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2019 Costa Rica Southern Sky Party

February 27 – March 6, 2019

16th Annual

2019 Costa Rica Southern Sky Party

Why do stargazers travel to Costa Rica?

For the same reasons travelers from around the globe journey to this Central American paradise: the inviting tropical climate, spectacular natural scenery, abundant wildlife and friendly, hospitable people.

Tour Overview

  • Just a 2.5-hour flight from Miami
  • Enjoy 5 uninterrupted evenings of private, southern sky stargazing from the grounds of our Star Lodge
  • Daily morning and afternoon birding and nature walks with an expert guide
  • Leave it all behind – a relaxed atmosphere with no telephone, television or in-room WiFi
  • Special included day excursion to the Scarlet Macaw Sanctuary
  • A special birding opportunity and Boat Tour through the Abangares River Mangrove
  • An opportunity to enjoy superb views of the southern night sky – exploring the Southern Cross, the Carina Nebula, Omega Centauri, and the countless Milky Way gems found in Scorpius and Sagittarius.

Join us as we carry on a great tradition: our 16th annual Costa Rica Southern Sky Party, February 27 – March 6, 2019, comfortably based at our private Star Lodge and National Wildlife Refuge on the Gulf of Nicoya.

A Perfect Southern Vantage Point

Our Costa Rica adventure is timed to coincide with both the new Moon and the driest time of year in the western part of the country. This best ensures the greatest possible number of clear, star-filled nights – on a grassy open area of the lodge property that offers unobstructed views of the southern horizon.

At 10° N, our Costa Rican viewing site is 15° farther south than the Florida Keys and even more southerly – by 10° – than the Big Island of Hawaii. Many astronomical highlights that hug the horizon in these popular stargazing locales are 10° to 15° higher in Costa Rica’s southern sky.

Attractively Close to Home

Costa Rica is also a wonderfully accessible destination. Just a 2.5-hour flight from Miami, it’s in the Central time zone, so there’s no grueling flight to endure and no tiresome jet lag to get over before you begin enjoying yourself.

All of our comfortable cabinas face the Gulf, with a bathroom, hot water, closet and spacious terrace inclusive of a hammock, which all ensure a relaxed, carefree stay – right down to the convenience of North American standard AC power (120 volts, 60 Hz) in your room, so you never have to worry about keeping your gear charged.

A tropical climate, excellent southern-sky views, great accommodations and the company of easygoing, like-minded travelers – what more could you ask of an astronomical adventure that’s remarkably close to home?

Join us and discover the wonders of Costa Rica and the riches of the southern night sky!

2019 Costa Rica Southern Sky Party Overview

DESCRIPTION ARRIVE DEPART
Sunday-Wednesday February 24- February 27 Add-On Arenal Volcano
Tuesday February 26 Add-On San José Pre-Night
Day 1 Wednesday February 27 Arrival in San José, Costa Rica
Day 2 Thursday February 28 Arrive Star Lodge
Day 3-6 Friday - Monday March 1 – March 4 Evening Southern Sky / Optional Daytime Activities
Day 7 Tuesday March 5 San José
Day 8 Wednesday March 6 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.

2016ICE_trip_difficulty_levels

Level 2 – Easy/Moderate – short to medium hot walks on your own over uneven hilly terrain, with easy/rugged travel conditions; plus carrying your own baggage at hotels and airports. A PRUDENT DISCLOSURE: Midday heat can be an issue for some, with temperatures reaching H 95°F/L 73°F (35°C/23°C)

At TravelQuest we want to be sure you find the trip that best suits your interests and level of fitness. Please email or call with questions.

Itinerary

Day 1 – Wednesday, February 27, 2019Dinner

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 chief editor of Astronomy Magazine and our stargazing astronomer Dave Eicher, your TravelQuest trip leader, and your local Costa Rican guide this evening for a get-acquainted dinner at the hotel.

Overnight: Crowne Plaza, San José

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 36 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 2 - Thursday, February 28, 2019Breakfast /Lunch/Dinner

Arrive Star Lodge

After breakfast, board our private motor coach and, after a brief shopping stop for last-minute items at a supermarket, relax and take in the sights during a three-hour commute, inclusive of a lunch stop, west through the 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.

  

Most lodge rooms have two beds, all with a private shower, floor and ceiling fans, 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 lush property 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 cookies. Additional beverages can be ordered throughout your stay, and even into the night, from an overnight staff member.

Overnight: Star Lodge (5 nights)

Day 3-6 - Friday – Monday, March 1 – March 4, 2019Breakfast /Lunch/Dinner

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 PowerPoint presentations in the main lodge, 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 late-February to 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; A half-day boat tour along the Gulf of Nicoya from the lodge’s private pier to visit a mangrove habitat home to many exotic water birds; And a short overland journey to a spectacular lookout point at sunset with appetizers and refreshments.

  

Day 7 – Tuesday, March 5, 2019Breakfast /Lunch/Dinner

San José

After lunch, gather up your belongings – and some incredible memories – for the drive back to San José. We will stop en-route at a popular mercantile, where you can shop for Costa Rican coffee, vanilla, cigars, artifacts, clothing, and other authentic souvenirs. In the evening, join us for our farewell dinner.

Overnight: Crowne Plaza, San José

Day 8 - Wednesday, March 6, 2019Breakfast

San José / Onward

Enjoy breakfast at the hotel, or grab a boxed-breakfast to go, and then make the easy transfer to San José Juan Santamaria International Airport (airport code: SJO) for your journey homeward.

Your Star Lodge Stay

Our Star Lodge is located on the Gulf of Nicoya, on Costa Rica’s scenic west coast. Your private villa includes a bathroom with shower, floor and ceiling fans, screened windows on three walls and a porch with an inviting hammock. The lodge has no guest telephones, TVs, air conditioning or in-room Internet connections, allowing for an “unplugged” retreat amongst the beautiful natural surroundings. 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, rice, beans and locally grown produce.

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, agoutis, iguanas, and even crocodiles.

Your Days and Nights

A typical lodge day begins with an optional guided walk for early risers at 6:00 a.m., offering you plenty of chances to spot birds, mammals and reptiles. Breakfast is served at 8:00 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 lagoon 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. Cookies and beverages are served throughout the night.

 

How’s the Weather?

February and March are 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. Hydration and fluid replacement during the day is key to a safe and enjoyable experience. As for what to wear, the dress code is 100% casual – leave your jacket and tie at home!

Thank you to David Sussman and Gary Seronik for photo contributions to this brochure.

OPTIONAL: ARENAL VOLCANO PRE-TOUR

February 24-27, 2019

Add-on Day 1 - Sunday, February 24, 2019Dinner

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: Crowne Plaza, San José

Add-on Day 2 – Monday, February 25, 2019 Breakfast /Lunch/Dinner

San José - Arenal Volcano

We depart after breakfast by private coach, enjoying a scenic morning drive through tropical countryside en route to the town of La Fortuna, where, after lunch, we visit the area’s renowned 200 ft waterfall. We will then carry on 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 Casa Luna, La Fortuna (2 Nights)

Add-on Day 3 – Tuesday, February 26, 2019 Breakfast /Lunch/Dinner

Arenal Volcano

After breakfast, 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.

After lunch, we will embark upon a remarkable journey to visit the famed Hanging Bridges, where you will receive a guided walk through the rainforest from the elevated suspension platforms, keeping an eye out of exotic wildlife, and unique views of Arenal Volcano.

Next, change into your swimsuit for a plunge into the 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.

Add-on Day 4 - Wednesday, February 27, 2019 Breakfast /Lunch

Arenal - San José to Begin Tour

In the morning, you’re free to explore the hotel’s surroundings – or book an optional tour on your own. A unique midday dining experience awaits you at Las Iguanas Restaurant, where you will be able to spot iguanas of all shapes and sizes, both around the property, and in the surrounding trees.

As we begin our journey back to San Jose, we’ll be making a special stop at the Espiritu Santo Coffee plantation, where you will enjoy a tour of the farm, as well as the unmatched aroma of coffee in one of the largest and most beautiful toasting rooms in the country.

Once arrived at our hotel in San Jose to begin your Star Party adventure, you’ll join Chief editor of Astronomy Magazine and our stargazing astronomer Dave Eicher, your TravelQuest trip leader, and your local Costa Rican guide this evening for a get-acquainted dinner at the hotel.

PRICING

US $959 per person, based on two people sharing one room. Add US $200 for single occupancy.

ADD-ON TRIP INCLUDES:

  • Arrival airport transfer February 24
  • Three nights’ hotel accommodations
  • All meals, activities and ground transportation (as noted in the itinerary)
  • Private guide and private transportation throughout

Pricing & Terms

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

DOUBLE SINGLE TRIPLE QUAD
Costa Rica Southern Sky Party $2,880 $3,380 $N/A $N/A

IMPORTANT: All tour prices, taxes and airfares quoted in this brochure are based on tariffs, costs and United States dollar exchange rates that were in effect at the time of publication. Consequently, prices herein are subject to change. Due to fluctuations in global oil prices, a fuel surcharge may be added to your tour fee. You will be advised of details and costs prior to departure.

Room Sharing Program

If you are 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 will do our best to fulfill your request, if we cannot find a match, you will have to pay the single occupancy price.

Trip Includes:

  • TQ Exclusives:
    • Arrival and departure airport transfers as per the dates of the tour
    • Two nights in San José, Costa Rica, with an additional five nights at our private star lodge
    • English-speaking local guide
    • All ground transportation
    • All meals as specified in itinerary, including coffee, tea and water
    • All sightseeing tours and admissions as noted in itinerary
    • Services of a Trip Astronomer
    • Private, astronomer-led sky shows, with advice on viewing and photographing the southern sky
    • Boating excursion on the Gulf of Nicoya; Sunset tractor ride; and Excursion to the Scarlet Macaw Sanctuary
    • Morning and afternoon guided nature walks and birding

Not Included:

  • Air transportation to and from San Jose, Costa Rica (SJO)
  • Meals and activities not specified in the itinerary
  • Alcoholic beverages and soft drinks
  • Airport baggage handling
  • Gratuities to local guide, star lodge staff and drivers
  • Costa Rica departure tax (approximately US$29)
  • Passports & visa fees, along with any required immunizations
  • Items of a personal nature, including Internet access, spa, and laundry services, etc.
  • Travel Insurance

Payments & Terms

  • An advance payment of US$800 per person, along with the completed reservation form, are required to secure your reservation
  • Final payment is due by January 4, 2019
  • Cancellations must be in writing by email, fax, or mail
  • All advance payments, less a $350 per person service fee, are refundable until December 15, 2018
  • There are no refunds after December 16, 2018
  • Air cancellation terms are additional

Traveler Health

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

Travel Insurance

Whether your destination is domestic or international, we recommend that you consider purchasing travel Protection TravelQuest International recommends that you purchase a travel protection plan to help protect you and your travel investment against the unexpected.

You may purchase this insurance on your own or you may contact our friends at Travelex who are familiar with our trips and offer a “Travel Select” plan to help protect you and your travel investment against the unexpected. The Travel Select plan includes coverage for Trip Cancellation, Trip Interruption, Emergency Medical and Emergency Evacuation/Repatriation, Trip Delay, Baggage Delay and more. To be eligible for the waiver of pre-existing medical condition exclusion, this plan must be purchased within 21 days from the time you make your initial deposit with TravelQuest. Otherwise, the plan may be purchased any time prior to departure.

For more information on these plans or to enroll, click on the link below or contact Travelex Insurance Services direct at 1-800-228-9792, and reference location number 03-6043.

A Note About Fuel

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

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