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A perfect week's getaway for travellers in search of Costa Rica's natural beauty. From brightly coloured toucans to slow-moving sloths, the tropical forests of this tiny country teem with life. Volcanoes loom over wild rivers, and white-sand beaches nestle beneath a vivid green background, providing a wealth of rich and varied ecosystems for the wildlife lover.
Explore Tour Leader
9 nights comfortable hotel
Trip maximum 16 Explore Average 11
Itineraries on some departure dates may differ, please select the itinerary that you wish to explore.
Arrive in San Jose. The cosmopolitan Costa Rican 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 for 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 a complimentary 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 our 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.
Autentico Hotel (or similar)
This morning, an hour's drive will take us to the Poas Volcano National Park, where the smoke from one of Costa Rica's most active volcanoes rises majestically from the tropical rainforest. At almost a mile in diameter, the main crater is one of the largest in the world. 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, and in that case you'll visit the Doka coffee estate, including a tasting session of Costa Rica's finest export.
After our visit to Poas, we'll continue on to the town of Sarchi, well known throughout Costa Rica for its beautiful and intricate arts and crafts. It is famous for producing colourful and decorative oxcarts, which are a huge part of Costa Rican culture today, and even considered one of Costa Rica's national symbols. We're going to meet one of the town's hard-working artisans and learn to paint a traditional oxcart with some of the patterns and designs familiar to the area.
Finally, we travel to Arenal (approximately 2.5 hours), where 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 in La Fortuna. The town was renamed after a big eruption in 1968, when it was seen as being 'fortunate' that its location, on the volcano's eastern side, saved it from decimation. This evening, we can make the most of the local geothermal activity by enjoying an optional bathe in nearby hot springs.
Hotel San Bosco Inn (or similar)
The Arenal area is well known for its diverse wildlife, and this morning we'll set out on a tranquil rafting safari to spot some of the most sought-after species. There is no white-water here, we'll simply be floating down calmly with our local guide, who will scour the water and the canopy to point out a variety of colourful creatures from toucan and sloth to jesus-christ lizard and caiman. We'll most likely see capuchins swinging from the trees, and a wide array of birdlife during the float trip.
In the afternoon we're free to explore Arenal as we choose. There are beautiful local hikes to waterfalls and along lava trails, whilst those keen to relax can enjoy spa treatments with volcanic mud. Our Tour Leader will be able to provide information on all the options.
Today we will travel around Arenal Lake up into the cloud forest region of Monteverde - one of the most well-known places in Costa Rica to see wildlife. 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. However, 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.
The drive takes approximately 5 hours from Arenal, and on arrival we are at our leisure to enjoy one or several of the many optional activities available in the area. One of the most popular activities in the area is to walk the hanging bridges that extend over the reserve, giving you the chance to take a bird's eye view over the canopy. Couple this with the thrill of zooming through the trees on a zip wire and it makes an exhilarating afternoon. For something less adrenaline-filled, choose to visit the local butterfly or orchid garden.
This evening we will have the adventure of a guided night walk in the cloud forest, in search of nocturnal species such as pacas and tarantulas.
Hotel Heliconia (or similar)
We leave Monteverde in the late morning. For those who wish, there is the option to revisit the cloud forest reserve. The paths here wind their way through gigantic ferns, underneath the lichen and moss that hangs from the giant trees. 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.
Leaving the cloud forest behind us, we descend to the Pacific Coast, enjoying staggering views over the Gulf and Peninsula of Nicoya. Heading south, we cross the Rio Tarcoles Bridge from which huge crocodiles are regularly seen. We then pause at Carara Biological Reserve, famed for the scarlet macaws and abundant birdlife which populate this transitional forest. Finally, we continue along the Pacific Coast to Manuel Antonio National Park, where we will spend the next two nights.
La Foresta Resort (or similar)
Manuel Antonio National Park is famed for its beautiful beaches and rich wildlife. We'll spend the morning exploring the park, where white-faced capuchin monkeys swing from the trees, and poison-dart frogs hide under a protection of lush tropical plantlife. Coatimundi (part of the raccoon family), tiny squirrel monkey and howler monkey also make their home in the park - we may well see them on our exploration. Manuel Antonio is also one of the best places in Costa Rica to see sloths. As their diet of leaves and buds provides little energy, sloths move only when necessary and even then very slowly, making them very easy to spot. Our guides will know where they are most likely to be found.
The remainder of the day can be spent relaxing on the white sandy beaches, enjoying a swim in the warm azure waters. The sunsets from this coast are spectacular and have to be seen to be believed.
This morning we say goodbye to the Tour Leader and the rest of the group, who will be travelling back to San Jose for their flight home today. Those of you who have chosen to extend your stay with some time at the beach will remain at your hotel. Please note that whilst the extension has been designed to complement the trip, we wish to point out that it may not a group experience and you may not be travelling with other customers. You'll have the next two days free to relax on the beach, or to spend your time exploring Manuel Antonio and its forest surroundings. We use a variety of different hotels in Manuel Antonio, which are located either in the town, or between Manuel Antonio and nearby Quepos. The beach is easily accessible by either walking or taxis depending on the location of your hotel.
The National Park is closed on Tuesdays, but there are lots of other activities on offer as well as spending time at the beach. Catamaran tours, horse-riding trips and rafting are all available.
You have another free day here in Manuel Antonio. You could choose to revisit the park, or spend the day on the beaches around the town of Manuel Antonio. Try white-water rafting or snorkelling excursions if you want to get out in the water.
You have another morning free in Manuel Antonio to enjoy the last of your time here. In the early afternoon we'll leave the Pacific Coast, driving back inland to San Jose, a journey of approximately four hours.
The trip ends this morning at our hotel in San Jose.
There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day, luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you'll need to depart from Juan Santamaria International Airport (airport code: SJO), approximately a 30 minute drive from our hotel.
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
Arenal - Hot springs US$ 46 (US$ 78 with dinner) plus transport; Waterfall walk US$ 20; Chocolate tour entrance. US$29 with transport US$42; Sloth tour; US$66 with transport US$74 Monteverde - Canopy bridges US$ 50; Canopy zip wires US$ 62; Canopy zip wire and Bridges US$ 99; Butterfly garden entrance US$20 with transport US$ 28 ; Orchid gardens US$ 17 Manuel Antonio - Isla Damas Boat trip US$78; Catamaran and Sunset tour US$100; White Water rafting Grade III US$113; cooking Lesson US$93 (meal included); Jungle Night walk US$75; Surf Lessons US$82; Horseback riding US$79 (lunch inc.); Whale Watching US$163 (from July 15th to October 15th) Please note all optionals in Costa Rica can be paid for by card.
Lightweight clothing is essential in midsummer though a warmer jumper is advisable for cooler evenings in the highlands (Monteverde can be very cool at night). A good waterproof is essential, and you could consider waterproof trousers. The jungle lowlands around Arenal 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. In the rainy season (roughly April-October) waterproof boots are recommended.
One main piece of luggage and a daysack. Remember, you are expected to carry your own baggage - don't overload yourself.
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 Manuel Antonio National Park.
The accommodation in Costa Rica is largely very small, locally-run and wonderfully located. We opt for a mix of jungle lodges and small family-run hotels, avoiding large chains as much as possible. In Manuel Antonio we use a number of different hotels, in order to secure hotel availablity. Many of these hotels are located on the hill that rises up out of Manuel Antonio and are just a short drive to the national park and the beaches, although we may occasionally use properties in the town itself.
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. 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. 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.