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Independent Costa Rica (self drive)


RCA14S
14 NIGHTS
FROM £2,098
International flights + car hire quoted separately
Explore the wildlife and scenery of spectacular Costa Rica, combining a guided tour of the waterways of Tortuguero National Park, famous for its turtles, with a visit to Arenal Volcano & Monteverde Cloud Forest. Complete your holiday relaxing at Manuel Antonia on the Pacific Coast, with superb diving opportunities. Specified English speaking guides included.
Costa Rica Self Drive Holiday Tortuguero Arenal Volcano Rainforests
• 
San Jose
• 
Central Valley
• 
Volcan Poas National Park
• 
La Paz Waterfall
• 
Tortuguero National Park
• 
Birding
• 
Arenal Volcano
• 
Monteverde Cloud Forest
• 
Manuel Antonio
• 
Scuba Diving
• 
San Jose
• 
Central Valley
• 
Volcan Poas National Park
• 
La Paz Waterfall
• 
Tortuguero National Park
• 
Birding
• 
Arenal Volcano
• 
Monteverde Cloud Forest
• 
Manuel Antonio
• 
Scuba Diving
Day 1
You will be met at San Jose Airport and transferred to this capital city in the Central Valley region, with the Talamanca Mountains to the south and volcanoes to the north.
 
Check into your hotel and relax in this modern city.
Day 2
Today your driver will take you on a tour through the Central Valley.
 
We drive 1.5-hours through coffee plantations, strawberry fields and dairy farms to Poás Volcano National Park, with its magnificent blue crater lake. When the mist and clouds part you can see the sulphuric, bubbling lake at the bottom, surrounded by smoke and steam rising from fumaroles. Views of the crater are most likely between March and November, with the early morning offering the best opportunity. Trails lead through the cloud forest to Lake Botos, which fills an extinct crater and is home to nearly 80 species of cloud forest birds. Hummingbirds are easy to see and you may also spot an emerald toucanet, brown robin, black guan or masked woopecker. Coyotes, rabbits, frogs and toads are common and you will see many bromeliads, ferns and mistletoes.
 
We continue to the Doka Coffee Estate in the coffee capital of Sabanilla, to learn more about the production, harvesting, processing and roasting of the grain. The farm belongs to the Vargas Ruiz family, who have pioneered coffee production for more than 70 years. Here we enjoy an included lunch before returning to San Jose in the late afternoon.
 
Note: Wear good walking shoes today and take a windbreaker and rain jacket.
Day 3
An early departure this morning, with 06.30 pick-up from your hotel for your 4-hour shared transfer by air-conditioned coach to Tortuguero National Park on the Caribbean Coast - known as the 'Amazon of Costa Rica'. This remote wetland system covers an area of over 300 square km. It support a wide range of threatened flora and fauna and is a RAMSAR birding site of international significance. It is renowned as a nesting place for green and leatherback turtles.
 
We stop at Guapiles around 08.00 for a Costa Rican breakfast, before continuing to the docks at La Pavona or Cano Blanco.  Here we board the boat for our 1.5-hour ride along the La Suerte River and the wider Tortuguero River, to your lodge in the heart of these lush waterways.
 
On arrival check into your lodge and enjoy a buffet lunch. In the afternoon there is the opportunity to visit the local village with a guide, to observe their way of life. We walk back to our lodge along the beach trail, with balance of afternoon at leisure.
  
Note: As turtle tours book out quickly, on arrival we recommend you immediately book your tour at reception, as this cannot be booked in advance (approx. $35 per person).
Day 4
This morning is devoted to exploring the waterways of Tortuguero National Park by boat with a local guide.
  
At sunrise the rainforests comes alive with wildlife including sloths, monkeys, caimans and over half of all the bird species found in Costa Rica. From March to September you can see turtles laying their eggs on the beach and later in the year you can see the hatchlings emerge - an unforgettable sight. You may also see alligators, tapirs, anteaters, ocelots and peccaries.
 
With eleven different habitats - including rainforests, mangroves, swamps, beaches and lagoons - this park sustains a wide range of bio diversity and is teeming with bird and insect life. It is very hot and humid, and receives up to 250 inches (6,400 mm) of rain a year.
 
Return to your lodge for lunch, after which you can join a guided walk along the pathways of your hotel or simply relax by the swimming pool.
 
In the evening we recommend an optional Turtle Tour (must be booked locally). To ensure you do not disturb the turtles, you must wear dark clothing - blue, black or grey - and closed shoes. Cameras are strictly prohibited.
 
Note: Take rain gear and a windbreaker for your boat ride, as showers can always be expected in the rainforest.
Day 5
Check out of your room early this morning (07.00) so that you are ready to depart after breakfast and travel 1.5-hours by boat to Guapiles, where we stop for an included lunch. Here you will collect your hire car.
 
After lunch drive 4-hours to the Arenal Volcano - one of the most active in Central America. The route crosses a large agricultural and cattle area, and at Sarapiqui you can stop for an optional chocolate tour (pay entrance fee locally). Cacao was very important in the ancient Mayan and Aztec civilizations and today it is enjoyed throughout the world. Cross a suspension bridge to a former cacao plantation and learn the secrets of transforming cacao fruit into chocolate. View the chocolate-making process first-hand and treat your tastebuds to some organic rainforest chocolate.
 
Check into your hotel in La Fortuna and enjoy the surrounding national park and thermal hot springs.
Day 6
This morning drive yourself to the Hanging Bridges (entrance fee included) - a series of suspension bridges offering wonderful views of Lake Arenal and the volcano. The bridges form part of a 2-mile (3 km) self-guided interpretative trail, allowing you to enjoy the great diversity of flora and fauna inside this mountainous zone, as well as outstanding bird watching.
 
In the afternoon you will be collected from your hotel for an included guided tour of Arenal National Park, with its volcano and hot springs. Arenal Volcano rises to 5,250 feet and towers over the village of La Fortuna. On the morning of 29 July 1968, after having been inactive for three thousand years, it erupted in the most spectacular way. The earth started shaking, clouds of ashes rose into the sky, women washing clothes by the river felt the water becoming hot, and lava started pouring down the side of the volcano.
 
Your tour of the volcano starts with a drive to its active northwestern side, followed by a guided walk along either the Toucan Trail through the rainforest and across a large lava flow, or along the El Silencio Mirador Trail (depending on weather conditions). Your guide will explain the great variety of plants, wildlife and lava rock formations found in this region. Once on top of the lava flow you will have a beautiful view of Lake Arenal. The hike ends at a viewing area where, weather permitting, you may be able to see red hot lava rolling down the side of the volcano.
Day 7
At leisure to explore the magnificent surroundings of Arenal National Park, with its many natural hot springs for relaxation (pay any entrance fees locally).
 
Optional activities include hiking, mountain biking, zip-lining, horse riding and a gentle cruise down the Penas Blanca River. If you are adventurous, you can try canyoning or thrilling white water rafting down the Rio Balsa (grade 2 & 3 rapids) or Rio Toro (grade 3 & 4 rapids).
 
Day tours are available to the Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge; the city of Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui; the Rio Celeste with its turquoise waters; or across the border into Nicaragua to view the Penas Blancas Massif.
Day 8
This morning depart from Arenal and drive 4-hours to the Monteverde Cloud Forest, founded by a small group of conservation-minded Quakers who were looking for a peaceful place to live.
 
Shrouded in mist for most of the year, this primary rainforest comprises six different ecological zones spread over 10,500 hectares (26,000 acres) at different elevations - 90% of which is virgin cloud forest. As a result, it has exceptionally great biodiversity and is one of the most outstanding wildlife sanctuaries in the tropics.
 
Check into your lodge, relax and enjoy beautiful vews over the Gulf of Nicoya.
Day 9
Today explore with a naturalist guide the Monteverde Cloud Forest, set on Costa Rica's continental divide and a magnet for flora and fauna thanks to its high rainfall and constant veil of mist.
 
Woodlands give way to rainforests and tall trees – festooned with orchids, bromeliads, ferns, vines and mosses – rise high into the sky. In other parts you will find swamp forests and deep gorges with numerous streams creating waterfalls, rapids and pools.
 
This high elevation rainforest offers miles of trails, with excellent opportunities for bird watching. It sustains over 2,500 different plant species (including the highest number of orchid species in the world), more than 100 mammals, over 400 birds, 120 reptiles and amphibians, as well as thousands of butterflies and other insects. Wildlife you may see here include the jaguar, ocelot, tapir, white faced monkey, spider monkey, toucan, hummingbird, three-wattled bellbird and bare-necked umbrella bird. The resplendent quetzal is best seen in the dry months from January to July.
 
There is also the option to take a ride in the Sky Tram, walk along the Sky Walk Hanging Bridges and experience a thrilling Sky Trek Zip Line across the forest canopy (pay locally).
Day 10
Today drive 4-hours to the beach resort of Manuel Antonio, renowned for its beautiful white sandy beaches surrounded by jungle and many hiking trails.
 
Check into your hotel and relax on the warm Pacific Coast.
Day 11
This morning we suggest an optional visit to the rainforests of Manuel Antonio National Park, the oldest and most popular national park in the country, accompanied by a naturalist guide.
 
Situated on the Pacific Coast, this sanctuary consists of four protected white sandy beaches bordered by verdant tropical jungle. Over 100 mammals can be found here, as well as over 350 different bird species. You can hope to see two and three-toed sloths, white-faced capuchin, cute squirrel monkeys and many colourful birds. You can also hear howler monkeys calling across the rainforest.
 
Afternoon is at leisure to relax on the beaches of Manuel Antonio.
Days 12 To 13
Today is free to relax on the emerald beaches of Manuel Antonio.
 
Many optional activities are available in the region - including catamaran trips with snorkelling, dolphin and whale watching boat rides, kayaking in the mangroves, excursions to Damas Island, deep sea fishing and surfing.
 
If you are adventurous you can participate in exciting zip-lining, or enjoy white river rafting down the Rio Naranjo (grade 3 & 4 rapids) or Rio Savegre (grade 2 & 3 rapids).
Day 14
Drive 4-hours from Manuel Antonio to the city of San Jose.
 
Check into your hotel in this capital city.
Day 15
Drive to San Jose Airport for your flight home.
 
Please note there is an airport tax of approx. $29 per person payable on departure.

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