Jewels of Costa Rica and the Southern Milky Way - TravelQuest International
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March 6 - 14, 2024

Jewels of Costa Rica and the Southern Milky Way

Exploring Costa Rica and the vast southern sky

Follow rainforest paths in search of tropical wildlife. View a magnificent cone-shaped volcano from the treetops. Spot countless water birds among the coastal mangroves. Plunge into invigorating hot springs in a jungle clearing. Then, for three memorable nights, scan the southern sky from an ideal vantage point on the Pacific coast, for a wonderland of southern stars, deep-sky objects, and the winter Milky Way.

TravelQuest offers you all of this an ...Show more


  • Discover a paradise of biodiversity and spectacular natural beauty – just a 2.5-hour flight from Miami
  • Walk hanging bridges among the treetops in Arenal Volcano National Park
  • Explore Santa Elena Cloud Forest in Monteverde, keeping an eye out for colorfully plumed quetzals
  • Enjoy birding and wildlife spotting with our expert naturalist guide, including on a boat tour through the Abagnale’s River Mangrove
  • Experience three nights of uninterrupted stargazing from the private grounds of our Star Lodge
  • Take in superb views of the southern night sky (weather permitting), exploring the Southern Cross, Carina Nebula, Omega Centauri, and countless Milky Way gems surrounding Scorpius and Sagittarius
  • Partake in a special Introduction to Astrophotography workshop hosted by your Trip Astronomer. You will receive expert instruction and handy pointers on how to set up your camera, and take dramatic pictures of the heavens above


  • TravelQuest, working with our partners, makes every effort to follow the published itinerary. However, please keep in mind that trip details are subject to change depending on weather and other local conditions.
  • It is important to acknowledge that seeing the starry skies is weather dependent, and TravelQuest can make no guarantees that the weather will cooperate.

After you land at San José Juan Santamaria International Airport (code: SJO), your TravelQuest representative transfers you to our rendezvous hotel in the heart of this scenic capital city. If you arrive by late afternoon, join your TravelQuest trip leader, and your local Costa Rican guide this evening for a get-acquainted dinner at the hotel. 

DATE(S): Wednesday, March 6, 2024

MEALS: Dinner

ACCOMMODATION: Crowne Plaza San José or similar

After breakfast, we depart on our private coach for a scenic tour of the colorful capital city of San José, and then through the tropical countryside as we make our way toward Costa Rica’s famed Arenal volcano. En route, stroll among the spectacular blooms at Botanical Orchid Garden, created by the Carrizal family in a former coffee plantation, and explore the whimsical topiary gardens at Zarcero. After checking into our hotel at Arenal, take a stroll or relax by the pool, enjoying great views of the cone-shaped volcano rising more than a mile (1,600 m) above sea level.

DATE(S): Thursday, March 7, 2024

MEALS: Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner

ACCOMMODATION: Hotel Arenal Manoa or similar

Start the morning at your own pace, gaining new perspectives on the majestic volcano, before we head into the national park to experience its beauty up close.  While currently in a quiet phase, Arenal has been one of Costa Rica’s most active volcanoes throughout its 7,500-year history. Exploring the surrounding area on easy-to-moderate forest trails, you encounter a profusion of tropical flora and fauna: watch out for parrots, howler monkeys and maybe even a sloth. Your naturalist guide also knows the best vantage points for viewing the hardened remnants of ancient lava flows.

After lunch, your immersion in biodiversity shifts up to the rainforest canopy, where you walk along a series of “hanging bridges” that span the treetops of this lush corridor. The breathtaking 360° views include (jungle mists permitting) a unique vantage point on Arenal’s fissured slopes and classic conical profile. Then, as the perfect finale, change into your swimsuit for a plunge into the famed Ecotermales Hot Springs. Formed when rainwater collects deep below the Earth’s crust and is heated by molten magma, the geothermal pools are rich in minerals that many believe have beneficial health effects.

DATE(S): Friday, March 8, 2024

MEALS: Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner

ACCOMMODATION: Hotel El Establo or similar

After breakfast, it’s a quick coach ride to nearby Lake Arenal, where we take in the beauty of Costa Rica’s largest freshwater body on a delightful boat cruise. Docking on the far shore, we follow winding roads through the tropical landscape to Monteverde and the Santa Elena Cloud Forest, named for the near-constant mists that create a moist, warm environment where exotic plants thrive. As you walk the trails for a half-day through this lush ecosystem, our expert naturalist helps you keep an eye out for an amazing array of flowers, animals and especially birds, including the bare-necked umbrellabird, the three-wattled bellbird – and, if you’re lucky, the fabulously colorful quetzal.

After a refreshing post-hike ice cream in the charming town of Santa Elena, we check into our scenically situated hotel, where you can enjoy an evening stroll in the grounds or perhaps review your sky charts to get ready for the three nights of stargazing to come.

DATE(S): Saturday, March 9, 2024

MEALS: Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner

ACCOMMODATION: Hotel El Establo or similar


After breakfast, we’ll make a brief shopping stop for last-minute items at a supermarket, and then head west through rolling countryside to the Gulf of Nicoya on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast, where our rustic Star Lodge, set in a bird and wildlife habitat, is reserved exclusively for your stargazing and recreational pleasure.

Our lodge provides a welcome retreat amidst breathtaking natural beauty. This is an “unplugged” experience: no guest telephones, no TVs, no in-room Internet connections. To further reduce our footprint, there’s also no air conditioning – but rest easy, most guest rooms have screened windows on three sides, so you can enjoy the evening breezes (and there are ceiling and floor fans if you need them). Your room also includes red lights to keep your eyes adjusted to the dark before you head out to view the skies. The lodge’s manicured lawn has open southern vistas, offering a perfect site for telescopes and other equipment (which you can begin setting up soon after we arrive in the afternoon).

The open-air restaurant and lounge, which overlooks the tree-lined grounds and the sparkling bay beyond, are popular meeting places throughout the day and evening. The chefs present meals made with fresh ingredients, including fish and other meats, locally grown produce and tropical fruits. And throughout the night, you can count on regular cups of expertly brewed coffee – Costa Rica’s most famous export.

We’ve arranged for dinner to be served around 5:00 p.m. each day, so you’ll have plenty of time to prepare for a great night under the stars. In March, the nights at our viewing location are about 10 hours long: sunset is just after 6:00 p.m., with astronomical twilight ending less than an hour later. We kick off our first evening of viewing with a tour of the southern sky, as our TravelQuest astronomer guides you to the most impressive sights visible with binoculars and small telescopes.

DATE(S): Sunday, March 10, 2024

MEALS: Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner


This morning you can sleep in, relax around the lodge, maybe take a dip in the pool, or join us just after dawn for a guided birding excursion. Later, we head out from the lodge’s private pier on a half-day boat tour along the Gulf of Nicoya, meandering through the coastal mangrove habitat as our naturalist guide helps you spot and identify the many species of North Pacific Forest birds that nest there.

In the evening, join our trip astronomer for a more in-depth presentation on the Costa Rican sky. Then head out to the lodge’s grounds, where you can observe the shimmering sky through the 30mm eyepiece of our Explore Scientific 16-inch Truss-Tube Dobsonian telescope. From less-known corners of the Milky Way to various deep-sky phenomena visible all through the night – plus Carina Nebula, Omega Centauri, the Southern Cross and more – look forward to an unforgettable stargazing experience - and a long one, too: from just before 7 p.m., as twilight is starting to fade, until the sky begins to brighten around 5 a.m. (though of course you can head back to your room anytime, knowing the stars will still be there tomorrow night).

DATE(S): Monday, March 11, 2024

MEALS: Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner


Spend the morning at your leisure, maybe joining the early bird watchers. Or take an optional trek to the nearby lagoon to view water birds and crocodiles – plus chances to spot howler monkeys, agoutis and iguanas along the trail.

In the afternoon we visit Abangaritos elementary school, adjacent to Star Lodge, where it is TravelQuest’s tradition to bequeath some much-needed supplies and a few smiles to the schoolchildren, who reside in this economically depressed community.  Then, as our young hosts wave us on our way, we carry on overland across the lodge’s 800 private acres of plantation lands, crowned by the climb to a spectacular lookout where we toast the sunset with drinks and appetizers. Your last night of stargazing begins with another informative talk by our trip astronomer. Then, head out to the field, or rest before rising in the early morning hours for an amazing treat -Sagittarius and Scorpius, relatively low on the horizon from the North, will be high in the sky, surrounded by other deep-sky treasures.

DATE(S): Tuesday, March 12, 2024

MEALS: Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner


After lunch, we bid the gracious Star Lodge staff farewell and begin our journey back to San José, stopping along the road at a popular market where you can shop for coffee, vanilla, cigars, artisanal crafts, clothing, and other souvenirs. In the evening, join us at the hotel for our farewell dinner and a great exchange of final thoughts and memories with fellow travelers.

DATE(S): Wednesday, March 13, 2024

MEALS: Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner

ACCOMMODATION: Crowne Plaza San José or similar

After breakfast at the hotel (or, if you wish, the restaurant can provide a boxed breakfast to go), it’s an easy transfer to the San José airport for your journey homeward or further explorations in Latin America.

DATE(S): Thursday, March 14, 2024

MEALS: Breakfast

Optional Add-ons

If you would prefer to arrive a day early for your Costa Rica adventure, TravelQuest is pleased to offer a one-night San José pre-tour package, including airport arrival transfer, and overnight March 5th, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, San José, including breakfast.


Cost: $90 per person, based on double occupancy; $175 for single occupancy.


Level 2 – Easy/Moderate – short to medium walks over sometimes hilly terrain, with easy/rugged travel conditions. (Also: carrying your own baggage at hotels and airports.)

Weather advisory: Midday heat at Star Lodge can be an issue for some visitors, with daytime temperatures reaching a high of 95°F (35°C) and cooling to 73°F (23°C) at night. Please note that these temperatures only apply to the three-day portion of our trip that unfolds at sea level.

Prices are per person in US dollars, based on the number of people in a room.






TravelQuest creates and markets tours many months or years in advance of departure. Tour prices, taxes and airfares quoted in this brochure are based on tariffs, costs and US dollar exchange rates that were in effect at the time of publication. However, due to fluctuations in global oil prices, and other services associated with this tour, a surcharge may be applied to your final invoice.

Room Sharing Program

If you’re traveling solo, you can realize significant savings by taking advantage of TravelQuest’s Room Sharing Program, which matches travelers of the same gender so they can share twin-bed guest rooms in a hotel. Although we’ll do our best to fulfill your request, if we can’t find a match, you’ll have to pay the single occupancy price.


  • Arrival and departure airport transfers as per the dates of the tour
  • 8 nights’ accommodation
  • Services of our TravelQuest trip leader and trip astronomer
  • A special Introduction to Astrophotography workshop hosted by your Trip Astronomer 
  • Private, astronomer-led sky shows, with advice on viewing and photographing the southern sky
  • English-speaking local guide/certified naturalist
  • All ground transportation
  • All meals as specified in the itinerary, including coffee, tea and water
  • All sightseeing tours and admissions as noted in the itinerary

Not Included

  • Air transportation to and from San José, Costa Rica (SJO)
  • Meals and activities not specified in the itinerary
  • Alcoholic beverages and soft drinks
  • Airport baggage handling
  • Gratuities for local guide, Star Lodge staff and drivers
  • Passports and visa fees, along with any required immunizations
  • Items of a personal nature, including Internet access, spa, laundry services, etc.

Payments & Terms

  • An advance payment of $900 per person, along with the completed reservation form, are required to secure your reservation.
  • Final payment, payable by check, bank wire, or credit card (with an additional 3.5% processing fee), is due by December 1, 2023.

Cancellation Terms

  • All advance payments, less a $400 per person service fee, are refundable until November 3, 2023.
  • There are no refunds after November 4, 2023.
  • Air cancellation terms are additional.

Traveler Health

It is each traveler’s responsibility, prior to booking with TravelQuest, to take all appropriate medical advice as to whether or not they are fit enough to undertake this trip. If you have any questions in this regard, please contact us.


Travel Insurance

Whether your destination is domestic or international, TravelQuest International recommends that you purchase travel insurance to help protect you and your trip investment against the unexpected. You can purchase this insurance on your own, or you can contact our friends at Travelex, who are familiar with our trips and offer a Travel Select plan that includes coverage for trip cancellation or interruption, emergency medical care, emergency evacuation or repatriation, trip delay, baggage delay and more. To be eligible for the waiver of pre-existing medical condition exclusion, you must purchase the plan within 15 days from the time you make your initial deposit with TravelQuest. ALL Travelex policies must be purchased at least 14 days prior to your departure date.

For more information on the recommended plan or to enroll, contact Travelex Insurance Services at 800-228-9792 and refer to location number 03-6043.

A Note About Fuel Costs
In the uncertain, often volatile oil market, it’s difficult to predict long-term fuel costs, and more specifically, costs at the time of a particular trip. Our prices are based on the prevailing fuel rates at the time of this brochure’s publication, which is well in advance of departure. While we’ll do everything possible to maintain our prices, if fuel costs increase significantly at or before the time of the trip, it may be necessary to institute a fuel surcharge.

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