Current as of: April 24, 2024 - 19:08

Costa Rica’s Coastal Secrets

Costa Rica's Coastal Secrets Trip Notes

  • Ways to Travel: Guided Group, Private Group Adventures
  • Destination: Costa Rica
  • Programmes: Wildlife
  • Activity Level:

    2 out of 7 - Leisurely / Moderate

  • 16 Days: Flight Inclusive
  • 15 Days: Land Only
  • Ages: 16+
  • Trip Code: WUR
  • Carbon Footprint: 21kg CO2e

Trip Overview

Enjoy unrivalled wildlife viewing and coastal wonders in Costa Rica

Costa Rica has many secrets to explore: from the wildlife-rich waterways of Tortuguero to the dense jungle coastline of the Osa Peninsula, an area named “the most biologically intense place on Earth” by National Geographic. Scarlet macaws rule the roost adding brilliant flashes of red, blue and gold to the foliage; humpback whales breed in the waters off-shore, and sloths crawl along cecropia branches.

At a Glance

  • Travel by minibus and boat
  • 14 nights comfortable hotels and lodges
  • Green turtle nesting season: July to October

Highlights

  • Spend three nights in Drake Bay, the remote gateway to some of the premier wildlife destinations in Costa Rica
  • Explore Corcovado National Park, one of the biologically rich areas on the planet
  • Discover the wildlife and waterways of Tortuguero, an important nesting site for green turtles
  • Enjoy unrivalled wildlife viewing, including monkeys, sloths, dolphins and whales (in season)
  • Visit both the Caribbean and Pacific coastlines

Is This Trip for You?

This trip is graded Activity Level 2 (Leisurely/Moderate) with a Wildlife Rating of Four. Visit our Activity Level Guidelines page for more on our trip gradings or our Wildlife Holidays page for more on our Wildlife Ratings.

Driving: Most of the roads we travel on are good quality. However, the road that leads to the river on the way to and from Tortuguero has a poor surface and this can result in slow driving times, particularly following heavy rain. There are also some longer drives on the itinerary; when rest stops and meal breaks are taken into account, a 4-hour drive may take 6-7 hours in total.

Drake Bay and Corcovado National Park on the Osa Peninsula are two of the most remote areas we visit on this itinerary – there is very limited road access or facilities in these areas and we will use boats as the main form of transportation.

Walks: There are several included and optional walks on the itinerary that occasionally involve walking on rough paths. These are suitable for most fitness levels and usually last between two to four hours. Walks in the Savegre Valley are at an altitude above 7,000ft (2,100m) and involve some short but steep sections of ascent and descent. During times of heavy rain, trails can be muddy and slippery and extra care should be taken. Many of the areas visited on the trip are hot and humid (such as Cahuita National Park on Days 4-6) and there is the chance of heavy rain year-round – this is why Costa Rica is so green.

Swimming: The sea waters in the Tortuguero and Cahuita regions have very strong rip currents and are not suitable for swimming from the beach.

Adult min age: 16

Min group size: 5

Max group size: 16

Itinerary

Costa Rica’s Coastal Secrets

Land Only

  • Start City: San Jose
  • End City: San Jose

Land Only Itinerary

Day 1
Start San Jose

Welcome to San José, the culture-rich capital of Costa Rica. Aim to arrive at the hotel by 5pm so that you can meet your fellow travellers and tour leader, who will give you a warm welcome to Costa Rica. If you miss today’s welcome briefing, the tour leader will give you all relevant information on the morning of Day 2. A free transfer is available to take you to our hotel in San José. Read the Joining Instructions in the Trip Notes for more information on booking your seat.

Accommodation: Presidente Hotel or Park Inn or Aurola Holiday Inn San Jose (or similar)

Day 2
To Tortuguero National Park

Our adventure begins early this morning, leaving San Jose behind as we travel to Tortuguero National Park in northeast Costa Rica. Accessible only by boat or light aircraft, Tortuguero has a vast network of waterways, canals and swamps that are remarkably tranquil, unspoilt and devoid of noise pollution. On reaching the pier, we board a small motorboat for the journey to our lodge (up to 1hr 30min) , which is a short distance from the main lagoon. Please note the transfer from San José to Tortuguero is not private for Exodus clients.

Our afternoon is spent in Tortuguero village, where we can visit the Sea Turtle Museum (a donation will be requested at the entrance). Tortuguero is probably most famous as a nesting site for endangered green turtle, which can be seen arriving onto the beach to lay eggs from late July to October (as part of an optional excursion). Hawksbill, loggerhead and giant leatherback turtles also nest in this region, and during November to January, baby turtles hatch and make their way towards the ocean. Today’s travel time will be in the region of six hours including a stop for breakfast.

Accommodation: Evergreen Lodge (or similar)

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3
Boat tour around Tortuguero waterways

This morning we board a small boat, enabling us to discover the extraordinary flora and fauna of Tortuguero as we pass serenely along the waterways. In the morning wildlife is usually at its most active and with the help of our expert guide we are likely to encounter monkeys, caiman, iguanas, butterflies and many of the 300-plus bird species recorded here. We’ll take a second boat trip this afternoon or you can relax at the lodge and enjoy the facilities.

Accommodation: Evergreen Lodge (or similar)

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4
To Cahuita; relax on the Caribbean coast

We leave Tortuguero the same way we arrived, by taking a small boat to Siquirres pier. Our bus will be at the pier waiting to drive us to the Cahuita region on the Caribbean coast, where we check into our hotel. Caribbean culture pervades this part of Costa Rica and is reflected in the music, food and laid-back lifestyle. The white-sand beach here is fringed by tall palms, behind which is the dense, wet tropical forest of Cahuita National Park.

Accommodation: Ciudad Perdida or Villas del Caribe (or similar)

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 5
Wildlife walk in Cahuita National Park

Cahuita National Park has 2,711 acres (1,097ha) of land and 600 acres (243ha) of coral reef, the largest reef system in Costa Rica. Today we visit the national park, taking a 7mi (11km) walk from the southern entrance, which follows the coastline, through rainforest and past impressive Caribbean beaches. Although a fairly small in size, there is plenty of diversity in the park. The rest of the afternoon is yours to explore the beach, join an optional snorkelling excursion (subject to local conditions) or simply relax.

Accommodation: Ciudad Perdida or Villas del Caribe (or similar)

Meals included: Breakfast

Day 6
Free day in Cahuita

Today is yours to relax into the Caribbean pace of life and enjoy free time around Cahuita. It is possible to join an optional excursion to the indigenous communities of Kekoldi & Bri Bri Reserve, where you’ll learn about the properties and uses of native plants, plus the process of making artisanal chocolate. Chocolate is very important in Bri Bri culture and used for purification rituals, food and medicine. During the excursion, there is also the opportunity for a refreshing swim at a waterfall.

Accommodation: Ciudad Perdida or Villas del Caribe (or similar)

Meals included: Breakfast

Day 7
Walk in La Marta Wildlife Refuge; to Turrialba Valley

Our next destination is Turrialba Valley, a rich agricultural region in the Central Highlands. On the way to Turrialba, we visit La Marta Wildlife Refuge, an area of both primary and secondary forest within La Amistad Biosphere (recognised as a Unesco World Patrimony of Humanity). The topography of this region is mountainous, with waterfalls, rivers and caves – the varied elevation supports a wide range of plants (including orchids, bromeliads, lichens and mosses) and animals (including anteaters, ocelots and tapirs).

Accommodation: Villa Florencia or Guayabo (or similar)

Meals included: Breakfast

Day 8
To Savegre Cloud Forest

After breakfast, we depart towards San Gerado de Dota and Savegre Cloud Forest. This is said to be one of the best places in Costa Rica to see the beautiful, colourful and notoriously shy resplendent quetzal and we have two nights here to discover the region. These endangered birds rely on the cloud forest for their habitat; the males are particularly striking with a green crest, red breast and tail feathers that can reach a metre in length. A good pair of binoculars will be helpful for quetzal spotting as these birds camouflage themselves well among the wet leaves. After lunch, we take a short walk into the cloud forest.

Accommodation: Savegre Hotel, Nature Reserve & Spa or Trogon Lodge (or similar)

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 9
Free day to discover walking trails in Savegre

Today is free to relax and explore Savegre Valley. Bring your binoculars to spot some of the 170 bird species, trek through the tropical cloud forest or simply enjoy the incredible view from the lodge. Your leader will suggest walks for today so you can discover the tropical cloud forest and sub-Alpine vegetation of the area. Birds here include hummingbirds, tanagers and trogons, while you may also spot tapirs and squirrel monkeys.

Accommodation: Savegre Hotel, Nature Reserve & Spa or Trogon Lodge (or similar)

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 10
To Sierpe; boat to Drake Bay on the Osa Peninsula

Early in the morning, our journey continues towards the small town of Sierpe, where we board a small motorboat to Drake Bay on the Osa Peninsula. Passing the huge mangrove swamps that line the Sierpe River, our boat crosses the ocean before arriving at Drake Bay. This region is very remote and with extremely limited road access, which means most supplies, visitors and locals, must arrive by boat. Getting here is part of the adventure. The bay is spectacular, with just a handful of lodges on the horizon and the rest thick verdant forest and rocky coves as far as the eye can see. Our next three nights will be spent at the Drake Bay Wilderness Resort, a family-run property close to the ‘town’ of Drake Bay and with ocean views from every corner.

Accommodation: Drake Bay Wilderness Resort (or similar)

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 11
Boat trip to Caño Island

Board a small boat to Caño Island, 12 nautical miles from Drake Bay. During this 45-minute boat ride, there may be opportunities to spot migrating whales or playful dolphins (orca are also here around December to April and humpbacks might be seen around July to November). The interior of the island is thought to have been a burial ground for the indigenous Daquis tribe during pre-Columbian times, and many perfectly spherical human-made stones have been found here. But it’s the marine life that is the biggest highlight of Caño Island, with hawksbill and olive ridley turtles, manta rays and white-tipped reef sharks just some of the likely encounters on today’s snorkelling excursion. This area has been rated as having the best snorkelling in the whole of Costa Rica, with excellent water visibility and a huge marine diversity living in the protected reef. Enjoy a picnic lunch on nearby San Josecito beach, where capuchin monkeys, coatimundi and lively scarlet macaws may appear.

Accommodation: Drake Bay Wilderness Resort (or similar)

 

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 12
Boat trip to Corcovado National Park; discover the park on foot

When National Geographic describes an area as “the most biologically intense place on Earth,” it must be worthy of investigation. This morning we board a small boat for a 30-minute journey to San Pedrillo Ranger Station, our entrance point to Corcovado National Park. This is undoubtedly the most secluded and tranquil region in Costa Rica. Protecting around one-third of the Osa Peninsula (some 164sqmi/425sqkm), Corcovado is the largest national park in Costa Rica and encompasses 13 major ecosystems across various elevations, with montane forest, cloud forest, fresh water and mangrove swamps among them. Scientists have recorded half of all the species in Costa Rica on this peninsula alone. On today’s hike along the parks trails, we may see all four monkey species in Costa Rica (squirrel, howler, white-faced capuchin and spider), tamandua (anteaters), two- and three-toed sloths, peccary, tapirs (including the endangered Baird’s tapir) and many reptiles, insects and amphibians. Puma and jaguar also prowl this area, but are very difficult to see. With more than 500 tree species, the bird count stands at an impressive 365 and the park protects the largest population of scarlet macaws in the country, which can frequently be seen and heard flying overhead.

Accommodation: Drake Bay Wilderness Resort (or similar)

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 13
Mangrove boat trip; to Sierpe; to San Jose

After an early breakfast, we board another boat and return to Sierpe town. On the way, our boat will take a short tour of the huge mangrove forest that lines the Sierpe River. Delving into the network of tributary rivers and streams offers a chance to learn more about the role of mangroves in the ecosystem and the numerous creatures that depend on them, including fish, crabs, birds, molluscs and shellfish. In Sierpe town, we transfer to our private minibus and commence our journey to San Jose.

Accommodation: Presidente Hotel or Park Inn or Aurola Holiday Inn San Jose (or similar)

Meals included: Breakfast

Day 14
Visit the Irazu Volcano National Park and the Orosi Valley for a coffee tour

Today begins with a trip to the Irazu Volcano National Park in the Cartago province of Costa Rica, located within the Central Mountain Range around a 90-minute journey from San Jose. Passing different vegetation, we’ll drive towards the summit and then follow a path that leads to a wonderful view across the huge crater. Irazu is one of the most active volcanoes in Costa Rica, though it has recently entered a dormant phase – a relief to the farmers and property owners who make their living on the fertile slopes. On a clear day, both the Caribbean and Pacific coastlines can be seen from the summit. Remember to bring a jacket as it can be windy and cold at the viewpoint of this elevation (Irazu summit is 11,260ft/3,432m high).

Following this we continue to the city of Cartago, home to a spectacular domed basilica, and the Orosi Valley, an area of natural beauty. After lunch in one of the many traditional restaurants, we join the Orosi Coffee tour to learn about the ancient techniques used to produce some of the best coffee in the world. This involves understanding the cultivation, harvesting and roasting of coffee beans, before you have a chance to savour the end product yourself. Afterwards, we return to San Jose for our last night of the holiday.

Accommodation: Presidente Hotel or Park Inn or Aurola Holiday Inn San Jose (or similar)

Meals included: Breakfast

Day 15
End San Jose

Our adventure comes to an end today after breakfast and it’s time to bid Costa Rica and the rest of the group goodbye. Hop in your free transfer back to San Jose airport to begin your return journey home.

Meals included: Breakfast

Post-trip Extensions

Tamarindo Beach Extension Costa Rica

Extend your stay in Costa Rica with a few nights of rest and relaxation at Tamarindo on the Pacific Coast. Once a sleepy fishing village, Tamarindo was discovered by surfers in the late 1980s and has steadily grown a reputation as one of the best beach destinations in Costa Rica. Located in the Guanacaste province, known for good weather and predictable sunshine, Tamarindo has a great mix of facilities and retains an authentic laid-back atmosphere. The town has accommodation catering to all budgets, from high-end boutique hotels to smaller, comfortable and characterful properties. The big draw is a long expanse of beach, with a curved bay backed by palm trees, cafes and restaurants. The waves are strong and loved by surfers, with swimmers mostly staying to the shallow surf breaking on the shore.

Facing west, the sunsets in Tamarindo are dramatic. There are plenty of excursions that can be organised locally if you want to discover the area. Or simply sit back and soak up the laid-back beach life, which is a real contrast from the other areas you will have visited in Costa Rica.

We have handpicked a selection of properties in Tamarindo and selected transport options to suit all budgets and group sizes – all that’s left for you to decide is how long you want to go for, and we’ll do the rest. Please speak to your sales representative for up-to-date pricings.

Accommodation:

  • Capitan Suizo Hotel: This beachfront boutique hotel is set in a privileged location to the south of the bay, with rooms surrounded by tropical gardens. Thoughtfully designed accommodation with excellent dining options, wonderful service and a friendly team waiting to welcome you. Just away from the main town, it has a lovely pool area and private loungers on the beach.
  • Tamarindo Diria Hotel: Right in the middle of the beach, this is one of the original hotels in Tamarindo and has the most spectacular palm tree-lined view from its pool/dining areas. It is split into different areas, with the majority of rooms away from the beachfront.
  • Wyndham Tamarindo Hotel : One of the best infinity pools we’ve seen with extensive views across Tamarindo Bay, thanks to its hillside location above Tamarindo. Elegant rooms and facilities, but a fair walk from the beach and Tamarindo town – there is a free shuttle transfer provided at set times.
  • Arco Iris Hotel: a great option for value, with comfortable rooms surrounded by lush tropical gardens. A tranquil location set back from the street, around 1,640ft (500m) to the beach.
  • Pasatiempo Hotel: A small, intimate property with real character and comfortable rooms. We think Pasatiempo is a hidden gem and it is our preferred choice if you are looking for great value and don’t mind being a five-minute walk to the beach. There are some great restaurants and shops nearby.

How to reach Tamarindo?

There are three options to reach Tamarindo from San José, depending on your budget and how much time you have:

  • Shuttle bus: this is the most economical way to reach Tamarindo, particularly for solo travellers. The shuttle bus system is easy, safe and reliable and will drop you directly at your hotel. Shuttles usually pick up from hotels in San José at approximately 7.15am or 2.30pm. From Tamarindo, the departure times back to San José are usually at approximately 8am or 2pm. . The journey takes approximately four to five hours. Clients wishing to book the shuttle bus transfer must book a flight departing SJO after 5pm. You can also leave or return by shuttle directly from the airport – please specify at the time of booking and double check timings with your sales consultant as schedules may change depending on the season.
  • Private transfer: If you would prefer to travel in your own vehicle (seating up to six people), or need transfers timed perfectly with your international flights, we recommend a private transfer for the journey. You can either take this as a return or for just one leg of the journey. By private transfer, the journey takes approximately four hours.
  • Flight: perfect if you are short of time, you can take an internal flight from San José to Tamarindo Airstrip. In the high season (December to April) there are usually four flights during the day in each direction. Outside of the high season, there are usually two flights in each direction. Flights usually take under one hour. With this service we will also arrange a vehicle transfer between your Tamarindo hotel and the airstrip. Luggage weight and size restrictions apply (30lbs/13.5kg, 45in/114cm).

There is also the option to arrange your return flights from Liberia airport, around 1hr 30min from Tamarindo, with a private transfer to Tamarindo. Please speak to your sales consultant to discuss this option.

We recommend visiting Tamarindo for at least three nights. Please speak to your sales consultant for more details, to check hotel availability or make a reservation. You may need additional hotel nights in San José depending on the end date of your trip and your flight schedule. Also please note that some hotels in Tamarindo are not available in September.

Costa Rica’s Coastal Secrets

Accommodation

Hotels and jungle-wrapped lodges

Costa Rica’s Coastal Secrets

On this Costa Rican adventure, we spend 14 nights in comfortable hotels and lodges. Make sure to bring your swimwear, as most have swimming pools. The normal accommodations used on this trip can be found on the day-to-day itinerary; however, below are a couple of the notable places we stay.

Tortuguero: Evergreen Lodge (nights 2-3)

Costa Rica’s Coastal Secrets

Within Tortuguero National Park, this 66-room resort provides an away-from-it-all experience within the jungle. There’s a turtle-shaped swimming pool (this is green turtle country after all) and dining rooms where you can tuck into Caribbean cuisine with views of the tranquil neighbouring waterway. Residents you might spot include sloths, toucans and iguanas, and we stay in rustic wooden bungalows with comfortable beds and ceiling fans. 

Savegre: Savegre Hotel & Spa or Trogon Lodge (nights 8-9)

Costa Rica’s Coastal Secrets

In the middle of a natural forest reserve, Savegre Hotel & Spa (above) is the ideal place to immerse in nature. It has plant-filled gardens, multiple walking trails, and a lookout point with views over forested slopes. We sleep in wooden lodges, while Las Bromelias restaurant serves international and local cuisines (made with seasonal, indigenous produce) and Los Robles, a bar-lounge, serves cocktails and Savegre coffee. On some departures, we stay at the 24-room Trogon Lodge instead. It’s equally idyllic, with a farm-to-table restaurant, a river-view bar and two nature trails. 

Drake Bay: Drake Bay Wilderness Resort (nights 10-12)

Costa Rica’s Coastal Secrets

When Herbert and Marleny founded this resort in 1985, they were among the first in the area – electricity would take 20 years to fully arrive here. They chose an excellent location. Right by the ocean, there’s plenty of spots to admire the bay, while fellow residents include white-faced monkeys, anteaters and even dolphins. Other highlights include a restaurant serving Costa Rican-American dishes, a saltwater swimming pool, and a bar with bay views. 

Worth knowing 

  • Some of the properties have ceiling fans rather than air conditioning. 
  • One or several of the named properties might be substituted for similar alternatives to secure hotel availability. Please discuss with your customer operations executive if you require more details regarding your specific departure date.

Single supplement from £ 750

Food & Drink

All breakfasts, eight lunches and seven dinners are included.

Hotel breakfasts are normally buffets, and lunches and dinners at Tortuguero are also buffets. Vegetarian and vegan options are limited but food is plentiful and tasty – please inform us before departure of any special dietary requests.

Costa Rican specialities include gallo pinto, a black bean and rice dish, which is a staple part of the local diet. Soups and stews are also common, and fresh fruit is abundant and will no doubt be one of the highlights of your time in the tropics.

Transport

We travel in air-conditioned buses and also boats in Tortuguero and Drake Bay. Depending on the group size, we either use a 16-seat Coaster minibus or a larger 20-seat vehicle. Due to the type of vehicles we use, it’s common for luggage to be transported on the roof, covered by a tarpaulin. There is a shared transfer to Tortuguero on Day 2 of the itinerary in a larger coach.

Weather & Seasonality

Costa Rica is 10 degrees north of the equator and has a tropical climate. The average temperature range is 10C-13C (50F-55F) in the highlands and from 22C-26C (72F-79F) in the lowlands. There is a rainy season from May to November when there are daily downpours, though these are usually quite short and there is still plenty of sunshine. December to April is the driest time of the year but you should still expect some rain.

Joining Instructions

Key information

Start hotels and phone number:

Park Inn, Avenida 6, San Bosco, CR-P, San José, 10103 (+506 4110 1100)

or

Presidente Hotel, Avenida Central, Catedral, San José, 11801 (+506 2010 0000)

Recommended arrival time: You can arrive at any time today. There will be a welcome briefing in the evening, but if you miss it the leader will update you separately
Airport: Juan Santamaria Airport (SJO)

Getting to the start hotel

The start hotel is approximately 30 to 60 minutes’ drive from the airport. Exodus provides free arrival transfers to the start (or pre-tour) hotel from the airport for all customers arriving on the date the tour starts.

Please note, unless specified otherwise, the transfers will be to the start (or pre-tour) hotel and will be on the date on which the tour starts; transfers to other hotels in the same city and/or on different dates may attract an extra charge. Transfers should be booked with your sales representative at least two weeks before the tour starts.

Catching your return flight

Exodus provides free departure transfers for all customers to Juan Santamaria Airport (SJO) from the end hotel.

Please note, unless specified otherwise, the transfers will be from the end (or post-tour) hotel and will be on the date on which the tour ends; transfers to other hotels in the same city and/or on different dates may attract an extra charge. Transfers should be booked with your sales representative at least two weeks before the tour starts.

Flying via the USA

The US is known to have lengthy immigration queues which must be navigated by all passengers, including those in transit. We only book flights that meet the minimum valid connection time and wherever possible we will ensure there is at least a two-hour window between connecting flights. If your flight to the US is delayed and the connection becomes particularly tight, we advise you to make your way as quickly as you can from the plane to immigration where you should make yourself known to an official in an attempt to move closer to the front of the queue.

Full joining instructions including local emergency numbers will be sent to you as part of our Final Joining Instructions. If you do not receive these at least a week before departure, or require them earlier please contact our office or your travel agent.

Location start: San Jose
Location end: San Jose

What To Take

Essential Equipment

  • Quick-drying clothing
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunhat
  • Sunscreen
  • Waterproof poncho or waterproofs
  • Warm sweater (for cloud forest)
  • Waterproof walking shoes
  • Swimwear

Water included

Plastic bottles are a big issue in many countries where recycling isn’t yet widely available; they often end up in landfill or get burned. Both processes are harmful to the environment and we would like to reduce our impact here. For your trip, we provide an alternative to single-use plastic bottles to reduce the plastic used. This means that safe drinking water will be available throughout; all you need to do is bring a bottle to refill along the way. Please add this to your packing list.

Optional Equipment

  • Umbrella
  • Camera
  • Binoculars
  • Torch
  • Small daypack for walks
  • Insect repellent
  • Dark clothes if you plan to take the optional turtle excursion (seasonal)
  • Re-usable fabric tote bag to avoid using unnecessary plastic bags

Practical Information

Passport

Remember to check the expiration date of your passport if travelling internationally. Many countries require your passport to be valid for at least six months after the date of your scheduled return.

Visa

Costa Rica

Travellers from the UK, US and EU normally do not need a visa to enter Costa Rica; however, proof of onward travel may be required – we suggest you take a physical copy of your flight details in case officials ask to see them.

Please note, visa requirements often change and it is your responsibility to obtain any required visas for this trip. Therefore, we recommend that you check with the nearest embassy or consulate of your chosen destination(s), including any countries you may be transiting or transferring through.

Some local governments provide guidance on what visas their citizens need. To help, we’ve gathered a selection of useful links below.

• Australia: www.smartraveller.gov.au/destinations/americas/costa-rica
• Canada: www.travel.gc.ca/destinations/costa-rica
• United Kingdom: www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/costa-rica/entry-requirements
• USA:  www.travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages/Costa-Rica.html

If you are travelling via the USA and are eligible to transit under the Visa Waiver Program, you are required to register in advance for an ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization). There is a US$21 charge, which is only payable online. Please see our website www.exodus.co.uk/usvisa for further information.

Please note, not all nationalities have the same eligibility for travel to or transit via the USA, and you may not be covered by the visa waiver program. Regulations stipulate that any person who has travelled to Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Syria or Yemen since March 2011, or have dual nationalities of these countries, may no longer qualify. In addition, if you have travelled to Cuba since 12 January 2021 you will not be eligible for the visa waiver program and should instead apply for a visa.

If you are in doubt of your eligibility, please check the visa requirements with your local US embassy.

Vaccinations and Health

Costa Rica

There are no required vaccinations. However, you may want to consider vaccinations for tetanus, hepatitis A, rabies and typhoid. The risk of malaria is slight, but you may wish to consult your doctor or travel clinic for further advice.

Many travellers will also require a yellow fever vaccination certificate if arriving from a country with risk of yellow fever transmission, Tanzania and Zambia.

Dengue and zika, both viral diseases spread by mosquitoes, are known risks in Costa Rica. There is currently no vaccine or prophylaxis available, so we strongly recommend you take the usual precautions to avoid mosquito bites.

Please check all requirements and travel vaccination recommendations with your doctor or travel clinic.

Local Time

Costa Rica's time zone: America/Costa_Rica (UTC -06:00)

Electricity

Costa Rica's electricity: Plug types A (two flat pins, US standard) and B (three pins, US standard) – 120V, 60Hz

Costa Rica’s Coastal Secrets

Money

Costa Rica's currency: Costa Rican colon (CRC); however, US dollars are widely accepted

ATM Availability

ATMs are widely available in Costa Rica, particularly in the main tourist areas. A flat fee of up to US$$5-$7 and a small commission usually applies with debit card withdrawals. Mastercard and Visa are quite widely accepted in the bigger hotels, restaurants and tourist shops, though not, of course, in rural areas. Always check the handling fee when paying by credit card as it can be high. It is certainly much more convenient to carry as much of your money in cash as possible, so long as you are security conscious. We recommend that you bring some small denomination notes (US$1 and US$5 notes) since getting change is often a problem when paying for small items.

Extra Expenses & Spending Money

It is best to take US dollars to Costa Rica, as other currencies can be difficult to exchange and the rate can be poor. In practice, US dollars are widely accepted as payment in Costa Rica.

  • Allow extra to cover the cost of meals not included in the price of the holiday. Snack lunches are approximately US$15-US$18 and evening meals US$25-US$32 per meal (excluding drinks).
  • Average costs for drinks (in restaurants) are US$2-US$3 for mineral water or soft drinks, US$4-US$5 for a bottle of beer , US$7-US$10 for cocktails and US$7-US$10 for a glass of wine.
  • There is an international departure tax on leaving San José at the end of the trip (approximately US$29) but this is subject to change and isn’t applicable for all airlines. At the time of writing, United and American Airlines include this tax in the cost of the ticket.
  • Turtle nesting tour (July to October only) in Tortuguero – approximately US$50 and can only be booked directly with the hotel at check-in.
  • Optional snorkelling excursion in Cahuita: Two to three-hour tour by boat with equipment included US$70 (activity depends on weather and tides).
  • Optional Bri Bri Indigenous Reserve tour approximately US$75.

Optional excursions can be paid for by cash, credit or debit card and can only be booked locally.

Tipping

Our local staff are paid well and fairly for their work. However, it is usual for groups to tip guides and drivers and it would be reasonable for each group member to contribute approximately US$5 per day for the driver and US$7 per day for the tour leader, although you may wish to tip more if travelling in a small group. Porters at the airport and hotels are normally tipped about US$1 per piece. Occasionally the tour leader will organise a tipping kitty to facilitate these and other tips (such as waiting staff in restaurants), which will be collected in advance at the start of the trip.

People, Places & Planet

We work hard to create trips which improve life for the people and places we visit and look after the planet we explore. Find out more about our sustainable travel ethos and practice here, and find out about the work of the Exodus Travels Foundation here.

Some sustainable travel highlights of this trip include:

People

How this trip helps improve life for local communities.

  • The use of a local guide means our customers will be well informed about local traditions, and cultural and social sensitivities.
  • This trip brings income and opportunity to the destination community through the inclusion of locally-owned hotels and restaurants, the emphasis on eating locally produced food and support of other local enterprise.
  • We use fairly small, family run and locally staffed establishments which ensures that we are benefiting local communities.
  • Although this is a largely nature-based trip, we incorporate as much benefit to local people as possible. One of the ways to support local people and boost the economy is to buy crafts in some of the remote regions that we visit, such as Tortuguero and Cahuita. Having the opportunity to purchase locally made handicrafts encourages cultural exchange and provides a significant form of alternative income.
  • Our local guides are careful to explain that any souvenirs on sale over the duration of the trip which are made from animal parts, shells or local hardwoods should not be purchased.
  • This is a small group tour, meaning that we have a low impact on the environments and communities we visit and are able to ensure that we do not disrupt or lead to the displacement of local people.
  • Our local operator is very involved in supporting community projects. Our local operator cares about our impact on the destination, which is why we carry out several actions. For instance:
    • The celebration of the International Tourism Day of 2019 by cleaning a beach at Guacalillo, that allowed to recollect 150 Kg of waste.
    • Plastic lids collect and donation them to Fundación Proparques, to develop walkways to improve accessibility for people with mobility problems, in the country’s protected wild areas.
    • The establishment of an alliance with the Recycling Program of the Municipality of San José, since May 2015 until December 2020, that led to recycle 43 tons of recoverable resources during that period. During pandemic, staff members continued with the recycling process from their homes. Collection and recycling include paper, cardboard, plastic items and lids, batteries, and electronic devices, among others.
    • The purchase of souvenirs from local artists, to promote local benefits.
    • Days have been held on the beach with older adults living in care homes.
    • Elimination of single use plastics in our operation.
    • Reduction of printed documents by having all the information in a secure drive.

The purchase of souvenirs from local artists, to promote local benefits.

Days have been held on the beach with older adults living in care homes.

Elimination of single use plastics in our operation.

Reduction of printed documents by having all the information in a secure drive.

  • Our local operator continuously develops activities for the benefit of personnel who work for the company, through its Human Resources Department and the Brigada Pintando Sonrisas. Different activities are carried out, such as “More 4 You”, which has the purpose of creating strategic alliances that promote health among collaborators. In addition, the “New Work” project is responsible for promoting healthy spaces that promote the work environment of the staff.
  • The local staff is given the option of free therapy with BetterHelp, the world’s largest provider of online therapy.
  • In 2017 Exodus Travels introduced the Inspiration Project, where we’ve worked with our partners to take more than 6,000 children in 30 countries on a day of adventure and exploration. Each inspirational day out is designed to introduce young minds to the wonders of our world and their place in it. From visiting cultural heritage sites to natural wonders, each trip has been packed with firsts – their first time leaving their own village, their first time seeing the sea, their first time visiting a busy city. We continue to operate these days out to inspire children to protect and preserve the world as they grow up.

Places

How this trip helps protect and conserve local landscapes and nature.

  • Read about our commitment to nature protection and restoration here, including our rewilding commitment for every customer who travels.
  • By travelling in a small group, led by a local guide, we ‘tread lightly’ to minimise our impact on local resources and the environment.
  • Being a wildlife-based tour, we are very conscious of our effects on the environment and how we can reduce negative impact and aid conservation. On this trip we visit national and private parks, including Tortuguero and Corcovado, where entrance fees directly support conservation efforts alongside maintenance and upkeep of these areas.
  • Our local operator has a policy of Animal Welfare that requests suppliers to comply with the minimum conditions of animal welfare.
  • Our local operator has been awarded by the Costa Rican Tourism Board for their sustainable tourism practice & dedication to improving sustainability standards. This means that efforts are made to rationally use water and electricity, provide adequate waste management, and positively impact communities, among many other actions.
  • Most of the accommodation and restaurants we visit on this trip use locally sourced food such as fruit which is always sourced locally and abundant.
  • Vegetarian options are available if notice is given which include a variety of fresh fruit, vegetables, and rice.
  • To reduce our carbon emissions, we use a shared coach at the beginning of the tour to transport clients from San José to Tortuguero rather than an internal flight. During the trip, we travel responsibly using appropriate methods of transport; therefore, depending on group size, a minibus/coach will be used.
  • Our trips adhere to ABTA’s industry-leading animal welfare guidelines to ensure the best possible practices with regard to working animals and wildlife viewing. Our animal welfare policy can be found here.
  • We work with our partners on the ground to proactively eliminate or reduce waste, for example eliminating all single-use plastic water bottles and instead providing refills for re-usable bottles.

Planet

How we seek to keep the carbon footprint of this trip low.

  • Read about our climate action here, including our carbon reduction and compensation commitments.
  • An example of eco-friendly accommodation on this trip is the Drake Bay Wilderness Resort, a family run business in a stunning location on the Osa Peninsula. The restaurant here provides delicious American/Costa Rican style dishes freshly made with lots of natural ingredients, many of which from their farm. By using local produce this means a reduction in food miles.

Tips for sustainable travel on this trip

  • Leave no trace: We do all we can to ensure we leave no rubbish behind in the wild and beautiful places we visit; we ask that you do the same. If there are no recycling facilities in-country, we’d ask you to consider bringing recyclable materials home with you.
  • Plastic waste reduction: Please bring your own re-usable water bottle on this trip; filtered water will be provided where tap water is not drinkable.

Important Information

Optional activities and excursions

If you would like to join an optional activity or excursion outside those listed in the itinerary, your leader may be able to assist with selecting a provider. However, Exodus has not assessed the safety standards of activities or excursions that are not listed in the Trip Notes. All optional activities or excursions are undertaken at your own risk.

Water safety

This trip includes time by a lake, river or sea, where there may be opportunities to swim. You should always seek local advice before deciding whether to swim. Open-water or wild swim spots should be treated with extreme caution. Information on how to keep yourself safe while swimming is shown here.

Important Information

Your safe participation 

When booking this trip, you should be confident in your ability to participate in all activities described in these Trip Notes. If you have any doubt about your suitability, please call the Exodus office and ask to speak to one of the experts on this itinerary. 

Although our leaders are well trained to deal with different capabilities, if they have any concerns about someone’s ability to safely take part in an activity, or their impact on other people’s enjoyment, we authorise them to take necessary action which, in some circumstances, may involve asking someone to miss that activity. 

By booking this trip you agree to our Booking Conditions which clearly state that our leaders have the authority to do this. In these rare instances we will ensure anyone sitting out is safely provided for and offered alternative options where possible. Refunds will not be provided for activities missed and customers may be liable for additional costs incurred. 

How to Book

  1. Check availability: Go online to check availability, or contact us by phone or email.
  2. Secure your place: You can provisionally hold a place on this trip, usually for between three and seven days.
  3. Complete your booking and payment

When you’re ready to book, go to our website for online bookings, book over the phone or you can complete a booking form (available online or on request by calling us). We accept all major credit and debit cards, or you can pay be cheque.

After booking

You will receive your booking confirmation letter and invoice, which includes extra information and guidance about your travel arrangements.

Full joining instructions, including local emergency numbers and details of how to reach the start point, will be sent to you approximately two to three weeks prior to departure. If you do not receive these at least a week before departure, or require them earlier, please contact our office or your travel agent.

Trip Note validity

These Trip Notes are valid from the “Current as” date on page one. They will occasionally be updated after booking and before departure; if there are any updates that significantly impact the inclusions or itinerary, customers will be written to separately. They will also receive a link to the most up-to-date Trip Notes with their Final Joining Instructions before travelling.

The information in these Trip Notes is given in good faith. Where differences exist between the Trip Notes and our current brochure or website, the Trip Notes supersede the brochure and website. All holidays can be subject to unexpected changes; to enjoy them you should be prepared to be flexible where necessary. Occasionally, it may not be possible to follow the itinerary as planned. This may be for a variety of reasons – climatic, political, physical or other. In these circumstances we will make the best-possible alternative arrangements that maintain the integrity of the original itinerary.

Licensing

Exodus is fully licensed and bonded as a tour operator. We hold Air Traffic Organisers Licence (ATOL) number 2582, issued and bonded with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). We are also bonded to the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and we are members of the Federation of Tour Operators (FTO) and ABTA – The Travel Association. This means you can book your Exodus holiday with confidence, as all money paid to us for your trip is fully protected.