Two of the best
Take your time to get to know two contrasting areas: Arenal in central Costa Rica with its mighty volcano, and the unspoilt Golfo Dulce on the southern Pacific coast.
Two of the Best
Prices from: £2,320 pp for 10 days
Many holidays to Costa Rica take in many destinations, allowing you to see a lot of the country but linger in none. This trip is different. In 10 days you only stay in 2 places, which means that once you arrive you can really make yourself at home, and you’ll have several days to enjoy all that each region has to offer. You have the luxury of time. This is Costa Rica Unrushed.
Your first home is Nayara Hotel Spa and Gardens, set within sight of the magisterial Arenal Volcano. You have 3 full days to go deep into the rainforest on suspension bridges, experience the thrills of ziplining down the volcano, go for long hikes and guided wildlife in the national park, and sooth your body with a long soak in a hot spring.
From the mountainous centre to transfer to the southern Pacific coast, Playa Cativo is on the scenic Golfo Dulce, in its own private rainforest, as you swap volcano views for sea views. Take to the water by kayak or paddle board, delve beneath the surface on snorkelling trips, or head out into the bay in search of dolphins. There are walking trails, dreamy botanic gardens and wildlife sanctuaries to be visited, but you’ll have plenty of time.
At each hotel you’ll enjoy creature comforts and excellent facilities. Both have lovely outdoor swimming pools, lush gardens, spas where you can let yourself be pampered, and restaurants serving delicious Costa Rican cuisine. You’ll feel right at home!
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- Arenal 4 nights
- Golfo Dulce 5 nights
Day 2: Enjoy breakfast as you ponder the many activities available to you today. The lure of Arenal is undeniable and if you want to explore it up close you can take a tour of the hanging bridges. This is a network of suspension bridges and platforms that takes you right into the rainforest canopy, crossing deep canyons and giving you the chance to spot birds and animals in among the foliage. Alternatively you might prefer the Sky Tram and Trek, enjoying a smooth ride up the summit, then descending through the rainforest by way of a series of 7 zip-lines. After all that excitement you might want to spend the afternoon chilling by the pool and gazing up at Arenal. Breakfast
Day 3: Another day of choices. You can return to Arenal National Park for a guided hike on the western flank taking in rainforest and a lava flow formed as recently as 1992. The trail culminates at a viewpoint where you can look down onto Lake Arenal. If you fancy a change of scene you can visit Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge for a boat trip on the river. Keep your eyes open for monkeys, caimans, sloths and a variety of birds. There are many other excursions available that hotel staff can book for you. Breakfast
Day 4: You could begin the day with an early morning bird watching tour in Arenal, when birds are at their most active. You can expect to see parrots, toucans, tanagers, flycatchers and hummingbirds. Later you can treat yourself to a visit to the hot springs complex, with pools of varying temperatures, and a restaurant on site serving local food. After a relaxing afternoon you might like to chance to take a guided night walk to experience the forest after dark, when many animals emerge. Breakfast
Day 5: Having had breakfast you’re driven back to San José airport where you board a flight down to Golfo Dulce on the far southern Pacific coast. You’re met on arrival and taken by boat to your next hotel, Playa Cativo. You can take things easy this afternoon, enjoying the wonderful sea views and socialising with other guests. The hotel library has lots of useful information about the region to whet your appetite for the days to come, and a stroll through the gardens will reveal birds, butterflies and mammals. Tonight you dine at the hotel, selecting dishes from the a la carte menu and your choice wine from the list. Breakfast, dinner Playa Cativo Lodge
Day 6: It’s time to explore! While at Playa Cativo you have free use of kayaks and paddle boards, so take your pick and head out to the water. Alternatively you can stay on dry land and armed with a map, follow a walking trail along the beach to Buenavista Pier, returning the same way or inland past an organic farm and valley. Having worked up a hunger you’ll enjoy lunch back at the lodge, and might simply want to have a relaxing afternoon. Breakfast, lunch, dinner
Day 7: A number of guided tours and trips are available for an extra charge. These include a hike in Piedras Blancas National Park, which has trails of different durations and difficulty, all of which let you enjoy the natural bounty of this area with its many thousands of species of plants, many mammals, reptiles and birds. You could take a specialist bird watching tour, hike to a waterfall and cool off with a swim, or head out into the bay on a dolphin spotting cruise. There’s certainly no shortage of activities. Breakfast, lunch, dinner
Day 8: Take advantage of the complimentary snorkelling equipment to venture into the waters of the Golfo Dulce. The most popular place to explore is near the pier where there are usually shoals of colourful fish to be seen. Later you can take to the kayak again, exploring the coast where you can see manta rays and turtles. If you want to head further afield, take a guided kayaking trip (extra fee) to the mangroves at the mouth of the Esquinas River which offer a completely different environment to the open waters of the bay. Breakfast, lunch, dinner
Day 9: On your last full day at Playa Cativo you can opt for independent or guided tours, maybe revisiting one of your favourite haunts. Other options include a boat trip to Casa Orquideas Botanic Garden, a private collection of tropical plants and trees, with a magnificent display of orchids. Or you could visit the Osa Wildlife Sanctuary, a haven for injured and orphaned animals and birds. Both of these trips need to be booked in advance. Round off your stay at Playa Cativo with a delicious dinner at El Gavilan Restaurant. Breakfast, lunch, dinner
Day 10: On your last morning at Playa Cativo you can enjoy a leisurely breakfast before you board the boat to take you back to the airstrip. Then climb aboard the light aircraft back to San José. Enjoy a birds eye view of Costa Rica before catching your onward international flight from San José. Breakfast
2018 price from (pp sharing, exc international flights):
May – October £2,320
November – 10 December £2,570
Note: Dates including festive periods such as Easter will attract a surcharge on the above prices.
Transfers as specified, 9 nights twin share accommodation, meals as specified, use of kayaks, paddle boards and snorkelling equipment at Playa Cativo, return flights from San José to Golfo Dulce
Tours: 1 half-day guided tour at Playa Cativo
International flights, departure taxes, visas, travel insurance, meals not specified, drinks, optional excursions and activities at both locations, personal expenses, tips.
This tour starts and ends in San José. Return flight prices from the UK start from around £600.
This is a private, tailor-made holiday and can begin on any day you chose, subject to availability.
A member of the esteemed Small Luxury Hotels of the World, Nayara is an ideal base from which to enjoy Arenal Volcano National Park. It has an impressive range of facilities including a superb spa offering body treatments, beauty care and massages. The gardens include a swimming pool with snack bar service. There are 2 restaurants offering a choice of local, sushi and international cuisines, and a tapas bar with a cosy interior and terrace. There are 2 types of accommodation: suites and casitas. They offer largely similar accommodation and amenities with suites being slightly more spacious. Both styles of room have TV, CD/DVD player, music system, Wi-Fi access, IDD phone, bathroom with a supply of toiletries, separate outdoor shower and deck with a Jacuzzi and hammock.
The lodge is on the unspoilt Golfo Dulce, opposite the Osa Peninsula, set in over 400 hectares of private rainforest. Arriving is a thrill in itself, as the lodge can only be reached by boat, adding to the air of exclusivity. All guest rooms face the ocean for fine views and are constructed from reclaimed wood which gives them a homely feel. There’s enough space for a sofa, and the bathroom has a luxurious rain shower. Bathrobes and toiletries are supplied. The lodge has a fresh-water swimming pool and pool bar, attractive gardens and a library with an impressive collection of reference books. El Gavilan Restaurant makes use of local organic produce and fresh seafood to produce traditional and contemporary Costa Rican dishes, and there’s a comprehensive wine list to compliment your meal. Yoga sessions and massages can be arranged to promote health and well-being.
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