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2by2 for holidays that will change your life
2by2 for holidays that will change your life
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Costa Rica Self Drive Holiday: Tortuguero + Puerto Viejo + Arenal Volcano

Costa Rica: Caribbean to the Pacific (self drive)
RCA12S
12 NIGHTS
FROM £1,995
Per person sharing
International flights + car hire quoted separately
Costa Rica Self Drive Holiday Tortuguero Puerto Viejo Arenal Volcano

This fascinating Costa Rica self drive holiday explores the wildlife & scenery of this spectacular country, combining the Tortuguero wetlands, famous for nesting sea turtles, with the Caribbean beaches of Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, the hanging bridges & hot springs of Arenal Volcano; Monteverde cloud forest & the Pacific rainforests of Manuel Antonio. Specified guided tours included, with many walking opportunities.

Costa Rica Self Drive Holiday Tortuguero Puerto Viejo Arenal Volcano
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Costa Rica Self Drive Holiday
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San Jose
• 
Tortuguero National Park
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Sea Turtles
• 
Puerto Viejo de Talamanca
• 
Arenal Volcano
• 
Hanging Bridges
• 
Thermal Hot Springs
• 
Monteverde Cloud Forest
• 
Manuel Antonio
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Costa Rica Self Drive Holiday
• 
San Jose
• 
Tortuguero National Park
• 
Sea Turtles
• 
Puerto Viejo de Talamanca
• 
Arenal Volcano
• 
Hanging Bridges
• 
Thermal Hot Springs
• 
Monteverde Cloud Forest
• 
Manuel Antonio
Day 1
You will be met at San Jose Airport and transferred to your hotel in this capital city in the Central Valley, surrounded by the Talamanca Mountains to the south and the volcanoes of Poas, Irazu and Turrialba.
 
On arrival enjoy a short tour of the city, starting with a drive through Sabana Park. We then visit the pre-Colombian Gold Museum, situated beneath the Plaza de la Cultura. This small art museum has an intriguing collection of over 2,000 artworks and artefacts relating to the pre-Columbian era (500 AD to 1500 AD) and a large collection of coins, including the Media Escudo - Costa Rica’s very first coin.
Day 2
An early pickup from your hotel this morning for your scenic shared 4-hour coach transfer to the flooded forests of Tortuguero National Park on the Caribbean Coast - known as the 'Amazon of Costa Rica'.
 
This remote wetland system covers an area of around 120 square miles (300 square km). Meaning 'Land of the Turtles', it is the largest nesting site for endangered green sea turtles in the western hemisphere and supports a wide range of threatened flora and fauna. It is also a RAMSAR birding site of international significance.
 
After travelling 1.5-hours by air-conditioned coach, we stop at Guapiles for a Costa Rican breakfast, before continuing another 1.5-hours to the dock. Here we board the boat for our 1-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 book your turtle tour in season (see below). After a buffet lunch we visit the local village, with balance of afternoon at leisure.
  
Note: Nocturnal turtle tours are run from July to October, as this is when green sea turtles nest and lay their eggs, with hatchlings emerging 45 days later. The timing of your tour (8-10pm or 10-12pm) and the beach zone you will visit are allocated by the park authority and must be booked 24 hours in advance, so it is essential to book your tour with hotel reception on arrival, as it cannot be pre-booked (approx. $40 per person).
Day 3
Today you will explore the waterways and rainforests of Tortuguero National Park on a shared boat ride, accompanied by a lodge guide.
 
Tortuguero is a critical breeding ground for vulnerable Green Turtles, which lumber up these beaches in their thousands from July to October each year to nest, with their hatchlings emerging 45 days later - an unforgettable sight. Leatherback turtles - the largest of all sea turtles - nest here in March & April and a few Loggerhead turtles nest here in June & July. The critically endangered Hawksbill turtle may be found here in very small numbers in September and October.
 
Although these beaches are best known for their sea turtles, Tortuguero is also an excellent place to see two- and three-toed sloths, mantled howler monkeys, white-faced capuchin monkeys, basilisk lizards, green iguana, red-eyed tree frogs, spectacled caiman, black river turtles and over half of all bird species found in Costa Rica. These include the Great green macaw, Keel-billed toucan, Boat-billed heron, Blue heron, Laughing falcon, Bare-throated tiger heron, Yellow-crowned night heron, Green-backed heron, Osprey, Snowy egret, Northern jacana, Anhinga (snakebird), Green ibis, Green kingfisher, Southern mealy parrot, Turkey vulture, Social flycatcher, Montezuma oropendola and many more.
 
With eleven different habitats - including rainforests, mangroves, swamps, beaches and lagoons - this hot and humid park has a rainfall of up to 250 inches (6,400 mm) a year. As a result it sustains a wide range of wildlife and is teeming with birds, reptiles, small mammals and insects. Occasionally bottlenose dolphins swim up the river from the sea and you may also see crocodiles, anteaters, ocelots and more.
 
Your boat ride will either be in the morning or afternoon, depending on the scheduling done by the ranger station. Your second activity for the day is a shared guided walk through the grounds of your lodge - looking out for frogs, birds, sloths, butterflies and other wildlife.
 
In the evening, if you join an optional turtle tour, wear dark clothing to ensure you do not disturb the turtles, closed shoes and long trousers to protect your feet & legs from mosquitos. Flashlights are not permitted.
 
Note: As the park receives up to 250 inches (6,400 mm) of rain a year, it is very likely that it will rain during your visit - so bring rain gear with a hood and expect to get wet. Wear sports clothing that will dry quickly (not jeans, which take too long to dry).
Day 4
This morning depart after breakfast and transfer 1-hour by boat to the La Pavona docking area. From here you will be transferred 1.5-hours by coach to Guapiles, where we stop for an included lunch.
 
After lunch collect your hire car (with GPS) and drive 3-hours southwards, travelling past the port of Limon to the vibrant Caribbean surfing town of Puerto Viejo de Talamanca (not to be confused on your sat-nav with the similarly named Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui).
 
Check into your hotel in this former fishing village with its gorgeous beaches and crystal clear blue waters, visited by surfers from around the world who come to ride the famed waves at Salsa Brava.
Day 5
At leisure to relax and absorb the Caribbean culture of Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, with its stunning sandy beaches. Watch surfers at Salsa Brava, see the black sands of Negra Beach and explore the town.
 
The tropical rainforests, wetlands and mangroves of Gandoca-Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge offer the opportunity to observe the region’s wildlife, whilst the Jaguar Rescue Centre rehabilitates wild cats and other animals.
 
Other optional activities include a birding tour, chocolate tour, indigenous community visit and whitewater rafting down the Pacuare River. To the north, Cahuita National Park protects a large coral reef and has a shipwreck dive site.
Day 6
This morning leave Puerto Vieja de Talamanca and drive northwards via Guapiles, travelling 5-hours through beautiful Costa Rican scenery towards the Arenal Volcano. This is one of the most active in Central America, with a perfect cone that on a clear day is visible from almost anywhere in the area.
 
Your route crosses a large cattle and agricultural area, where chocolate is grown. Cacao was very important in the ancient Mayan and Aztec civilizations and today it is enjoyed throughout the world.
 
Check into your hotel in La Fortuna, where you can relax surrounded by rainforests, waterfalls and thermal hot springs.
Day 7
This morning enjoy a shared visit to the Arenal Hanging Bridges - a series of nine fixed and six suspension bridges, located in a natural corridor followed by migratory birds travelling between North and South America and offering wonderful views of the lake and volcano.
 
This 2-mile (3-km) self-guided trail will allow you to enjoy the great diversity of flora and fauna inside this mountainous zone, as well as outstanding bird watching. Keep an eye out for howler monkeys, sloths, anteaters, coati, racoons and other rainforest wildlife. Birds you can hope to see include the Yellow-throated toucan, Crested guan, Grey-headed chachalaca, Baltimore oriole, Clay-coloured thrush and Red-throated ant tanager, amongst others.
 
In the afternoon relax at the magnificent Tabacon Hot Springs, with its many natural waterfalls and pools, as well as a large swimming pool with swim-up bar. Dinner at the hot springs is included this evening.
 
Note: Group size 2 to 12 per guide. This trail is not suitable if you have a fear of heights. Wear comfortable walking shoes and bring binoculars & rain gear. Also sun hat, sunscreen, insect repellent, swimwear and water shoes.
Day 8
This morning we recommend self-driving to the entrance to Arenal National Park for a 3-mile (5-km) self-guided walk along one of the trails around the base of the volcano.
 
Arenal Volcano rises to 5,250 ft (1,600 m) 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.
 
You can walk along one of the trails through the rainforest, where you can see large lumps of sandy lava rock and view the many plants now growing here, as the rainforest has recovered. At the top of the trail, on a clear day you will have beautiful views over Lake Arenal. There is also a deck at the end of the trail, with postcard views of the volcano.
 
The afternoon is at leisure to relax at your lodge or explore the town. There is also the option of driving to La Fortuna Waterfall, which plunges down nearly 250 ft (75-m) from a cliff outside the town. Surrounded by lush foliage, the climb down to the waterfall is tough (500 steps) but the view once you get there will be worth the effort. At the bottom there is the opportunity to swim in the cold waters of the surge pool and shallow river at the bottom (pay entrance fee locally).
Day 9
This morning depart from La Fortuna and drive 4-hours to the small settlement of Monteverde, situated high in the mountains on the continental divide.
 
Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve was gifted to the nation by a small community of conservation-minded Quakers, who moved here from the United States in the 1950s to avoid being drafted to fight in the Korean War. Shrouded in mist for most of the year, this pristine 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 an exceptionally large plant biodiversity.
 
Check into your lodge and on a clear day enjoy distant views over the Gulf of Nicoya.
Day 10
This morning enjoy a shared tour exploring Monteverde Cloud Forest with a naturalist guide.
 
Set on Costa Rica's continental divide, this high elevation cloud forest offers miles of walking trails and is a magnet for certain 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, strangler figs, epiphytes 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.
 
Monteverde Cloud Forest sustains over 2,500 different plant species including the highest number of orchids in the world, over 90 different avocado species, 120 reptiles and amphibians and thousands of butterflies and other insects. However be aware that spotting birds and wildlife in this cool high altitude region is much more difficult than elsewhere in the country. Although not often seen, more than 100 small mammals are present (including sloths, white-faced and spider monkeys).
 
Over 400 bird species can also be found here including two toucan species, the Three-wattled bellbird, Bare-necked umbrella bird, Golden-browed chlorophonia, Black-breasted wood quail, Bananaquit and the magnificent resplendent quetzal, which is most often seen during the breeding season from February to May. Many hummingbird species can also be seen at the feeders outside the park, including the Magenta-throated woodstar, Coppery-headed emerald, Lesser violetear, Violet sabrewing, Purple-throated mountain-gem and Green-crowned brilliant.
 
In the evening we suggest an optional visit to the Monteverde Frog Pond (pay locally).
 
Note: Group size 2 to 9 per guide. Wear comfortable walking shoes and bring binoculars, camera, jacket & rain gear. Also sun hat, sunscreen & insect repellent.
Day 11
Today drive 3.5-hours to Manuel Antonio, a busy tourist town known for its sandy Pacific beaches surrounded by lush coastal rainforest.
 
Along the way we suggest you stop at the bridge over the Tarcoles River, one of four rivers flowing out into the Nicoya Peninsula and home to one of the world’s largest populations of American crocodiles, with some up to fifteen feet long. There are also over 50 different bird species here, including the rare scarlet macaw and a great variety of resident and migrant waterfowl, iguana and Jesus Christ lizards.
 
On arrival in Manuel Antonio, check into your hotel and relax in your verdant surroundings.
Day 12
Rise early this morning to avoid the heat of the day for a 2-hour privately guided hike with a naturalist, through the tropical humid rainforest of Manuel Antonio National Park - the oldest and most visited national park in the country.
 
Situated on the Pacific Coast, this wildlife sanctuary consists of four protected white sandy beaches bordered by verdant tropical jungle. A series of boardwalks offer two main routes - either a direct 2-mile (3.2 km) hike to the main beach, or a longer 3.5-mile (5.6 km) circular hike that includes a second spectacular beach.
 
Over 100 mammals can be found here, as well as over 350 different bird species. You can hope to spot an adorable sloth - a tree-dwelling animal that sleeps for over 15 hours a day, whilst hanging from the branches of trees. The two-fingered sloth is largely nocturnal, so you are more likely to see the three-fingered sloth, although both species have excellent camouflage so can be hard to spot. These cute creatures move so slowly that algae grows on their fur. Look out for white-faced capuchins and cute squirrel monkeys and listen out for howler monkeys calling across the trees. You should see hermit crabs scurrying across the sands, halloween crabs (with their bright orange & black colouring) and may even see a bullfrog, Jesus Christ lizard (the brown basilisk that 'walks on water'), helmet basilisk, black spiny-tailed iguana, green anole lizard, caiman, American crocodile, fish moth, wax-tail hopper, rainbow grasshopper or spectacular blue morpho butterfly.
 
Birds you can hope to see include the Brown pelican flying in formation over the sea, Yellow-throated toucan, Tendin fruit bat, Long nosed bat, Mangrove hummingbird, Yellow-crowned night heron, Crowned woodnymph and Bananaquit, amongst many others.
 
At the end of your hike you will be given the opportunity to relax on the beach for about an hour, before returning to your hotel. Your afternoon is at leisure.
 
Note: Manuel Antonio Park is closed on a Monday. Wear swimwear, comfortable walking shoes, shorts & T-shirt, as it will be very hot & humid. Bring water, binoculars, rain gear, sun hat, sunscreen, towel & insect repellent and expect this park to be very busy.
Day 13
Drive 3.5-hours to San Jose Airport for your flight home.