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Towering volcanoes, unspoilt beaches and tropical rainforest are all part of this family holiday to Costa Rica. Journey from the Caribbean to the Pacific Ocean through one of the most biologically diverse countries in the world. Discover cloud forest home to the magnificent Resplendent Quetzal, learn how to make chocolate and zip wire through the forest canopy. Costa Rica is truly a magical, all round family destination.
Explore Tour Leader
3 nights comfortable hotel
5 nights premium hotel
3 nights comfortable lodge
2 nights premium lodge
10 - 16
Itineraries on some departure dates may differ, please select the itinerary that you wish to explore.
Arrive in San Jose. The Costa Rican cosmopolitan 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 a complimentary 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 the 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 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.
Autentico Hotel (or similar)
This morning head out of San Jose, driving half an hour to the old colonial capital of Cartago where we make a brief stop before continuing to Irazu volcano.
Situated at 3,432m altitude, the drive to Irazu climbs through fertile farmland, giving 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. We'll have time to explore 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 visit the excavated Indian ceremonial centre at Guayabo. Dating from 1000 to 1400, this is one of the country's most important archaeological sites. Here, uncovered paved streets and water channels help us to understand about village life in that era.
Our eco lodge for the next two nights is located on the slopes of Turrialba volcano with extensive gardens full of life. It's possible to head out on trails from the lodge in search of hummingbirds and numerous other birds that make Costa Rica their home.
Guayabo Lodge (or similar)
This morning is free for you to spend as you wish. You may choose to try whitewater rafting on the Pejibaye River and with grade II to III rapids (operates between May and November), this is a fun ride with plenty of birds to spot in the trees along the banks. Alternatively, you may choose to visit CATIE Research Centre (Centro Agronomico Tropical de Investigscion y Ensenanza). Recognised throughout the world as an important agronomic station, its environmental development projects seek to enhance human wellbeing and protect natural resources. Its botanic garden is a special place to relax, surrounded by the calls of birds, the whisper of the giant Guanacaste Tree and the imposing Ceiba. Alternatively relax at our lodge and enjoy the gardens and trails.
This afternoon visit Finca La Florita in Santa Cruz, a farming town in the high lands of one the most important volcanic ranges of Costa Rica. During our visit we'll learn the process of producing cheese and sample the end product!
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 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. Over 370 species of bird have been recorded here including 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 Tortugeuero. Our lodge is in an idyllic setting, perched on a small slither of land between the Caribbean Sea and the waterway and features an excellent swimming pool.
Evergreen Lodge (or similar)
To kick off our day, there is the option of a bird watching trip by boat at dawn. Amazingly, the country's different species outnumber those found in the whole of Europe with stork, parrot and hummingbird being among the many birds to be spotted. Later this morning, head out on a jungle trek to understand more about the area's unique ecosystem. It's amazing to think that 33% of the jungle's total biomass is made up of ants and termites.
This afternoon, we will take to the waterways for further exploration and on our travels, we may come across the howler monkey, aptly named by the way it noisily protects its territory and if you are lucky, you may also see the elusive ocelots cat and 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 and leatherback turtles come ashore to nest on Tortuguero's beaches. At this time of year, there is the option of an evening turtle walk to take in this spectacle.
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.
Selva Verde Eco Lodge (or similar)
This morning's drive skirts around the great central volcanic massif, passing through fertile farmlands that are rich with tropical crops. Soon we catch sight of the famous Arenal Volcano. This classic cone rising to 1,670 metres is covered by a tangled mass of vegetation on one side, while the other is starkly barren. Having remained dormant for hundreds of years, it erupted unexpectedly in 1968 destroying the small town of Tabacon on its west side. After this, it was known for its regular explosions which became a huge spectacle. However, since 2010, the volcano has gone quiet once more…but you never know when it will erupt again.
This afternoon, we drive to the Mirador del Silencio Reserve, where we can enjoy a short nature trail observing endemic flora and fauna at the foot of the volcano. Brimming with giant trees, weird and wonderful plant species and a spectacular view of Arenal, it's no wonder that the reserve has featured in several films. Many species of fauna can also be seen here, including different types of snakes, howler monkeys and many species of birdlife. Our accommodation for the next two nights is a comfortable lodge near La Fortuna set in beautiful gardens. La Fortuna was renamed after the 1968 eruption, when it was seen as being 'fortunate' that it was located on the eastern side of the volcano.
Hotel Magic Mountain (or similar)
Today has been left free to explore the area as you choose. There are local treks to waterfalls where you can take a dip, as well as along lava trails. For the thrill seekers, optional whitewater rafting is available (operates between May and November) and we recommend making the most of the local geothermal activity by enjoying an optional bathe in the nearby hot springs. Alternatively relax by the hotel pool and enjoy the peaceful setting.
Today we 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. Lunch today is an interactive affair, allowing the kids to cook up a Costa Rican treat for the adults in the group. Once we are all fed and watered, we can look forward to an afternoon of optional activities. There is a butterfly farm and ecological farm to explore, as well as an orchid garden and frog pools. Your Tour Leader will be able to provide more information on the choices available. This evening, there is the opportunity to go on a guided night walk in search of nocturnal species, such as pacas and tarantulas.
Hotel Heliconia (or similar)
The famous, but now very rare, resplendent quetzal can be seen in this area, one of the last remaining places in Central America where its habitat has been preserved. Sacred to the ancient Maya and Aztec people, it is considered to be one of the most beautiful birds in the world. This morning we have a guided tour of Santa Elena Reserve, where 90% of the species found in Monteverde can also be seen. Quieter and less touristy than its famous neighbour, our visit here gives us a good chance of spotting wildlife.
During our walk through this reserve, we will occasionally stop to watch the recordings of different trap cameras set up by the Santa Elena Conservation Project. These cameras are used to measure the number of times each animal visits an area and to study their behaviour once there. Monteverde is regarded as offering some of the best canopy experiences in the world and you may choose to 'fly' through the dramatic scenery on a zip-wire, or take a more sedate walk through the canopy on treetop walkways. Alternatively, you may choose to explore one of the other private forest reserves 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 coastal resort of Dominical, where we will spend the next three nights. Dominical is ideally located between Manuel Antonio and the Osa Peninsula and offers an expansive beach well known for its excellent surfing conditions.
Hotel Cristal Ballena (or similar)
This morning travel into the heart of the Osa Peninsular, famed for its beautiful beaches and rich wildlife.
Travelling a short distance to Punta Uvita we board a boat for a thrilling ninety minute crossing to San Pedrillo Ranger Station in Corcovado National Park. Between July and October it's possible to spot whales in the bays that hug the Pacific coastline. Turtles and dolphins as well as a host of marine birds have also been spotted from the boat.
On arrival we'll meet our expert local guide who will accompany us on the network of trails and tracks that weave in and out of pristine protected primary forest and beaches that dot the coastline.
The park has an abundance of bird species as well as 140 species of mammals. During the day the park we are likely to see white-faced capuchin monkey, coatimundi (part of the racoon family) and the tiny squirrel and howler monkey. It's also possible to spot sloths, coatis, raccoons, and on occasion's tapirs.
Our first walk takes three hours followed by a well-deserved break and picnic lunch at the park ranger station. In the afternoon we will have a shorter thirty minute stroll before heading back to our boat and a ninety minute crossing back to Punta Uvita and onwards to our hotel. We'll aim to be back at the hotel by 5.30pm in time for a sundowner drink at the hotel or on the beach.
Enjoy a full day to explore the area and relax on the fine beaches of the Pacific Ocean. Our hotel offers an immense swimming pool, expansive landscaped grounds and has a beautiful beach nearby.
Dominical beach is well known for its surf and hosts several restaurants serving both local and international dishes and many laid back bars, the village is much less busy than neighbouring Manuel Antonio. The sunsets from the coast, which are best viewed from the beach are spectacular and have to be seen to be believed.
There are also lots of other activities on offer if beach time isn't for you, including rafting or snorkelling trips or take to the sea and explore the inlets on a kayak. Your local leader can give you a run down on the options available, details of which can be found in the budgeting section.
Departing Dominical this morning we drive 190km back to San Jose's Juan Santamaria International Airport (airport code SJO), where we will arrive at about 10:30am and this is where our trip ends. The earliest your flight can depart is 12:30pm.
For those on early morning flights a private transfer can be arranged at additional cost. It's also possible to extend your stay in Dominical if you want a few extra days to enjoy the beach.
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
A selection of optional activities are listed below to help you budget for your Family adventure. Whilst the basic tour price you pay before you travel includes a great selection of highlights, we have also built in free time to allow you the flexibility to choose from a carefully selected range of additional excursions and activities or take time to relax, the choice is yours. At certain destinations along the way there may be several options to choose from and it may not be possible to fit all the activities in; your Explore Leader will be able to give advice on which are the most suitable for your family. Day 3 and 4 : Turrialba Finca visit local farm and dinner US$ 29 per person; Half day White-water rafting US$ 103-120 per person (grade II to III) a minimum age of 12 applies to this activity; operates between May and October only. In the dry season (December to April) we offer the Pacuare River as an alternative, US$ 97-114 per person (grade III to IV) a minimum age of 8; Catie entrance US$12, including lunch US$52 Day 6: Tortuguero - Turtle watching (in season, June to September) US$ 49 per person Day 9: Arenal - Hot springs US$ 46 (US$ 78 with dinner) plus transport per person; Sloth tour US$68, including transport US$78; Full day white water rafting (grade II - III) US$90-108 per person. A minimum age of 10 applies Day 10 and 11: Monteverde - Hanging bridges and Zip wire canopy US$ 99 per person; Canopy Bridges US$ 49 per person or Zip Wire US$62; Butterfly Garden US$22 Please note all optionals in Costa Rica can be paid for by card.
Lightweight clothing is essential in midsummer however a warmer jumper 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. There is a laundry next to the hotel in La Fortuna / Arenal.
Lightweight trail/walking boots for jungle walks, comfortable shoes/trainers and sandals. Waterproof footware is recommended.
Please allow yourself one main piece of luggage and a daysac. Remember, you are expected to carry your own baggage, so don't overload yourself, a soft wheely bag may be easier to manage than a suit case.
We recommend a sunhat, sunscreen, a torch, insect repellent and a waterbottle. Binoculars are essencial for bird and animal spotting.
Accommodation and service levels in Costa Rica are in general of good standard as they are used to catering for the North American Market. Almost every hotel we stay in has air conditioning or fans. We try to avoid the use of the large chain hotels and try to use a mix of jungle and mountain lodges as well as small family run hotels. They all have private facilities. Several of our Costa Rica hotels are found on the outskirts of town - these have better facilities and larger grounds and we will have transport on hand to take us into town for evenings. We use distinctive, comfortable accommodation on this taste of Costa Rica's natural beauty. Due to the popularity of some of the locations during our tour, we will be using alternative hotels in Sarapiqui, Arenal and Manuel Antonio, in all cases we use hotels of the same standard.
All the hotels except in Turrialba and Monteverde have swimming pools. In addition we spend three days on the Pacific coast where you can swim in the ocean.
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. You should confirm all visa related issues with the relevant Embassy prior to departure. 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 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.