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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 $1,038 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 504 reviews

(5.00/5)

  • Hi Lisa,

    The safari trip was excellent! The stay, the food and the people were all very nice. We were happy to have Ryan and Stanley as our game drive guides they brought us up close to the animals and Ryan gave very good information throughout.

    Would definitely recommend to friends who are interested in safaris :)

    Also, thanks much for your help, particularly keeping the room for my Brother and his wife they’ve enjoyed the safari very much too!

    Best regards,
    Woan Chyi

    MissingWoan Chyi L reviewing Cape Town & Kruger Safari on 16 October 2019

  • Driver-guide: Very punctual, except for pick up for airport when he was delayed by >30 mins due to road closures. Vehicle very clean and well maintained- plenty of water and supplies of clothing for religious sites, tissues, postcards etc. Very good at understanding what level of conversation we wanted. Happy to stop for paracetamol, supermarket etc. Took us to signal box at railway since we were early (which was very interesting)

    The Walawwa: Lovely place to arrive at and get a bit of rest. Great pool, lovely rooms and food etc. Peaceful oasis so close to town.

    Wilpattu Camp: Wonderful food- really enjoyed trying lots of new things in excellent surroundings.Felt like the place had not been visited much recently (which I don’t think it had due to the terrorist attacks) so our safari guide had been brought up from another park and did not know the park too well- it worked out well though and we saw all the animals we hoped to see so no complaints on that front. We did feel that we should have been told about extra things we could have done- when we commented on the great food on final day we were told that they could have done a cookery demo for us, but it was too late at that point. It worked well for us but clients should probably know that they are likely to have multiple wildlife in their tents (eg frogs)- didn’t bother us at all, but others it might do. We were given a questionnaire to fill in at the end whilst all the staff were standing around, which wasn’t ideal as you felt a bit of pressure! Felt really well looked after here!

    Water Gardens Sigiriya: Beautiful suites with plunge pools- quiet and peaceful with lovely big swimming pool. Food good

    Jungle Beach: Beautiful location on beach. Rooms good. Food a bit limited I would have liked a bit more variety ideally.

    Camellia House: Lovely location- beautiful views. Food OK but service below average- our food orders were wrong a couple of times and even pre-ordered food was delayed. Tea factory tour was only an hour and that was the main reason to be here. It was interesting but quite brief seeing it was the main attraction according to our itinerary. Also, we were taken there in a minibus which didn’t have seatbelts on all seats and was quite smelly- not up to the standard of the usual transportation. Rooms were described as having panoramic views- one did have amazing views but the other one definitely didn’t.

    Galle Face: Lovely old hotel- but it did have some problems (leaking ceiling and ‘smuts’ coming out of air conditioning.) Weather very bad (spectacular storms). It was a shame the street food tour couldn’t take place but totally understandable given the weather, however we enjoyed our dinner here and free drinks/canopes!). Good choice at breakfast.

    MissingPippa R reviewing Sri Lanka Highlights - Classic on 30 September 2019

  • Once again you organised a really good holiday for us.
    If there was one criticism it was that there were too many flights. I don’t know whether you could do Bangkok first, Chiang Mai, then fly down South?
    Your drivers and Guides - all really good. The variety of transport on the tours in Bangkok and Chiang Mai; we all loved.
    Tamarind Village - Our room was a bit of a squeeze, with the 3 of us and 3 big suitcases.
    Lisu Lodge- I enjoyed our time here. Going forward I would suggest only 1 night or they need to have some more activities. I liked how we ate on the floor, the food was really good. Staff very friendly. We liked the cycling, tea plantation, trekking and white water rafting.
    Riva Surya- good location.
    Elephant Hills- we loved looking after the elephants, the lake was also a really good experience. The guides were informative and looked after us well. The resort locations and tents were perfect.
    Santiburi - amazing; we upgraded to a beach bungalow which was fantastic. The hotel is in a stunning location, the facilities and the service was impeccable. Sam has some private Thai boxing lessons, which he loved. We had cookery lessons and used the paddle boards. A perfect end to quite a busy holiday.

    MissingNatasha L reviewing Thailand Family Adventure on 24 September 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 $3,817 pp plus flights

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

Flights are typically an additional $1,038 per person economy class from London

Families from $3,382 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 $1,038 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 $2,999 pp plus flights

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

Flights are typically an additional $1,038 per person economy class from London

Families from $2,509 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 $1,038 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 $2,776 pp plus flights

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

Flights are typically an additional $1,038 per person economy class from London

Families from $2,002 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 $1,038 per person economy class from London

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