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Costa Rica Uncovered

Wildlife, landscapes and coast | View photos »

This wildlife-rich Costa Rica driving holiday takes you north and south, on and off the beaten path. 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.

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. If this quick summary has whetted your appetite for a tailor-made trip to Costa Rica, we'd love to talk to you about tailoring something that is just right for you. See below for various ways to get in touch or request a full PDF itinerary for more details of this trip.

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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


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.

As this is a tailor-made holiday, 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.

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

Level of activity

The price is per person based on two people sharing and includes:

First-class accommodation with breakfast and some lunches and dinners
Large 4x4 vehicle with GPS delivered to your hotel
Guided excursions as described
Transfers to and from San José airport with welcome briefing
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 routing is into and out of San José (SJO).

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.

For more details, please get in touch to request a detailed PDF itinerary.

Level of culture

It is part of our job to get to know you, what you like or don’t like doing and any particular interests or requests that you have. We then advise you what we think is the best way to approach your trip, working with you to tailor it to you. It’s possible that what you have seen here is ideal for you, but equally we can tinker with it to get it just right if not. 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.

Ask us how we can tailor this trip for you »


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.


Departs any day to suit you, from December through August.

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.

Next steps...

Contact us today to start planning your own personal adventure

01273 676712

or ask us a question »

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