Explore Costa Rica from the mountains to the sea

Every year thousands of tourists travel to Costa Rica but few get to experience this charismatic country's real way of life. On this Classic Costa Rica trip, stay with a local family in Santa Rosa de Pocosol and get your hands dirty on a nearby farm. Uncover jungle gems in Tortuguero and Sarapiqui; hot springs, waterfalls and a sleeping volcano in La Fortuna; and white sandy beaches at Quepos - all set to a sizzling salsa beat. This adventure into the heart of tropical paradise will surely leave you wanting more.

Start
San Jose, Costa Rica
Finish
San Jose, Costa Rica
Countries
Costa Rica
Themes
Explorer
Code
QVSR
Physical rating
Cultural rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1 Max 12
Carbon offset
233kg pp per trip


Highlights

  • Stroll through lively markets in San Jose
  • Explore the jungle in the Tortuguero National Park
  • Chill out to the sounds of nature in Sarapiqui
  • Soak off the day in La Fortuna hot springs
  • Get close to the coalface at Arenal Volcano
  • Discover the sultry Monteverde cloud forest
  • Shake your booty to the samba soundtrack of Costa Rica
  • Experience local life on a homestay in Santa Rosa de Pocosol

Itinerary

Hola! Welcome to Costa Rica!

Your adventure begins with a Welcome Meeting at 6pm on Day 1. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it 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. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.

With over half the country's population living within its parameters, San Jose is a bustling city with lively markets, intriguing museums and a dynamic atmosphere. A good place to start exploring is the main plaza, a fantastic place to get comfy and do some people watching. Artisan booths are common here and you never know when there'll be a spontaneous art fair. Have a look at the Gold Museum which has an amazing collection of indigenous gold art. If these cultural gems get you in the mood for a bit of shopping head to the out door market in Plaza de la Cultura or the Central Market where you can buy anything from handicrafts to seafood.
We leave San Jose and descend to the Caribbean lowlands by local bus (approx 4 hours). The final section of our journey to the port at La Pavona is on an unsealed road. Then take a boat to Tortuguero National Park (approx. 1.5 hours).

This area has long been associated with the catching of turtle (tortuguero means turtle-catcher). The original indigenous inhabitants used turtles as a sustainable resource, but the arrival of Europeans led to major exploitation. 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 year.
Today your leader will lead you on a walk around the park's main paths. Keep your eyes peeled to spot monkeys, birds, frogs and perhaps a sloth or two.
Early in the morning we travel to Sarapiqui in the heart of Costa Rica's banana growing region. First, transfer back to the port by boat (approx 1.5 hours), then continue to Sarapiqui by private minibus (approx 3 hours).

On the banks of the Puerto Viejo River and next to the Braulio Carrillo National Park, this budding town is surrounded by virgin forests, and banana and pineapple plantations. Sarapiqui is also known as one of the richest areas in Costa Rica for bird watching. The diversity of lowland bird life is impressive. A biological research station and several nearby forest lodges have made this undisturbed habitat accessible to scientists and travellers.
There is plenty of free time to explore the jungle that surrounds the town by mountain bike or on foot, or find a comfy spot to watch the colourful birdlife glide by. Alternatively you may wish to satisfy your sweet tooth on a chocolate tour.
Travel by private minibus to Santa Rosa de Pocosol (approx 2 hours) where we spend the night in a homestay. Just down the road is the Juanilama agricultural community where we have the option to get to know the local villagers, help with farm chores or take a cooking lesson. Several villagers have built comfortable rooms for guests next to their homes. All rooms have shared facilities.

In order to make the most of this homestay experience, it may take a bit of effort from your side to break the ice first. Learn as many Spanish words as you can and get ready for some serious hand language signals.
Continue by private minibus to La Fortuna (approx 2 hours).

This small town is situated just a few minutes away from Costa Rica's most famous volcano - the majestic Arenal.
Besides the spectacular views, La Fortuna offers a range of activities such as the 70-metre-high La Fortuna waterfall, stunning lush forest, rare plants, animal watching and watersports on the lake.

The volcano’s inner workings also mean that the area has a number of thermal springs where hot, lava-heated water gushes to the surface. These springs have been turned into a number of thermal pools and waterfalls, often surrounded by foliage, an ideal chance to relax.
Today take the scenic route to Monteverde (approximately 4 hours in total). Travel by shared minibus to Lake Arenal, which we'll cross by boat. On a clear day you'll see fantastic views of the surrounding area. On the other side of the lake, re-board the minibus and continue on to our destination.

Monteverde was founded as an agricultural community in 1951 by a group of North American Quakers; they cleared virgin forest to create verdant pastures ideal for dairy farming. These environmentally aware settlers were conscious of the danger that unrestricted settling and farming could cause to this precious habitat. Consequently they established a small privately-owned wildlife sanctuary, which has since grown to become the internationally-renowned Monteverde Cloudforest Biological Preserve. These forests are similar to rainforests, but instead of relying on rain for essential moisture, adequate water comes from the semi-permanent cloud that covers the region. It is lush and full of wildlife. This is truly a nature lover's paradise. More than 2,000 species of plants, 320 bird species and 100 different types of mammals call Montverde home.
Your leader will take you on a walking tour through the Monteverde National Park. Alternatively, walk through the canopy on suspension bridges or watch butterflies at play in the specially created butterfly garden. The local guides are very knowledgeable about the area and passionate about conservation and in the local communities there are several cooperatives worth visiting. More than 2,000 species of plants, 320 bird species and 100 different types of mammals call Monteverde home. Be sure to keep an eye out for the resplendent quetzal, one of the most elusive birds in the world.
Travel to Quepos by private minibus (approx 5 hours).

Located close to the beautiful Pacific beaches and exotic wildlife of Manuel Antonio National Park, Quepos is a laidback town with a vibrant nightlife.
Spend your time here enjoying all that Manuel Antonio NP has to offer. Head out for a hike along its many trails, keeping one eye on the great views and the other looking for the abundant wildlife. Monkeys, armadillos, sloths and hundreds of birds are among the species you maybe be able to spot. The park also boasts turquoise seas and white sand beaches, perfect for swimming, kayaking, sailing or fishing. It would be easy to spend your whole time here in, or by, the water.
Take a local bus back to San Jose (approx 4 hours). The buses in this region of hte country are a little more basic but this is a great opportunity to mix with Costa Ricans and get a feel for local life.

Arrive back in time for you to pick up some last minute souvenirs at the city's colourful and vibrant markets. Then we can head out for an optional dinner and a final night on the town sampling the huge variety of nightlife. The perfect way to end our adventure.
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.
View trip notes to read full itinerary

Inclusions

Meals
5 breakfasts, 1 dinner
Transport
Private minibus, Local bus, Boat
Accommodation
Hotel (11 nights), Lodge (2 nights), Homestay (1 night)
Included activities
  • Walking tour of Tortuguero National Park
  • Santa Rosa de Pocosol - Agricultural tour
  • Monteverde - Cloud Forest hike

Dates

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Important notes

A single supplement is available on this trip.

Trip notes

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Your trip notes provide a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what’s included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.

View trip notes

Reviews

Our Classic Costa Rica trips score an average of 4.58 out of 5 based on 205 reviews in the last year.

Classic Costa Rica , April 2016

Classic Costa Rica , April 2016

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