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HomeTours to Central and South AmericaCosta RicaSelf-drive Holiday in Costa Rica
15 days/13 nights:

Self-drive Holiday in Costa Rica

Highlights of this tour:

San José, Tortuguero National Park, La Fortuna, the hot springs of Arenal, Monteverde cloud forest, Rincon de la Vieja National Park, Rincon de la Vieja volcano, Playa Samara.

This package holiday includes the following:

  • Return flights from the UK to San José (enquire regarding direct flights)
  • Transfer from and to the airport (in small international groups)
  • Bus: San José – Tortuguero – Guapiles
  • 9 days’ car hire, including free mileage, GPS and insurance
  • 11 nights’ accommodation in good hotels incl. breakfast
  • 2 nights’ accommodation at Mawamba Lodge incl. full board
  • 1 x dinner (day 6)
  • Welcome meeting in San José
  • Individual round trip, however, all excursions are in small international groups with local, English-speaking guides
  • Emergency hotline staffed 24/7 throughout your trip
  • ATOL certificate included
  • Departure guarantee – the tour will take place regardless of the number of participants
  • Daily departures

The following package of excursions:

  • Boat trip in the Tortuguero rainforest
  • Excursion to the hot springs of Arenal
  • Hike through the Monteverde cloud forest on the hanging bridges
  • Excursion to Rincon de la Vieja National Park
  • Admission tickets to the attractions mentioned, excluding Tortuguero National Park (to be paid on site)
Single room supplement: £490
Discounts are available for groups of 3 or more people

Choose this tour because...

A self-drive holiday in Costa Rica is a different way to experience the country, and you will soon discover that the local people are incredibly friendly and helpful. Costa Rica is an absolute gem, famous for its green rainforests, waterfalls, sandy beaches, active volcanoes and fertile plantations. This trip starts in the capital city, San José, with its charming cafés and markets. It is then time to head into the countryside. You can look forward to experiencing the captivating natural delights of Costa Rica. For example, you will have the chance to walk among the treetops in the verdant rainforests that contrast starkly with the conical, active volcanoes and the long, sandy beaches that border the blue water of Samara Bay. You will also have every opportunity to see a host of animals right up close: monkeys, toucans, parrots, sloths, armadillos, colourful frogs, turtles, butterflies, and many more. It is rare to find such a small country with such magnificent countryside and such a rich variety of flora and fauna.

Detailed Itinerary
Day 1: Flight to Costa Rica – San José
Day 1: Flight to Costa Rica – San José

Departure day, where you will fly to San José with connecting flights along the way. You will land in the capital city, San José, which is located in the central region of the country, 1,150 m above sea level, and enjoys a beautiful spring-like climate all year round. On arrival at the airport in San José, you will be met by a driver who will take you to your hotel – a drive of around 30 min.

Overnight stay Hotel Sleep Inn

Day 2: San José
Day 2: San José

To start the day, you will be met at your hotel and driven to our partner’s office to review the programme, receive information about collecting and returning the car, and handle other practical issues. The rest of the day is yours to do with as you wish, giving you the opportunity to experience the delights of the capital at your own pace.

The centre of San José is not overly large, so it is relatively easy to find your way around. For example, you can drop by the local market, visit the National Museum or stroll along the pedestrian street that runs through the centre of the city. Here you will find all kinds of restaurants, shops and charming pavement cafés where you can enjoy a cup of genuine Costa Rican coffee while watching everyday life unfold on and around the delightful squares.

Overnight stay Hotel Sleep Inn

Day 3: San José – Tortuguero National Park
Day 3: San José – Tortuguero National Park

Early in the morning, you will be picked up from your hotel for a trip to the Tortuguero National Park on the Caribbean coast. You will pass by huge, green banana plantations that are crucial to the Costa Rican economy. After the coach trip, you will board the boat that is to convey you and your luggage to Mawamba Lodge, where you will be spending the coming two nights. The lodge enjoys a magnificent location with Tortuguero’s canals running through the front garden and the Caribbean Sea at the back. The sailing trip to the lodge will take you along rivers and canals bordered by thick rainforest that is home to Tortuguero’s exotic wildlife. After your arrival and check-in, lunch is served. In the afternoon, you visit the small village of Tortuguero with a guide.

Tortuguero National Park covers an area of 77,032 hectares, comprising 35 km of coastline and 11 different habitats, including mangrove swamps, marshes, beaches, lagoons and areas of tropical rainforest containing lakes, rivers and canals. The biological diversity and ecosystems of the national park provide excellent opportunities to experience a rich variety of plants and animals. The region is home to more than 300 species of bird, 30 different types of freshwater fish, three species of ape, tapirs, jaguars, frogs, sloths, manatees, crocodiles and caimans, as well as four of the seven species of turtle indigenous to Costa Rica, after which the national park has been named. The green sea turtle can be seen here between July and October, while the loggerhead turtle visits between May and October – when the hawksbill turtle can also be spotted here – and the leatherback sea turtle frequents the area between March and July.

Overnight stay Mawamba Lodge

Day 4: Tortuguero National Park
Day 4: Tortuguero National Park

Your stay here includes a guided walk in the area as well as a boat trip on the canals, which is a great way to experience the life and many sounds of the rainforest. The guide is good at spotting animals, and you will also learn about the flora of the rainforest.

The rest of the day is yours to do with as you wish: relax by the pool, stroll through the rainforest, or make your way to the beach where you may well be able to watch sea turtles bury their eggs in the sand before disappearing into the waves – a remarkable sight that you are most likely to encounter between July and September. It is important not to disturb the sea turtles when they emerge from the sea to lay their eggs. So please keep quiet and make sure not to use torches or flash photography, as bright light may startle them.

It is possible to purchase extra excursions at the lodge.

Overnight stay Mawamba Lodge

Day 5: Tortuguero National Park – Guapiles – La Fortuna
Day 5: Tortuguero National Park – Guapiles – La Fortuna

The time has now come to leave Tortuguero National Park and take the boat and coach to Guapiles. Here, you will be handed the keys to your rental car and can start the self-drive part of the trip. From Guapiles, head for the small town of La Fortuna. The town itself is not all that well known – but the surroundings are outstanding! La Fortuna is located at the foot of the most famous volcano in Costa Rica: Arenal, which towers to a height of 1,657 metres. Arenal was the most active volcano in Costa Rica until 2010, but has not produced a severe eruption since 1968, when it suddenly erupted and caused extensive destruction. Close by is the La Catarata de la Fortuna waterfall and a number of natural hot springs, and the area is very popular for activities such as riding, rafting, zip-line rides, ATV trips, cycling and kayaking.

The day’s driving distance: approx. 145 km.

Overnight stay Hotel Monte Real

Day 6: La Fortuna - the hot springs of Arenal
Day 6: La Fortuna - the hot springs of Arenal

The day is yours to do with as you wish. You could, for example, relax at the lodge, drive to the north-western part of Arenal volcano to take a stroll in Arenal Volcano National Park – where you have every chance of spotting colourful birds, reptiles and monkeys – or head off to the famous waterfall called La Catarata de la Fortuna, which is located close to the foot of the dormant volcano Chato. The waterfall stems from the Tenorio River, which runs through the Arenal mountains and rainforest before crashing 70 metres down into a lagoon that is a delight to swim in. The walk from the car park to the waterfall takes around 20 minutes, leading you across a bridge and down steps through the verdant rainforest. As you walk, you may well spot some toucans, monkeys and other tropical animals.

Towards the end of the afternoon, you will be picked up from your hotel and driven to Arenal’s hot springs – which you simply must experience during your visit to Costa Rica. The natural volcanic hot springs have created five pools where the water temperature ranges from 37 to 41°C. There is also a freshwater waterfall and pool. Remember your swimwear. This is an excellent place to relax and enjoy the tranquil surroundings. Enjoy a cocktail from the pool bar while you wait for dinner to be served.

Overnight stay Hotel Monte Real

Day 7: Arenal – Monteverde cloud forest
Day 7: Arenal – Monteverde cloud forest

After breakfast, it is time to leave Arenal and set out on a beautiful drive around Arenal Lake to the town of Monteverde. In recent years, Monteverde has transformed into an ‘adventure town’, as there are so many different activities to try in the immediate vicinity. Close to the town lies a stretch of cloud forest of the same name, and this is your destination for the next day.

The day’s driving distance: approx.  112 km

Overnight stay Hotel Poco a Poco

Day 8: ‘Tree-top hike’ in the cloud forest at Monteverde
Day 8: ‘Tree-top hike’ in the cloud forest at Monteverde

After breakfast, you will be picked up at the hotel and driven out to the cloud forest. The forest grows at an altitude of around 1,440 metres and is therefore known as ‘the forest in the clouds’. The warm Caribbean winds blow in from the sea and towards the tall mountains, and when the moist sea air is forced up to these heights, it is cooled rapidly, forming low clouds between the tree tops. This also means that the days can be decidedly chilly.

As soon as you arrive, you will head off on a thrilling 3-km hike. You will notice how the mist generates a very special, almost mystical ambience as you make your way along the hanging bridges in the tree tops, negotiating the giant tree trunks that are covered in moss, ferns and orchids. The trees and plants absorb the moisture from the mist, so conditions are perfect for the 2,500 species of plant – including 420 different types of orchid – that grow here. As you walk, you are sure to encounter some of the exotic wildlife, that features 100 species of mammal, 400 species of bird and 10,000 species of insect.

After a few hours here, you will be driven back to the hotel where the rest of the day is yours to do with as you wish. Kick back by the hotel pool – with its 30°C water – or explore the local area for yourself.

Overnight stay Hotel Poco a Poco

Day 9: Monteverde – Rincón de la Vieja National Park
Day 9: Monteverde – Rincón de la Vieja National Park

After breakfast, it is time to check out of your hotel and drive to Rincón de la Vieja National Park, which covers 14,084 hectares. Amazingly, this stretch of largely unspoiled countryside is one of the least visited areas of Costa Rica. The park was established in 1973 to protect the water supply to the area, and it features a fascinating combination of volcanic geological wonders and undisturbed tropical forest that is home to remarkable wildlife.

The day’s driving distance: Approx. 180 km.

Overnight stay Cañón de la Vieja Lodge

Upgrades available:

Day 10: Rincón de la Vieja
Day 10: Rincón de la Vieja

Early in the morning, you will set off on a 3-km hike through the national park, which lies at an altitude of 600–1,916 masl and therefore presents an impressive variety of flora and fauna. In addition to its numerous waterfalls, the dense tropical forest is known for its rich and varied wildlife, which comprises monkeys, birds, ring-tailed coati, armadillos, lizards, iguanas and many other species. It is also here that you can find the greatest number of Cattleya Skinneri orchids, the national flower of Costa Rica. The biggest attraction, however, is surely the fire-ravaged stratovolcano Rincón de la Vieja, which consists of nine interlinked craters, including Santa Maria – which has the highest peak at 1,916 masl. These craters are the most active in the Guanacaste mountains, and you can watch gases and steam rising from the Von Seebach crater.

After the morning hike, the rest of the day is yours to do with as you wish. You can relax by the lodge’s pool or explore the park on your own, either on foot or on horseback. If you choose to visit the park, remember to take plenty of fluids with you along with a packed lunch, which you can order at the hotel. At the entrance, you will be given a map of the park, marked with the lengths and approximate timings of the various walks.

Please note that the national park is closed on Mondays.

Overnight stay Cañón de la Vieja Lodge

Upgrades available:

Day 11: Rincón de la Vieja – Playa Sámara
Day 11: Rincón de la Vieja – Playa Sámara

Your drive today will take you to the tranquil coastal town of Sámara on the western shore of the Nicoya peninsula, which has a fine range or restaurants and shops, as well as a small number of bars. Sámara is particularly well-known for Playa Sámara – its long, broad, sandy beach, which is one of the safest beaches in Costa Rica. The beach is bordered by palm trees and tropical plants – and by a 5 km stretch of coast where the water is home to live coral and colourful fish, making it a wonderful place for snorkelling and diving.

The day’s driving distance: Approx. 170 km

Overnight stay Hotel Giada

Day 12: Playa Sámara
Day 12: Playa Sámara

The day is yours to do with as you wish: stroll through the town, relax by the hotel pool, or laze the hours away on the beach.

Overnight stay Hotel Giada

Day 13: Playa Sámara – San José
Day 13: Playa Sámara – San José

Today, you will be taking your leave of Playa Sámara and driving to San José, where you will spend one last night in Costa Rica before heading back to the UK.

The day’s driving distance: Approx. 240 km

Overnight stay Hotel Sleep Inn

Day 14: Return flight
Day 14: Return flight

The time has now come to bid farewell to Costa Rica. You will be picked up from your hotel and driven to the airport to catch your flight to the UK, which will include connecting flights along the way.

Day 15: Return trip
Day 15: Return trip

Arrive back in the UK after a wonderfully eventful holiday.

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