Fantastic trip! This page is left up for  reference.  For an account of the trip, see my article


January 26-February 13, 2002

Harlan Hague


This tour simply covers the best of Central America. Costa Rica and Belize are natural paradises with rich histories and cultures. Each country has preserved the natural qualities of its environment while providing appropriate facilities for visitors. Home
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Our tour focuses on the land and wildlife, the sea and its fringes, and Mayan antiquities. In Costa Rica, we visit the major forest, coastal and volcano parks. We continue exploring the natural environment in Belize. Birdwatchers will think they are in heaven. Costa Rica alone has 850 species, Belize 540 species. Our guide will be skilled at identification of flora and fauna. We will marvel at the magnificent Mayan sites in Belize, and fly to Guatemala to visit Tikal, the principal Mayan ancient site.

Days 1  Fly to San José, Costa Rica
Fly to Costa Rica's capital city of San José. Relax and get ready for tomorrow's beginning. No jet lag problems here.
Balmoral Hotel

Day 2  San José-Arenal
Board our comfortable 25-seat bus, with plenty of room to stretch out. Our first stop today is the village of  Sarchi, known for its colorful   oxcarts and wooden handicrafts. From Sarchi we drive through rolling hills with green fields of sugar cane to the vicinity of Arenal Volcano. Even from a distance, the sound of the volcano's regular eruptions can be heard, and on a clear night lava flows can be seen. This evening we make an excursion to see Arenal's perfect conical shape with glowing red lava flowing down its slopes.
Hotel Valle Escondido

Day 3  Arenal-Monteverde Cloud Forest
Today we move from the turmoil of an angry earth belching steam and molten rock to the tranquillity and muted sounds of a cloud forest. Covered in a mantle of moss, ferns and orchids, Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is shaped by a combination of particular winds, temperature, moisture and mountainous topography. This is an enchanted, fairy-tale place, where the tall trees are laden with orchids, bromeliads, mosses and ferns, where the moisture and mild temperatures and sunlight filtered by the forest canopy encourage the growth of begonias, heliconias, philodendron and many other tropical plants. Leaves are gigantic, and vines hang from the high canopy. The forest is almost visibly growing and changing.

The variety of life in the cloud forest is staggering. More than 2000 plant species have been catalogued at Monteverde, including more than 500 kinds of trees, 300 orchids, and 200 ferns. Of over 320 bird species, the most notable is the quetzal, with its long tail feathers. Other species that we will be looking for include the three-wattled bellbird, the great green macaw, the bare-necked umbrellabird, the ornate hawk-eagle, assorted trogons and more than 50 varieties of hummingbirds. About 500 kinds of butterflies are found at Monteverde. Among the more than 100 mammalian species are howler, white-faced and spider monkeys, coatis, pumas, ocelots, jaguars, tapirs, kinkajous, and the golden toad. This is not to say that we will see all of these wonderful creatures, some of which are very elusive, but we'll keep a keen eye out.
Hotel Heliconia

Day 4 Monteverde Cloud Forest and Butterfly Garden
A full morning at Monterverde Cloud Forest. Enjoy the forest, and keep a sharp watch for any species that you didn't see yesterday. This afternoon we tour the Monteverde Butterfly Garden. Featuring local butterfly species, the garden's goal is preservation and education.
Hotel Heliconia

Day 5 Monteverde-Playa Grande/Tamarindo
Today we drive to the beautiful Playa Grande on the Pacific. On the Rio Matapalo estuary between Conchal and Tamarindo is Parque Nacional Marino las Baulas. The reserve was created to protect the nesting grounds of leatherback turtles. Playa Grande is one of the world’s most important spots for leatherback nesting. The huge turtles come ashore by the thousands to lay their eggs. If this is a normal season, we should see them.
Hotel Tamarindo Daria

Day 6   Quepos-Carara Biological Reserve
This morning, we travel along the Pacific Coast to the Carara Biological Reserve, home of the brilliant scarlet macaw of the parrot family. We'll also look for such exotic bird species as the black-hooded antshrike, dot-winged antwren, and animal species, including the three-toed sloth and American crocodiles. A fairly common sighting is the Harlequin poison-dart frog, charcoal black with flourescent-green markings. Later we drive to Manuel Antonio National Park, yet another unspoiled haven of natural beauty on the Pacific coast.
Hotel California

Days 7  Manuel Antonio National Park
Today we enjoy the incredible beauty of Manuel Antonio Park. The park encompasses a curving bay with sandy beaches, some shaded by green bordering forests, backed by dramatic cliffs. A network of trails winds through the forest fringe. Rocky islands are scattered about the bay. Manuel Antonio is one of the few places in Costa Rica where unspoiled primary forest grows right to the high-tide mark, allowing visitors to bathe at times in the shade.

Stroll along the beach where brightly colored fish and eels are temporarily stranded in tidal pools. Keep an eye out for monkeys, iguanas, and birds. Along the beach, we should see frigatebirds, pelicans, terns, and brown boobies. On the forest trails, we might see marmoset, the smallest of Costa Rican monkeys, white-faced and howler monkeys, racoons, pacas, opossums, and sloths. 
Hotel California

Day 8  Quepos-San José
Today we drive along the coast, then turn inland to drive through the countryside back to the capital city of San José. We'll arrive in San José in time for an escorted walking tour which will include the Gold Museum and Teatro Nacional.
Balmoral Hotel

Day 9  San José-Tortuguero
This morning we travel by bus from San José through the highlands of Braulio Carrillo National Park (Zurquí sector), a huge region of dripping and chilly virgin rain forest. Later, we visit a working banana plantation and pass through a region known for its cocoa production. At Porto Hambourg we board our riverboat and spend the afternoon moving through interconnecting streams and canals that take us finally to the Caribbean coast at Tortuguero Park.

Tortuguero is a complex interconnecting system of rivers, lagoons and estuaries, and man-made waterways, that runs almost to the Nicaraguan border. As we move through this waterland, we will be well rewarded with views of pastel-coloured toucans and macaws, monkeys swinging through the trees, sloths hanging from branches, American crocodiles taking the sun, and, if we are really lucky, we might see a coati, jaguar or ocelot that inhabit this forest. Stands of mangroves and water hyacinth line the streams.

Scattered along the way are people, too, fishermen and farmers whose dugouts serve as their transport, and women washing clothes outside their thatched huts. But mostly, the banks are wild, and the calls of monkeys and birds are the sounds most heard during our visit.
Hotel Ilan Ilan

Day 10  Tortuguero
Tortuguero Park is a fascinating region of jungle and canals. This morning, we'll walk through the lush coastal rain forest and along the beach. Keep your eyes open for the tiny red arrow frog, unique to this region. Tortuguero Beach is the only major nesting site of the endangered green turtle, but we're here at the wrong season for this spectacle. After lunch we visit the rustic village of Tortuguero, accessible only by river boat. In the afternoon, our boat will glide through canals where we will watch for animals and birds in the overhanging canopy. This is an especially good opportunity for close-up photography.
Hotel Ilan Ilan

Day 11 Tortuguero-San José-Guatemala City
This morning we travel by boat from Tortuguero back to the central highlands, thence by bus to San José, arriving in late afternoon. Fly to Guatemala City for an overnight.
Pan Americana

Day 12  Guatamala City-Flores-Tikal
We have a short flight to Flores where our bus picks us up and drives directly to Tikal National Park for a full day at the complex. The premier Mayan site in Central America, the huge park contains about 3,000 buildings in a lush green jungle setting. Dating from the 2nd century BC, the city's glory extended from 250 AD to 900 AD, housing a population of 100,000 at its peak. In addition to the  magnificent Mayan architecture, we should see a great variety of birds and animals in the park.
Hotel Camino Real

Day 13 Tikal-Lamanai
We'll spend the full morning exploring Tikal. In the afternoon, we return to Flores for the flight to Belize City airport. Here we board our bus for the drive directly to Lamanai for dinner and overnight.
Lamanai Outpost Lodge

Day 14 Lamanai and Crooked Tree
Lamanai is one of the most impressive Mayan ancient sites. The remote ruins of Lamanai--it can be reached only by boat--are 3,000 years old. This ceremonial center includes ball courts, pyramids and temples. The  jungle that surrounds Lamanai is home to a great number of bird and animal species.

Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary is a large reserve of inland waterways, swamps, and lagoons. It is a resting place for thousands of migrating birds, such as kites, tiger-herons, snowy egrets and ospreys. The reserve's most famous visitor is the rare Jabiru Stork, the largest flying bird in the western hemisphere with a wing span of eight feet.
Lamanai Outpost Lodge

Day 15 Lamanai-San Ignacio-Altun Ha
Today we visit Altun Ha, Belize's most extensively excavated Mayan site. Located very near the mouth of the Belize River, Altun Ha is believed to have been an important trading centre as well as a religious ceremonial centre. From Altun Ha, we drive to Bermudian Landing to explore the Community Baboon Sanctuary in search of the Black Howler Monkey. Although endangered, the howlers are usually seen or heard in this sanctuary. Next we visit the Guanacaste Park where the king of the forest, a huge Guanacaste or "Tubroos" tree, towers 40  feet above the forest floor. It shelters a large population of bromeliads, orchids, and ferns in its enormous limbs. We move on to peaceful San Ignacio, an agricultural area nestled in rolling forested hills and valleys with scattered clusters of houses.
San Ignacio Resort Hotel

Day 16  San Ignacio-Xunantanich and Panti Medicine Trail
From San Ignacio we drive to Xunantanich, a Classic-period ceremonial centre. The view of the forest is spectacular from the top of El Castillo, the largest structure in the complex at 132 feet high. The frieze on the side of El Castillo, with its abstract designs, human faces, and jaguar heads, is particularly striking. Three beautifully preserved stelae are on display. Not much is known about the history of Xunantanich except that it was abandoned after being hit by a massive earthquake around 900 AD. Like most other Mayan architecture, the structures here are layered, with new buildings erected on top of old ones.

In the afternoon we visit Panti Medicine Trail. The Maya were masters in the use of the jungle's resources for their practical and medicinal needs.  The trail winds through the jungle along the banks of the Macal River where we'll see medicinal plants and native hardwoods.
San Ignacio Resort Hotel

Day 17 San Ignacio-Dangriga
We've moved the past few days at a rather hectic pace. Today we will throttle down a bit. We'll take our time checking out, then drive leisurely from San Ignacio to Dangriga. In an area of mangrove lagoons, Dangriga is set on the Caribbean coast, close to the longest coral reef in the western hemisphere. The region has a rich cultural history, being the center of the Garifuna people. The Garifuna culture originated some 300 years ago when fugitive and shipwrecked African slaves found refuge on the Caribbean island of Saint Vincent and mixed with the native Caribs. The "Black Caribs," free people with black skins, were deported from St. Vincent by the British in the late 18th century and eventually found their way to Belize in the early 19th century. Take a break this afternoon, and relax at our comfortable hotel on the coast.
Pelican Beach Hotel

Day 18 Belize Barrier Reef (Dangriga)
Today we travel by boat to Belize's barrier reef. This is the world's second largest barrier reef, extending 180 miles along the coast. Swim off the boat, snorkel over the fantastic coral underworld, or just kick back on the boat and enjoy the spectacle. Snorkeling fins and masks (included) will be available on the boat.
Pelican Beach Hotel

Day 19  Dangriga-Belize City airport-U.S.
Pack up for the drive to the Belize City airport and the flight home. Some members will connect to flights to their homes today from Miami, and some will overnight in Miami since they will arrive too late in Miami to catch connecting flights.

Note: If you want more information on any feature in the itinerary, such as hotels, beaches, parks, sites, go to and do a search. For example, for more information on Tikal, type in "Tikal in Guatemala" without the quotation marks.

The tour price includes:

  • Transportation while on tour
  • Arrival and departure transfers if air booked through Adventures Abroad
  • Sightseeing and entrance fees
  • Shared accommmodation in 3 and 4 star hotels, or best available
  • breakfast and dinner daily
  • Service of an expert Adventures Abroad Tour Leader
  • Porter service where available
  • All gratuities (except for Adventures Abroad Tour Leader). Thus, one need not tip bus drivers, local guides, baggage handlers, hotel and restaurant employees, etc.

The tour price does not include:

  • Airport departure taxes and/or user fees
  • Arrival and departure transfers if air not booked by Adventures Abroad
  • Visa or entry permit fees
  • Lunches
  • Adventures Abroad Tour Leader gratuity


From Dallas/Fort Worth $4,028
From Miami $4,005
From San Francisco $3,845

Deduct $75 if paying by personal cheque rather than credit card.

Note: we are at this moment renegotiating airfares in this volatile market. The figures above are estimates, and some are based on arranging your own air.  Write to me for an explanation and the latest cost figures.

Land only: $3,355 (includes flights between
Costa Rica, Guatamala and Belize)

Single supplement: $650 (none, if you are willing to share)


Travel insurance is strongly recommended. On request, Adventures Abroad will send information and a brochure by mail, or you can purchase the insurance at the time that you register for the tour. Cost for the Adventures Abroad non-medical package is variable, depending on age. For example, the cost is $147 for a 62-year-old traveler, $166 for a 68-year-old. This package includes the usual coverage, less medical and emergency evacuation. Ask about more comprehensive plans, if you wish. Travel insurance of course is optional, and you may purchase from any provider you wish. Ask questions so you will know precisely what coverages are included.

Note: insurance companies that cover pre-existing conditions usually require that the insurance be taken out within 7-14 days of making your initial trip deposit. Investigate if you are concerned about coverage for a pre-existing condition. Also ask the insurance company for their definition of a pre-existing condition. It varies.


Take care that your passport will be valid six months beyond the ending date of the tour. Visas are not required of citizens of the United States or Canada for Costa Rica, Belize or Guatemala.


All arrangements are handled by Adventures Abroad. Adventures Abroad is a leading soft adventure travel company, specializing in culturally and ecologically responsible small-group travel.

In addition to the Adventures Abroad Tour Leader and local guides, the tour group will be escorted by Harlan Hague, Ph.D., writer and retired history professor. For information on my background and experience in organizing and escorting tours, please see my home page.

If you have questions, please write to me. If you want to contact Adventures Abroad directly, telephone 800-665-3998, and select choice #2 from the menu for the Sales Department. The office is open Monday-Saturday, 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m., Pacific time.

Is traveling with a tour right for you?

Before you decide to sign on to this tour, or any tour, consider carefully whether tour travel is right for you. If you find it a hassle and a distraction to have to search for accommodation, hunt for a place to eat, research a destination, plan an itinerary, arrange transportation, handle baggage and other travel chores, a tour is right for you. On the other hand, if you would find adherence to a schedule planned by someone else too confining, if you prefer the flexibility of making changes on the spot, if you would find it a bore to see the same faces each morning, then you should not join a tour group. Traveling independently is more flexible to be sure, but it is considerably more difficult than tour travel. Tour group members are willing to give up some options for the assurance that they can devote their full attention to enjoying travel without the time-consuming distractions required by having to make their own day-to-day arrangements.


If you are ready to sign on, read the Adventures Abroad Terms and Conditions. Ignore the "I accept/I do not accept" option at the bottom of the page. Telephone Adventures Abroad at 800-665-3998, menu option #2. Tell them that you wish to register for "Harlan Hague's Costa Rica/Belize/Tikal January 26, 2002 departure." Be prepared to give a $300 deposit by Visa, Master Card, or American Express. You may also send a personal cheque, but registration will not be complete until receipt of the cheque by Adventures Abroad. (Note: all payments, including final payment, may be made by credit card.) Be prepared also to give your American Airlines AAdvantage number, if you have one, since frequent flyer mileage is earned on the American Airlines flights between the U.S. departure city and Central America.

Welcome aboard! Write to me when your registration is complete, and I'll give you a proper welcome. [Delete the work REMOVE from the address.]