This itinerary explores the best of Costa Rica's rainforests and coastlines to see the country's fauna and flora at its best.
Designed to introduce the surprising variety of inhabitants Costa Rica offers, this trip visits the lowland forests of Sarapiqui and Los Quetzales National Park which encompasses three types of rainforest in the Talamanca Mountains – a renowned birding destination. Travelling to the Pacific side of the watershed, you will discover the outstanding biodiversity of Monteverde’s cloud forests holding some 2,000 plant species, 400 bird species and more than 100 species of mammal.
Combining such wildlife opportunities with a beautiful coastline and you have the perfect combination of relaxation and discovery.
Day1: Fly to San José
On arrival in San José, you will be met and transferred (approximately one and a half hours) to your lodge, located on the way to Saripiqui.
Transfer by road to Monteverde, where you can explore the renowned Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve in depth with your local naturalist guide. On your second day, enjoy a morning guided walk in Santa Elena de Monteverde Reserve; the afternoon is free for you to enjoy any of the optional activities, such as a canopy tour or visiting the butterfly garden.
Accommodation: El Establo Mountain Hotel, 3-nights
Day7: Carara National Park
Transfer by road to your next accommodation, located on a river and surrounded by a 200-hectare private rainforest reserve on the Pacific coast, close to Carara National Park and the Tarcoles River. In the afternoon, visit Carara National Park and explore its aerial walkways (optional).
Accomodation: Villa Lapas Rainforest Eco-Resort, 1-night
The next day, visit the Piedra Blancas National Park, which has a biodiversity comparable to Corcovado National Park on the nearby Osa Peninsula.
Your accommodation here is a small lodge, surrounded by thousands of hectares of untouched wilderness. Hummingbirds, parrots, toucans and many more of the 300+ species of birds found in the area frequent the trees and flowers around the lodge.
Transfer by road to your accommodation at San Gerardo de Dota, near Los Quetzales National Park. During your stay, there are options for early morning bird walks to spot the beautiful resplendent quetzal or birdwatching from the lodge's canopy walkway.
Our trip ideas are offered to inspire you and can be tailored to suit your requirements.
Duration and price including flights from/to UK: 14 daysfrom £3,445 pp
Duration and price excluding international flights: 13 daysfrom £2,795 pp
Single supplement: From £560
When to go: Jan-Dec
Not far from San Jose, this national park preserves a pristine rainforest full of tropical plants, waterfalls and wildlife. Over 340 bird species have been recorded. The highlight is a ride on the famous rainforest aerial tram, from which you can look down into the forest canopy. There are also several walking trails.
This fascinating lowland area is a good base for exploring Poas Volcano. However the main highlight is La Selva Biological Station, a major research centre for tropical ecosystems. The species diversity here is astounding, with more than 1,850 plants, 448 birds, 70 species of bat and five of Costa Rica’s six felines.
Where: Heredia Province
Ideal for viewing: ocelated antbird, short-tailed nighthawk, sungrebe, great potoo, great green macaw
Excellent for: Birdwatching
This reserve is thought to be one of Central America’s finest protected areas. Weather from the Caribbean and Pacific create a cloud forest ecosystem that is home to over 100 species of mammal, 400 birds, tens of thousands of insects (including 5,000 different moths) and 2,500 plants (including 420 varieties of orchid).
The most recent addition to Costa Rica's national parks, Los Quetzales extends across three types of rainforest, and 14 different ecosystems. Mostly cloud forest, it protects a crucial habitat for a number of plant and animal species, notably the resplendent quetzal, after which the park was named.
Where: Central Pacific
Ideal for viewing: resplendent quetzal, collared trogon, fiery-throated hummingbird, sooty robin, black guan
Excellent for: Wildlife photography, Wildlife for families, Birdwatching
Located on the southern Pacific coast outside Golfito town, this national park protects some 14,000 hectares of primary rainforest containing many indigenous plants and lots of wildlife. Its creation in 1993 marked a huge victory for conservationists, as the area had been damaged by deforestation and hunting.
Where: Puntarenas Province
Ideal for viewing: jaguar, ocelot, scarlet macaw, two-toed sloth, agouti
This national park protects the last noteworthy tract of primary rainforest in the Central Pacific region. Due to its proximity to the capital, it attracts a lot of visitors – both local and international. However, if you can avoid the crowds it has sufficient wildlife to impress the most avid enthusiast.
Where: Central Pacific Region
Ideal for viewing: collared peccary, green and black poison arrow frog, scarlet macaw, white-faced capuchin, boat-billed heron
Excellent for: Birdwatching
Costa Rica’s capital stands in the centre of the country at an elevation of around 1,200 metres. Home to the main international airport, it has the country’s pristine natural attractions on its doorstep. The downtown area is fairly small and has several interesting museums and parks.
Where: San Jose Province
Excellent for: City stopover
Suggested accommodation options are shown below.
for further recommendations.
Set in a private reserve just over an hour’s drive northwest of San José, between Juan Castro Blanco and Poás Volcano national parks, this small lodge is in a jungle paradise, surrounded by magnificent cloud forest and rainforest. Consisting of just 12 rooms, it is the perfect stop en route to Sarapiqui.
Situated in a quiet suburb just north of San José, 25 minutes from the international airport and a mere 15 minutes from the city centre, this pleasant hotel makes a good base for exploring the Central Valley. Its extensive gardens are particularly beautiful and attract a variety of birds and frogs.
Conveniently situated beside the highway, this jungle lodge is set within Sarapiquí’s dense rainforest. The other inhabitants of this riverside setting include mantled howler monkeys and keel-billed toucans – making it a perfect location to enjoy the exuberance of tropical nature.
This pleasant birding lodge stands on a private reserve of some 40 hectares of farmland, close to Los Quetzales National Park. It sits at an altitude of around 2,300 metres, beside a rushing stream and surrounded by lush gardens with dazzling flowers and hundred-year-old oak trees.