The Real Deal: This land-only package includes nine nights' accommodations, sightseeing, all local transportation, the entrance fee to Arenal Volcano National Park, and the services of an experienced local guide, from $835 per person — including taxes.
When: Tour departs on Jan. 20, March 3, 24, April 14, May 5, 26, June 23, July 7, 21, Aug. 18, Sept. 15, Oct. 13, Nov. 10, Dec. 8, 22, 2009; Jan. 5, Feb. 2, March 2, 16, 30, April 13, 27, May 25, June 22, July 20, 2010.
The fine print: The starting rate includes a $200 local payment to be paid in cash upon arrival. Allow $250 per person to cover the cost of meals, since none are included. Based on single or double occupancy; no single supplement. (Solo travelers will share accommodations with an assigned travel companion of the same gender.) Maximum group size is 15; trips average 12 participants. To book, refer to the trip code GSCH. Read these guidelines before you book any Real Deal.
Book by: No deadline; based on availability.
Contact: Adventure Center, 800/228-8747, adventurecenter.com.
Why it's a deal: The cost of this package breaks down to about $93 a day and includes hotel accommodations; guided sightseeing; all local transportation by bus, minibus, boat and taxi; and admission to Arenal Volcano National Park. You'll also enjoy the services of an experienced and trained tour leader who was raised in the region and can show you a side of his or her homeland you might otherwise miss. Plus, you'll save time and money by not having to make separate arrangements for hotels, transportation and guided sightseeing throughout the tour.
Included Tour Highlights Climb the mountains to Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. Visit La Fortuna, a small tourist town on the flank of the active Arenal Volcano, and hike around the volcano with your group. Continue on to the beach town Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean coast. Visit Cahuita National Park, known for its wildlife and beaches. You can see the full itinerary here. This package is part of Gecko's Grassroots Adventures, typically designed for younger travelers on a budget looking for freedom and flexibility but also the reassurance of traveling with a small group and a guide.
Lodging: Two nights each in San José, Monteverde and La Fortuna, and three nights in Puerto Viejo. The participating hotels are small, basic, privately owned properties that are subject to change, so the specific names are not provided in advance.
More: There is a wide range of optional activities throughout the trip. Possibilities include a visit to a butterfly garden ($10 per person) or a coffee plantation tour ($30 per person) in Monteverde; a trip to Baldi Hot Springs ($28 per person) or a day tour of Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge ($55 per person) in the La Fortuna/Arenal area; a botanical garden tour ($7 per person) and a tour of the Bri-Bri Indigenous Reserve ($50 per person) just outside of Puerto Viejo. You can find a full list of activities here. If you'd like to spend more time in the area, opt for a pre- or post-tour extension for an additional $37 for a single or $65 for a twin room.
Before you go: Visit the official tourism Web site of Costa Rica. When selecting your travel dates, keep in mind that Costa Rica's dry season typically lasts from November through April. The good news is that the package price remains the same whether you choose a departure date during the dry or rainy season.