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Value Costa Rica: The essential highlights

12 days from £1241pp

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Value Costa Rica: The essential highlights

12 days from £1241pp
 

Private Journey

 

Day 1

Arrive in San José. 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

By road and boat to Tortuguero Jungle Reserve.
 

You will be driven past forested hills and banana plantations to the Caribbean lowlands 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. 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. Arrive at your coastal jungle lodge, 8km from the village, accessible only by boat.

 

 

Canal to Tortuguero

Day 3

Wildlife spotting in Tortuguero National Park.
 

The waters of the lodge's private canal - the Canal of Palms - like all those in the national park are black, owing to tannins from trees in the area, and flow slowly.  Spend a couple of hours gently meandering the canals in a guided boat, spotting birds, mammals and reptiles in beautiful scenery.  The early start means you will see the wildlife at its most active. The remaining time can be spent relaxing in your lodge or participating in some of the activities available.

Guided tours, visiting the local town and gardens, jungle walks, and visits to the nearby turtle museum to learn about the nesting cycle of the reptiles can be arranged. In season, take a night-time walk along the moonlit beach, and search for turtles and their eggs. Or take a boat out on the channels at your leisure; gliding silently through these waters you are likely to spot all kinds of wildlife on the banks.

Baby caiman are easy to spot at Tortuguero

Day 4

By river and road to San José, overnight.
 

Day 5

Transfer by shuttle bus to Monteverde.
 

Travel by shared minibus 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 drive for a couple of hours through the Central Valley along the Pan American Highway, a decent paved road. Take the turn off to Monteverde, and here the adventure begins - for 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.

The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is one of the most fascinating wildlife sanctuaries in the Americas; it protects more than 400 species of bird and 100 species of mammal. Walking along the well-marked trails, amidst dense, dripping foliage, you are likely to encounter the Resplendent quetzal, with its vivid red belly and long green tail. 30 species of hummingbird also reside in the park.

Monteverde trail

Day 6

Self-guided exploration to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve.
 

Make your own way to the reserve and enjoy the freedom and flexibility of a self-guided hike in the cloud-forest. There are a variety of tracks, trails and loops to choose from which venture away from the well-trodden routes, offering a better chance of spotting a whole host of wildlife. At an altitude of 1,440m above sea level there are also some spectacular views out over the tree canopy. Paths are clear to follow and suitable for all levels of fitness - you can set your own pace.

Day 7

Transfer by shuttle bus to Arenal volcano area.
 
Take a shared shuttle minibus to a countryside hotel close to la Fortuna, in the shadow of Arenal volcano. 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. The road trip 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, you can walk 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).

Day 8

Excursions to the hanging bridges.
 

Guided excursion to the hanging bridges located in the vicinity of the volcano. The 3km long trail takes you through primary forest. Along with the region’s diverse wildlife and plants you can expect good views of the volcano and reservoir which feeds the country's largest hydroelectric plant. The trail is linked by 6 hanging bridges and 8 fixed bridges, some measuring up to 22m in length and constructed from galvanized steel and aluminium in order to 'blend with the natural environment'.

Hanging Bridges Arenal

Day 9

Transfer by shuttle bus to hotel on the Pacific coast.
 

Travel by shared minibus to the Pacific coast, pocked with bays, and thickly forested.  Manuel Antonio National Park is one of the smallest but best regarded nature parks in Costa Rica. Its setting is lovely - wild, tropical beaches and rocky outcrops backed by lush forest. It has a network of trails where you may see a variety of reptiles, as well as monkeys, sloths, armadillos, racoons and over 350 species of birds.

Close by, Manuel Antonio beach is also one of the most popular in the country, with a number of high quality hotels, condominiums and resorts.  30 years ago, when we first went there, its fudgy sands were visited only by monkeys and backpackers. Now you'll find tourists from all over the world, especially the USA, but it is still a gorgeous place graced with exquisite natural beauty.

Days 10-11

At leisure on the beach.
 
At leisure at the beach. Explore the national park, maybe visit the little port of Quepos, but beware of strong ocean currents. The hotel has a swimming pool with panoramic views.
Manuel Antonio national park beach

Day 12

Shuttle bus to San José airport for international flight home.
 

12 days from £1241pp

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