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Costa Rica Highlights - Value

Our challenge was to design the best value holiday in Costa Rica for families with reliably good accommodation and without sacrificing on experiences. This self drive itinerary is our solution, designed for those on a tight budget with a mix and match approach to accommodation combining comfortable 3* accommodation in Tortugeuro and Arenal and the luxurious 4* Gilded Iguana on the Pacific Coast.

Tailor-made Classic 10 days

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

Flights are typically an additional $0 per person economy class from London

People love what we do
Tourdust is rated 5.0 out of 5 stars


…We were really happy with the service we got from Tourdust which can be best described as friendly, efficient and expert.....

Missing Matthew McSweeney. See all Reviews

Itinerary

Overview


  • Jungle hikes & boat safari in Tortuguero National Park

  • Volcano hikes and hot springs in Arenal

  • Sun, sand, and surf in Playa Guiones, Nosara on the Pacific Coast

  • Self-drive 10 day holiday

  • Mix of comfortable 3* and stylish 4* accommodation

Day-by-day

Day 1: Arrive San Jose
Upon arrival at San Jose Airport, you will be met by our representative and transferred to your accommodation.
Accommodation: Hotel Presidente, San Jose
Meals included: breakfast

Day 2: San Jose to Tortuguero National Park (4.5 hrs drive)
Today take a 3.5 hour shared transfer with a stop for breakfast en route, followed by a one hour journey by motorised canoe to Tortuguero National Park, on Costa Rica’s Caribbean Coast. Arrive at your accommodation in time for lunch. Known as the ‘little Amazon’, Tortuguero is home to an impressive variety of birds and animals, including large numbers of caimans, macaws, and howler and capuchin monkeys. Activities available during your stay including a guided jungle walk, a visit to the local village, and a boat tour of the national park’s waterways. Activities take place in small groups with other guests from the lodge.
Accommodation: Evergreen Lodge, Tortuguero
Meals included: full board

Day 3: Jungle hike and boat tour of Tortuguero National Park
Today’s activities may include a guided hike in the jungle around the lodge and a boat tour of Tortuguero's canals. Late July to September sees turtle hatching and nesting season within the national park, and is a huge draw for nature lovers. The main action takes place after nightfall, 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. Note this seasonal activity is subject to permit availability, and that allocated viewing sessions may be late at night.
Accommodation: Evergreen Lodge, Tortuguero
Meals included: full board

Day 4: Tortuguero to Arenal (4 hrs drive)
This morning take a one hour boat transfer followed by a shared one hour drive to Guapiles. Here you will rendezvous with your hire car which you will collect and then self-drive to Arenal (saving you having to return all the way to San Jose). Private transfers are available as an upgrade; if you don't want to self-drive, please ask us for a quote with transfers.
Accommodation: Casa Luna, Arenal
Meals included: breakfast

Day 5: Arenal – Volcano hike
In the morning, hike the trails of Arenal Volcano National Park and learn about the history of this rugged and fascinating area. Weather permitting, you will enjoy spectacular views of the volcano, along with the opportunity to walk on the dry lava fields. Although there have been no eruptions since 2010, visitors may occasionally hear the volcano rumbling and observe vapour clouds emerging from the crater. There should be good potential for wildlife viewing, as the ash layer in the soil has limited the surrounding tree growth. In the afternoon, we would suggest visiting one of the many hot springs in the area (see https://www.tourdust.com/blog/posts/hot-springs-in-costa-rica) or for a more cooling swim, the beautiful waterfalls of La Fortuna. Arenal plays host to a wide and excellent variety of activities, from specialised nature tours to high adrenaline zip wires and rafting; get in touch to discuss the options.
Accommodation: Casa Luna, Arenal
Meals included: breakfast

Day 6: Arenal to Nosara on the Pacific Coast (4.5 hrs drive)
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
Meals included: breakfast

Day 7: Pacific Coast - Nosara
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 premier 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
Meals included: breakfast

Day 8: Pacific Coast - Nosara
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 and live music), La Luna (beachfront fine dining and sunsets) and Beach Dog Cafe (live music, tacos and cocktails) are all great options.
Accommodation: The Gilded Iguana, Nosara
Meals included: breakfast

Day 9: Pacific Coast to San Jose
Drive back to San Jose (4.5 hours). If self-driving, we will arrange for your car to be picked up from your hotel in the evening.
Accommodation: Hotel Buena Vista, San Jose
Meals included: breakfast

Day 10: Departure
Final transfer to the airport for your journey 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

9/10

Price guide

Price rating 3

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

Our rating

7/10

Price guide

Price rating 3

- 3 Acres of Gardens
- Friendly Service
- Swimming Pool
- 10km from Airport

Details

Getting there

From the UK
Flights from the UK to Costa Rica’s San Jose airport are mostly indirect, involving one or two stops in Europe, USA or Panama. BA and KLM operate a limited number of seasonal direct flights, with a flight time of approximately 11 hours. Norwegian, TAP Portugal, Air Canada, Delta, United, and Iberia all fly indirectly with one or two stops and overall flight times of between 14 – 22 hours. Competitive deals are currently available with BA and American Airlines flying via Miami, with the option of combining your Costa Rica holiday with a stay in 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

Includes all accommodation in San Jose and Nosara on B&B basis, accommodation in Tortuguero on Full Board. Includes airport transfers and mid-sized SUV hire car rental (upgrade to private transfers throughout is available). Includes Tortugeuro wildlife boat trip and Arenal nature hike.

When is best?

Costa Rica’s densely verdant terrain and sweeping rainforest owe much to its tropical climate. Generally, the country experiences its dry or high 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 Tamarindo in 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 10 day, budget friendly holiday will appeal to reasonably active travellers who seek variety and excellent value for money, and are keen to explore Costa Rica’s dramatic natural landscapes and diverse wildlife. The itinerary combines stunning national parks, the vibrant capital city, and a relaxing three night beachside stay. A range of accommodation includes tranquil eco-lodges, midrange urban hotels, and a chic oceanfront resort. Certain excursions are included in the overall price, with the option to add on further activities subject to additional cost. The itinerary is self drive with road transfers included to Tortugeuro (where it is not possible to self drive), and we can offer the flexibility of private transfers according to preference and budget.

Safety

For the latest travel advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth office check www.gov.uk/travelaware

What customers are saying after travelling with Tourdust

Average Rating

based on 506 reviews

(5.00/5)

  • We had a fantastic time and all the arrangements worked perfectly.
    We were very impressed with the quality and service levels of all 4 locations visited and it was truly a holiday of a lifetime.
    Thank you to you and to Lisa for giving us this experience.
    Particular highlights for us – really the whole experience, but of particular impact:
    Breathtaking scenery at Cathedral Peak Hotel
    Rhino Ridge game drives incredible, thanks to guide (we had their head guide, Hala, who’s knowledge, enthusiasm, kindness, interaction, ability to spot wildlife was out of this world)
    Luxury of Rhino Ridge (shower, food, views, service)
    Immersion in nature, torch lit meal on last night and beach trip at Kosi Forest Lodge
    Level of service, quality of food throughout

    MissingCatherine F reviewing South Africa Safari, Beach and Wetlands on 04 September 2019

  • We had a fantastic time. Thank you and it went smoothly in the main except for British Airways!

    The trip had the right degree of luxury and relaxation (for me) and adventure (all of us).

    A few points:
    Driving directions to Umlunghi Lodge were slightly wrong. The driving directions should read at the 4th roundabout take the first exit and turn right over the railway. We loved it there. Anton, Bianca and her son and Harriet were very informative and entertaining. The snake talk and handling, night walks and seeing scorpions and the walk in the bush and "bumping" into a giraffe were really special. The kayak trip to Makuzi pan that the lodge organised was good and Tomaz was very informative and kept a respectful distance from the hippos.3 nights was plenty.

    Rhino River Lodge game reserve was incredibly luxurious and we felt very looked after. The lion siting in camp the day we arrived sent an extra frisson of excitement down our spines. It was easy to forget there were predators that could attack us with all that luxury. The staff and guides (Karl) were knowledgeable and invested in their set up. We saw rhinos with baby, cheetahs with young, porcupine, Genet, wildebeast, Impala, Lion with young, buffalo, a puff adder, ostrich, zebra and giraffes. 4 nights was also plenty.
    They all served great food but I felt Ghost Mountain Inn topped the lot. The variety was amazing. We arrived at 10.30 but could not get into our room until 2 ish. The service was not so personal I guess because it is larger (far more than 50 rooms). We had been a bit spoilt at Rhino River! My daughter and I had some treatments at the Spa and loved it. We also went on a large boat trip on Jonzi and had a closer encounter with a large bull hippo and also a hike up Ghost Mountain with Patrick who was very informative and passionate about his people and his country. Isaac the other guide there took us on the boat trip and pointed out the sugar cane harvest on the way. he was very informative also.

    Lastly, Lalaria Lodge was fabulous and we all piled into the surf of the Indian Ocean. There was hardly anyone on the beach. It was "too cold" according to the landlady. The view from her terrace was of the ocean and whales breaching in the distance. I could have sat there all day. She very kindly provided us with a Scrabble board of her own for us to play. We took a Microlight ride from Ballito over the coastline in the hope of seeing whales and dolphins but no luck. If we had stayed longer we might have gone on a boat trip from Durban. We had a meal at a restaurant called Mozambique which was great fun with vast portions, plenty of carbs and fresh seafood!

    The value of the Rand to the Pound was excellent and therefore we felt that we got excellent value which also played a large part!

    MissingKatrina P reviewing South Africa Bush & Beach Safari For Families on 02 September 2019

  • We had the most incredible time thank you. We loved Karen Blixen camp and felt part of a family there, it was incredibly special. And Breezes was very relaxing.
    We can't fault all the transfers and the moment we were greeted on the tarmac at Nairobi airport we knew we were going to be well cared for.

    Thank you so much to you and all the Tourdust team for making it such a happy and memorable trip.

    MissingZoe A reviewing Masai Mara Safari & Beach on 27 August 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 $3,678 pp plus flights

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

Flights are typically an additional $998 per person economy class from London

Families from $3,258 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 $998 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 $2,891 pp plus flights

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

Flights are typically an additional $998 per person economy class from London

Families from $2,418 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 $998 per person economy class from London

Two week self-drive Costa Rica family holiday covering all the highlights including Tortugeuro, Arenal, Monteverde Rain Forest, Nosara Beach and Manuel Antonio National Park.

Tailor-made Classic 15 days

Adults from $2,675 pp plus flights

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

Flights are typically an additional $998 per person economy class from London

Families from $1,930 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 $998 per person economy class from London

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