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Discover Costa Rica's vivid natural beauty in comfort. Staying in a series of premium hotels, spot wildlife from a boat on Tortuguero's wild waterways, hike in unspoilt tropical rainforest, look down into emerald crater lakes and take a break on one of Costa Rica's many golden sandy beaches.
Explore Tour Leader
11 nights premium hotel
2 nights premium lodge
1 nights comfortable lodge
Trip maximum 16 Explore average 11
Itineraries on some departure dates may differ, please select the itinerary that you wish to explore.
Arrive in San Jose. The cosmopolitan Costa Rican capital lies in a fertile valley at an altitude of 1150 metres. Coffee and sugar cane are big industries here and coffee is even planted between new buildings and along the roadside on the outskirts of the city.
For those arriving on time our Leader plans to meet you in the hotel reception at 7pm for the welcome meeting, and for those that wish there is the chance to go out for dinner. There are no other activities planned today, so you are free to arrive in San Jose at any time. If you would like to receive an airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive into San Jose's Juan Santamaria International Airport (airport code SJO) which is 18km, around thirty minutes from our hotel. Should you miss the welcome meeting, your Leader will inform you of any essential information as soon as you catch up.
If your flight arrives earlier in the day, perhaps you might choose to head out to explore the city which is easy to navigate with a grid pattern of avenues and streets with a good choice of local eateries, which you may choose to sample this evening. The National museum (Museo Nacional De Costa Rica) is also well worth a visit.
Quality Real Hotel (or similar)
We drive east out of San Jose this morning, towards the Irazu Volcano. Climbing out of the city we are quickly transported through fertile farmland. Situated at 3,432m altitude, the drive to the volcano gives out fantastic views to the valley below, before slowly transforming into a barren windswept moonscape. There are two crater viewpoints at Irazu, and we aim to visit both of them. The main one is filled with brilliantly coloured water, deep within the steep-sided black walls, and we'll have some time here before continuing to Turrialba.
The fertile land around Turrialba makes it an important agricultural region for coffee, sugar and Macadamia nuts, as well as dairy production, with its cheese being popular throughout the country. On arrival, we will be visiting Finca La Florita, a local dairy farm. Here, we'll learn how the region's famous cheese is produced by this small farm, and how the local farmers work together to help distribute their product. As well as sampling the cheese of course!
This evening, we will have the option to visit another typical 'finca' (farm), for a traditional meal cooked by the family.
Villa Florencia Hotel (or similar)
Today is left free for you to spend as you wish. You may choose to try white-water rafting on the Pacuare River. Regarded as one of the country's most exciting and scenic rivers, calm stretches between the Class III-IV rapids allow time to appreciate your passage through rainforest-topped canyons, with blue morpho butterflies and macaws wheeling past. Alternatively, you may choose to visit CATIE (Centro Agronomico Tropical de Investigacion y Ensenanza) Research Centre. Recognised throughout the world as an important agricultural research station, its environmental development projects seek to enhance human wellbeing and protect natural resources. Its botanical garden is a special place to relax, surrounded by the calls of birds, the whisper of the giant Guanacaste Tree and the imposing Ceiba.
This morning, our drive to Cano Blanco takes us through extensive banana plantations. From Cano Blanco, a boat will take us to our spectacular lodge in the Tortuguero National Park, where we will spend the next two nights. As we travel through a fascinating network of jungle waterways, it is easy to understand why this area is often described as a 'mini Amazon'. Its complex canal system and narrow lagoons link small isolated settlements and are rich in fish, including rainbow bass and grouper. They also support an abundance of birds, such as heron, stork and kingfisher as well as 60 species of mammal with Howler and Spider Monkeys in the treetops.
Upon arrival at our comfortable lodge, we will take a short walking tour of the carless village of Tortuguero. Our lodge is in an idyllic setting, perched on a small slither of land between the Caribbean Sea and the waterway.
Evergreen Lodge (or similar)
Today we have the opportunity to explore some of this spectacular national park. To kick off our day, there is the option of a bird watching trip by boat at dawn, where we have the opportunity to spot some of Costa Rica's spectacular birdlife. This morning, water birds such as herons, egrets and kingfishers are among the birds that may be spotted, although other species of birds such as toucans may be found in the area.
Later this morning we will go on a nature walk to understand more about the area's unique ecosystem. This afternoon, we will take to the waterways for further exploration. On our travels, we may come across the howler monkey, aptly named by the way it noisily protects its territory. Much shyer animals in this area include ocelots, tapir and the incredibly elusive jaguar.
Throughout the year, you may be lucky enough to see different species of turtle nesting close to our lodge. The best time to see this spectacle is between June and September when over five-thousand green turtles come ashore to nest on Tortuguero's beaches. At this time of year, there is the option of an evening turtle walk in the company of experienced guides.
Leaving our lodge this morning, we travel by boat back to Cano Blanco, before heading on to Puerto Viejo Sarapiqui.
After lunch, we plan to visit La Tirimbina for a chocolate tour. This two and a half hour tour will open the secrets and wonders of one of mankind's favourite foods: chocolate. Originally from Central America, this plant has an extraordinary history; it was one of the most important products for the Mayan and Aztec cultures. The discovery of America led to the introduction of chocolate in Europe, transforming it into the product we all know today.
We start by taking a short hike over a suspension bridge and through a forest to a former cacao-growing plot, learning about the cacao tree along the way. Upon arrival at the plot, the artisanal process by which cacao fruit is transformed into chocolate will be demonstrated. There is ample opportunity to taste different kinds of chocolate, prepared on the spot in the traditional way.
This evening we will have a night walk in the on-site nature trails of our hotel, in search of nocturnal species such as snakes and frogs.
Sarapiquis Rainforest Lodge (or similar)
This morning we will take a nature walk on the rainforest trails around our lodge. Sarapiqui's rainforest area is rich in nature, and includes more than 54% of all birds found in Costa Rica. We will be on the lookout for endemic species, including the Spotted Antbird and the Rufous Motmot.
Later on, we drive to Arenal, skirting around the great central volcanic massif, passing through fertile farmlands that are rich with tropical crops. Arenal is a classic conical volcano, famous for its nightly eruptions until finally going quiet in 2010. We will be exploring the National Park on foot, taking a walk on the flanks of the volcano, which are covered by a tangled mass of vegetation on one side and starkly barren on the other. Our leader will point out interesting flora and fauna and provide more information about the science and history of the volcano, before taking us to a viewpoint for a closer view.
Our accommodation for the next three nights is in La Fortuna. The town was renamed after a huge 1968 eruption that decimated the small towns around the volcano's western flanks, when it was seen as being 'fortunate' that it was located on the eastern side of the volcano.
Volcano Lodge & Gardens (or similar)
The Arenal area is well known for its diverse wildlife, and some of the most sought-after species for their colourful and unique features are the multi-coloured toucan, the poisonous blue jeans dart frog and, of course, the lazy sloth. This morning we'll have our eyes open for these three beautiful animals on foot and by bus around La Fortuna's many spotting areas. This wildlife tour takes us into some private areas and farmland that are not visited by other tourists, where we have maximum chance for a sloth sighting. Birds, iguanas and various types of monkey are among the other animals that we might encounter.
This afternoon we will visit an organic farm near La Fortuna, where sugar cane is milled. We'll have the opportunity to see this process and taste the sugar cane juice before it's made into sugar blocks. As the afternoon ends, we'll take a tour of the property and gather for ourselves the fruits, vegetables and roots that are growing on the property, before learning how to prepare a traditional Costa Rican meal with the owners of the farm. One of the most common Costa Rican dishes is the casado (meaning 'married man' in Spanish!), a meal that uses rice, black beans, plantains, tortilla and meat or fish - a range of locally sourced produce. Delicious!
Today has been left free to explore the Arenal area as you choose. There are local treks to waterfalls and along lava trails whilst those keen to relax can enjoy spa treatments with volcanic mud. White water rafting is also possible in this area, as well as a more relaxed 'float' trip down the river, spotting wildlife in the forest.
Your Tour Leader will be able to provide information on all the options.
Today we will travel around Arenal Lake up into the cloud forest region of Monteverde - one of the most well-known places in Costa Rica to see wildlife. The last part of our journey is on bumpy roads, but we are rewarded with a two-night stay here to enjoy all that this area has to offer.
Perched on the Continental Divide between the Pacific and the Caribbean, it is thought that there has been indigenous habitation in Monteverde since 3000 BC. However, the turning point in its recent history came in 1950, when a group of pacifist Quakers from Alabama moved here to avoid subscription in the Korean War. They sought a lifestyle in a country in which they could embrace their peaceful beliefs and continue to cultivate their dairy farms. These families went on to establish the community of Monteverde and some of its famed cloud forest reserves.
The drive takes approximately 5 hours from Arenal, and on arrival we are at our leisure. You may wish to visit the butterfly farm or orchid gardens in the area.
This evening we will have the adventure of a guided night walk in the cloud forest, in search of nocturnal species such as pacas and tarantulas.
Ficus Hotel and Sunset Suites (or similar)
The famous, but now very rare, resplendent quetzal is fairly commonly seen in Monteverde, one of the last remaining places in Central America where its habitat has been preserved. Sacred to the ancient Maya and Aztec peoples, it is considered one of the most beautiful birds in the world and the best time to see it is during its breeding months of March and April.
This morning, we will have a guided walk in the Monteverde cloud forest, walking the paths that wind their way through gigantic ferns and trees covered with draping lichen and moss. The jungle floor is often littered with blossoms that fall from the high canopy providing a carpet of colour amidst the endless green.
The rest of our day is free to spend as you wish. You may choose to stay longer in the Monteverde cloud forest and explore the trails further. Alternatively, Monteverde is regarded as offering some of the best canopy (zip line) experiences in the world. You may choose to 'fly' through the dramatic scenery on a zipwire, or take a more sedate walk through the canopy on treetop walkways. There are also orchid and butterfly gardens in the area.
Leaving the cloud forest behind us this morning, we descend to the Pacific Coast with staggering views over the Gulf and Peninsula of Nicoya. Heading south, we pause at Carara Biological Reserve, famed for the scarlet macaws and abundant birdlife which populate this transitional forest.
We continue along the Pacific Coast to the region of Dominical, where we will spend the next two nights. Dominical is ideally located close to Manuel Antonio, and has an expansive beach well known for its surfing conditions. Our hotel here is set in grounds of tropical forest, with magnificent views over the Pacific Ocean. It offers an outdoor swimming pool, expansive 12 hectare landscaped grounds with a rainforest hiking path and a spa. There is also a complementary shuttle bus to the nearby beach.
Hotel Cristal Ballena (or similar)
This morning, we visit Manuel Antonio National Park, famed for its beautiful beaches and rich wildlife. During our time in the park, we are likely to see white-faced capuchin monkeys, coatimundi (part of the raccoon family) and tiny squirrel monkeys. This is also one of the best places in Costa Rica to see sloths. The majority of a sloth's diet comes from buds and leaves. As leaves provide little energy, sloths move only when necessary and even then very slowly so they are easy to spot. The park has a walking trail that runs directly through the forest, ending at a beautiful white-sand beach. We'll have some time here to relax and swim in the warm waters, or return onto the forest trail for some more wildlife spotting. Lunch in Manuel Antonio is also at our leisure, before we return to the hotel in the late afternoon.
We highly recommend a sunset drink at the hotel this evening. The sunsets from this coast are spectacular, and with a location on a hill, the hotel has outstanding views over the Pacific.
You have a final free morning to spend here on the Pacific Coast before we return to San Jose. It is a great opportunity to relax and make the most of the hotel facilities or head to the beach for that one last dip in the sea.
This afternoon we leave the Pacific Ocean at about midday. Our journey back to Costa Rica's capital will take about four hours.
The trip ends this morning at our hotel in San Jose.
There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day, luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you would like to receive an airport transfer today, you'll need to depart from Juan Santamaria International Airport (airport code: SJO), approximately a 30 minute drive from our hotel.
Seasonal weather patterns can be unpredictable. Up-to-date information on the weather worldwide can be found by following the BBC weather link on this page. Costa Rica has a tropical climate with high temperature humidity and rainfall. The average temperature is 21°C in the highlands and variable in the lowlands. The rainy season is from May to October and the summer from December to April, but it does still tend to rain, usually in short bursts. Bear in mind that Costa Rica has 12 microclimates and weather can vary significantly in one day.
2 Pin Flat
Christian, Roman Catholic
Turrialba - White water rafting grade II-III or III-IV US$ 103-120; Finca visit local farm and dinner US$ 29; Catie US$ 27.00 (inc. guide) - plus lunch is US$60.00 Tortuguero - Turtle watching (in season June - September) ) US$ 49; Bird/wildlife watching tour US$ 32, Spa US$ 55-100 Arenal - Hot springs US$ 45 (US$ 75 with dinner) plus transport; Waterfall walk US$ 19; Half day Safari float US$ 71; White Water Rafting grade II or III US$90 - grade III-IV US$108; Chocolate tour US$30 inc. transport US$45; Sloth tour US$68, inc. transport US$78 Monteverde - Canopy bridges US$ 56; Canopy zip wires US$ 95; Canopy Zip wire and Bridges US$ 108; Butterfly garden ents US$22; Orchid gardens US$ 19; Dominical/Manuel Antonio - White Water rafting Grade III US$135; Whale Watching US$125 (from July 15th to October 15th) Horseback riding US$112; Sea Kayaking US$112 Please note all optionals in Costa Rica can be paid for by card except CATIE
Lightweight clothing is essential in midsummer though a warmer sweater is advisable for cooler evenings in the highlands (especially in Monteverde). A good waterproof is essential, and you should consider waterproof trousers. The jungle lowlands are hot and muggy, and it can rain at any time of year. Long trousers and long-sleeved shirts are recommended on jungle walks.
Lightweight trail/walking boots for jungle walks, comfortable shoes/trainers and sandals. In the rainy season (roughly April to September) waterproof boots are recommended.
One main piece of luggage and a daysack. Remember, you are expected to carry your own baggage - don't overload yourself.
We recommend a sunhat, sunscreen, a small umbrella, a torch, insect repellent, beach towel and a water bottle. Binoculars are essential for bird and animal spotting.
During this trip we use distinctive, premium rated accommodation while discovering Costa Rica's natural beauty. Due to the increasing popularity of some of the locations on our trip, we will be using a number of different properties in Tortuguero, Sarapiqui, Arenal & Monteverde. All the hotels that we will be using for these trips are perfectly located to explore the surrounding areas, and are all graded at our premium rating. The hotels for your departure will be confirmed on your final documentation, or you can contact our Sales Team, who will be able to advise you Examples of the kind of hotels we use on this tour are the characterful colonial farmhouse of Casa Turire in Turrialba, the rainforest lodges in Sarapiqui with their trails leading directly into prime rainforest, and the Arenal Volcano Lodge, where the private pools and hot springs are backed by the volcano itself. The Cristal Ballena at the end of the trip is also a highlight, with tropical gardens and bird-watching opportunities right from the hotel's own trail.
Can you drink the water?
The water quality is poor and therefore it is recommended to avoid drinking tap water during your trip.
We strongly recommend that you check your government's travel advisory for up-to-date information and advice about your destination: safety and security, entry requirements, health, local laws and customs. For UK citizens, check the latest Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office advice.
Please refer to our COVID-19 entry requirements page for any country-specific conditions of entry. Whilst we strive to update this on a regular basis we recommend you also check the FCDO website for the latest advice on entry requirements in this fast-evolving situation. Information can change at any time.
Please note that some countries require proof of parental consent when travelling overseas with under 18s. Please check requirements with the relevant embassy or consular office well in advance of travel if this applies to your party.
Once your booking has been confirmed we guarantee the price will not increase, whatever the circumstances. However, please note that if you voluntarily make any changes to your booking including changing your trip or departure date, any additional costs or charges incurred will not be covered. Before booking please ensure you have read our important tour pricing information.Booking Conditions
Costa Rica: Citizens from the UK, US, Canada and most EU countries do not require a visa for a stay up to 90 days. Citizen of Australia, New Zealand and the Republic of Ireland do not require a visa for stays up to 30 days. Other nationalities should consult the relevant consulate. USA: If your flights pass through the USA, even if only in transit, you will require either a visa or an ESTA (an e-visa). Please read on for more information. Citizens of the UK, New Zealand, Australia, Canada and passport holders from several EU countries can apply for an ESTA under certain conditions. This applies if you enter the country by sea or by air, and this must be done online via https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov, no later than 72 hours prior to travel. Travellers who have not registered before their trip are likely be refused boarding. You must have a biometric passport to apply for an ESTA. UK passports which are biometric feature a small gold symbol (camera) at the bottom of the front cover. If you have visited Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen since 2011 or are dual nationals of these countries, you cannot travel with an ESTA and instead you will need to apply for a visa from the nearest US Embassy or Consulate. If you are unable to provide a valid visa before boarding flights to the US, or entering via another method, you may not be permitted to travel. You should also be aware that if you have travelled to or have been in Cuba since the 12th of January 2021, you will not be eligible for an ESTA visa waiver and will need to apply for a US visa. You should consult the US State Department website to determine which you will need. Your ESTA application will ask for Point of Contact information. Please note that if you're only transiting through the USA then this is not required. If you're visiting or staying in the USA on an Explore trip, then our USA contact information will be listed on your final documentation which you will receive approximately 3-4 weeks before departure. Entry requirements for the USA can change regularly, therefore, please ensure you have the most up to date information before you travel by checking the US embassy website. Visa applications - http://london.usembassy.gov/niv/apply.html Canada: An electronic travel authorisation (ETA) is required by British citizens transiting via Canada. For more information see the official Canadian government website: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/eta.asp Other nationalities should consult their local embassy or consular office
If you do require assistance in obtaining a visa then you may be able to apply through Explore's recommended visa service in the UK, Travcour. See www.travcour.com to download the relevant visa application for your trip, if applicable (UK citizens only), along with details of how to apply for your visa through Travcour. The Team at Travcour will be happy to answer specific questions relating to visa applications, please call them directly on 0208 5431846.
It is your responsibility to ensure that you are in possession of a full passport, with the correct validity for your chosen destination.
Before booking your Explore trip, please ensure that you read both our Essential Information and Booking Conditions.
Customers who have chosen to book on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements of our tour, please ensure that you have checked your tour specific ‘Joining Instructions’ prior to booking your own travel arrangements. Your joining instructions can be found below in the dates and prices information.
You may also be eligible for the Free Explore Transfer.
Customers booked on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements will receive a Free Transfer, provided you arrive and depart on the tour only itinerary start and end dates. The complimentary transfers will be arranged from the Explore designated airport or train station to your trips joining point, and then back from the ending point to the designated airport or train station. Generally the airport or station that Explore have selected will be the one that is closest to the town or city where the trip starts, or the one nearest to the joining point. It will be either an airport or train station but not both.
The exception to this rule is customers who are booked on a tour where the joining and ending point is at the designated airport or train station.
Free transfers are not available for Polar customers.
If you are not eligible for the Free Transfer then you will need to make your own way through to the joining and ending point. On a majority of our tours Explore will be able to provide a private transfer at an additional cost. Please ask for a quote at the time of booking.
For more information regarding the Explore Free Transfer click here
It is a condition of booking with Explore that you have adequate valid travel insurance. It is your responsibility to arrange appropriate travel insurance and ensure you have read and understood the full terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy to ensure that you are covered for all activities you intend to undertake whilst on the tour, including all optional activities. Your Insurance Policy must fully cover you for medical expenses and emergency repatriation to your home country. Please ensure your policy includes medical emergency helicopter evacuation in the event of illness or injury and covers the entire duration of your holiday. If you are trekking at altitude please ensure that there is no upper altitude limit which may limit or exclude cover for your trip. The cost of many of our Polar Voyages will exceed the capped amount covered by standard insurance premiums and you will be required to pay an additional premium to cover the full value of your trip. Please ensure that you are covered for the full amount of your holiday cost, as insufficient cover could invalidate a claim under the policy. Medical and repatriation insurance cover is not mandatory for UK residents who are travelling on trips within the United Kingdom.
Read more information about what travel insurance is required.
Explore offers a wide range of flexible flying options to make joining and leaving our trips easy. Read more about them here.
You are able to book this tour on a 'land only' basis or as a ‘flight inclusive’ package. Your flight inclusive package will be fully protected by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) ATOL protection scheme.
We have a good selection of flights not only from London but from many regional airports around the UK allowing us to compare fares between scheduled carriers as well as low cost and charter airlines. Our dedicated flights team will match the best flight options to your arrival and departure airport.
On our website we display a UK flight inclusive package guide price which is generally based on a London departure. To avoid paying supplements or to secure your preferred flight option, we recommend booking as early as possible, especially for peak travel dates.
An ability to swim is essential for your safe enjoyment of the water based activities on this trip. If you wish to participate in these activities then we insist that you are able to swim.
Nothing compulsory, but we recommend protection against typhoid, infectious hepatitis and polio. Please consult your travel clinic for the latest advice on Malaria, Dengue and Zika Virus. Please take preventative measures to avoid mosquito bites - these include mosquito repellent as well as long trousers and long sleeve shirts to cover up when necessary. Please note many countries in Central America, South America and the Caribbean require a yellow fever vaccination certificates if travelling from infected areas. A detailed list of these countries can be found on the NaTHNaC website - http://travelhealthpro.org.uk/countries. Also on the NaTHNaC site there is a list of Countries (and specific areas within a country) which are at risk of infection and a vaccination is therefore recommended. Please check the latest requirements with your travel clinic or doctor prior to departure. The above is not an exhaustive list. Further information regarding vaccinations and travel health advice can be found by following the NHS and NaTHNaC links at Explore Travel Health and from your local healthcare provider. Visa and vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed by you before travelling.