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Discover the beautiful variety of Costa Rica’s Pacific regions, from cloud forest to wide open beaches where turtles lay their eggs. For lovers of wildlife and peaceful, dramatic scenery, this is our way of introducing you to the beautiful Pacific side of Costa Rica. This off the beaten track self-drive adventure introduces you to a series of beautiful small lodges hidden in some of Costa Rica’s least visited corners.
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On arrival in San José airport you are met and taken to your very comfortable small hotel on a hillside above the town of Alajuela, a sort of satellite of San José. In fact, the airport is in Alajuela so it makes sense to stay here, it’s certainly easier to navigate from here than from downtown San José when you set off in the morning.
After breakfast, your 4x4 will be delivered to your hotel. Set off driving up into the north of the country, past the famous (and overcrowded) Arenal, to reach the primary rainforests of the Tenorio Volcano National Park. Depending on your arrival time, you might like to head straight into the park, when it is at its quietest in the afternoon.
You might like to hire a guide for a 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. You should also spend some time exploring the trails within your lodge's grounds, full of rich birdlife.
Head down to the far south of the Nicoya Peninsula, and the laidback beach town of Santa Teresa. Roads at this end of the peninsula aren't great, though this is a sure sign you're reaching the more hidden corners of the country, and your reward is a beautifully unspoilt stretch of coastline. While famed in principal as a surfing destination due to the consistently reliable swells, there is much more to the area even if you're not planning to jump on your board.
Spend today relaxing on the beach, or perhaps try out a more strenuous activity, such as surfing or paddle boarding. There's no shortage of things to keep you busy here, though the laidback nature of the area might put paid to too many plans! Aside from the obvious surfing, other water-based activities include the now somewhat ubiquitous SUP, kayaking and snorkelling. This is also a lovely spot to ride a horse along the beach as the sun sets...
Today you could dedicate your day to seeking out wildlife or simply relax on the beach. On the wildlife side, today you could take a boat trip to see dolphins and possibly whales (in season). Just to the south is the Cabo Blanco Reserve, the first area in Costa Rica to receive protected status. Although largely secondary forest, there is a good amount of wildlife here, including capuchins and howlers, coatis and anteaters, as well as almost 250 species of bird.
Travel north from the far south of the country up towards the north, breaking your journey in the central Pacific region next to Carara National Park. For most of the day you will be hugging the Pacific coastline so the ocean views are lovely. Your lodge is tucked up in the forested hills just inland from the coastline here, which is most famous for the scarlet macaws seen flying to and fro in the mornings and evenings.
Today is yours to explore, anything from bird watching to visiting the lodge's organic plantation to see the different native species being grown. We include a tour of the cacao plantation, from which they produce their own )extremely tasty) chocolate. You are within easy reach of both the Tarcoles mangroves and the National Park of Carara's dense, hilly forests. As an area of transition from the northern tropical dry forest to the southern rainforests, the park is full of wildlife, especially birds.
Your three hour drive today winds back up through the lush green hillsides of the Central Valley then climbs up to Cerro de la Muerte, the highest pass in Costa Rica at 3,491m. Here the air gets cooler and the vegetation changes as you arrive at your lodge in San Gerardo de Dota, in the heart of the cloudforest.
Walk the trails of San Gerardo to see hummingbirds, butterflies, frogs and orchids. If you are lucky you might see a Quetzal, there are more here than anywhere else in Costa Rica. Compared to the crowded trails of the far better known forest at Monteverde, San Gerardo is a peaceful haven, with quiet forest paths meandering beside clear mountain streams.
Drive down to Sierpe today to drop off your 4x4 and board the boat round to Drake Bay, on the north of the Osa Peninsula. A charming laidback village on the beach of a protected bay, Drake also offers access to some of Costa Rica's greatest concentrations of wildlife. Tonight, discover some of the nocturnal species in the company of our local guide.
Early this morning you board a boat to head a little way off shore to Caño Island. The island itself, once an Indian burial ground, offers some of the best snorkelling to be found in Costa Rica. The biggest draw is perhaps the boat journey itself however, with pods of dolphin often accompanying you en route.
Today you might like to spend some time on the beach or wander along the coast. From Drake Bay a path leads along the coast all the way to the northern entrance to Corcovado but we suggest that you enjoy a relatively short stretch of the trail. You can step out onto the sand and have a dip in the sea as you please. After a picnic lunch on the beach, take the boat back to Drake Bay, where you can stroll up to the village for a drink as the sun goes down.
For your last full day in Costa Rica, visit the La Sirena ranger station of Corcovado National Park, said to be the best wildlife viewing in all of Central America. With just 80 people permitted to visit the park here each day, it is an extraordinary privilege to get here. La Sirena's isolation means that the animals are therefore relatively unafraid of humans and there are a lot of them. As well as hundreds of species of birds you are highly likely to see some, if not all four, species of monkey, sloths, anteaters, armadillo, coati and tapir.
Fly to San José, where you connect onto your flight home. Please note: international flights are quoted separately for this holiday.
The holiday was absolutely fantastic - everything we hoped it would be and more besides. We loved all of the lodges and hotels you sent us to. Melissa C
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Discover the beautiful variety of Costa Rica’s Pacific regions, from cloud forest to wide open beaches where turtles lay their eggs. For lovers of wildlife and peaceful, dramatic scenery, this is our way of introducing you to the beautiful Pacific coast of Costa Rica. This off the beaten track self-drive adventure introduces you to a series of beautiful small lodges hidden in some of Costa Rica’s least visited corners. We can adjust this trip to suit you in any number of ways, please get in touch and we can start planning your perfect holiday to Costa Rica.
Costa Rica has landscapes which are incredibly varied given how small it is. This variety feeds through to the activities, everything from hiking in Tenorio Volcano National Park 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 different angles. In each of your destinations there are fun, varied activities from snorkelling with sea turtles to zip lining, to strolling to the hot springs for a gentle swim!
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 3-4* hotels. Although we can tailor this trip to best suit you, because the hotels on this particular trip are the only way to see the destinations we love, we can’t change them without changing the content of your holiday.
The weather in Costa Rica, particularly on the Pacific side, 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 October-November however, some of the destinations on this trip do see very significant rainfall, so we advise against travel in these months.
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.
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 two people sharing a room, travelling in high season.
The holiday price includes 4x4 rental car with sat nav, high quality accommodation, breakfasts throughout plus all meals in Drake Bay and dinners in Tenorio and Carara, 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 and out of San José (airport code: SJO). Expect to pay between £500 – £750pp for flights to Costa Rica except in peak periods.
Price assuming two people travelling in high season (Dec-Apr). International flights are quoted separately. Departs any day to suit you, December through September.
Contact us today to start planning your own personal adventure
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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