David E. Smith, Professor of Environmental Science

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$3,995 per person, double occupancy, land only
$895 single supplement
Optional Panama and the Canal Extension: $1,920

~Airfare from Washington Dulles to San José as of June 14, 2011 was $600


This eight-day exploration of Costa Rica is a dream-come-true for any nature enthusiast.  With over 25 percent of its land consisting of reserves, Costa Rica is home to 850 species of birds, hundreds of waterfalls, pristine beaches, tropical rainforests and cloud forests along with a wide array of animals from the white-faced monkey to sloths and iguanas.  We will explore these wonders from the best possible perspectives, including boarding a safari touring boat to observe the wildlife of a tropical river to soaring above the rainforest canopy on suspended bridges to appreciate the majesty of the forest below.

In addition, there will be a visit to a butterfly farm, a chance to observe the immense crater of Poás Volcano, one of the largest in the world and two-days to explore Manuel Antonio National Park and its spectacular jagged coastline, sheltered tide pools and beaches.  You will not be able to help but feel more alive after visiting Costa Rica—one of the planet’s most colorful and vibrant destinations.

Join the optional extension and continue on to Panama, one of Latin America’s best-kept travel secrets. As a land bridge between the two continents of the Western Hemisphere, the Panamanian biosphere is a fascinating intersection of the fauna and flora of both North and South America. Visit verdant forests teeming with wildlife. Take an unforgettable voyage from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean through the Panama Canal, one of humankind’s greatest engineering achievements. This extension is a wonderful compliment to our time in Costa Rica.

Program Highlights

  • Explore the famous Monteverde Cloud Forest in the Tilaran Mountains, one of the most outstanding sanctuaries in Central America
  • Visit the Manuel Antonio National Park, a small preserve that extends tothe beautiful white-sand beaches of the Pacific Ocean and has an unparalleled diversity of wildlife
  • Spot endangered scarlet macaws at the Carara Biological Reserve, which offers refuge to one of the largest remaining wild populations in Costa Rica
  • Observe the immense crater of the active Poás Volcano
  • Delight in the La Paz Waterfall Garden, a place of great biodiversity, five majestic waterfalls, the largest enclosed butterfly observatory in the world, trails with viewing platforms and hummingbird and orchid gardens
  • Enhance your experience with teaching by renowned U.Va. and local naturalist guides


David E. Smith, Professor of Environmental Science

Dave Smith is a Professor of Environmental Science at the University of Virginia and Associate Chair of the department. Dave is an expert in biological oceanography, marine ecology and invertebrate zoology. He teaches about everything from the biology of coastal communities and coral reefs to the science of predator-prey relationships. Every summer, Dave takes U.Va. students to a research island in the Bahamas to study coral reefs and most years he takes a group to Belize to study the jungle and marshes. During the journey, he will speak on topics including the jungles of Costa Rica, cloud forests, coastal environments of the Pacific rim, the science behind the development of coral islands and will teach about the organisms to be seen on the trip. Dave earned his Ph.D. at Texas A&M.


1 -

San José, Costa Rica

Arrive in San José, Costa Rica. Transfer to hotel.

Accommodations: Doubletree Hotel Cariari by Hilton
Meals: Meals Aloft, Light Refreshment at Hotel

2 -

San José / Poás Volcano

This morning, after a brief orientation, we’ll drive to Poás Volcano, one of the few active volcanoes on the continent. We drive to the top where, on a clear day, we will be able to observe the active fumaroles and lake at the bottom of the immense crater, one of the largest in the world. We’ll visit La Paz Waterfall Garden, a place of great biodiversity, five majestic waterfalls, the largest enclosed butterfly observatory in the world, trails with viewing platforms and hummingbird and orchid gardens. In the late afternoon, we’ll return to our hotel for our opening dinner.

Accommodations: Doubletree Hotel Cariari by Hilton
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

3-4 -

Monteverde Cloud Forest

Today, we depart for a two-day visit to Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, one of the most outstanding wildlife sanctuaries in Central America. In this enchanting place, winds cause sheets of mist to envelope the reserve in a blanket of moisture. Many of the trees are shrouded with moss and epiphytes, lending a magical feeling to the forest. This private reserve is home to over 400 species of birds, including the Resplendent Quetzal, considered the most spectacular bird of the Americas. Delight in the bromeliads, orchids and tree ferns of this misty cloud forest. After a hike in the Reserve, we stop at the Hummingbird Gallery, where we find several species of hummingbirds attracted by feeders. During our stay we will enjoy a bird’s eye view of the canopy from a combination of suspended bridges and platforms.

Accommodations: Montaña Monteverde
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner for both days

5 -

Santa Elena Reserve

This morning we depart for a nature walk in the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve, home to its own unique ecosystem that includes spider monkeys not found in Monteverde. The community of Santa Elena borders the Monteverde Conservation area in the Cordillera de Tilaran of Central Costa Rica. You will have the afternoon free for further exploration of Santa Elena town or the cloud forest.

Accommodations:Montaña Monteverde
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

6 -

Manuel Antonio National Park

We depart Monteverde on a fascinating downhill drive to the scenic Pacific Coast. We stop at Carara Biological Reserve, sheltering one of Costa Rica’s most biologically diverse ecosystems and largest population of the endangered scarlet macaw. Aboard a safari touring boat, we will search the Tárcoles River for crocodiles and a variety of water birds, including roseate spoonbills, herons and storks. We’ll proceed to Manuel Antonio National Park, where we will spend the next two nights.

Accommodations: Hotel El Parador
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

7 -

Manuel Antonio National Park

This morning we will explore Manuel Antonio National Park and take walks in the forest as well as along the beaches. Located near Quepos on the Pacific Coast, it is considered one of the most beautiful and scenic parks in the extensive Costa Rica park system. Pristine white-sand beach is backed by a lush tropical forest teeming with endangered squirrel monkeys, white-faced and howler monkeys, two-toed sloths, agoutis and iguanas. We may also spot coatis, armadillos and parrots. Above all, it is the spectacular jagged coastline, exquisite sheltered tide pools, abundant marine life and beaches that have given this park its popular reputation. The afternoon is unscheduled to enjoy the beach, visit Quepos or just relax by the pool at the hotel.

Accommodations: Hotel El Parador
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch Dinner

8 -

Pacific Coast / San José

This morning we’ll depart for San Jose and enjoy a short tour of the city’s major sights. Later, visit the neighborhood of Moravia, where artisans create handicrafts out of precious tropical hardwoods. Tonight, we’ll enjoy a festive farewell dinner.

Accommodations: Doubletree Hotel Cariari by Hilton
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

9 -

San José / U.S.

After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your return flight home, or continue on to Panama City for the optional extension.

Meals: Breakfast

Panama Post-Trip Extension: March 9-12, 2012

The price of the extension is $1,920 per person, land/cruise only. We will help you coordinate international air from Costa Rica to Panama City.

DAY 9 – Friday, March 9
San José / Panama City
Arrive Panama City on a flight from Costa Rica. Tour the Biodiversity Museum, pending confirmation of its inauguration. This evening we’ll gather for cocktails, dinner and an orientation.

Accommodations: Gamboa Rainforest Resort
Meals: Dinner

DAY 10 – Saturday, March 10
Panama Canal Crossing
Early this morning we transfer to Balboa to embark the Pacific Queen, a 284-ton German built cruiser with a capacity for 300 passengers for an up close tour through the Panama Canal, a wonder of the world with its magnificent feats of engineering. We enter the Miraflores and Pedro Miguel Locks, which will elevate our ship 85 feet above sea level. Some 52 million gallons of fresh water from Gatun Lake are needed to fill the locks for this purpose. Electric locomotives or mulas (mules) tow and stabilize ships on their way into the locks. Next we navigate through the Gaillard Cut, the narrowest part of the canal, known as the “spinal cord” of the Continental Divide. Just before reaching the Gatun locks on the Caribbean side of the Panama Canal, you will see Gatun Dam. The locks at Gatun will lower the ship 26 meters to sea level in three steps. Lunch is aboard the Pacific Queen. We will disembark at the port of Cristobal and return by bus to our hotel.

Accommodations: Gamboa Rainforest Resort
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

DAY 11 – Sunday, March 11
Barro Colorado
Early this morning we leave for the town of Gamboa where we will board our launch that will take us across the canal to the renowned Barro Colorado Island Nature Monument administered by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI). Barro Colorado Island is an international center for tropical research. Within the lush inlets we will watch for Crested Guan, Sungrebe, Rufescent Tiger Heron, Chestnut mandibled Toucan, Howler and Capuchin Monkeys, American Crocodile, Green Iguana and the splendid Morpho Butterfly. We proceed to Gigante Station on the adjacent peninsula where we enjoy a short hike in the forest with our naturalist guide. Here we will look for Coatis, Collared Peccaries and Agoutis. Enjoy a picnic lunch at Gigante Station. This evening we’ll enjoy a colorful Panamanian folkloric show and dinner.

Accommodations: Gamboa Rainforest Resort
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 12 – Monday, March 12
Casco Viejo / Panama City / U.S.
This morning we’ll visit Casco Viejo or Old Compound, where Panama City was relocated in 1673 after pirate Sir Henry Morgan’s invasion of the original royal city. Panama’s “second city” is a mix of colonial architecture, iron clad balconies, cobblestone streets and monuments. Here we’ll tour Saint Joseph’s Church, see its golden altar and learn how a priest concealed the altar’s value from Morgan by whitewashing it. We’ll also tour the famous French Quarter and the Canal Museum. Transfer to the airport for our flight back to the U.S.

Meals: Breakfast


  • Doubletree Hotel Cariari by Hilton, San José
  • Montaña Monteverde, Monteverde Cloud Forest
  • Hotel El Parador, Manuel Antonio National Park
  • Extension: Gamboa Rainforest Resort, Panama City


8 Breakfasts, 7 Lunches, 7 Dinners

Program Fees

$3,995 per person, double occupancy, land only.

A limited number of single rooms are available for a supplement of $895 to the per person, double occupancy rates.

Price includes:

  • Professional Costa Rican naturalist guide
  • Driver(s) and their expenses
  • All land arrangements specified in the itinerary, including:
    • 8-nights hotel accommodations including:
      • Three nights lodging in San José at Doubletree Cariari by Hilton standard rooms
      • Three nights lodging in Monteverde at Montaña Monteverde superior rooms
      • Two nights lodging in Quepos (Manuel Antonio) at deluxe Parador Hotel in Garden rooms
      • All meals (22), starting with breakfast on day 2 (8 breakfasts, 7 lunches and 7 dinners)
  • Entrance fees to all National Parks and reserves
  • Sightseeing in San José
  • Jungle River Safari on the Tárcoles River on the way to Quepos
  • Entrance fee and visit to hanging bridges or zipline in Monteverde and butterfly farm
  • Baggage handling and airport transfers for group flights
  • All service charges and taxes, including 13% tax on lodging and meals and 10% service on meals
  • Cooler with ice and bottled water in the bus at all times.
  • Airline ticketing service for those passengers requesting it.
  • Pre-departure materials including a Reading List and a Travel Guide.

Does not include:
International domestic U.S. or the extension’s San Jose/Panama City in-tour airfare; departure taxes and airport fees; alcoholic beverages other than wine or beer at welcome and farewell dinner; airport transfers for those not on group flights; excess baggage charges; personal items such as laundry, email or telephone calls; room service; passport and visa fees; medical expenses; travel insurance; optional extensions or deviations from the scheduled tour; fuel surcharges; tip to naturalist guides.

Please note: While we will do everything possible to maintain the listed prices, if there is a significant change in the value of the dollar, a sharp rise in the cost of fuel or fuel charges, or other unanticipated circumstances, there may be a slight increase in the cost of the program.

Panama and the Canal Extension Price includes:

* Local naturalist guides
* Driver(s) and their expenses
* All land arrangements specified in the itinerary, including:

3-nights hotel accommodations at the Gamboa Rainforest Resort in deluxe Riverview rooms
and Meals as indicated in the itinerary (3 breakfasts, 3 lunches and 2 dinners)
* Entrance fees to reserves and museums
* Complete transit of the Panama Canal (ocean to ocean)
* Sightseeing in Panama City
* Baggage handling and airport transfers for group flights
* All service charges and taxes, including 10% tax on lodging and meals and 7% service on meals
* Cooler with ice and bottled water in the bus at all times.
* Airline ticketing service for those passengers requesting it.

General Terms & Conditions

CANCELLATIONS AND REFUNDS: Refunds, less a cancellation fee of $350 per person, are made if we are notified in writing on or before December 12, 2011. No refunds are made after that date. There are no refunds for unused meals, accommodations, or other trip features.

TRAVEL INSURANCE: We strongly recommend the purchase of trip cancellation insurance. An application for travel insurance will be available upon confirmation and with the final payment invoice. Royal Adventures accepts no liability for any airline cancellation penalty incurred by the purchase of a non-refundable airline ticket or other expenses incurred by tour participants in preparing for the tour.

Royal Adventures (CST #2009579-40), its owners and employees act only as agents for the various independent suppliers and contractors providing transportation, hotel accommodations, restaurant and other services connected with this tour. Such travel and services are subject to the terms and conditions under which such accommodations, services and transportation are offered or provided, and University of Virginia and Royal Adventures and their respective, employees, agents, representatives, and assigns, accept no liability therefore. University of Virginia and Royal Adventures, assume no liability for any injury, damage, loss, accident, delay or other irregularity which may be caused by the defect of any aircraft or vehicle or the negligence or default of any company or person engaged in carrying out or performing any of the services involved. Additionally, responsibility is not accepted for losses, injury, damages or expenses of any kind due to sickness, weather, strikes, local laws, hostilities, wars, terrorist acts, acts of nature or other such causes. All services and accommodations are subject to the laws of the country in which they are provided. University of Virginia and Royal Adventures reserve the right to make changes in the published itinerary whenever, in their sole judgment, conditions warrant, or if they deem it necessary for the comfort, convenience or safety of the tour participants. They reserve the right to withdraw this tour without penalty. The right is also reserved to decline to accept or retain any person as a member of the tour, or to substitute another qualified leader or special guest. Baggage and personal effects are the sole responsibility of the owners at all times. The price of the program is given in good faith based on current tariffs and rates, and is subject to change. Any tariff, exchange rate, security surcharge or fuel increases will be passed onto participants. Neither University of Virginia nor Royal Adventures accept the liability for any airline cancellation penalty incurred by the purchase of a nonrefundable airline ticket. The air ticket when issued shall constitute the sole contract between the passenger and the airline concerned. As part of the consideration and right to participate in this tour, each participant will be asked to sign a liability release.