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Central America Tours

Classic Costa Rica

From €1345pp
Departure Date
Regular departures throughout the year
15 Days
Costa Rica
From €1345pp
Enquire Now

Experience Costa Rica from towering jungle to palm-lined coast.

Discover the incredible biodiversity of Costa Rica – and the culture shaped by the tropical wilderness – on this 15-day tour. Stay with a local family in Santa Rosa de Pocosol and get your hands dirty on a sustainable farm. Soak in springs that get their heat from an active volcano in La Fortuna. Spot three-toed sloths in the thickets of the Manuel Antonio National Park, then relax beneath swaying palms on the nearby beaches. This adventure takes you into the wild heart of a country many visit but few truly know.

Why you'll love this trip:

  • Swap the concrete jungle for the real thing 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 all manner of exotic native animals, and this trip puts you in the perfect position to spot them
  • Spend three days in the dense, vibrant forest of Monteverde, home to one of the worlds most elusive birds – the resplendent quetzal
  • Go deeper than the average tourist with a homestay in a quiet agricultural community, the perfect opportunity to experience local life and practice your Espanol
  • End mornings of hiking through lush forest with soaks in rejuvenating springs that get their heat from volcanic activity in La Fortuna
  • Begin and end your trip in lively San Jose, where you can choose to see a more urbane side of Costa Rica on optional craft beer or nightlife tours

Many of the activities (both included and optional) on this trip take place in the great outdoors. This means you'll need to be prepared to deal with insects and occasionally rustic conditions. It's all part of immersing yourself in this natural paradise.

Costa Rica is generally hot year-round, and from May to October can be pretty wet too. Of course, you wouldn't get that gorgeous, emerald-green rainforest without the rain, but please carefully consider which time of the year you'll feel most comfortable travelling.

Make sure you protect yourself from the sun, wear comfortable, light clothing and stay hydrated – especially when out on walking tours.

There are many opportunities to get active on this adventure. Some of the optional activities require a moderate level of fitness and sturdy walking shoes. If you'd prefer to take it easy, however, there are plenty of other things you can do instead.

Day 1: San Jose

With over a third of the country's population living within its parameters, San Jose is packed with both people and culture. There is a welcome meeting at 6 pm at your hotel, a good chance for you to meet your leader and fellow travellers. We'll also be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at the evening welcome meeting, so please have these on hand. Look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place if you can't see a sign.

If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please let the hotel reception know.

If you arrive with time to spare, why not visit the National Museum? This canary-yellow building houses everything from exhibits on pre-Colombian history to a garden filled with native butterflies, and the diversity makes it a great place to get an overview of the country before your adventure begins. Early bird history buffs might be interested in the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum or the Jade Museum, both of which display a wealth of indigenous artefacts.

Accommodation: Hotel (1 night)

Optional Activities:

  • San Jose - Gold Museum - USD11
  • San Jose - Jade Museum - USD10
  • San Jose - National Museum - USD12

Day 2: Tortuguero National Park

Leave the hotel at 8 am. There is no lunch stop today so please buy snacks prior or grab something at the bus station. At 9 am descend to the Caribbean lowlands by local bus, a four-hour scenic (though occasionally bumpy) journey that ends at the port of La Pavona. This rustic port is your entry point to Tortuguero National Park. Hop aboard a small, open boat and journey (1.5 hours) into the depths of the Costa Rican wilderness. Arrive in the middle of this biodiverse area, where freshwater lagoons rest under the canopy of rainforest that borders the ocean. Upon arrival, the leader-led walking tour is a good opportunity to look for some of the many animals that call the park home, among them jaguars and a plethora of turtles. Return to your jungle lodge for the evening, enjoy an informal Spanish lesson,  and finally let the sounds of nature lull you to sleep.

Accommodation: Lodge (1 night)

Included Activities

  • Informal Spanish Lesson
  • Tortuguero - National Park (Entrance Fee)

Meals Included: Breakfast

Day 3: Tortuguero National Park

Today you're free to explore the park at your own pace. If you're woken by the chattering of the forests some 300 bird species, why not haul yourself out of bed for a sunrise canoe trip. It’s a magical way to see the maze-like canals of the park, and you can keep an eye out for the gleaming form of slippery otters and perhaps a manatee or two in the morning light. During the day, you might want to return to the parks walking trails or simply relax in your lodge. 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 manatees, ocelots and jaguars, as well as over 300 bird species. First and foremost, however, it is the nesting ground of the green turtle, which comes ashore between July 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. Many species are particularly active at night, so if you wish, you can head out in the evening on a turtle watching tour. The tour cost partly supports the program aimed to patrol the beach for poaches. The expedition to seek out turtles is a beautiful experience but it can involve poor weather conditions, long periods of standing and walking along dimly lit paths. Waterproof clothing and shoes are recommended. 

Accommodation: Lodge (1 night)

Optional Activities

  • Tortuguero - Sunrise canoe trip around canals - USD25
  • Tortuguero - Turtle watching night tour - USD20

Day 4: Santa Rosa de Pocosol Homestay

Bid farewell to the evergreen rainforest at 9 am and make the three-hour journey to Santa Rosa de Pocosol by private vehicle. As the family you'll be staying with tonight don't speak a lot of English, you might want to use the drive to brush up on some phrases in Spanish. The community is centered around agriculture, and on arrival you will be lead around the farm to learn about the local way of life. You will have the chance to further immerse yourself in local life and support the community by choosing to purchase an optional activity like a cooking class or soap making workshop. Alternatively, you might want to take a guided hike to a local waterfall. This evening you will be staying in guest rooms attached to family homes.

Accommodation: Homestay (1 night)

Included Activities

  • Santa Rosa de Pocosol - Agricultural tour
  • Santa Rosa de Pocosol - Homestay experience

Optional Activities

  • Santa Rosa de Pocosol - Cooking class - USD10
  • Santa Rosa de Pocosol - Soap-making workshop - USD10
  • Santa Rosa de Pocosol - Waterfall hike - USD10

Meals Included: Dinner

Day 5: Rio Celeste

After breakfast (8 am), a truly magical river awaits after a private vehicle journey of two hours. Located in Tenorio Volcano National Park, the Rio Celeste is fed by two other rivers of varying pH levels, when they collide particles in the water are altered to the point that the water takes on the colour of a summer sky. You have a free afternoon to explore falls and streams where the blue waters are so bright they look photoshopped. The surrounding forest is full of wildlife, so keep your eyes peeled for tapirs, monkeys, anteaters and more hiding in the jungle canopy.

Accommodation: Hotel (1 night)

Meals Included: Breakfast

Day 6: Rio Celeste

Today is as clear as the Costa Rica air, though there are plenty of optional activities available. The light-blue waters of the Rio Celeste are generally off-limits to travellers. However, you’ll have the opportunity today to float along the water with a guided tubing excursion. If you wish to be one of the few foreigners to see their feet beneath the surface of this otherworldly water, you can hop in an inflatable donut and spend the day lazing along the river. The cost of breakfast and lunch is included in the price.

Thrillseekers will have the option to indulge in seven hours of guided rafting at nearby Rio Tenorio with a fruit snack and lunch included in the cost. You’ll tackle 20 rapids and there’s plenty of natural beauty to admire along the banks during the lulls. Those who prefer a nature tour with less adrenaline might like to take three-hour safari cruise along the Rio Tenorio, with a guide who will help you spot howler monkeys, crocodiles, river otters and an abundance of tropical birds.

Accommodation: Hotel (1 night)

Optional Activities

  • Tenorio River - Rafting Class 3 & 4 - USD99
  • Tenorio River - Safari Floating - USD65
  • Rio Celeste - Tubing Tour - USD70
  • Rio Celeste & Tenorio Park Hike - USD115

Meals Included: Breakfast

Day 7: La Fortuna

Beneath the watchful eye of the the immense Arenal Volcano lies La Fortuna, a sleepy town with an abundance of hot springs and natural pools to enjoy. Departing at 8 am, you’ll arrive by private vehicle after a two-hour drive and have the rest of the day to do as you please. Perhaps grab some fresh fruit in town, hop in a taxi to the entrance and then hike to La Fortuna waterfall for a swim beneath the cascading waters that spill out of the towering jungle.

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, though it’s so good you might want to keep it to yourself.

Accommodation: Hotel (1 night)

Meals Included: Breakfast

Day 8: La Fortuna

Enjoy a free day to explore as you wish. La Fortuna offers a range of sights such as stunning lush forest, rare plants, animal watching and water-based sports on the lake. The volcano’s inner workings also mean that the area has plenty of thermal springs where hot, lava-heated water gushes to the surface. These springs, often surrounded by foliage, make the ideal place to relax.

Active types could try stand-up paddle boarding on Lake Arenal with the incredible backdrop of the volcano and rolling green hills. Animal lovers will have a good chance of spotting sloths, monkeys, crocodiles and ‘Jesus’ lizards skipping across the water on a boat tour of Cano Negro Reserve. Have a chat to your leader about the options available.

Accommodation: Hotel (1 night)

Optional Activities

  • La Fortuna - Cano Negro boat tour - USD67
  • La Fortuna - Stand up paddle board - USD65
  • La Fortuna - Tabacon Hot Springs (entrance, dinner and transport) - USD99
  • La Fortuna - Hot springs - USD45
  • La Fortuna - Arenal hanging bridges - USD56
  • La Fortuna - La Fortuna Waterfall - USD15

Day 9: Lake Arenal / Monteverde

A morning of travel by bus and boat leads to incredible Monteverde. Depart at 8 am on a shared vehicle to arrive at a port on Lake Arenal. Cross the lake by boat (45 minutes) and then hop on a bus again to continue on to Monteverde (2 hours). There are options in town for optional lunch on arrival. 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 is kept moist by near-constant cloud cover, which also gives the area an enchanted vibe that makes exploring it a true delight. Spend the afternoon in the cloud forest, looking out for hummingbirds, quetzals and even lazy sloths among the mist later in the day. You may even choose to return after dusk to seek the animals and insects that are largely hidden in the day.

Accommodation: Hotel (1 night)

Included Activities

  • Monteverde - Cloud Forest (Entrance fee & Transport)

Optional Activities

  • Monteverde - Night walk - USD35

Day 10: Monteverde

Why not make the most of your time here and organise a local guides to take you on a nature walk. There also several local communities that operate cooperatives worth visiting. You may wish to get a different perspective on the forest by walking through the canopy on suspension bridges, or perhaps 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, and no matter what you choose to do, be sure to keep an eye out for the resplendent quetzal, one of the most elusive birds in the world.

Accommodation: Hotel (1 night)

Optional Activities

  • Monteverde - Butterfly garden and insects farm - USD15
  • Monteverde - Serpentarium - USD15
  • Monteverde - Coffee & Chocolate tour - USD35
  • Monteverde - Suspension bridges tour - USD47
  • Monteverde - Zip lining - USD90

Day 11: Manuel Antonio

Wedged between the beautiful Pacific coast and the national park, Manuel Antonio is a laid-back town. After a four-hour journey in a private vehicle, feel the soft crunch of foliage underfoot while you hike the trails of the national park. Keep one eye on the great views and the other looking 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 the coast to watch the sunset over a glittering ocean. 

Accommodation: Hotel (1 night)

Included Activities

  • Manuel Antonio National Park - (Entrance fee)

Day 12: Manuel Antonio

The beaches that the forest opens onto are clean and clear, so why not hire a surfboard or boogie board and catch some waves at Playa El Ray. If you want to spot wildlife and and keep active at the same time, consider paddling through the mangrove forest on a guided kayak tour. It’s not unusual for curious monkeys to climb right onto the boat to say hello, and you’ll likely see snakes, crocs and plenty of birdlife too. Just remember your insect repellent! In the evening, you could take a sunset sail off the coast, watching the blue sky turn orange is a spectacular sight. Talk to your leader about the range of optional activities available.

Accommodation: Hotel (1 night)

Optional Activities

  • Manuel Antonio - Sunset sail - USD80
  • Manuel Antonio - Mangrove tour by kayak (with lunch) - USD80
  • Manuel Antonio - Surf/boogie board rental - USD10

Special Information: Depending on your tour departure day, the national park could be closed to visitors today (Mondays).

Day 13: Manuel Antonio

If you wish, you could return today to Manuel Antonio National Park and continue your search for the solemn, white faces of the capuchin monkeys who live in the trees. Alternatively, why not 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 shore. The towering green trees provide shade that's perfect to lie under with a good book.

Accommodation: Hotel (1 night)

Optional Activities

  • Manuel Antonio National Park (Entrance fee) - USD16

Day 14: San Jose

A local bus will return you to San Jose, and you could spend the four-hour journey trying out your Spanish on the locals sitting next to you. On arrival, you might want to hit one of the markets for some last minute gifts. The Central Market is the biggest in town. Look for a food stall packed with locals and you'll be guaranteed an authentic local meal on the cheap.

Later enjoy an optional farewell dinner where you can say goodbye to your leader and toast with your fellow travellers. The nightlife here is legendary, but even if clubbing isn’t your thing there’s plenty to do.The craft beer scene has exploded in Costa Rica during the last decade and you can get a taste for it on an optional Urban Adventure. See urbanadventures.com/San-Jose-tour-the-art-of-craft-beer-in-san-jose for more details or chat to your leader.

Accommodation: Hotel (1 night)

Optional Activities

  • San Jose - San Jose by Night - Urban Adventures - USD74
  • San Jose - The Art of Craft Beer in San Jose - Urban Adventures - USD68
  • San Jose - San Jose Bites and Sights Tour - Urban Adventures - USD33

Day 15: San Jose

Your tour comes to an end after breakfast. Make sure you follow the hotel's check-out time to avoid an extra charge. While your tour ends here, your journey doesn't have to. If you want to stay on for a few more days in San Jose let your travel agent or Intrepid representative know at the time of booking and we may be able to assist you with organising more accommodation.

Meals Included: Breakfast

Price is per adult sharing and includes:

  • Meals: 5 breakfasts, 1 dinner
  • Transport: Private vehicle, Shared vehicle, Public bus, Shared boat
  • Accommodation: 

    Hotel (7 nights), Lodge (6 nights), Homestay (1 night)

  • Included activities:
    • Informal Spanish Lesson
    • Tortuguero - National Park (Entrance Fee)
    • Santa Rosa de Pocosol - Agricultural tour
    • Santa Rosa de Pocosol - Homestay experience
    • Monteverde - Cloud Forest (Entrance fee & Transport)
    • Manuel Antonio National Park - (Entrance fee)

Please ask us about adding great value:

  • Flights
  • Travel insurance
Subject to availability. Terms & conditions apply. 

For more information please call us on 021 427 7094 or 01 696 5135, email info@shandontravel.ie, request a call back using the red button or submit an enquiry through the form below.

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