Galapagos & Costa Rica
A real treat for nature lovers, pairing close-up wildlife encounters in the Galapagos Islands with outdoors adventures in Costa Rica. Not to be missed!
Galapagos and Costa Rica
18 days from £5,565 pp
(INCLUDES £550 PP WORTH OF FREE DOMESTIC FLIGHTS. SEE BELOW)
(exc. international flights)
The Galapagos Islands must be on any nature lover’s list of ‘must see’ destinations. The word unique is often overused, but in this instance it is totally appropriate. The archipelago is almost 1000kms from the mainland and life here has evolved in splendid isolation, with a high number of species that are found nowhere else on the planet. Unlike almost anywhere else on Earth many of the creatures here have little cause to fear man, so close encounters, unimaginable in other settings, are commonplace here; you find yourself eyeball to eyeball with an iguana, have to step over dozing sea lions, walk among giant tortoises and have mockingbirds and finches landing on your hands!
Each day of your week long cruise offers opportunities to explore the islands’ flora and fauna and take in the varied scenery on excursions led by an enthusiastic and experienced guide. Your yacht has a maximum of 16 passengers, a friendly yet professional crew, air conditioned interiors, shaded and open deck space, kayaks and snorkelling equipment. It’s little surprise that she is one of our most consistently popular yachts and is sure to make a very comfortable home.
Next you fly to Costa Rica. This tiny country really has been blessed by nature. It’s hard to comprehend that a land mass of a little more than 50,000 square kilometres can be so diverse in terms of habitats and wildlife. You have a week to marvel at this abundance, spending time in the rainforest as you cross bridges suspended high among the trees, examining the lush foliage and exotic flowers, watching brilliantly-coloured birds and listening to the calls of monkeys. In Manuel Antonio you have the added benefit of the Pacific Ocean and beautiful beaches. This is nature showing off all her finery!
By the end of the holiday you’ll have an amazing store of memories and photographs to share with family and friends when you get back home, sharing your experiences and maybe inspiring future travels.
- Quito 2 nights, return flights from mainland Ecuador to the Galapagos
- Beluga (or similar) 7 nights
- Guayaquil 1 night, flight Guayaquil to San Jose
- San Jose 1 night
- Arenal 3 nights
- Manuel Antonio 3 nights
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Your international flight arrives in Quito, the capital of Ecuador, where a representative is waiting to take you to your city centre hotel. Depending on your flight time, you may want to explore nearby sites, although you might prefer to rest after the journey and look forward to the adventures to come.
A guided tour is arranged for this morning, showcasing the city’s main sights such as the Plaza de la Independencia, the main square, with its imposing palaces and cathedral, and El Panecillo Hill and the panoramic view over Quito and the whole valley. The afternoon is at leisure for you to explore further or sit at a café and do some people watching, later returning to Patio Andaluz.
Rise early for breakfast before the transfer to the airport and flight to the famous Galapagos Islands and your waiting yacht, Beluga. Having settled in and enjoyed lunch it’s time for your first visit. The highlands of Santa Cruz are home to some of the archipelago’s best known and loved inhabitants, giant tortoises. Watch them roam among the vegetation as they forage for food, and find out more about them and the rest of the islands’ flora and fauna at the Charles Darwin Centre. Tonight you have your first dinner on board, a chance to get to know your fellow passengers and crew.
Floreana is today’s destination. It has the longest human history in the Galapagos and your guide can tell you tales of colourful past inhabitants, as well as leading you on a walking trail at Punta Cormorant leading to a lagoon where you can see flamingos. After lunch on board you visit Post Office Bay, where from the late 18th century sailors left their own letters and collected others deposited by their fellows in order to deliver them after their voyage. Travellers continue this traditional today and you have the chance to play your part by leaving and/or collecting a card!
Witness the impressive volcanic scenery of Isabela today which includes Wolf Volcano, the highest point in the islands, and Sierra Negra with a massive caldera some 10kms in diameter, the second largest in the world (after that of Yellowstone National Park). You also have time to observe some striking lava formations. In the afternoon you can see hatching and juvenile giant tortoises at the breeding centre in Puerto Villamil, and visit a lagoon that attracts numerous birds.
The landscape at Punta Moreno consists of solidified flows of black lava and tidal lagoons where you can see many species of birds. You also get views of 3 of Isabela’s volcanoes: Sierra Negra, Cerro Azul and Alcedo. After lunch you take to the panga for a ride in Elizabeth Bay where you can view blue-footed boobies and penguins on the rocks, and head into the red and black mangroves where you may spot turtles and pelicans.
This morning you are on the west coast of Isabela at Urbina Bay. After a wet landing you follow your guide on a walk along the beach to an exposed 6km long wall of coral raised to the surface by a volcanic eruption in the 1950s. As you walk keep your eyes open for land iguanas, giant tortoises and flightless cormorants. Later you land at Tagus Cove, following in the steps of pirates and mariners from the early 19th century. Look closely at the rocks by the coast and you may see inscriptions left by some. Hike up to Darwin Lake a saline lagoon which attracts a variety of birds, and watch out for lumbering land iguanas as you head down towards the bay.
Fernandina, today’s destination, is the youngest and most volcanically active of the islands. Stepping ashore at Punta Espinosa you can walk along the shoreline, pausing to observe sea lions, Galapagos penguins, flightless cormorants and marine iguanas. This visit is followed by a panga ride near the cliffs at Punta Vicente Roca, where Nazca and blue-footed boobies, storm petrels, terns and gulls nest. There is abundant marine life, too, with dolphins, sea lions and whales often seen in large numbers due to the plentiful food supply borne in on favourable currents.
Santiago lies at the centre of the archipelago. You land at Puerto Egas at the southern end of James Bay, an area of black sand, rocks and pools. Follow a trail leading inland for about 3km, ending at a disused salt mine, where now a seasonal lagoon is frequented by flamingos and other wading birds. You may also spot Galapagos hawks. In the afternoon you hike to the highest point on nearby Bartolome to witness one of the best known views in the Galapagos: look down the spine of the island flanked by bays on either side, see the spire of Pinnacle Rock to the right and dramatic backdrop of Santiago Island. On the way back down you’ll pass lava tuffs and cones, and there may be time for a refreshing swim.
Following breakfast you visit North Seymour, named after Lord Hugh Seymour a prominent British naval officer in the late 18th century. On this final excursion you can hope to see great frigatebirds, swallow-tailed gulls, blue-footed boobies, land iguanas, marine iguanas and sea lions. Later you travel to Baltra airport for the flight to Guayaquil on the mainland, where you spend the night at Oro Verde.
This morning you board a flight to San Jose, the capital of Cosa Rica, for the start of the next exciting leg of your holiday. From the airport it’s just a half hour drive to your hotel in the central highlands. Finca Rosa Blanca is at the heart of a working coffee plantation and is owned by an artist who has filled the property with colourful local artworks. Stroll through the gardens, swim in the pool and soak in the Jacuzzi as you rest after the journey and acclimatise to your new surroundings.
Today you head north through central Costa Rica towards the town of La Fortuna and your hotel, Arenal Springs Resort and Spa where you spend the next 2 nights. Set in tropical gardens and within sight of Arenal volcano, the hotel provides spacious suites, thermal springs and a choice of restaurants. In the afternoon you have the chance to enjoy the Sky Walk. This begins with a guided walk along the forest floor followed by a series of hanging bridges in the treetop canopy, giving you an insight into different habitats.
You can have a leisurely start to the day, as there’s nothing planned for this morning. In the afternoon you meet up with some fellow travellers for a guided hike by the foot of Arenal volcano, taking in forested areas with varied plant and animal life, and viewpoints where you can take in the scenery. This is followed by a relaxing bathe in some natural hot springs after which dinner is served. Relaxed and replete, you return to the hotel.
With nothing specific planned you are free to spend today as you wish. There are plenty of opportunities for adventure, with kayaking, mountain biking, white water rafting and ziplining all on the menu, or you might prefer a nature walk or a spot of bird watching. The hotel has pools fed by hot springs rich in therapeutic properties, and a spa where you can relax with a signature chocolate massage or body wrap. There’s certainly no shortage of things to do!
This morning you take to the road again for the journey to Manuel Antonio National Park on the central Pacific coast. Your hotel is on a hill overlooking the ocean, set amidst verdant gardens. The remainder of the day is free, so you can explore the resort’s facilities which include a freeform outdoor pool, swim-up bar, spa, restaurants and terraces.
Time to explore! Follow your guide into the national park. One of the most popular in the country, it includes lush costal forest and gorgeous sandy beaches. On your walk you can expect to see a variety of wildlife including monkeys, sloths, agoutis, iguanas, birds and butterflies. The tour lasts about 3 hours when you either return to the hotel or opt to spend time on one of the beaches, sunbathing and swimming. There are regular shuttle buses back to the hotel so you can choose when you head back.
This is a free day. You might want to enjoy a lie-in and have a lazy morning at the pool followed by time on the beach soaking up some sun as you perfect your tan. Or maybe take advantage of some of the activities and excursions including jungle hikes, ziplining, catamaran cruises, a visit to botanical gardens and a butterfly atrium, all of which can be arranged at the hotel.
After breakfast and a final stroll in the gardens, bags packed, you are transferred to San Jose international airport to check in for your flight home.