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A perfect school holiday getaway for travellers in search of Costa Rica's natural beauty. With a quarter of Costa Rica designated as protected land and with over 5% of the world's biodiversity, Costa Rica is a truly wildlife-lover's paradise; with enough to keep thrill seekers more than entertained. If you're looking for a family holiday to Costa Rica that connects your kids to the natural world and ignites their thirst for adventure then this trip is for you.
Explore Tour Leader
8 nights comfortable hotel
10 - 16
Itineraries on some departure dates may differ, please select the itinerary that you wish to explore.
Arrive in San Jose. The Costa Rican cosmopolitan capital lies in a fertile valley at an altitude of 1150 metres. Coffee and sugar cane are big industries here and coffee is even planted between new buildings and along the roadside on the outskirts of the city.
For those arriving on time our Leader plans to meet you in the hotel reception at 7pm or the welcome meeting and for those that wish, there is the chance to go out for dinner. There are no other activities planned today, so you are free to arrive in San Jose at any time. If you would like to receive an airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive into San Jose's Juan Santamaria International Airport (airport code SJO) which is 18km, around thirty minutes from the hotel. Should you miss the welcome meeting, your Leader will inform you of any essential information as soon as you catch up.
If your flight arrives earlier in the day, perhaps you might choose head out to explore the city which is easy to navigate with a grid pattern of avenues and streets with a good choice of local eateries, which you may choose to sample this evening. The National museum (Museo Nacional De Costa Rica) is also well worth a visit.
Buena Vista Hotel (or similar)
Located in the central valley at an altitude of 1150 metres, head north, out of San Jose to Poas National Park, where the smoke from one of Costa Rica's most active volcanos periodically rises from the tropical rainforest. Poas has erupted 40 times since 1828, most recently in April 2017. At almost kilometre in diameter and 314 metres deep the main crater is one of the largest in the world.
We head out on a well graded footpath to the viewing point offering views directly into the crater. Due to recent volcanic activity, time at the crater viewpoint is restricted to 20 minutes. If activity increases again the authorities may choose to close the park in which case we will visit a nearby coffee estate instead.
Our next stop is the provincial town of Sarchi, well known throughout Costa Rica for its intricate arts and crafts. The town is best known for producing decorative oxcarts, one of Costa Rica's national symbols. We meet Don William, a local artist, who will teach us how to paint a traditional oxcart with some of the patterns and designs familiar to the area.
Continuing to Arenal (approximately 2.5 hours), we will catch our first sight of the famous Arenal Volcano. This classic cone, which rises to 1633 metres, is covered by a tangled mass of vegetation on one side, while the other is starkly barren.
Our accommodation for the next two nights is on the outskirts of La Fortuna. Each family is accommodated in individual bungalows positioned in a large tropical garden. Open up the wooden shutters each morning onto an extensive outdoor deck area overlooking the jungle and listen to the sounds of the tropical birds all around you. The lodge also features a freeform outdoor pool.
This evening, we can make the most of the local geothermal activity by enjoying an optional bathe in nearby hot springs.
Tilajari Hotel Resort (or similar)
After breakfast drive from our lodge to the Balsa River. On arrival at our rafting base meet our river guides, get kitted out with equipment and have a full safety briefing, before heading out onto the river. No previous experience is necessary and full instruction will be given. There is a minimum age of 8. Children under 8 will not be able to take part in this mornings activity and will need to be accompanied by an adult, catching up with the group at San Carlos Bridge.
Our professional guides aid us in navigating two hours of exhilarating grade two and three rapids. In between each rapid the action quietens down and there is ample time to sit back and take in the scenery with dense rainforests on both banks of the river. Spot wildlife including sloth, monkey and may species of tropical bird such as toucan.
Our rafting trip ends at the San Carlos Bridge, where we can time to enjoy a dip in river and a drink before heading back to our lodge. The afternoon is free to relax by the pool.
Today after a leisurely start, we travel around Arenal Lake into the cloud forest region of Monteverde - one of the most well-known places in Costa Rica to see wildlife.
Lunch today is an interactive affair. Stopping on the shore of Lake Arenal we visit El Establo, a family run restaurant and ranch. After a short tour of the ranch, tuck in to a typical Costa Rican dish called "Casado" comprising of rice, beans, beef or chicken or fish and plantain.
The last part of our journey is on bumpy roads, but we are rewarded with a two-night stay here to enjoy all that this area has to offer.
Perched on the Continental Divide between the Pacific and the Caribbean, it is thought that there has been indigenous habitation in Monteverde since 3000 BC. The turning point in its recent history came in 1950, when a group of pacifist Quakers from Alabama moved here to avoid subscription in the Korean War. They sought a lifestyle in a country in which they could embrace their peaceful beliefs and continue to cultivate their dairy farms. These families went on to establish the community of Monteverde and some of its famed cloud forest reserves.
After checking into our hotel Monteverde head out on a guided night walk in search of nocturnal species.
Fonda Vela Hotel (or similar)
This morning we will have a guided tour of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, walking the paths that wind their way through gigantic ferns, ducking underneath the lichen and moss that hangs from the giant trees. The jungle floor is littered with blossoms that fall from the high canopy providing a carpet of colour amidst the endless green.
The famous, but now very rare, resplendent quetzal is fairly commonly seen in this area, one of the last remaining places in Central America where its habitat has been preserved. Sacred to the ancient Maya and Aztec peoples, it is considered one of the most beautiful birds in the world and the best time to see it is during its breeding months of March and April.
The rest of the day has been left free to enjoy one or several of the many optional activities available in the area. You may choose to visit the local butterfly or orchid garden. Alternatively, you may choose to enjoy a trek in one of the other reserves or use the hotels indoor swimming pool, two Jacuzzis or pool table. Your Tour Leader will be able to offer advice on the options available.
Leaving the cloudforest behind us, descend to the Pacific Coast, enjoying staggering views over the Gulf and Peninsula of Nicoya.
Heading south, cross the Rio Tarcoles Bridge from which huge crocodiles are regularly seen. We stop at the Guacalillo estuary and board a boat, setting off for a 2½ hour scenic river adventure through dense mangrove forests.
The mangrove is a great habitat for many endemic birds like the cuckoo, Mangrove Hummingbirds, Vireo, Panama Flycatcher and many herons and egrets. This particular mangrove forest is one of the most important in the mid-Pacific Coast for the conservation of the Scarlet Macaw. Though this endangered bird species spends most of the day in the forest, they rest in the mangroves.
Look out for some 250 species of birds, crocodiles, mammals and insects. Osprey, gull, cormorant, pelican and frigate birds are some of the most common species in the backwater delta. Spot the large colonies of crocodiles! Some of these reptiles are easily 10-feet long.
After lunch, included on this day, we continue along the Pacific Coast to the coastal resort of Dominical, where we will spend the next three nights. Dominical is ideally located between Manuel Antonio and the Osa Peninsula and offers an expansive beach well known for its excellent surfing conditions.
Villas Rio Mar (or similar)
This morning travel into the heart of the Osa Peninsular, famed for its beautiful beaches and rich wildlife.
Travelling a short distance to Punta Uvita we board a boat for a thrilling ninety minute crossing to San Pedrillo Ranger Station in Corcovado National Park. Between July and October it's possible to spot whales in the bays that hug the Pacific coastline. Turtles and dolphins as well as a host of marine birds have also been spotted from the boat.
On arrival we'll meet our expert local guide who will accompany us on the network of trails and tracks that weave in and out of pristine protected primary forest and beaches that dot the coastline.
The park has an abundance of bird species as well as 140 species of mammals. During the day the park we are likely to see white-faced capuchin monkey, coatimundi (part of the racoon family) and the tiny squirrel and howler monkey. It's also possible to spot sloths, coatis, raccoons, and on occasion's tapirs.
Our first walk takes three hours followed by a well-deserved break and picnic lunch at the park ranger station. In the afternoon we will have a shorter thirty minute stroll before heading back to our boat and a ninety minute crossing back to Punta Uvita and onwards to our hotel. We'll aim to be back at the hotel by 5.30pm in time for a sundowner drink at the hotel or on the beach.
Enjoy a full day to explore the area and relax on the fine beaches of the Pacific Ocean. Our hotel is located 15 minutes walk from the beach at Dominical. The beach itself is well known for its surf and hosts several restaurants serving both local and international dishes and many laid back bars, the village is much less busy that neighbouring Manuel Antonio. The sunsets from the coast, which are best viewed from the beach are spectacular and have to be seen to be believed.
There are also lots of other activities on offer if beach time isn't for you, including rafting or snorkelling trips or take to the sea and explore the inlets on a kayak. Your local leader can give you a run down on the options available, details of which can be found in the budgeting section.
Departing Dominical beach this morning we drive 190km back to San Jose's Juan Santamaria International Airport (airport code SJO), where we will arrive at about 11am and this is where our trip ends. The earliest your flight can depart is 1pm.
For those on early morning flights a private transfer can be arranged at additional cost. It's also possible to extend your stay in Dominical should you wish to enjoy a few more days on the coast.
Seasonal weather patterns can be unpredictable. Up-to-date information on the weather worldwide can be found by following the BBC weather link on this page. Costa Rica has a tropical climate with high temperature humidity and rainfall. The average temperature is 21°C in the highlands and variable in the lowlands. The rainy season is from May to October and the summer from December to April, but it does still tend to rain, usually in short bursts. Bear in mind that Costa Rica has 12 microclimates and weather can vary significantly in one day.
2 Pin Flat
Christian, Roman Catholic
A selection of optional activities are listed below to help you budget for your Family adventure. Whilst the basic tour price you pay before you travel includes a great selection of highlights, we have also built in free time to allow you the flexibility to choose from a carefully selected range of additional excursions and activities or take time to relax, the choice is yours. At certain destinations along the way there may be several options to choose from and it may not be possible to fit all the activities in; your Explore Leader will be able to give advice on which are the most suitable for your family. Day 2: Arenal - Hot springs US$ 46 (US$ 73 with dinner) plus transport per person Day 5: Monteverde - Hanging bridges and zip line canopy US$ 108 per person; Canopy bridge tour US$ 56 per person Day 8: Manuel Antonio - Damas Island Kayak US$ 112 per person; Horseback riding and waterfall US$ 112 per person; Mangrove boat tour US$ 112 per person
Lightweight clothing is essential in midsummer however a warmer jumper is advisable for cooler evenings in the highlands (especially in Monteverde). A good waterproof is essential, and you should consider waterproof trousers. The jungle lowlands are hot and muggy, and it can rain at any time of year. Long trousers and long-sleeved shirts are recommended on jungle walks.
Lightweight trail/walking boots for jungle walks, comfortable shoes/trainers and sandals. Waterproof footware is recommended.
Please allow yourself one main piece of luggage and a day sack. Remember, you are expected to carry your own baggage, so don't overload yourself, a soft wheelie bag may be easier to manage than a suit case.
We recommend a sunhat, sunscreen, a small umbrella, a torch, insect repellent, a travel adaptor and a water bottle. Binoculars are essential for bird and animal spotting, and, for those interested, we also recommend bringing snorkelling equipment for your time at Corcovardo National Park.
Accommodation and service levels in Costa Rica are in general of good standard as they are used to catering for the North American Market. Almost every hotel we stay in has air conditioning or fans. We try to avoid the use of the large chain hotels and try to use a mix of jungle and mountain lodges as well as small family run hotels. They all have private facilities. Several of our Costa Rica hotels are found on the outskirts of town - these have better facilities and larger grounds and we will have transport on hand to take us into town for evenings.
All the hotels on the trip have swimming pools. In addition we spend three days on the Pacific Ocean with ample opportunity to swim off the beach.
Can you drink the water?
The water quality is poor and therefore it is recommended to avoid drinking tap water during your trip.
We strongly recommend that you check your government's travel advisory for up-to-date information and advice about your destination: safety and security, entry requirements, health, local laws and customs. For UK citizens, check the latest Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office advice.
Please refer to our COVID-19 entry requirements page for any country-specific conditions of entry. Whilst we strive to update this on a regular basis we recommend you also check the FCDO website for the latest advice on entry requirements in this fast-evolving situation. Information can change at any time.
Please note that some countries require proof of parental consent when travelling overseas with under 18s. Please check requirements with the relevant embassy or consular office well in advance of travel if this applies to your party.
Once your booking has been confirmed we guarantee the price will not increase, whatever the circumstances. However, please note that if you voluntarily make any changes to your booking including changing your trip or departure date, any additional costs or charges incurred will not be covered. Before booking please ensure you have read our important tour pricing information.Booking Conditions
Costa Rica: Citizens from the UK, US, Canada and most EU countries do not require a visa for a stay up to 90 days. Citizen of Australia, New Zealand and the Republic of Ireland do not require a visa for stays up to 30 days. Other nationalities should consult their local embassy or consular office. USA: If your flights pass through the USA, even if only in transit, you will require either a visa or an ESTA (an e-visa). Please read on for more information. Citizens of the UK, New Zealand, Australia, Canada and passport holders from several EU countries can apply for an ESTA under certain conditions. This applies if you enter the country by sea or by air, and this must be done online via https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov, no later than 72 hours prior to travel. Travellers who have not registered before their trip are likely be refused boarding. You must have a biometric passport to apply for an ESTA. UK passports which are biometric feature a small gold symbol (camera) at the bottom of the front cover. If you have visited Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen since 2011 or are dual nationals of these countries, you cannot travel with an ESTA and instead you will need to apply for a visa from the nearest US Embassy or Consulate. If you are unable to provide a valid visa before boarding flights to the US, or entering via another method, you may not be permitted to travel. You should also be aware that if you have travelled to or have been in Cuba since the 12th of January 2021, you will not be eligible for an ESTA visa waiver and will need to apply for a US visa. You should consult the US State Department website to determine which you will need. Your ESTA application will ask for Point of Contact information. Please note that if you're only transiting through the USA then this is not required. If you're visiting or staying in the USA on an Explore trip, then our USA contact information will be listed on your final documentation which you will receive approximately 3-4 weeks before departure. Entry requirements for the USA can change regularly, therefore, please ensure you have the most up to date information before you travel by checking the US embassy website. Visa applications - http://london.usembassy.gov/niv/apply.html Canada: An electronic travel authorisation (ETA) is required by British citizens transiting via Canada. For more information see the official Canadian government website: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/eta.asp Other nationalities should consult their local embassy or consular office
If you do require assistance in obtaining a visa then you may be able to apply through Explore's recommended visa service in the UK, Travcour. See www.travcour.com to download the relevant visa application for your trip, if applicable (UK citizens only), along with details of how to apply for your visa through Travcour. The Team at Travcour will be happy to answer specific questions relating to visa applications, please call them directly on 0208 5431846.
It is your responsibility to ensure that you are in possession of a full passport, with the correct validity for your chosen destination.
Before booking your Explore trip, please ensure that you read both our Essential Information and Booking Conditions.
Customers who have chosen to book on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements of our tour, please ensure that you have checked your tour specific ‘Joining Instructions’ prior to booking your own travel arrangements. Your joining instructions can be found below in the dates and prices information.
You may also be eligible for the Free Explore Transfer.
Customers booked on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements will receive a Free Transfer, provided you arrive and depart on the tour only itinerary start and end dates. The complimentary transfers will be arranged from the Explore designated airport or train station to your trips joining point, and then back from the ending point to the designated airport or train station. Generally the airport or station that Explore have selected will be the one that is closest to the town or city where the trip starts, or the one nearest to the joining point. It will be either an airport or train station but not both.
The exception to this rule is customers who are booked on a tour where the joining and ending point is at the designated airport or train station.
Free transfers are not available for Polar customers.
If you are not eligible for the Free Transfer then you will need to make your own way through to the joining and ending point. On a majority of our tours Explore will be able to provide a private transfer at an additional cost. Please ask for a quote at the time of booking.
For more information regarding the Explore Free Transfer click here
It is a condition of booking with Explore that you have adequate valid travel insurance. It is your responsibility to arrange appropriate travel insurance and ensure you have read and understood the full terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy to ensure that you are covered for all activities you intend to undertake whilst on the tour, including all optional activities. Your Insurance Policy must fully cover you for medical expenses and emergency repatriation to your home country. Please ensure your policy includes medical emergency helicopter evacuation in the event of illness or injury and covers the entire duration of your holiday. If you are trekking at altitude please ensure that there is no upper altitude limit which may limit or exclude cover for your trip. The cost of many of our Polar Voyages will exceed the capped amount covered by standard insurance premiums and you will be required to pay an additional premium to cover the full value of your trip. Please ensure that you are covered for the full amount of your holiday cost, as insufficient cover could invalidate a claim under the policy. Medical and repatriation insurance cover is not mandatory for UK residents who are travelling on trips within the United Kingdom.
Read more information about what travel insurance is required.
Explore offers a wide range of flexible flying options to make joining and leaving our trips easy. Read more about them here.
You are able to book this tour on a 'land only' basis or as a ‘flight inclusive’ package. Your flight inclusive package will be fully protected by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) ATOL protection scheme.
We have a good selection of flights not only from London but from many regional airports around the UK allowing us to compare fares between scheduled carriers as well as low cost and charter airlines. Our dedicated flights team will match the best flight options to your arrival and departure airport.
On our website we display a UK flight inclusive package guide price which is generally based on a London departure. To avoid paying supplements or to secure your preferred flight option, we recommend booking as early as possible, especially for peak travel dates.
An ability to swim is essential for your safe enjoyment of the water based activities on this trip, in particular the whitewater rafting. If you wish to participate in these activities then we insist that you are able to swim.
Nothing compulsory, but we recommend protection against typhoid, infectious hepatitis and polio. Please consult your travel clinic for the latest advice on Malaria, Dengue and Zika Virus. Please take preventative measures to avoid mosquito bites - these include mosquito repellent as well as long trousers and long sleeve shirts to cover up when necessary. Please note many countries in Central America, South America and the Caribbean require a yellow fever vaccination certificates if travelling from infected areas. A detailed list of these countries can be found on the NaTHNaC website - http://travelhealthpro.org.uk/countries. Also on the NaTHNaC site there is a list of Countries (and specific areas within a country) which are at risk of infection and a vaccination is therefore recommended. Please check the latest requirements with your travel clinic or doctor prior to departure. The above is not an exhaustive list. Further information regarding vaccinations and travel health advice can be found by following the NHS and NaTHNaC links at Explore Travel Health and from your local healthcare provider. Visa and vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed by you before travelling.