Exploring Costa Rica during your free time
Costa Rica is a beautiful country and we encourage you to take advantage of your free time to get to know the countryside. ILISA has its own in-house travel desk which has excellent relationship with a select group of quality tour operators and hotels. These companies provide first class service and offer an excellent value for all of our students.
If you don’t want to participate in an organized tour, the tour desk will also be able to provide information and help with your travel plans. We have listings of bus schedules, hotels and destinations of interest.
For those of you who would like to rent a car, we work with an agency that offers a special rate for our students that includes insurance. The company will even drop the car off at the school, and when you are done, pick it up!
Below a few of our students’ favorite destinations, and how to get there.
Experience an exciting day of action on one of the beautiful rivers of Costa Rica. Tours include guides, equipment, transportation, breakfast, and lunch.
The ILISA-student price range is $50-60 (about half the normal price). Check with the office staff or details.
Tortuguero Canals & National Park
Leave San José on Saturday morning to travel to Tortuguero by bus and boat. On Saturday and Sunday morning you will be able to see the canals of Tortuguero and, between July and September, you can take an optional “turtle walk” on the beach to look for nesting turtles. The two day-one night tour costs $150 per person and includes transportation, excursions, all meals, and lodging. The turtle walk is $15 extra.
Arenal Volcano & Hot Springs
Head to the Arenal volcano with a small group of students. The tour leaves on Friday afternoon after classes and returns on Sunday afternoon.
The drive to Arenal through the central highlands takes you past beautiful Costa Rican villages, descends into the San Carlos Plains, and finally climbs up to one of Costa Rica’s active volcanoes.
At night you will have the opportunity to see red-hot lava near the volcano’s peak and to hear the frequent eruptions. During the day, you can visit hot springs in the area and take a walk through a nature reserve to see a spectacular waterfall. The three day-two night tour costs $120 and includes transportation, guide, entrance to the nature reserve and lodging.
You can also rent a car (around $60 daily including insurance and free mileage) and go there yourself or even better, invite some fellow students to share the car rental expenses. A double hotel room will cost you between $30-100 per night, depending on your requirements. You can pick up your car early Friday afternoon and will arrive at Arenal in the late afternoon or early evening. Return your car Monday after classes. You might drive around Lake Arenal on the way back and enjoy the additional spectacular scenery. Or, you can also take the public bus. Price varies depending on transportation and accommodations you select.
Coffee tour – Half-day
Costa Rican coffee is well known around the world for its strong flavor and tantalizing aroma. Cafe Britt, widely known for its gourmet coffee, offers visitors a trip through a coffee farm near Barba. You will enjoy a multimedia presentation about the history of coffee, a visit through the factory, and then a delicious trip to the tasting room. Cost of the tour: $20.
This active volcano is located 55 km from San Jos�. The trip, easily done by public bus, includes a stop in Cartago to visit the Bas�lica de Los Angeles, Patron Saint of Costa Rica. As you climb the slopes to the volcano you’ll pass through the most important potato producing area of the country. The view at the volcano is spectacular. On a very clear day it is possible to see both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
Combine a tour to Irazu volcano, Cartago and visit the beautiful Lankaster Gardens for just $53.
You can also travel to the volcano by public bus on Saturdays and Sundays.
This farm features thousands of live butterflies in all stages of the life cycle (eggs, larvae, chrysalides, and adults) in an enclosed tropical garden. All visitors will receive an hour-long guided tour and learn about the natural history of the butterfly and the farm’s operations. You can either take tour transportation or arrive by car or public bus. Cost: $25.
Braulio Carrillo National Park
This park into the provinves of both San José and Limon. It is composed of a very dense, complex, evergreen forest, tall mountains and numerous rivers that carve deep canyons. It is a paradise for bird watchers and people who love nature. Take a public bus to the park, bring a sack lunch and enjoy a day in the woods.
Poas Volcano and National Park
See the biggest geyser volcano in the world only 90 minutes from San José. The park offers spectacular views and nice trails and is easily reached by public bus. Or combine a half day seeing the volcano in the morning with a visit to the La Paz waterfalls in the afternoon, all for $35.
Monteverde Cloud Forest – 2 days, 1 night
You will travel 4 hours through mountain ranges and coffee plantations and on into the community of Monteverde. In the private Monteverde Reserve, you will see the richest and most abundant displays of epiphytes in the world: ferns, orchids, and bromeliads (where the famous Resplendent Quetzal bird finds protection). There is also a lot of wildlife: monkeys, toucans, bellbirds, etc and a special “Hummmingbird Gallery” where numerous hummingbirds come to feed. In addition to the private reserves in the area, you can visit a cheese and ice cream factory, butterfly farm and snake museum, and go horseback riding. Take the public bus or rent a car. Cost, depending on transportation and accommodations, is between $100-200.
Manuel Antonio National Park and other beaches — 3 days, 2 nights
Rent a car or take the public bus to enjoy visiting one of the most beautiful beaches and national parks of Costa Rica. There are many hotels in the area in all price ranges.
In addition, Costa Rica offers more beautiful beaches including Tamarindo, Nosara, and Montezuma, all on the Pacific coast. Cahuita, Puerto Viejo, and Playa Chiquita on the Atlantic, can be visited by making similar arrangements. The hotel accommodations on the Atlantic coast tend to be less expensive. Remember that finding accommodation at any beach during December through march, especially around Easter, can be difficult. ILISA can make reservations prior to your arrival only if you give us your credit card information. Costs range from $30 to $200.
Rain Forest Aerial Tram
The Rain Forest Aerial Tram is located in a private reserve an hour away from San José and offers visitors a bird’s eye view of the rainforest. The tour includes a 1-1/2 hour guided tour on a modified ski-lift through primary and secondary forest, a guided nature hike and a film about the rainforest and the construction of the tram itself. Cost with ILISA ID: approximately $55 including tour, transportation and lunch.