With lots of activities, this family trip makes a good introduction to tropical wildlife, but also offers time to relax by the pool. The distances covered are short, so you can enjoy your stay to the full.
A full menu of rainforest trail walks, canopy walks, boat trips, guided visits – all with experienced naturalist guides – will keep interest alive throughout the trip and ensure there’s no time to get bored. Yet there is also plenty of down time so you can relax as a family – all the hotels where you stay have a pool. And if you want to be more active, you can use this time to take advantage of the many optional activities available locally – everything from whitewater rafting to zip-lining.
Fly to San Jose
On arrival, transfer to your hotel in the city.
Radisson Hotel, 1-night
Transfer to Caño Blanco, then boat to Tortuguero
Shared transfer through Braulio Carillo National Park down to the Caribbean coastal plain and on through banana plantations to the jetty at Caño Blanco (4 hours). Board a boat for the trip (roughly 1 hour) through the waterways to Tortuguero, with your first views of the area’s wildlife. After lunch there’s a guided visit to Tortuguero village and the Turtle Centre.
Laguna Lodge, 2-nights
Morning boat tour along the waterways of Tortuguero National Park to spot some of its 300 or so species of birds, other wildlife including monkeys, sloths, iguanas and crocodiles, and see swamp forest and floating aquatic plants. After a free afternoon, take an optional evening walk on the nearby beach to see turtles coming ashore to nest.
Boat back to Caño Blanco, transfer to Sarapiquí
Head back to Caño Blanco for the drive into the region of Sarapiquí (3-4 hours) to explore lowland rainforest. After a relaxing afternoon take a guided evening tour in nearby La Tirimbina Reserve, an educational, scientific and ecotourism centre, to learn about the fascinating world of bats. Your guide will show you some bats that were captured during the evening for research purposes.
Selva Verde Lodge, 2 nights
Sarapiqui - visit cacao plantation
Join an exciting morning tour to a cacao plantation to learn the secrets of making chocolate – you’ll see every stage in the process from harvesting the cacao pod to making chocolate as we know it. Optional activities include a possible visit to nearby La Selva Biological Station for a guided nature walk (at extra cost).
Transfer to La Fortuna and Arenal Volcano
Dawn bird and wildlife walk (around 3 hours) in Selva Verde private reserve accompanied by an expert guide – Sarapiquí’s rainforests are home more than half of Costa Rica’s bird species! Afternoon transfer to La Fortuna (around 2 hours), overlooked by Arenal Volcano. The rest of the afternoon is at leisure, with the option of a relaxing dip in the hot springs.
Arenal Springs Hotel, 2-nights
Activities in La Fortuna
The area around Volcan Arenal National Park offers a huge choice of fun activities. The day starts with a visit to Arenal Hanging Bridges where eight elevated walkways and six hanging bridges offer a different close-up perspective of the rainforest canopy. This afternoon visit the Ecocentro Danaus Butterfly Garden, with trails through secondary forest containing a variety of plants and animals. The main attraction is the butterfly farm where you can see the life cycle of the area’s butterflies; there is also an interesting garden of medicinal plants, and you can see frogs and more than 150 species of birds.
Boat and road transfer to Monteverde
This morning you transfer the short distance to Arenal Lake to cross Costa Rica’s largest and most important freshwater lake by boat, then continue by vehicle on unpaved road up to the small town of Monteverde (3-4 hours). The afternoon is free to relax.
Cloud Forest Lodge, 3-nights
Activities in Monteverde
Over the next couple of days, there is a variety of activities in and around Monteverde. You’ll explore the hanging bridges, butterfly garden and hummingbird garden here, and also do a guided visit to Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve or the adjacent Santa Elena Reserve in search of the resplendent quetzal, Costa Rica’s national bird. There’s plenty of time left over for an optional visit to a coffee plantation or a cheese maker, or a canopy tour (at extra cost).
Transfer to Playa Hermosa, near Tamarindo
After a final morning in Monteverde, transfer to Playa Hermosa, near Tamarindo on the northern Pacific Coast (around 2.5 hours). The perfect arc of this grey-sand beach lies roughly an hour north of Tamarindo between Playa del Coco and Playa Panama, but seldom gets as crowded as its better-known neighbours. It’s great place to wind down for a few days.
Bosque del Mar Hotel, 3-nights
Playa Hermosa - relax or optional activities
With two full days on the coast to enjoy this low-key resort, there’s plenty of time for the beach. However your stay also includes a trip by small boat to explore the mangroves of Tamarindo Wildlife Refuge – a unique ecosystem with many bird species and monkeys. A wide choice of optional activities is also available.
Return to San Jose via Carara National Park
Morning drive to San José (4-5 hours), with a stop en route at Carara National Park for a walk. Back in the capital, if there is time, you may want to consider an afternoon visit to the Children’s Museum or Inbio Educational Park and Recreational Centre.
Country Inn and Suites
Depart San Jose
You should note: The main turtle species (hawksbill, loggerhead, green and leatherback) come ashore at Tortuguero to lay their eggs during the winter months between February and July.