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2018 Costa Rica Southern Sky Party Overview

Add On Friday March 9 Add-On San José Pre-Night
Day 1 Saturday March 10 Arrival in San José, Costa Rica
Day 2 Sunday March 11 Arrive Star Lodge
Day 3-6 Monday-Thursday March 12-15 Evening Southern Sky / Optional Daytime Activities
Day 7 Friday March 16 San José
Day 8 Saturday March 17 San José / Onward

Important: TravelQuest, working with our partners, makes every effort to follow the published itinerary. However, please keep in mind that it is subject to change depending on weather and other local conditions.

Detailed Itinerary

Join Dave Eicher to Costa Rica

Chief editor of Astronomy Magazine and our Costa Rica stargazing astronomer

Dave Eicher is one of the most widely recognized astronomy enthusiasts in the world. He has been with Astronomy magazine for 34 years, beginning as an assistant editor and working through associate, senior, and managing positions. He has been the magazine’s chief editor since 2002.

Dave has spoken widely to amateur astronomy groups, logged many hundreds of hours at the eyepiece, and written eight books on astronomy. Among the most used by amateur astronomers are The New Cosmos: Answering Astronomy’s Big Questions, Comets: Visitors from Deep Space, The Universe from Your Backyard, Deep-Sky Observing with Small Telescopes, and Stars and Galaxies. He is currently working on a major book on galaxies.

He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Starmus Festival, President of the Astronomy Foundation, Editor-in-Chief of the international Asteroid Day project, and very involved in mineralogy, blues and rock drumming, and studies of American history.

During the several trips on which he’s observed the deep southern sky, he’s agreed with an old friend’s pronouncement. It was astronomer Bart Bok who said, “All the good stuff lies in the Southern sky."


Day 1 – Saturday, March 10, 2018
Arrival in San José, Costa Rica

After you land at San José Juan Santamaria International Airport (airport code: SJO) and pass through immigration, a TravelQuest representative transfers you to our San José rendezvous hotel. If you arrive by 5:00 p.m., join us this evening for a get-acquainted dinner at the hotel.

Overnight: Courtyard by Marriott, San José


Day 2 – Sunday, March 11, 2018
Arrive Star Lodge

After breakfast, board our private motor coach and, after a brief shopping stop for last-minute items, relax and take in the sights during a three-hour drive west through scenic countryside. Our destination is the Gulf of Nicoya on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast, where our star lodge, set in a prime bird and wildlife habitat, is reserved exclusively for your stargazing and recreational pleasure.

Your lodge room has two beds, a private shower, and a ceiling fan, plus screened windows on three sides so you can enjoy the evening breezes. Your room is also outfitted with red lights, enabling you to keep your eyes adjusted to the dark and take full advantage of the excellent viewing conditions. 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). Away from the observing areas, non-stargazers can relax in a lighted part of the lodge devoted to reading, card games and socializing.

The open-air restaurant and lounge, which overlook the lodge’s swimming pool and the beautiful bay beyond, provide a comfortable meeting place during the day and in the evening. Our buffet-style meals feature a delicious array of fresh ingredients, including chicken, beef, fish, tropical fruits, and locally grown produce. And throughout the night, stargazers can count on regular cups of fresh Costa Rican coffee – the country’s most famous export – as well as tea and snacks.

Overnight: Star Lodge (5 nights)
Meals: Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner


Day 3-6 – Monday-Thursday, March 12-15, 2018
Evening Southern Sky / Optional Daytime Activities

Over the next four nights, look forward to thoroughly exploring the southern sky, from less-known corners of the Milky Way to the many deep-sky phenomena visible all through the night. On selected evenings after dinner, you’re welcome to join our trip astronomer for workshops on binocular astronomy, night-sky photography, and how to use star maps to locate deep-sky treasures. The astronomer also conducts guided tours of the southern sky, showing you many of the finest sights visible in binoculars and small telescopes.

Dinner is served nightly around 5:00 p.m., allowing plenty of time to prepare for a great night under the stars. In mid-March, the nights at our viewing location are about 10 hours long: the Sun sets just after 6:00 p.m. local time, with astronomical twilight ending less than an hour later.

During the day, you can sleep in, relax in the lodge, take a dip in the refreshing pool or enjoy optional activities such as horseback riding or guided nature walks to spot exotic birds and wildlife. Your tour price also includes three daytime excursions: A day excursion to a macaw sanctuary; from the lodge’s private pier, we set out on a half-day boat tour along the Gulf of Nicoya, visiting a mangrove habitat that’s home to many exotic water birds; and we also make a short overland journey to a spectacular lookout point at sunset.

Meals: Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner



Day 7 – Friday, March 16, 218
San José

After lunch, gather up your belongings — and some incredible memories — for the drive back to San José. In the evening, join us for our farewell dinner.

Overnight: Courtyard by Marriott, San José
Meals: Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner

Day 8 – Saturday, March 17, 2018
Costa Rica / Onward

After breakfast, we arrange an airport transfer according to your departure time. Or you may want to extend your stay in Costa Rica to join our 4-day Tortuguero National Park add-on package.

Meals: Breakfast

Costa Rica Starlodge

Your Star Lodge Stay

Our star lodge is located on the Gulf of Nicoya, on Costa Rica’s scenic west coast. Your private cabin includes two beds, a bathroom with shower, a ceiling fan, screened windows on three walls, and a porch with an inviting hammock. The lodge has no guest telephones, TVs, air conditioning, or Internet connections – but there’s plenty of electricity. For dining and socializing, we gather under the thatched roof of the open-air restaurant and lounge, just steps from your cabin. The lodge’s cuisine focuses on simple, freshly prepared meals featuring typical Costa Rican fare: chicken, fish, beef, and locally grown produce.

Costa Rica evening

Things to Do and See
By day, you can do as much or as little as you wish. Join in the group activities included in your tour, relax by the lodge’s fresh-water pool, or enjoy optional horseback riding and bird watching. Costa Rica is a birder’s paradise: in the vicinity of our lodge you can spot more than 100 species, including white ibis, tri-colored herons, purple gallinules, double-striped thick-knees, parrots, parakeets, bellbirds, trogons, and kingfishers. Other types of wildlife are equally abundant in nearby mangrove, river, and forest habitats. As you walk the trails around the lagoon next to the lodge property, you might see howler monkeys, sloths, agoutis, iguanas, and even crocodiles.

Your Days and Nights
A typical lodge day begins with an optional guided walk for early risers, offering you plenty of chances to spot birds, mammals and reptiles. Breakfast is served from 8:00 to 10:00 a.m. The morning hours are for sleeping (especially if you’ve spent a long night under the stars) or enjoying optional activities. Lunch is served at noon. You can spend the hot afternoon relaxing poolside, resting in your cabin or chatting with fellow travelers in the thatched-roof palapa. Your TravelQuest tour includes a boat cruise on the Gulf of Nicoya, a day excursion to a macaw sanctuary, and another excursion to enjoy the sunset vistas from higher ground. Near the end of each day, you can walk to a neighboring pond to spot crocodiles, monkeys and exotic birds. Dinner is served at 5:00 p.m. Stargazing begins shortly before 7 p.m., as twilight is starting to fade, and lasts until the sky begins to brighten just before 5 a.m. Snacks and beverages are served throughout the night.

How's the Weather?
March is typically dry in western Costa Rica. Temperatures are warm, hovering in the 90s by day and dropping to the 70s in the evening – perfect weather for winter stargazing and astrophotography. As for what to wear, the dress code is 100% casual – leave your jacket and tie at home!

Add-on – March 6-10, 2018
Arenal Volcano & Monteverde Cloud Forest

Add-on Day 1 - Tuesday, March 6, 2018
Arrival in San José, Costa Rica

After landing at San José Juan Santamaria International Airport (code: SJO) you’re met by our TravelQuest representative for the easy transfer to your San José hotel. If your flight timing allows, join us in the early evening for a rendezvous dinner at the hotel.

Overnight: Courtyard by Marriott – San José
Meals: Breakfast

Add-on Day 2 - Wednesday, March 7, 2018
San José - Arenal

We depart after breakfast by private coach, enjoying a scenic morning drive through tropical countryside en route to Costa Rica’s famed Arenal volcano. After checking in at our hotel, 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.

Overnight: Hotel Arenal Manoa or similar (2 nights)
Meals: Breakfast/Dinner

Add-on Day 3 - Thursday, March 8, 2018
Arenal Volcano

In the morning, you’re free to explore the hotel’s surroundings – or book an optional tour on your own. Then after lunch get ready to discover firsthand the wonders of Arenal Volcano National Park. While currently in a quiet phase, the young volcano has been one of Costa Rica’s most active throughout its 7,500-year history. During a 2.5-hour hike on easy to moderate forest trails, you encounter a wide variety of tropical flora and fauna in the company of our expert guide – who also knows the best vantage points for viewing the hardened remnants of ancient lava flows.

As the perfect sequel to our spectacular hike, change into your swimsuit for a plunge into the famed Tabacón Hot Springs. Formed when rainwater collects deep below the Earth’s rocky crust and is heated by molten magma, the springs are rich in minerals that many feel have beneficial health effects. Certainly few would argue that a soak in the geothermal pools is good for the soul.

Meals: Breakfast/Dinner

Add-on Day 4 - Friday, March 9, 2018
Lake Arenal - Monteverde

After checkout, it’s a quick coach ride to nearby Lake Arenal, Costs Rica’s largest freshwater body, where you board a boat for a scenic 70-minute crossing. Once on the far shore, we carry on by coach through tropical landscapes to Monteverde Cloud Forest and our scenically situated hotel. Spend the afternoon at your leisure, exploring the hotel grounds or reading poolside. We can also help you arrange an optional activity in the area.

Overnight: Hotel El Establo or similar
Meals: Breakfast

Add-on Day 5 – Saturday, March 10, 2018
Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

Today‘s centerpiece is a half-day guided visit to Monteverde Cloud Forest, a unique 26,000-acre reserve designated one of the Seven Wonders of a country renowned for its breathtaking scenery. Walking on moderate hiking trails to about 4,600 ft (1,400 m) above sea level, you can compare the biodiversity of the higher cloud forest to the lusher rainforest you’ve left behind. And as you pass through several distinct ecosystems, our expert naturalists help you keep an eye out for a fascinating array of flowers, animals and especially birds – including the black-faced solitaire, the three-wattled bellbird and, if you’re lucky, the fabulously colorful Quetzal.

After lunch on your own, we head back to San José to begin our Star Party tour.


US $855 per person, based on two people sharing one room. Add US $260 for single occupancy.

Add-on Trip Includes
  • Arrival airport transfer March 6
  • Four nights’ hotel accommodations
  • All meals, activities and ground/boat transportation (as noted in the itinerary)
  • Private guide with group of more than six travelers

Add-on – Friday, March 9, 2018
Pre-Tour San José Hotel Package

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 on March 9, at the Courtyard by Marriott Hotel, including breakfast.

Cost: $130 per person, based on double occupancy; $250 for single occupancy.
Meals: Breakfast

Add-on – March 17-20, 2018
Tortuguero National Park

Add-on Day 1 – Saturday, March 17, 2018
San José - Tortuguero National Park

After saying farewell to your Star Party group, board a private coach and head to the beautiful Limón region on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast, stopping for breakfast along the way. Arriving at La Pavona, you embark on a two-hour boat journey through a network of lagoons and canals to Tortuguero National Park. Following lunch at our lodge, you have a free afternoon to explore its unique setting in “The Land of the Turtles.”

Overnight: Laguna Lodge or similar (2 nights)
Meals: Lunch/Dinner

Add-on Day 2 - Sunday, March 18, 2018
Tortuguero National Park

After breakfast, board our guided tour boat for a half-day journey through further canals and lagoons, and along the spectacular seashore – all within the diverse habitats of Tortuguero, where Caribbean sunshine and tropical rains give rise to an incredible profusion of plant and animal life. After lunch, enjoy an afternoon of further exploring on your own.

Meals: Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner

Add-on Day 3 - Monday, March 19, 2018
San José

This morning we make our way back to La Pavona by boat and enjoy lunch at a nearby restaurant. We then carry on by coach to San José, arriving at our hotel in the late afternoon.

Overnight: Courtyard by Marriott San José
Meals: Breakfast/Lunch

Add-on Day 4 – Tuesday, March 20, 2018
Costa Rica / Onward

After a final breakfast, we arrange a convenient airport transfer according to your flight time.

Meals: Breakfast


US $585 per person, based on two people sharing one room. Add US $110 for single occupancy.

Add-on Trip Includes
  • Three nights’ hotel accommodations
  • All meals, activities and ground/boat transportation (as noted in the itinerary)
  • Private guide with group of more than six travelers
  • Departure airport transfer March 20



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