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'Secret Costa Rica'

What makes this trip special?

Vistas, volcanoes and villages

Vistas, volcanoes and villages

Central Valley

Keen to avoid the city during your trip? Costa Rica's Central Valley is great place to start or end a holiday - hotels tend to have gardens and/or swimming pools and are within close range of the international airport. There are also a variety of things to see and do in the area.

Quiet "Garden of Eden" cloud forest

Quiet "Garden of Eden" cloud forest

San Gerardo de Dota

Tranquil forested valley alive with trout-filled streams close to the highest pass in Costa Rica. Experience 'paramos' habitat above the tree line and keep your eyes peeled - this is the most reliable place in the country to spot the Resplendent quetzal

Wild, lush coast and marine reserve

Wild, lush coast and marine reserve

Dominical

Sparsley populated and until recently difficult to access, Dominical's forest-backed beaches are most popular with surfers. Further south, you can swim and snorkel at Ballena National Marine Park, where whales and dolphins can be seen in season from a selection of hotels and lodges dotted high on the hillside

Stunning wild beach

Stunning wild beach

Playa Esterillos del Este

A stunning, undeveloped stretch of beach with a scattering of beachfront hotels and little else. Popular with surfers but too rough for swimming. Within proximity of the Carara reserve a good base from which to visit the beautiful but busy Manuel Antonio National Park.

Rural ranch and nearby wetlands

Rural ranch and nearby wetlands

Guanacaste (La Ensenada)

Guanacaste's dusty tropical dry forest is home to Costa Rica's cowboy ranch lands. Here you can experience a slice of authentic rural life staying at a homely ranch - join the cowboys on horseback to round up cattle, hike through the forest or bird-watch at the nearby Palo Verde wetlands

Laid-back nature and surf beach

Laid-back nature and surf beach

Nosara

Stunning, wild and pristine beaches backed by a shoreline nature reserve. The emphasis here is surfing, well-being and general 'chillaxing'!

Itinerary map for Costa Rica 'Secret Costa Rica' holiday

Itinerary

  • Day      Overnight
  • 1 San José
  • 2 San José
  • 3 San Gerardo de Dota
  • 4 San Gerardo de Dota
  • 5 Dominical
  • 6 Dominical
  • 7 Dominical
  • 8 Esterillos Este
  • 9 Abangaritos
  • 10 Abangaritos
  • 11 Nosara
  • 12 Nosara
  • 13 Nosara
  • 14 San José
  • For the detail of each day click the ‘Day-by-day’ tab above.

Day-by-day itinerary for 'Secret Costa Rica'

DAY 1

San José

You are met on arrival in San José and driven to a hotel in your preferred price category for a 2 night stay.

DAY 2
B

A free day to relax and acclimatise at your hotel, or take an optional tour to explore the Central Valley, perhaps to see a volcano or visit a coffee farm.

DAY 3
B

San Gerardo de Dota

This morning your hire car is delivered to your hotel. From here you drive yourselves to San Gerardo de Dota. On the way you might choose to visit Lankester Botanical Gardens and the Orosí Valley. Stay for 2 nights at a mid-range hotel in the lovely valley of San Gerardo.

DAY 4
B

You are taken on an early morning birdwatching walk in the cloud forest, with others, in the most reliable part of the country for Resplendent Quetzal. This peaceful setting is also home to a wide variety of flora and fauna.

DAY 5
B

South Pacific (Dominical)

Today you continue southwards to the Pacific coast near Dominical, arriving in time to relax at an upper range hotel nestling between trees on a hillside with fantastic views over the ocean, or a similar mid-range hotel nearby.

DAY 6
B

You are free today to take advantage of the optional local excursions. You might take a boat trip to visit Corcovado NP on the Osa Peninsula, or to Caño Island for the chance of seeing dolphins and whales (best in July-October and January-April).

DAY 7
B

A second free day for you to do as you please. There are horse riding options, nature walks, canopy tours in the forest, or you might visit Hacienda Barú a national wildlife refuge with habitats from wetland and secondary forest in the lowlands to primary forest on the highland coastal ridge. The refuge has 7km of walking trails and an orchid and butterfly garden.

DAY 8
B

Playa Esterillos de Este

After breakfast drive north along the coast to Playa Esterillos de Este, a long undeveloped stretch of broad sands. The sea here is too rough for swimming, but it is a popular spot for surfing–fun to watch. In case you might like to do some nature viewing or sightseeing you are within 45min drive of both the Carara Reserve and Manuel Antonio NP. Stay a night at either a mid-range or an upper range hotel by the beach at Esterillos de Este.

DAY 9
B

Guanacaste ranch

After breakfast drive north to the characterful Guanacaste region, whose dry forest life zone stands in contrast to the lush rainforests of the south Pacific and the cool cloud forest of San Gerardo de Dota. Spend 2 nights at either a mid-range homely ranch with a swimming pool and views across to the Gulf of Nicoya or upper-range Rancho Humo set on a 1,100 hectare traditional estate ranch on the banks of the Tempisque river bordering the Palo Verde National Park.

DAY 10
B

A variety of options today. Perhaps saddle up and go out on horseback with the cowboys, if your riding skills are up to it, or hike through the surrounding countryside. In the dry season there are excellent birdwatching opportunities at the ranch, in habitats similar to Palo Verde NP.

DAY 11
B

Nosara

After breakfast at the ranch, drive to Nosara on the Nicoya Peninsula. Here the shoreline has been set aside as a wildlife reserve, so it’s a short walk over the foreshore to the sands. Nearby Ostional Wildlife Refuge is an important Olive Ridley Turtle nesting ground; the turtles nest from July to November, with their largest numbers from August to October. Humpback and Grey whales are seen in winter. Stay 3 nights at either a mid-range or an upper range lodge.

DAY 12
B

Free day for optional excursions in the Nosara area, e.g. guided tours in the Nosara Biological Reserve, guided boat rides up the Nosara river, or relaxing on pristine natural beaches.

DAY 13
B

A second free day in Nosara. Spectacular sunsets blaze over the ocean on a clear evening.

DAY 14
B

San José area

You have most of the morning free in the Nosara area before you must make your way back to San José's cenrtal valley area to your chosen mid or upper-range hotel.

DAY 15
B

Today you drive to San José airport to drop off your car in time for your flight home.

Guide prices for 'Secret Costa Rica'

options based on all year low season mid season high season peak season other season
Mid-range hotels, selfdrive (Terios) 2 people sharing £1,555 £1,625
Upper-range hotels, selfdrive (Tucson) 2 people sharing £2,425 £3,025
Prices are per person and include:
  • all travel in Costa Rica
  • all accommodation
  • meals as indicated (B = breakfast, L = lunch, D = dinner)
Prices do not include:
  • international flights
  • travel insurance
  • airport and departure taxes
  • items of a personal nature such as drinks, tips, laundry, etc
  • any optional excursions you may buy locally

Customer reviews for 'Secret Costa Rica'

Recent reviews are shown here from holidays based on this initial design. In each case the itinerary may have been modified (a little or a lot) to suit the individual traveller.

Average customer rating 98%

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Yorkin, Night tour and hanging bridges.

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The birds

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This could be a very long list! OTS La selva, Scarlet Macaws, Humming Birds and frogs just to name a few.

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It is difficult to state what were the best parts of the trip, loved it all! Will go back!

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Playa Cativo

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Scenery, people, weather, wildlife.

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La Cusinga Lodge and the wildlife generally.

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San Gerardo de Dota, Dominical, Palo Verde, beach at Sugar Beach, the tours, the people, the wildlife, the food.

Seasonal information for 'Secret Costa Rica'

Along this route in January

Day Location Max °C Monthly rainfall
1 San José 24°C rainfall 28mm
2 San José 24°C rainfall 28mm
3 San Gerardo de Dota 16°C rainfall 85mm
4 San Gerardo de Dota 16°C rainfall 85mm
5 Dominical 32°C rainfall 64mm
6 Dominical 32°C rainfall 64mm
7 Dominical 32°C rainfall 64mm
8 Esterillos Este 32°C rainfall 30mm
9 Abangaritos 32°C rainfall 1mm
10 Abangaritos 32°C rainfall 1mm
11 Nosara 32°C rainfall 4mm
12 Nosara 32°C rainfall 4mm
13 Nosara 32°C rainfall 4mm
14 San José 24°C rainfall 28mm

Typical weather for January

rainchart

Max °C figures are the average daily maximum temperatures for the month. Rainfall is the average precipitation for the month.

Hotels for 'Secret Costa Rica'

Days 1 - 2

Bougainvillea

Heredia
rating

Average rating 4.8 (249 ratings)

Hotel Bougainvillea is a very nice 3-4 star hotel set among ten acres of lush flower filled gardens and surrounded by coffee plantations and citrus orchards. Situated in Heredia it provides a quiet first/last night hideaway just 15 minutes from the international airport and from downtown San José. Bedrooms are rather bland, but spacious with two double beds, a sitting area and the full range of facilities. Most of the rooms have free wi-fi internet access. Every room has a balcony offering marvelous views of the mountains on one side and the San José skyline on the other. There is a light and pleasant dining room, a large inviting swimming pool and 2 tennis courts. This is a good option for gardeners, birdwatchers and those who prefer to stay out of the city centre.  It is not ideal if you intend travelling around Costa Rica by shuttle bus transfers.

Bougainvillea
Days 3 - 4

Trogon Lodge

San Gerardo de Dota
rating

Average rating 4.7 (12 ratings)

A family farm in the mountains at 7000 ft, a fresh water river also runs through the property. Guest accommodations include 10 rustic cabins, each one with 2 private bedrooms, private bathroom, hot water and heating. Home-cooked meals are served in a family style restaurant.  Optional Quetzal spotting tours and horse riding are available in this enchanted valley.

Trogon Lodge
Days 5 - 7

Villas Gaia

nr Playa Tortuga
rating

Average rating 4.2 (9 ratings)

The hotel offers 14 simple good sized wooden cabins scattered around a garden forest.  One room is specially designed for disabled guests. The hotel has a hilltop swimming pool with sun deck which overlooks Playa Tortuga. Bedrooms are on the landward terraced hillside. There is a children’s pool, a poolside cocktail bar with ocean sunset view. Their open-sided restaurant specializing in Caribbean and Latin American cuisine is at the front of the property near the road and therefore rather spoilt by noise of traffic rumbling by.

Villas Gaia
Pool and distant sea view
Day 8

Monterrey del Mar

Esterillos Este

Situated right on the wild undeveloped Playa Esterillos Este, midway between Carara Reserve and Manuel Antonio National park (45 mins drive from each). This is a conventional mid-range, beach front hotel with pool and restaurant. The 27 rooms have private bathrooms (hot water), satelite TV, private terrace. Note: dangerous to swim here - rip tides.

Monterrey del Mar
Days 9 - 10

La Ensenada Lodge

Gulf of Nicoya
rating

Average rating 4.4 (20 ratings)

La Ensenada is a family run 1000 acre farm set beside the Gulf of Nicoya near Palo Verde, sharing a similar wetland habitat. Accommodation is in simple, functional, clean wooden cabins, each with a private bathroom and veranda. There is a swimming pool and lawns down to the Gulf which create a beautiful, tranquil location in which to relax. Guests can join in with the daily activities of the working farm, which raises cattle and horses as well as producing salt and fruit. They offer horse back riding, mangrove tours and trails through the jungle. There are great bird watching opportunities here (Dec - Apr) particularly when the migrant species are passing through. On your way over to dinner you will need a torch - watch out for the huge toads!

La Ensenada Lodge
Days 11 - 13

The Gardens Hotel

Nosara
rating

Average rating 4.5 (2 ratings)

This Swiss-Costa Rica owned small hotel is set in tropical gardens a short walk back from Playa Guiones beach, near Nosara. There are 10 rooms each with a private bathroom, fan, A/C (at additional cost), fridge, safe and coffee maker. Standard rooms have private patios, deluxe rooms have private balconies. No T.V's.

Facilities include a swimming pool, jacuzzi, thatched rancho area with easy seating, hammocks, honour fridge and coffee available all day. Adjacent to the hotel is 'Le Bistrot', a Swiss-French run Meditteranean-inspired restaurant with Nosara's only wood-fired pizza oven.

The hotel can help to arrange a variety of activities from hiking to horse-riding, turtle-nesting tours to fishing, yoga and massages. The on-site Playa Guiones Surf School offers private and shared surf lessons, as well as surfboard rental.

The hotel is certified by the CST scheme (Certification for Sustainable Tourism) e.g it uses solar heated water, recycles waste including grey water, provides organic shampoo and soap in each room, has a compost patch

The Gardens Hotel
Pool and grounds
Day 14

Bougainvillea

Heredia
rating

Average rating 4.8 (249 ratings)

Hotel Bougainvillea is a very nice 3-4 star hotel set among ten acres of lush flower filled gardens and surrounded by coffee plantations and citrus orchards. Situated in Heredia it provides a quiet first/last night hideaway just 15 minutes from the international airport and from downtown San José. Bedrooms are rather bland, but spacious with two double beds, a sitting area and the full range of facilities. Most of the rooms have free wi-fi internet access. Every room has a balcony offering marvelous views of the mountains on one side and the San José skyline on the other. There is a light and pleasant dining room, a large inviting swimming pool and 2 tennis courts. This is a good option for gardeners, birdwatchers and those who prefer to stay out of the city centre.  It is not ideal if you intend travelling around Costa Rica by shuttle bus transfers.

Bougainvillea