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Costa Rica Uncovered

Wildlife, landscapes and coast | View photos »

Wander through peaceful bird-filled cloudforest of San Gerardo, cross the bay to see the rich rainforest of the Osa Peninsula, tour Corcovado and Tenorio Volcano National Park, watch the cowboys ride past in dry plains of Guanacaste and swim with turtles off the sands of the Pacific. This wildlife rich self-drive journey takes you north and south, on and off the beaten path.

16 day trip described, guide price £2,495pp i

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Sample itinerary

Travel to Central America

On arrival in San José you are met and taken to your hotel overlooking the Central Valley. This evening is free to relax after your long flight. Please note international flights are quoted separately.

Pick up your 4x4 and drive to the cloudforest

This morning your 4x4 hire car will be brought to you at the hotel. A member of our local team will take you through your intended driving route, offer advice and answer any questions you may have. You then set off driving independently to the cloudforest at San Gerardo de Dota where you spend the next two nights. The drive is a beautiful 2 hours or less.

Walk through the peaceful cloudforest

Today is yours to explore independently. Compared to the crowded trails at Monteverde, San Gerardo is a peaceful haven, with quiet forest paths meandering beside clear mountain streams. It is also the most reliable area in Costa Rica to catch a glimpse of the Resplendent Quetzal – quite a treat even for the non-birder.

Drive down to the Pacific coast

After breakfast set off driving to Uvita on the Pacific coast. The contrast between habitats en route is quite remarkable. The road descends from the cool mists of cloudforest down to the hot and humid tropical jungle, then through banana plantations to the coast. Your lodge overlooking the sea is good base from which to explore the dramatic coastline and the nearby Osa Peninsula.

Cross the bay to Corcovado National Park

Visit the Corcovado National Park with your guide today for fantastic wildlife viewing opportunities. The park remains largely untouched and harbours an incredible biodiversity, including 140 species of mammals, 367 birds and 177 amphibians and reptiles. You can expect to see several species of monkey, sloth and a host of birdlife during your guided walk.

Take a boat to Caño Island

Today you explore at your own pace, perhaps take a boat a little way off shore to Caño Island. The island itself, once an Indian burial ground, offers some pretty walks and good snorkelling off the beach. The biggest draw is perhaps the boat journey itself however, with pods of dolphin often accompanying you en route.

Drive all the way up to Tenorio Volcano

At around six hours, today is the longest drive of your trip, taking you to the north of Costa Rica and the primary rainforests of the Tenorio Volcano National Park. There is lots to see along the way so we recommend you set off early and make a day of it. One very worthwhile stop is the Carara National Park, a couple of hours north of Uvita.

Visit Tenorio National Park

Guided walk through the national park to see the beautiful Rio Celeste waterfall and blue lagoon. Although the upper reaches of the park are made up of beautiful primary rainforest, the most famous things about Tenorio is its dramatic bright blue river, the Rio Celeste. This morning you will have a guided walk to see the meeting of the rivers, where the Rio Celeste becomes so blue.

Travel to the hot springs of the Rio Perdido

Your drive north towards the tropical dry-forests should take somewhere under two hours. Your next lodge is set deep within its own 600-acre private reserve. At its heart are two converging canyons, the cool white waters of the Rio Blanco meet the delightfully warm thermal waters of the Rio Perdido.

Enjoy your beautiful natural surroundings

There are various self-guided trails across the reserve leading you through the forests. In addition, there are several different sign posted routes around the property which are designed for mountain bikes but in fact also make for great walking trails.Staying with the adventurous theme, the lodge has a first rate canopy tour.

Spend today in Rincon de la Vieja National Park

Your time here is at leisure, though there is plenty to see and do. From your lodge, you can see the slopes of the Rincon de la Vieja volcano. To drive to the national park takes around an hour but is well worth it to walk amongst the bubbling mud pots, fumaroles and sulphurous vents that line the paths. This is also a place of incredible bird life.

Drive to the quiet coast near Ostional

Set off from your hotel this morning and drive to the Pacific Coast of the Nicoya Peninsula. For the next four nights you stay in a lovely small hotel with just seven rooms, high on a hill above the coast. You can hear the waves crashing on Ostional beach below. More importantly, there is a lovely cooling breeze up here which means you can sleep with your windows open.

Explore the wildlife of the area

Because the tracks around the area are so quiet, a morning stroll to the top of the hill behind your hotel is an opportunity to spot lots of birdlife as well as hear howler monkeys and see slices of rural life in the hinterland. For a more formal wildlife viewing experience, you might like to travel the 20 minutes of so to the estuary of the Nosara and Montana rivers.

Dedicate your day to sea turtles

Turtles prefer darker nights between July and December but at almost any time of year you can see turtles coming to lay their eggs on the beaches of the area. In the height of the season, you can even see latecomers still up on the beach laying their eggs in the early morning. There are almost always turtles out here so it is pretty much guaranteed that you will be able to swim with them.

Explore the coast further afield

After breakfast you might like to head north to Avellanas beach which is famous for its surfing and its fantastic beach front eating. Going south to the more developed area around Nosara, you can find horse riding, zip lining and plenty of surfing to keep you busy. There are some beautiful places to eat as you look out over the crashing waves of the Pacific.

Travel home

Ideally you will fly in and out of San José. This being the case, drive leave in plenty of time to drive to the airport, drop-off your hire car and check-in for your flight home. You may need a night in San José prior to your departure. Please remember: international flights are quoted separately.

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Map of the area

"So special"

"So special"

Once again a big thank you for a great holiday, I think the "personalised" nature of the trip you organised for us made it so special, everything suited us and the great quality of the trips and the guides was evident. Jayne A

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"So many unforgettable memories"

"So many unforgettable memories"

We have had the good fortune to travel widely and seen some beautiful cities, stunning landscapes and met some amazing people, but the balance of appreciating this stunning country and the friendliest locals (yes they do seem the happiest nation on earth) combined with the opportunity to zip, surf, paddleboard and tube has led us to conclude that this was the best holiday we’ve ever had….. just one problem.. how to top it! Our thanks to the whole team for giving us so many unforgettable memories. Pura Vida. Chris & Gill C

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"We made the most of each location"

"We made the most of each location"

We did indeed have an amazing holiday, everything was organised perfectly and moving between so many hotels was made really easy. The tours that were included meant we made the most of each location and there was very little else we wish we'd included! Georgia W

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"Away from the crowds"

"Away from the crowds"

All the places we stayed were lovely small, intimate hotels, away from the crowds, in gorgeous locations. The wildlife was beyond incredible. The information provided by Pura Aventura before we left was amazing and covered absolutely everything - it was like having your own personal Lonely Planet, exclusively written about your holiday.

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About this trip


Wander through peaceful bird-filled cloudforest of San Gerardo, cross the bay to see the rich rainforest of the Osa Peninsula, watch the cowboys ride past in dry plains of Guanacaste and swim with turtles off the sands of the Pacific. This wildlife rich self-drive journey takes you north and south, on and off the beaten path.

How adventurous?

1 2 3 4 5
1 2 3 4 5
1 2 3 4 5

Best time to go i

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec

Level of activity

This holiday is primarily conceived of as a journey for lovers of wildlife and landscapes. It is about being in the great outdoors, exploring new landscapes and ecosystems and seeing the incredible range of birds, plants and animals which surround you. It has the added dimension of taking you off the beaten track to smaller towns and villages where opportunities to mix with the locals and settle into the country are much greater than is the case in Costa Rica's more 'obvious' destinations.

The level of activity on this trip is relatively low, though you will be outdoors in heat, cold, rain and damp. Most days you would expect to be walking at least some of the time - be that walking through the jungle to look for wildlife or crossing canopy walkways for views of volcanic landscapes. You should therefore be at least somewhat physically active to get the most out of your time here.

Having said that, this is a tailor made holiday. As such, the level of exertion is determined by you and you alone. What we provide for you is local information based on our first hand experiences to help you create the best possible trip. Sometimes it makes sense for us to include structured activities at the planning stage, other times you are better off waiting until you get to Costa Rica. It is part of our job to advise you which option is best for you in which parts of the country.

Costa Rica has landscapes which are incredibly varied given how small it is. This variety feeds through to the activities, everything from hiking to sports fishing, rafting to canopy walkways is on offer here. Being so small, it isn't a country where you can head off hiking for day after day - it's diced up much finer than that. When it comes to adventure, Costa Rica is about variety, a bit of this, a bit of that.

Level of comfort

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 be both comfortable and get a sense of the country hosting you. This suggested itinerary is based around what are essentially small 4* hotels. Because the hotels on this particular trip are usually an integral part of the destination, we can’t change them without changing the content of your holiday.

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 and dry in the far north of the country. Broadly speaking, Costa Rica has a tropical climate. This means that it is warm and humid year round. The 'green' season tends to mean that you can get rains on the western side of the country but usually these are showers which happen in the evening and provide welcome relief from the heat of the day.

In truth, the only time of year that constant heavy rain will impact your holiday is likely to be late September through to early December. Our advice is to avoid October and November completely and give them a bit of a wide berth by also tending away from late September or early December. 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.

Level of culture

Costa Rica is a country which does not have a long history of human population, just about 10,000 years. The settlers in Costa Rica had to work their own fields which meant that the colonial powers basically left it alone to grow into its own unique and peaceful personality. This is a country of farmers, a friendly place which, when combined with its extraordinary biodiversity and variety of ecosystems, has made it a very natural magnet for tourism.

This means that it is easy to visit Costa Rica and leave with great memories of the landscapes and all the fun stuff it delivers so well but with little true sense of place. That is why we are so passionate about making sure that you stay in the right places, that you travel the right roads and you travel with as much good information as possible from us to equip you to stop and meet people along the way, see something of ordinarily lives.

On this holiday you visit rural Guanacaste, near Miravalles and Rincon de la Vieja volcanoes, probably the part of the country least affected by tourism and therefore easiest to see traditional lifestyles going on around you. The areas around San Gerardo, Dominical and Tenorio are also relatively little visited so give you lots of time seeing day to day lives going on around you. Although the Nicoya Peninsula is popular with visitors, there are surprisingly large pockets of coast where there has been little or no development, and it is in these stretches that we like you to stay.


There is a detailed itinerary for this Costa Rica trip, in the form set out above. 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 your interests, when you want to travel, how long you want to go for, etc.

The holiday price assumes two people travelling in high season (January-April), sharing a room. In the form set out above, the holiday includes transfers and a 4x4 rental car with GPS, very comfortable hotel accommodation, breakfasts throughout, activities and excursions specifically mentioned above. 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 San José (airport code: SJO) and out of Liberia (airport code: LIR) which is close to the end point of the journey. It is possible to fly in and out of San José though you may need to overnight in the city before flying home. 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.

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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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Book Subscribe to The Pothole » Crossing the rope bridge on the way out from Drake Bay Flying over the central valley, Costa Rica The lovely Savegre waterfall in the San Gerardo cloudfores A shining honeycreeper perches on a branch in the San Gerardo cloudforest Lovely view out over the waters of the Golfo Dulce Crocodile on the banks of Sierpe River Bottlenose dolphins accompanying the boat The blue lagoon in Volcano national park, Tenorio Looking out over one of the peaks of the Tenorio volcano Floating in hot springs in Rio Perdido, Tenorio Mountain bike sign on the bike trail in Rio Perdido, Rincon de la Vieja Armadillo hiding San Juanillo beach, Nicoya Peninsula Riding horses along San Juanillo beach on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica Rocky the turtle emerging Watermelon juice at Lolas shack on Avellanas beach, Nicoya Peninsula Pelicans flying overhead near Drake Bay on the Osa Peninsula