Costa Rica Tour Destinations

San José/Alajuela

San José and Alajuela are the largest and second largest cities in Costa Rica and are located in the populated Central Valley. Both cities are used as the jumping-off place for travelers arriving to the nearby Juan Santamaria International Airport. Alajuela is just 10 minutes away and often the overnight spot for our arriving tours. Generally travelers want to get out into the wilder (animal-wise that is) parts of Costa Rica and so we don’t spend much time in the cities. For the traveler looking to experience more of the culture and color of Costa Rican life, 1-2 extra nights can certainly be arranged. Day tours are easily scheduled and great museums, galleries, and shopping can fill your days.

Accommodations run the full range from hostels to 5 star boutique hotels. Travelers can choose to stay in either Alajuela or San José.

Activities include: Art, Jade, Gold, and Natural History Museums, shopping, local farmer’s markets, coffee tours, art galleries, night life, the National Theater, great restaurants, and more that a cosmopolitan city can offer.

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Arenal Volcano / La Fortuna

Just a few hours away from the Central Valley, the Arenal Volcano was Costa Rica’s most active volcano until 2010. Today Volcán Arenal hovers impressively, albeit quietly, over the town of La Fortuna, a popular destination for adventure travelers. The area is blessed with a National Park, Lake Arenal, hot springs, waterfalls, and a variety of excellent nature and adventure activities that never disappoint. This is the spot for those looking for an adventure in the great outdoors.

Lodging options are quite diverse, satisfying any preference and budget. One of the most eco-friendly lodges in Costa Rica is located in the Arenal area. Spa services are available in some locations.

Available activities include: Canopy tours, canyoneering, volcano and wildlife hikes, extreme hiking, horseback riding, kayaking, spelunking, rafting, coffee tours, and paddle boarding.

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Southern Caribbean Coast

The Southern Caribbean Coast has some of the most beautiful and pristine beaches in Costa Rica with lush vegetation hanging down into the water. This area includes a variety of small to medium-sized beach towns, from Puerto Viejo to Manzanillo, each with their own charm and offerings. Puerto Viejo is the largest and is a popular surf spot while Manzanillo is the most remote located at the end of the road near the Manzanillo-Gandoca Wildlife Reserve. Punta Uva is a lovely sandy beach that boasts safe swimming waters and good snorkeling just off the beach. The Caribbean style is prominent in décor, food, building, music and the laid-back Pura Vida attitude.

Accommodations vary from simple cabins or rooms to luxurious jungle bungalows to secluded rental houses. The out of town choices often delight their guests with animal visits and sightings.

Activities along the Caribbean Coast include: Guided bird and wildlife hikes, sea turtle nesting watch, lagoon kayaking, swimming, canopy tour, dolphin viewing, an Indian Reserve tour, The Sloth Sanctuary, fishing, and much more.

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Manuel Antonio and Manuel Antonio National Park

The picturesque beach and national park at Manuel Antonio is the most popular destination by far for first-time visitors to Costa Rica, and with good reason. The beach is gorgeous and accessible, whether you come for playing in the waves, surfing, or just to relax on the beach in one of the rental beach lounge chairs. Restaurants and smoothie stands are close by.

Just 100 meters from the beach is the entrance to the small, but wildlife-packed park. Manuel Antonio National Park was created to preserve this forest on the beach and is home to the endangered Squirrel Monkey, called ‘Titi.’ Additionally, the park has a number of lovely beaches within it, all accessible by the park trails.

Unfortunately, along with its popularity, overdevelopment and crowding have come.  Manuel Antonio N.P. is becoming an island oasis of forest among development as more and more pressure is being put on it. The park itself teems with animals and birds, but at the peak tourist times, visiting it can be less enjoyable. For these reasons, I believe it is best to avoid Manuel Antonio during the peak tourism periods; from mid-December to mid-February and during Easter week. Outside of these periods Manuel Antonio is a wonderful destination.

There are so many lodging options in Manuel Antonio, it can be mind-boggling deciding on one.  Our preferred accommodation choice is the last hotel as you come down the hill and it is ON THE BEACH. Pass through a locked gate and you are there! The rooms are clean and comfortable and fitted with AC, a safe, Internet, and small kitchenettes. Perfect for a longer stay or if you simply can’t tear yourself away from the beach to dress up for dinner. There is no other, more convenient and reasonable lodging in Manuel Antonio. If this option doesn’t appeal to you, we can certainly find one that will meet your needs. Many great restaurants are available for your dining pleasure and numerous top-notch spas are ready to pamper you.

Activities around Manuel Antonio include: Beach activities, guided wildlife/bird hikes, mangrove kayaking, parasailing, sportfishing, canopy tours, surfing/surfing lessons, horseback to waterfalls, white-water rafting, and much more.

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Monteverde / Santa Elena

The Monteverde Cloud Forest has long been a popular destination for those seeking eco-adventures. Translated as ‘Green Mountain,’ Monteverde supports a large tract of cloud forests, a unique habitat where moisture ‘drips’ constantly from the lush forest. As a result, virtually every square inch is covered by plant life and every 10 feet of the canopy supports a different ecosystem.

Monteverde was founded in 1951 by U.S. Quakers who moved their farming lifestyle to this Costa Rica mountain location. Luckily, the Quakers also recognized the ecological importance of the cloud forest and established the reserve in 1972. Today they still manage it and for the last 4 decades have hosted biologists and tourists from around the globe. They also operate the Monteverde Cheese Factory which produces high quality dairy products and is open for tours to the public.

With a well-developed infrastructure, dozens of lodging options, nature-themed attractions, and near-by wildlife reserves, Monteverde is well-worth the time and trip – BUT because of its popularity it’s best enjoyed outside of the peak high season, mid-December to early February. If you need to travel at that time, schedule early and we’ll work with local guides to maximize your experience.

Accommodation options are plenty and we can select the best to fit your budget and timeframe.  A car is a good idea for getting around in Monteverde, but not essential and Monteverde has an array of quality restaurants.

Activities in the Monteverde and Santa Elena area include: Guided bird and wildlife hikes, night walks, canopy tours, The Bat Jungle, horseback riding, Monteverde Cheese Factory, hummingbird viewing, The Butterfly Garden, The Frog Pond, a serpentarium, many art galleries, and a local co-op of artisans selling their works.

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Osa Peninsula

Drake Bay  |  Golfo Dulce  |  La Tarde  |  Puerto Jiménez  |  Tamandua

With its rugged natural beauty, and incredible diversity of wildlife we consider the Osa Peninsula to be the premier destination in Costa Rica for those seeking ecotourism adventures. (Of course we also live here so we know it is the best). The centerpiece of the peninsula and the reason for its deserved fame is Corcovado National Park. This roadless tropical forest wilderness is known among biologists and nature lovers around the world for its richness and wildness. National Geographic once wrote ”the Osa Peninsula is one of the most biologically intense places on the planet.” But it isn’t just land animals that contribute to this richness. The Osa Peninsula hugs the marinelife-rich Golfo Dulce on its eastern shore, the Pacific Ocean on its west and boasts large and small rivers that feed these waters. Altogether, these natural blessings make this zone a paradise for nature lovers.

One reason the Osa Peninsula is thriving today is because of its wonderful and dedicated people who have created the unique rural tourism infrastructure that exists. World class true eco-lodges dot both the shores of the peninsula while small and locally-owned lodges are tucked away in remote locations. The Ticos from the small ‘tranquilo’ pueblos of Puerto Jimenez and Drake Bay proudly cater to the eco-tourist by offering exciting experiences and adventures. The trained guides and tour operators will provide you safe, once-in-a-lifetime memories.

Whether you want to do an extreme hike across the peninsula or just a day hike into primary rainforest, snorkel off the Pacific coast or just relax on a tranquil beach, take a multi-day kayak in the Golfo Dulce or a day kayak in a nearby mangrove, there are so many ways to experience the Osa Peninsula. If you’re looking for the ‘real thing’ in a nature vacation you should definitely include the Osa Peninsula in your trip planning.

After visiting the Osa, an overwhelming impression you may leave with, is just how committed to conservation the local residents are. The pressures exist today to commercialize the Osa and they want nothing of it! They have fought and will continue to fight to keep it as natural as possible. Here they can live their lives surrounded by the stunning and still natural environment, share their great skills and talents with visitors, and support their families. If there is one place in Costa Rica to save and keep ‘progress’ from spoiling it, it is the Osa Peninsula.

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Drake Bay

Drake Bay was named after Sir Francis Drake, who reportedly came ashore in this calm bay. Now, over four centuries later the local Ticos have turned it into a top-notch hub for eco-tourism adventures. Like Puerto Jiménez, Drake Bay survives on eco-tourism, having excellent tour operators and guides to provide a memorable visit. Because of its spectacular location, Drake Bay offers a variety of land and sea adventures. Many tours take you into Corcovado National Park to search for the diverse and threatened wildlife it protects such as tapir,  jaguar, ocelots, spider monkeys, anteaters, scarlet macaws, rare birds, crocodiles, and much more. Before tourism, fishing was a prime means of economic support for Drake Bay families. Now, many combine their love and knowledge of fishing by sharing the experience with you. Boating off-shore also holds many possibilities or enjoying marine life above and below the water’s surface. We can plan to include an all-day scuba dive or snorkeling trip as part of your stay.

One of the most interesting and applauded tours offered in all of Costa Rica is the “Bug Lady” Night Tour in Drake Bay. After dinner you’ll take a casual stroll along a path to find the creepy crawly critters that come out only at night and learn about their fascinating life from Tracie and Gian, passionate experts on all things nocturnal. A must!!

Transport to and from Drake Bay can be tricky, depending upon the time of year. However, many options are available and we can coordinate the best means for your stay; in-country flights, public bus, private taxi, shuttle bus, boat transport or a combination of all are possible.

For lodging options, most eco-lodges are outside of town, located on bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean and accessed by boat only. But in-town, there are a number of comfortable and reasonable choices. We work with great lodges that really excel in giving our clients the personal touch and attention you deserve.

Things to do around Drake Bay include: Guided hikes into Corcovado, The Bug Lady Night Tour, snorkeling, diving, kayaking, canopy tour, beach or mountain horseback, waterfalls, beach walking or relaxing, dolphin and whale watching, and ½ and full day fishing trips.

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Golfo Dulce

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La Tarde

Definitely off the beaten track, La Tarde sits on the inland border of the Corcovado National Park and provides viewing of virtually everything the park has to offer – but with better accommodations and fewer people. Owned and operated by a Tico family headed by Eduardo Castro Rojas, a former hunter turned conservationist, this is a rustic, remote destination for the traveler looking to experience the Osa as naturally as possible. La Tarde also offers some of the most stunningly colorful sunsets anywhere.

Eduardo delights in guiding his guests into his forests, sharing the flora and fauna he has grown up with and now protects. His rainforest is home to virtually the same species as Corcovado National Park and Eduardo is an expert at escorting you safely and getting you a close view. He also offers horseback rainforest ventures and a shot at his own private gold-panning spot where guests still find the golden treasure. Eduardo offers extreme, challenging or casual hikes, day or night, from a few hours to multi-day treks. A rugged, multi-day backpacker trail starts at his lodge and follows a ridge south to Carate and the tip of the peninsula. Eduardo or another very qualified guide will escort you through some of the wildest and remote parts of the amazing Osa Peninsula.

Wildlife hotspot for: poison dart frogs (all 5 species), snakes, Three-wattled Bellbird, and dozens of colorful migratory birds (December to April)

La Tarde accommodations are varied; tent platforms overlooking the forest are outfitted with enclosed vinyl tents and private bathrooms suited for 1 to 4 people; rooms in the family’s former home with shared bathroom for 1-2 people; and a bunkhouse equipped with bunkbeds to accommodate student or large family groups with shared bathroom. All meals are included while at La Tarde.

Things you can do while in La Tarde include: Guided wildlife and birding hikes from 2 hours to several days, horseback ride tours, gold panning, and stunning sunset watching.

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Puerto Jiménez

Puerto Jiménez sits on the Golfo Dulce and is one of the hubs for eco-adventures on the Osa Peninsula. Various cabinas and upscale lodges offer their own forms of Tico hospitality and a few of our preferred tour operators and freelance guides are based here. From Puerto Jiménez you can do a day hike into the rainforest or a multi-day adventure into Corcovado. This is the place for outstanding guided wildlife or bird hikes, extreme multi-day hikes, a sunset or all day kayaking trip, jungle tree climbing/rappelling, or ‘our favorite’ a boat trip on the gulf to look for dolphins, sea turtles, humpback whales, or even the elusive whale shark (a harmless filter-feeding shark and largest fish in the world).

Lodging choices are varied and will depend upon your interests and budget. Comfy cabinas, remote eco lodges, beach house rentals, or a yoga lodge are just some of the choices and with your input, we will select the BEST location for you to get the most out of your visit to the Osa Peninsula.

Things to do in and from Puerto Jiménez include: Amazing guided wildlife hikes, multi-day guided tours into Corcovado, extreme hiking options, canopy tour and tree climbing, various kayaking options, boat and whale watching tours, snorkeling, horseback riding, night walk, world class off-shore or in-shore fishing, waterfalls,  surfing and surfing lessons, and more.  Places to visit while in or around Puerto Jiménez include an orchid garden, a wildlife rehabilitation center, an organic cacao plantation (chocolate tour), or local family-owned butterfly garden or waterfall tours.

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Tamandua Biological Station

Note: Tamandua is the local name for the Lesser Anteater although it is also known as the Oso Hormiguero or ‘Ant Bear.’

Just a short 4 x 4 trip outside of Drake Bay on the Pacific side of the Osa Peninsula is a wonderful and wonderfully remote lodge and private biological station. Owned by a rainforest biologist, Rebeca Quirós and her husband Ananias Arguijo, Tamandua is located on rugged rainforest land owned by his family for decades. Rebeca and Ananias have created a lovely, albeit simple, destination for the tourist looking to get immersed in the rainforest while enjoying a comfortable home base, 3 wonderful meals a day, expert guides, waterfalls, trails along with the peace and relaxation of being in the middle of a rainforest. If you are looking for a place to really immerse yourself in the rainforest and don’t mind ‘roughin’ it a little, Tamandua is your perfect destination!

Wildlife hotspot for: monkeys, tamandua, danta, peccaries, felines, tayra, kinkajou, snakes, frogs (including glass frogs), bats, and resident and migratory birds.

Accommodations are simple clean bungalows with 1-2 beds, a table and a shared bathroom nearby. There is no electricity but generators run for a short time each day to charge phones and batteries. Meals are tasty typical Costa Rican fare and are served in the communal open air dining area.  A lovely ‘rancho’ sits next to the river fitted with hammocks so you can catch up on your reading or maybe take a siesta.

Things to do in Tamandua include: Wildlife and bird hikes of varying distances on maintained trails, swimming in natural swimming holes, hike to waterfalls, and guided night hikes.

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Palo Verde

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Rincón de la Vieja

One of the most active volcano areas in Costa Rica is Rincón de la Vieja. With abundant rainforests and dry forests and various elevations with micro-ecosystems, there is a great diversity of animals and plants including 300 species of birds, peccaries, monkeys, wild cats, tapir, plus a wider variety of reptiles and fascinating insects. You can hike or horseback to crystal clear rivers, hot springs, and waterfalls or ride a blue river by raft or inner tube. Thanks to geothermal activity that rivals Yellowstone, you can witness boiling mud pots, geysers, and fumaroles.

Accommodations are comfortable from cabinas to lovely hacienda-style rooms. Spa services are available.

Activities include: Hikes (of varying levels), wildlife/bird viewing, natural hot springs, tubing and rafting rivers, canopy tour, horseback riding, waterfalls, various geothermal activities and even a ‘cowboy for a day’ experience.

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Located in the Caribbean Lowlands with jungle rivers and rainforests, this area boasts a huge diversity of wildlife and birds. Several lodges and biological research stations are preserving important habitat while sharing the richness of the area with visitors. Wildlife hikes and water rafting are popular activities here. La Paz Waterfall Gardens makes for a great spot to visit on the way to Sarapiquí.

Lodging varies from remote (so remote it takes a tractor to get you there), to homey cabinas, accommodations at a research station, or upscale jungle river lodges.

Options for activities include: White water rafting, wildlife rainforest hikes, night hikes, river boat trips, horseback riding, mountain biking, canopy tour, chocolate tour, pineapple tour, cooking classes.

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The Caribbean coastline at Tortuguero has become THE destination in Costa Rica to witness nesting sea turtles coming to shore and the hatchlings racing to the water after hatching. Tortuguero is the largest nesting grounds for the Green Sea Turtle in the Western Hemisphere. One of the true animal ‘wonders of the world,’ this annual natural phenomenon occurs form July to October, and the BEST time is September/October.

Tortuguero offers much to the nature lover and a visit – even in the turtle off-season – is well worth it. Our favorite guides, Francesca and Modesto, will reveal all that Tortuguero National Park has to offer; shore birds, wading birds, monkeys, sloth, crocodiles, caiman, and much more. This area is laced with jungle canals teeming with wildlife and traveling in the comfortable river boats is the best way to see them. The nearby town of Tortuguero, supported almost entirely by turtle tourism, offers a glimpse and feel of a laid-back, coastal ‘Tico’ pueblo.

Accommodations are generally on the canal waterway and range from jungle elegance to comfortable cabinas that are family friendly. These sites include pools, fans or AC, Internet, and all meals. Other, simpler accommodations in the Tortuguero town can be arranged if desired.

Activities while in Tortuguero include: canopy tours, guided riverboat tours, nesting turtle observation, fishing (off-shore and river mouth), Sea Turtle Conservation Center, and walking through the town.

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San Vito/La Amistad National Park

coming soon

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Guanacaste Coast

coming soon