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Essential Costa Rica Family

Volcanoes, wildlife and beaches | 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 on this self-guided family adventure holiday made to balance fun activities, spectacular landscapes and wildlife with time to relax as a family.

15 day trip described, guide price £2,145pp i

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Read our 7-part Expert Guide to Costa Rica Get the guide

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"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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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. The hotel is well positioned in the city and is a comfortable place to recover from your journey, this is likely to be a short overnight since you leave early tomorrow. Please note, international flights are quoted separately.

Travel by road and river to Tortuguero

You are collected early this morning for the drive and boat ride to the wetlands of Tortuguero. As you near the Caribbean you’ll notice the scenery becoming more green and lush. 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

After breakfast you set off in your boat for a journey through the narrow river channels of the flooded forest. En route your naturalist 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.

Travel to the Arenal Volcano

Fly back to San Jose to pick up your 4x4 and set off driving towards the Arenal region. This takes around three hours going at a leisurely pace. As you approach the village of La Fortuna you will see the towering form of Arenal volcano rising from the surrounding grassy fields. Arenal is the best place for activities in Costa Rica.

Explore the area near Arenal Volcano

Wake up early for the best chance to see the top of the volcano before clouds obscure the top. Active excursions are on offer, one of the best being the Hanging Bridges which we include today – a series of interconnecting pathways and suspended bridges through the forest canopy with stunning views onto the valley below.

Spend today mountain biking, walking or in the hot springs

Today is at leisure, though there is plenty to see and do. For a great wildlife experience, the safari float on the Peñas Blancas river is a good bet, while a mountain bike ride or horseback trip to La Fortuna waterfall are ideal for a more active day. Equally, you should take some time to reap the benefits of Arenal's volcanic waters with a soak in one of the hot springs.

Drive around the lake to Monteverde

Take the pretty route around the north shore of Lake Arenal to Tilaran this morning, and then up the winding country roads to the Monteverde Cloudforest Reserve. You will notice the transition from smooth roads to patchy tarmac then compacted dirt as the scenery becomes ever greener. Walk into the forest with your guide as night falls, looking for the nocturnal wildlife.

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.

Travel from the cool cloud forest to baking dry forest

From the dense greenery of Monteverde, your drive takes you out into the dry rolling landscapes of Guanacaste. 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 one of the country’s best canopy adventures

After a fortifying breakfast of tropical fruits, eggs and gallo pinto, you probably want to try out the canopy adventure. The lodge has a first rate series of zip lines, swings and hanging bridges which run between platforms suspended high on the canyon walls. The canyons themselves are beautiful but in addition, the cables are made of carbon fibre so are almost noiseless.

Drive to a peaceful stretch of the Pacific

Drive down to the sleep beach town of Sámara, taking a detour to Rincon de la Vieja if you like. 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.

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!

Explore the coast further afield

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

Drive to the airport for your flight home today. The nearest to your last stop is Liberia, a couple of hours away, though more favourable connections tend to go from San Jose, around 4.5 hours east.

About this trip

Summary

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 on this self-guided family adventure holiday made to balance fun activities, spectacular landscapes and wildlife with relaxation. 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.

How adventurous?

Activity
1 2 3 4 5
Comfort
1 2 3 4 5
Culture
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

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 to enjoy activities as diverse as hiking to the crater of a volcano 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 a function of 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.

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 Tortuguero your time is structured with wildlife based excursions into the wetlands, usually by boat. There are 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 Arenal there are so many options that your time is not structured here but choices range from half-day hikes to hot springs, mountain biking to canopy walkways. In Monteverde, we have included a wildlife rich night walk for you to go looking for wonderful animals and creepy-crawlies, including tarantulas.

Up in Guanacaste, your lodge is really an adventure playground with zip lines, mountain bike park, walking trails, tubing and hot springs to enjoy. These activities are all bookable locally and happen on site so there is no need to be travelling to and fro. Finishing on the Pacific coast, there is no need to structure your time - there is beach, there is surf, there is snorkeling off the beach or from a boat with sea turtles, horse riding along the sand and there are nights spent watching sea turtles laying their eggs in the sand. Our holiday guide notes list what we think are the best things to do in each area to help you get the most from your time in Costa Rica.

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 an anathema to us. Take Arenal as an example. There are countless very comfortable hotels ranged around the northern side of the volcano but just the one set high on the south side. From here you can hike straight out into the forests or onto the slopes of the Cerro Chato volcano. You are close to the Arenal National Park entrance, great for walks along trails around the skirt of the volcano, past trees filled with monkeys. Or you can stay on the observation deck of the hotel and look for one of the hundreds of species of birds or just watch the occasional smoke puffing from the cone of the world's most constantly active volcano - even seeing the glow at night if you are lucky.

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. 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 ordinary lives. Of course, travelling with children is often a great way to bridge divides, speaking a few words of Spanish will go a long way too!

Practicalities

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

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

Next steps...

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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 Send me exclusive content » Setting off on a zip line on the Canopy tour in Rio Perdido, Tenorio View with flowers at Hotel Buena Vista in Alajuela, San Jose Travelling into Tortuguero by boat White faced capuchin monkey Views of the active cone of Arenal Volcano Walking across the hanging bridges through the forest canopy near Arenal volcano La Fortuna waterfall near Arenal Volcano Staying in the heart of the Monteverde cloudforest Ziplining through the cloud forest of Monteverde Volcanic mud in a bowl at Rio Perdido, Tenorio Canopy tour zip line in Rio Perdido, Tenorio The beach at Samara, Costa Rica Black-faced baby monkey in Samara Riding horses along San Juanillo beach on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica Avellanas beach, Nicoya Peninsula A newly hatched turtle heads seawards in Costa Rica