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Costa Rica Family Explorer

Adventure isn't just for the kids | View photos »

Float down jungle canals watching howler monkeys swing through the trees above, search for tarantula in the darkening cloud forest and watch sea turtles laying eggs in the sands of the Pacific. Designed by families, for families, this self-drive adventure holiday is made to balance fun activities, spectacular landscapes and wildlife with time to relax.

15 day trip described, guide price £2,090pp i

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Sample itinerary

Fly to Costa Rica

On arrival in San José you are met and taken to your comfortable hotel in the centre of the city. This is likely to be a short overnight since you leave early tomorrow but the hotel is well positioned and is a comfortable place to recover from your journey. Please note, international flights are quoted separately.

Travel by road and river to Tortuguero

You are collected early this morning for the drive north east to the Caribbean. As you approach you’ll notice the scenery becoming more green and lush. There's an opportunity to visit a local school and wander around the village to get a feel for local life on the Caribbean side before the boat ride in to the wetlands of Tortuguero. Arrive in time to settle into your room and enjoy lunch at the lodge. You may also like to take a dip in the lovely pool to cool off after the journey.

Explore the wildlife rich wetlands of Tortuguero

Your lodge has an excellent staff of naturalist guides on hand. After breakfast you set off in your boat for a journey through the narrow river channels of the flooded forest. En route your guide will help you spot monkeys, sloth, river turtle, toucans, caiman and iguana. You may even be lucky enough to see the local family of river otters cavorting downstream.

Paddle in the water or relax by the pool

Today is yours to relax and have the day together. You can choose to spend it around your lodge's lovely pool on the banks of the waterways. Another option is to visit the turtle research and conservation centre, where they give free talks about the different types of turtles, the history and current dangers and problems. There's always the opportunity to arrange another guided boat trip to see more wildlife from the water, or hop in kayaks and paddle for something a little different.

Drive to the forests of Sarapiqui

Travel out of Tortuguero by boat before picking up your 4x4 and driving up to your lodge in the lush forests of Sarapiqui. Although navigating by map isn’t hard, we include GPS in your rental as it makes life much easier. It's only around an hour to your comfortable lodge, set in its own private 1,200-acre reserve on the banks of the river near the Braulio Carillo National Park. Perhaps take a dip in the pool this afternoon and relax after your journey.

Safari raft on the Sarapiqui River

Today is dedicated to some active exploration of this natural playground. After breakfast, you have a safari float down the Sarapiqui River, along very gentle class I-II rapids. You'll have the chance to seek out the likes of toucans, sloths, monkeys and iguanas as you meander down the river. Later explore the wildlife rich trails, or perhaps sign up for a canopy tour. With nine cables connecting 17 platforms at between 20 and 30 metres up in the trees, this is a fantastic and fun way to see the rainforest.

Drive into the cloud forest

Drive across and up into the Monteverde Cloudforest reserve to your comfortable lodge. En route you might like to visit the botanical gardens - a beautiful area to wander, filled with colourful plants and flowers from across the country. After settling in, head out for your first excursion this evening, a walk through Curi Cancha reserve where you go in search of spiders, snakes, frogs and insects in the still of the night.

Discover the Monteverde cloud forest

Explore the delights of Monteverde from walks in the reserve to zip lines to the butterfly park and frog pond. Monteverde is one of the best-known destinations in Costa Rica and as such, you will find an almost limitless range of activities to entertain the family.

Explore by foot, by air or on horseback

For the energetic, this is a great spot for both canopy and horseback trails through the cloudforest. Or see the cloudforest from a different perspective as you whizz through the air on a thrilling zipline adventure. Another great option is a visit to the frog pond - the array of frog species in Costa Rica is phenomenal. For a more cultural experience you could learn about food production in this fertile environment, notably coffee, chocolate and sugar.

Drive to a peaceful stretch of the Pacific

Drive down to the sleepy beach town of Sámara on the Nicoya Peninsula. For the next four nights you stay in a lovely small hotel set in this wonderfully undeveloped stretch of the coast. You can hear the waves crashing on the beach below. The villas are grouped around the very welcoming pool, and each has its own private terrace and kitchen, allowing you the option of preparing your own lunches and dinners if you like.

Explore the wildlife of the area

There is great wildlife in the trees all around you when you stay in Costa Rica and howler monkeys are the alarm clock of choice. Go out in search of wildlife, perhaps to the estuary of the Nosara and Montana rivers.

Sign up for one of the many activities available

There are almost endless activities you can enjoy in these parts. As well as swimming and snorkelling, the surfing is particularly good. For something a little different, you might like to try Stand Up Paddleboarding or SUP for short. Although it always looks serene and simple, we think it is harder than it looks!

Dedicate today to turtles

From Sámara it's around an hour north to Ostional, one of the most crucial nesting areas for the Olive Ridley turtle. 30 minutes to the south, the Camaronal Wildlife Refuge may also be a good option. After breakfast you could board a boat to take you offshore for the chance to snorkel with the turtles. Tonight you might like to meet up with a guide who can take you out in the dark to show you more turtles as they emerge onto the shore to lay.

Drive back to the hills above San Jose

It's around a 4.5-hour drive back to the capital, but you have all day to do it, so can probably afford a final stroll on the beach or dip in the sea. Equally, there are various options to stop off and break the journey en route. For example, it's a short detour up to the Palo Verde National Park, a little-visited wetlands which is full of birdlife. Make your way back to the Central Valley later, where you again stay in the hills above the city.

Travel home

Depending on your flight time, you may be able to enjoy a relaxed morning by the swimming pool and lunch at the hotel before the short transfer out to the airport this afternoon. Check-in for your onward flight. Again, please note that international flights are quoted separately.

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Map of the area

"Flawless advice and organisation"

"Flawless advice and organisation"

Their advice, instructions, recommendations and organisation were flawless. Steve P & family

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"A wonderful holiday"

"A wonderful holiday"

We went with our two children aged 16 and 18. We all had a wonderful holiday - rafting, zip-wires, boat trips, horse riding, turtle watching, swimming with turtles, hot springs, volcanos, bubbling mud, whale watching and amazing bird and other wildlife. Nobody ever said they were bored!! Christine M & family

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"Loved every minute of it!"

"Loved every minute of it!"

We had a fabulous time while in Costa Rica. We had booked this holiday with two things in mind : discovering a new country at our own pace and enjoying some great wildlife-watching. We loved every minute of it! Victoria L & Family

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About this trip


If you set out to design an engaging and active family holiday destination, you'd probably come up with something that looks a lot like Costa Rica. Fun activities, high quality small hotels, varied landscapes, amazing wildlife and a beautiful beach at the end. We believe the things you do and see on this journey should be equally as amazing and engaging for the children as for the parents: without the usual compromises, no trading a day in a museum for a day at a water park.

Your holiday starts with a walk through a Caribbean village and ends snorkelling with sea turtles, via rainforest and cloudforest for some spectacular wildlife watching. Over the course of your holiday, you find yourself hopping from one ecosystem to the next without time for so much as an ‘are we there yet?’ We think that this is everything a family holiday should be.

How adventurous?

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Level of activity

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 your family 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. What we provide for you is local information based on our first hand experiences to help you create the perfect trip for your family.

Sometimes it makes sense to include 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.

In Tortuguero a large part of your time is structured with wildlife based excursions into the wetlands, usually by boat. There are also optional activities such as a fairly mild zip-line through the tree tops and there is plenty of time to enjoy time at the pool.

At Sarapiqui there are plenty of options such as zip lining and rafting or less active pursuits like the chocolate tour and walking in La Selva Biological Reserve. We have included a floating safari on which you can spot sloths, toucans, monkeys and iguanas.

In Monteverde, we include a wildlife rich night walk for you to go looking for wonderful animals and creepy-crawlies, usually a hit with younger visitors and old. We have also included the fun Sky Walk, hanging bridges which take you up above the trees for a bird's eye view of the forest.

Finishing 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.

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 indeed and that is particularly true of this trip which takes you to some of the better known highlights of the country. It would be easy to travel these roads and stay in faceless places but that is anathema to us.

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.

Other than those particular periods, you should expect to see lots of sun, lots of cloud, some rain, lots of humidity and cool evenings on higher ground across the course of your time in Costa Rica.

Level of culture

Costa Rica is a country which does not have a long history of human population, just about 10,000 years. 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 ordinary lives.

In addition, on this particular trip you get an insight into daily life in one of the quieter corners of the country. Tortuguero's lack of road access means that life here moves at its own unique pace in a degree of relative isolation.


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 two rooms. The holiday price includes 4x4 rental car with GPS, accommodation, breakfasts throughout plus some other meals as detailed in the summary section, 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 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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01273 676712

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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 » Exhilarating zip lining in the forests of Costa Rica View with flowers at Hotel Buena Vista in Alajuela, San Jose Guiding by Luis in Tortuguero A male snakebird with his catch for the day Looking south west along main channel from the public dock in Tortuguero Beautiful mountain landscape with a river in Monteverde Rafting past the Pacuare Lodge in Costa Rica Staying in the heart of the Monteverde cloudforest Monteverde is a dream destination for bird lovers Exhilarating zip lining in the forests of Costa Rica The beach at Samara, Costa Rica Black-faced baby monkey, Samara Riding horses along San Juanillo beach on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica Olive Ridley turtle emerging from the sands to head for the Pacific Green iguanas in Tortuguero National Park View of San Jose