Caribbean to Pacific Adventure
Sitting behind the wheel you have a front row seat as you travel through stunning forest, mountain and coastal scenery, your personal odyssey through this extraordinary country.
Caribbean to Pacific Adventure
15 days from £2,490 pp
(exc. international flights)
Explore Costa Rica from the Caribbean shore, through its heartland, to the Pacific coast, equipped with your very own 4×4 vehicle! Travelling at your own pace, you’re free to stop on impulse, and make detours as and when you wish.
We provide the basic framework of your holiday, with 14 nights pre-booked accommodation so you don’t need to worry about where you’re staying, and with a specially selected sightseeing or nature tour arranged for you in each location you won’t miss out on any of the highlights. Other than that your time is your own, whether driving between destinations or a full day blissfully at leisure.
This trip showcases Costa Rica’s varied scenery: stunning beaches, rolling valleys, tree-clad mountains, mysterious mangroves, and equally diverse wildlife: vibrantly coloured birds, endearing monkeys, dozing sloths, acrobatic dolphins and delicate butterflies
The accommodation is a real mix, from an ornate Victorian town mansion, to the stylish minimalism of a Caribbean coastal hotel, a country hacienda to hilltop lodge, an all-suite property in Bahia Bay to a prestigious resort above one of Manuel Antonio’s lovely beaches. We’ve included breakfast to help you kick start each day, but apart from that you’re free to decide where you dine.
This trip takes you into the little-visited heartland of Costa Rica as well as spending time on both the Caribbean and Pacific Coasts, combining the freedom of a self-drive holiday with the security of a well-planned itinerary.
- San Jose 1 night
- South Caribbean 3 nights
- Turrialba Valley 2 nights
- Quetzals Valley 2 nights
- Ballena Bay 2 nights
- Manuel Antonio 4 nights
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The adventure begins! A representative is meeting to greet you when you arrive at the international airport in San Jose, to hand over all the necessary paperwork for the holiday and drive you to your hotel located in the heart of the city. Grano de Oro is a gracious Belle Epoque mansion with elegant salons and a lovely roof terrace, ideal for resting and recuperating after the flight. Tonight you can dine in the hotel’s acclaimed restaurant or venture into the city where you’ll have a wide choice of places to eat.
Refreshed after a good night’s sleep and re-energised by breakfast, it’s time to start your journey of discovery. Your 4-wheel drive vehicle is ready and waiting at the hotel so you can head straight off, travelling east towards the village of Puerto Viejo de Limon on the southern Caribbean coast. This is a drive of around 4 hours, though you’re free to break the journey as often as you wish. Your destination is Le Cameleon, a stylish boutique hotel by the beach, with an infectiously laid-back atmosphere typical of this region. Settle in, have a dip in the pool and chill…
Today you have a guided tour of Cahuita National Park, known for its vast coral reef, the largest in Costa Rica, and palm-fringed beaches. Don mask, snorkel and flippers to discover the wonders of the marine world for yourself, as shoals of tropical fish swim past and you encounter crustaceans, octopi and turtles. Back on dry land follow your guide on a walking trail for opportunities to view birds, reptiles and both howler and white-faced capuchin monkeys.
With nothing pre-planned you can opt for a leisurely beach day, soaking up some sun and swimming in the clear Caribbean waters, maybe taking a cruise further out into the ocean to view dolphins. If you feel more adventurous, enjoy an invigorating horseback gallop through the surf or explore by kayak. One thing’s for sure, you won’t be short of things to do.
It’s time for a change of scene as you drive inland to the Turrialba Valley. It’s totally up to you when you set out and where you stop along the way, that’s the joy of being your own boss on this holiday! Your next hotel is Casa Turire, a rural hacienda surrounded by fertile agricultural land. Stretch your legs with a walk in the pretty gardens, pausing to watch birds and butterflies, or enjoy a reviving swim in the pool. If you treat yourself to dinner at the restaurant tonight, you can sample some of the local produce.
This morning you drive to CATIE, the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Centre. The botanical gardens here contain an impressive display of the region’s indigenous plant species including orchids, bougainvillea and heliconias. The nearby lake is a great place for bird watching, and the whole area is wonderfully peaceful. Afterwards you return to Casa Turire.
Today you drive south west to San Gerardo de Dota. An early start is recommend as there are several places you may want to stop en-route. You travel initially through coffee and sugar cane plantations and small villages and may want to explore the colonial church in the Orosi Valley or Lankaster Gardens a little further on with over 800 species of orchids. Your route also takes in Cartago, Costa Rica’s former capital and site the impressive Basilica de Los Angeles. Consider making a detour to visit Irazu Volcano National Park, with the famous colour-changing crater lake that alternates between emerald green and ruby red. Journey’s end today is Trogon Lodge, set high above the Quetzal Valley.
This is a prime bird watching area and this morning you have a tour with a specialist guide to seek out some of the varied avian life. Your walking tour should provide you with fascinating insights and sightings of hummingbirds and the trogons after which the lodge is named. With luck you’ll spot the well-named resplendent quetzal, in its dazzling plumage of iridescent blue-green and crimson. You have a free afternoon for relaxing at the lodge, hiking or horse riding as you prefer.
After several days in the hinterland it’s time to head for the ocean, this time the Pacific. It’s an interesting drive travelling along a mountain road to the coast at Dominical, then following the shoreline to the town of Uvita. From here it’s a just a short distance to Bahia Ballena, or Whale Bay, and your next hotel, Cristal Ballena, situated in lush gardens high above the beach
Today you exchange land for water and a group boat tour to explore Bahia Ballena. You depart from Uvita and see the famous Punta Uvita Whale Tail peninsula, Ballena Island, the Tres Hermanas Islets and Ventana caves. During this cruise you are likely to see dolphins and, in season, humpback and pilot whales. There is an opportunity to snorkel by a coral reef and view the colourful marine life. On the return voyage there are further chances to see dolphins and seabirds.
Today you travel back up the coast, a scenic drive taking you beyond Dominical and on to Manuel Antonio National Park, one of the most popular parks in the country with its combination of beaches and forest. Your home for the next 4 nights is Parador Resort and Spa, perched above the Punta Quepos promontory. Take time to settle in to your new surroundings, explore the grounds and meet some of the resident sloths, monkeys and birds, and get your bearings in the resort which has several restaurants, lounges and bars and 3 swimming pools.Breakfast
This morning you join a walking tour in Manuel Antonio National Park led by a naturalist guide. This takes in different habitats, starting in the forest where you can expect to observe several species of monkey, sloths and toucans. Later you emerge on one of the beautiful white sand beaches with time for a quick swim if you like, before following a coastal trail back to the hotel, arriving around lunchtime. If you prefer you can remain on the beach to sunbathe and relax, returning to the hotel later on one of their regular shuttle buses.
This is a free day. You might choose to sleep in, enjoying a late breakfast and a lazy day by one of the pools, treating yourself to some pampering at the Pacifica Spa, while deciding which of the restaurants to visit for dinner this evening. Why not? You are on holiday after all!
Another day at leisure. There are many options available, such as hiking with a guide along Parador’s many trails, visiting Quepos village, mountain biking and horse riding. Water-based activities include surfing, parasailing, catamaran cruises and kayaking in the mangroves. There’s almost too much choice!
Your Costa Rican journey is almost at an end. Having crossed the country and experienced contrasting habitats, witnessed wildlife and stayed in some spellbindingly beautiful locations, it’s now time to drive back to San Jose international airport for your flight home.
2020 price from (pp sharing, exc international flights):
01 Jan – 30 Apr 2020 from £2790
01 May – 30 Jun 2020 from £2490
01 Jul – 31 Aug 2020 from £2670
Note: Dates including festive periods such as Easter will attract a supplement on these prices.
Includes: Arrival transfer from San Jose airport to Hotel Grano de Oro, 14 nights twin share accommodation, meals as specified; 14 days hire of a 4 x 4 SUV compact manual vehicle (Ssang Yyong Korando or similar) including free mileage, car insurance and satnav – see ‘Driving notes’ below for more details Tours: full day guided tour in Cahuita National Park inc. transport, entrance fee, snorkelling and lunch; half-day CATIE tour with bilingual guide inc. entrance fee; morning bird watching tour at Trogon Lodge with bilingual guide inc. transport; Marina Ballena National Park boat tour with bilingual guide inc. transport and entrance fee; half-day Manual Antonio National Park tour with bilingual guide inc. entrance fee.
Excludes: International flights, departure taxes, visas, travel insurance, meals not specified, drinks, optional excursions and activities, personal expenses, tips, fuel.
Driving notes: All drivers must be 21 years of age or over and must bring a valid driver’s license and passport, plus a personal credit card to cover the mandatory deposits of US$100 for the vehicle and $250 for the satnav; fuel not included; child seat(s) available at extra charge if requested in advance.
Getting there: This tour starts and ends in San Jose. Return flight prices from the UK start from around £600.
Departure dates: This is a private, tailor-made holiday and can begin on any day you choose, subject to availability.