Take a family trip through colourful Costa Rica

Experience the drama of Costa Rica’s landscapes, the real flavours of its culture and cuisine and uncover the country’s adventurous heart. This Family Adventure has been specially crafted to balance organised activities and travel with loads of free time for fun and relaxation. Come and discover this unique, diverse corner of Central America and open your children’s eyes to a colourful new world.


Start
San Jose, Costa Rica
Finish
San Jose, Costa Rica
Destination
Costa Rica
Style
Original
Theme
Family, Wildlife
Code
QCFR
Physical rating
Ages
Min 5
Group size
Min 1, Max 16

Why you'll love this trip

  • Dive into the heart of one of the world’s most biologically diverse countries, through rivers, dense rainforest, misty cloud forest, past towering volcanoes and to blissful beaches on a journey that will leave you in love with nature

  • Glide through the waterways of Tortuguero NP, seek out monkeys and turtles by foot and boat, and drift off to sleep surrounded by the sounds of wildlife

  • Get active on an incredible range of outdoor pursuits, from battling rapids while whitewater rafting to hiking through jungle to waterfalls, walking high up in the canopy, and whizzing from tree to tree on a zipline

  • After getting up-close to the country’s endless abundance of wildlife, enjoy plenty of time to let off some steam in thermal springs and swimming pools – like the one that sits in the magnificent shadow of the steaming Arenal volcano

  • End this adventure by hitting Manuel Antonio NP, where the evergreen forest grows right up to the long, white beaches and irresistible water

Is this trip right for you?

  • Make sure you pack some sturdy and comfortable shoes as you’ll be walking around cities, towns, and through forests and jungle on this trip.

  • There are a few days of long travel on this trip as you’ll be covering a lot of Costa Rican ground. These drives are along smooth roads in new and comfortable vehicles, and are great for games, chats and scenery spotting. You’ll also make interesting stops along the way to break up those longer drives.

  • Is it hot in here? Well you’re in tropical Central America so it can get really hot and humid. Carry plenty of water because hydration is key, especially when you’re walking a lot. There'll also be plenty of chances to take a cooling swim though!

  • It’s a good idea to try and brush up on as many Spanish words as you can. While locals are really friendly, they’re also shy, so knowing some local lingo is a great way to break the ice and show you care about them and their culture.

Itinerary

This itinerary is valid for departures from 01 Jan 2019 to 31 Dec 2019.
View the 2018 itinerary
Welcome to Costa Rica!

The trip begins with a welcome meeting at 6pm at the hotel in San Jose.You can arrive at any time today as there are no activities planned until this group meeting. 

San Jose sits in the heart of the country in the lush, wide Central Valley, and has a comfortable subtropical climate. With over half the country's population living within its limits, it’s a bustling city with lively markets, intriguing museums and a dynamic atmosphere. It’s also easy to navigate – laid out in a grid pattern, the avenidas run east to west and the callés run north to south. After the meeting tonight, perhaps get to know the rest of the group and head out for your first taste of the local ‘tico’ food.
Accommodation
  • Hotel Autentico or similar (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today you’ll get a taste of the sights in and around San Jose.

We drive out of the city to Doka Estate (approximately 1 hour), which sits on the fertile slopes of the Alajuela Poas Volcano. Take a tour of the coffee fields and plantation sugar cane mill. The estate is home to some of the best coffee in Costa Rica (they might say the world), and you’ll learn all about going from seed to cup.

Next up is a visit to Zoo Ave. Zoo Ave is an urban park with a mission to rehabilitate and care for Costa Rica's injured, orphaned and mistreated wildlife. When animals arrive at the refuge, they are evaluated by trained veterinary staff and given treatment. The ultimate goal is to rehabilitate the animals both physically and emotionally, for eventual release into the wild.

Our last stop of the day will be the National Museum, which offers an introduction to Costa Rican history with some fascinating displays of artefacts from Pre-Columbian, colonial, and early republic time. The building itself also tells a story – housed in an old fort, there are bullet holes from the 1948 civil war on the outside.
Accommodation
  • Hotel Autentico or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • San Jose - Museo Nacional de Costa Rica
  • San Jose - Butterfly farm
  • San Jose - Doka Estate
  • San Jose - National Institute of Biodiversity
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Say goodbye to San Jose early this morning and head out into the Costa Rican wilderness. Travel out of the city, stopping for breakfast en route, before boarding a launch to navigate the waterways into the Tortuguero National Park (approximately 2 hours). There are no roads to your accommodation and this isolation makes the park a nature lover's dream.

You’ll travel along Los Canales, which were dug during the 1960s to connect the coastal lagoons to a maze of natural channels in order to transport lumber by boat. They now form a long highway (100 kilometres) through dense rainforest. As you motor along the river, every now and then you’ll see a clearing in the thick-forested banks, where settlers eke out an existence from slash-and-burn agriculture and fishing. Everyone fishes here – an iridescent flash will mark the flight of a kingfisher, while anhinga and several species of heron can be seen perching in the shadows along the water’s edge, waiting to strike.

Your accommodation for the next two nights is a riverbank lodge that stands among Caribbean rainforest. Here you can rest up, delight in some home comforts and relax poolside. Maybe take a walk to the village and on to the beach, then fall asleep to the unearthly cry of the howler monkey.
Accommodation
  • La Baula Lodge or similar (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
There’s no need for alarm clocks in this part of the world, and you’ll wake this morning to the screech of toucan and oropendula. This is just the beginning of your wildlife-filled day – you’ll go on excursions by boat and on foot, soaking up Mother Nature's most flamboyant floral and fauna displays, using the experienced eyes of the boatman or guide spot the animals.

Tortuguero National Park, established in 1970, is 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.

This area has long been associated with the catching of turtle (tortuguero means turtle-catcher), and the original indigenous inhabitants used turtles as a sustainable resource, but the arrival of Europeans led to major exploitation. Lesser numbers of the critically endangered hawksbill turtle, plus loggerheads, and giant leatherback turtles also nest within the park at different times of year. Just some of the other animals you might see today are tree frogs, sloths, caimans, crocodiles, iguanas, spider monkeys and white faced capuchins, making this an unforgettable natural journey.

Notes: If you visit between August and October and are interested in the nesting ground of the green turtle, it is necessary to wear dark colours.
Accommodation
  • La Baula Lodge or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Tortuguero National Park - Walking tour
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
After breakfast, wave goodbye to the tree-swinging howler monkeys and transfer by boat back to the port (approximately 2 hours) – keeping your eyes open for more animals and birdlife that line the waterways. Then you’ll head to another region rich in biodiversity and beloved by birdwatchers – Sarapiqui.

Pass palms (used to produce palm heart), banana and papaya growing on the edge of the roadside along the way (approximately 2 hours). Stop for lunch and for some leg-stretching time, before continuing to your destination (approximately 1.5 hours). On the banks of the Puerto Viejo River and next to the Braulio Carrillo National Park, the budding town of Sarapiqui is surrounded by virgin forests, 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 incredibly impressive.

A biological research station and several nearby forest lodges have made this undisturbed habitat accessible to scientists and travellers. For the next two nights you’ll stay in a family-run eco-lodge surrounded a reforested area with native trees, an old-growth forest on the banks of the nearby river, and tropical gardens bulging with flowers and fruit.

The rest of the day is free to relax and enjoy this beautiful area, maybe just swinging the day away in a hammock.
Accommodation
  • Hotel El Bambu or similar (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Today is a free day, so how you explore the lush, tropical surrounds of this idyllic location is up to you and your family. There are so many activities on offer for you, but the first choice of many families is the exhilarating fun of battling the gushing rapids of the Pacuare River on an optional full day rafting trip. The level of rafting here is very suitable for families, but please note that the minimum age is 8 years old. After a safety briefing and getting you kitted out with a snazzy orange vest, you’ll work as a team to make your way through increasingly challenging rapids with names like ‘Terciopelo snake’ and ‘Double drop’. Along the way, you’ll also have opportunities to spot wildlife and see waterfalls in the lush forest. Alternatively, you could take a relaxing boat trip or make for the forest trails (like those in La Selva Biological Station) by foot. For something completely different, maybe satisfy your sweet tooth on a chocolate tour, opening the secrets and wonders of one of mankind’s favourite foods.
Accommodation
  • Hotel El Bambu or similar (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui - Chocolate Tour La Tirimbina - USD30
  • Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui - Boat Trip - USD53
  • Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui - White Water Rafting (8 years and above) - USD52
  • Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui - Night Safari Floating Tour Sarapiqui River - USD42
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Today you’ll cross west through the north of the country to Arenal (approximately 2-3 hours) where you’ll lay eyes on a storybook volcano that soars out of the verdant plains. The Volcán Arenal shoots up to 1,633 metres in a perfect cone, and looks a lot like what would pop into your head if you were asked to imagine a volcano.

The scenery is made up of primary cloud forest and rainforest, and this is a land of rivers, lakes and, thanks to the volcano’s inner workings, 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 dense foliage, offering ideal place to relax.

Your accommodation for the next two nights has lots of activities on offer, as well as something you wont get in many other places in the world – the chance to relax by a pool with a view of a towering volcano! The much-loved famous volcano isn’t spewing lava every day and night like it used to, but it is still rumbling and puffing out plumes of gas. Maybe while away the day at the accommodation's own thermal hot springs.
Accommodation
  • Hotel Las Cabañitas or similar (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
This morning you’ll head out for a guided tour in Arenal National Park, where the trails pass through interesting dwarf cloud forest, and the rich bird life includes several species of hummingbird and Costa Rica’s national bird (the clay-coloured robin that’s renowned for its melodious song).

The afternoon is then free for optional activities in the local area. To get a closer view of the majestic peak, take a hike up towards to the volcano, through old lava flows and with views of the lovely Lake Arenal. Otherwise, you could get a different panorama of the summit by soaring smoothly through the rainforest on the slow paced Sky Tram. At an observation platform you can then enjoy magnificent views of the Arenal Volcano’s southern face.

Getting down is even more exciting – return the way you came, or jump on a fast-paced zip line and fly down the mountain. Heading further afield is La Fortuna Waterfall, where you can take a short hike to the thundering cascade, then take a refreshing dip in a nearby clear swimming hole.

A day trip to Cano Negro is also an option – this wildlife refuge is full of migratory and resident birds as well as river wildlife, both mammals and reptiles. Perhaps take a dip in the thermal waters that will wash away your pains and worries.
Accommodation
  • Hotel Las Cabañitas or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Arenal National Park
Optional Activities
  • Sky Tram & Sky Trek - Arenal Area - USD88
  • Hike to the Arenal National Park - USD69
  • Ecotermales Thermal Waters - USD33
  • Cultour Daily Tours - Arenal Volcano Costa Rica - USD102
  • La Fortuna - Hike to La Fortuna Waterfal - USD65
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Travel along the Arenal Lake – a famous hangout for avid windsurfers – via Tilaran to Monteverde de Santa Elena (approximately 4-5 hours).

Enjoy great views across the lake back towards the Arenal Volcano, and stop on the roadside for great homemade cakes and refreshments. Climb to Monteverde, feel the climate cooling and see the vegetation change from tropical to cloud forest. The surrounding hills are scattered with fair-trade co-operative coffee plantations, famous for producing some of the best coffee beans in the country.

In the afternoon there may be time to visit a colourful butterfly farm (optional). Monteverde was founded in 1951 by a group of North American Quakers, who originally cleared virgin forest to create verdant pastures ideal for dairy farming. These environmentally aware settlers soon became conscious of the danger that unrestricted settling and farming could cause to this precious habitat, and so they established a small privately-owned wildlife sanctuary. This has since grown to become the internationally-renowned Monteverde Cloudforest Biological Preserve. Cloud forests are similar to rainforests, but instead of relying on rain for essential moisture, the water comes from the semi-permanent cloud that covers the region. That make it lush, full of wildlife, and 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. You’ll have lots of time to discover the natural wonders here.
Accommodation
  • Hotel Poco a Poco or similar (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Today everyone will become an ornithologist as you explore a forest that’s home to the Resplendent Quetzal (one of the most reclusive birds in the world), the blue-crowned motmot, the emerald toucanet and some 30 species of iridescent hummingbird – and that’s just a few of the 400-odd bird species recorded here! It’s not only things with wings that live here – more than 100 mammal species, 1,200 amphibian and reptile species, and many thousands of insect species are found here, in addition to an amazing variety of plant life. Appropriately in a place so filled with birdlife, one of the highlights for many is the chance to get a bird’s eye view of the forest up the canopy, instead of always looking up into the trees. As an included activity, you’ll walk across hanging bridges (Sky Walk) suspended through the trees. It’s not designed for vertigo suffers, but provides a fantastic chance to get in amongst the foliage and experience the forest from a great vantage point. Monteverde also has loads of other optional activities to get stuck into – watch winged, coloured jewels of the forest in the Butterfly Garden and the Hummingbird Gallery, visit an orchid farm, or whizz through the forest on ziplines between the trees on the thrilling ‘Sky Trek’. There might also be the option to hike through the forest as dusk, watching all the nocturnal creatures begin to stir.
Accommodation
  • Hotel Poco a Poco or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Monteverde - Sky Walk
Optional Activities
  • Monteverde - Cloud Forest Reserve - USD69
  • Sky Trek - USD66
  • Guided Tree Top Walkways, Butterfly Farm, Hummingbird Garden - USD77
  • Bosque Eterno de los Niños Hike - USD61
  • Zip Lining (Canopy Tour) - USD74
  • Don Juan Coffee Tour - USD28
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
The Sky Trek option activity has a minimum height requirement of height 120cm (3’11’’).
Departing Monteverde, descend to the Pan-American Highway, which you’ll follow southward across the flat coastal plain. Your journey takes you along a coastline of fine sand beaches, separated by the occasional area of mangrove and endless plantations of African palm.

Your journey ends at Garabito.(approximately 6 hours plus stops). Your accommodation is on the Pacific Ocean and the tropical forest, and part of the property has been officially declared a Wildlife Reserve thanks to its biodiversity in plant species and fauna, such as spider monkeys, sloths, coati, and armadillos. Soak up some rays and relish the spoils of this unique beach setting, where lush rainforests sprawl gently towards the sand and white-faced capuchin monkeys peer cheekily from the treetops. It's a 300meter walk to the beach.

NOTE: our hotel is located 1.5hours from Manuel Antonio National Park.
Accommodation
  • Punta Leona Hotel or similar (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Manuel Antonio National Park stands south of Quepos on the shores of the Pacific. Incorporating 12 small islands scattered just off the coast where migrating whales can sometimes be observed, the park is home to hundreds of mammal and bird species in a region of lagoons and fertile mangrove swamps.

Today we drive 1.5hours to the national park where you’ll enjoy a three-hour guided walk along the trails within the park and have plenty of time to relax on one of the idyllic palm-lined bays. The turquoise seas are perfect for swimming, kayaking, sailing or fishing. It would be easy to spend your whole time here in, or by, the water. Before heading back to Punta Leona in the afternoon.
Accommodation
  • Punta Leona Hotel or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Manuel Antonio National Park - (Entrance fee)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Enjoy another day at your leisure to explore the area.

There are plenty of opportunities to join optional activities or simply relax and enjoy the hotel facilities. Your leader will be there to give you a run down of the options and lend you a hand. For those that love the water, you could take a catamaran tour out to hidden beaches, looking out for dolphins, snorkelling in the warm waters, jumping off the top deck, and luxuriating in a Costa Rican sunset. For something a bit more active, then paddling a kayak along inlets and small islands to secluded sandy beaches is just the thing.

Back on land, there’s amusements like tennis or mini-golf at the accommodation, or you could zipline, taking in as much of this incredible natural environment as possible, before you leave it behind and return to city life tomorrow.
Accommodation
  • Punta Leona Hotel or similar (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Zip Lining (Canopy Tour ) - Central Pacific Coast - USD68
  • Kayak Tour - Central Pacific Coast - USD80
  • Catamaran Cruise - Central Pacific Coast - USD132
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Retrace your steps northward along the coastal road to San Jose, stopping en route at Carara Biological Reserve.

Here you’ll walk for two or three hours through the rainforest in the hope of seeing the beautiful, rare scarlet macaw, as well as the tiny black and green poison dart frog. Carara's position between the dry tropical forest of the north and the wet rainforest of the south means it’s blessed with a uniquely high diversity of plants and animals. Continue on from Carara, where the route turns inland to follow the main Pacific Highway through the agricultural towns of Orotina and Atenas.

You’ll then arrive back in San Jose for your final night (total driving approximately 5 hours plus stops). Before you finish up your trip, be sure to hit the city's colourful and lively markets for some last-minute souvenir shopping, then get the group together to celebrate the end of this family adventure with one last Costa Rican meal.
Accommodation
  • Hotel Autentico or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • San Jose - Carara Biological Reserve
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
This Costa Rica Family Holiday comes to an end today. There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.
Meals Included
  • Breakfast

Meals

14 breakfasts, 2 lunches, 2 dinners

Transport

Boat, Bus

Accommodation

Hotel (12 nights), Lodge (2 nights)

Included activities

  • San Jose - Museo Nacional de Costa Rica
  • San Jose - Butterfly farm
  • San Jose - Doka Estate
  • San Jose - National Institute of Biodiversity
  • Tortuguero National Park - Walking tour
  • Arenal National Park
  • Monteverde - Sky Walk
  • Manuel Antonio National Park - (Entrance fee)
  • San Jose - Carara Biological Reserve

Dates & availability

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Important notes

Please note that these trips are for adults and children travelling together and there must be at least one child under 18 with you.

Minimum age for children on this trip is 5 years old.

A discount of 10% applies on this trip to children 17 years and under at time of travel.

A single supplement is available on this trip with exception of Days 3 & 4 (Lodge).

WEATHER: Costa Rica is a tropical country so rain can be excepted at any time. The rainy season in Costa Rica runs from May – November. While July and some of August does experience dry spells, families need to be prepared for the rain. Rain does usually come in the afternoons and it can pour. So you will need to be prepared with wet weather gear. Hurricane season in this region is June to November, when landslides, mudslides, flooding and disruptions to essential services can occur. Intrepid monitors any situations that arise, and may need to change itineraries or activities in response to these natural weather occurrences.

HOTEL LOCATIONS: Many hotels outside of San Jose have been built further out from the centre of town so travellers can enjoy the countryside, rainforests and views, where people can wake up to birds not cars. Many of the hotels we use are in such locations.

FOOD: Costa Rican food is known for being fairly mild, with high reliance on fresh fruit and vegetables. Rice and black beans are a staple of most traditional Costa Rican meals. Meals in Costa Rican are more expensive than its neighbouring countries.

Essential trip information

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