Costa Rica is a nature-lover's paradise and this wildlife-focused small group tour takes you on an unforgettable adventure to one of the most bio-diverse places on earth. Get back to nature as you stay in rustic lodges and explore tropical rainforest, cloud forest, national parks and wild beaches that are home to an astonishing diversity of wildlife, from howler monkeys to hummingbirds.

• San José: 2 nights
• Tortuguero: 2 nights
• Sarapiquí: 2 nights
• Arenal: 2 nights
• Monteverde: 2 nights

11nights Escorted Small Group Tour
NATURE
CULTURE
ACTIVE

Costa Rica is a paradise for nature lovers, and this adventurous tour is perfect for discovering the country's different climate zones and the unique flora and fauna in each. Get back to nature as you explore the jungles and coast of the Tortuguero National Park, the agricultural heartland of Sarapiquí, the volcanic landscape around La Fortuna and the cool cloud forests of Monteverde.

• San José: 2 nights
• Tortuguero: 2 nights
• Sarapiquí: 2 nights
• La Fortuna: 2 nights
• Monteverde: 2 nights

11nights Escorted Small Group Tour
NATURE
CULTURE
ACTIVE
 
 
ITINERARY

Day 1: UK to San José Depart from the UK on your daytime flight to San José. Upon arrival in the capital, transfer to your hotel for two nights. Stay: Park Inn by Radisson San José (or similar).

Day 2: San José Begin your exploration with a visit to Irazú Volcano. Drive east, passing through the city of Cartago, Costa Rica's first capital, and enjoy views over the Central Valley from the volcanic peak. If it's a clear day with no clouds then you can even see the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans! The weather can be very changeable here, quickly switching from sunshine to wind and rain, while the colour of the lagoon varies from emerald green to bright turquoise, depending on the mineral levels.

Return to San José and discover the city's highlights on a tour which includes visits to the Metallic School and Morazán Park. Learn about the social developments during the government of President Guardia as you drive through the eastern section of the city before stopping at the National Park and its monument. Pass the National Museum and cathedral before enjoying a guided tour of the early 19th-Century National Theatre. This evening you'll have the opportunity to get to know your fellow travellers during a welcome dinner at a traditional restaurant. Enjoy authentic Costa Rican cuisine made with fresh, locally-grown vegetables while learning about the origins and recipes of your meal. This is also a great opportunity to ask your tour leader any questions you may have about the adventure ahead. Approx. journey time: 1½ hours, 62 miles. Stay: Park Inn by Radisson San José (or similar). B, D.

Day 3: San José to Tortuguero Rise early to travel by road through Braulio Carrillo National Park into the Caribbean lowlands and continue through the jungle by a boat transfer to Mawamba Lodge. Nestled in rainforest on a sandbar overlooking the Caribbean, this remote lodge is an ideal base from which to explore Tortuguero National Park. The park is an area of significant biological diversity, which includes toucans, monkeys, crocodiles and colourful frogs. Enjoy the rest of the day at leisure. You could stroll down to the beach, explore the butterfly, frog and iguana gardens or relax by the pool. Approx. journey time: 3½ hours, 75 miles. Stay: Mawamba Lodge (or similar). B, L, D.

Day 4: Tortuguero Rise early for a thrilling boat trip through the canals of Tortuguero National Park. At this time of day you have a greater chance of spotting wildlife and exploring in small open boats gives better visibility. Your tour leader will be able to tell you all about the diverse wildlife including sloths, endangered manatees and the green turtles which nest here every year. Return to the lodge in time for breakfast and take a walk through the garden. This afternoon you’ll have the option of going on a second boat trip to spot even more wildlife. This evening you can look forward to a unique dining experience at the lodge's floating restaurant. Soak up the scenery and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere as you dine while gliding along the Tortuguero Canals. Stay: Mawamba Lodge (or similar). B, L, D.

Day 5: Tortuguero to Sarapiquí Travel by boat to Pavona or Caño Blanco and then continue by bus to the town of Guápiles which is the gateway between the Caribbean coast and the Central Highlands. Stop for lunch at a local restaurant before continuing to Sarapiquí. Transfer to your hotel and enjoy some time at leisure before dinner. Approx. journey time: 2 hours, 41 miles. Stay: Hacienda La Isla (or similar). B, L, D.

Day 6: Sarapiquí Chocoholics are in for a treat today on a chocolate tour where you can learn about the history of chocolate in Mesoamerica and enjoy some tastings. Discover the important role that cacao played in Mayan and Aztec ceremonies and how chocolate was used as a medicine and even a currency!

Continue to Chilamate de Sarapiquí where you can spend time with some locals and learn about the cultivation of crops. Enjoy a warm welcome from the Gómez family and a fresh fruit juice before exploring their Finca Surá eco-plantation. Learn how the plants are grown without any negative impact on the local wildlife as Don Rodolfo guides you around the pineapple and sugar cane plantations. You’ll get the chance to plant some pineapple seedlings before heading to your hotel which lies in the foothills of Braulio Carrillo National Park. Enjoy a leisurely evening. Return to your hotel for dinner. Approx. journey time: 1½ hours, 50 miles. Stay: Hacienda La Isla (or similar). B, D.

Day 7: Sarapiquí to Arenal This morning you will head to La Quinta de Sarapiquí for a fascinating tour of a leaf-cutter ant farm. These farmers of the insect world are one of the world’s most complex civilisations. Learn how they carry leaves to their nest and grow a fungus underground that they then use for food.


Journey west to the peaceful town of La Fortuna and enjoy panoramic views of Arenal Volcano from your hotel. Admire the region’s stunning landscapes during a boat trip on Arenal Lake. The surrounding forested hills and pastureland are dominated by the volcano and you may spot local water birds such as great blue herons and snowy egrets, as well as wildlife on the shores such as toucans, coatis and howler monkeys. Approx. journey time: 2½ hours, 81 miles. Stay: Arenal Manoa (or similar). B.

Day 8: Arenal Hike along the Arenal 1968 trail which follows a network of trails along the original 1968 lava flow. Admire views of the volcano and emerald lagoon and keep an eye out for wildlife such as glass frogs, pacas, sloths, white-faced monkeys, eyelash pit vipers and over 200 species of birds including the crimson-fronted parakeet. Return to La Fortuna and visit the Casona Rio Fortuna, a traditional country estate. Experience a taste of local culture and cuisine during a cooking class with a local family. Tuck into your delicious home-cooked lunch and explore the farm and gardens before returning to your hotel. Approx. journey time: 1½ hours, 25 miles. Stay: Arenal Manoa (or similar). B, L, D.

Day 9: Arenal to Monteverde Drive along the northern shore of Arenal Lake and through the charming town of Tilarán before heading along a bumpy track that will take you up into the mountains and misty cloud forests of Monteverde. This afternoon, visit a local coffee plantation and learn how the beans are grown, milled and roasted. Enjoy tastings as you discover the history, culture and traditions of coffee-growing in Costa Rica on this family farm which grows coffee, cocoa and sugar cane. Approx. journey time: 5½ hours; 137 miles). Stay: Monteverde Lodge & Gardens (or similar). B.

Day 10: Monteverde Today you can look forward to a thrilling rainforest adventure with a visit to the Hanging Bridges in Selvatura Park. You’ll be able to walk right into the heart of the rainforest canopy on the Tree Top Walkways which consist of a 1.9-mile trail that crosses through the Monteverde Cloud Forest. Make your way across eight different bridges of various lengths with heights of up to 60 metres above the forest floor. You'll also have time to visit the hummingbird garden where you can see these beautiful shimmering birds close up – they may even land on your hand! This evening you can reminisce on the highlights of your trip during a farewell dinner at your hotel. Stay: Monteverde Lodge & Gardens (or similar). B, D.

Day 11: Monteverde to San José This morning, enjoy one last fix of wildlife with a visit to Carara National Park (approx. journey time: 4½ hours, 84 miles). Along the way, stop off at Tárcoles River Bridge – also known as Crocodile Bridge, to see groups of large crocodiles swimming in the river or sunbathing on the muddy bank. Spend two hours exploring Carara National Park which shelters an abundance of wildlife including monkeys, sloths and scarlet macaws. The forest's mix of humid and mildly temperate climates is an ideal environment for orchids. Transfer to San José for your overnight flight to the UK. If your rainforest adventure has left you in need of some relaxation time then you can choose from two beach extensions, both in four star hotels, either set above Manuel Antonio National Park or on the stunning Papagayo Peninsula. If you extend your stay with time in Papagayo then you will travel directly to the resort this morning instead of visiting the national park. B.


Stay longer

Manuel Antonio National Park 4 nights
Head to the coastal resort town of Quepos, gateway to the Manuel Antonio National Park. Relax on the secluded coves that dominate the area or head into the National Park for more opportunities to spot Costa Rica’s famous wildlife.

Papagayo Peninsula 4 nights
Journey north to one of the all-inclusive resorts on the Papagayo Peninsula, where you can relax on secluded beaches or continue the adventure in the wildlife-rich forests. If you extend your stay with time in Papagayo then you'll travel directly to the resort on Day 11 instead of visiting Carara National Park.

Day 1: UK to San José Depart from the UK on your daytime flight to San José. Upon arrival in the capital, transfer to your hotel for two nights. Stay: Park Inn (or similar).

Day 2: San José Head through the lush Central Valley landscape to visit the lofty Irazú Volcano – on a clear day you can see both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Return to San José for a walking tour of the main sights including the Metallic School, built as a primary school in the 19th Century and made entirely out of 1000 tonnes of metal shipped from Belgium. Visit the renowned National Theatre, built as a place for wealthy plantation owners and constructed using Italian marble and French glass. Enjoy a welcome dinner of traditional Costa Rican cuisine and get to know your fellow travellers and tour leader. Stay: Park Inn (or similar). B, D.

Day 3: San José to Tortuguero Rise early and travel through the Braulio Carrillo National Park towards the Caribbean coast. You'll stop en route for breakfast and join other guests staying at your lodge in Tortuguero, before all boarding a boat together for a thrilling one-hour journey to your lodge through the canals – the first opportunity to spot incredibly biodiverse wildlife, including toucans, sloths, monkeys, crocodiles and frogs. Travel by boat to the small village of Tortuguero, where you can visit the turtle nesting beach (turtles won’t be nesting at the time of your visit) and browse stalls and souvenir shops, or stock up on water and snacks for your jungle adventure. There's an optional twilight tour to experience the sounds of the rainforest at night (payable locally). Approx. journey time: 5½ hours, 75 miles. Stay: Mawamba Lodge (or similar). B, L, D.

Day 4: Tortuguero Spend today enjoying jungle activities organised by the lodge. Rise early again for a thrilling boat trip through the canals of Tortoguero National Park. At this time of day you have a greater chance of spotting wildlife as it wakes up, and travelling in small boats gets you close to the action. Return to the lodge for breakfast before heading out on a walk through the gardens to discover small animals, birds and insects of the National Park. The afternoon is at leisure – go on a Tortuguero canals boat tour or kayak tour of quieter parts of the network (payable locally). Enjoy a sunset dining tour on the Katonga floating restaurant, the only one in Costa Rica. Stay: Mawamba Lodge (or similar). B, L, D.

Day 5: Tortuguero to Sarapiquí After breakfast, travel by boat to the pier and continue your journey back into the Central Highlands towards Sarapiquí. This is one of the most fertile parts of Costa Rica, producing bananas, coffee and cacao, and home to nature reserves, national parks and the endangered Green Macaw. Arrive at your hotel with time to settle in before dinner. Approx. journey time: 4½ hours, 65 miles. Stay: Hacienda La Isla (or similar). B, L, D.

Day 6: Sarapiquí Embark on a chocolate tour and discover its significance in regional history. Take part in the production process before enjoying your own chocolate drink creation. Afterwards head to a local farm to learn about the importance of agriculture to Costa Rica – enjoy a warm welcome and learn how the plants are grown without any negative impact on local wildlife, which includes colourful butterflies and frogs. The plantation owner will guide you around the pineapple and sugar cane fields and seasonal fruits; you can then help plant some pineapple seedlings. Spend the afternoon at leisure in your hotel – swim in the pool or discover the gardens and nature trails that blend into the surrounding rainforest. Stay: Hacienda La Isla (or similar). B, D.

Day 7: Sarapiquí to La Fortuna
Before leaving Sarapiquí discover the life of the leaf-cutter ant, learning how they carry leaves to their nest and grow fungus underground to provide food for the colony – this is a unique and fascinating experience. Continue to La Fortuna, a popular tourist destination at the foot of Arenal Volcano. Check in at your hotel and head for a sunset birdwatching cruise on Lake Arenal, where you'll take in stunning views over the volcano and Tilarán Mountains in the distance – you may spot wading birds such as great blue herons and snowy egrets, as well as toucans, coatis and howler monkeys on the shores. Approx. journey time: 2½ hours, 81 miles. Stay: Arenal Manoa or Arenal Springs (or similar). B.

Day 8: La Fortuna Rise early for a two-hour moderate hike along the Arenal 1968 trail, which follows a network of trails along the original 1968 lava flow that destroyed three towns and changed the landscape of the area. Look out for wildlife in the forest including frogs, sloths, monkeys and over 200 species of birds, before discovering the old lava fields. Weather permitting, you could have amazing views of the volcano from the viewpoints that line the route. Enjoy a cooking class with a local family, before returning to your hotel in the afternoon – the hotel's hot springs are perfect for a relaxing soak. Stay: Arenal Manoa or Arenal Springs (or similar). B, L, D.

Day 9: La Fortuna to Monteverde Drive along the northern shore of Lake Arenal and through the charming town of Tilarán before heading along a slow and bumpy track into the mountains and cool cloud forests of Monteverde, 1400 metres above sea level. This afternoon you'll visit a local family-run plantation which grows coffee, cocoa and sugar cane. Learn how the beans are grown, milled and roasted, enjoy tastings, discover the family’s history and the role of these products in Costa Rica’s culture. Approx. journey time: 5½ hours, 137 miles. Stay: Ficus Sunset Suites or Poco a Poco (or similar). B.

Day 10: Monteverde Visit the Hanging Bridges in Selvatura Park. Walk into the heart of the rainforest canopy on the Tree Top Walkways which consist of a 1.9-mile trail through the Monteverde Cloud Forest. Make your way across eight bridges with heights of up to 60 metres above the forest floor, enjoy incredible views and look for exotic birds. You'll also visit the hummingbird garden to see over 100 of these iridescent birds darting around tropical flowers. There are a number of optional tours available here, including a butterfly garden and a reptile and frog garden. Enjoy a farewell dinner with the group. Stay: Ficus Sunset Suites or Poco a Poco (or similar). B, D.

Day 11: Monteverde to San José Enjoy one last fix of wildlife with a visit to Carara National Park. Stop off en route at Tárcoles River Bridge – also known as Crocodile Bridge, to see groups of large crocodiles swimming in the river or sunbathing on the muddy bank. Spend two hours exploring Carara National Park, home to monkeys, sloths and scarlet macaws. The forest’s mix of humid and mildly temperate climates is an ideal environment for orchids. Transfer to San José for your overnight flight to the UK, or extend your stay at one of Costa Rica’s coastal resorts. Approx. journey time: 4½ hours, 120 miles. B.


Stay longer

Manuel Antonio National Park 4 nights
Head to the coastal resort town of Quepos, gateway to the Manuel Antonio National Park. Relax on the secluded coves that dominate the area or head into the National Park for more opportunities to spot Costa Rica’s famous wildlife.

Papagayo Peninsula 4 nights
Journey north to one of the all-inclusive resorts on the Papagayo Peninsula, where you can relax on secluded beaches or continue the adventure in the wildlife-rich forests. If you extend your stay with time in Papagayo then you'll travel directly to the resort on Day 11 instead of visiting Carara National Park.

ABOUT THIS TOUR

Is this for you?

You’ll love this tour if you want to discover the contrasts between Costa Rica’s cloud forest, volcanic regions, coastal areas and rainforest while spotting incredible wildlife. A sense of adventure and reasonable level of fitness are required.

Good to know

• For guests over the age of 16
• Average group size of 14 guests
• A maximum of 16 guests.

What to expect

• Some early starts
• Easy to medium level jungle and forest hikes of up to 3 hours
• The lodges are very basic with minimal facilities
• Driving times are approximate
• Some of the roads are quite rough and bumpy
• Some transfers are by boat so we suggest you wear suitable footwear and clothing in case of possible wet landings
• Insect repellent, warm clothes, waterproofs, comfortable walking shoes and layers are essential as you will experience varying climates (hot, steamy rainforests and cool, misty cloud forests)
• 12kg luggage allowance when travelling to Tortuguero. The rest of your luggage will be stored in San José and returned after your Tortuguero stay
• If you choose to extend your stay with a visit to Papagayo then you will travel directly there on Day 11 instead of visiting Carara National Park.

Accommodation on tour

This tour takes you as close to nature as possible for an authentic rainforest experience. The small and rustic eco-friendly lodges are basic, with limited facilities and no modern luxuries such as air-conditioning but they have incredible natural surroundings, views and wildlife-viewing opportunities. Waking up to birdsong and forest views is a wonderful way to begin your day.

Single travellers

Single room supplement from £635

Is this for you?

You'll love this tour if you're looking for a rustic adventure, and don’t mind forsaking some luxury comforts to get into the heart of the wildlife.

Good to know

• For guests over 16 (unless travelling on a private journey, where the minimum age is 10)
• Average group size of 10 guests
• A maximum of 16 guests
• Journey times do not take into account stops or local traffic conditions
• We recommend travelling with no more than one suitcase and one day bag
• A good level of fitness is required.

What to expect

• Weather conditions in Costa Rica can change rapidly – being covered in rain forest, it can rain at any time. Waterproofs are therefore essential
• Sturdy footwear and light coloured clothing is recommended for all outdoor activities
• Temperatures can vary and drop dramatically at altitude, so warm layers are recommended
• Mosquito repellent is a must for visiting jungle and forested areas
• There is a luggage limit of 12kg when visiting Tortuguero, additional luggage will be securely stored until your return, therefore it’s essential to take an additional small bag
• A US$15 National Park fee needs to be paid locally in Tortuguero
• If you extend your stay in Papagayo, you will travel directly there on Day 11 instead of visiting Carara National Park.

Accommodation on tour

This tour takes you as close to nature as possible for an authentic rainforest experience. The small and rustic eco-friendly lodges are basic, with limited facilities and no modern luxuries such as air-conditioning, but they sit within incredible natural surroundings. This allows you to make the most of the wildlife viewing opportunities, and waking up to birdsong, howling monkeys and stunning rainforest views is a wonderful way to begin your day.

Single travellers

Single room supplement from £635

DATES AND INCLUSIONS

Tour dates

2019 Jan 12, 26; Feb 09, 23; Mar 09, 27; Nov 02, 16

Included in price

• Quality accommodation
• Insightful local tour leaders
• Hand-picked itineraries
• Flexible arrival times
• Small groups and a relaxed approach
• Porterage and guide tips
• Meals where most convenient (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner), or the freedom to explore local restaurants independently
• All specified flights.

Upgrade your tour

Private tour Upgrade to a private tour with a local tour leader on the same itinerary, departing on the date of your choice from £605 per person

Tour dates

2020 Jan 11, 25; Feb 08, 22; Mar 07, 25; Apr 08, 22; Oct 31; Nov 14, 28

Included in price

• Quality accommodation
• Insightful local tour leaders
• Hand-picked itineraries
• Flexible arrival times
• Small groups
• Porterage and guide tips
• Meals where most convenient (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)
• All specified flights.

Costa Rica Explorer

Kuoni highlights

Being part of a small group means that there'll be plenty of wildlife-viewing opportunities and a relaxed setting for quizzing your guide about the incredible flora and fauna in the national parks. You'll see all of the main highlights and also get to enjoy some fantastic experiences including a visit to a family-owned pineapple plantation and a cooking class with a local family.

Kuoni highlights

This small group tour allows you to get even closer to the incredible and diverse wildlife of Costa Rica, but other authentic and immersive experiences are also included. Enjoy a sunset dinner on a floating restaurant sailing through the Tortuguero canals; learn about Costa Rican cuisine through a cooking class with a local family; and visit a local plantation to get your hands dirty and plant some pineapple seedlings.

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Escorted Touring 2019