Private Journeys

Signature Costa Rica: The natural highlights

14 days from £3,500pp

Costa Rica

Itinerary

map marker Map

Day 1

Arrive in San José and transfer to your 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

Fly to Puerto Jiménez on the Pacific coast, transfer to rainforest wildlife lodge.

Transfer back to the airport to fly to Palmar Sur and continue on a bumpy road to Puerto Jiménez and thence 22km to your jungle lodge, El Remanso. This is relaxed and peaceful place set above a delightful, wild beach and within its own tropical reserve near Corcovado National Park - one of the most bio-diverse on the planet, which protects about one third of the Osa Peninsula on Costa Rica's beautiful and wild Pacific coast.

The peninsula’s lowland rainforest, upland cloud forest and mangrove swamp are home to an astonishing diversity of flora and fauna. The area is particularly known for its large population of Scarlet macaws. The area is abundant with so much wildlife - expect to see Howler monkeys, toucans and macaws. Guided naturalist walks make the most of the flora and fauna, with other activities including waterfall rappelling (abseiling) and zip-lining through the forest canopy.  

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Day 3

Guided nature walk.

A guided walk from the lodge is included. There are self guided trails but the guides from the lodge will help you make the most of any wildlife walk but be prepared to wake up early. 

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Day 4

At leisure.

At leisure at the lodge; optional excursions and activities.

Day 5

Fly to San José, transfer to Monteverde.

Fly to San Jose and travel inland by road into highlands mantled by the woodland of Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, which lies in the rugged, rolling hills northwest of San José. You'll be driven for a couple of hours through the Central Valley along the Pan American Highway, a decent paved road. After 150km you take the turn off for Monteverde, and here the adventure begins - for up to 90mins, the dirt road is bumpy with volcanic rocks, winding up through the hills to the cloud forest at 1,400m. You can expect it to be dusty in the dry season and muddy in the wet. However you should be diverted by wildlife you spot along the way - sloths, monkeys and tropical birds - keep your binoculars handy. 

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Day 6

Half day excursion to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve.

Drive the short distance the entrance of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve accompanied by a naturalist guide. The reserve includes a protected area comprising 6 different life zones. So many habitats in such a small area, along with extensive trail improvements, allow visitors to enjoy a rich diversity of flora and fauna with relatively short distance and easy walking. 

The reserve was founded in 1972 and extends down both slopes of the Tilarán Mountains. It is home to more than 100 species of mammals, 400 of birds and 1,500 of plants. Walking along the well-marked trails, amidst dense, dripping foliage, you are likely to encounter the Resplendent quetzal (Jan – Jul. Occasionally a dozen or more individuals at once). Other species include the Three-wattled bellbird, the Emerald toucanet, and White-faced and Howler monkeys.

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Day 7

Transfer to Arenal volcano area.

It's a 136 km, 2-3 hr downhill drive by 4WD vehicle from Monteverde to Arenal. There is no direct route and the road condition on the first segment of the journey is rough and bumpy but you can look out for wildlife so keep your binoculars handy. On reaching the lake and Rio Chiquito on the shores of Lake Arenal, you embark on a boat to take you across the lake (30-40 mins) followed by a short, good-quality road journey to your hotel. A private bus transfer is followed by a boat trip across Lake Arenal, which provides a magnificent first glimpse of this imposing volcano, reflected in the lake’s sparkling waters (2.5hrs). 

As the sun begins to set, hike across a barren landscape dotted with rocks and shrubs, from which you may see the flows of molten lava being discharged from Arenal’s fiery cone (although the volcano has been inactive since 2010, so there is no guarantee of its activity). As evening falls, relax in the hot springs; the bubbling water is naturally heated by the volcano. 

 

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Day 8

Excursion to the Ecotermales hot springs.

Excursion to Ecotermales hot springs. These waters provide a more off-the-beaten-track experience than their better known and more overcrowded cousins. Set well back from the road that runs between the lake and the town of La Fortuna, the farm has only recently been opened to the general public. The springs, five free-flowing pools, set in a natural river gorge vary in temperature from 38ºC to 43ºC depending on the pool. 

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Day 9

Transfer to Caño Blanco port, boat to Tortuguero Jungle Reserve.

You take a 5hr drive including a short bumpy ride through banana plantations to Caño Blanco dock. It is then an hour’s boat ride along the shore hugged by mangrove swamps before you arrive in the small, ramshackle village of Tortuguero, which gives you an insight into the way of life in this remote region. 

Tortuguero National Park was originally intended to conserve a major nesting beach of the Atlantic green sea turtle and leatherback. Now it is one of the last protected areas of tropical rainforest in Central America, with 11 different natural habitats. 3 species of monkeys (Spider, Howler, and White-faced),

Three-toed sloths, and River otters are frequently seen along the natural inland waterways and canals. Caimans, iguanas, river turtles, basilisk lizards and poison dart frogs inhabit the area, along with more than 320 species of birds including all 6 species of kingfishers found in the New World, 3 species of toucans, 8 species of parrot, and other neo-tropical species such as the Slate-tailed trogon, White-collared manakin, Purple-throated fruit crow, and White-fronted nun bird. These and many more species may be observed during your guided boat trip through the backwater mangrove channels of Tortuguero National Park.  

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Day 10

Wildlife spotting excursion into Tortuguero National Park.

You have a guided exploration by boat through the mangroves, your guide helping you to spot and identify the myriad of wildlife. The remaining time can be spent relaxing in your lodge or participating in some of the many activities available. Explore more of the jungle trails and waterways with a naturalist guide, or rent one of the kayaks and investigate the canals at your leisure; gliding silently through these waters you are likely to spot all kinds of wildlife on the banks. Visit the nearby turtle museum to gather some information about the nesting cycle of these ancient reptiles. In season, take a night-time walk along the moonlit beach, and search for turtles and their eggs.

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Day 11

Boat transfer to Caño Blanco, continue by road to Caribbean beach hotel.

Return by boat to Caño Blanco. From there it’s about an hour's drive along a bumpy road to the town of Siquirres followed by a 3hr journey along the main highway to Puerto Viejo. Your hotel is a small, attractive resort set across the road from the beach of Punta Cocles near Cahuita National Park on the Caribbean coast.

There are many marine and terrestrial ecosystems in Cahuita National Park. You can snorkel among with 35 different coral species (including fire coral, elkhorn and the smooth brain coral), 123 different species of tropical fish (including queen angel fish and blue parrot fish). Other species that may be spotted include sea urchins, sea cucumber, lobsters, sponges, Hawksbill turtle and Green turtle. Common species on dry land include Howler and White-faced monkeys, Two-and Three-toed sloths, iguanas, spiders, Morpho butterflies and many birds. 

The agitated waves, which break on a sheet of white palm-defined sand at Punta Cocles, have made it popular with the surfing community. It’s a lovely beach to while away the hours.

Days 12-13

At leisure.

At leisure on the beach: excursions, water sports and other outdoor activities can be organised from the lodge: visit a sloth sanctuary, or explore the area astride a bike.

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Day 14

Transfer to San José airport for international flight home.

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.

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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.

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Real Latin America Experts

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    Hannah Waterhouse - Travel Consultant

    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.

  • Carrie Gallagher
    Carrie Gallagher - Travel Consultant

    A former JLA tour leader, Carrie brings a wealth of on-the-ground experience to our London-based Escorted Groups team.

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    Lina Fuller - Travel Consultant

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

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    Hannah Donaldson - Travel Consultant

    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 an invaluable part of our Group Tours team.

  • Paul Winrow Giffen
    Paul Winrow-Giffin - Travel Consultant

    After graduating in Computer Science, Paul spent seven months travelling from Colombia to Argentina and came home hooked on Latin America.

  • Ben Line
    Ben Line - Travel Consultant

    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 Manager of the Tailor-made Department.

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