Discover incredible, lush Costa Rica and understand why this part of the world is called the ‘rich coast’. This 15-day adventure begins and ends in lively San Jose, exploring jungles, farmlands, beaches and cities along the way. Stay with a local family, soak in springs that get their heat from an active volcano, spot three-toed sloths and relax beneath swaying palms on the beach. This adventure takes you into the heart of a country whose people are all about a ‘pura vida’
Classic Costa Rica
Day 1: San Jose
Hola! Welcome to Costa Rica. With over a third of the country's population living within its parameters, San Jose is packed with both people and culture. Begin with a welcome meeting at 6 pm at your hotel, a good chance for you to meet your group leader and fellow travellers. If you arrive earlier in the day, why not visit the National Museum, the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum or the Jade Museum? Accommodation: Hotel (1 night) Meals Included: There are no meals included on this day
Day 2: Tortuguero National Park
Leave the hotel at 8 am. At 9 am descend to the Caribbean lowlands by local bus on a 4-hour scenic (and a bit bumpy) journey that ends at the port of La Pavona. This is our entry point to Tortuguero National Park. Hop aboard a small boat and journey for around 1.5 hours into the depths of the Costa Rican wilderness. Arrive in the middle of this biodiverse area which many animals call home, including jaguars and turtles. In the evening enjoy an informal Spanish lesson and relax with the sounds of nature at the jungle lodge. Accommodation: Lodge (1 night) Included Activities: Leader-led Informal Spanish Lesson Meals Included: Breakfast
Day 3: Tortuguero National Park
Today you're free to explore the park at your own pace. You may opt for a sunrise canoe trip through the maze-like canals of the park. Tortuguero National Park is now home to 13 of Costa Rica’s 16 endangered mammals. Among them are manatees, ocelots and jaguars, as well as over 300 bird species. First and foremost, however, it is the nesting ground of the green turtle. It comes ashore between July and October to lay its eggs on the sandy beaches. Critically endangered hawksbills, plus loggerheads and giant leatherback turtles also nest within the park. Many species are particularly active at night, so an optional evening turtle watching tour might appeal. Accommodation: Lodge (1 night) Included Activities: Tortuguero - National Park (Entrance Fee) Meals Included: There are no meals included on this day
Day 4: Santa Rosa de Pocosol Homestay
This morning, we make the 3-hour journey to Santa Rosa de Pocosol by private vehicle. As the homestay family won't speak much English, maybe brush up on some Spanish phrases en-route! The community is centred around agriculture. On arrival, you will be shown all the local and organic produce grown on the farm. Pick some fresh produce and head back to your homestay for a cooking lesson. You'll prepare a couple of dishes for your dinner! Alternatively, you might take a soap-making workshop or a guided hike to a nearby waterfall. This evening, you will be staying in guest rooms attached to family homes. Accommodation: Homestay (1 night) Included Activities: Santa Rosa de Pocosol - Cooking class Santa Rosa de Pocosol - Homestay experience Meals Included: Dinner
Day 5: Rio Celeste
After breakfast, a truly magical river awaits. Drive for 2 hours to Tenorio Volcano National Park, where you’ll visit the Rio Celeste. This river is fed by two different water sources which take on a distinctive light blue colour when they collide . Take a leader-led hike around Rio Celeste, and spend the afternoon exploring the sky-blue falls and streams. The surrounding forest is full of wildlife, including tapirs, monkeys, anteaters and more! Accommodation: Hotel (1 night) Meals Included: Breakfast
Day 6: Rio Celeste
Today is free for you to explore. Opt for a guided tubing excursion at Rio Celeste and float along the water in an inflatable donut! Thrill seekers can embark on a 7-hour guided rafting tour at nearby Rio Tenorio. You’ll tackle 20 rapids and there’s plenty of natural beauty to admire along the way. For a nature tour with less adrenaline, you might choose a 3-hour safari cruise along the Rio Tenorio. A guide will help you spot howler monkeys, crocodiles, river otters and an abundance of tropical birds. Accommodation: Hotel (1 night) Meals Included: Breakfast
Day 7: La Fortuna
Beneath the Arenal Volcano lies La Fortuna, with an abundance of hot springs and natural pools to enjoy. Departing at 8 am, you’ll arrive by private vehicle after a 2-hour drive. The rest of the day is yours to do as you please. Perhaps hike to La Fortuna waterfall for a swim beneath the cascading waters? In the evening, why not grab a classic local dinner with your travel buddies? Chifrijo (fried pork, salsa, beans and tortilla chips) is a great dish to share. Accommodation: Hotel (1 night) Meals Included: Breakfast
Day 8: La Fortuna
Enjoy a free day to explore La Fortuna as you wish. The region offers lush forest, rare plants, animal watching and water-based sports on the lake. The area also has plenty of thermal springs where hot, lava-heated water gushes to the surface. Active types could try stand-up paddle boarding on Lake Arenal. Animal lovers may choose a boat tour of the Cano Negro Reserve and spot sloths, monkeys, crocodiles and basilisk lizards. Accommodation: Hotel (1 night) Meals Included: There are no meals included on this day
Day 9: Lake Arenal / Monteverde
A morning of travel by bus and boat leads to incredible Monteverde. Settled by North American Quakers in 1951, the area was initially used as an environmentally conscious agricultural community and is now a biological preserve. The forest has near-constant cloud cover, providing consistent rainfall. Look out for hummingbirds, quetzals and, later in the day, sloths in the cloud forest. After dusk, you may choose to return and seek the animals and insects that are largely hidden in the day. Accommodation: Hotel (1 night) Included Activities: Monteverde - Cloud Forest (entrance fee and transport) Meals Included: There are no meals included on this day
Day 10: Monteverde
Make the most of your time in lush Monteverde and organise a local guide to take you on a nature walk. There are several local communities operating cooperatives worth visiting. You may opt to walk through the forest canopy on suspension bridges. Or, you might watch butterflies at play in the Butterfly Garden. More than 2000 species of plants, 320 bird species and 100 different types of mammals call Monteverde home. No matter what you choose to do, keep an eye out for the resplendent quetzal, one of the most elusive birds in the world. Accommodation: Hotel (1 night) Meals Included: There are no meals included on this day
Day 11: Manuel Antonio
Wedged between the beautiful Pacific coast and the national park, Manuel Antonio is a laidback town. After a 4-hour journey in a private vehicle, explore the trails of the national park. Keep one eye on the scenic views and the other looking out for the abundant wildlife. Monkeys, armadillos, sloths and hundreds of birds are among the species you may be able to spot. In the late afternoon, perhaps head to Espadilla Beach to watch the sunset over the Pacific Ocean. A special seafood dinner awaits in town where shared food will be served to the group at a restaurant open only for you and your fellow travellers! Accommodation: Hotel (1 night) Included Activities: Manuel Antonio National Park - (Entrance fee) Meals Included: Dinner
Day 12: Manuel Antonio
Spend some time on the beaches surrounding the national park. Perhaps hire a surfboard to catch some waves at Playa El Ray? If combining activity and wildlife spotting appeals, consider a guided kayak tour through the mangrove forest. Curious monkeys sometimes climb onto the boat and you’ll likely see snakes, crocodiles and plenty of birdlife. Just remember your insect repellent! In the evening, perhaps take a sunset sail off the coast. Watching the blue sky turn orange is a spectacular sight. You’re in Costa Rica, the ‘rich coast’, so soak up the shores as much as possible! Accommodation: Hotel (1 night) Meals Included: There are no meals included on this day
Day 13: Manuel Antonio
Today is free for you to do as you please. You could return to Manuel Antonio National Park and search for the capuchin monkeys who live in the trees. Alternatively, kick-off your shoes and feel the sands of Manuel Antonio Beach between your toes. It’s easy to spend a whole day on this calm coastline. Accommodation: Hotel (1 night) Meals Included: There are no meals included on this day
Day 14: San Jose
Bid farewell to the coast and return to San Jose on a local bus. On arrival, you might want to hit one of the markets for some last-minute gifts. In the evening, you could head for dinner with your fellow travellers. The nightlife here is buzzing, but even if clubbing isn’t your thing there’s lots to do, with bars aplenty. Accommodation: Hotel (1 night) Meals Included: There are no meals included on this day
Day 15: San Jose
With no activities planned for the day, you are free to depart at any time. If you wish to spend more time in San Jose, we'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). Meals Included: Breakfast
Why you’ll love this trip
- Swap the concrete jungle for real jungle on this trip into the rainforests, waterways, hot springs and palm-lined beaches of Costa Rica.
- Long-nosed tapirs, white-faced capuchin monkeys, elegant ocelots and three-toed sloths – Costa Rica is home to exotic animals, and this trip puts you in the perfect position to spot them all.
- Go deeper than the average tourist with a homestay in a quiet agricultural community. It’s the perfect opportunity to experience local life and practice your Spanish.
- After jungle hikes spotting endemic wildlife, refresh in the rejuvenating hot springs of volcanic La Fortuna.
- Begin and end your trip in Costa Rica’s lively capital, San Jose, where you’ll see a more urban side of the country.