Feel Inspired: Eco Adventures in Costa Rica

Eco Adventures in Costa Rica is taken from our ‘Feel Inspired’ blog series, sharing some of our favourite holidays and destinations. Read on to check out our jam-packed itinerary to vibrant and nature-rich Costa Rica and discover more inspiration at stories.powderbyrne.com.

Well-known for its abundant wildlife, volcanic landscapes and tropical climate, Costa Rica is one of the most popular destinations in our Air & Space adventure travel programme and growing in popularity every year. With both Pacific and Atlantic coasts to explore and an untamed interior, visitors to Costa Rica experience everything from beautiful beaches and soaring volcanoes, to primordial cloud forests and dense rainforests. It’s not hard to see why this Central American treasure is such a favourite with our clients. 

Less well-known, but gaining more prominence, Costa Rica is also considered a global leader in the fight against climate change and is celebrated for its leadership in environmental policy. Their ambitious National Decarbonisation Plan has seen the launch of multiple initiatives that include a carbon neutral certification scheme for businesses and municipalities, Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions in the agricultural sector, and a National Energy Plan. 

Costa Rica’s electricity generation already runs on a very high share of renewable sources, and aims to be 100% renewable by 2021. In 2018 the country beat its own record by generating 98% of electricity from renewable sources – for the fourth consecutive year.

Alongside their focus on climate action, Costa Rica is also a world leader in the realm of ecotourism, devoting an estimated 26% of its land to national parks, wildlife reserves and protected lands. Hotels throughout the country are rated according to their degree of sustainability by the Certificate for Sustainable Tourism Program (CST). The highest level attainable in the program is five leaves and certificates are renewed every two years. 

Certificate for Sustainable Tourism evaluation criteria

1. Physical-biological environment (the relationship between the hotel and its surrounding environment).

2. Service plant (how the company handles waste management and light and water saving technologies).

3. Service management (how the tourism product fits with market trends and localities).

4. Client (customer participation in sustainability programmes).

5. Socioeconomic environment (a beneficial relationship between the facility and local community). 

Certifications are renewed every two years.

Many of the hotels and lodges that we recommend have been awarded the CST 5-Leave Award and through our chosen Gold Standard carbon offsetting partner, BaumInvest, we are contributing to projects in Costa Rica that help to reduce CO2 and advocate sustainable development and tourism.

Our Air & Space adventure travel itineraries are completely bespoke and tailored to the interests and needs of our clients and can be designed to take in many fabulous eco-properties and experiences along the way. 

Air & Space in Costa Rica – recommended itinerary

Day 1 Arrival and stay at Hotel Alta Las Palomas (1 night stay)

Arrive into San Jose followed by a private airport transfer to Hotel Alta Las Palomas. 

Your driver will meet you at the airport where you can then relax and enjoy a short 25 minute journey to your hotel, taking in your first sights, sounds and smells of Costa Rica. You will arrive at Hotel Alta Las Palomas, located in the exclusive area of Alto de Las Palomas, approximately 5 miles west of the capital city, San José. Exuding classic Spanish colonial ambience, it overlooks the glorious valley of the sun. When you’re feeling peckish, check out La Luz restaurant and bar which is located within the hotel and combines Mediterranean cuisine specialities with fresh produce from local organic farmers.

Day 2 – Intrepid journey to Evergreen Lodge (2 night stay)

Only 5 minutes away from the entrance of Tortuguero National Park, this wild and remote area is only accessible by plane or boat. This unique jungle lodge has fantastic facilities including a delicious restaurant, a bar in front of the lagoon, a refreshing turtle-shaped swimming pool, tropical gardens and comfortable hammocks to enjoy the views of the jungle and canals teeming with wildlife. There are also Spa services on offer if you are looking for a little bit of relaxation and pampering. 

After an early pick up from the hotel reception at 6am you will wave goodbye to San Jose and drive through the spectacular Braulio Carrillo National Park and banana plantations to Tortuguero pier, with a short pit-stop for breakfast en route. At the pier you will board a comfortable boat which will wind its way along the Tortuguero canals where you are sure to spot all sorts of jungle wildlife. The boat ride will come to an end at the next stop on your adventure, Evergreen Lodge. Here you will disembark the boat just in time for a refreshing cocktail and delicious lunch. The afternoon is yours to relax and explore as you please, you can head to the green turtle information centre, beach area and visit the picturesque town. Dinner will be served at 7pm with an optional night tour on the beach to admire the spawning of the Tortuga Verde is on offer if you are there from July-September. A once in a lifetime opportunity, that’s for sure!

Day 3 – Exploring Tortuguero National Park

Wake up to the sounds of the jungle birds and enjoy a leisurely freshly prepared breakfast at the lodge. After breakfast, you will head out on a guided walking tour through the fascinating National Park trails. You will head back to the lodge and enjoy some free time to spend as you wish before discovering more delicious Costa Rican flavours over lunch. In the afternoon you will explore Tortuguero from a slightly different perspective, on small, open boats navigating the lakes, rivers and canals that make up an extensive water network through the national park. The boats and waterways are a fantastic vantage point to observe the vast array of local wildlife including, birds, monkeys, two and three-toed sloths, American crocodiles and caiman. The canals are very sheltered, providing the perfect environment for endangered species to live, so you might see Oriental Indian Manatee, crocodiles, a large variety of crustaceous and about 30 species of sweet water fish including the Gaspar, considered as a living fossil. Exhausted from the trip and spellbound by the incredible wildlife you will then head back to the lodge for some downtime before dinner.

Day 4 – Journey to Arenal, the adventure capital of Costa Rica

In the morning you will take a shared boat transfer back to the pier and wave goodbye to Tortuguero National Park. You will then be driven to El Ceibo restaurant for lunch. After  lunch, your driver will meet you and take you on to Arenal which will take approximately 4.5 hours.

Tabacon Grand Spa & Thermal Resort (3 night stay)

This wonderful resort offers a unique combination of the energy of the volcano, the flowing waters of the hot springs and the fresh air of the rainforest. The Tabacon Resort is ensconced by natural water features and water flows through the property, forming in-river pools, waterfalls and cascades, filling the pools throughout the resort. You will find these natural pools as you amble along the resorts walking trails, they are also surrounded by steaming tropical gardens which have temperatures ranging from 25-38℃, so it can get a little hot! The resort is also home to its own mineral natural hot springs, which you will have unlimited access to throughout your Tabacon Experience.

Day 5 – Horse Riding experience to La Fortuna Waterfall

Today you will be picked up from the hotel reception at 9am ready to head out on a private tour to La Fortuna Waterfall. The waterfall’s sources are in La Fortuna River and it is located near the Arenal Volcano National Park, an area that sees high annual rainfall and temperatures between 18.5 and 35℃. These tropical conditions spawn an abundance of vegetation and biodiversity. You will enjoy all the flora and fauna on horseback as you start your riding tour at La Fortuna. The tour lasts for approximately 4.5 hours and from the river, you wind your way across varied Costa Rican countryside, through cattle farms and cultivated land. After 5.5km/1.5 hours you will reach a point where you dismount the horses and leave them to rest whilst you hike down a little hill to the spectacular La Fortuna Waterfall. The 200ft of cascading rainforest water is a phenomenal sight. If you fancy, you can take a dip in the emerald pools beneath, this will definitely be a refreshing experience as the water tends to be a little chilly!

Hanging bridges/Natural History walk

In the afternoon, you will head out on a fun and educational walk to learn about the rainforest and the local environment. Walking along the trails opens the door to the fascinating natural world of the rainforest and the abundance of exotic nature that lives within it. Admire the colourful birds and impressive diversity of tropical plant species as you trek along the 3-kilometre trail. This route is a favourite amongst bird watchers as you are able to see more than 50 species of birds.

Day 6 – Mountain Biking Volcano and Lake Adventure

You will be picked up from your hotel reception at bright and early at 7.30am ready for your exciting mountain bike adventure. The adventure will start with a relaxing cycle through the tropical forest on a paved road heading to the Arenal Volcano National Park which joins with an old road connecting the Arenal Dam with the main entrance. From there you head towards the village of El Castillo, making your way along a quiet road surrounded by dense forest and cattle farms. Keep your eyes peeled during the cycle as you are bound to spot howling monkeys, coatis and birds such as toucans, egrets and kingfishers. There will also be incredible views of the volcano throughout the cycle. If you have the energy, you can go across the Arenal Dam and bike on the road along the north side of Arenal Lake. There is very little traffic on the road and you can enjoy unparalleled views of the lake and volcano.

Day 7 – Journey to Rio Perdido

You will be picked up from the hotel reception at 10am after enjoying a delicious breakfast. Your driver will collect you and you will make your way to Rio Perdido, the journey time is just under 2 hours. You will have the rest of the day to spend at your leisure, relax and explore the area.

Rio Perdido (3 night stay)

Secluded, dramatic and unique, Rio Perdido has an unusual and simply spectacular setting. Surrounded by volcanoes, a dwarf-forest and flanked by two canyons, one carrying cool waters with a peculiar white tint and the other is thermo-mineral Rio Perdido, the “lost river” as it directly translates. It really is a place like no other.

Day 8 – Canyon adventure

There are several Canyon tours you can try in Costa Rica but Rio Perdido really is the best of the best. Their awesome cable-based adventure includes:

– 15 platforms: 6 of them are rock-based, 9 are suspended on the canyon walls

– Pendulum cable

– 50ft Tarzan swing

– 90ft challenge bridge

– 4 via ferratas with lengths varying 15 to over 30ft

– 5 zip lines with lengths varying from 260 to 800ft

– Water station in the middle of the circuit

Day 9  – White Water Tubing

More action and adventure is in store today. Ride the rapids on your tube and enjoy phenomenal views of the surrounding rainforest, canyons and of course, the vast array of tropical wildlife including birds, monkeys and sometimes even larger mammals, if you’re lucky you might spot an Ocelot. There are parts of the canyon where rock walls narrow and daylight is scarce. Echoes grow louder and the silence leaves space to hear the animals, one thing’s for sure, you are not alone on the river!

Day 10 – Journey to Cala Luna

Enjoy your last leisurely breakfast at Rio Perdido before boarding your journey to the last stop on your trip, Tamarindo. The journey will only take 2 hours. Tamarindo has turned into one of the most famous beach towns in Costa Rica and is best known for its surf. The bustling town has lots of restaurants, bars and there is plenty to keep everybody entertained.

Cala Luna Boutique Hotel, Tamarindo (5 nights)

Located on Langosta Beach in Guanacaste next to Tamarindo, Cala Luna Boutique Hotel & Villas is part of a charming beach community growing to be one of the most popular in Costa Rica. The Hotel enjoys the nearby conveniences of the beach town, yet sits beyond the hustle and bustle, creating a tranquil beachside retreat. Recent renovations include the development of eco-chic architecture harbouring a stress-free and informal environment with excellent, attentive service.

Day 11 – Private Surf Lesson

Tamarindo is one of the most popular surfing spots in Costa Rica and a fantastic place to learn the sport. The majority of instructors have been surfing nearly as long as they have been walking and know all the best spots for beginners – so you are in good hands. There will be transfers to and from the hotel and you can enjoy a 2 hour surfing lessons in some of Costa Rica’s best waves. There are a few spots that are great for beginners to learn: just north of Tamarindo Diria is Playa Avellanas and if it is a quiet day in front of Hotel Capitan Suizo. Don’t worry about remembering these names, your surf instructor will know the best spots to catch your first waves.

Day 12 – Stand Up Paddle Board lesson 

You will be picked up from your hotel reception at 8am ready for your paddleboarding lesson, where you will learn the basics on how to master the art of this increasingly popular watersport. The stand up paddleboards feature a step deck and rail and the built-in deck grip provides maximum traction. Balance is the key challenge with paddleboarding and the bonus is that it is a great workout. Don’t worry, it is a lot faster and easier to learn than it looks!

Day 13 – Private Snorkelling Boat Tour

Enjoy the serene and secluded surroundings of Flamingo Beach area and discover the world underwater in the many snorkelling spots found along the coast. The tour includes fins, masks and a life vest. The areas around Flamingo beach are renowned for having crystal clear waters and pearly white sand, creating the perfect visibility conditions for snorkelling. In these waters you are likely to see damselfish, moray eels, angelfish and a huge selection of tropical fish, you won’t be disappointed.

Day 14 – your final day is set aside to simply relax and do anything that takes your fancy

Our recommendations:

Between Playa Tamarindo and Playa Grande there is a maze of estuary waterways with the option to kayak through these with a professional guide. It’s a great way to see the surrounding wildlife and landscape and watch out for lazy crocodiles sunbathing on the river bank. 

Tamarindo is also well-known for its fishing. You are likely to reel in Roosterfish, snapper, amberjack and if you head to Costa Rica between April and August you are sure to see Billfish. Some Billfish can reach an incredible length of up to 5m, so hold on tight if you manage to catch one of those on the end of your line. 

If you are looking for more of an adrenaline rush on your final day, there are lots of activities available in Tamarindo to get your blood pumping:

– Zipline canopy tour, fly through the treetops spotting monkeys, lizards and maybe even an armadillo.

– Horseback adventure through the rainforest.

– Starting at Victoria Falls, you can go river tubing down the Rio Negro.

– Explore Rio Negro hot springs, where mineral-rich waters are naturally heated by the Rincon de la Vieja volcano.

Day 15 – Private Transfer to San Jose Airport 

The last day of your holiday and it’s time to head home! You will be picked up from your hotel reception at 8.30am by your driver who will take you back to San José airport in plenty of time for your flight back to the UK. The journey back to the airport will take approximately 4-4.5 hours, a great time to have a look at the many photos you have no doubt taken throughout your trip!