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2019 NC Extension Gardener Horticulture Study Tour to Costa Rica

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Video Introduction to the Trip

NC State Extension Gardener

International Study Program

Costa Rica banner

February 23 – March 3, 2019

Costa Rica, ‘rich coast’ in Spanish, has a wealth of natural diversity — over 10,000 plant species and more than 850 species of birds, including many found nowhere else on earth. This 8-day study program will introduce you to a stunning array of exotic tropical plants and animals, the ecology of the rainforest and other ecological habitats, and tropical horticultural production.

Specifically developed for Gardeners, this trip will focus on the amazing plants & gardens of Costa Rica. We will visit outstanding public gardens as well as stunning private gardens, tour ornamental as well as edible crop production, and explore some of the best national parks in the world and seashores without compare. Registration is now open – don’t miss this unforgettable experience!


Costa Rica is home to over 50 species of hummingbirds. Image by Susan Maher

LAND ONLY PACKAGE PRICE (Airfare is not included):

  • Register:  $2,999/person double occupancy. Includes hotels, entrance fees to all attractions, and most meals.
  • Only NC EMGVs and their travel companions may register before September 1, 2018. If there are slots available after September 1st, EMGVs across the country may register.
  • $620 upgrade to single occupancy
  • $1,000 deposit holds your reservation with balance due 90 days before travel
  • SOLD OUT:  For more info, contact Kari Laudano at (573) 303-2872 or email at
  • Download ITINERARY

VISIT Itinerary Website for images and complete details

Lodgings: Hotel Bougainvillea
Meals included: dinner

Welcome! Following arrival at Juan Santamaría International Airport and private shuttle to Hotel Bougainvillea, you will have the remainder of the day to relax and take photographs. The Garden Club of Costa Rica recently recognized the Hotel Bougainvillea gardens as the “Best Garden of Costa Rica”. Tonight you will meet with your guide and fellow travelers at the hotel’s restaurant for your welcome dinner and orientation.

La Paz Waterfall

La Paz Waterfall. Image by Charlotte Glen

Lodgings: La Quinta Sarapiqui Lodge
Meals included: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Today you will drive to the Northern Lowlands, but first you will stop at the La Paz Waterfall Gardens. Walk through beautiful orchid and hummingbird gardens on your way to the magnificent waterfalls. Three kilometers of serpentine paved trails allow visitors to experience and photograph the forest as they wind through both cloud and rainforest.

La Paz Waterfall Gardens has one of the world’s largest enclosed butterfly observatories, covering 18,000 sq ft, with many species of colorful native Costa Rican butterflies, plants and animals. In addition, you will likely see jungle cats, hummingbirds and other birds, snakes, frogs, monkeys and more.

Lodgings: La Quinta Sarapiqui Lodge
Meals included: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Visit the La Selva Biological Station, a research station managed by the Organization for Tropical Studies. You will experience the rainforest along with their well-kept trails. In the afternoon, visit a working pineapple plantation.

La Selva
Located in the Caribbean foothills of Costa Rica, La Selva has been an educational, research, and conservation site since 1953. The site is 1614 hectares and has over 1850 species of plants. Birds are a magnificent site in the area with La Selva housing over 448 species. Each year hundreds of scientists visit the site to gain insight into the tropical ecology. La Selva is home to five cat species and over 70 species of bat.

Organic Paradise Tour
The Organic Paradise Tour is a tour of a 33-hectare organic pineapple plantation. Located in La Virgen de Sarapiqui in Costa Rica, it is an area known for the richness of its soils and its abundance of nature. We will learn about the organic practices and innovations, including compost fertilization, natural herbicides, crop rotation and companion planting.

Lodgings: Arenal Observatory Lodge & Spa
Meals included: breakfast, lunch, dinner

We head out this morning to the area of Arenal Volcano, with a visit to the Mistico Hanging Bridges and to the Rainforest Chocolate tour.

Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park
Located in La Fortuna Town, Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park is a nature reserve dedicated to protecting Costa Rica’s natural environment and its species. The park is currently home to hundreds of species of animals and features 15 bridges.

Rainforest Chocolate Tour
With the view of the majestic Arenal Volcano in La Fortuna of San Carlos, the Rainforest Chocolate Tour offers a lovely rainforest experience. We will discover the ancient secrets of chocolate and learn interesting aspects of cocoa and chocolate, including its origin and history. They will also participate in the production process, from the harvesting of the fruit, drying and grinding of the seed, and developing the traditional drink to enjoying the high-quality organic chocolate.

Lodgings: Arenal Observatory Lodge & Spa
Meals included: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Today we visit the Vivencias Campesinas Agroecological Farm. In the evening, visit Ecotermales hotsprings. At Ecotermales you will have changing facilities. Bring your bathing suit, flipflops and towel!

Eco Termales Fortuna
Eco Termales Fortuna are hot springs located in San Carlos. We will enjoy the thermal pools which range from 37 degrees to 41 degrees and run from the Arenal Volcano. Or if you prefer, relax in the cool water pools and waterfall.

Pacific coast

Pacific coast, Manual Antonio National Park. Image by Charlotte Glen

Lodgings: Karahe Beach Hotel
Meals included: breakfast, lunch, dinner

This morning we head to the Central Pacific coast where you will have free time to enjoy the beach and relax at the hotel.

Lodgings: Karahe Beach Hotel
Meals included: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Today we enjoy a full day of activities in the area! We start with a morning visit to Manuel Antonio National Park, afternoon visit to Villa Vanilla for the Rainforest Spices Tour, where you will experience the sights, tastes and scents of vanilla, cinnamon, pepper and other tropical spices, essential oils plants and a wide variety of ornamental plants.

Manuel Antonio National Park
Manuel Antonio contains a charming combination of rainforest, beaches and coral reefs. The beaches are the most beautiful in the country, lined with lush forest, and the snorkeling is excellent too. The forest is home for sloths, iguanas, the rare and adorable squirrel monkeys and millions of colorful little crabs. And the trail that winds around Punta Catedral affords some spectacular views.

Lodgings: Hotel Bougainvillea
Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Our last full day in beautiful Costa Rica will be spent enjoying a beautiful and delicious chocolate tour at Sibú Chocolates. Sibu Chocolate Tasting Tours are done at the production site in San Isidro de Heredia, Costa Rica, on an outdoor terrace surrounded by gardens. We will sample fresh cacao fruit, roasted cocoa beans, an indigenous hot chocolate recipe from the 1500s, dark chocolate squares, and classic European-style bonbons. Not a bad way to end a wonderful trip!

Meals included: Breakfast

Sadly, all great trips must come to an end. Enjoy breakfast at the hotel, and transfer to the SJO international airport.


The Guaria Morada orchid (Guarianthe skinneri) is the national flower of Costa Rica. Image by Charlotte Glen

Tour hosted by

Tour coordinated in part by Hidden Treasures Tours. For more information, contact Kari Laudano at:

What To Know Before You Go

Trip Reviews from previous participants:

  • Absolutely Phenomenal” “The trip was amazing in every way!”
  • “The best and most fun activities ever! Well planned and executed. . . really hard to choose a best because each outing was so much fun.” “
  • “Wonderful! Great learning experience!”
  • “Couldn’t be happier. A wonderful experience. Took just over 1,000 photos”

Information on the 2018 Trip

Information on the 2017 Trip

Information on the 2016 Trip

Register to Receive Invitations to Upcoming Travel Adventures

Back to NC State Extension Gardener International Travel Program


Image by Susan Maher


Image by Susan Mahr