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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 family adventure from the Caribbean to the Pacific coast.
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All the Pura Aventura recommended hotels were charming, family friendly, and felt off the tourist trail...Would I recommend the company? Unreservedly.
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 (and a couple of rivers) 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 in a boat off Cahuita to snorkel what's probably the best coral reef in Costa Rica. After checking out the underwater life, dry off to walk in the terra firma 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. Cool off with a dip in the pool this afternoon, enjoying the views below, and the abundant birds in the area.
This morning is yours to relax by the pool or explore the gorgeous botanical gardens outside the town. This afternoon you head up into the hills above the town of Turrialba, 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.
Today you head up to some of the highest stretches of the country, to the cool damp of the cloudforest, in the valley of San Gerardo de Dota. The San Gerardo cloud forest lies just north of Cerro de la Muerte, the highest pass in Costa Rica at 3,491m. Here the air gets much cooler and the vegetation changes to dense, rich greenery. Here you stay in a charming lodge with views over the forest, and hummingbirds in the gardens.
Today is free to explore the forests around you, full of hummingbirds, butterflies, frogs and orchids. Highly recommend is the walk to the beautiful Savegre Waterfall at the bottom of the valley, which can be partly done on horseback. Birdlife is the key wildlife attraction here, most notably the resplendent quetzal, there are more here than anywhere else in Costa Rica. An early start is usually required to see them, but the reward is more than worth it.
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. On the coast you stay in a lodge tucked into the forested hills overlooking the Pacific, the Osa Peninsula across the bay to the south, with easy access to the unspoiled beaches.
Take to the water today as you paddle the coastline of the beautiful Marino Ballena National Park in sturdy kayaks, exploring the pretty caves. There will be time to tie up on one of the area's loveliest beaches and soak in the scenery around you. If the waves are right, you can also have a go at 'surfing' your kayak into shore. The balance of the day is free to enjoy the beach or perhaps explore some of the beautiful (and little-visited) waterfalls in the area.
Today is yours to relax and enjoy the coast, find new beaches, or perhaps take a boat ride to spot whales offshore or snorkel the reefs around Caño Island. The island is most famous for its fantastic marine life and beautiful coral reefs, though the biggest draw is perhaps the boat journey to the island itself, as pods of dolphin often accompany you en route.
Drive north along the coast and back to San Jose to the airport to check-in for your international flight home. Along the way you'll cross over the Tarcoles Bridge, famed for its resident population of hefty American crocodiles and the beautiful scarlet macaws. Drop off the car at the airport, where you check-in for your overnight flight home this afternoon.
Rappel down waterfalls and look for turtles nesting on the beach. Raft through jungle gorges and paddle past dolphins on the waves of the Pacific. This action-packed adventure takes you away from Costa Rica's crowds, and into its incredible nature. This is a tailor made holiday which we can adjust to suit you in any number of ways, please get in touch and we can start planning your perfect family holiday to Costa Rica.
On this trip there are opportunities for you and your family to enjoy activities as diverse as rafting through a jungle gorge to rappelling down waterfalls to riding horses through the rainforest. As a tailor made trip, the level of exertion on this trip is determined by you, your interests and the age of your children. What we provide for you is advice based on our first hand experiences to help you create the perfect trip for your family.
For the purposes of our suggested itinerary, we include a selection of activities to give you a sense what most trips would look like once tailored to you and your family. In Bananito Sur your time is structured, with a selection of activities included to help you explore the beautiful surroundings. These include hiking, zip lining, horse riding and tree climbing. Down on the coast at Cahuita you have a combined snorkel and hike to see the best of the National Park on land and in the sea.
In Turrialba we include the thrilling pursuit of combined canyoning and zip lining, which can be adapted to suit everyone's ages and appetite for adventure. We also include a white water rafting excursion, which can be more or less lively, depending on the ages of your children - this is the best part of the country for rafting in any case.
San Gerardo is a good chance to draw breath and enjoy a more relaxed couple of days after all the initial activity, though for the adventure seekers, there are options including horse riding, and of course the obligatory zip wire route. Finishing on the Pacific coast, there is no need to structure most of your time - though we do include a kayak trip along the coastline. Otherwise there is beach relaxation, horse riding along the sand and boat trips out to enjoy the marine wildlife.
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.
The weather in Costa Rica is defined by the dry season (December - April), and the 'green' season (May - November). However, this is not particularly helpful given the sheer range of micro-climates in the country. It's pretty much always wet and cool in the cloudforest for instance, and it's pretty much always hot on the south Pacific, which has roughly opposing rainy patterns to the Caribbean side.
The only time of year that constant heavy rain will impact the Pacific side is likely to be late September through to early December, although this time can often be quite nice over on the Caribbean. December generally is hit and miss, you could be lucky and have great weather on both sides, though equally it's not unknown to start getting pretty wet on the Caribbean side, which continues into January.
In early May you have the transition from dry to wet season, and this can bring heavy rains and storms on the Pacific side, so somewhere in May there is usually a week of dramatic weather in the west. It can also be somewhat grey/damp in the east, so on balance probably not the optimum month.
The best months, therefore, are February through April, when it should be largely dry in most places. July and August are typically drier than the months either side, so while you will see some rains, there will be plenty of sunshine too.
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. This means it's easy to visit Costa Rica and leave with great memories of the landscapes and fun stuff it delivers so well but with little true sense of place. 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.
On this holiday you visit rural Cartago, near Turrialba volcano, one of the parts of the country least affected by tourism and therefore easiest to see traditional lifestyles going on around you. The areas around San Gerardo and Uvita are also relatively little visited.
On the Caribbean side of Costa Rica, you have a very different feel to much of the country. The influence of the Afro-Caribbean population here can be found everywhere, in the music, the food, and the language, Creole English. Up at Bananito, the Caribbean meets the rainforest, and you 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.
There is a detailed 'suggested' itinerary for this trip to Costa Rica, please get in touch and we can email that to you. However, as a tailor made trip, in order to send the most appropriate proposal to you, we really need to discuss things with you first to find out the age of your children, when you want to travel, how long you want to go for, etc.
In the form set out here we assume a family of four travelling staying in a combination of two rooms and family villas. The holiday price includes large 4x4 rental with GPS, accommodation, breakfasts throughout plus some other meals, selected activities, local information, maps and support on the ground. Naturally, on each and every one of our holidays, we include Pura Aventura’s expertise, local contacts, support and advice throughout, along with the reassurance of our financial protection and safety auditing.
Flights are quoted separately for this holiday. Best flight routings are to fly into and out of San José (airport code: SJO). Expect to pay between £600 – £750pp for flights to Costa Rica except in peak periods.
Departs any day to suit you, from December through August.
Contact us today to start planning your own personal adventure
The described itinerary is just a taster of what this trip could involve. We would work with you to tailor your personal trip.
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