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Rappel down waterfalls, look for nesting turtles, raft through a jungle and paddle past dolphins. Explore the incredible variety of Costa Rica's wildlife, landscapes and culture on this self-drive adventure from the Caribbean to the Pacific coast with your family or friends.
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On arrival in San José you are met and taken to your hotel, located up in the hills looking out over the city. The hotel is well positioned near to the airport, so saving the long transfer into the city, and is a comfortable place to recover from your journey. Please note, international flights are quoted separately.
This morning a member of our local team will deliver your 4x4 hire car and GPS. From the peaceful highway south of chaotic Limon, turn off into the tropical lowland rainforest. Pass through remote settlements to your lodge, the remarkable Selva Bananito. Settle into your comfortable cabin and enjoy a swing on your hammock as darkness falls.
Included in your stay is a selection of fun activities, led by the enthusiastic lodge guides, to help you get under the skin of the tropical forest, as well as learn about the efforts to conserve it. Begin the day with a horse ride from the open pastures around the lodge into the jungle, before you climb into your harness for a spot of tree climbing. End the day on the the zip line, an iconic pastime in Costa Rica, it's incredible fun to fly over the treetops for a bird's eye view of the rainforest.
You don't have far to travel today, so can afford a final trail walk or other activity before you head south to your comfortable hotel later, just outside Cahuita. The little town has a strong Afro-Caribbean heritage, which can be felt in the Creole English, the calypso and reggae music and especially in the food, with jerk chicken or coconut shrimp more likely to be served for dinner than gallo pinto.
There are two main beaches here, Playa Negra and Playa Cahuita, the latter of which is within the National Park. This morning you head out with your guide into the forested part of the park, looking out for howler monkeys, sloths, butterflies and birds. The afternoon is free for you to soak up the atmosphere of Cahuita and its surroundings.
Today is yours to explore this beautiful slice of Costa Rica's Caribbean side, if you're lucky you might encounter some of the sea turtles who use the beaches to nest. Spend the day relaxing and discovering new beaches for swimming or surfing, this evening (if conditions are kind), you could head to one of the turtle nesting beaches to see if you can find any egg-laying activity.
Drive up into the fertile valleys of Turrialba today, where you stay in the countryside at a lodge with beautiful views and excellent wildlife to be found in and around the property. This afternoon you head up into the hills above the town, from where you go canyoning. This is a great fun activity which basically entails rappelling down waterfalls and flying along ziplines, with the odd hanging bridge thrown in. Nothing for which you need any previous experience, but certainly enough to get the pulse going.
Spend time on the water today, running the rapids by river raft on either the Pacuare or the Pejibaye. Turrialba is close to some of the best white water in the country, with Class II-IV rapids for older children on the Pacuare, and slightly calmer Class II-III on the Pejibaye.. Rafting through tropical humid rainforest, you will be surrounded by steep forested hills and plunging canyons, often shrouded in mist, with plenty of stretches to get the adrenaline pumping.
Set off south today, winding your way south along the Cordillera de Talamanca and up into the beautiful cloudforests surrounding Cerro Chirripo, Costa Rica's highest mountain. It's a longer drive today, so you might like to break the journey with a hike to the Savegre waterfall in the valley of San Gerardo de Dota before continuing to your delightful lodge in Chirripo. There is a welcoming pool where you could take a refreshing dip on arrival.
Spend the day with your guide exploring the area, perhaps the rich agricultural or its wonderful birdlife. For wonderful hiking, the Cloudbridge Reserve has plenty to offer, with several hours' trails on the northern side of the river for instance. The valley is also rich in birdlife, with a notable number of endemic species, so it's well worth seeing what you can spot. In any case, with your own guide, native to the area, you can set an agenda to suit.
What makes Costa Rica so surprising is the speed at which you switch from one ecosystem to another, today is one of the best examples of that, so take your time to admire the views en route and enjoy the atmosphere of this sleepy corner of the country. For the next three nights, stay in your own house on the edge of the Golfo Dulce. The Osa Peninsula is home to the Corcovado National Park, one of the most biodiverse corners on the planet.
You are met at the house by your kayak guides who get you set up to paddle the nearby network of mangroves which form part of a wildlife refuge. Without big cats to scare them off, mangroves tend to be popular with the rather sleepy sloth. Crocodiles are also here in abundance, although they aren’t interested in humans it is still thrilling to get so close to them. Snakes, butterflies, birds and iguana are all likely to form part of the trip as well.
Today is yours to relax and enjoy the coast or perhaps take a boat ride to spot whales offshore. The Golfo Dulce is home to large pods of dolphins year round, but from June through to November the Humpback whales start to arrive though realistically the best months are from later July though October.
Today is yours to simply sit back and relax. If you haven’t already, head to the beach to watch the sunrise - the orientation of the point means that you are facing more or less due east. You could also pop into the nearby town of Puerto Jimenez, for some last minute gift shopping. In any case you can reward yourself tonight with a fantastic ceviche and cold beer looking out over the bay.
Fly north back to San José to the airport to check-in for your international flight home. Hopefully this sample itinerary has whetted your appetite for a coast-to-coast adventure in Costa Rica. If that's the case, then do please let us know so that we can send you more details or prepare something personalised.
This trip is specifically designed for small groups of friends of families, though it can work as a great base itinerary for couples or single travellers. Costa Rica is an adventure playground which packs in all sorts of fun activities within its small frame. On this trip there are opportunities for you and your family or friends to enjoy activities as diverse as walking through national parks to zip lining through the treetops of the cloud forest to surfing Pacific breaks. As a tailor-made trip, the level of exertion on this trip is determined by you and is also dependent on your interests and the age of your children (where applicable).
What we provide for you is local information based on our first hand experiences to help you create the right trip for you. Sometimes it makes sense to include activities at the planning stage, other times you are better off waiting until you get to Costa Rica. On the Pacific coast, there is no need to structure your time - there is beach, there is surf, there is snorkelling off the beach or from a boat with sea turtles, there is horse riding along the sand and there are nights spent watching sea turtles laying their eggs on the beach.
What you have here is a sample itinerary which gives a good indication of what your trip to Costa Rica might look like in this form. If you love every last detail of it, then we need only tinker around the edges. If you have some particular interests or requirements that you’d like us to build into the trip then you need only tell us and we can come up with something personal to you. Either way, a good starting point is an email or phone call to share some of your ideas.
Departs any day to suit you, from December through August. For more detailed guidance, visit our when to visit Costa Rica section.
The price is per person based on four people sharing two rooms and includes:
First-class accommodation with breakfast and some lunches and dinners
Large 4x4 vehicle with GPS delivered to your hotel
Guided walks in Cahuita and Chirripó
Canyoning, kayaking and rafting excursions
Transfers to and from San José airport with welcome briefing
Internal flight from Puerto Jiménez to San José
Costa Rica Holiday Guide with personal recommendations
Costa Rica driving guide
Pura’s expertise, local contacts, support and advice throughout
International flights are quoted separately for this holiday. Best routings are into and out of San José (SJO).
Over the course of this trip you stay in a series of very comfortable lodges and small hotels. In Costa Rica particularly, we choose our accommodation very carefully since we want you to both be comfortable and get a sense of the country hosting you.
For more details, please get in touch to request a full itinerary.
With much of Costa Rica suffering somewhat under the weight of growing visitor numbers, we instead direct you towards some of the quieter unspoilt areas that we fell in love with. As well as bringing a share of the economic benefit to places where fewer people stay, this approach eases the burden on the famous sights and helps protect other areas through thoughtful eco-tourism. Everyone wins; the destination, the wildlife, the locals and you, the traveller.
Costa Rica is a country of farmers, a friendly place which, combined with its huge biodiversity and variety of ecosystems, makes it a very natural magnet for tourism. But it’s easy to leave without any real sense of place or the way people live here. That is why we are so passionate about helping you stay in the right places and travel with as much good information as possible to help you to stop and meet people, see something of daily life. You’ll also have an insight into the meeting of economic reality and conservation, a tricky balance which Costa Ricans seem to manage so much better than most parts of the world.
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