Costa Rica self drive holiday, nature and wildlife

“Pick your own path through Costa Rica on a two-week self drive holiday. It’s one of the best ways to get to know the volcano-side roads and rainforest reserves at your own speed.”


San Jose | Tortuguero National Park | Sarapiqui | Tirimbina Reserve | Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve | Arenal | La Fortuna Falls | Cano Negro National Wildlife Reserve | Rincon de La Vieja National Park | Panama Beach | Liberia

Description of Costa Rica self drive holiday, nature and wildlife

You’ll explore Costa Rica under your own steam on this two-week self drive holiday. Swing by classics like the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve and Arenal Volcano. But also sail deep into Tortuguero National Park – a true wilderness untouched by big resort hotels. Monkeys, sloths, iguanas, parrots and crocs are all residents here.

Rincon de La Vieja is another secretive reserve. Tropical forest hides hundreds of birds and butterflies – plus a 1,895m volcano that still burps out smoke from time to time. Although remote, you’ll still be able to go zip lining and river tube past waterfalls.

Although technically a self drive holiday to Costa Rica, you don’t have to do all the work. You’ll be driven to jetties where you’ll be whisked off downriver to stay in a bird watching lodge. And a few days’ rest means taking your foot off the pedal and pulling on your hiking boots (or flip flops) instead.

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Departure information

This trip can be tailor made throughout the year to suit your requirements
Holiday type

Tailor made holiday

This trip is run by a company which specialises in only Central and South America holidays. It can be tailormade to create a unique holiday for your individual requirements by travel experts with intimate knowledge of the destination. The length of stay, standard of accommodation and even the itinerary can all be amended and tailored to suit your preferred style of travel and budget. Quality and value are the hallmark of these trips.

Responsible tourism

As the pioneers of responsible tourism, we screen every trip so you can travel knowing your holiday will help support conservation and local people.

Ecotourism in Costa Rica is one of the key activities of its tourism industry. The country was a pioneer among of several in Latin America turning to ecotourism as a way of responding to the growing demand for responsible travel. Eco-friendly lodges and activities draw visitors to the many extensive national parks and protected areas around the country, and you will be impressed by the slick and professional way in which these policies have come to fruition.

Our local partners in Costa Rica, with whom we work to select accommodation and activities for you, have a declared policy of adhering to responsible attitudes toward waste and water management and energy resources. They aim to strengthen these principals through management practices of their employees. The companies seek to minimize the impact of visitors on the landscape and its wildlife, respecting the fragility of the ecosystems. They aim to respect local communities, supporting conservation and development initiatives. As part of their work, they engage in activities to promote the human development of the communities they visit.

While it is true that car hire is not the most responsible use of natural resources, it gives you the opportunity to travel independently, with a smaller impact on the environment than that which you’d have travelling in a large group.

Your accommodation virtually throughout is in lodges which are dedicated to the conservation of the natural environment and wildlife.

Tortuguero National Park on the Caribbean coast has incredible biological variety owing to the existence of 11 different habitats, including rainforest, swamps, beaches and lagoons. It’s home to the manatees, caiman and crocodiles, which live in the channels; and endangered jaguars, three species of monkeys and three-toed sloths among a multitude of mammals thriving in the forest, along with reptiles and375 species of birds. There are more than 400 species of trees and approximately 2,200 species of plants. You stay at Tortuga Lodge, a leader in the field of environmental protection here. It’s a secluded eco-resort, encompassing jungle trails, a private canal and an isolated beach on the Caribbean Sea. The lodge provides highly trained staff and guides, local descendants of the first settlers in the area who came from Jamaica, Costa Rica’s main Caribbean city of Limon (also of Jamaican descent) and Blue Fields, Nicaragua. Your guides will insure that you see the “hidden Tortuguero” because they live here all year round and make a constant study of the environment. The beaches are a key nesting ground for endangered sea turtles, including hawksbill, loggerheads, green and leatherbacks. Tortuga Lodge supports scientific study of these creatures and protects their breeding grounds.

You drive on to Sarapiquí where your family-run accommodation, Hacienda Sueno Azul, is situated on a ranch on fertile plains surrounded by forests run through by rivers and waterfalls, cattle ranches, fruit plantations and lakes. The property itself maintains 500ha of protected forest. Many eco-friendly outdoor activities are offered. The resort is built from palm trees but they are gradually being substituted with artificial palms to preserve the environment.
Following your visit to the wildlife rich mangrove creeks of Tortuguero, and Sarapiquí region, you will be heading to the mountains to explore the trails and observe the rich flora and fauna in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve. Administered by the tropical Science Center, the reserve was set up by Quakers to conserve the unique wildlife-filled landscape and protect it from the threat of hunters, mine prospectors and land developers. The fee paid for your guided tour in the reserve includes an entrance fee to the reserve which will contribute to the sustainability of this policy.

Your ranch style eco-lodge in the region of Arenal volcano, Rancho Margot, declares principles based on production without agro-chemicals, the conservation of natural resources and the development of simple systems and processes which create sustainable ecosystems. For example, all electricity on the property is generated by water, and no agro-chemicals are used.

You move on to the volcanic region in Guanacaste, staying in the shadow of Rincón de la Vieja volcano at Blue River Resort. This is not only an eco-friendly property, but everything they offer - including eco-adventure activities such as zip-lining, horse-riding, water-tubing and white-water rafting - showcases the pristine natural surroundings. Saving and protecting natural resources and the environment is part of their "eco" mantra. They are committed to environmental practices which will sustain the property and minimise the impacts on the environment. As such, the property is a participant in the Certification of Sustainable Tourism scheme - authorised by the Costa Rican institute for Tourism - promoting eco-friendly initiatives.
Your beach hotel, Casa Conde del Mar, has adopted an Environment Preservation Initiative, encouraging you to save water and electricity, use their recycling bins, and remind you when visiting national parks or conservation areas not to extract plants or animals from their natural environment.

The Impacts of this Trip

The lodges and hotels we have chosen for you are active in their support of their local communities.

Tortuga Lodge on the Caribbean coast supports local organisations, donating annually to support turtle research and helping to build the museum. They also provide support for the volunteers of Global Vision International, and rebuilt the school in neighbouring San Francisco, also donating musical instruments and cost of traditional clothing fora children's dance troupe there. Tortuga Lodge regularly donates to the police force and Tortuguero village school. Arrangements can be made in advance if you want to combine your holiday stay there with volunteer opportunities locally.

Hacienda Sueno Azul in Sarapiquí participates in a number of community initiatives. Aware of the importance of education in the development of local towns, they adopted the Buenos Aires School, donating funds for the construction of a classroom and the gym. The hotel also includes the children from this school in hotel activities such as cultural exchanges and sponsors the dance group at Rìo Frìo School which make presentations for hotel guests: you are encouraged to contribute. The tips they have received has allowed them to buy new equipment and uniforms. The hacienda also coordinates a project with single mothers and low-income women, teaching them jewellery making. The locally produced items will be sold in the hotel’s store and all the proceeds will go to the artisans.

El Establo Hotel in Monteverde is involved with cultural initiatives in the local community. One of their projects is to assist with the provision of costumes for a local children’s dance troupe (you may be able to see one of their performances; enquire at the lodge).

Rancho Margot in the Arenal volcano region welcomes visitors and volunteers, as well as sustaining and educating its own employees, and is currently adopting holistic practices of sustainability and permaculture. The experience of volunteers has been the impetus for changing the education of their employees. Where once the focus was teaching English, they now think our time is better focused on the teaching of science, mathematics and practices specific to the work being done on the ranch.

Blue River Resort in Guanacaste has adopted the initiative of targeting children in Costa Rica to educate them about the importance of ecology and sustainable environmental practices.

Finally you stay on the Pacific beach at Casa Conde del Mar. This hotel chain likes to involve its guests in social responsibility. The hotel is a member of the Sol de Mayo Foundation, which aims to provide a sense of teamwork, commitment and respect for their employees. There are programmes based on health, housing and education in the community, adopting a responsible and sustainable approach. On the community level, you are invited to participate in the monthly recycling campaigns at the local park.


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