtained for you in Panama.
- Tips for all local guides at all included excursions
WHAT’S NOT INCLUDED:
- International Fights
- Airport departure taxes
- Travel Insurance
- Pre & post tour accommodation,
- Visas except Cuban Tourist Card,
- Meals (except those listed),
- Drinks, laundry, souvenirs, tips for you tour leader or meals, and other items of a personal nature.
All prices are subject to change and currency fluctuations until final payment has been made.
Most of our adventure tours involve a local payment. Paying locally allows us to keep the overall cost of our tours competitive and pass the savings on to you. These funds are put towards local expenses. In some developing countries the transferring of funds is at times problematic so this is a way to help us serve you, whilst saving you money. Payment is to be made to your leader upon arrival in cash.
All prices are approximate and subject to currency fluctuations until final payment has been made.
DAY 1 – ARRIVAL DAY SAN JOSE
You will be met on arrival at San Jose Airport and transferred to your hotel and you will be given a time to meet in in the hotel lobby for a trip briefing.
Located in the central highlands, San José enjoys a moderate climate. The heat and humidity of the coast and lowland areas may affect you, with a general sense of lethargy and/or loss of appetite. This is no cause for alarm, it is simply your body’s reaction to the heat. Be sure to drink plenty of water (bottled water is available everywhere) and do not attempt too much in any given day. We prefer fan-cooled rather than air-conditioned rooms to avoid having to acclimatize to the heat and humidity every time you go outside. This is also an eco-friendlier approach.
Start your exploration of the city in the main plaza, a great place to people-watch. A mime, juggler, marimba band, magician, or storyteller may be performing for whatever is collected when the hat is passed. Artisan booths are common, creating a regular arts and crafts fair atmosphere. A source of pride for the ticos (as Costa Ricans are known) is the National Theatre. Inaugurated in 1897, the building was paid for by coffee growers through a voluntary tax on every bag of coffee exported. The National Museum, housed in the Bellavista Fortress, offers exhibits on pre- Columbian art, colonial art and furniture and religious art within a 19th century building that was converted from a military fortress after the army was abolished.
Meals Included: None
DAY 2 – SAN JOSE
Today we’ll take you on an insightful walking tour of San Jose. This tour will show you the hidden secrets and the beautiful architecture with our wonderful guide. The tour includes a visit to the famous central market, where you will be given a chance to sample some of the unusual fruits of Costa Rica. The tour will finish the at the gold museum which is in the centre of town and you’ll also have time to explore the city on your own or return to the hotel recover from jetlag. This evening you’ll be treated to a welcome dinner. Note that meals in Costa Rica are BIG! Restaurants do not mind if you ask to share a plate, you can always order more.
Meals included: Breakfast and Dinner
DAYS 3 & 4 – TORTUGUERO NATIONAL PARK
Begin with a ride over the mountains to join our boat which takes us to Tortuguero, with spectacular wildlife viewing en route. The unique village has walking paths that extend into the National Park and is bordered by the canals on one side and the Caribbean on the other.
Tortuguero National Park was created in 1975 to protect the four species of sea turtles which nest along the beaches. The approximately half-day boat ride along rivers and canals starts just outside the town of Limón and ends in the village of Tortuguero, just outside the park perimeter. We may see herons, egrets, spoonbills, as well as amphibians and reptiles like the “Jesus Lizard” (it walks on water) and caimans. The tropical rainforest gives way to prime beaches, ideal nesting grounds for Green, Loggerhead, Hawksbill and Leatherback Turtles. The latter nests from mid- March to May, the rest from July to September. The Caribbean Conservation Center, just outside of town, is an excellent source of information about the turtles and their tropical habitat.
Meals Included: 2 Breakfasts, 2 Lunches and 2 Dinners
DAY 5 – LA FORTUNA
This morning we travel the waterways of Tortuguero to La Pavona (water level permitting, otherwise Peñas Blancas), where we’ll be picked up and taken to La Fortuna, the town near the foot of Arenal Volcano, an excellent stopover for a night. The winding route is beautiful, and we’ll stop for lunch on the way as it is a long ride to Arenal. Once everyone is settled in, there will be time to walk around the grounds to find the perfect spot for a stunning photo of the Volcano, then we can head for a relaxing soak in the Hot Springs. The late afternoon and early evening are the perfect time to enjoy a cocktail or two in this unique setting.
Meals Included: Breakfast
DAYS 6 to 8 – MONTEVERDE CLOUD FOREST
Today we will travel to Monteverde by taxi-boat-taxi, the fastest way between the two places. The journey is by a shared motorized, covered boat across Arenal Lake at the foot of the Volcano, followed by land transport up the winding road to Monteverde. The scenery makes up for the rough road!
Spend two and half days exploring the Monteverde area and the Forest Reserve, ideal for nature lovers. Your tour leader Janet, lives in Monteverde and is extremely knowledgeable about the area and passionate about conservation of this precious ecosystem. We include a morning guided visit to the Monteverde Cloud Forest reserve. While we are here we will visit the hummingbird garden at the Monteverde Reserve. During the afternoon, we’ll take a tour to a coffee plantation and we may be lucky enough to take a short ride on a traditional ox cart. If anyone is interested, Janet and her husband Marvin, own a horseback riding establishment and there may be an opportunity to see Marvin training his beautiful horses. There will be a list of the optional activities and prices. These will be organized on arrival in Monteverde, with a detailed explanation of what they all entail.
Meals Included: 3 Breakfasts and 1 Dinner
DAYS 9 & 10 – MANUEL ANTONIO NATIONAL PARK
From the cool, misty mountain air of the Monteverde cloud forest we travel by van to the Pacific coast and the Manuel Antonio national park. Along the way, we will stop at the Tarcoles River where from the bridge you will have an opportunity to view some giant crocodiles! Enjoy spectacular views down to the sea as we travel to the sparkling Pacific coast. Set in lush forest, with troops of Squirrel and Capuchin Monkeys, we have a morning guided tour of the park and the rest of the time here is yours to enjoy: Your guide will talk to you about what you are allowed to bring into the park. After the tour you can explore more of the national park, raft the Naranjo River, take a kayak tour through the Damas mangrove estuary, or soak up the sun on beautiful Espadilla beach. If the evening is clear your guide will take you on the local bus to the Mariposa Inn, which was listed in the book ‘1000 Places to See Before You Die’, principally for its world-class views. Here you can have a quick drink before heading off to eat dinner.
On the way from Monteverde to Manuel Antonio we will stop at a large supermarket, here you may consider buying snacks for Cuba (power bars, nuts, small bottles of shampoo, deodorant etc). This is the best place to buy things as in the old part of Panama there are no supermarkets and you may not find what you want. In Cuba you may be surprised by the emptiness of local food shops (besides tourist items) and the very limited choice of essential items.
Meals included: 2 Breakfasts
DAYS 11 & 12 – PANAMA CITY & THE CANAL
Transfer by van directly to the airport for our flight to Panama City. A city of contrasts between the high rises nestled against a backdrop of lush green hillsides, and of old colonial Panama City. Take a tour of the city and the canal to find out more about this engineering marvel.
Meals included: 2 Breakfasts
DAY 13 – HAVANA CUBA
An early start takes us by van directly to the airport for our morning flight to Havana, Cuba. On arrival, you’ll be met by our local Cuban guide and taken to your homestay accommodation. They will also show you how and where to change money, grab something to eat and will make a time to meet you later that evening. Havana grew from an obscure port to a bustling hub when gold and silver was being taken by the Spanish from New World to Spain. While the ships gathered in growing numbers, the treasures resting in Cuba’s ports were attacked again and again by pirates, Dutch, English and French. The Spanish built fort after fort for protection but the English eventually captured the territory in 1762. An economic boom followed due to the English lifting the Spanish trade restrictions. Spain eventually exchanged the Florida territory with England to regain the island, but these years left an indelible mark on the city and the country. Havana is slowly restoring its beautiful colonial buildings.
Meals Included: Breakfast
DAYS 14 & 15 – HAVANA WALKING TOUR AND VIÑALES
This morning you’ll enjoy a walking tour of the Old City. Havana’s Old City is one of the best preserved colonial cities in all of the Americas, and was designated a World Heritage Site in 1982. The streets are lined with colonial architecture, 16th century fortresses and countless churches. Please note we may set off to Viñales early this morning and leave the walking tour of Havana to the last day, this will be decided the night before by your Cuban guide.
Heading West from Havana towards the picturesque limestone pincushion hills (“mogotes”) of the Piñar del Rio province. A couple of hours drive later we arrive at Viñales, which is one of the most picturesque parts of Cuba. It is a small and culturally rich village, with friendly and welcoming residents and wide variety of outdoor activities available. We’ve included a half day tour exploring two caves on foot and by boat, visiting the pre-historic mural and a tobacco farm. It is one of the more agriculturally productive areas, and one of the cooler areas of Cuba, so it’s also a nice escape from the hotter parts of the country. The nightlife is very active in this village with the local residents very willing participants in dancing to the local live music. This is where you will get your first experience staying with a Cuban family. You’ll have time to check out the village and experience it at your own pace.
Meals Included: 2 Breakfasts
DAY 16 – CIENFUEGOS VIA BAY OF PIGS
We head to the French founded city of Cienfuegos and the Bay of Pigs. Cubans are known to be very proud people, and the citizens of Cienfuegos, call their town La Perla del Sur (the pearl of the south). Cienfuegos appeal lies partly in the European flavour of its colonial hub, with a wide Parisian-style boulevard and elegant colonnades, and there is an ambience to inspire Cuba’s most celebrated Son singer to write the words “Cienfuegos is the city I like best”.
Beyond Cienfuegos we travel along the picturesque Bay of Pigs past the site where the landing of counter-revolutionary exile militia occurred in 1961. We will also make stops at a beautiful swimming hole (cenote) which resembles a huge natural tropical fish tank, and if the conditions are favourable, at beach for snorkelling. The snorkels can be hired from local stalls near the beach.
Meals Included: Breakfast
DAYS 17 & 18 – TRINIDAD
The beautiful colonial city of Trinidad is home to numerous churches and many beautiful colonial buildings. We are near the lovely Valle de los Ingenios (Valley of the Sugar mills) and Playa Ancón, where you can enjoy long stretches of unspoiled, white sand beaches. Scuba diving, snorkelling, swimming in waterfalls, and horse-riding are other optional activities. Today your guide can organise a dance-class to learn the very basics of Salsa. It is made for absolute beginners and a great laugh. Not to be missed! There will also be a chance to go a beautiful beach for a couple of hours to cool off as it can be very hot in Trinidad. Your guide can organise a couple of Classic American Cars to take you to the beach and wait for you.
The nightlife in Trinidad is probably the most accessible and intense in all of Cuba, with numerous live music venues and many dance performances every day of the week, all amidst the enchanting setting of old colonial buildings and cobblestone streets.
Meals Included: 2 Breakfasts
DAY 19 & 20 – HAVANA
We head back to Havana via Santa Clara – a key city in the Revolution. It’s about a 4-hour bus ride through the flat central region of Cuba where there are some citrus plantations. Upon entering Santa Clara there is a huge statue of Ernesto Ché Guevara, to commemorate his death and that of the revolutionaries that died with him in Bolivia. We will visit an interesting museum here dedicated to his amazing life.
The options for the evening are exciting and include: dining in Havana’s China town; wandering through Old Havana – visiting bars, live music venues, and grand old hotels; going to the famous Tropicana Cabaret dance spectacular; and partying with the locals on the Malecón. On day 20 you’ll go on a fascinating Afro Cuban Religion tour, giving you even more insight to this unique country. In the evening your last night in Havana will be at a Cuban Music evening.
Meals included: 2 Breakfasts and 1 Dinner
DAYS 21 to 23 – PLAYA DEL CARMEN
Fly to Cancun and spend the last few of days in the bustling, vibrant tourist town of Playa del Carmen. We’ll be staying in the central part of town away from the resort hotels, but right near the most beautiful white sand beach. While we are here, a trip to the impressive Mayan site of Chichen Itza, is included. If you’d like to get away from the hustle and bustle of Playa, take a colectivo to Tulum ruins for 40 pesos each way (60km) and walk along the road to the beach. There you can swim, go on snorkelling trips and grab a lunch at a beach restaurant – superb fish Tacos! you also have the option of visiting Tulum Mayan site, which is small but spectacular. There will be an UNIQUE optional tour to swim with the Whale sharks (provided they are around during your visit).
Meals included: 3 Breakfasts and 1 Dinner
DAY 24 – DEPARTURE DAY CANCUN AIRPORT
Adios… Your trip ends here, we hope you had a fabulous experience.
Meals included: Breakfast
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Fabulous trip with surprises, contrasts, wildlife and culture at every turn – and great food and music! Loved every minute of it even though it was hot, hot, hot!!
Southern Exposure Tours have the skills and experience to organise their tours to a very high standard. The choice of itinerary is always interesting and well balanced. Clients benefit from the personal touch of the owners of the company who are always willing to go the extra mile to ensure the perfect holiday.
This was an excellent and well organised trip and we had a great time. The variety of plant and animal life in this part of the world especially Costa Rica is amazing although you need patience because of course the animals in the National Parks are not waiting to be photographed. Special thanks to our guide Janet who worked hard for the group. We would recommend that you insist on having her for your tour leader for this trip because English is her first language so it was easy to discuss complicated matters and share subtle jokes. We appreciated her invitation to visit her home and meet the family horses at Monteverde.
We have now done five trips with SET, which is a great indication of what we think of them. The trips have all been well planned and organized. Their leaders are carefully chosen, are friendly, knowledgeable and efficient and a lot of fun. We cannot speak more highly of Silvana, Nick and the team, and have no hesitation in recommending SET for a memorable overseas experience.
|Start Date||End Date||Availability||Cost|
|14th May 2021||6th Jun 2021||AVAILABLE||US$5,585|