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Off the beaten track Costa Rica: National parks and private reserves

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For decades Costa Rica has been a leading light in conservation, and as a result over a quarter of its territory is given over to well managed national parks and private nature reserves. Many of the parks are popular and much visited, with many facilities of all kinds for tourists, all of which provides for a very different experience from the remote wilderness adventure that many wildlife enthusiasts are hoping for.

So for this holiday we have selected a few of our favourite parks and reserves which, although situated in stunning locations, don’t have the infrastructure to receive hoards of visitors. Among them are Carara National Park and the rugged hills and beaches close to Ojochal. Accommodation is in delightful rustic eco-lodges, usually small and family-run, which offer the opportunity to understand how real life is lived in these bucolic areas.  Again, we’ve picked out the best. At these lodges you’ll have the opportunity to participate in optional or included activities, anything from crocodile spotting to coffee tours.

Holiday itinerary

Day 1

Transfer from the airport to your countryside lodge.

Day 2

Guided discovery of the Carara National Park and crocodile spotting on Rio Tarcoles.

Day 3

Transfer to Santa Juana Lodge inland from the Pacific coast.

Day 4

Activities from the lodge.

Day 5

Transfer to Trogon Lodge close to San Gerado de Dota.

Day 6

Guided activities from the lodge.

Day 7

Transfer to Ojochal area.

Day 8

Activities from the lodge

Day 9

Travel north up the coast to Dominical and Playa Uvita.

Day 10

Free time on the beach or explore the area.

Day 11

Transfer to San José.

Day 12

Transfer to the airport for your international flight.

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Places visited on this holiday

Off the beaten track Costa Rica: National parks and private reserves

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San Jose, central highlands and central valleys
Central San José
Costa Rica’s busy capital, San José, is a city on the move, where the choking traffic and crowds are mitigated by the eager friendliness of the people. There are some good museums and excellent restaurants but no colonial core: it’s a modern place, full of offices, North American style bars and malls - many US citizens visit or are resident in the country and their cultural influence is strong. The landscapes around however are delicious, both in the rolling coffee country of the highlands and in the fertile central valley, watched over by the smouldering Poás and Irazú volcanoes.
When's the best time to go to San Jose and central highlands?

If good weather is your priority, choose the dry season Dec - Apr when there is plenty of sun. The green (i.e. rainy) season is quieter in terms of number of visitors. San José, at 1,150m, has a pleasant climate with temperatures averaging 15-25°C.

What's the official language of San Jose and central highlands?

Spanish.

How do I get local currency in San Jose and central highlands?

Colón. Notes can be withdrawn from the many ATMs using a UK credit or debit card. You may have to authorise your bank first, and withdrawals may be limited to amounts lower than in the UK. US dollars cash can be exchanged in banks too.

What's the time difference between San Jose and central highlands?

GMT -5 hours.

What places combine well with San Jose and central highlands?

A visit to the Caribbean or Pacific coasts for a beach wind down; Arenal, in the north, the most spectacular volcano; Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, for excellent bird watching. There are light aircraft flights from San José airport to many destinations. Costa Rica is a tiny country so road journeys, even winding ones through the highlands, are relatively short. Some roads are in good condition while others are poor and  require 4WD vehicles

How do I get to San Jose and central highlands?

There is a direct flight from London Gatwick to San José (11 hrs) as well as non-direct flights via US and European hubs.

What are the cultural events in San Jose and central highlands?
International Arts Festival: San José, Mar. Music, dance, film art exhibitions.
Independence Day: San José, 15 Sep. music and dancing in the streets starting the evening before.
El Tope: San José, 26 Dec. A horse parade through the city is followed by fairs, fireworks and bull-running south of the city.

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Pacific coast
PAcif
The Pacific coast, unlike the sheltered volcanic beaches of the Caribbean, is lashed by foaming Pacific waves, much beloved by surfers.  The wide golden beaches are extremely beautiful, made more so by the shade of the tropical vegetation and coconut groves which tumble down to and fringe them.

Halfway down the coast is Manuel Antonio National Park, a tropical fairy-land of palms, creepers and mangrove swamps, where monkeys scamper down to the sweep of ochre beach at sunset. Hotels and other properties punctuate the hills beyond and sit along the shoreline that leads to the protected national park. There’s also a growing resort complex at Herradura.
When's the best time to visit Pacific coast of Costa Rica?

To enjoy the beaches, good weather is a priority so most visits are in the dry season Dec - Apr when there is plenty of sun. It’s hot all year round (average temperatures range from 22-25°C, rather higher in the dry season). The busy times for visitors are the dry season months, especially weekends and Easter week. The green (i.e. rainy) season is much quieter.

What's the official language of Pacific coast of Costa Rica?

Spanish.

How do I get local currency on Pacific coast of Costa Rica?

Colón. Notes can be withdrawn from ATMs in San José using a UK credit or debit card. You may have to authorise your bank first, and withdrawals may be limited to amounts lower than in the UK. US dollars cash can be exchanged in banks too. There are ATMs in Quepos, but stock up with your local currency needs before travelling to Manuel Antonio.

What's the time difference between Pacific coast of Costa Rica?

GMT -5 hours

What places combine well with Pacific coast of Costa Rica?

By light aircraft from San José to Quepos, from where it is a 30mins road journey over the cliffs to Manuel Antonio. Flights take less than one hour. By road, the journey to Manuel Antonio from San José takes about 2.5 hours.

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Savegre valley and Chirripo foothills
Savegre Cloud Forest

Nestled into the Pacific side of the continental divide there is a stunning area of Costa Rica which remains unspoilt and is a magnet for nature lovers, especially bird watchers and walkers.

Cerro Chirripó stands at 3,000m is the highest point in the country attracting adventurous trekkers from all over the world. Below, in the forested foothills and valleys, there’s an abundance of species of bird, mammal and reptile on show.

The trout-filled river Savegre, famed for its magnificent stretch of coastal white-water, is surrounded by dense primary rainforest, waterfalls, and canyons. Fishing and river-rafting are attractions here. The river flows south to an estuary in Manuel Antonio National Park.

The forests around the unspoilt town San Gerado de Dota in the Savegre river valley are home to the resplendent quetzal and a host of other brilliantly coloured tropical birds which nest and feed from the abundance of fruit trees. Open plains offer spectacular views and slope down to ethereal, moss covered cloud forest. 

When's the best time to visit Savegre and Chirripo?

At 2,200m above sea level and frequently swathed in mist, San Gerado de Dota has cooler temperatures than the lowlands. It can rain at any time but most precipitation falls between May - Nov. This 'green' season is quieter in terms of visitor numbers. The best months for bird-watching are Feb - Apr. The areas around San Isidro Del General is noticeably warmer and the eco-structure is predominantly tropical rain forest as you drop towards the coastal area of Dominical. 

What's the official language in Savegre and Chirripo?

Spanish.

How do I get local currency in Savegre and Chirripo?
Colón. Notes can be withdrawn from ATMs in San Isidro Del General but we recommend drawing out money in San Jose airport first. UK credit or debit cards are accepted but take cash for smaller or remoter areas. You may have to authorise your bank first, and withdrawals may be limited to amounts lower than in the UK. US dollars cash can be exchanged in banks and money exchanges (casas de cambio) too. 
What's the time difference between Savegre and Chirripo and UK?

GMT -5 hours.

What places combine well with Savegre and Chirripo?

A visit to the remote Southern Pacific coast for a beach wind down at Dominical or Uvita ( 2-3 hours by road) and the spectacular Corcovado National Park on  Osa Peninsula  (2-3 hours by road and 1 hour by boat ). Costa Rica is a tiny country so road journeys, even winding ones through the highlands, are relatively short. Some roads are in good condition while others require 4WD vehicles.

How do I get to Savegre and Chirripo?

The Savegre Valley and Chirripo Foothills are reached by a 3-5hr drive from San José along the Cerro de la Muerte with Los Quetzales National Park on your right and the Talamanca mountain range on your left. Dropping down to the bottom of the valley and leaving the main highway, the road winds for approximately 1 hour.

What are the festivals and cultural events in Savegre and Chirripo?

During January in San Isidro del General the Fiesta Cívica fills the streets and locals dress up while mariachis provide the soundtrack. In May when the patron saint of farmers, San Isidro, is honored with a colorful parade.

Speak to an expert Travel Consultant or send us your enquiry today.

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Off the beaten track Costa Rica: National parks and private reserves

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