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Costa Rica Northern Explorer

From Caribbean to Pacific | View photos »

Float down rivers with monkeys swinging in the trees overhead and watch hummingbirds flitting between the flowers of the cloudforest. Zipline over the jungle and swim in the warm waters of the Pacific as you explore Costa Rica high and low, from east to west. This trip is a wonderful example of how, in Costa Rica, you don't need to go far from the hordes to discover hidden beauty.

15 day trip described, guide price £2,980pp i Fully customisable to you

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Sample itinerary

Fly to Central America

On arrival in San José you are met and taken to your comfortable hotel. The hotel is well positioned in the city and is a comfortable place to recover from your journey. Please note international flights are quoted separately.

Into Tortuguero wetlands by road and river

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.

Drive to the cloud forest of Bajos del Toro

Return by river and road to Guapiles where you collect your 4x4 vehicle. You will have the opportunity to go through your intended route with the rep before setting off independently to the Bajos del Toro cloudforest, a peaceful Garden of Eden, with tumbling mountain streams and secluded forest trails.

Delve into the bird-rich cloudforest

Today is free to explore the fascinating flora and fauna of the cloudforest ecosyste . Your lodge has a system of seven well-maintained forest trails of varying length and strenuousness. The owners are on hand to suggest routes that would be most suitable for you. The cloudforest is extremely rich with hummingbirds, colourful butterflies, exotic frogs and orchids.

Drive to Tenorio Volcano National Park

Today, set off driving to the primary rainforests of Tenorio. Roads in Costa Rica are a mixture of good tarmac, old tarmac with potholes and compacted dirt roads. If you get to your hotel early enough, you might like to head into the park this afternoon, when it is at its quietest and the animals therefore perhaps most apparent.

Discover the enchanting Rio Celeste

This morning you meet up with your local guide who leads you up to the park for a walk to see the beautiful Rio Celeste waterfall and its blue lagoon. Other than time in the park, today is yours to relax, explore more on foot, head out horse riding or walk among the trails of your lodge. This is a major area for birdlife, attracted by the lush vegetation.

Tubing on the river

Today is your chance to be as active or relaxed as you like with various options available, including hanging bridges, kayaking, rafting, and tubing. Tubing is by turns an exhilarating and relaxing pastime, whereby you sit in a large inner tube with a seat suspended in the middle of it to protect your rear end. You then head off downriver at the pace the water takes you.

Soak in a hot springs river

Depart the rainforest for the baking heat of Guanacaste province’s dry forest. 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.

Explore more of Rio Perdido

Enjoy your beautiful natural surroundings from the air as you traverse the network of zip lines and hanging bridges over the reserve. You also have access to various self-guided trails across the reserve leading you through the forests, and several signposted routes designed for mountain bikes, but which also make for excellent walking trails.

Drive to a peaceful stretch of the Pacific

Drive down to the beach near Ostional, one of the least developed stretches of the Pacific coast, taking a detour to Rincon de la Vieja if you like. For the next four nights you stay in a lovely small hotel set high on a hill above a wonderfully undeveloped stretch of the coast. You can hear the waves crashing on Ostional beach below.

Explore the wildlife of the area

Near your hotel is arguably the nicest beach in the region with coral sand lining a protected bay which is perfect for swimming. If you bring snorkelling gear with you then you can enjoy time swimming out and around the rocks of the headland – most of the coral is dead now but there are still lots of fish to be seen. For fun you might like to try Stand Up Paddleboarding!

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.

Return to the capital

Enjoy a morning stroll by the beach or look for birds before you return to the capital to overnight. Make your way back to the Central Valley later, where you drop off your 4x4 and stay in your very comfortable small hotel on a hillside above the town of Alajuela, a sort of satellite of San José.

Travel home

Head off from your hotel to the airport to check-in for your international flight home. Please remember: international flights are quoted separately.

Note: This is just an itinerary idea and we'll therefore tailor everything to you.

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Map of the area

"Costa Rica is a fantastic country - so much wildlife and so many places to visit. We will be back! "

"Costa Rica is a fantastic country - so much wildlife and so many places to visit. We will be back! "

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About this trip


Float down rivers with monkeys swinging in the trees overhead and watch hummingbirds flitting between the flowers of the cloudforest. Zipline over the jungle and swim in the warm waters of the Pacific as you explore Costa Rica high and low, from east to west.

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

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.

On this holiday, we give you a decent amount of time in each place. Time to head out and to explore somewhere from all different angles. At the start of your trip, you travel east from the capital towards the Caribbean coast by river. 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 relaxing by the pool. In Bajos del Toro you have lots of time to walk into the peaceful cloudforest reserves to look at the unique flora and fauna.

Moving around to Rio Perdido there are so many options, we only include a canopy tour so as you can explore other activities or just relax. Finishing on the Pacific coast, there is no need to structure your time - there is beach, there is surf, there is snorkelling, boat trips to sea at sunset and there are nights spent watching sea turtles laying their eggs in the sand.

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 and most specifically when you spend time in the better-known highlights such as Tortuguero or on the Pacific coast. It would be easy to travel these roads and stay in faceless places but that is an anathema to us. Looking at the Pacific coast, there are many, many places to stay near the beach so how do we choose ours? Quite simply by finding a place which combines location, service, quality and personality. We have exactly that high on the hill above the coast of Ostional. A beautiful small hotel which gets you close to ordinary villages but still means you can be down on the golden sands within a few minutes' drive. It is also a hotel which represents great value.

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 usually wet and cool in the cloudforest for instance, and mostly 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 feel warm, hot and humid in Tortuguero - possibly getting heavily rained on. In Bajos del Toro you will feel cool and damp. In Rio Perdido and Sarapiqui warm and damp. On the Pacific coast you should feel hot and dry. A little bit of everything for you!

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.

Towards the end of this holiday you stay in the Nicoya Peninsula, which although it is popular with visitors, there are surprisingly large pockets of coast with little or no development; it's 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 and other meals as mentioned in the summary section above, 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. This price assumes you fly in and out of San José, which means you may need to overnight in the city before flying home. However the 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. This would negate the need to stay in the capital on the last night.


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 Subscribe to The Pothole » Walking down to Rio Celeste waterfall in Volcano national park, Tenorio View of San Jose Views from the banks at Tortuga Lodge costa-rica-tortuguero-white-faced-capucchin-CRT The el Silencio Lodge in the Bajos de Toro cloudforest of Costa Rica A green-crowned brilliant poses for the camera Driving to Tenorio Volcano NP, Costa Rica Bridge over the Rio Celeste in Tenorio Volcano National Park Tubing at Rio Perdido Floating in hot springs in Rio Perdido, Tenorio Setting off on a zip line on the Canopy tour in Rio Perdido, Tenorio Early morning on Ostional beach Stand up paddleboarding off San Juanillo beach, Nicoya Peninsula Turtle Footprints on Ostional beach, Nicoya Peninsula Road signs above Ostional, Nicoya Peninsula