Nature - 10 days
The following itineraries are examples of what you can do independently or through a Travel Agency.
ADay 1: Arrive at Juan Santamaría Airport and explore the city of San José
San José is the capital and the biggest city in the country. Enjoy the atmosphere of the Avenida Central, check out the post office building, take a photo in the Catedral Metropolitano, visit the National and Melico Salazar Theatres, take the opportunity to buy souvenirs, and eat a traditional dish in the Central Market. Very close to downtown San José, you can rest for a day and have a picnic in La Sabana Metropolitan Park. The city is home to much of the country’s population, as well as business centers, institutions, cultural sites and tourist information offices.
BDays 2-3: Tortuguero National Park and its canals
During the tours among the Tortuguero canals, you will have the opportunity to appreciate the wonder of its biodiversity. Among the most outstanding species found in the area are the green sea turtle (the original reason the park was created), the green macaw, and the black river turtle. Caimans, snakebirds, and jacanas (a very colorful bird species) are commonly seen, among others. If you want to visit the canals, note that July and December are the rainiest months and the least rainy are March, April and October. Hours: Every day from 6:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
CDays 4-5: Sarapiquí and surrounding areas (river tour, waterfalls, pineapple tour, Braulio Carrillo National Park, La Selva Biological Reserve)
Sarapiquí is the largest district of Heredia, comprising more than 80% of the entire province. It is known for its wealth of biodiversity and as a destination for adventure sports such as ziplining, kayaking, rafting, rappelling, horseback riding, pineapple tours, and hiking. It is also a hotbed for research and bird watching. It is an easily accessible location – you can make your visit by taking route 32, or you can reach it by highway 126, which connects Vara Blanca-Cinchona, or from San Carlos de Alajuela. It is the land of national parks, nature reserves, rivers, waterfalls, and humble people who will welcome you with open arms. Without even leaving Sarapiquí, you can visit La Selva Biological Reserve, a biological station located about 3 km south of Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí. It has approximately 57 km of paths for adventuring and trekking. In the reserve, you can see many animals, such as tapirs, agoutis, bats, monkeys, a variety of bird species, butterfly species, and about 2,000 different kinds of plants. Near Sarapiquí, you can take route 32 to Braulio Carrillo where you can visit the Quebrada González sector, which has three trails with viewpoints of the tropical rainforest for you to enjoy.
DDays 6-7: Monteverde Cloud Forest (ziplining, hiking, suspension bridges)
The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is made up of a tropical jungle with a great variety of flora and fauna and an ever-present mist, hence its name. It is located between the provinces of Alajuela and Puntarenas and has an elevation of 1,600 meters above sea level. One of the most exciting ways to see the forest is through the ziplining tours that take place in the area. Here, you can find one of the longest ziplines in the country, which spans over 770 m. Enjoy incredible views through the hanging suspension bridges, which extend through canyons and connect to the hiking trails, giving you the same canopy experience. It also offers 13 km of trails that will make for a great day of hiking.
EDays 7-9: Carara National Park and Central Pacific beaches (Hermosa, Jacó, Esterillos)
This park can be found between the provinces of San José and Puntarenas. Its name, Carara, meaning “lizard river,” comes from the indigenous Huetar language. It is a bird watching site that features the scarlet macaw, an endangered species. It is very easy to get to from the city thanks to its access on route 34. In addition to birds, you can see some of the 124 species of reptiles inhabiting the park, the most exemplary being the crocodile. It has 4 trails: Las Aráceas, Quebrada Bonita, Laguna Mendrica and Encuentro de Ecosistemas. Continue onwards to the Central Pacific to visit a surfing beach, Playa Hermosa. Its waves are very strong, so it is best suited to experienced surfers; surfing championships are held every year in these waters. Nearby, you’ll find Jacó Beach, another good beach for surfing, but which also offers fishing tours, ATV rides, kayaking and more – like enjoying the cuisine and nightlife. Playa Esterillos is to the north, known for its luxurious rental properties and relaxing atmosphere. Enjoy the views of the Gulf of Nicoya and the surfing.
FDay 10: Departure from the Juan Santamaría International Airport.
ADay 1: Arrive at Liberia International Airport (Daniel Oduber).
BDays 2-3: Santa Rosa National Park, Guanacaste
Located 36 km from the city of Liberia, it is considered a World Heritage Site, as it was the site of a historical and patriotic battle, which is why it is the only Protected Wildlife Area that has a museum within its boundaries and why it is named after the battle. The only patch of dry tropical forest in Mesoamerica is conserved in this area, and it is connected to tropical rainforest and cloud forest, giving it great biological importance and richness. Its main attractions besides the museums are Playa Naranjo, Sector Murciélago (an area with trails) and the Sector Marino (ideal for diving and surfing).
CDay 4: Las Baulas National Marine Park, Guanacaste
The park is located within the bay of Tamarindo, in the district of Santa Cruz, Guanacaste. This wilderness area was created with the purpose of protecting leatherback sea turtle populations that come to nest on the Grande, Ventanas and Langosta beaches. About 117 species of trees and shrubs, and 139 different species of birds have been identified here. Three species of turtles visit this park: the Atlantic ridley sea turtle, the black river turtle, and the leatherback sea turtle. The latter is a globally endangered species and uses our Costa Rican beaches as nesting sites. Hours: open to the public every day of the year from 6:00 a.m. at 6:00 p.m. except during the turtle spawning season (October-February) when the beach closes at 5:00 p.m.
DDay 5: Lomas de Barbudal Biological Reserve (butterfly watching, moths and other insect species)
This is the ideal destination for birdwatchers, insect enthusiasts and nature lovers. This "insect park" is located about 15 km southwest of Bagaces, Guanacaste, and is part of the Tempisque Conservation Area. It has around 250 different types of bees and insect species, and at least 60 species of butterflies. On your tour, you’ll see the elegant trogon, the scarlet macaw, the jabiru stork, the vulture, the crax, the collared peccary, wild cats, coatis and deer.
EDays 7-9: Visit Palo Verde National Park, Tamarindo and Flamingo beaches, and Barra Honda caverns
Palo Verde National Park is one of the most biologically diverse places in the country. It is comprised of a mosaic of more than 15 different natural ecosystems, including lowland deciduous forest, evergreen forest, swamp forest, limestone forest, montane grassland and shrubland, and mangroves. It is known as an ideal bird watching site because of its river lowlands that constitute the perfect wetland for a huge variety of predominantly migratory birds to congregate. Its attractions include: Sendero la Roca (with a viewpoint of Palo Verde lagoon, Tempisque River, and the Gulf of Nicoya), El Guayacán Trail (for adventurers), El Mapache (where you’ll find three different habitats: lowland deciduous forest, limestone forest and evergreen forest), La Venada (bordering Palo Verde Lagoon), El Querque (to see huge trees) and La Jacana Trail (for bird watching). Don’t forget to visit Tamarindo Beach, one of the biggest, most beautiful beaches in Costa Rica. You can enjoy a day full of fun while diving, surfing, kayaking, sailing or fishing. Another option is Playa Flamingo, with crystal blue waters, bright white sand, and beautiful sunsets. You can surf, dive, and fish here. Its waters are full of marine life: starfish, coral reefs, eels, reef sharks, and more. Barra Honda National Park is located about 76 km away, a paradise of caverns. Of its 42 caves, only 19 are suitable for tourist visitation. The park has a well-defined trail system. You can opt for a short 800 m walk, or a 6 km roundtrip hike to the viewpoint and back. There are washrooms, showers, small huts, tables, and grills available.
FDay 10: Departure from Liberia International Airport (Daniel Oduber).