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Costa Rica Northern Explorer

From Caribbean to Pacific | View photos »

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

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.

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Day-by-day 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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About this trip

Is this the right trip for you?

Flexible departures: If you're ready to start travelling again, you can book now secure in the knowledge that we offer you the freedom to defer your trip, until the point your balance is paid, to any available date before the end of 2021.

Financial protection: For complete peace of mind in these uncertain times, your money is fully protected by our membership of ABTOT and the ATOL scheme.

Ensuring your safety: Please rest assured that your safety is always our top priorty. Our partners will all follow the strict guidelines set out by the government to ensure your safety whilst travelling, and we will fully support them to ensure they are able to do so.

How can we tailor this trip to you?

What you have here is a sample itinerary which gives a good indication of what your trip to Costa Rica might look like in this form. If you love every last detail of it, then we need only tinker around the edges. If you have some particular interests or requirements that you’d like us to build into the trip then you need only tell us and we can come up with something personal to you. Either way, a good starting point is an email or phone call to share some of your ideas.

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How adventurous?

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Best time to go i

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

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

What's included?

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

First-class accommodation with breakfast and some lunches and dinners
Large 4x4 vehicle with GPS
Transfers to and from Tortuguero
Shared guiding in Tourtuguero
Private guided walk in Tenorio
Canopy tour in Rio Perdido
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 routings are into and out of San José (SJO).


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!

How does this trip benefit the destination?

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.

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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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  • Day 2 - Our guide to Costa Rica's mammals
  • Day 3 - Costa Rica's best adventure activities & where to do them
  • Day 4 - Costa Rica without the crowds
  • Day 5 - Costa Rican lodges we'd happily revisit tomorrow

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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