Smithsonian Student Travel | Costa Rica
This itinerary represents our plan for the program. However, we may implement changes if we identify opportunities to improve the experience, to take advantage of unexpected events, or to accommodate local schedule changes.
Departure • Travel Day • Meet your student travel group and one of your trip leaders in Miami, Florida, and fly together to San Jose, Costa Rica.
Escazú • 2 days • Spend your first two nights at a locally run hotel outside of San Jose. Get to know your group and leaders, participate in an in-depth orientation, and spend a day in Costa Rica’s vibrant capital city. Prepare for your travels to Tortuguero National Park.
Tortuguero National Park • 5 days • Travel northeast by private bus and boat to stunning Tortuguero National Park. Take on the role of eco-volunteers as you collaborate with researchers at a biological field station run by the Sea Turtle Conservancy. Shadow researchers on nightly beach walks and learn about the past, present, and future of this delicate marine ecosystem. Become part of a five-decade-long conservation initiative as you participate in data collection, turtle tagging, and night shifts to monitor sea turtle nesting sites of green and leatherback turtle populations. Interview local experts and learn about projects aimed at helping to protect turtles from human interaction, light pollution, and changes in the marine environment.
La Selva Research Station • 2 days • Next, travel inland to a pioneering tropical ecology research station situated in lush forest. Settle into your field station accommodations, and explore this incredibly biodiverse tropical rainforest ecosystem. Get an insider’s view into the work of a tropical scientist and get up-close with the jungle’s flora and fauna on hikes with guides. Spot sloths and howler monkeys, identify native birds, and embark on a rafting expedition on the tumbling Sarapiqui River.
Monteverde Cloud Forest • 4 days • Continue west to your next destination, a small family farm located just outside the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. Eat delicious, home-cooked Tico meals made with local produce, and settle into your hilltop cabin. Meet your Smithsonian Student Travel Expert and explore trails that wind through the property, taking you through one of the most biodiverse forests in Costa Rica. Visit the Monteverde Institute, participate in an ongoing reforestation project, and learn how local communities are adapting to and mitigating the effects of a changing climate. Zipline through the forest canopy, learn to identify some of the cloud forest’s most unique species, and work on your independent project. Finally, discuss ways you can bring your knowledge home to protect and preserve the ecosystems in your own backyard.
Escazú • 1 day • Return to San Jose, have a final group celebration, and prepare for your travel home.
Return • Travel Day • Fly from San Jose, Costa Rica, to Miami with your group and a trip leader, then continue on to your final destination.
Smithsonian Student Travel Experts
A Smithsonian Student Travel Expert will join the group for a portion of the itinerary. Our experts are professionals in their field and tie in their knowledge and experiences with the themes of the program. Throughout their time with the students—generally five days—they share their insights and passion for the region through talks and informal conversations, connecting with students in meaningful ways. Meet the experts who are joining the student trips below.
Dr. Scheffers runs a dynamic and leading biological conservation and ecology lab and has published over 80 peer-reviewed articles, many of which are in leading international journals such as Science, Nature Climate Change, Current Biology, and Frontiers in Ecology and Environment. His work has been covered by hundreds of news outlets, including The Economist, Huffington Post, National Geographic, Scientific American, and the New York Times. Dr. Scheffers has spent the last 20 years working in tropical ecology and conservation biology across the world’s tropical rainforests of Australia, Southeast Asia, Africa, and Central and South America. He has extensive experience in the field of global change biology and his research focuses on core ecological problems – often using canopy science, the degree of vertical habitat use in montane tropical rainforests, as his model system. His research also focuses on ecological responses and adaptation of a variety of taxa ranging from birds, amphibians, reptiles and insects to climate change and environmental instability.
What to Expect
Accommodations • We stay in various types of accommodations throughout this program, including a dormitory at a scientific research station and rustic ecolodges. Students have access to common and outside space at our accommodations for community meetings, working on projects, and socializing. Leaders stay together with students throughout the program.
Climate • Costa Rica is a tropical country with two seasons: wet and dry. Summer is the wet season. It rains often in brief, heavy showers rather than all-day storms. Daytime temperatures range from 75–85°F (23–29°C), while nighttime temperatures drop to 70–75°F (21–23°C).
Meals • We enjoy most meals of traditional Costa Rican cuisine prepared and served at our accommodations. Other times we eat lunch and dinner in restaurants. Occasionally we also purchase supplies for healthy and delicious picnic lunches.
Cuisine • Costa Rican cuisine features a hearty amount of rice and beans, and a delicious array of tropical fruits, such as papaya, mango, and pineapple, at almost every meal. A typical lunch consists of gallo pinto (rice and beans), fish or chicken, vegetables, cheese, tortillas, and fruit.
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