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'Costa Rican Nature Odyssey'

What makes this trip special?

Dramatic volcano

Dramatic volcano

Poas Volcano

Striking conical-shaped volcano with a vast crater and sulphorous hot aquamarine crater lake within close proximity to San Jose's central valley.

Coffee secrets

Coffee secrets

Doka Coffee Estate

See how some of Costa Rica's finest coffee is grown, harvested and prepared.

Lots of easy-to-see wildlife

Lots of easy-to-see wildlife

Tortuguero

Tortuguero's inland waterways are one of the very best places in Costa Rica to see wildlife. Turtles nest on its ocean beaches.

Lush lowland rainforest

Lush lowland rainforest

Sarapiqui

At the foot of the mountains, where the rainforest is at its lushest, Sarapiqui is home to a myriad of flora and fauna and is a must-see destination for birdwatchers and natural history enthusiasts.

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.

Carara Reserve & Tarcoles river

Carara Reserve & Tarcoles river

Central Pacific

A transitional life zone between the humid tropical forest and the high humidy pre-montane forest. At the Carara Biological Reserve highlights include Scarlet Macaw and an active Orange-collared Manakin lek. The Tarcoles river marshlands are rich in waterfowl and wading birds.

Stunning rainforest backed beaches

Stunning rainforest backed beaches

Manuel Antonio National Park

Perhaps the most beautiful coastal scenery in all Costa Rica - emerald green wildlife-laden rainforest tumbling onto white-sand beaches lapped by turquoise waters - what's not to love!

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.

Pristine, biodiverse wilderness

Pristine, biodiverse wilderness

Corcovado National Park, Osa Peninsula

Visit the Corcovado National Park on the Osa Peninsula, one of the most biologically intense places on earth according to the National Geographic. Home to over 400 species of birds and 114 species of mammals including elusive species such as tapir, ocelot, puma and jaguar

Quiet "Garden of Eden" cloud forest

Quiet "Garden of Eden" cloud forest

San Gerardo de Dota & Los Quetzales NP

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

Costa Rica's capital city

Costa Rica's capital city

San Jose

San Jose is worth spending time in to enjoy a slice of real everyday Costa Rican life outside of the tourist centres. Aside from the impressive Jade Museum and Pre-Colombian Gold Museum, there are some pretty tree-lined squares, parks and buildings of interest, together with an up-and-coming foodie/cultural scene.

Itinerary map for Costa Rica 'Costa Rican Nature Odyssey' holiday

Itinerary

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

Designer's notes

Discover the wildlife of flooded forest, rainforest, dry forest and cloudforest in a convivial small group at a sensible place. We also see two of the country's largest and most active volcanoes, visit both the Caribbean and Pacific coasts and make a boat trip to the remote Osa Peninsula.
We stay at good quality comfortable mid-range hotels and lodges and are escorted throughout by an experienced and knowledgeable professional naturalist guide with excellent English. An excellent way to experience Costa Rica.

Day-by-day itinerary for 'Costa Rican Nature Odyssey'

DAY 1

San José

We meet in San José in the early evening at a comfortable mid-range hotel–our base for our first 2 nights. You are met at the airport from any flight arriving today and driven to the hotel.

DAY 2
BL

Poas Volcano & Doka Coffee Estate

After breakfast we gather in the lobby for a morning drive through lush coffee growing areas and then through cloud forest as the road climbs up the slopes of the mighty Poás Volcano. We walk to the rim to see across the volcano’s massive crater with its hot aquamarine lake steaming below us. After some time to explore this strange landscape we continue by road to the prestigious Doka Estate, a long-established family-run coffee estate. Here we tour its well-tended plantations and learn about the complexities of cultivating, harvesting and roasting high quality coffee. Note: We may not be permitted to approach Poás Volcano if it is in a very active phase. Instead we would visit La Paz Waterfall Gardens where a very scenic garden trail beside a series of waterfalls is accompanied by a hummingbird gallery, walk-in butterfly house and ranarium for close up views of tiny bejewelled frogs.

DAY 3
BLD

Tortuguero flooded forest

This morning we drive down through the Braulio Carillo National Park, then through banana plantations to Caño Blanco dock near the Caribbean coast. From here a boat ride (1½h) takes us along the waterways of the flooded forest into Tortuguero National Park. We stay 2 nights at a cabin-style lodge with a swimming pool and well-tended gardens.

DAY 4
BLD

A full day at Tortuguero where we explore the smaller channels of the flooded forest by boat with the lodge’s naturalist guide. The wildlife we see should include three-toed sloths, large iridescent blue morpho butterflies, howler monkeys, white-faced capuchin and spider monkeys, toucans, poison dart frogs and the ‘Jesus Christ’ or basilisk lizard that skips across the water surface.

DAY 5
BL

Sarapiquí lowland forest

Leaving Tortuguero we travel by boat (1½h) and road (2h) to Sarapiquí to stay 1 night. The afternoon is free to enjoy our lodge’s facilities, relax by the pool or in the gardens, walk or birdwatch.

DAY 6
BL

OTS La Selva

Today we visit the Organisation For Tropical Studies La Selva Biological Station, one of the world’s most important centres for research into tropical rainforests. A resident bilingual naturalist joins us for a guided walk and provides an overview of the centre’s research, education and conservation programmes. Showy birds such as toucans, parrots, trogons, and hummingbirds, and mammals such as monkeys, peccaries, agoutis, and coatis, are seen frequently. After lunch we drive (2½h) to La Fortuna below Arenal Volcano where we stay for 2 nights at a mid-range lodge with good views of the volcano.

DAY 7
B

Arenal Volcano

This morning we take a walk along a system of trails on the forest floor and suspended walkways high in the forest canopy. Here we hope to see a variety of birds and possibly a troupe of howler monkeys, as well as beautiful views over the forest canopy and out onto the valley below with Arenal rising up in front of us. The afternoon is free to relax in the grounds of our hotel and try bathing pools fed by springs warmed from deep in the earth.

DAY 8
BLD

Tropical dry forest and cowboy culture

We drive across the mountains and down to the shores of the Gulf of Nicoya in Guanacaste state. This is Costa Rica’s cowboy ranching region where weekend riders sport well-groomed horses, stetsons and frilled jackets and working days are dusty and hard. Here the dry season is so pronounced that woodland trees shed their leaves to minimise water loss. After a suitable lunch we travel south to Carara on the mid-Pacific coast for 2 nights.

DAY 9
BL

Wildlife on the Tárcoles river and in the Carara reserve

We take a boat trip through mangroves along the Rio Tárcoles for a good variety of sea and water birds including boatbilled heron and black-necked stilt, with a good chance of seeing crocodiles (some very large) and alligators. Back ashore we visit the nearby Carara Reserve, a transitional area between dry forest and rain forest ecosystems. Mammals include monkeys, armadillos, agoutis and most of the large felines- though, of course, the latter rarely allow themselves to be seen. Birds include toucans, trogons, guans and macaws. A wonderful sight in this area is scarlet macaw returning from their feeding grounds in the hills to roost in the mangroves (particularly reliable between January and March). The sequence of today’s activities could be switched around according to the times of the tides.

DAY 10
BL

Manuel Antonio NP and Dominical

Today we visit the popular Manuel Antonio National Park for beautiful scenery of coves and rocky headlands leading to Cathedral Point, a ‘tombolo’ or island connected to the land by a sand spit. Ocean waves break on sparkling white sand beaches backed by rainforest teeming with wildlife including monkeys, coatimundi, racoons, sloths, iguanas, toucans and parrots. The nearest beach is 1km from the entrance and there are hiking trails into the forest. If the park is not too busy we take our picnic lunch here and continue in the mid afternoon to our new base further down the coast to the quieter less-developed Dominical area where we stay for 2 nights.

DAY 11
BL

Corcovado and the Osa Peninsula

We set out early this morning for a boat ride to Corcovado National Park on the Osa Peninsula. We would expect to see sea birds, probably whales and dolphins, and perhaps turtles along the way. From our landing we take two guided walks on different trails deep in the rainforest, each of about 2 hours. Just being in such pristine rainforest is a wonderful experience on its own, and we would expect good chances of seeing sloths, spider, howler, and white-faced monkeys, coatimundis and raccoons, and possibly even tapirs. There is a great variety of birds to find and a huge array of different plants and trees. A picnic lunch is served near the ranger station at the end of the first walk, and after the second we arrive at the boat again which takes us back to base. For anyone who doesn’t enjoy a boat trip on the sea we can arrange a guided nature walk in Ballenas national park instead–just be sure to let us know in advance.

DAY 12
BD

Los Quetzales NP cloud forest

Turning inland we drive up into the hills and stop at Los Cusingos Refugio des Aves, a wonderful private reserve and birding hotspot that continues the work of the late naturalist and writer, Dr Alexander Skutch. The road ascends as we continue into paramó highlands, over the mountain pass of the Cerro de la Muerte, and turn down into the very pretty cloudforested valley of San Gerardo de Dota where we stay for 2 nights.

DAY 13
BD

This is the most reliable part of Costa Rica to see Resplendent Quetzal as their favourite food source, the wild avocado tree, bears fruit here all year round. We take a walk in this lush, cool habitat looking out for quetzals, toucans, trogons and enjoying the rich flora and fauna of the cloud forest, its trees festooned with bromeliads, epiphytic orchids and ferns. It has been a busy few days so we take an afternoon off to relax at the lodge where there are opportunities for strolling and birding in the grounds.

DAY 14
B

San José

To spend as much time as possible in this beautiful valley we leave in the late morning to drive back towards the capital. En route we stop at the Lankester botanical gardens, full of bamboos and orchids, and make our way into San José for our final night in Costa Rica downtown in the capital.

DAY 15
B

Walking tour of San Jose, depart Costa Rica

This morning we have an informal walking tour in the city centre perhaps stopping at one or two museums or galleries (entrance fees not included). Then in the afternoon you are taken to San José airport in good time for your flight home.

The maximum number of passengers for this tour is just 12, which means we travel with ease and flexibility, group dynamics are relaxed, and we are better engaged with the places we visit and the wonderful experiences we will have. Wildlife experiences are a particular focus of this trip, and are much better with such a small number. Some of the hotels vary slightly with each departure, please contact us for details.

Departure dates and prices

tour code starts ends price per person single supplement
CRO20/1 14-Jan-20 28-Jan-20 £2,650 £655
CRO20/2 30-Jan-20 13-Feb-20 £2,650 £655
CRO20/3 27-Feb-20 12-Mar-20 £2,650 £655
CRO21/1 05-Jan-21 19-Jan-21 £call £call
CRO21/2 30-Jan-21 13-Feb-21 £call £call
CRO21/3 02-Mar-21 16-Mar-21 £call £call
Prices are per person and include:
  • all transport within Costa Rica
  • all accommodation (sharing a double/twin room)
  • meals as indicated B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner
  • shared services of an experienced English speaking local Natural History guide who accompanies the group throughout
  • entry fees to all attractions and National Parks listed below
Prices do not include:
  • international flights
  • travel insurance
  • items of a personal nature such as drinks, tips, laundry, etc

Customer reviews for 'Costa Rican Nature Odyssey'

Average customer rating 97%

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Tortuguero and Arenal Hot Springs

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Wildlife watching in Tortuguero

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The diversity of the country, 'the jungle' and the company of the group, we all gelled well.

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Tortuguero and Monteverde.

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La Selva, Carara and Monteverde.

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Tortuguero and Monteverde.

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Tortuguero & Monteverde.

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Tortuguero, Selva and Palmar Sur

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Fantastic holiday! I thoroughly enjoyed the trip

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I really enjoyed turtle beach, the whole experience was magical.

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Tortuguero, Arenal, Monteverde, Central Pacific coast

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Tortuguero and San Gerardo de Dota

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We loved the wet rainforest in Tortuguero and Sarapiqui. The night and day boat trips were very good

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Tortuguero, excellent guide, organisation, knowledge, manner. All brilliant

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Mangrove boat trip on Tarcoles river

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Mangroves by boat was amazing.

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Canal trips, Tortuguero, Arenal Volcano and Ecotermales.

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The night excursion at Tortuguero and the boat trip of Guanacaste.

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We had a lovely introduction to Costa Rica, the only thing missing could have been some history/culture - perhaps a museum visit in the capital. A lovely trip. Thanks for organising it.

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Boat trip and Carara Reserve. Would have liked more time there.

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Difficult to say as so many highlights!

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The night boat excursion at Tortuguero and the boat trip of the Guacalillo were particular highlights.

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Well balanced. Best were Tortuguero, Monteverde& Arenal

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Arenal, Rincon de la Vieja and Central Pacific Coast

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Osa Peninsula was fantastic.

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Seeing the wildlife and plants and a lot of different areas. Victor and Rafa were really excellent and helped make the holiday.

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Mangrove boat trip, Monteverde Cloud Forest, hot springs.

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Tortuguero and Tarcoles - wildlife seen from the water.

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I enjoyed every day.

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Seasonal information for 'Costa Rican Nature Odyssey'

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 Tortuguero 30°C rainfall 383mm
4 Tortuguero 30°C rainfall 383mm
5 Sarapiqui 30°C rainfall 254mm
6 Arenal 30°C rainfall 194mm
7 Arenal 30°C rainfall 194mm
8 Carara NP 32°C rainfall 8mm
9 Carara NP 32°C rainfall 8mm
10 Dominical 32°C rainfall 64mm
11 Dominical 32°C rainfall 64mm
12 San Gerardo de Dota 16°C rainfall 85mm
13 San Gerardo de Dota 16°C rainfall 85mm
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 'Costa Rican Nature Odyssey'

Days 1 - 2

Bougainvillea

Heredia
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Average rating 4.8 (283 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

Aninga Lodge

opposite village Tortuguero
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Average rating 4.8 (5 ratings)

This is a 32 room lodge situated beside the lagoon opposite Tortuguero Village. It is situated on the Pachira Estate but run independently. The wooden cabins have private facilities with hot water and fans, they are connected by a wooden walkway in the forest. There is a swimmming pool and restaurant.

Aninga Lodge
Day 5

La Quinta de Sarapiqui Lodge

Sarapiqui
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Average rating 4.3 (130 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 6 - 7

Arenal Paraiso

Arenal

Hotel Arenal Paraiso is a motel style accommodation set at the base of the Arenal volcano. Rooms are clean and spacious and feature lovely views of the volcano and surrounding gardens. The hotel has onsite hot springs set in tropical gardens where guests can relax and enjoy volcano views. There is also a bar, restaurant, and a spa and wellness centre offering a variety of treatments. Local activities and excursions can be booked locally from the lodge including canopy zip lines and horseback riding.

Arenal Paraiso
pools and hot springs onsite
Days 8 - 9

Cerro Lodge

Tarcoles
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Average rating 4.2 (26 ratings)

Cerro Lodge located on a farm in Tarcoles just 10 minutes from the Carara National Park.

Described by themselves as an intense birdwatching spot, the lodge is in a prime position to spot scarlett macaws on a daily basis.

A small lodge, they pride themselves on operating as sustainably as possible.

 

Cerro Lodge
Lodge grounds
Days 10 - 11

Villas Rio Mar, Dominical

Rio Baru, Dominical

Villas Rio Mar Resort is set in landscaped tropical grounds on the banks of the Barú river, a 10 minute walk from Dominical beach. There are 52  large thatched roof bungalow rooms with open terrace like living room patios, bathrooms with hot water and hair dryer, safety box, A/C, fans, mini-fridge, hammock, cable TV and wifi.

The "El Rancho" on-site restaurant serves international and local specialities. Other facilities include a large swimming pool, kids pool, bar, tennis court, mini-golf, kids play area and rainforest trail leading into the jungle up the mountains, offering views out over the coastline.

Villas Rio Mar, Dominical
Days 12 - 13

Paraiso de Quetzal

Nr San Gerardo de Dota

Paraiso de Quetzal is a good choice for birders and people interested in natural history wishing to see the Resplendent Quetzal.

The lodge is set in extensive grounds at an altitude of 2,650m. Accommodation at this family run lodge is in independent pine-wood cabins dotted around the hillside. Each of the 14 cabins have a private bathroom with hot water, coffee maker and forest views. Standard rooms have queen-sized beds and bunkbeds. Superior cabins have king-sized beds, jacuzzi bathtub, plasma T.V. Heaters and additional blankets are available as it gets cold at night.

Facilities include a cosy restaurant serving homecooked food using local produce, lounge area with fireplace, gift shop. There are a variety of on-site trails of differing lengths, a 6m observation platform, hummingbird deck.

Note: Make sure you have a torch to walk the trails to your cabin at night.

Paraiso de Quetzal
Day 14

Presidente

San Jose
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Average rating 4.4 (93 ratings)

Hotel Presidente is located in the heart of downtown San José, on the corner of Central Avenue Boulevard and 7th Street, just 20 minutes from the San Jose international airport. Each of the 80 guest rooms split between standard and superior rooms and suites have either two queen-sized beds or a king-sized bed, A/C, wireless internet, hair-dryers, mini-fridge, 32" cable LCD T.V, safe. Hotel amenities include a restaurant, honesty bar in reception, spa services, 24/7 gym, casino, concierge service, computer for guest use, rooftop bar and terrace with panoramic city views.

Presidente
Exterior