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'Costa Rica Nature Explorer'

What makes this trip special?

Fabulous white-water rafting

Fabulous white-water rafting

Pacuare

Arguably Costa Rica's finest white water and most spectacular river scenery, raft exhilarating class II-IV rapids that tumble through canyons, gorges and rainforest

Costa Rica's most active volcano

Costa Rica's most active volcano

Arenal

Arenal's perfect cone rises above lowlands, spewing smoke and steam, lava and boulders in its active phases. Make sure you visit the hot springs and explore the 'hanging bridges' through the forest. The area has good options for walkers and there's lots to do for adventurous families.

Remote wetland habitat teeming with wildlife

Remote wetland habitat teeming with wildlife

Caño Negro

Near the Nicaraguan border in remote northern Costa Rica, the wetlands and waterways of the Caño Negro Wildlife refuge are home to a huge number of flora and fauna (particularly good for waterbirds) and are an excellent location for natural history viewing. Best explored by boat or kayak.

Ranching and adventure

Ranching and adventure

Rincon de la Vieja

Guanacaste's dusty tropical dry forest is home to Costa Rica's 'sabañeros' or cowboys, as well as being a popular region for outdoor activities - help round up cattle, mountain bike, zip-line, river tube or simply relax in hot-springs and volcanic mud pools

Whizzing through the canopy

Whizzing through the canopy

Monteverde

A must for adrenalin-seekers - harness up and head high above the cloud forest canopy for spectacular views and serious speed on some of Costa Rica's fastest zip-lines

World class surf and stunning sunsets

World class surf and stunning sunsets

Santa Teresa and Mal Pais

Santa Teresa & Mal Pais are off-the-beaten track beaches popular with foreign and Costa Rican surfers and beach-lovers. There are attractive forest backed, white-sand beaches, plus casual beach cafes and bars, and low-key restaurants. Sunsets here are spectacular.

Itinerary map for Costa Rica 'Costa Rica Nature Explorer' holiday

Itinerary

  • Day      Overnight
  • 1 San José
  • 2 Tortuguero
  • 3 Tortuguero
  • 4 Piedras Blancas NP
  • 5 Piedras Blancas NP
  • 6 Piedras Blancas NP
  • 7 Sarapiqui
  • 8 Sarapiqui
  • 9 Sarapiqui
  • 10 Boca Tapada
  • 11 Boca Tapada
  • 12 Boca Tapada
  • 13 Bajos del Toro
  • 14 Bajos del Toro
  • For the detail of each day click the ‘Day-by-day’ tab above.

Day-by-day itinerary for 'Costa Rica Nature Explorer'

DAY 1

San José

You are met on arrival and driven to a comfortable hotel to relax after your international flight.

DAY 2
BLD

Flooded Forest of Tortuguero

Early this morning travel with others by road and then boat to the wildlife rich flooded forest of Tortuguero on the north Caribbean coast where you stay for 2 nights. Wildlife opportunities are great here with chances to see sloth, monkeys, basilisk lizards, iguanas, tree frogs and birds. Turtles nest on ocean beaches between July and October.

DAY 3
BLD

Today you join a boat trip through the narrow rivers and channels of the flooded forest while your naturalist guide helps to point out wildlife and birds.

DAY 4
BLD

Biodiverse South Pacific Rainforest

Catching an early flight from Tortuguero you fly via San José to Golfito deep on the south Pacific coast (p6 and 9). You are met and driven to Esquinas Rainforest Lodge set in the jungle of Piedras Blancas, a national park with very high biodiversity including over 140 tree species per hectare and 2500 other plants. Over 360 species of birds have been recorded. This peaceful, rainforest setting is your base for the next 3 nights (or upgrade to a lodge of your choice on the Osa Peninsula).

DAY 5
BLD

Two days at the lodge. Esquinas has a good series of jungle trails with opportunities to see colourful birds, butterflies, bizarre insects, frogs, and possibly monkeys, agouti-pacas, peccaries, and coatis. The understorey of the secondary forest has heliconias, ferns, and other more light-hungry plants, and the primary forest has walking palms, buttress-rooted forest giants, orchids and bromeliads, passion flowers, and endless lianas. The lodge also offers mangrove tours, village excursions, horse riding, kayaking and dolphin watching boat trips in Golfo Dulce, a bay separating Piedras Blancas NP and the Osa Peninsula. Humpback whales visit these waters between mid-July and late October and in smaller numbers from mid-December to late March. There is a 90% chance of seeing bottlenose dolphins playing and swimming by the boat. The lodge is part of a project combining conservation, research and community development.

DAY 6
BLD

Second day free to explore the surrounding area or take optional excursions available locally.

DAY 7
BD

Sarapiquí Lowland Forest

Fly back to San José and travel on to Sarapiquí (p9) for 3 nights at a mid-range lodge. The afternoon is free to settle in and enjoy the hotel grounds before an early evening night walk in search of nocturnal animals such as porcupines, frogs, opossums and kinkajous.

DAY 8
BLD

OTS La Selva

Today you spend the day at OTS La Selva Biological Reserve–widely considered one of the world’s most important sites for tropical forest research and conservation. A naturalist guide from the reserve leads you through the forest and explains current projects. There are great birding and wildlife opportunities.

DAY 9
BD

Free day to relax in your lodge’s grounds or take an optional excursion, such as a nature boat trip on the Sarapiquí river.

DAY 10
BLD

Remote Nature Retreat

Today you travel across the plains for a 3 night stay in the remote lowlands at Boca Tapada in northern Costa Rica.

DAY 11
BLD

Your lodge offers a selection of excellent nature safaris by boat or on trails (including night walks in the forest) which you choose and pay for locally at quite a modest cost.

DAY 12
BLD

A free day to relax and enjoy the grounds of your lodge or to take another excursion locally.

DAY 13
BLD

Cloud forest

Travel this morning to the quiet of the cloud forest where you stay for 2 nights at Bajos del Toro or Los Angeles.

DAY 14
BLD

A day to enjoy trails through the extraordinarily rich habitat of the cloud forest. There are great birding opportunities.

DAY 15
B

San Jose

After a final dawn in the cloud forest, you return by road to San José airport for your international flight home.

Guide prices for 'Costa Rica Nature Explorer'

options based on all year low season mid season high season peak season other season
Mid-range hotels, selfdrive (Terios) 2 people sharing £2,715 £2,860
Mid-range hotels, private transfers 2 people sharing £2,960 £3,050
Prices are per person and include:
  • all travel in Costa Rica
  • all accommodation
  • meals as indicated (B = breakfast, L = lunch, D = dinner)
  • shared services of resident English-speaking naturalist guide in Tortuguero
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 'Costa Rica Nature Explorer'

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 97%

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Pacuare, Manuel Antonio and Tortuguero

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Casa Corcovado for the diversity of wildlife. At Bosque de Paz we were made truly welcome and we felt like part of the family. Vanessa and Federico were charming hosts and Federico had planned the menus himself.

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it was all great - particularly Tortuguero and Casa Corcovado

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The fact the whole trip was stress free. The private transfers were excellent

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All with possibly the exception of Bajos del Toro for reasons given

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All bar Sarapiqui

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Sarapiqui

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Rancho Naturalista.

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Seeing the Resplendent Quetzal!

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The individual guided walks at La Tirimbina & La Selva, the boat trips at Tortuguero, Manuel Antonio after we stayed on by ourselves and got away from the crowds.

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Maquenque for birds/wildlife. Casa Corcovado for food, excursions, wildlife.

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Seeing all the different wildlife in the various habitats.

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Maquenque was the definite highlight.

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Playa Nicuesa was the best lodge, we loved all the hiking we did in Arenal, Monteverde and Manuel Antonio. Maquenque was the best for birds. The South Pacific was a wonderful area - dolphins, rays and fishing. The rainforest here was possibly less inte

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The reserve at Lagarta Lodge, the flight to Nosara.

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Seeing wonderful birds and animals.

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Casa Corcovado was excellent.

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La Selva birds, Tortuguero, Hot springs at Arenal, Beach at Manuel Antonio and the restaurant Marlisa at Manuel Antonio.

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Maquenque and Bosque de Paz. These were quieter which I prefer and both are friendly and well run.

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Hanging Bridges at Arenal, the wildlife, the food, Nayara and El Silencio.

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Tortuguero and Monteverde

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Esquinas, Maquenque and Bosque de la Paz. We also loved the trip to La Selva.

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Night walks and watching the World Cup football with Costa Ricans!

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Maquenque Lodge was amazing - the staff, our room, the wildlife, the food!

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The wildlife and environment at Tortuguero and Arenal.

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we really enjoyed the tours at Tortuguero and Sarapiqui. We loved the beach and hotel at Tamarindo.

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Boat and trips by boat to lodges were always a highlight as they were great for seeing wildlife. Kayaking at Maquenque was fantastic. OTS La Selva was fantastic for birds. Casa Corcovado was a great place to finish

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Variation in environments & wildlife, an excellent choice of lodges

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Rainforest walks were extremely interesting.

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We enjoyed it all but Osa was our favourite.

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La Selva and Toruguero for wildlife, Boca Tapada for general interest, friendly staff.

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Osa was by far the best, closely followed by San Gerardo de Dota and Bajos del Toro.

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Loved it all but Laguna and Nicuesa particularly spectacular.

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It was all great and nicely balanced with a varied itinerary. Seeing a puma was particularly special.

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Maquenque

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Osa - the lodge was wonderful and relaxing. Tortuguero - fantastic wildlife.

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Maquenque and Osa were the highlights. Loved the internal flights.

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Both properties at Drake Bay, although very clean, were actually very different and complemented each other well.

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We would give Bajos del Toro a miss.

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Night tours, dolphin tour, chocolate tour, sloths, amazing guides, friendly people, crocodiles near Nicaraguan border and wildlife in general.

Seasonal information for 'Costa Rica Nature Explorer'

Along this route in January

Day Location Max °C Monthly rainfall
1 San José 24°C rainfall 28mm
2 Tortuguero 30°C rainfall 383mm
3 Tortuguero 30°C rainfall 383mm
4 Piedras Blancas NP 30°C rainfall 64mm
5 Piedras Blancas NP 30°C rainfall 64mm
6 Piedras Blancas NP 30°C rainfall 64mm
7 Sarapiqui 30°C rainfall 254mm
8 Sarapiqui 30°C rainfall 254mm
9 Sarapiqui 30°C rainfall 254mm
10 Boca Tapada 30°C rainfall 280mm
11 Boca Tapada 30°C rainfall 280mm
12 Boca Tapada 30°C rainfall 280mm
13 Bajos del Toro 21°C rainfall 123mm
14 Bajos del Toro 21°C rainfall 123mm

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 'Costa Rica Nature Explorer'

Day 1

El Rodeo Country Inn

Alajuela

El Rodeo Country Inn is a good, mid-range hotel set back from a main road in a quiet suburban area, located just 10 minutes from San Jose airport and 15 minutes from downtown San Jose. The 29 well appointed rooms have hardwood floors and wood furnishings and are fully-equipped with cable TV, A/C, direct dial telephone, safe private bathrooms with hot water and bathtub, coffee maker and hair-dryer. Some rooms have a balcony and all have a garden view. Facilities include a swimming pool and jacuzzi, tennis court, wireless internet. The hotel is connected to a steak house, which is very popular with the locals (please note there are very limited vegetarian options at the steak house). The steakhouse closes at 4pm on Sundays but the hotel bar can prepare snacks or help you call out for a pizza.

El Rodeo Country Inn
Days 2 - 3

Mawamba Lodge

Tortuguero
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Average rating 4.5 (208 ratings)

Mawamba Lodge is set amongst 15 acres of lush tropical gardens and within easy walking distance of Tortuguero village. The hotel's 54 rooms blend perfectly with the surrounding exuberant jungle vegetation. From the basic wooden bungalows you can hear a cacophony of sounds as you lie in bed. Ranchos with hammocks tucked away in the gardens are perfect for relaxing after a day of adventure. Private nature trails and an open sky butterfly farm provide the opportunity to discover different species of trees, palms trees, heliconias and many other plant species that abound in the tropical rainforest. There is also a red-eyed tree frog project by the swimming pool, bar and a buffet style restaurant. The package here includes all meals, morning and afternoon boat trips through the canals to observe the abundant wildlife. Although rustic, we like this lodge for its size and position in Tortuguero.

Mawamba Lodge
Days 4 - 6

Esquinas Rainforest Lodge

nr Golfito
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Average rating 4.5 (22 ratings)

The lodge is surrounded by the Piedras Blancas National Park in Costa Rica's remote southern zone.  Guests can enjoy activities such as hiking, bird watching, horse riding as well as boat and kayak trips in nearby Golfo Dulce. The rooms at Esquinas have a native rancho style, with roofs made from palm fronds.  The main building features a spacious, open living room, library, bar, restaurant and a chlorine-free pool fed by a crystal-clear jungle stream. The tropical garden attracts more than 200 species of birds, colourful butterflies, amphibians and sometimes coatis, monkeys, iguanas. There is also a 10-mile long network of well-marked trails, most of which lead through fascinating, untouched primary forest.

Esquinas Rainforest Lodge
Days 7 - 9

La Quinta de Sarapiqui Lodge

Sarapiqui
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Average rating 4.3 (125 ratings)

This is a pleasant, small, mid-priced hotel, with good sustainable tourism credentials. It is run by a Costa Rican family who do everything they can to make their guests' stays enjoyable. Accommodation is in 25 rather uninspired concrete bungalows, each with private bathroom, tiled floors, ceiling fans and a/c, a small private terrace with rocking chairs and views of the garden. Built on a former working farm the owners have planted an attractive garden on this deforested, riverside site. There is a swimming pool, children's' play area, butterfly garden, a poison dart frog garden and an interesting exhibition room about tropical insects. This is a good sensible choice particularly for families, people with mobility problems and those non-birding spouses who would like an open, sunny base while in the Sarapiqui area. Great home cooking - the best we've tasted in Costa Rica.

La Quinta de Sarapiqui Lodge
Days 10 - 12

Maquenque Lodge

near San Juan River
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Average rating 4.9 (66 ratings)

This is a wonderful family-run eco-lodge set in its own private 60 ha nature reserve inside the Maquenque National Wildlife Refuge. This area of lowland rainforest is especially good for birdwatchers and for people with a strong interest in Costa Rica's wildlife, from beetles and butterflies to bats and basilisks. The lodge's conservation-minded owners, who are all biologists, are doing an excellent job and personally guide many of the tours (on foot or by boat), including wonderful night walks. If you are arriving by car you will be ferried across the San Carlos river to the lodge, leaving your vehicle in a guarded private parking area on the opposite bank. There are self-guided trails, orchid garden, botanic garden and a garden of medicinal plants, and a butterfly farm and garden.

Maquenque Lodge
Days 13 - 14

Bosque de Paz

Bajos del Toro
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Average rating 4.5 (67 ratings)

Bosque de Paz is set in 700ha of private cloud forest with seven well-maintained trails of varying length and strenuousness running from the lodge and through the forest reserve. This delightful family run lodge has 12 comfortable bedrooms, each with two double beds, a private bathroom and hot water. The dining room provides great homemade traditional Costa Rican cooking. Nectar feeders have been hung in the garden, which attract good numbers of hummingbirds. Butterflies are drawn to the pretty flowering plants in the garden.  A lovely option for those wanting to relax and experience the true nature of the cloud forest.

Bosque de Paz