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Costa Rica Pass - Route 6 Self Drive

Tour Map

Tour style - Wildlife & Nature, Culture & History

15 days

Our most comprehensive Costa Rican driving adventure! Start with the mangroves, jungles and canals of Tortuguero, nesting ground for giant sea turtles. Next, try rafting or relax in hot springs around active Arenal Volcano before driving up into the cool hills of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. Soak in dramatic volcanic scenery in remote Rincon de la Vieja before topping it all off with some beach time--and monkeys--in Manuel Antonio Park, famous for its beaches, bars and wildlife.
  • Day 1 Arrive San José

    Our G Adventures Pass Costa Rica is the best way to explore Costa Rica. A G representative will meet you at the airport with your arrival information package and will remain just a phone call away for the duration of your stay.

  • Day 2-3 Tortuguero (B,L,D)

    Arrive in San José at any time, you will be met at the airport and transferred to your hotel. There are no planned activities, so enjoy the city. Located in the central highlands, San José enjoys a moderate climate. The heat and humidity of the coast and lowland areas may affect you, with a general sense of lethargy and/or loss of appetite. This is no cause for alarm; it is simply your body’s reaction to the heat. Be sure to drink plenty of water (bottled water is available everywhere) and do not attempt too much in any given day. We prefer fan-cooled rather than air conditioned rooms to avoid having to acclimatize to the heat and humidity every time you go outside. This is also a more eco-friendly approach. Like most cities, San José has its good and bad sides. It is the centre of government, theatre, and art, as well as of air pollution and congestion. It has beautiful parks and museums, and a few beggars on the streets. It is big and often noisy, but even from its crowded downtown streets, you’ll often enjoy a view of the surrounding lush mountains. Start your exploration of the city in the main plaza, a great place to people-watch. A mime, juggler, marimba band, magician, or storyteller may be performing for whatever is collected when the hat is passed. Artisan booths are common, creating a regular arts and crafts fair atmosphere. A source of pride for the ticos (as Costa Ricans are known) is the National Theatre. Inaugurated in 1897, the building was paid for by coffee growers through a voluntary tax on every bag of coffee exported. The National Museum, housed in the Bellavista Fortress, offers exhibits on pre-Columbian art, colonial art and furniture and religious art within a 19th Century building that was converted from a military fortress after the army was abolished. The Museum of Costa Rican Art, located in La Sabana Park, was once the international airport; the museum is now housed in the old terminal building. The Jade Museum is on the 11th floor of the Instituto Nacional de Seguros building. In addition to the marvellous collection of jade objects, there are pre-Columbian ceramic and stone works as well as displays with archaeological and ethnographic information. The Gold Museum is located underneath the Plaza de la Cultura. Its spectacular collection of indigenous gold art belongs to the Central Bank of Costa Rica. The best and least expensive places to buy souvenirs in San José are the markets. The two main ones are the ones in Plaza de la Demorcracia, which is an outdoor open market, and the Central Market, where handicrafts are sold along with boots, fish, flour, herbal remedies, shirts and everything else you can imagine. Always watch your belongings and be ready for crowds. If you plan on spending a few days in San José after your tour, there are a number of activities within the city and area that you can participate in, many of them outdoors. Probably the hardest thing you will do in San José, other than get safely across busy streets, is keep the street numbering systems straight. Street and avenue numbers are posted on buildings at the corners of some intersections. Keep looking as you walk, and you will eventually find one. NOTE: Like any city where tourism is on the increase, crime also tends to increase and while San José is not a noticeably dangerous city, there are certain precautions you should take. Make sure that you are aware of your things at all times and don't go out carrying expensive gear or jewellery.

  • Day 4-5 La Fortuna

    Early pick-up from your hotel in San José for the drive out of the central highlands and down to the river port, stopping for breakfast on the way. After a short visit to a banana plantation, hop on board a comfortable lancha (boat) for your journey through the remarkable Tortuguero canals to the Pachira/Evergreen Lodge. After lunch visit the small village of Tortuguero. The next morning take a relaxing walk in the forest or choose one of the lodge's optional activities. In the afternoon climb muddy Cerro Tortuguero (Tortuguero Hill) for a great view over the park. Chill out at the lodge before an optional night excursion to see the nesting of the giant turtles (seasonal March–September). Tortuguero National Park was created in 1975 to protect the four species of sea turtles which nest along the beaches. The three-hour boat ride along rivers and canals starts just outside the town of Limón and ends in the village of Tortuguero, just outside the park perimeter. We may see herons, egrets, spoonbills, as well as amphibians and reptiles like the “Jesus Lizard” (it walks on water) and caimans. The tropical rainforest gives way to prime beaches, ideal nesting grounds for Green, Loggerhead, Hawksbill and Leatherback Turtles. The latter nests from mid-March to May, the rest from July to September. The Caribbean Conservation Centre, just outside of town, is an excellent source of information about the turtles and their tropical habitat.

  • Day 6-7 Monteverde

    Transfer from Tortuguero to Guapiles to pick up your Terios, and drive to your hotel in the town of La Fortuna, located at the foot of the Arenal Volcano. Options include rafting, hiking, waterfalls, hot springs, and getting up close and personal with the volcano! La Fortuna is an excellent base for adventure. Hike the area’s nature trails, swim in chilly La Fortuna waterfall or join a canopy tour and catch a bird’s-eye view of the forest greenery. Other optional activities include full-day white water rafting on the Toro or Arenal Rivers, mountain biking, caving, horseback riding, or a tour of the Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge. Like much of Costa Rica, the area is a birders’ paradise, with over 600 species as permanent residents. Finally, after a long day of exploring, take a relaxing soak in the lush, cascading hot springs of Tabacón Resort. Soak in one of the natural thermal baths and rivers under the shade of the surrounding canopy. Set on the northern plains of Costa Rica, Arenal Volcano sits on the southeast shore of artificial Lake Arenal (77 square kilometres, or 48 square miles). Separating the mountain ranges of Guanacaste and Tilarán, the lake was created by a hydroelectric dam. Winds sweeping off the Caribbean Sea reach speeds of 48 to 72 km/hr (30 to 45 mph), making Arenal one of the best windsurfing destinations in the world. The volcano, once quite active, has been in a dormant state since the beginning of 2011 but still is a dramatic backdrop to the town of La Fortuna. During the day, its reflection on Lake Arenal is truly enchanting.

  • Day 8-9 Rincon de la Vieja

    Drive to the remote village of Monteverde, and ascend into the cool, misty mountain air of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve. Spend a couple of days exploring the town and the Forest Reserve, truly a bird lovers' paradise. Monteverde (“Green Mountain”) is exactly what you find at the end of the long, rutted dirt road through the mountains. The surrounding pastures were once covered with dense forest, but today only a small piece of it remains. That piece of forest has been preserved as the Reserva Biologica Bosque Nuboso Monteverde, the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve. Cloud forest is much like a rainforest, but much of the moisture comes not from falling rain but from the condensation left by the nearly constant cloud cover that blankets the tops of mountains in many parts of the tropics. The Monteverde Reserve covers 1600 hectares of forest and is home to a great variety of wildlife. More than 2,000 species of plants, 320 bird species and 100 different species of mammals inhabit this small area. The Santa Elena Reserve, another park contiguous with Monteverde, is less well known and visited but also worth seeing. All proceeds from this park profit the local community. Quakers from the United States founded the village of Monteverde in the 1950s. Looking to leave behind the constant fear of war and objecting to being forced to support continued militarism through their taxes, the Quakers chose Costa Rica because of its commitment to a non-militaristic economic path—Costa Rica’s army was dissolved in the 1940s. Since its founding, Monteverde has grown slowly as others who shared the original Quaker founders’ ideals moved to the area. Although the Quakers came here to farm the land, they recognized the need to preserve the rare cloud forest that covers the mountain slopes above their fields. The community is very different from those on the coast, and has several co-operatives worth visiting, including artist collectives, several souvenir shops and the Quaker cheese factory, which is definitely worth a visit. Make sure to try their ice cream! Optional activities include the Sky Walk, a series of suspension bridges through the jungle canopy, a butterfly garden and a thrilling canopy zip line. Local guides are extremely knowledgeable about the area and passionate about conservation of this precious ecosystem. If you're there at the right time of year, you may be lucky enough to see the Resplendent Quetzal, one of the most beautiful and elusive birds in the world.

  • Day 10-13 Manuel Antonio/Quepos Area

    On to Rincon de la Vieja, where you will stay in a simple hotel located on the slopes of the Rincon de la Vieja Volcano. You will have time to relax in the hot mud pools, explore the river, or hike in the nearby Rincon de la Vieja National Park. Rincon de la Vieja translates as "the old woman's corner." According to locals, the indigenous people of the Guatuso tribe named the volcano thus for one of two reasons. Either there was an old witch on top of the mountain who sent columns of smoke into the air when she was angry, or there was a kindly old woman occupying the same nook, and the smoke was from her cooking fire as she prepared meals for weary travellers. Perhaps both are appropriate: the Rincon de la Vieja crater has had at least eight periods of intense volcanic activity, and still bubbles and steams. The park contains hot springs which give rise to very hot mountain streams; sulphuric ponds with small mud-filled depressions which bubble continuously; geysers releasing jets of stream, particularly during the rainy season; and mud cones in all shapes and sizes. Waterfalls dot the park, and there is a small freshwater lake which lies south of the main crater. In addition, Rincon de la Vieja contains what is probably the largest existing growth of the national flower-"guaria morada" ( purple orchid ) found in the wild in Costa Rica. Horseback riding, mountain biking, bubbling mud pits, geysers of sulphur dioxide and hydrogen are just a few of the unique attractions at Rincon de la Vieja. One of the most unique sights in the park is the Blue Lagoon: approximately 30 minutes from the park headquarters, this small lagoon is blue as a result of special minerals in the lagoon's underlying stones. A large waterfall constantly replenishes the lagoon while a small hot spring to its left provides a warm welcome relief. The colour of the lagoon is at its bluest during the dry season, as the volume of rainfall is at its lowest level.

  • Day 14 San José

    Make your way to your hotel located in the mountains. Nearby Manuel Antonio National Park offers excellent hiking, spectacular views, and abundant wildlife viewing. There are beautiful white sand beaches and the warm turquoise water is ideal for swimming, fishing, kayaking, boogie boarding, sailing or surfing. Quepos sits on the outskirts of the Manuel Antonio National Park and is a great introduction to the laid-back “Tico” lifestyle. This town is very popular with the younger set of international travellers, and the nightlife in the area is also some of the best in the country. If you have the jungle in mind, then we recommend that you head into the National Park. Although this is Costa Rica’s smallest National Park, it is also one of the most popular and it won’t take you long to see why. This park has fabulous beaches, abundant wildlife, and a great trail system for those who want to spend the day hiking. Look for monkeys, armadillos, coatimundi, sloth and some of the over 350 species of birds that are present in the park! One of Costa Rica’s most popular beaches, Jacó Beach is North of Manuel Antonio on the Pacific Coast, and one of the biggest resort areas in the country. All of the traditional beach activities are available here including horseback riding, deep-sea fishing, kayaking and surfing. Hermosa Beach is the most popular surfing destination in the country. Nearby Carara Biological Reserve is a 4700-hectare reserve with abundant wildlife such as Scarlet Macaws, many species of monkey, crocodiles and countless species of plants. While the main beach is quite busy there are more secluded beaches nearby.

  • Day 15 San José

    Return to San José for one last night on the town.

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