Self drive holiday in Costa Rica

This self-drive adventure puts you in control of where you go and when, but provides peace of mind in the form of a personalised itinerary and pre-booked accommodation.
Off the beaten track self-drive Costa Rica's lesser-visited corners Sleep in the cloud forest Seek the Resplendent quetzal Dolphin watching & snorkelling Sleep at a ranger station in the jungle Bird watching hotspots Huge variety of monkeys & mammals Visit local cacao plantation & a coffee farm Stroll or horse ride along the beach See turtles laying eggs Surfing & swimming opportunities
£4900 excluding flights
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20 Days
Tailor made
More info
Guide price per person based on two sharing.
Includes good/first class hotels/lodges, 4WD car hire with WiFi, guiding & excursions, and meals as per itinerary.
Our Costa Rica holidays are all tailor made - please contact us for a bespoke proposal.
Make enquiry

Description of Self drive holiday in Costa Rica

This self-drive Costa Rica holiday steers you away from the obvious shortlist of highlights. Skip the crowded and commercialised areas like Monteverde, Arenal and Manuel Antonio is favour of unspoilt little-visited corners.

From the sleepy Caribbean coast, via the coffee producing highlands and the cloudforest around Cerro Chirripó, Costa Rica's highest mountain, to the Osa Peninsula, one of the world's great biodiversity hotspots. Monkeys and birds abound in the forests throughout your route, and for a real dose of adventure you'll sleep at a ranger station, surrounded by the sounds of the forest.

Finish on the beach, where you can get active with a surfboard in hand, let a horse do the work on a sunset ride or just kick back in a hammock. Not a bad way to say goodbye to a country you'll know intimately by now.


Day 1:Fly to the Costa Rican capital during the day, where a warm welcome and a short ride into the hills await. Your first base is a beautiful inn set on a working coffee estate.
Day 2:This morning begins with a relaxed stroll through shady bird-rich forests to your finca's coffee plantation. Follow the process from harvest to roasting before an expert tasting session. Later head out with your guide to explore the colourful local culture of the highlands.
Day 3:Your guide now leads you on a short but very scenic hike through beautiful bird-rich cloud forest to an atmospheric crater lake in an extinct volcano. Return to your inn for a sunny afternoon by the pool.
Day 4:Your 4x4 vehicle is dropped off this morning. Driving in Costa Rica is relaxed, safe and scenic, but if you prefer someone else to do the driving, that can be arranged. Head down the Caribbean to a gorgeous small hotel just a short stroll to the beach.
Day 5:You are with our local guide today as he introduces you to the richness and variety of his own tropical garden before taking you into a little-visited coastal wildlife reserve. His eagle eye will help you spot sloths, monkeys, toucans, snakes, lizards, frogs and more.
Day 6:Today can be a bit of a mix of conservation and culture. Just down the road is a brilliant wildlife sanctuary, where you can learn all about how wildlife and humans live side-by-side on the Caribbean. It's also a great place to see wildlife up close. Later you have time to soak up the colourful culture of the southern Caribbean, or to visit the Great Green macaw reintroduction project.
Day 7:You have a free day on the Caribbean. One thing we highly recommend is to hike along the coastal paths of Cahuita National Park, encountering lots of wildlife, before taking a boat back to snorkel with colourful fish at the coral reef.
Day 8:You return to the Central Valley today. Your next destination is the fertile slopes of Turrialba Volcano, Costa Rica's rich agricultural heartlands. On the way you'll visit a special community-based cacao plantation, run by two of the loveliest people you could wish to meet. Settle into your next base, a tiny hotel in an old coffee finca, built in 1890.
Day 9:Your hotel is on the country's single largest coffee estate and you'll spend today exploring it all. Head into the hills to harvest some cherries, meet the pickers and enjoy stunning vistas. Later head to the village, the heart of the coffee community, to visit the mill and the old church. Finish off with a cup or two of the estate's finest coffees.
Day 10:Rafting today. There are a couple of options depending on your experience and confidence levels. The Pejibaye is great for beginners, anyone really - the team take people as young as 5 and those well into their eighties. The Pacuare is much livelier, one of the world's great day rafting experiences.
Day 11:The next drive takes you south into the little-known forests in the foothills of Chirripó, Costa Rica's highest peak. Today can be fairly relaxed and you should have plenty of time to swim in the inviting pool and sink into the wood-fired hot tub as you listen to the river rush by and watch the birds fly home to roost. Dinner is equally as memorable, as is the roaring fire and craft beer!
Day 12:Boots on today as you head out with our local guide on a scenic hike in the cloud forest. The length of walk and route can be adapted to you, but expect glistening waterfalls, a bounty of birdlife, grand forest vistas and lovely company. You might also visit a local's amazing orchid garden and have dinner at your host's house.
Day 13:Today can be as active or relaxed as you like. You have secret gardens, birdwatching terraces and more mountain hiking paths all close to your lodge. This is a wonderfully off the beaten path part of the country, so exploring is all the more enjoyable.
Day 14:Today's drive is long but special as you drop down from the highlands, cut south along the Pacific coastal road and cross the forests and open pasture of the remote Osa Peninsula. Settle into your luxury ocean-view cabins above a tiny beachside community and look forward to some memorable days ahead on this wildlife mecca.
Day 15:Head out into the waters with your guide to try to spot dolphins and do some snorkeling in the clear waters around Caño Island, home to colourful reefs, spotting all manner of fish and perhaps dolphins, whales or sharks, before a picnic lunch on a beautiful beach.
Day 16:Today is yours to relax and perhaps go for a long stroll along the beach, stopping off at the turtle rescue project along the way before a swim in the Pacific.
Day 17:Visit the pristine jungle at Corcovado National Park today, said to be the best wildlife viewing in all of Central America, for a chance of seeing monkeys, sloth, parrots, macaws and toucans, or even jaguars if you're lucky. After the day to explore with your guide you sleep tonight in the ranger station itself, with the sounds of the forest all around you.
Day 18:Wake up to the sounds of the jungle before heading out with your private guide to explore more of the area. Head back by boat to Drake Bay. Set off north for your drive up the Pacific coast. Your final base has glorious views down the coast, a beautiful pool, birds all around and some really great food.
Day 19:Today is free for you to structure as you like. You can do as much (hiking, zip lining, surfing, kayaking, paddleboarding) or as little as you like. Your bases gives you a huge range of options; swimming, or snorkeling, walking through the wildlife refuge or just strolling along the beautiful beaches.
Day 20:Depending on your departure time, you may have a chance for a final paddle or swim this morning before heading off to the airport to meet your flight home.

Price information

£4900 excluding flights
Convert currency:
Guide price per person based on two sharing.
Includes good/first class hotels/lodges, 4WD car hire with WiFi, guiding & excursions, and meals as per itinerary.
Our Costa Rica holidays are all tailor made - please contact us for a bespoke proposal.
Make enquiry

Departure information

This trip can be tailormade with departure dates to December through September

Travel guides

Costa Rica wildlife
Costa Rica
Little Costa Rica is an adventure playground on an enormous scale. Adventurers can negotiate its rain and cloud forests on foot, horseback, mountain b...

Holiday information

Our top tip:
Allow a bit of extra budget to book some local tours that you may not have planned for.
Trip type:
Tailor made to suit your preferences.
Activity level:
Leisurely/moderate – how much you do is up to you.
16 nights very good standard hotels/lodges.
Solo travellers welcome. Single rooms available.
Some included if requested; local recommendations given as per planned itinerary.
Accommodation, 4WD car hire, listed activities and guiding.


9 Reviews of Self drive holiday in Costa Rica

4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed on 15 May 2017 by

It was a great family holiday.... Drake bay is a beautiful spot with lots of nature around, nice excursions and beautiful beach at the door step Read full review

Reviewed on 10 Apr 2016 by

Amazing. A learning experience that was exciting and fun every day. Read full review

Reviewed on 04 Jun 2016 by

Book it now! Read full review

Reviewed on 04 Feb 2015 by

Fantastic holiday and a slice of paradise! Excellent, Excellent, Excellent! Read full review

Reviewed on 05 Jan 2015 by

I think the most memorable for the adults was staying on the Osa Peninsula which was perfect in every imaginable way for us. The kids liked that too but would say that learning to surf in Uvita or white-water rafting were most memorable. Read full review

Reviewed on 19 Feb 2014 by

It was all memorable but probably the two things which stand out were the tour to Torteguero and the one day trip to the Corcavado national park from Uvita. Read full review

Reviewed on 08 Jan 2014 by

We had a great holiday...the eco lodge was amazing with a spectacular view, a private beach, surrounded by rainforest and beautiful gardens full of tropical birds like Toucans and Colibris, and a fantastic restaurant with delicious fresh pure food!! Read full review

Reviewed on 04 Aug 2013 by

The most memorable part of the holiday was rafting to Pacuare Lodge and then rafting out again 2 days later. 28km of rafting in all...It was an excellent holiday with a great mix of nature, conservation and thrills. Read full review

Reviewed on 23 Mar 2013 by

The diversity of mammal, bird and reptile life was the most memorable part of the holiday Read full review

Responsible Travel

As the pioneers of responsible tourism, we've screened this (and every) holiday so that you can travel knowing it will help support the places and people that you visit, and the planet. Read how below.


We are passionate advocates of what Costa Rica has to offer visitors, but also of protecting and maintaining the country’s habitats and native cultures. As such we have been careful to ensure our partners on the ground are as equally committed to responsible travel practices as us. Our tours are structured to create the least possible impact on local ecosystems.

Most of our trips are conducted on an independent basis, usually with a hire car, and we encourage clients to book any day tours on the ground with local companies. This gives clients the freedom to explore at their own pace as well as insuring the money spent directly benefits the local economy. When we do book tours in advance group sizes never exceed 15 passengers: the standard size being six to eight in any given group. Not only does this help to keep the effect on the local environment to a minimum, it also means clients receive more attention from the guide, and therefore a richer overall experience.

There are now many properties jumping on the eco bandwagon in Costa Rica, with varying degrees of authenticity. We give priority to hotels and lodges with proven ecological credentials, built with sensitivity to the local environment. We only suggest hotels and lodges where we have stayed ourselves, or where our partners on the ground have stayed, and which we believe to be the best in their area. This does not necessarily mean those with the obvious trappings of comfort, but rather those who have an established ethical outlook and a long-term vision for preserving their local surroundings.

Together with our partners on the ground we also support a series of local projects directly. The Neotropica Foundation works with communities and schools to improve environmental education, helping local people to live in a more sustainable way. One project currently underway is the “Amigos de la Naturaleza” which seeks to introduce primary school children to the basic concepts of sustainable living, such as protection of water resources, the responsible management of waste and the conservation of national parks.


The guides we use for walks in the national parks are all trained naturalists and many live locally to the area. They are experts in the flora and fauna of the region and are incredibly passionate about passing on their knowledge, so clients have a greater understanding of local environment and the delicate balance of regional ecosystems. Where possible we only use small, locally run properties, who stand up for their employees’ social rights and offer an honest wage. One of our favourite jungle lodges, for example, supports three primary schools located in the villages of Bajo de Tigre, Los Angeles, and Guyacán, downriver from the lodge itself. The lodge donates a percentage of its bookings to the school boards, which in turn use the money for vital materials and services for the schools. The lodge has also improved and maintained previously disused local roads, along with a cable car used by local residents to cross the river.

Similarly, one of our preferred beach retreats on the Pacific coast has set up a comprehensive program of sustainable projects, working with the local community to increase awareness of environmental and social matters. Projects so far include setting up the first public library in the region for residents, as well funding a composting station and a recycling initiative.

We also directly support the following organizations: Paniamor Foundation is a private non-profit, non-partisan, organization created in 1987 and works to protect the social interests of vulnerable and disadvantaged Costa Ricans. The foundation runs several schemes, including the Social Development Programme, which works with children aged 13 to 18 from deprived communities. The programme seeks to promote values, knowledge and skills that will empower the children to exercise their rights and responsibilities for their own personal growth, and that of their families, peers, and communities of origin. For almost 20 years World Vision has been working hand in hand with the local communities in the Chorotega and Northern Huetar regions to promote sustainable development practices.

Among the schemes they have initiated are: the Economic Development programme, which generates sources of employment and agricultural funding in rural areas; the Prevention, Emergency and Rehabilitation programme which works in the area of emergency prevention and offers relief and rehabilitation to victims of disaster; the Promotion of Justice programme, which helps to foster respect for the rights of children and women through better education.

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