On this 14-night tour of Costa Rica we'll experience the rainforest, mountains and coast of this tropical paradise. The focus of this wildlife holiday is on travelling at a very leisurely pace in order to spot as much wildlife as possible.
Costa Rica is renowned for having proportionately more protected land than any other country, making it ripe for wildlife tourism. What is less known is the marvellous, often bizarre variety of animals from catatonic sloths, screaming howler monkeys, screeching toucans and nesting green turtles. Throw in the Atlantic and Pacific coastlines and it is easy to see why so many return.
We'll begin at Tortuguero National Park, a nesting site for many species of turtle, including the endangered green turtle. Exploring by boat allows us to experience the spectacular flora and fauna here, such as caiman and monkeys. Other highlights include Costa Rica's once most active volcano, Arenal, and its hot springs, and the cloud forests, which are characterised by 100% humidity, and are home to unique wildlife.
We'll stay in a range of small, family-run hotels and eco-lodges, including Esquinas Rainforest Lodge, which is 100% carbon-neutral, located within the gorgeous Piedras Blancas National Park, a natural reserve and wildlife refuge. Costa Rican food specialities include Gallo Pinto, a black bean and rice dish considered to be a staple part of the local diet. Soups and stews are also common, and fresh fruit is abundant and will no doubt be one of the highlights of your time in the tropics.
Costa Rica is located 10º north of the equator and has a tropical climate. The average temperature range is 10ºC - 13ºC in the highlands, and from 22ºC - 26ºC in the lowlands. There is a rainy season from May to November when there are daily downpours, though these are usually quite short and there is still plenty of bright sunshine, so midsummer is not necessarily a bad time to go. December to April is the driest time of the year but you should still expect some rain.
This trip has been graded 1 (Leisurely) with a safari rating of 3. Driving distances are not very long and most of the roads that we travel on are of good quality. However, the road which leads to the river on the way to and from Tortuguero and the road into and out of Monteverde have poor surfaces and this can result in slow driving times, particularly following heavy rain. There are several included and optional walks on the itinerary which occasionally involve walking on rough paths. These are suitable for most levels of fitness and usually last from two to three hours. During times of heavy rain, trails can be muddy and slippery and extra care should be taken. Many of the areas visited on the trip are hot and humid and there is the chance of heavy rain year-round - this is why Costa Rica is so green! Please note that Manuel Antonio National Park is closed on Mondays. If your visit falls on a Monday, the timing of this activity will be adjusted so that you visit the park on the previous day, and you will have a free day to enjoy the many optional excursions of the region.
Arrive at your hotel in San Jose. This evening is the perfect opportunity to meet your guide and get to know your fellow travellers. (Staying at the Hotel Presidente, Breakfast only)
Our adventure begins early this morning, leaving San Jose behind as we travel to the north-east of Costa Rica to Tortuguero National Park. Accessible only by boat or light aircraft, Tortuguero's vast network of waterways, canals and swamps is remarkably tranquil, unspoilt and devoid of noise pollution. On reaching the pier we board a small motorboat for the 1 hour 15 minute journey to our lodge, which is nestled on a small strip of land between the Caribbean Sea and the main lagoon. Our afternoon is spent in Tortuguero village, where it's possible to visit the Sea Turtle Museum (a donation will be requested at the entrance). Tortuguero is probably most famous as a nesting site for the endangered green turtle, which can be seen arriving on to the beach to lay eggs from late July to October (as part of an optional excursion). Hawksbill, loggerhead and giant leatherback turtles also nest in this region, and during November to January baby turtles start to hatch and make their way towards the ocean. Today's travel time will be in the region of six hours, including a break for breakfast. (Staying at the Laguna Lodge or Pachira Lodge, Breakfast, lunch and dinner)
An early morning boat trip enables us to discover the extraordinary flora and fauna of Tortuguero, passing serenely along the waterways. At this time of day wildlife is usually at its most active and with the help of our expert guide we are likely to encounter monkeys, caiman, iguanas, butterflies and many of the 300+ bird species recorded here. We return to the lodge for a hearty breakfast by the river. The lodge is a tranquil spot to relax this afternoon if you want to take some time out to enjoy the facilities, or alternatively you can join a second boat trip or follow a short walking trail through the forest. (Staying at the Laguna Lodge or Pachira Lodge, Breakfast, lunch and dinner)
We leave Tortuguero the same way we arrived by taking a small boat to the pier. Our bus will be at the pier waiting to drive us to the region of Arenal, passing huge banana, pineapple and sugar cane plantations on the way. Arenal was Costa Rica's most active volcano until fairly recently, when it entered a resting phase and can no longer be seen spitting ash, smoke or lava. However, there is still a lot of geothermal activity in the area and you'll have the opportunity to visit one of the excellent hot springs this evening. In clear weather there are great views of the volcano from our overnight base in the nearby town of La Fortuna. Today's travelling time is around 5.5 hours including a lunch stop. (Staying at the Arenal Montechiari or San Bosco Hotel, Breakfast and lunch)
Waterfalls are abundant in the region of Arenal and this morning we visit La Fortuna Waterfall, a 65-metre cascade of water plunging into an emerald pool below. A short trail through the rainforest brings us to a relatively steep set of steps that we must descend to reach the waterfall and then ascend to the exit - the hike/climb takes around 20-30 minutes and is within the capabilities of anyone with reasonable fitness. Reward your efforts with a dip into one of the natural pools punctuating the foliage to cool off! Alternatively, you could visit the lookout point and wait for the group. After lunch we take a short scenic hike within Arenal National Park, walking through secondary rainforest and passing some of the lava fields from past eruptions. The high vantage points on this walk allow great views overlooking Lake Arenal, and the birdlife is plentiful. (Staying at the Arenal Montechiari or San Bosco Hotel, Breakfast only)
From Arenal we travel to the Tilaran Mountain Range in the Central Highlands for our first taste of a Costa Rican cloud forest. The journey provides breathtaking views of the Gulf of Nicoya and the islands below as we ascend the hills towards Monteverde, a forest-cloaked region whose name literally means 'Green Mountain'. The high altitude supports a complex eco-system where plants thrive, particularly orchids of which there are some 400+ different varieties here. Today's drive is around four hours - the last 40km of road is gravel and can be bumpy, particularly following heavy rain. (Staying at the Monteverde Cloud Forest Lodge, Breakfast only)
This morning we have a guided walk in Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve, one of the first community-managed reserves in Costa Rica and an area that is world-famous for its biodiversity. To this day the reserve is managed by the Santa Elena High School with funds channelled into protecting the reserve and providing environmental education classes within the local community. Thanks to its high elevation, Santa Elena is bathed in thick misty clouds that support a huge range of flowers, ferns, mosses, vines and orchids. Birdlife thrives in the cloud forest with over 425 species recorded here. Santa Elena is also one of the best places to spot noisy howler monkeys swinging through the trees! (Staying at the Monteverde Cloud Forest Lodge, Breakfast only)
Our journey takes a south-easterly turn today as we follow the Pan-Am Highway along the coastline to Manuel Antonio, passing African oil palm and teak plantations on the way. Manuel Antonio National Park consists of a vast marine reserve as well as 1,700 acres of mangrove swamp, primary and secondary rainforest. The forest vegetation stretches as far as the high-tide line and provides a stunning backdrop to the expansive sandy beaches, forested islands and dramatic rocky headlands. Our drive to Manuel Antonio takes around four hours. We spend the next two nights here, normally in a hotel close to the beach and the entrance of the national park. Depending on our time of arrival we should have some time to enjoy various optional activities this afternoon or enjoy the hotel's facilities. (Staying at the Villa Bosque Hotel, Breakfast only)
A guided tour of Manuel Antonio National Park this morning should enable us to have some close wildlife encounters. White-faced capuchin monkeys play in the trees and are frequently sighted on the beaches, whilst noisy howler monkeys are usually heard moving through the trees and calling to each other before they are seen. The endangered titi monkey (squirrel monkey) are fewer in number but can sometimes be spotted in this area. Iguanas, agouti and two and three-toed sloths are also commonly sighted in the national park. Manuel Antonio's beaches are considered to be some of the most beautiful in the country and we have all afternoon to enjoy them or try one of the optional activities available in this region.
Please note that Manuel Antonio National Park is closed on Mondays. If your visit falls on a Monday, the timing of this activity will be adjusted so that you visit the park on the previous day, and today will be at leisure to enjoy the many optional excursions of the region. (Staying at the Villa Bosque Hotel, Breakfast only)
Travel four hours south towards Golfito, a relatively wild and undiscovered region. The dense jungle here has hardly been explored or researched. The next two nights are spent in the beautiful Esquinas Rainforest Lodge set in the heart of primary rainforest and bordered by the newly-created Piedras Blancas National Park and Golfito Nature Reserve. The lodge was originally financed by the government of Austria as a project combining forest research, development aid and nature conservation. Most employees are local and profits are used to help with projects in the nearby village. This afternoon we discover our peaceful surroundings and search for the abundant bird and insect life that resides here. (Staying at the Esquinas Rainforest Lodge, Breakfast, lunch and dinner)
Hike through the rainforest this morning with your guide and experience all the sights and sounds of the jungle. During this activity we are likely to see snakes, monkeys and maybe sloths. This hike can be quite slippery after rainfall but is a real highlight and well worth the effort. This afternoon has been left free for optional activities - delve deeper into the forest on a 10-mile network of trails departing directly from the lodge, or simply relax by the stream-fed pool. (Staying at the Esquinas Rainforest Lodge, Breakfast, lunch and dinner)
Our journey takes a north-westerly turn through San Isidro and up and over the Cerro de la Muerte mountain range to our next destination, the Savegre Valley, located around four and a half hours away from Golfito. The cloud forest of Savegre is said to be one of the best places in the whole of Costa Rica to see the beautiful, colourful and notoriously shy Resplendant Quetzal and we have two nights here to discover the region. These endangered birds rely on the cloud forest for their habitat - the males in particular are striking with a green crest, red breast and tail feathers that can reach a metre in length. A good pair of binoculars will be helpful for quetzal spotting as these birds camouflage themselves well amongst the wet leaves of the forest! After lunch we take a short walk from our lodge into the cloud forest. (Staying at the Savegre Hotel, Nature Reserve & Spa or Trogon Lodge, Breakfast, lunch and dinner)
Today is free to relax and explore Savegre Valley. Bring your binoculars to spot some of the 170 bird species, trek through the tropical cloud forest or simply enjoy the incredible view from the lodge. For those who are passionate about trekking, an extra optional tour to Los Quetzales National Park can be arranged to admire the tropical cloud forest and sub-Andean vegetation of the area (this is a 6-hour tour so would normally replace other activities today). Birds that may be seen in this area include hummingbirds, colibri, tanagers and trogons. (Staying at the Savegre Hotel, Nature Reserve & Spa or Trogon Lodge, Breakfast, lunch and dinner)
Visit the village of Copey this morning to step momentarily into the agricultural lives of those living in the highlands of the Central Mountain Range. We take a short walk to the picturesque village. Some snacks will be prepared for us with a local family, which is sure to be a memorable touch of Costa Rican hospitality! A two and a half hour journey takes us back to San Jose, where there is time to explore the modern capital. (Staying at the Hotel Presidente, Breakfast and lunch)
The trip comes to an end today after breakfast and it's time to bid Costa Rica and the rest of the group goodbye. Free transfers to San Jose airport are available to all customers today.
All nationalities require a full passport that must be valid for 6 months beyond the intended length of stay. It is your responsibility to have the correct personal documents and to obtain your own visa, if one is necessary, in accordance with the regulations of the country you are to visit. The information below is primarily for UK passport holders, and other nationalities should check with their travel agent or the relevant embassies. We are not responsible for the actions of local immigration and customs officials, whether at points of entry or otherwise, and any subsequent effects.
Holders of British, US, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand and most EU passports can enter Costa Rica for a stay of 90 days without a visa. Proof of onward travel may be required when entering Costa Rica - we suggest you take a print out of your flight details in case officials ask to see them. All passengers flying via the USA will have to clear immigration during transit. Prior to travel you must apply for an Electronic Travel Authority (USD14) under the Visa Waiver Programme. If you are not a UK citizen please check with your local U.S. Embassy. If you are travelling via the USA and are eligible to transit under the Visa Waiver Programme (most British and western European citizens with a machine readable passport are), you are now required to register in advance for an Electronic Travel Authority (ESTA). There is a US$14 charge for the ESTA, which is only payable online with a credit card. Please see our website www.exodus.co.uk/usvisa for further information. All other nonresidents passing through the US must get a visa in advance. Check with your local embassy or consulate for more details on how to obtain a visa. Visa regulations can change without notice: please check the current regulations in good time to obtain a visa if one is required.
There are no mandatory vaccination requirements. Recommended vaccinations are: Hepatitis A. The risk of malaria is slight but you may wish to consult your GP or travel health clinic for further advice. Dengue fever is a known risk in places visited. It is a tropical viral disease spread by daytime biting mosquitoes. There is currently no vaccine or prophylaxis available for Dengue, and therefore the best form of prevention is to avoid being bitten. We recommend you take the usual precautions to avoid mosquito bites. Zika fever is a mosquito-borne viral disease and a known risk in places visited on this trip. There is currently no vaccine or prophylaxis available, we therefore strongly recommend you take the usual precautions to avoid mosquito bites. Travel health can often be something people forget about before going away, but a little preparation and knowledge can go a long way to help you stay fit and healthy while abroad. The above information can change at short notice; as we are not qualified to answer all your questions about travel health we strongly recommend you contact your Medical Professional or a Travel Health Clinic at least 8 weeks prior to departure for up-to-date information. Please note: vaccinations that are routinely recommended to residents of the UK, North America or Australasia are not considered to form part of the travel health advice, and you should ensure these are kept up to date where necessary. For additional information please visit: https://travelhealthpro.org.uk/countries
During your holiday you stay at the following hotels. If you'd like to extend your time at any of these or, if you'd like to enhance your stay with an upgraded room, just let us know at the time of booking.
NEARBY:Located on Central Avenue Pedestrian Boulevard in San Jose’s vibrant core, the Presidente Hotel offers you the chance to experience the neighbourhood like a local. Many of the city’s best museums and galleries, as well as public parks, shops, restaurants and bars are within easy walking distance. There is a warm and friendly welcome to this family-owned hotel and the well-appointed rooms and suites feature comfy beds, Wi-Fi, and great showers. The hotel offers a daily buffet breakfast as well as a chance to relax on the rooftop at Azotea Calle 7, the fabulous bar/restaurant.
Laguna Lodge is an eco-lodge, located in the Tortuguero National Park on the northern Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. The lodge is located on a narrow strip of land, 600ft wide, with the Caribbean Sea on one side and Tortuguero Lagoon on the other. The lodge’s 15 acres of land is full of trees and exotic plants and the gardens are the natural habitat for a great number of birds and butterflies. The 106 rooms, reception, restaurant, bar and swimming pools are distributed amidst six acres of wonderful gardens with amazing views of the lagoon and with direct access to the beach.
NEARBY:The Arenal Montechiari Hotel is surrounded by lush gardens and has a spectacular view of the Arenal Volcano, one of the most active volcanoes in the world. Located just 400m from the Central Park and very close to the beautiful town La Fortuna, local amenities such as supermarket, banks and restaurants are within walking distance. The hotel was born as a small Restaurant called El Sesteo, offering delicious food to locals and tourists alike. The restaurant’s customers encouraged the owners to add rooms for them to stay in. Construction began on three rooms to satisfy this request and over the years the hotel has grown and now offers 21 cabins, built using indigenous woods, and all with their own terrace. There is a free-form swimming pool and complimentary Wi-Fi is available in public areas.
The Cloud Forest Lodge is a mountain eco-lodge - an environmentally and nature-friendly property that has minimal, or no harm to local ecosystems or the environment. The property itself sits within 72 acres of natural cloud forest offering guests the chance to interact and view the beauty and wonders of Monteverde nature. The nearby Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, lies at 4500m above sea level and is home to over 3000 species of animals and plants.
NEARBY:Just a 2 minute walk from the beach, the Villabosque Hotel has 20 comfortable bedrooms, a swimming pool with panoramic views of the surrounding rainforest, a bar, lounge area, a restaurant, terrace and gardens. The rooms come with air-conditioning, an LCD Cable TV, hot water, laundry service and safe. There is complimentary Wi-Fi in public areas only. The restaurant specialises in seafood, Latin American and grill/BBQ cuisine.
NEARBY:The Esquinas Rainforest Lodge is surrounded by untouched jungle wilderness in the remote Piedras Blancas National Park. The 14 rooms offer simple but comfortable accommodation and have a private bathroom with shower and ceiling fan. They are decorated with colourful materials woven by the Guaymi and Boruca Indians. The covered porch in front of each room is the perfect place for bird and nature watching (bird species include hummingbirds, parrots, toucans and ciurassows, whilst it is also common to see coatis, raccoons, caimans, agoutis and monkeys).
NEARBY:Another property with minimal environmental impact, the Hotel Savegre - Natural Reserve & Spa holds a firm belief that guests can really help to maintain the property’s eco-friendly credentials, by the way they act during their stay. Turning off lights, using as little drinking water as needed and not leaving the marked trails during walks are just a few examples.
All breakfasts, 8 lunches and 6 dinners included.
Please call our sales team on 1-800-267-3347 or email email@example.com to arrange flights and connecting transfers to your hotel.
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Minimum group sizes
A minimum of 5 people (in total) are required for each departure.
This holiday is unsuitable for children.
Guided walking Managed by our sister company, Exodus.
All breakfasts, 8 lunches and 6 evening meals
Transfer included from San Jose airport at 21:50, and back to San Jose airport at 09:00.
If you choose to book your own flights please check with us first that your chosen departure date is definitely operating as our guided holidays are subject to minimum group sizes.
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Alternatively, you can call our sales team on 1-800-267-3347 to discuss your requirements in more detail.
We've been creating high-quality relaxed activity holidays since 1985 and our wealth of experience means we're able to build the perfect tailor-made tour for you. Our 'Gold Trusted' rating on Feefo, the independent review site, underlines our exceptional levels of customer service, and our ATOL bonding and ABTA membership guarantees your holiday is safe with us.