Private Journeys

Family Costa Rica: Jungle walks and turtle spotting

14 days from £2,880pp

Costa Rica

Itinerary

map marker Map

Day 1

Arrive in San José. Transfer to hotel.

You will be met at the airport by our local representative who will take you to your hotel in the modern capital.

Day 2

Drive and boat to Tortuguero Jungle Reserve.

Today you’ll head off to discover the Caribbean coast with a few days most rewarding wildlife spotting. This is true wilderness: it isn’t the Caribbean of resort hotels, sugary beaches and piña coladas. You take a 3-4hr drive northeast, including a short bumpy ride through banana plantations to Caño Blanco dock.

Then it’s an hour’s boat ride along the shore hugged by twisted mangrove swamps before you arrive in the small, ramshackle and remote village of Tortuguero. You’ll be staying in the eco-friendly Tortuga Lodge, where large screened open-frame windows allow the nocturnal symphony of the forest (such as the roar of howler monkeys) into your room. Each also has a wide veranda with a hammock overlooking the river. There is an attractive pool area and adjacent hammock rancho.

The park was originally intended to conserve a major nesting beach of the Atlantic green sea turtle: if you travel between July and October we include a nighttime visit to the local nesting beach.  You might be lucky enough to see them laying their eggs. Leatherbacks still visit Tortuguero but numbers are dwindling.

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Day 3

Wildlife-spotting excursion and village visit in Tortuguero.

Set off on a wildlife adventure on a guided boat trip through the mangrove forest of Tortuguero National Park, now one of the last protected areas of tropical rainforest in Central America, with 11 different natural habitats and a huge range of endemic wildlife, much of which can be spotted as you glide through the water.

There are 3 species of monkeys (spider, howler, and white-faced). Three-toed sloths and river otters are often seen along the natural inland waterways and canals. Caimans, iguanas, river turtles, lizards and poison dart frogs inhabit the area, along with over 320 species of birds including 3 of toucan and 8 of parrot.

You’ll also have a guided tour of the settlement of Tortuguero including a visit to the Caribbean Conservation Corporation Museum. Flanked by rivers and waterways on one side and Caribbean beach on the other, this faraway village serves as a sleepy hub for visitors to the area, human and otherwise.

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Day 4

Fly and drive to Arenal volcano area.

A treat! Fly back to San José in a Cessna (or equivalent) light aircraft: a 25min airborne adventure where you skim over the countryside with volcano views. Land at a small airstrip and continue by road to Arenal (3-4hrs).A modest 1,674m high but an impressive conical mountain dominating the surroundings, Arenal volcano last erupted in 1998.

These days, lava flow and volcanic eruptions are infrequent and there has not been any significant activity since 2010. However, as seismic activity is often unpredictable the situation may change by the time you travel. Even without any recent volcanic activity, the region is still considered to be one of the highlights of a visit to Costa Rica. your lodge is on the road between La Fortuna de San Carlos and Arenal Lake, and is surrounded by dense tropical rainforest. There are two pools, a spa and a Jacuzzi.  The al fresco restaurant is nicely situated beside the pool.

There are many adventurous excursions offered from the lodge including hikes to waterfalls, kayaking, river rafting, horse riding, canyoning and quad bike rides.

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Day 5

Guided river rafting expedition.

The grade 2-3 white-water rafting trip is fairly serene: piloted by expert guides, appropriate for beginners and older children. But it’s exciting enough for seasoned rafters, with flat, crystal clear pools interspersed by more turbulent rapids. You are collected from your hotel and escorted to the river (90 mins). You'll have a safety briefing and training before entering the water.

At the end of the rafting adventure your private transportation will be waiting to take you to the operations centre in Sarapiquí where you will be able to shower in time for a buffet lunch. You then have time to walk in the tropical gardens and over a hanging bridge to give you a different perspective over the water. 

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Day 6

Guided adventure to the hanging bridges.

Guided walk through rainforest close to Arenal. The exciting 3km long trail takes you through primary forest over bridges so you get a real close-up experience as you spot wildlife and exotic plants. There should be good views of the Arenal volcano and neighbouring reservoir.

The trail is linked by six hanging bridges and eight fixed bridges, some measuring up to 22m in length and constructed from steel and aluminium to 'blend with the natural environment.' With a maximum grade of seven degrees, the carefully engineered trail is accessible to most ages and levels of fitness. The circuit will take around 2 hrs. 

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Day 7

Transfer to rainforest safari lodge, Savegre.

Transfer by road to Savegre on the central Pacific coast.  The whole length of this coastline is dramatic, with rugged hills stifled by jungle foliage tumbling down to a serrated shore-line, with little sandy coves and longer sweeps of sand where Pacific rollers crash onto the golden beach pitted with driftwood.

One of the delights of Costa Rica for families with children is being able to “camp”, safely, in the bosom of a tropical natural environment, surrounded by the sights and sounds of living jungle. Rafiki is a wilderness luxury tent camp and conservation project focusing on adventurous sustainable tourism. The lodge sits in pristine jungle along the Savegre river on the Pacific coast. Inspired by safari camps in South Africa, the tent design allows your family to experience nature up close while keeping the insects at bay. 

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Day 8-9

At leisure; optional activities

At leisure at the lodge. Explore the area, take optional activities or just relax and enjoy the lodge facilities. It's a fantastic one-in-a-million wilderness wildlife experience for a family. There is a range of activities available to book locally, from rafting to horse-riding and hiking.

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Day 10

Transfer to Manuel Antonio on the Pacific coast.

Drive 30km up the Pacific coast and arrive at Manuel Antonio beach resort, situated next to Manuel Antonio National Park, one of the smallest but best-loved nature parks in Costa Rica. Its setting is lovely - wild, tropical beaches and rocky outcrops backed by lush forest. It has a network of trails where you may see a variety of reptiles, as well as monkeys, sloths, armadillos, racoons and hundreds of bird species.

Close by, Manuel Antonio beach is also one of the most popular in the country, with a number of high quality hotels, condominiums and resorts. 30 years ago, when we first went there, its fudgy sands were visited only by monkeys and backpackers. Now you'll find tourists from all over the world, especially the USA, but it is still a gorgeous place graced with exquisite natural beauty. (Note that there are strong currents, you can’t just run into the sea here).

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Day 11

At leisure

At leisure at the hotel.

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Day 12

Guided exploration of Manuel Antonio National Park.

Guided discovery on foot of the jungle trails in Manuel Antonio National Park.

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Day 13

Optional Midworld Adventure.

At leisure. If your family has still plenty of energy to burn, take an optional excursion to MidWorld, a 30min drive from Manuel Antonio and set within delightful Costa Rican countryside. This very active adventure incorporates three thrilling experiences which allow for a bird's-eye-view over spectacular terrain.

First up, ride the longest Superman line in the country, which crosses high above the Rio Cañas, and measures over a kilometre. Then you'll tackle the region's only high ropes puzzle course, which includes game bridges, a Tarzan swing, a rappel (abseil) line and a monkey climb.

Finally, embark on an exhilarating canopy tour, sailing above the treetops along a series of ten individual ziplines. (MidWorld is conscientious about maintaining Costa Rica's valuable natural resources and runs a responsible tourism scheme involving planting native hardwood trees).

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Day 14

Transfer to San José airport for international flight home.

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