15 days

Land of the Toucan - Family Adventure

Land of the Toucan - Family Adventure

The wildlife of Torteguero National Park's canals

Monteverde Cloud Forest

Manuel Antonio National Park's beaches

Trip rating
  • Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is hummingbird heaven - over 30 species flit among the trees, vines and mosses, their feathers sparkling like jewels. Choosing a favourite is like being asked to choose your favourite child; but for many visitors, the irridescent purple of the violet sabrewing hummingbird is hard to beat.

    Itinerary

    Day 1-2 - San Jose

    Your trip starts at your hotel in San Jose. San José (1150m), the capital, stands at the heart of the nation in the fertile central valley, where the majority of its population are concentrated. In the morning you are taken on a tour of the city including a visit to the National Museum. The rest of the day is for you to explore or to relax.

    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 3-4 - Tortuguero National Park

    Today we depart early and stop for breakfast en route before boarding a launch to navigate the waterways into the Tortuguero National Park (approx 2 hours).
    Los Canales 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 km) through dense rainforest. Every now and then you 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 marks the flight of a kingfisher; anhinga and several species of heron can be seen perching in the shadows along the water’s edge, waiting to strike.
    Our riverbank lodge stands amidst Caribbean rainforest where tonight you’ll fall asleep to the unearthly cry of the howler monkey, and wake in the morning to the screech of toucan and oropendula.
    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 manatee, ocelot and jaguar, as well as over 300 bird species. First and foremost, however, it is the nesting ground of the green turtle, which comes ashore between August 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.
    We will go on excursions by boat and on foot, using the experienced eyes of the boatman or guide to maximise opportunities of spotting wildlife.
    Please note - 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.

    Day 5-6 - Sarapiqui

    After breakfast we transfer by boat back to Freeman (2 hours) keeping your eyes open for more animals and birdlife. We then transfer to the Sarapiqui area, passing palms (used to produce palm heart), banana and papaya growing along the roadside (approx 2 hours drive). We will stop for lunch and have time to stretch our legs before continuing (approx 1.5 hours) to our destination - Sarapiqui.
    On the banks of the Puerto Viejo River and next to the Braulio Carrillo National Park, Sarapiqui is 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.
    The rest of the day and all of tomorrow are free to relax and enjoy this area. The first choice of most families is to take an optional full day rafting trip along the Pacuare River for some exhilarating fun.  The level of rafting here is very suitable for families, but please note that the minimum age is 12 years. Alternatively, you could take a boat trip to observe the flora and fauna of the area or if you prefer a land-based activity, you could horse ride or hike in the forest.

    Day 7-8 - Arenal - La Fortuna

    Today we travel to Arenal (approx. 2-3 hours).
    The Arenal volcano soars out of the surrounding countryside to 1633m in a perfect cone and to many people, illustrates perfectly what they expect a volcano to look like. The scenery consists of primary cloud forest and rainforest – this is a land of rivers, lakes and volcanic thermal hot springs.
    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.
    This morning we head out for a guided tour in Arenal National Park. The trails of this national park pass through interesting dwarf cloudforest where the rich bird life includes several species of hummingbird and Costa Rica’s national bird, the clay-coloured robin; renowned for its melodious song.
    The afternoon is free for optional activities in the local area. You may want to head further afield and take a day trip to Cano Negro; a wildlife refuge, great for migratory and resident birds as well as river wildlife – both mammals and reptiles. Horse riding is also available in the Arenal area.

    Day 9-10 - Monteverde

    Today we transfer along the Arenal Lake - a famous hangout for avid windsurfers - via Tilaran to Monteverde de Santa Elena (approx 4-5 hours).  There are some great views across the lake looking back towards the Arenal Volcano as well as some arty wayside stopping points offering great homemade cakes and refreshments.  
    As we climb up to Monteverde you’ll feel the climate becoming cooler and see the difference as the vegetation changes from tropical to cloudforest. On the surrounding hills are a number of coffee plantations as the area is famous for producing some of the best coffee beans in the country, with many of the growers belonging to fair-trade co-operatives. In the afternoon there may be time to visit a butterfly farm (optional).
    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. Be sure to keep an eye out for the resplendent quetzal, one of the most elusive birds in the world.
    The next day we'll explore the forest which is home to the reclusive resplendent quetzal, the blue-crowned motmot, the emerald toucanet and some 30 species of iridescent hummingbird - to cite but a few of the 400-odd bird species recorded here! As if this were not enough, more than 100 mammal species, 1200 amphibian and reptile species and many thousands of insect species live here, all in addition to an astonishing variety of plant life.
    One of the highlights for many is the chance to see the forest from the height of the canopy instead of always looking up into the trees. As an included activity we will 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 a number of other, optional activities you may be interested in doing including horse riding, visiting orchid farms and the thrilling ‘Sky Trek’ where you zipline with harnesses on ropes between platforms in the trees.

    Day 11-13 - Manuel Antonio National Park

    Departing Monteverde, we descend to the Pan-American Highway which we follow southward across the flat coastal plain. Our journey takes us along a coastline of fine sand beaches, separated by the occasional area of mangrove and endless plantations of African palm. Our journey ends at Quepos, a sport-fishing centre and the gateway to Manuel Antonio National Park (approx. 6 hours drive plus stops).
    Manuel Antonio NP stands a few kilometres south of Quepos on the shores of the Pacific. During our time in the region, we’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, with the ocean crashing in on the beach and white-faced capuchin monkeys peering out from the trees.

    Day 14-15 - San Jose

    We retrace our steps northward along the coastal road, stopping en route at Carara Biological Reserve.
    Here we walk for two or three hours through the rainforest in the hope of seeing the rare scarlet macaw and the black and green poison dart from. Carara's position between the dry tropical forest of the north and the wet rainforest of the south endows it with a uniquely high diversity of flora and fauna.
    Continuing onwards from Carara, the route turns inland to follow the main Pacific Highway through the agricultural towns of Orotina and Atenas back to San José for your final night (approx. 5 hours drive plus stops).
    There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time. Please check the 'Finishing Point Hotel' section for checkout times and luggage storage possibilities.

  • What to Know

    What's Included

    • Tour leader, arrival transfer, transport

    Not Included

    • International flights, airport departure tax, visas where required, meals not included in the itinerary, insurance, laundry, any optional tours or activities during free time, tips and items of a personal nature.
  • Map Itinerary

  • Past Travellers' Ratings & Comments

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Trip at a glance

Trip Code PTFCR
Group size 4 - 15
Start City: San Jose
End City: San Jose

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