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Nicaragua to Costa Rica Reverse

People, wildlife and beaches | View photos »

Step through Central America. This journey leads you through six completely different places which encapsulate the best of the isthmus: colonial history, active volcanoes, huge lakes, pre-Colombian cultures, artisans, sandy beaches, sea turtles, cattle ranches, tropical lowlands, hot springs, incredible wildlife, fun adventure and all the birds of the cloudforest. It’s all here in this rather neat bundle.

18 day trip described, guide price £3,430pp i

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"A perfect holiday"

"A perfect holiday"

Attention to detail and our personal needs could not have been better... Pura Aventura's personal knowledge of the countries and the different places to stay made for a perfect holiday. Ann B

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Sample itinerary

Fly to Nicaragua

Arrive into Managaua and meet your guide at the airport for the short transfer to your hotel in Managua’s centre. Managua is a modern city with some lovely restaurants and good nightlife but not too much in the way of cultural distractions. Relax this evening.

Down to colonial Granada

After a leisurely start you are collected for the one-hour drive down to the continent's oldest European city, Granada. Start exploring with your guide, beginning with a ride by horse drawn carriage through the cobbled streets lined by colonial houses, with crumbling yet still beautiful facades. In the late afternoon take a boat tour across the lake to Las Isletas, where by timing your tour just before sunset you have the best chance of seeing a variety of birds flying home to roost.

Volcanoes, markets & villages

Today is spent visiting the area around Granada. Visit the smoking Masaya Volcano today, the only one in the western hemisphere where you can drive right up to the rim. Today is also a chance for you to meet indigenous craftspeople around Masaya, who are famous for their superlative hammock making, and wonderful ceramics works.

By boat into Lake Nicaragua

Travel via the cloudforest reserve of the Mombacho volcano, home to abundant mammals, birds and reptiles, to the shores of Lake Nicaragua. Here you take a ferry ride across to Ometepe Island, formed by one dormant volcano (Maderas) and one active (Concepcion) volcano. The twin cones grow ever larger until you disembark and drive around the island through small villages and banana plantations to your comfortable ecolodge set in a remote spot on the hillside with stunning views of the lake and Concepcion.

Discover Ometepe Island

This morning you take a relaxed driving tour around the island, spotting petroglyphs, learning about the indigenous culture, and meeting the locals. This afternoon is at leisure; you could walk through the forest to San Ramon waterfall, over 100m high and dropping down into a clear pool, where you can take a refreshing dip.

Relax on tranquil Ometepe

Another day to explore Ometepe, with its unique geography and intriguing culture. You might like to walk up either Maderas or Concepcion volcanoes. The hike to the crater of Maderas is a long, hard uphill route, but views from the top make the exertion worthwhile. Equally you could just relax by the pool of your lodge, enjoying the views, swing in a hammock, or take a dip in the thermal springs of Ojo de Agua.

Cross the border into Costa Rica

This morning you are collected and driven south to the border with Costa Rica, a chaotic scene with long lines of people, cars and trucks waiting to cross, crossing usually takes around an hour - it's best to remain calm! Once in Costa Rica, pick up your 4x4 hire car and drive to just north of the Tenorio Volcano, a lush area of primary rainforest.

Discover Tenorio and the Blue River

Guided 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. This morning you will have a guided walk to see the meeting of the rivers, where the Rio Celeste becomes so blue.

Drive to the cloudforest

From Tenorio it's around three hours to head south past Arenal Volcano to the Central Valley north of the capital. Here you find the cool humidity of the Bajos del Toro cloudforest, a peaceful haven compared to the much better-known Monteverde.

Walk through misty cloudforest

Today is free to explore the fascinating flora and fauna of the cloudforest, a quiet haven, with tumbling mountain streams and secluded forest paths. The lodge has a system of seven well-maintained forest trails of varying length and difficulty. The cloudforest canopy is extremely rich with humming birds, colourful butterflies, exotic frogs and orchids.

Travel to the tropical dry forest of Rio Perdido

Your drive north towards the tropical dry-forests should take somewhere under two hours. 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.

Get active in Rio Perdido's huge reserve

There are various self-guided trails across the reserve leading you through the forests, as well as rivers which can be explored in an inner tube. In addition, there are several different sign posted routes around the property which are designed for mountain bikes but in fact also make for great walking trails. Staying with the adventurous theme, the lodge has a first rate canopy tour.

Explore the reserve or visit Rincon de la Vieja

Your time here is at leisure, though there is plenty to see and do. From your lodge, you can see the slopes of the Rincon de la Vieja volcano. To drive to the national park takes around an hour but is well worth it to walk amongst the bubbling mud pots, fumaroles and sulphurous vents that line the paths. This is also a place of incredible bird life.

Drive to the quiet coast near Ostional

Set off from your hotel this morning and drive to the Pacific Coast of the Nicoya Peninsula. For the next four nights you stay in a lovely small hotel with just seven rooms, high on a hill above the coast. You can hear the waves crashing on Ostional beach below. More importantly, there is a lovely cooling breeze up here which means you can sleep with your windows open.

Explore the wildlife of the area

Because the tracks around the area are so quiet, a morning stroll to the top of the hill behind your hotel is an opportunity to spot lots of birdlife as well as hear howler monkeys and see slices of rural life in the hinterland. For a more formal wildlife viewing experience, you might like to travel the 20 minutes of so to the estuary of the Nosara and Montana rivers.

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.

Explore the coast further afield

After breakfast 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 again

Ideally you will fly into San José but leave from Liberia. This being the case, drive the short distance to the airport in plenty of time to drop-off your hire car and check-in for your flight home. If you are flying home from San José you may need a night in the city prior to your departure. Please remember: international flights are quoted separately.

About this trip

Summary

Step through Central America. This journey leads you through six completely different places which encapsulate the best of the isthmus: colonial history, active volcanoes, huge lakes, pre-Colombian cultures, artisans, sandy beaches, sea turtles, cattle ranches, tropical lowlands, hot springs, incredible wildlife, fun adventure and all the birds of the cloudforest. It’s all here in this rather neat bundle.

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

On this holiday, Costa Rica represents the more active part and Nicaragua the part with the greater cultural focus. However, since this is a trip on which many of the activities are booked locally, it really is up to you how you want to pace your time in Central America.
The first part of your trip, in Nicaragua, is not overly active though you do have the option to indulge in some strenuous walking on Ometepe Island if you want. It is worth bearing in mind though, that Nicaragua is a hot country with average temperatures often in the 30s which can make even short walks fairly tiring.
On Ometepe there are different options for activities, bookable locally. The Maderas Volcano hike is a very challenging walk which must be guided. It is beautiful but hard, hard work. Concepcion Volcano is rather gentler and the walk to the San Ramón waterfall gentler still.
As you cross into Costa Rica there tend to be more options for adventure activities. In Tenorio we include a guided walk into the National Park. Bajos del Toro is a cloudforest region which is best for walking as you head out to look for the amazing birdlife. In Guanacaste you have a wide variety of activities on hand, from zip lining to tubing, mountain biking to hiking. Horse riding is a big part of life up in the north of Costa Rica so you might like to saddle up while you are here.

Level of culture

Generally, Nicaragua offers probably the most genuine and easy cultural interactions of all of our destinations. Visitor numbers are so low that there is often a genuine interest in your presence in the country. Add to this that fact that we are careful to work with so many local people and you have a recipe for abundant and rich insights into the country.

Granada is probably the most visited place on this journey and you will notice that things are much more ‘slick’ there, in terms of restaurants and hotels, people speaking English, people offering you trips here or there. Locals here are more aware of tourism and tourists. Saying this, we are careful to get you to meet some of the artisans at Masaya market rather than simply wandering through the stalls. You also have lunch with a local family out on the Isletas.

Ometepe is rural Nicaragua - you are likely to be sharing the road with yoked oxen as you travel around the island. This rustic air gives the island a certain bucolic charm.

Costa Rica, in contrast to its northerly neighbour, has proved to be very adept at attracting visitors. 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.
Inland Guanacaste is one of the parts of Costa Rica least touched by tourism so you can get a real feel for the Costa Rican countryside. While staying at Rio Perdido, you can visit a local farm – ‘local, local,’ as we say at Pura – totally authentic, certainly rough around the edges, but a proper glimpse into the agricultural way of life here.

Practicalities

There is a detailed itinerary for this trip from Nicaragua to Costa Rica, as 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 when you want to travel, how long you want to go for, etc.

The standard trip includes all accommodation with breakfast, transfers and guided activities in Nicaragua as set out in our detailed itinerary. In Costa Rica you have a 4x4 rental vehicle as well as a GPS, maps and driving directions in order to explore more independently. Naturally, on each and every one of our holidays, we include Pura’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. Normally guests fly into Managua (airport code: MGA) and out of San José (airport code: SJO) though this trip can easily be reversed.

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 » Fishing boat off Ometepe Island in Lake Nicaragua Boy singing with guitar in Managua, Nicaragua Crossing the street in the midday sun of Granada Hammocks for sale in the market Paddling on Lake Nicaragua Fishing boat off Ometepe Island in Lake Nicaragua Looking out over Concepcion during the climb up Maderas on Ometepe Island Exploring Costa Rica by 4x4 Walking down to Rio Celeste waterfall in Volcano national park, Tenorio Humming bird feeding The damp canopy of the bird rich cloud forest of Costa Rica Flowers blooming near pool in Rio Perdido, Tenorio Rapid of the Rio Blanco in Rio Perdido, Tenorio Fumerole in the forest of Rincon de la Vieja, Costa Rica Pool by night at the Luna Azul Hotel in Ostional, Nicoya Peninsula Carlos fishing off Ostional beach, Nicoya Peninsula A newly hatched turtle heads seawards in Costa Rica The late afternoon light over the Pacific coast of Costa Rica Pebbles on Ostional beach, Nicoya Peninsula