Image by Etienne Delorieux

Discover incredible, lush Costa Rica, and understand why this part of the world is called the ‘rich coast’. This 15-day adventure, beginning and ending in lively San Jose, will provide you a comprehensive journey through the jungles, farmlands, beaches and cities of this pure Central American location. Stay with a local family in Santa Rosa de Pocosol and get your hands dirty on a sustainable farm. Soak in springs that get their heat from an active volcano in La Fortuna. Spot three-toed sloths in the thickets of the Manuel Antonio National Park, then relax beneath swaying palms on the nearby beaches. This adventure takes you into the heart of a country whose people are all about a ‘pura vida’.

COSTA RICA

FROM £1,215

START

San Jose, Costa Rica

MEALS

Breakfasts (5)

Dinners (2)

END

San Jose, Costa Rica

TRANSPORT

Private Vehicle, Boat

DURATION

15 Days

ACCOMODATION

Hotels (7)

Lodge (6)

Homestay (1)

GROUP

Max. Group Size of 16

ACTIVITES

6 Included Activities

Highlights

  • Swap the concrete jungle for real jungle on this trip into the rainforests, waterways, hot springs and palm-lined beaches of Costa Rica.

  • Long-nosed tapirs, white-faced capuchin monkeys, elegant ocelots and three-toed sloths – Costa Rica is home to exotic animals, and this trip puts you in the perfect position to spot them all.

  • Go deeper than the average tourist with a homestay in a quiet agricultural community; the perfect opportunity to experience local life and practice your Spanish.

  • Refresh after jungle hikes spotting endemic wildlife in the rejuvenating hot springs of volcanic La Fortuna.

  • Begin and end your trip in Costa Rica’s lively capital, San Jose, where you’ll see a more urban side of the country.

San Jose (Day 1)


Hola! Welcome to Costa Rica. With over a third of the country's population living within its parameters, San Jose is packed with both people and culture. Begin with a welcome meeting at 6 pm at your hotel; a good chance for you to meet your group leader and fellow travellers. If you arrive earlier in the day, why not visit the National Museum? This canary-yellow building houses everything from exhibits on pre-Colombian history to a garden filled with native butterflies, giving you an overview of the country before your adventure begins. Early bird history buffs might be interested in the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum or the Jade Museum, both of which display a wealth of indigenous artefacts. Accommodation: - Hotel Optional Activities: - Pre-Colombian Gold Museum (Entrance Fee) - USD14 - Jade Archaeological Museum (Entrance Fee) - USD16 - National Museum (Entrance Fee) - USD11 Special Information: It’s very important that you attend the welcome meeting as we will be collecting insurance details and next of kin information at this time. If you are going to be late please let your travel agent or hotel reception know. Ask reception or look for a note in the lobby for more information on where the meeting will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend.




Tortuguero National Park (Day 2-3)


Leave the hotel this morning and descend to the Caribbean lowlands on a 4-hour scenic (and a bit bumpy) journey that ends at the port of La Pavona. This rustic port is your entry point to Tortuguero National Park. Hop aboard a small boat and journey for around 1.5 hours into the depths of the Costa Rican wilderness. Arrive in the middle of this biodiverse area, where freshwater lagoons rest under the canopy of rainforest bordering the ocean which many animals call home, including jaguars and turtles. In the evening enjoy an informal Spanish lesson and relax with the sounds of nature at the jungle lodge. Today you're free to explore the park at your own pace. If you're woken by the chattering of the forests’ some 300 bird species, why not haul yourself out of bed for a sunrise canoe trip? It’s a magical way to see the maze-like canals of the park, and you can look out for otters and manatees in the morning light. Tortuguero National Park, established in 1970, is now home to 13 of Costa Rica’s 16 endangered mammals. Among them are manatees, ocelots and jaguars, as well as over 300 bird species. First and foremost, however, it is the nesting ground of the green turtle, which comes ashore between July and October to lay its eggs on the sandy beaches. Lesser numbers of the critically endangered hawksbill turtle, plus loggerheads, and giant leatherback turtles also nest within the park at different times of the year. During the day, you might want to return to the park’s walking trails or simply relax in your lodge. Many species are particularly active at night, so if you wish, you can head out in the evening on a turtle watching tour, with part of the cost supporting a program aimed to patrol the beach for poachers. Be ready for all seasons – waterproof clothing and shoes are recommended. Accommodation: - Lodge (Day 1) - Lodge (Day 2) Included Activities: - Leader-led Informal Spanish Lesson (Day 1) - National Park (Entrance Fee) (Day 1) Optional Activities: - Sunrise canoe trip around canals - USD45 - Turtle watching night tour - USD45 Meals Included: - Breakfast (Day 1)




Santa Rosa de Pocosol Homestay (Day 4)


Bid farewell to the evergreen rainforest this morning and make the 3-hour journey to Santa Rosa de Pocosol by private vehicle. Tonight is a memorable homestay experience, but as the family you'll be staying with doesn’t speak much English, it might useful to brush up on some Spanish phrases on the drive. The community is centred around agriculture, and on arrival you will be led around the farm to see all the local and organic produce grown here. This is where your informal cooking lesson begins! Pick some of the fresh food that is grown, and head back to your homestay for a small cooking lesson. You'll prepare a couple of dishes, making up part of your dinner! Alternatively in the afternoon, you might want to take a soap-making workshop or a guided hike to a nearby waterfall. This evening, you will be staying in guest rooms attached to family homes. Accommodation: - Homestay Included Activities: - Cooking class - Homestay experience Optional Activities: - Soap-making workshop - USD10 - Waterfall hike - USD10 Meals Included: - Dinner




Tenorio Volcano National Park (Day 5)


After breakfast, a truly magical river awaits. Drive for 2 hours to Tenorio Volcano National Park, where you’ll visit the Rio Celeste: a river fed by two different water sources, and when they collide, the water takes on a distinctive light blue colour. Take a leader-led hike around Rio Celeste, and spend the afternoon exploring the sky-blue falls and streams – it must be seen to be believed! The surrounding forest is full of wildlife, so keep your eyes peeled for tapirs, monkeys, anteaters and more hiding in the jungle canopy. Accommodation: - Hotel Meals Included: - Breakfast




Rio Celeste (Day 6)


Today is as clear as the Costa Rica air, and with plenty of optional activities available, how about a guided tubing excursion at Rio Celeste? The light-blue waters of the river are generally off-limits to travellers, however you’ll have the opportunity to float along the water in an inflatable donut and spend the day lazing along the river. If you’re a thrill-seeker, there’s the option to embark on a 7-hour guided rafting tour at nearby Rio Tenorio. You’ll tackle 20 rapids and there’s plenty of natural beauty to admire along the banks during the lulls. Those who prefer a nature tour with less adrenaline might like to take a 3-hour safari cruise along the Rio Tenorio, with a guide who will help you spot howler monkeys, crocodiles, river otters and an abundance of tropical birds. Accommodation: - Hotel Optional Activities: - White Water River Tubing Adventure - USD55 - National Park Guided Trail Walk (Includes Transport, Guide & Entrance) - USD168 Meals Included: - Breakfast




La Fortuna (Day 7-8)


Beneath the watchful eye of the immense Arenal Volcano lies La Fortuna, a sleepy town with an abundance of hot springs and natural pools to enjoy. Departing at 8 am, you’ll arrive by private vehicle after a 2-hour drive and have the rest of the day to do as you please. Perhaps grab some fresh fruit in town, hop in a taxi to the entrance and then hike to La Fortuna waterfall for a swim beneath the cascading waters that spill out of the towering jungle. In the evening, why not grab a classic local dinner with your travel buddies? Chifrijo (fried pork, salsa, beans and tortilla chips) is a great dish to try. Enjoy a free day to explore La Fortuna as you wish. The region offers a range of sights such as stunning lush forest, rare plants, animal watching and water-based sports on the lake. The volcano’s inner workings also mean that the area has plenty of thermal springs where hot, lava-heated water gushes to the surface. These springs, often surrounded by foliage, make the ideal place to relax. Active types could try stand-up paddleboarding on Lake Arenal with the incredible backdrop of the volcano and rolling green hills. Animal lovers will have a good chance of spotting sloths, monkeys, crocodiles and basilisk lizards skipping across the water on a boat tour of Cano Negro Reserve. Have a chat with your leader about the options available. Accommodation: - Hotel (Day 1) - Hotel (Day 2) Optional Activities: - Arenal 1968 Volcano View and Lava Trails (Entrance fee) - USD17 - Ecotermales Hot Springs (entrance fee) - USD44 - La Fortuna Waterfall - USD18 Meals Included: - Breakdast (Day 1)




Lake Arenal (Day 9)


A morning of travel by bus and boat leads to incredible Monteverde. Depart at 8 am and arrive at a port on Lake Arenal in the afternoon. Cross the lake by boat (45 minutes) and then hop on a bus again to continue on to Monteverde (2 hours). There are options in town for lunch on arrival. Settled by North American Quakers in 1951, the area was initially used as an environmentally conscious agricultural community and is now a biological preserve. The forest has near-constant cloud cover, providing consistent rainfall, which also gives the area an enchanted feel. Spend the afternoon in the cloud forest, looking out for hummingbirds, quetzals and even lazy sloths among the mist later in the day. You may even choose to return after dusk to seek the animals and insects that are largely hidden in the day. Accommodation: - Hotel Included Activities: - Cloud Forest (Entrance Fee and Transport) Optional Activities: - Night Walk through Cloud Forest - USD25




Monteverde (Day 10)


Make the most of your time in lush Monteverde and organise a local guide to take you on a nature walk. There also several local communities that operate cooperatives worth visiting. You may wish to get a different perspective on the forest by walking through the canopy on suspension bridges, or perhaps watch butterflies at play in the Butterfly Garden. More than 2000 species of plants, 320 bird species and 100 different types of mammals call Monteverde home, and no matter what you choose to do, be sure to keep an eye out for the resplendent quetzal, one of the most elusive birds in the world. Accommodation: - Hotel Optional Activities: - Butterfly Garden and Insects Farm (Entrance Fee) - USD16 - Serpentarium - USD16 - Coffee & Chocolate tour - USD35 - Suspension bridges tour - USD41 - Canopy Zip Lining (Entrance, Equipment & Transport) - USD84




Manuel Antonio (Day 11-13)


Wedged between the beautiful Pacific coast and the national park, Manuel Antonio is a laidback town. After a 4-hour journey in a private vehicle, feel the soft crunch of foliage underfoot while you hike the trails of the national park. Keep one eye on the scenic views and the other looking out for the abundant wildlife. Monkeys, armadillos, sloths and hundreds of birds are among the species you may be able to spot. In the late afternoon, perhaps head to Espadilla Beach to watch the sunset over the Pacific Ocean. A special seafood dinner awaits in town where shared food will be served to the group at La Cueva de Mariscos – a restaurant located at the market, and only open for you and your fellow travellers. Salud! Spend some time on the beaches surrounding the national park, and perhaps hire a surfboard to catch some waves at Playa El Ray. If you want to spot wildlife and keep active at the same time, consider paddling through the mangrove forest on a guided kayak tour. It’s not unusual for curious monkeys to climb right onto the boat to say hello, and you’ll likely see snakes, crocodiles and plenty of birdlife too. Just remember your insect repellent! In the evening, perhaps take a sunset sail off the coast, watching the blue sky turn orange is a spectacular sight. You’re in Costa Rica, the ‘rich coast’, so soak up the shores as much as possible. Today is free for you to do as you please. If you wish, you could return to Manuel Antonio National Park and continue your search for the solemn, white faces of the capuchin monkeys who live in the trees. Alternatively, why not kick-off your shoes and feel the sands of Manuel Antonio Beach between your toes? It’s easy to spend a whole day on this calm coastline. The towering green trees provide that line the coast provide solace from the sun, and a great place to sit by with a book (and maybe a guaro sour). Accommodation: - Hotel (Day 1) - Hotel (Day 2) - Hotel (Day 3) Included Activities: - Manuel Antonio National Park - (Entrance Fee) (Day 1) Optional Activities: - Sunset sail - USD95 - Mangrove Kayak Activity (with lunch) - USD70 - Boogie board rental - USD69 - Manuel Antonio National Park (Entrance fee) - USD16 Meals Included: - Dinner (Day 1)




San Jose (Day 14-15)


Bid farewell to the coast and return to San Jose. In the evening, you could head for dinner with your fellow travellers and group leader. Accommodation: - Hotel (Day 1) Meals Included: - Breakfast (Day 2)




San Miguel / El Cuco (Day 21)


This morning, get your chef’s hat on with a pupusa making session in a private home. These thick cornmeal flatbreads are a classic Salvadorian recipe from the Pipil culture, and are stuffed with some delicious ingredients, like cheese or chicharron (fried pork). Later on, head to coastal El Cuco (approximately 5 hours). There are some great dark-sand beaches close to town, including the beautiful Playa El Esteron and Playa Las Flores – one of the best surf spots in the country. Maybe head to a beach for a swim or relax under the palms with a beer while you wait for sunset. As night falls, you could enjoy a seafood dinner along the water – the local crab are some of the tastiest in the country. Accommodation: - Hotel Included Activities: - Salvadoran Pupusa cooking demonstration Meals Included: - Lunch




El Cuco (Day 22)


Today you're free as a bird to explore the beautiful coast around El Cuco at your own pace. If you and a few others feel like getting active, you could take a trip to see nearby Conchagua Volcano. The views from the lookout are stunning, but you'll need a minimum of five people to take part. Alternatively, you might prefer to take a boat out on the ocean, find some inner peace during a free yoga class at the resort or simply relax in a hammock on the beach. Life’s good. Accommodation: - Hotel Optional Activities: - Volcan de Conchagua lookout (it requires a minimum of 5 travellers to operate) - USD35 - Yoga Class (Subject to teacher availability) - Free




Leon (Day 23)


Rise early for a full day of travel by private vehicle. Leave El Cuco at around 8 am and drive to El Amatillo border crossing (approximately 1.5 hours), before a 2.5 hour drive by of Honduras (including a stop for lunch) to the next border crossing Guasaule, and finally reaching Leon after another 2.5 hours. Upon arrival your leader will take you on a walking tour of this charming city. Though it's the second largest in the country, Leon is relatively free of tourists, making strolling the mural-lined streets a real pleasure. Accommodation: - Hotel Included Activities: - Leader led walking tour Special Information: The Nicaraguan border crossing can be confusing and disorderly so please pay close attention to your leader instructions. At this border crossing you will need to pay USD 12 fee, payable in cash.




Granada (Day 24-25)


Make the most of Leon in the morning. The street food behind the Lady of Grace Cathedral is some of the best in town, so why not grab a 'Nica taco'. Made with maize, rolled and then deep fried, these beauties are usually served with shredded cabbage and smothered in cream. Otherwise a thrilling volcano sand boarding adventure could be on the cards! In the afternoon, get ready for the 5-6-hour journey to the oldest city in the 'New World'. Featuring Moorish and Andalusian architecture and oozing colonial charm, Granada is set on the banks of Lake Nicaragua and is surrounded by active volcanoes. First, take a taxi from the hotel to the bus station, next board a local bus bound for Managua that will depart when it's full and takes around 2-3 hours depending on the amount of stops it needs to make and the complexity of onloading and offloading the passenger’s luggage. There will be about a 30-45-minute transit in Managua before taking the next public bus to Granada with a duration of approximately 1.5 hrs, and finally taking a 20-minute taxi ride to the hotel. Upon arrival, your leader will take you through the leafy Parque Central and 'La Calzada' – a lively pedestrian street with plenty of bars and restaurants to choose from. Today is all yours, so explore the city at your own pace. You may want to take a more comprehensive self-guided tour of the city, bargain hard in the markets, or wander the cobblestone streets snapping photos of the colourful buildings. Hundreds of evergreen islets dot the waters of vast Lake Nicaragua, and you can spend a few hours exploring them by boat. Or perhaps hire a kayak and find your own way around, stopping to wave at fisherman who live in wooden huts on the islets, or the monkeys who live in the trees the huts are built from. Just remember not to take a dip, as freshwater sharks live in the water! Alternatively, you could take a day trip out to Mombacho or Masaya Volcano National Park. Accommodation: - Hotel (Day 1) - Hotel (Day 2) Optional Activities: - Volcano Sand Boarding - NIO1260 (Day 1) - Mombacho Volcano hike - NIO910 (Day 2) - Masaya Volcano at night (Viewpoint for the Lava Lake at Santiago Crater) - NIO1140 (Day 2) - Laguna Apoyo kayaking tour - NIO1025 (Day 2) - Monkey Island boat tour - NIO455 (Day 2)




Ometepe Island (Day 26-27)


Have a morning of leisure in Granada. Perhaps start the day with a classic Nicaraguan breakfast of eggs, rice and beans, soft cheese, plantains and strong coffee. Then maybe hit the Convento y Museo San Francisco and view the collection of indigenous stone statues. At 2 pm take a local bus to Rivas (approximately 1.5 hours) and transfer to the port of San Jorge to catch a 1-hour ferry across the seemingly endless waters of Lake Nicaragua to Ometepe Island. Hourglass-shaped Ometepe is formed by two volcanoes rising out of Lake Nicaragua, one active and one extinct. The island is home to fruit plantations, deep jungle and exotic wildlife such as howler monkeys, caiman and p Accommodation: - Hotel (Day 1) - Hotel (Day 2) Optional Activities: - Concepcion Volcano hike - USD45 - Maderas Volcano hike - USD45 - Ojo de Agua natural spring (entrance fee) - USD25 - Petroglyphs - USD20 - Charco Verde tour (includes lunch, Ojo de Agua and Mirador lookout) - USD25 - Charco Verde Reserve (entrance fee) - USD3




Monteverde (28-29)


Today is another early start in order to grab a 7 am ferry to the mainland (1.5 hours) and a 1.5-hour transfer to Penas Blancas before crossing the border into Costa Rica. Once in Costa Rica, travel by private vehicle for 5 hours to Monteverde. Phew – long day, but you made it! Welcome to beautiful Monteverde, which you can begin exploring straight away on a walking tour with your leader. Monteverde was founded as an agricultural community in 1951 by a group of North American Quakers. These environmentally-aware settlers also established a small wildlife sanctuary, which has since grown into the internationally-renowned Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Preserve. Cloud forests are like rainforests, but instead draw their water from a semi-permanent cloud covering the region. This is truly a nature lover's paradise. More than 2000 plant species, 320 bird species and 100 mammal species call Monteverde home. Be sure to keep an eye out for the resplendent quetzal, one of the most elusive birds in the world. You’ll have a free day to discover the lush reserve at your own pace. Perhaps take a hike through the cloud forest, check out the area by mountain bike or fly over the thick canopy on a zip line tour. Another way to see the forest from above is to take a Sky Walk tour along a series of suspension bridges. You can explore the park on your own or arrange for a local guide to accompany you. Guided tours are particularly helpful for those interested in learning more about the local flora and fauna, as well as the different roles wildlife play in Mesoamerican mythology. You can get guaranteed sightings of exotic insects and snakes at the Butterfly Garden or the Serpentarium. Accommodation: - Lodge (Day 1) - Lodge (Day 2) Included Activities: - Leader led walking tour (Day 1) Option Activities: - Cloud Forest (entrance fee and transport) - CRC41833 - Suspension bridges tour - USD41 - Canopy Zip Lining (Entrance, Equipment & Transport) - USD84 - Coffee & Chocolate tour - USD35 - Night walk through Cloud Forest - USD25 - Cloud Forest Train - USD50 - Serpentarium - USD16 - Butterfly Garden and Insects Farm (entrance fee) - USD16 - Frog pond - USD15 - Orchid gardens - USD13 Special Information: A USD 3 fee is required when exiting Nicaragua. Reaching the Costa Rican border also requires a 1-kilometre walk, during which you must carry your luggage. Proof of onward travel is normally required to enter Costa Rica, so if you're flying out of San Jose, bring a printed copy of your flight details in case the border officials ask to see them.




La Fortuna ( Day 30-31)


Spend a final morning in the thickets of the Monteverde jungle, perhaps taking one last walk to search for wildlife. Depart in the early afternoon and head to La Fortuna. It takes about 1.5 hours to reach the shores of Lake Arenal, followed by a further 1.5-hour journey across the lake to the little town of La Fortuna. On a clear day you'll have fantastic views of the surrounding area, and watching the massive Arenal Volcano loom larger and larger as you approach is a spectacular sight. Once you reach La Fortuna take another vehicle to the hotel, then freshen up and head out on a leader-led walking tour. La Fortuna is a favourite among travel writers for a reason – words like picturesque and breathtaking spring to mind when trying to describe this town in the shadow of the volcano. Why not start today with a smoothie and plan how you want to explore. Perhaps take a guided nature hike through the lush forest surrounding Arenal Volcano, keeping an eye out for rare plants and animals. You can also see the forest from a series of hanging bridges, which is a great vantage point for spotting wildlife like sloths and rainbow-coloured birds. The volcano’s inner workings also mean that the area is home to several thermal hot springs, an ideal way to relax in the middle of nature. Or instead, check out the 70-metre-high La Fortuna waterfall set in the middle of evergreen rainforest. Active types might want to hit the lake on a stand-up paddleboard. Otherwise, a boat safari down the Celeste River offers the opportunity to see lizards, crocodiles and tropical birds in their natural habitat. Accommodation: - Hotel (Day 1) - Hotel (Day 2) Included Activities: - Leader led walking tour (Day 1) Optional Activities: - Ecotermales Hot Springs (entrance fee) - USD44 - Arenal hanging bridges - USD26 - La Fortuna Waterfall - USD18 - Nature hike around Arenal Volcano - USD60 - Cano Negro boat tour - USD65 - Stand up paddle board - USD75




San Jose (Day 32-33)


Watch the volcano fade into the distance as you begin the 5-hour local bus ride to Costa Rica's capital, San Jose. Head out on a walking tour with your leader on arrival to see the main highlights. Later, perhaps visit the Gold Museum, which has an amazing collection of pre-Spanish gold art. If you're in the mood for a bit of shopping, head to the outdoor market in the Plaza de la Cultura or the city's Central Market, where you can buy anything from handicrafts to seafood. The next day is all yours to choose your own adventure around San Jose. A good place to start your exploration is the main plaza. Artisan booths are common here, so you never know when an art fair will pop up. The Gold Museum has an amazing collection of indigenous gold art. If you're in the mood for a bit of shopping, head to the outdoor market in the Plaza de la Cultura or the city's Central Market, where you can buy anything from handicrafts to seafood. There’s another group meeting at 6 pm tonight, where your group leader will fill you in on the details of the next stage of your adventure. Better yet, there’ll be some new travellers joining you, so come and say hi! Accommodation: - Hotel (Day 1) - Hotel (Day 2) Included Activities: - Leader-led walking tour (Day 1) Optional Activities: - The Art of Craft Beer in San Jose - Urban Adventures - USD75 - San Jose By Night: Food and Culture - Urban Adventures - USD74 - National Museum (entrance) - USD11 - Pre-Colombian Gold Museum (entrance fee) - USD14 Special Information: As this is a combination trip, the travellers in your group and your group leader are likely to change today. There will be a welcome meeting tonight to discuss the next stage of your itinerary and meet travellers joining you. It’s important that you attend the meeting as your new leader will be collecting insurance details and next of kin information. Ask reception or look for a note in the lobby for more information on where the meeting will take place.