Large sloth compressed

Costa Rica Highlights for Families

Self-drive two week holiday showcasing Costa Rica's highlights. This holiday is designed for families wanting to experience the wildlife, beaches, volcanoes, rainforest and cloudforest of Costa Rica with a touch of adventure.

On this two week holiday you will hike through jungle and watch turtles hatching at Tortuguero, explore the Monteverde Cloud Forest, walk on Arenal’s lava fields, and zipwire through rainforest. You will relax in thermal springs in Arenal, and swim and surf on pristine beaches in Nosara and Manuel Antonio National Park.

Tailor-made Classic 15 days

'From Price' is the average price per person for ground arrangements for two people sharing.

Flights are typically an additional $1,012 per person economy class from London

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Itinerary

Overview


  • Self-drive 2 week family holiday in Costa Rica

  • See the turtles in Tortugeuro National Park (seasonal, please ask)

  • Swim in waterfalls and relax in hot springs in Arenal

  • Take a night walk in the Monteverde Cloud Forest

  • Surf and sun on Nosara's golden sands

  • See Toucan, monkey and sloth in Manuel Antonio National Park

  • Stay in a combination of eco lodges and good value mid range hotels

  • Upgrade to private transfers on request


This is a tailor-made itinerary and in our opinion is an excellent example of a nicely balanced trip that works well covering many of the highlights at a reasonable budget and level of comfort. There are options to upgrade accommodation at all locations, for example Manatus is a lovely option in Tortugeuro and Arenas Del Mar is a lovely luxury option in Manuel Antonio.

Day-by-day

DAY 1: ARRIVAL AT SAN JOSE
On arrival at the airport you will be met by our representative and make the 20 minute transfer to your hotel. The rest of the afternoon is free to recover from your flight amidst the attractive gardens and swimming pools of Xandari. If you want to stretch your legs, there is a lovely trail on the property to a series of impressive waterfalls.
Accommodation: Xandari Resort and Spa, San Jose

DAY 2: TRANSFER BY ROAD AND BOAT TO TORTUGEURO NATIONAL PARK (4.5HRS)
Today take a 3 ½ hour shared coach journey, stopping en route for breakfast, followed by a one hour journey by motorised canoe, to Tortuguero National Park. Arrive at your accommodation in time for lunch. Known as the ‘Little Amazon’, Tortuguero is home to a strong concentration of wildlife, and during your stay you should have a good chance of viewing howler and capuchin monkeys, caiman, and macaws. Several activities are included during your stay at Tortuguero; these comprise a guided jungle walk, a visit to the local village and a boat excursion along the national park’s labyrinth of canals. Activities and transfers take place in small shared groups with other guests from the lodge.
Accommodation: Evergreen Lodge, Tortuguero

DAY 3: JUNGLE HIKE AND BOAT TOUR OF TORTUGEURO NATIONAL PARK
Today perhaps enjoy a guided hike in the jungle around the lodge and a boat tour along the national park canals. Tortuguero’s big draw for wildlife lovers is the turtle hatching and nesting season, which runs from late July to September. Although some stragglers might be seen during the day, all the action happens at night when hundreds of turtles emerge from the sea to lay their eggs in the sandy beach. If you are extremely lucky you might see the hatchlings emerge from their eggs and make their own way back down to the ocean. This activity is seasonal and subject to permit availability – note that allotted time slots may be in the middle of the night.
Accommodation: Evergreen Lodge, Tortuguero

DAY 4: DRIVE TO ARENAL (4HRS)
Today take a one hour boat journey followed by a shared one hour road transfer to Guapiles. Here you can pick up your hire car before embarking on a two hour drive to Arenal. Arrive at your accommodation and enjoy the rest of your day at leisure.
Accommodation: Casa Luna, Arenal

DAY 5: ARENAL - WATERFALLS, ZIPWIRES, VOLCANOES AND HOT SPRINGS
With your own car you can be free to explore independently and take your pick of the various tours and attractions in the area. In terms of activities, our highlights for families include the hot springs at Baldi, the skytrek zipwire, wild swimming at Fortuna Waterfall, hikes in the Arenal National Park (guided or independent) and rafting. The guided tours here can add up and have a big impact on costs for a family, so we will discuss the options with you and prepare a quote based on your preferences.
Accommodation: Casa Luna, Arenal

DAY 6: ARENAL - WATERFALLS, ZIPWIRES, VOLCANOES AND HOT SPRINGS
The skytrek zipwire hosts seven zip lines covering a massive distance in a zig zag over a vertiginous canyon. Teenagers and brave younger kids will love this, those who are scared of heights or who don’t like to be out of their comfort zone will not! Fortuna Waterfall is a lovely half day activity, an easy 10 minute drive from town. It is a short but steep trail to the falls, which drop about 75m from the tropical rainforest into a swimmable pool - get there early and remember to bring your swimming costumes. The trails of Arenal Volcano National Park provide an opportunity to learn the history of this stunning volcano. Weather allowing there will be stunning views of the volcano, the opportunity to walk on the (thankfully) now dry lava fields, and good chances of seeing wildlife, as the ash layer in the soil prevents the growth of large trees. Although the volcano hasn't erupted in recent times, you still occasionally hear it rumbling and see small clouds of vapour emerging from the crater. Independent hiking is possible on marked trails, or we can arrange a guided hike. There are a number of hot spring resorts available locally, ranging from the peace and quiet of Eco Termales to the crazy waterslides of Baldi. We've tried most and think Baldi is the most fun for a family. For rafting there are float trips (4yrs+), Grade 2-3 rafting (8yrs+) trips available close to Arenal as well as longer day tours out to the famous Grade 4-5 Paquare and Sarapiqui Rivers (both 12yrs+)
Accommodation: Casa Luna, Arenal

DAY 7: DRIVE ARENAL TO MONTEVERDE (2.5HRS). CLOUD FOREST NIGHT WALK
The quickest and most enjoyable way to travel from Arenal to Monteverde is by boat across the lake as this avoids the long and winding road round the water’s edge. The journey takes approximately two hours. On arrival, enjoy an afternoon at leisure at the lodge, before setting out in the evening for an exciting night walk in the Monteverde Cloud Forest. This guided experience begins at sunset, when wildlife is at its most active. You will have the opportunity to hear and observe an impressive array of animals including sloth, coati, agouti, porcupine, and grey fox, along with numerous insects and hosts of sleeping birds.
Accommodation: Cloud Forest Lodge, Monteverde

DAY 8: MONTEVERDE CLOUD FOREST TOUR
Founded in 1972, the 3,500 hectare Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve is internationally renowned for its dramatic biodiversity, and for its contributions to conservation and scientific research. Today you will hike through the well-marked trails, waterfalls, rivers, and observation areas of this prestigious reserve. Acclaimed as one of the ‘seven wonders’ of Costa Rica, the Cloud Forest’s geographical, topographical, and climatic conditions have spawned a remarkable diversity of wildlife. The reserve’s forests house numerous ecosystems inhabited by mammals, birds, reptiles, spiders, and insects, along with indigenous trees, plants, mosses, and tropical epiphytes and lianas. You may be lucky enough to spot the splendidly exotic Quetzal.
Accommodation: Cloud Forest Lodge, Monteverde

DAY 9: DRIVE FROM MONTEVERDE TO NOSARA (4HRS)
It is a picturesque drive West to the Pacific Coast. Our favourite beach town on the Pacific Coast is Nosara. Nosara combines superb beaches with a laid-back atmosphere and its unique offering of world class surf, yoga, great food, coffee and craft beer is hard to beat. Playa Pelada is best for swimming and enjoying the sunsets, while Playa Guiones is the main surf beach with miles of golden sands lapped by consistent and clean 3-5 foot waves, ideal for beginner and intermediate surfers and anyone who likes playing in the waves. There are a handful of surf hire shops in town and lessons are easy to arrange.
Accommodation: The Gilded Iguana, Nosara

DAY 10: NOSARA, PACIFIC COAST
If surfing’s not for you, then it’s possible to rent a body-board and play around in the waves. Nosara also has miles of mountain biking trails to explore, plus it’s known for being Costa Rica's premiere yoga location. Yoga is on offer not only at the hotel but also at the renowned Bodhi Tree Yoga Resort which offers daily classes to anyone who wishes to sign up. The nearby Ostional Beach offers some of the best turtle viewing in Costa Rica (seasonal). Turtles return to land to nest in the evenings, particularly during full moons. Ask at your hotel and they will let you know the best time to visit and arrange a tour for you.
Accommodation: The Gilded Iguana, Nosara

DAY 11: NOSARA, PACIFIC COAST
Another full day at leisure. Eating out in Nosara is fantastic fun, with half a dozen good restaurants to choose from, each with a buzzing atmosphere. 10 Pies (pizzas and swing chairs), Burgers & Beer (craft beer and burgers), El Chivo Cantina (tex mex & live music), La Luna (beachfront fine dining & sunsets) and Beach Dog Cafe (live music, tacos and cocktails) are all great options.
Accommodation: The Gilded Iguana, Nosara

DAY 12: NOSARA, PACIFIC COAST
Another full day at leisure.
Accommodation: The Gilded Iguana, Nosara

DAY 13: DRIVE TO MANUEL ANTONIO (6HRS)
Today you will drive to Manuel Antonio National Park. It is a reasonably long journey, so we recommend starting early.
Accommodation: Hotel Si Como No, Manuel Antonio

DAY 14: MANUEL ANTONIO NATIONAL PARK
Manual Antonio National Park is a small, busy, and incredibly picturesque national park with a fantastic density of wildlife, which pretty much guarantees monkey and sloth bear sightings. The park is located around a point, fringed on both sides by golden sand beaches. We recommend packing a picnic, hitting the park early or late in the day to avoid the crowds, and combining it with a cooling swim in the sea. Keep your eyes peeled for sloth bears, toucans, macaws and white faced monkeys. We have included a guided hike to give you the best chances of spotting the wildlife, or choose to explore independently on the well-marked trails.
Accommodation: Hotel Si Como No, Manuel Antonio

DAY 15: DRIVE TO AIRPORT (2-3HRS)
Today you will drive to San Jose to return your hire car, before your flight home.

Accommodation


Guide price is based on recommended accommodations. Alternative accommodations and upgrades are available. Please get in touch or click on 'alternatives' below for alternatives and upgrade options.

Our rating

7/10

Price guide

Price rating 3

- Good value central hotel
- 20 minutes from airport
- Lovely rooftop bar/restaurant
- Coffee shop, gym, spa

Our rating

7/10

Price guide

Price rating 3

- Eco-friendly resort, 66 cabins
- Close to Tortuguero National Park
- Turtles, boat trips, nature walks, kayaking
- Rich biodiversity, excellent wildlife

Our rating

7/10

Price guide

Price rating 3

- Eco-friendly hotel
- 40 simple, well-presented rooms
- White-water rafting, caving, hot springs
- Night hikes, boat trips, farm visits

Our rating

7/10

Price guide

Price rating 2

- Rural eco-lodge with stunning views
- Near Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
- Spacious rooms, restaurant/bar and lounge
- Hiking trails and zipline canopy tours

Our rating

9/10

Price guide

Price rating 3

- Top beachside surfing destination
- Laid back atmosphere
- Surf school, yoga
- Mountain biking centre

Hotel Si Como No

Manuel Antonio

Our rating

7/10

Price guide

Price rating 3

- Wonderful hillside location
- Near Manuel Antonio National Park
- Spa, pool with water slide, cinema
- Forest hikes, snorkelling, parasailing, surfing

Details

Getting there

From the UK: Direct Flights with a flight time of approximately 11 hours from the UK to Costa Rica San Jose airport are offered by BA (Twice or thrice per week depending on season), TUI (once per week to Liberia, seasonal) and Thomas Cook (once per week to San Jose, seasonal). Direct flights tend to be considerably more expensive than indirect flights to Costa Rica. Indirect flights involving one stop in Europe, USA or Panama are available with BA, American Airlines, KLM , Norwegian, TAP Portugal, Air Canada, Delta, United, and Iberia offering overall flight times of between 14 – 22 hours. Competitive deals are often available with BA and American Airlines flying via Miami, with the option of combining your Costa Rica holiday with a stay on South Beach, Miami. Return flights range from £720 to upwards of £2,000, depending on seasonality and demand. Please get in touch for a detailed quote, including international flights from the UK.
From the US:
From the East Coast, United offer direct flights to San Jose, taking approximately 5 ½ hours, with prices from $515 return. Avianca fly with one stop and a 7 - 8 hour flight time, with prices starting at $370 return. From the West Coast, American Airlines, United, and Avianca offer a flight time of between 8 - 10 hours involving one stop. Prices range from $450 to $610 return. Please get in touch for a detailed quote, including international flights from the US.

Price includes

The family price for this sample itinerary is based on a family of 4 travelling together (and 2 adults travelling together for the couple price). Price includes all accommodation, transfers, car rental and guided activities where mentioned as included in the itinerary. Accommodation is on a bed and breakfast basis throughout, with the exception of Tortuguero which is full board. Price is given as a guide and does not include international flights; actual quote will vary depending on the number and age of your children (if any), your travel dates and accommodation availability. Please call or enquire for a tailor-made quote including international flights.

When is best?

Costa Rica’s densely verdant terrain and sweeping rainforest owe much to its tropical climate. Generally, the country experiences its peak dry season from December to April, with May to November heralding the rainy or ‘green’ season. Rainfall can occur year round, although showers during the dry season tend to be short lived.
December to April: Peak visitor season: beaches and national parks are busy, and accommodation is in high demand. Most of the country enjoys plenty of sun and high temperatures, with minimal rainfall. The Caribbean Coast is usually at its driest during March. Wildlife viewing is generally excellent, including whale watching at Uvita from December to March.
May to August: The green season begins, bringing frequent showers to most regions. National parks see a slowdown in visitors, allowing crowd-free wildlife viewing, and surfing conditions can be good on key beaches. May and June can be good months to visit Arenal, when good visibility permits great views of the volcano. There are sunny periods in the Central Valley areas of San Jose and Manual Antonio National Park, and on the Caribbean Coast, where green sea turtle nesting along Tortuguero’s coastline is at its peak during July and August. July heralds the start of whale watching season at Uvita on the Southern Pacific Coast. The Northern Pacific coastline, including the Nicoya Peninsula, receives less rainfall year-round than the country as a whole, and often basks in sunny spells during July and August.
September to November: The height of the rainy season, with prolonged heavy rain showers and storms sweeping most of the country, and resultant sea swells bringing great surfing conditions along the Pacific Coast. Tourist accommodation may be closed, and roads in rural areas can be off limits, due to flooding. The Caribbean Coast, hot and humid for most of year, is usually at its driest during September and October, coinciding with the end of turtle nesting season. The Uvita whale watching season reaches its peak during October. In November the rains begin to abate, allowing low-season uninterrupted wildlife watching for nature lovers who don’t mind the odd shower. By the end of the month, visitor numbers are on the increase again.

Is it for me?

This holiday is part of our Classic portfolio of itineraries which are designed to hit all the key highlights of a country in two weeks. As such, this is designed for families wanting to experience a bit of everything in Costa Rica: from the turtles of Tortuguero to the beach and surf at Nosara, from the volcano and activities at Arenal to the cloudforest at Monteverde, and the sloths and monkeys of Manuel Antonio.
We have designed this as a self-drive itinerary as we think it is easy and certainly more affordable to self-drive in Costa Rica. If you prefer we can quote to include private transfers instead.
We have alternative Costa Rica itineraries for families who surf, families looking for the very best levels of luxury and accommodation, and for families with a passionate interest in wildlife.

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What customers are saying after travelling with Tourdust

Average Rating

based on 501 reviews

(5.00/5)

  • We had a wonderful time! Our transfers (besides a bit of a wait when we arrived) were smooth. The gentleman that drove us to and from the airport also drove us to our hike and he was very nice and helpful, clean car and very accommodating.
    Our tour guide on the first day, Mandy, was charming and insightful. It was a slow day in the markets but we appreciated the space and gave us a chance to hear all about the Souks. The gentlemen who was with her was a wealth of knowledge and both did a very nice job!
    Our hike was awesome and our guide was great- he even took us to a cool waterfall and took great care of us; lunch in the mountains was delicious!
    The hotel was so lovely and the staff was very accommodating and helpful. The food was great and the rooms very comfortable!
    I did a good amount of damage in the market (often accused of being Berber;) and truly hope to be back next Spring... maybe a girls trip or perhaps I’ll bring my kiddos!
    Thank you for organizing such a nice getaway for my husband and I; we will confidently recommend Tourdust to our friends!!

    MissingJennifer H reviewing Boutique Marrakech & Atlas Mountains on 12 June 2019

  • We had an amazing trip. Everything was well thought out and so much fun. What a great way to truly see the country and learn the culture.

    Joseph was the perfect guide. Very kind, professional, knowledgeable and patient. The kids loved Joseph and keep asking when will they meet him again. He found the Big 5 for us which was unforgettable! Please pass along our appreciation to Joseph.

    Maji Moto was also another incredible experience. They had great customer service and we loved experiencing their culture.

    Sunbird was absolutely beautiful and I wish we had more time there. We loved the view of the lake!

    One suggestion to make the trip even better for other guests in the future would be to have a cooler with drinks and snacks in the Jeep at all times because a ton of driving is involved and it would be helpful to have a cold drink and snacks during the long trip.

    Thanks again for organizing this experience of a lifetime for us!

    MissingBrandon H reviewing Maasai Family Adventure on 12 June 2019

  • Both hotels were excellent. Sari Konak is in a superb location for visiting all the iconic sights. Our family suite was spacious, newly decorated and very clean. There was a separate room for our son and a kitchenette with ‘fridge and kettle. Good choice at breakfast and served on lovely roof terrace. Great views of Bosphorus. One evening, we caught the commuter ferry to Kadikoy for an evening meal. A great option if there isn’t time to fit in a Bosphorus cruise. Also recommend The Old House restaurant which is very close to the hotel. We were in Istanbul during Ramadan so there was a family atmosphere in the city late into the night.

    Esbelli Evi was delightful; a huge cave suite, great character, two bathrooms, sitting room and kitchenette with a fridge well stocked with beers and soft drinks. Private, quiet courtyard with gate to communal areas. Breakfast choice was really good and plenty of outdoor seating. Easy walk into village. Favourite options for dinner were Ziggys (stylish outdoor roof terrace) and Urgup Pide (popular with locals).

    Really must mention owner Suha Ersoz and his staff - all of whom are extremely kind and helpful.

    All our transfers went smoothly. Our driver and guide (Gaia) in Cappadocia were excellent and our itinerary was fast paced and interesting. Lunch options were great, especially on the river at Ilhara. A highlight for me was spitting a wild tortoise!

    Balloon flight with Kapadokya Balloons was well worth the money and well organised.

    MissingTim S reviewing Istanbul & Cappadocia Family Holiday on 07 June 2019

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Alternative Itineraries

Our itineraries are carefully designed by our experienced travel designers based on years of experience and customer feedback. For a custom itinerary tailored to you, please enquire giving as much detail as possible on your brief.

Two week holiday in Costa Rica with a focus on the wildlife. Includes Tortuguero, Arenal, Monteverde, Osa Peninsula and Uvita

Tailor-made Classic 2 weeks

Adults from $3,698 pp plus flights

'From Price' is the average per person price for ground arrangements for two people sharing.

Flights are typically an additional $1,012 per person economy class from London

Families from $3,275 pp plus flights

'From Price' is the average price per person for ground arrangements for a family of four (two adults + two children under 12).

Flights are typically an additional $1,012 per person economy class from London

2 week adventure including surfing in Nosara, rafting Pacuare River and tubing and canyoning at Rio Perdido. Classic rainforest and beachside accommodation.

Tailor-made Luxury 2 weeks

Adults from $2,906 pp plus flights

'From Price' is the average per person price for ground arrangements for two people sharing.

Flights are typically an additional $1,012 per person economy class from London

Families from $2,431 pp plus flights

'From Price' is the average price per person for ground arrangements for a family of four (two adults + two children under 12).

Flights are typically an additional $1,012 per person economy class from London

Two week luxury holiday celebrating the best of Costa Rica. Includes Arenal Volcano, Pacuare River, Gulfo Dulce and Manuel Antonio

Tailor-made Luxury 2 weeks

Adults from $6,793 pp plus flights

'From Price' is the average per person price for ground arrangements for two people sharing.

Flights are typically an additional $1,012 per person economy class from London

Families from $6,339 pp plus flights

'From Price' is the average price per person for ground arrangements for a family of four (two adults + two children under 12).

Flights are typically an additional $1,012 per person economy class from London

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