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Private Journeys

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

12 days from £2,490pp

Costa Rica


map marker Map

Day 1

Transfer from the airport to your countryside lodge.

Travel west by road for an hour from San José airport to Cerro Lodge, situated close to Carara National Park. Carara National Park hosts a wide range of ecosystems ranging from lakes and swamps to sub- tropical rainforest. The park sits between the dry forests of the north and the humid zones of the south. Many endangered and threatened species live and breed here, such as the American crocodile. Carara is also considered a sanctuary for the scarlet macaw, as well as many other bird species: tiger herons, egrets, sand-pipers, stilts, tanagers, honeycreepers, trogons, toucans among them.

Cerro Lodge

Day 2

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

Start with a guided nature walk in the park, where there are opportunities to spot sloth and moneys in addition to an abundance of tropical birds, including the scarlet macaw. This is followed by a well organised river safari where the star attractions are the huge crocodiles which can reach four metres in length, although bird life is also plentiful here including hawks and different types of heron. There have been crocodiles on Earth for over 200 million years, during which time they haven’t evolved much – so the toothy creatures have a really prehistoric air. You can also see iguanas and basilisks basking in their natural habitat.

Your covered boat will be steered by a Captain and a bilingual guide will also accompany you, both of them able to navigate expertly in order to maximise the opportunity of spotting these gigantic reptiles. They can also tell you about all the fauna and flora of the river, pausing to let you photograph and film the wildlife at close range.

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Day 3

Transfer to Santa Juana Lodge inland from the Pacific coast.

The journey to your next lodge takes you along the coastal section of the Pan American Highway. This small, family-friendly property is situated an hour’s drive on a bumpy road inland from Quepos (25km) on the Pacific coast, so the drive gives you the enhance to survey a varied mix of landscapes from palm plantations up through typical rolling Costa Rican countryside.


Day 4

Activities from the lodge.

Various activities are on offer at the lodge, such as horse riding, waterfall swimming, coffee and nature tours. We recommend maybe taking a canopy zip-line tour for a bird’s eye view of the forest at tree-top level, and maybe visit a sugar-cane plantation to learn about the production techniques for this nowadays much maligned product.  


Day 5

Transfer to Trogon Lodge close to San Gerado de Dota.

It’s a journey of about three hours along highways and latterly steep, unmade roads to San Gerardo de Dota, huddled up against the Talamanca mountain range which dominates the landscape. Tourism hasn’t yet made its mark on this little settlement nestled in the Savegre river valley, although it’s a launch point for visits to Los Quetzales National Park and a base for hikers and bird watchers. The terrain is rugged and hilly: a collage of green trees and mountains; a peaceful setting soothed by the sounds of the river.

Trogon Lodge

Day 6

Guided activities from the lodge.

This is one of Costa Rica’s prime areas for opportunities to spot the glorious resplendent quetzal, owing to the temperate climate and the abundance of tropical fruit bearing trees. With its bright green, crimson and gold plumage, this striking (but sadly endangered) bird has been adopted as the national bird of Guatemala and the currency of that country; is revered by the Mayans of the era of empire and the present day who use its feathers in their traditional head-dresses.  Accompanied by an experienced guide, your chances of spotting one are pretty good. 

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Day 7

Transfer to Ojochal area.

Climb out of the Savegre valley. The road continues to rise as you wind your way up to the highest point (3,335m) on the off-puttingly named Cerro de la Muerte (Death Hill – nowadays however, to reassure visitors, it’s more appealingly known as Cerro Buena Vista  (Lovely View Hill).

On a clear day views of the Talamanca mountain range are spectacular. Now the road descends an unpaved all the way down to your lodge (you switch to one of the lodge’s vehicles; the driver knows the route well and can stop to point out wildlife) at sea level where the climate is sub-tropical, with vegetation to match.

Yaba Chigui Lodge is a friendly eco-lodge situated in the hills behind the southern Pacific coast.

Hotel Owned ©

Day 8

Activities from the lodge

Bookable at the hotel are many optional activities you can choose from including whale watching (in season), snorkelling, scuba diving, canyoning, white-water rafting, deep sea fishing, stand-up paddling and horse-riding (pay locally for these). We recommend a trip out to the marine reserve at Caño Island, where you can snorkel in clear, sapphire blue water lapping suntanned beaches. There have been interesting pre-Columbian artifacts found here too including Diquis stones, spherical petroglyphs attributed to an now extinct culture. 

Alternatively spend the day relaxing on this tranquil property.

Yaba Chigui Lodge

Day 9

Travel north up the coast to Dominical and Playa Uvita.

Dominical is a beach-front town well known for its year-round Pacific rollers; making it popular among surfers. The gorgeous, whale-tail shaped beach at Uvita is a popular destination for whale-watching, especially in March and September. If you are visiting between August and September or January and April, you can sign up for a water-borne expedition in search of these huge yet curious mammals as they breach the surface of the ocean or swim alongside the boat. 

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Day 10

Free time on the beach or explore the area.

You are staying at La Cusinga, an eco-lodge tucked away in a private rainforest reserve, with sweeping views over the Pacific and a sandy palm-shaded beach studded with natural pools. The property sits on the border of Ballena Marine National Park, one of only two nationally protected marine zones in the country. Here you can observe abundant wildlife on gentle trail hikes and take a dip in natural swimming holes. Sport fishing, surfing, kayaking, horse riding, sailing and snorkelling among schools of tropical fish, turtles and octopuses are also popular additional activities available to book from the lodge. It’s not all action though: the property has a spa with yoga classes, and you are welcome just to sit back and enjoy a tangerine sunset with a cocktail in your hand.  

Close by, a number of French expatriates and North Americans have settled in the village of Ocotal and opened high end restaurants offering mouth-watering takes on Costa Rican and French cuisine. 

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Day 11

Transfer to San José.

It’s a four-five hour drive to your accommodation, set in leafy gardens in a peaceful location outside the capital but close to the airport.

Day 12

Transfer to the airport for your international flight.

Inspired by this trip

Our exciting range of articles on Latin America explore everything from iconic destinations and lesser-known cultural gems to delicious traditional recipes. You’ll also find exclusive travel tips, first-hand client reviews and the chance to get your personal questions answered by our travel experts.


Your edit for Latin American inspiration

Our exciting range of articles on Latin America explore everything from iconic destinations and lesser-known cultural gems to delicious traditional recipes. You’ll also find exclusive travel tips, first-hand client reviews and the chance to get your personal questions answered by our travel experts.

View Extraordinary Inspiration

Real Latin America Experts

  • Hannah Donaldson
    Hannah Donaldson - Travel Expert

    Having spent part of her childhood in Colombia and worked in Brazil and Costa Rica, Hannah's ties to Latin America run deep. Hannah is a much valued Travel Expert in our Tailor-made Holidays and Group Tours sales team.

  • Hannah Waterhouse
    Hannah Waterhouse - Travel Expert

    Hannah had an early introduction to Latin America when her family moved to Ecuador and she returned to study in Buenos Aires for a year before backpacking across the continent.

  • Lina Fuller
    Lina Fuller - Travel Expert

    Lina's passion for the continent where she was born really took off when she moved to Córdoba (Argentina) to study, spending the holidays travelling between Argentina and her native Colombia.

  • Ben Line
    Ben Line - Travel Expert

    Ben fell in love with Latin America on a six month backpacking trip from Colombia to Mexico in 1995. Since then he has explored most of South America, including living in Peru for a year. He is now Head of Sales.

  • Kathryn Rhodes
    Kathryn Rhodes - Travel Expert

    Kathryn backpacked across Argentina, Chile, Bolivia and Peru before joining us. She has a degree in Philosophy and French and is a keen netball player.

  • Carrie Gallagher
    Carrie Gallagher - Travel Expert

    A former JLA tour leader, Carrie brings a wealth of on-the-ground experience to our London-based Tailor-made and Group Tours department.

Meet the team