The itinerary travels from the Caribbean coast to the Pacific, and explores the complex ecosystems of this extraordinarily wildlife rich country.
Costa Rica’s Caribbean and Pacific coastlines are lot more different than you might imagine, and offer a massive contrast to the steamy lowlands and lofty mountains and volcanoes of the interior. You’ll visit some relatively little-visited national parks that protect habitats as diverse as the reefs and coastal rainforest of Cahuita and the unique landscapes around Tenorio Volcano. And your reward at the end is a chance to unwind on the lovely Pacific beaches of Tamarindo.
Day1: Fly to San José
On arrival in San José, you will be met at the airport and transferred to your hotel, situated to the north of the city.
Days4-5: Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge & Cahuita National Park
Today’s drive takes about three hours, travelling to Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge on the Caribbean Coast, near Cahuita.
During your stay, you can spend one day exploring Cahuita National Park and Los Santos Forest Reserve, renown for the diversity of habitat between pre-montane, low montane and montane rainforest, with excellent walking trails and pristine beaches. Your second day can be spent in Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge.
Drive north and inland to Sarapiquí, where you stay for two nights and explore the lowland rainforest from the Tirimbina Biological Reserve.
Head further north to Volcán Tenorio National Park. You have two nights here, so there is plenty of time to go birdwatching in the area, hike the Rio Celeste trail, perhaps take a night walk in search of nocturnal species, or you can opt for the Cartagena canopy tour.
Accommodation: Celeste Mountain Lodge, 2-nights
You now travel to the Pacific coast, to the gorgeous area of Tamarindo, for some well-deserved relaxation time on the beach, kayaking or touring the mangroves. In season you can also go turtle watching.
Transfer to the international airport for an overnight flight back to the UK. Depending on your departure time, you might have a final free morning to relax before travelling, or enjoy a final outing in San José.
Day15: Arrive UK
Our trip ideas are offered to inspire you and can be tailored to suit your requirements.
Duration and price including flights from/to UK: 15 daysfrom £3,395 pp
Duration and price excluding international flights: 14 daysfrom £2,775 pp
This small national park on the southern Caribbean coast consists of tropical lowland forest, black sand beach, and a beautiful reef around the tip of Cahuita Point. The forest shelters various forms of wildlife, whilst the coral reef has an astonishing variety of marine life. A snorkel and mask are essential here!
Where: Limón Province
Ideal for viewing: capuchin monkey, green iguana, northern tamandua, porcupine, racoon
Around the two volcanoes of Tenorio and Montezuma is an area of primary rainforest and cloud forest. One of Costa Rica’s most beautiful waterfalls is found here, where the water tumbles 32 metres into a pool of amazing blue. The subterranean activity endows the area with several hot springs.
Where: Guanacaste Province
Ideal for viewing: capuchin monkey, jaguar, puma, tapir, agouti
Excellent for: River safaris
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 stretch of Caribbean coast is one of the finest in the country. The combination of sandy beach, gentle waves and coral reef close to the surface make it a paradise for nature lovers and underwater enthusiasts. Inland, the wildlife refuge protects many species that are either endangered or at risk.
Where: Limón Province
Ideal for viewing: black caiman, ocelot, keel-billed toucan, ornate hawk-eagle, tapir
The bustling surf capital of Costa Rica’s Pacific coast is blessed with stunning beaches, but is also a good base to explore the surrounding rainforest for wildlife. Its extensive mangroves are protected reserves, and in Marino Las Baulas National Park giant leatherback turtles come ashore at night to lay eggs.
Where: Guanacaste Province
Ideal for viewing: capuchin monkey, howler monkey, leatherback turtle, green turtle, olive ridley turtle
Costa Rica’s vibrant 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.
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.
Costa Rica’s premier birding lodge, high in the mountains above the town of Turrialba, stands beside a private reserve, where some 430 birds have been recorded. The atmosphere is warm and relaxed, the staff friendly and welcoming - there are few better places to see the country’s prolific wildlife.
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.