Costa Rica – a tropical jewel of vivid colours, lush, virginal rainforest, simmering volcanoes, stunning beaches and wondrous wildlife! With a good infrastructure, visionary sustainability initiatives and no standing army the hospitable Costa Rican people are very proud of their little slice of paradise. Our birding and wildlife holiday offers an unforgettable experience. After resting overnight in San Jose we travel into the mountains for a few days to take in the pristine cloud forests of Monteverde and Santa Elena which drip with mist, mossy vines, sprouting ferns, gushing creeks and hosts of humming birds. After this we travel to the Pacific Ocean and stay in Jaco for four nights. From here we take a boat trip along the River Tarcoles, surrounded by seasonally flooded forest and a host of interesting wildlife. On the other days we visit the two stunningly beautiful National Parks of Carara and San Antonio Manuel. Carara National Park is one of Costa Rica’s most famous birding destinations with birds typical of both tropical dry forest and tropical wet forest. Meanwhile, the warm sparkling blue waters of San Antonio Manuel National Park offer unique swimming opportunities as well as playful monkeys and lush tropical forest. We leave Jaco to spend our last three days at the water bound National Park of Tortuguero, which fringes the Caribbean Sea. Here we stay in a remote, bustling, little village with strong Afro-Caribbean roots, and take a relaxed boat-borne safari through the extensive series of natural canals which wind through thick jungle forest and may see shy caiman, river turtles, monkeys and sloths.
Single rooms at a supplement of £20 per night available on a maximum of 9 nights. Limited availability – please book early.
Price includes: 13 nights bed and breakfast, 5 packed lunches, entrance fees for the National Parks, local guide fees, boat trip, ferry trip, private minibus transport throughout.
Not included: flight, dinner, 8 packed lunches
Please note that the itinerary is subject to change
Day 1 Meet at San Jose International Airport for the minibus transfer to our accommodation in San Jose. The transfer to the Don Carlos Hotel takes about half an hour. Arrival time will be late so after settling into our rooms there will be a very short holiday briefing before sitting down to a meal in one of the nearby local restaurants.
Day 2 After a lazy, late, breakfast we travel into the mountains towards the pristine cloud forests of Monteverde. The beautiful scenic drive will take 4 – 5 hours, with several stops en route to stretch our legs, take in some lunch and experience local life! For the next 4 nights we stay at Hotel El Bosque, a friendly B&B nestled in a stunning location within the mountain forest.
Day 3 Today we have an early start to maximise our time at the Monteverde National Park, where we’ll hire an expert local guide for a couple of hours to tell us about the quintessential cloud forest ecosystem and to show us intriguing birds, including (possibly) the resplendent quetzal. Afterwards, we’ll explore some of the well-maintained trails leading through pristine forest, taking in the superb views from the Continental Divide.
Day 4 After a reasonably early breakfast we spend a little time taking in the local wildlife at Hotel El Bosque and then visit the Santuario Ecological. This private property has pre-montane and secondary forest, coffee and banana plantations, a couple of waterfalls and two lookout points. We stroll along various looping tracks within the reserve at a slow pace, pausing often to look at the many birds and, hopefully, howler monkeys and coati. After our picnic lunch and a little more exploration we end up at Stella’s bakery for cakes and coffee and an exploration of the local whole food market.
Day 5 Today we have an optional birding session at dawn, before taking in a leisurely breakfast. After breakfast we have a ‘free’ day ahead. Various options will be on offer – such as visiting the Santa Elena Reserve, which on a clear day offers a view of the nearby Arenal Volcano, going on a coffee plantation tour and/or visiting the local cheese factory. Particularly recommended is the optional night tour to observe all sorts of different night animals such as sloths, kinkajous, coatis and a vast variety of insects, birds, amphibians and reptiles.
Day 6 After breakfast, we travel to Hotel Vista Pacifico at Jaco on the central Pacific coast and the transfer will take about three hours. This Canadian-run hotel, complete with swimming pool, is situated on the crest of a hill and has superb views of the coastline, particularly at sunset when you’ll have panoramic vistas of a fiery sky.
Day 7 Today we have an early breakfast and then a 20 minute drive to spend the day at the Carara National Park, one of Costa Rica’s most famous birding destinations. Here we’ll hire an expert local guide in the morning to point out speciality birds and then, in the afternoon, we’ll head out along some of the trails that lead into the tropical wet and dry forests.
Day 8 This morning we take a guided boat along the Rio Grande Tarcoles, a hidden treasure, where we’ll see many waterbirds and probably the largest crocodiles ever! We then have a ‘free’ afternoon to relax by the swimming pool at Hotel Vista Pacifico or perhaps visit Jaco to do more exploring of the town and beach.
Day 9 After an early breakfast, we travel for an hour to the warm sparkling blue waters of the San Antonio Manuel National Park, where we can swim from one of the dreamy beaches. We spend the day here strolling along the rocky peninsula with beautiful views of the Pacific from atop high bluffs and maybe get to see some brown boobies and pelicans nesting on the nearby Olocuita Island.
Day 10 After an early breakfast we travel west towards the Caribbean coast which will take around 6 hours, including lots of short breaks. We then catch the ferry to Tortuguero, a remote, bustling, little village with strong Afro-Caribbean roots located within the confines of the Tortuguero National Park.
Day 11 Today we make an early start to maximise the pleasure of our expertly guided boat tour along the network of aquatic trails through the National Park, where we’ll be looking out for shy caiman, river turtles, monkeys and sloths. This will be followed by a relaxed and late breakfast after which we have a free morning to explore the village. We then meet up after lunch to take a walk along one of the trails within the National Park.
Day 12 After a relaxed, late, breakfast we spend the morning strolling along the stunning Caribbean coastline where we will stop for a picnic lunch. The afternoon is then free to further explore the village, to hire out kayaks or canoes, or to just relax.
Day 13 After breakfast we catch the local ferry back to our minibus from where we drive back to the Don Carlos Hotel in San Jose. We hope to get there by lunch time after which we have a free afternoon to explore San Jose or relax in the hotel
Day 14 Today, after breakfast, we say our farewells and head back to San Jose International Airport for our onward journey. Please note the return flight to the UK is overnight, departing on 26 and arriving on 27 January.