Group - Discovery

Tanager: Flora and fauna of Costa Rica

12 days from £2,780pp

Costa Rica


ShutterStock ©

Overview & Highlights

This guided group tour combines Costa Rica’s natural highlights with a few less visited, up and coming destinations, offering a thrilling tropical adventure bursting with wildlife.

  • boat trip down the canals of Tortuguero
  • nature walk in Tirimbina Rainforest reserve
  • Tenorio Volcano National Park and Rio Celeste hike
  • Selvatura hanging bridges
  • visit to Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
  • cooking class at local finca

Costa Rica is a compact, accessible country where visitors are mesmerised by the forest-mantled volcanic landscapes and the sheer volume of exuberant bio-diversity. There’s a peaceful, friendly ambiance throughout which lends itself to a truly relaxed group holiday of discovery.

To understand the complexities of the bewitching natural environment and the efforts to sustain it, on this group adventure you benefit from the services of well informed local guides, who are bursting with pride in Costa Rica’s achievements. You’ll be taken to the famous national park at Tortuguero where, boating through the mangroves, you’ll be overwhelmed by the number of species - including of course turtles – and the magical fairyland of the Monteverde cloud forest, a haven for birdlife.

To this we have added up and coming new destinations: tropical Sarapiqui and the turquoise pools and sparkling waterfalls of Rio Celeste. Finally spend time at Carara, a coastal reserve famed for its scarlet macaws and the huge crocodiles which lurk in the mangroves.

Owing to the wilderness locations, most of your meals are included, so this holiday is really good value as well.

Itinerary

Day 1

Fly into San José and transfer to hotel.

You will be met at the airport by your tour leader or one of our other  local representatives who will take you to your hotel in the capital.

Day 2

Drive and boat to Tortuguero Jungle Reserve.

Today we head off to discover the Caribbean coast with a few days of rewarding wildlife spotting. This is true wilderness: it isn’t the Caribbean of resort hotels, sugary beaches and piña coladas. The road strikes out northeast through Braulio Camillo National Park, including a short bumpy ride through banana plantations to La Pavona dock.

Then it’s a boat ride along the shore hugged by twisted mangrove swamps before we arrive in the small, ramshackle and remote village of Tortuguero. Getting there is part of the adventure: it could take between two and four hours depending on how often we stop to observe plants or wildlife.

Of course one of the area’s biggest draws is the proliferation of turtles (nesting Jul-Oct) and you will learn about projects to conserve and protect these magnificent creatures.

Costa Rican Tourist Board ©

Day 3

Guided exploration of the reserve by boat.

We’ll set off on a wildlife adventure with a boat trip through the mangrove forest of Tortuguero National Park, now one of the last protected areas of tropical rainforest in Central America, with 11 different natural habitats and a huge range of endemic wildlife, much of which can be spotted as you glide through the water.

There are three species of monkeys (spider, howler, and white-faced) which you may spot swinging from branch to branch while lazier three-toed sloths doze in the shade and river otters pop up in the natural inland channels. Caimans, iguanas, river turtles, lizards and poison dart frogs also populate the mangroves, along with over 320 species of birds including three of toucan and eight of parrot: we are sure to spot a good number of them.

COSTA RICA EXPEDITIONS ©

Day 4

By boat and road to Sarapiquí.

We’re back on the water to explore more of these spidery channels on the way back to the dock followed by a drive to the Sarapiquí region, a fertile plain where jungle was cleared for cattle ranches but which is now a focus for conservation with a number of eco-tourism projects.

There are forested national parks in the area, dispersed between banana and pineapple plantations. Rio Sarapiquí is becoming popular for rafting on its rapids and bird-watching and numerous other activities in the area include mountain-biking, boat trips and canopying.

Tom Parrott ©

Day 5

Visit La Tirimbina Rainforest Reserve.

The morning we’ll take a natural history walk in the Tirimbina Reserve, which caters for research and recreation in a rainforest environment. The reserve was founded to preserve one of the few remaining stands of intact tropical forest on mountainous slopes in Central America, and, through education, to incorporate the participation of local communities.

To make exploration even more varied, there’s a suspension bridge, canopy walkway and rainforest museum in the reserve. Once again, a variety of mammals and insects can be spotted, and we may come across a few nocturnal animals, fast asleep in the heat of the day.

Day 6

Drive to Bijagua.

The town of Bijagua sits on a saddle between two volcanoes, Tenorio and Miravalles and is the base for visits to Tenorio Volcano National Park, established in 1997 to protect tracts of primary and dry tropical forest. Trails within the park are still being created, and it’s regarded as one of the new up and coming destinations for nature lovers and adventure seekers.

Bijagua itself is a peaceful spot where the inhabitants’ income drives from small scale crop farming and cattle pastures. There are a number of facilities including a school and others we may find useful, including a bank, pharmacy and shops.

If there’s time during our couple of days here, you may like to explore the area’s trails on horseback or mountain bike.

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Day 7

Visit Rio Celeste and Tenorio Volcano National Park.

Those of us who up for a moderately challenging 6km hike will set of for Rio Celeste, remarkable for its striking turquoise blue colour. While walking along the trail we’ll keep an eye out for monkeys, sloths, tropical birds and other wildlife, while enjoying views of hot springs and a lagoon. The winding path follows the banks of the river, taking us upstream while the vivid blue colour of the water deepens until we arrive at a photogenic waterfall.

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Day 8

Drive to Monteverde.

Head on by road to Monteverde. The last section of the road is where the adventure begins – we follow a dirt road bumpy with volcanic rocks, winding up through the hills to the cloud forest at 1,400m above sea level. We can expect it to be dusty in the dry season and muddy in the wet. However we should be diverted by wildlife we spot along the way - sloths, monkeys and tropical birds - keep your binoculars handy.

We’ll be staying in a lodge close to the village of Santa Elena, as unassuming settlement which is nevertheless the hub for visits to the Monteverde National Park and enlivened by a few craft shops and restaurants.

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Day 9

Explore Selvatura Park and Monteverde Cloudforest Reserve.

Selvatura Park is a conservation area offering a number of exhilarating activities including zip lines. We’ll take a walk over its trail system which includes seven suspension bridges crossing the deep canyons at treetop level.

In the afternoon we have a guided walk in the Monteverde Cloudforest Reserve, home to more than 100 species of mammals, 400 of birds and 1,500 of plants. We follow the well-marked trails, amidst dense, mist-shrouded, dripping foliage - with luck we’ll encounter the iconic bird, the brilliantly feathered resplendent quetzal (Jan – Jul). Other striking species include the emerald toucanet and we should also be able to spot white-faced and howler monkeys. The reserve embraces a protected area with six different life zones: so many habitats in such a small area allow us to enjoy a rich diversity of flora and fauna within a short distance and by easy walking.

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Day 10

Carara National Park.

Today we set off on a journey down towards the Pacific coast, and enter a completely different vegetation zone of Pacific tropical dry forest.

Carara is a popular national park famous for its bright scarlet macaws and giant crocodiles, which sprawl on the beaches of the Tarcoles river - we’ll view them safely from a bridge! Upon arrival at Finca Ecologica La Trinidad we’ll do something a bit different, with a cookery lesson on the premesis. There’s also time for an optional (extra cost) ride on horseback.

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Day 11

Day at leisure.

Today you can rest up at the lodge, which is situated next to the Carara National Park itself. It’s a good base from which to go bird-watching – the forest is less dense here than in the other parks we have visited, making it easier to spot the wildlife - or set off on one of the marked hiking trails. Alternatively, just drink in the panoramic views from the lodge over the forests, river and ocean.

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Day 12

Transfer to San José airport for international flight.

Today you’ll be flying home, unless to decide to stay on for a few more days in this beguiling country, perhaps for some beach time at Manuel Antonio where there’s a range of good accommodation, a monkey-filled national park and sweeping golden Pacific sands.

UK clients arrive home the following day.

Essentials

Tour info

About Our Group Tours

To find out more about how our group tours including group sizes, solo travellers and why to choose us. Please click here.

Tour Leader

Due to the tour concentrating on some less explored areas of Costa Rica we felt it was essential that this tour be led by a local expert. From the moment you land in Latin America until the day the tour ends they will deal with all the practicalities, expertly adapting to the circumstances and individual needs of the group.

Transport

All journeys by private vehicles and boats. Travelling days between 2-4hrs.

Accommodation

On our Discovery Journeys the standard of accommodation varies. We aim to keep the price competitive while ensuring the basic comforts. Hotels/guesthouses are comfortable and attractive in most places, and you will be pleasantly surprised. This tour visits some of the more remote areas of Costa Rica, so accomodation will vary from place to place, but all with have ensuite bathrooms and a range of facilities.

Examples of hotels/lodges used on this journey include:
• San Jose: Parque del Lago
• Tortuguero: Turtle Beach Lodge
• Sarapiqui: La Quinta
• Rio Celeste: Celeste Mountain Lodge
• Monteverde: Monteverde Country Lodge
• Carara: Cerro Lodge

Meals

Breakfast daily; Dinner days 5,6,7 and 11; Full board days 2,3,4,7 and 10.

Summary Of Nights

12 days, 11 nights: San José 1; Tortuguero 2; Sarapiqui 2; Rio Celeste 2; Monteverde 2; Carara 2.

Currency

The unit of currency in Costa Rica is the colón.

How To Take It

Cash machines are available in San José: taking a debit or credit card with a PIN number is the most convenient way of withdrawing money while on your trip, and in many shops and restaurants you can also pay by card. However, since cards can get lost, damaged, withheld or blocked, you should not rely exclusively on a card to access funds.

We recommend that additionally you take a reasonable quantity of US dollars cash (no more than is covered by your insurance), which you can exchange into local currency in San José at the beginning of your trip, and possibly some travellers’ cheques, though these are increasingly falling out of use. (American Express cheques are the most widely accepted). Dollar bills should be in good condition, soiled or torn bills may be refused. You can exchange sterling but the rate may be unfavourable and there are fewer outlets providing this service. US dollars cash is widely accepted for payments.

Daily Spend

It is very difficult to give a guideline for essential expenses but a budget of around US$40 per day should cover the cost of meals not included in the holiday itinerary, drinks and the odd souvenir. Eat at the best restaurants and you will pay considerably more.

Tipping

Tips are normally welcomed and expected. Local guides often rely on their tip as a significant proportion of their income. We recommend approximately $3USD (or local equivalent) per person per day for each of guides and drivers, depending on the size of the group.

Most service industry workers will expect a tip of some kind and so it is useful to have spare change for hotel porters, taxi drivers and the like. It is common to leave 10 – 12% in restaurants.

If you would like to show your appreciation to your tour leader, who you may feel has exceeded your expectations, a discretionary gratuity would be gratefully received. As a guideline we recommend an amount of between $4 and $6USD per person, per day. You are obviously free to tip more or less as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality.

Insurance

Travel insurance is essential.

Details of our recommended policy can be found on our Travel Insurance page.

Airport Taxes

If you have purchased your flights through Journey Latin America, the international departure tax is usually included in the ticket.

Journey Grade

Costa Rica is a country where activities are based outside in the nature, so a relative level of fitness will help you make the most of trip. Most excursions will involve some walking, but your tour leader can advise on each activity and make sure it is suitable. For the more active there are opportunites for longer hikes and adventurouse activities.

Climate

The trip covers climates ranging from tropical lowland to more temperate zones in the highlands. November to April visitors will encounter high temperatures in lowland areas, but cool evenings in the highlands and San José with temperatures falling to around 5°C. Rainfall and humidity will be lower at this time.

Clothing And Special Equipment

Bring plenty of light cotton clothing and good, comfortable walking shoes. A waterproof jacket is also necessary. We suggest that you plan to ‘layer’ your clothing; it is easier and more efficient to put on a couple of light layers than one thick jumper (it can be cool in the interior), and sensible to have long sleeves for areas where mosquitos may be lurking. Protection against the sun (sunblock, sun hat) and mosquito repellant are essential and you should bring swimwear. A daypack is useful for carrying sunblock, guidebook, water and any extra layers.

Don’t forget your binoculars, long lens camera and field guide.

Please get in touch with the office before departure if you have any doubts. Good equipment is very important and hard to come by in Central America.

Vaccinations

Preventative vaccinations are recommended against the following; typhoid; polio; tetanus; hepatitis A. For specific requirements you must consult your GP.

You can also find helpful information on the Masta Travel Health website.

Visas

Holders of a full British passport do not require a visa, although passports must be valid for at least 6 months after the trip begins. Anyone with a different nationality should enquire with us or check with the relevant consulate.

If flying to the US, or via the US you will need to fill in your online ESTA application.

What's included in the price

  • Local tour leader throughout
  • All land transport within Latin America
  • Accommodation as specified
  • Meals as specified
  • Excursions as specified

Included Excursions

  • boat trip down the canals of Tortuguero
  • nature walk in Tirimbina Rainforest reserve
  • Tenorio Volcano National Park and Rio Celeste hike
  • Selvatura hanging bridges
  • visit to Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
  • cooking class at local finca

What's not included in the price

  • Tips and gratuities
  • Meals other than specified
  • Optional excursions
  • $15 local entry fee for Tortuguero

Real Latin America Experts

  • Mary Anne Nelson
    Mary Anne Nelson - Travel Consultant

    Born in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile, Mary’s insider knowledge and dry sense of humour make her a highly valued member of the Tailor-made team.

  • Chris Rendell Dunn
    Chris Rendell-Dunn - Travel Consultant

    Anglo-Peruvian Chris grew up in Lima and spent much of his adult life in between London and Cusco as a tour leader, before settling permanently in our Sales team.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Evie Oswald
    Evie Oswald - Travel Consultant

    It’s hard to believe that Evie has had time to cram so much in to her life so far. Having lived as a child in the Americas and Europe she found herself immediately attracted to Latin America.

  • 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.

Meet the team