16 Day Costa Rica Experience Self Drive
This comprehensive itinerary takes in all the highlights of Costa Rica and is designed for travellers who wish to experience the amazing natural diversity of this quite beautiful country which has both Caribbean and Pacific coastlines, wetlands and rainforests, volcanoes and valleys and hundreds of species of birds, mammals, reptiles and insects as well as rich flora. You have the freedom of Self Drive but all of the expert guiding (where applicable) at each lodge. You will not be disappointed.
Namibia Birding and Photography GuideAn accomplished and experienced Namibia birding and photographic guide, Toni holds a Namibia Academy for Tourism and Hospitality Level 3 qualification (the highest level attainable in Namibia) and is widely renowned for her extensive knowledge of the cultures, ornithology, flora, astronomy and wildlife of the country. Read more >
Wildlife Guide & PhotographerAndy is a 6th generation Falkland Islander, with a passion for wildlife, plants and photography. Raised in the Falkland Islands, Andy developed a close affinity with the Islands natural environment at a young age. School holidays where spent in the ‘camp’ or countryside with friends and family. For more than 10 years, Andy had the privilege of spending a time on Sea Lion Island, visiting his mother who managed one of the Islands premier tourist destinations. Read more >
Photographer and founder of the Travel Photographer Of The Year awardsA fascination with natural light and a passion with nature, landscape and travel underpin Chris Coe's photography. His images often have a striking simplicity and graphic quality. More recent work has introduced a subtlety with experimentation with both movement and light.Read more >
Falklands Expert & GuideBorn in Chartres in the West Falklands, Jenny grew up on the family farm where her love for animals was nurtured by the25,000 sheep, horses and cows that lived alongside her. Forever a nature, conservation and wildlife enthusiast Jenny has travelled extensively throughout the Falkland Islands, visiting each and every wildlife island at least once, and even travelling around some by yacht. Read more >
Special Guest LecturerExclusive to this voyage, Doug Allan, a multi award winning polar photographer and cameraman, will be your special guest lecturer. Doug has been on over 20 expeditions to Svalbard to film its wildlife, and knows the wonders of this area more than most. Read more >
Special Guest Photography GuideChris was 32 when he finally realised he really did want to be a photo-journalist and walked out on his career in IT sales to become a wildlife photographer Read more >
- 100s of species of tropical birds and other wildlife
- Multiple habitats and eco-systems
- Stay in eco-lodges in tropical surroundings
- Visit Caribbean, central and Pacific regions
- All breakfasts, plus other meals where shown in itinerary
- Transfers as indicated
- Tours and excursions where shown in itinerary
- Domestic flight on last day
- Local taxes
- Vehicle Hire
ITINERARY15 Nights 16 Days
- Day 1 | Arrive and transfer to Heredia
- Days 2-3 | Turrialba
- Days 4-5 | Guapiles, Tortuguero, Mawamba
- Days 6-7 | Sarapiqui
- Days 8-9 | Arenal, La Fortuna
- Days 10-11 | Tempisque
- Days 12-13 | Manuel Antonio, Quepos
- Days 14-15 | Golfito
- Day 16 | Local flight to San Jose International Airport
Transfer from airport to Hotel Bougainvillea set in tropical gardens in Heredia. Spot your first birds, such as hummingbirds, tanagers, kingbirds and flycatchers in the grounds and walk amongst the lush tropical vegetation or just relax and enjoy the hotel’s varied facilities.
Drive to Turrialba in the Central Valley for two nights on full board basis at Rancho Naturalista. This Spanish colonial style hotel is set on the Caribbean slopes of the Cordillera Talamanca, a birdwatcher’s paradise with lots of species to be seen.
Guided tour of the base of the Cerro Silencio to see large flocks of tanager plus raptors, such as hawk eagles and many more, including possibly red-fronted parrotlets.
Tortuguero National Park
Drive up the north east Caribbean coast to the Tortuguero National Park, 770 sq.km. of rainforest, mangrove swamps, beaches and lagoons and home to myriad birds and wildlife. Afternoon culture and nature tour of Tortuguero village. Full board accommodation at Mawamba Lodge.
Morning tour of Mawamba Park, home to butterfly farms, a frog garden and river turtles. Afternoon boat excursion on Tortuguero canals to see wildlife and spectacular flora. Hope to see manatees, caimans, various monkeys and possibly, sloth and jaguar. Hundreds of bird species too.
Transfer by boat and road to Sarapiqui. Lunch at Rio Danta restaurant. Stay two nights at the Selva Verde Lodge, located in tropical gardens, deep in the rainforest. Lots of walking trails for birdwatching and to see native flora.
Guided birdwatching tour in Sapapiqui
Guided birdwatching tour in Sapapiqui, one of the few habitats of the endangered green macaw.
Casa Luna Hotel
Drive to the rustic-colonial style Casa Luna Hotel, set in lush, tropical gardens, about two miles from the small town of La Fortuna. Relax and enjoy an environment rich with birds and plants, or look for nearby activities such as zip-lining riding or rafting. The area is overlooked by the currently dormant Arenal Volcano.
Arenal Hanging Bridges
Take a half day tour to the Arenal Hanging Bridges, a stretch of the rainforest with a series of winding trails and bridges. Walk through the canopy trail across 16 suspended bridges with a guide to point our wildlife and interpret this unique environment.
Palo Verde National Park
Transfer to the Rancho Humo at the Palo Verde National Park for two nights on full board basis. This is an area of great diversity, with mangroves, swamps and both saltwater and freshwater lagoons. Due to its varied topography it is thought to be home to more than 250,000 birds in the wet season and is one of the most important migratory bird sites of the Mesoamerican Pacific.
At leisure in the park.
A full day to explore this incredible National Park and spot some of its varied wildlife, otherwise feel free to relax and treat yourself to a spa treatment at the lodge.
Santa Juana Lodge
Move to the central Pacific coastal region for two nights at Santa Juana Lodge, a 40 minute drive from the town of Quepos. This eco-friendly lodge is on the edge of the Manuel Antonio National Park, the smallest in Costa Rica. Apart from birds, various monkeys, sloths coatis and iguanas live here.
Manuel Antonio Park
Guided tour of the Manuel Antonio Park, including a 3 hour walk through the rainforest spotting birds, animals and a massive variety of flora. Look out for howler, squirrel and white-faced monkeys. Full board accommodation at Santa Juano Lodge.
Esquinas Rainforest Lodge
Move on to yet another national park, the Piedras Blancas for a last two nights at the Esquinas Rainforest Lodge on full board basis. Monkeys, toucans and iguanas are often spotted in the gardens here. Hike through the forest or go kayaking. More than 300 species of birds inhabit this area.
San Jose International Airport
Transfer to the Golfito airstrip for a local flight back to San Jose International Airport.
Your Itinerary Accommodation
Esquinas Rainforest Lodge
Esquinas Rainforest Lodge is the perfect jungle retreat for ecotourist visitors wishing to get off the beaten track and experience the sounds and sights of a tropical rain forest in a tranquil, undisturbed atmosphere. The lodge is surrounded by the untouched wilderness of the Piedras Blancas National Park, where guests can enjoy activities such as bird watching, horse riding, hiking as well as kayak and boat trips in nearby Golfo Dulce.
The lodge has a native rancho style with a roof made from 70,000 palm fronds and it features a spacious, open living room, library, bar and restaurant, a chlorine-free pool fed by a crystal-clear jungle stream and beautifully presented tropical gardens. The gardens and 10-mile long network of well-marked trails, most of which lead through pristine, untouched primary forest attract more than 200 species of birds, colorful butterflies, iguanas, coatis, monkeys and many other animals.
All the rooms offer a private bathroom with a hot water shower, ceiling fan and a terrace from which you can enjoy the vivid bird life that frequents the attractively landscaped gardens. However, one of the highlights of a visit to Esquinas' is the dining experience, the restaurant prides itself of serving delicious, home-cooked, and locally soured cuisine with tropical cocktails, fruit juices and fresh exotic vegetables from the surrounding gardens and freshly caught fish from Golfo Dulce.
Mawamba Lodge, Tortuguero
Mawamba Lodge is a 15 acre beach front property situated on a sand strip between the Tortuguero Canals and the Caribbean Ocean. It is surrounded by lush gardens, pristine beaches and the amazing Tortuguero National Park with its abundance of wildlife, this really is a perfect retreat for nature lovers.
The hotel's rustic accommodations blend perfectly with the surrounding natural richness. From the comfort of your wooden bungalow you will be able to listen to the jungle as it comes alive each day whilst the garden hammocks prove to be the perfect spot to relax after a day of adventures and discoveries. The lodge has several private nature trails and an open sky butterfly farm which will give guests the opportunity to discover a little more about the areas flora and fauna first hand.
Whilst staying at Mawamba Lodge you will have the opportunity to partake in a selection of optional extra activities, including massage, a night hike, fishing, dining on the katonga floating restaurant or an early morning boat tour inside the canals of the National Park. Accompanied by your naturalist guide and an experienced boatman in the area, the morning boat ride will allow you to appreciate the amazing variety of animal species the National Park shelter, including three species of monkeys, 400 species of birds, hundreds of reptiles and amphibians, such as iguanas, crocodiles, alligators, frogs , turtles and a a large number of mammals including the illusive jaguar.
The beach opposite the lodge has become the most important nesting site of the green turtle in Tropical America. Between June and October you will have the opportunity to take a night tour to watch these the sea turtles make their nest and between September and November you might be lucky enough to see a hatching, which is quite spectacular with some nests having as many as 150 eggs.
Bougainvillea, San Jose
Upon arrival at this beautiful hotel set within 10 acres of lush tropical gardens home to a variety of plants and bird life it will be hard to believe that you are just a 10 minute drive from downtown San Jose and the international airport.
Offering a true feeling of Costa Rican lifestyle and hospitality the hotel is set amidst the coffee farms of Santo Domingo de Heredia and is famous for the exceptional personal service offered to its guests.
Large bedrooms with private balconies offering beautiful views, a superb outdoor pool, tennis courts, a fantastic restaurant, a welcoming cocktail bar and a wide variety of excursions on offer make this intimate hotel an even better choice for your stay in the Costa Rican capital.
Each of the simply yet stylishly decorated bedrooms have been finished to a high standard and offer a very high level of comfort and relaxation. Each room has its own private balcony with views overlooking the Central Valley and the stunning surrounding mountains or the hotel's beautiful gardens, and all rooms have WiFi, ceiling fans and comfortable king-size beds.
The hotel's gardens are its pride and joy and many a lazy afternoon can be spent strolling through in search of a wide variety of native birds, frogs and plant life. Should you wish to venture further afield the hotel staff are very experienced in offering advice on the best ways to see what this part of the world has to offer. A personal service is guaranteed here so no matter what you wish to see or do the staff will be delighted to arrange this for you. Why not take a tour to the Irazu and Arenal volcanoes and hot springs, experience the thrill of Rafting in one of the nearby mountain rivers, visit the national parks or take a San Jose city tour. With a wide variety of excursions on offer you will be sure to find something to suit you.
It is this along with its unique location that makes this welcoming hotel such a great find and a fantastic place to stay to enjoy all that is special about this wonderful part of the world, and after a long day of exploring you can return to your beautiful hotel and enjoy a drink by the pool or a delicious meal in the restaurant overlooking the gardens.
Hotel Casa Luna, Arenal
Located at the base of the stunning Arenal Volcano this beautiful eco-friendly lodge offers spectacular views and luxury accommodation in a lush tropical rain forest environment.
Surrounded by farmland and a beautiful creek the lodge has its own private rainforest trail for guests to explore at their leisure and a wide range of superb activities are on offer giving guests the chance to fully experience this remarkable area.
A magnificent swimming pool, a beautiful rustic-style restaurant and an indulgent spa add to the feeling of luxury here and with so much to see and do we're sure you will never want to leave this tropical paradise.
Each of the 24 rooms at Hotel Casa Luna have been designed to perfectly combine a rustic authentic Costa Rican feel with modern and stylish features. Pure white walls create an open and airy space and the colonial-style doors and furniture offer a throwback to days gone by. All of the bedrooms are situated amongst delightful tropical gardens creating the feeling of being right in the jungle and all feature queen size beds, air-conditioning, cable TV and en-suite bathrooms. The 18 upper floor rooms also have balconies with beautiful views over the gardens and some even have spectacular views of the volcano.
Guests at Casa Luna can enjoy a wide range of delicious home-cooked meals in the rustic style restaurant set amongst the tropical gardens, or enjoy a signature "magma" cocktail at the Luna bar.
At Casa Luna you can spend a lazy day by the beautiful swimming pool or for the more adventurous traveller there are a wide range of exciting activities available including ziplining through the rainforest, walking across Arenal's famous hanging bridges, visits to spectacular caves and waterfalls, rapel tours, bird watching walks and, of course, visits to the majestic Arenal Volcano.
Rancho Naturalista, Turrialba
Known as one of Central America's finest birdwatching premises this tranquil lodge offers superb hospitality, stunning views of the smoking Turrialba volcano, delicious gourmet food and bright and airy lodgings.
Situated within its own private forest reserve in the Central Talamanca mountain range this beautiful lodge offers bird watchers and nature lovers alike a unique getaway where relaxation and being at one with nature is the order of the day.
Over 450 species of birds have been recorded here and many of these can be spotted by simply sitting out in the grounds of the lodge. Alternatively expert guides are on hand to take you through the private trails and if birding isn't your thing don't worry there will still be plenty of adventurous things for you to do here!
Although the lodge is still an excellent getaway for non-birders the focus at Rancho Naturalista is on the fabulous birding experiences that can be enjoyed here. Some choose to spend their days on the balcony looking out over the beautiful reserve whilst others can choose to take to the trails with a resident professional birding guide who is available throughout the day so whether you are an expert birder, keen photographer or a novice you will feel right at home here.
For non-birding activities there are of course a number of other exciting and interesting things to do here. You could try white-water rafting on the Rio Pacuare, canyoning and zip-lining through the mountains and waterfalls or take a relaxing trip to the pretty city of Turrialba, considered to be the friendliest place in the whole of Costa Rica!
The main building of Rancho Naturalista has been built in a traditional Spanish colonial style and has a comfortable sitting room with a large internal and external dining area along with the lodge's famous and recently extended birding balcony. All meals are usually included in any stay at Rancho Naturalista and the fantastic chefs create a range of delicious Costa Rican and International gourmet dishes which are served family style in the large dining area.
The main building is also home to 5 of the 15 comfortable and well appointed bedrooms at Rancho Naturalista. On top of the main lodge bedrooms there are also a number of beautiful cabins with lots of space and private casitas with terraces and porches where guests can enjoy the tranquillity and privacy of this beautiful area.
Santa Juana Lodge, Manuel Antonio
High on a hilltop above the Manuel Antonio national park and beautiful coastline you will find the Santa Juana Lodge. This mountain resort, immersed into the jungle, is a truly authentic Costa Rican experience.
If you are keen to explore the more rural areas of Naranjito and villages of Santa Juana, you will not be disappointed. The eco-lodge is an important part of the local community and is run in harmony with the people and land around it.
The accommodation here comprises split-level cabinas, crafted from sustainable, locally sourced wood. The beautiful constructions offer high vaulted ceilings, king size beds, comfortable lounge areas and kitchenettes. Screened sliding windows lead onto panoramic terraces with spectacular views over the ocean.
The resort has a rustic, open-air restaurant serving a complimentary breakfast each morning. Meals are available throughout the day from the traditional Campesino menu.
Wrangler guided horseback tours of the lush trails around the lodge are a popular activity here. Guides can also take you out in the 4x4s to explore the slopes of the Fila Chonta mountain range or to swim in the Rio Rodeo waterfalls.
Those interested in the local community here can visit the nearby coffee plantation or learn about the reforestation programme in Santa Juana.
Seeking relaxation? Visit the Oasis gardens for some meditation or try yoga on the specially built platform by the waters of the Rio Rodeo.
Selva Verde Lodge, Sarapiqui
A firm favourite among eco-travellers, Selva Verde has been championing sustainable tourism in the area for thirty years. This rustic lodge overlooks the Sarapiqui River and is just 2 hours from San Jose.
The naturalist owner/managers promote conservation throughout the area and provide environmental education to locals and visitors alike. Guests enjoy being immersed in the rainforest whilst knowing they are contributing to the conservation of this beautiful area.
The lodge is crafted of stilted wooden structures, linked by covered walkways. Each room has screened windows, comfortable beds and private bathroom. There is a deck with hammocks for you to relax and spot the varied species of birdlife enjoying the bird-feeders in the grounds.
A Costa Rican locally sourced buffet is served in the restaurant with tea, coffee and snacks available throughout the day. In the evening there is also La Terrazza restaurant, offering Italian delights including pizzas freshly baked in the wood fire oven.
There are many trails leading from the hotel, where you can enjoy the sights and sounds of the rainforest. Or why not try the Zip Line Adventure and see the canopy from a little higher up!
Guided boat/raft trips are available on the river, where you can benefit from the expert’s local knowledge and tips on the best spots for sightings. After dark you can experience the jungle on a guided night hike, perfect for spotting the more nocturnal creatures residing in the rainforest.
Rancho Humo, Guanacaste
Nestled amongst 50,000 acres of protected nature conservancy wetlands this authentic luxury estancia is a nature and bird lover's paradise.
Situated along the impressive Tempisque River on the Nicoya Peninsula the ranch occupies a prime position inside the Palo Verde National Park where an abundance of wildlife thrives and roams freely, and where numerous ecosystems prosper such as mangrove, wetlands, dry tropical rainforest and a huge variety of flora and fauna.
Spend a day at the beautiful Palo Verde National Park, take a boat tour on the Bebedero River or visit the working cattle farm for an authentic ranch experience before returning to the luxuries of this high-end hotel for delicious meals and a refreshing dip in the swimming pool.
For a great night's sleep the hotel has 10 charming and comfortable bedrooms which have been decorated and designed to the highest standards to echo the ranch's unique and authentic surroundings. All rooms feature the amenities of a high-end boutique hotel including air-conditioning, flat screen TV, telephone, mini-fridge and Wi-Fi. Most rooms offer inviting balconies and spectacular views over the famous grassy plains and protected wetlands.
For some refreshment from Guanacaste's abundant sunshine guests can avail of the luxury swimming pool set amongst stunning gardens carefully designed with local plants and ethnic species of colourful flowering trees.
After a long day of adventures guests can then return to the ranch to indulge in refined gourmet dishes based on the rich and exotic local gastronomy of Guanacaste in the beautiful dining room before enjoying a home-brewed beer or a fine wine in the cosy bar with open decks and inspiring views of breathtaking sunsets.
What Our Customers
Enjoyed the numerous lodges we stayed in which gave a good flavour of Costa Rica. We saw so much, in so little time but never felt rushed….. all in all a great holiday. Thanks.
Considering the standard of accommodation and level of guiding, I think we got great value for money and would happily go again. Although I loved seeing the turtles and hummingbirds the best bit had to be rafting into camp at Pacuare Lodge, best lodge ever!!!
Great views of a huge range of birds, animals and insects etc so a very successful trip. Despite the weather, I did and saw so much every day, an action packed two weeks, thanks for the free bins, they came in most useful.
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