Self Drive Tours of Costa Rica

Costa Rica Self Drive

The Freedom to Explore

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See Costa Rica Your Way

Self Drive exploring Costa Rica from £1850pp

Costa Rica is perfect for self drive holidays: no enormous distances to worry about, but huge variety making every journey an adventure in its own right, with your own vehicle meaning you can explore Costa Rica at your own pace and according to how you feel on the day. This two week itinerary covers some of the absolute highlights of the country, but everything we do can be tailor made, so if you'd like some ideas on how to extend or change the trip then just let us know.

Outline Itinerary

  • Day One: Arrival in San Jose
  • Day Two: On to Talamanca
  • Day Three: Los Quetzales National Park
  • Day Four: On to the Pacific Coast
  • Day Five: Free Day in Uvita
  • Day Six: Drive to Manuel Antonio
  • Days Seven and Eight: Free Days in the Manuel Antonio National Park
  • Day Nine: Up to Monteverde
  • Day Ten: Free Day in the Cloud Forest
  • Day Eleven: Drive to Arenal
  • Days Twelve and Thirteen: Free Days in Arenal
  • Day Fourteen: Overnight flight back to the UK

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Detailed Itinerary

Day One – Arrival in San Jose

We will be waiting to meet you at San José airport today, as you touch down in one of the world’s most beautiful and peaceful countries, Costa Rica! We’ll be there to help you collect your hire car, and then you’re just a short drive away from your hotel for the night.

  • With your own car, you could spend an extra night or two in the San Jose area to allow you tovisit the nearby volcanos of Irazu or Paos. There is also a wonderful nature reserve close by, called La Paz, with lovely forest waterfall trails, aviaries and an animal sanctuary. Just ask us for more information!

Day Two - On to Talamanca

Your self-drive adventure will really begin today, as you drive south through the remote inland mountains of Talamanca. The area of San Gerardo de Dota is one of Costa Rica’s less-visited, but it is home to the country’s largest population of the most beautiful bird in the America’s, the Resplendent Quetzal - a must-see for any keen birdwatcher! You’ll be spending the next couple of nights in a lovely mountain lodge hotel, located in its own nature reserve. (Breakfast included)

Day Three - Los Quetzales National Park

We’ve left you with a free day to explore the nearby National Park of Los Quetzales, home to this famous bird and hundreds of other species. There are some great hikes in this area, whether you just want a gentle forest walk or a full day of hiking in the mountains. (B)

  • There is a specialist dawn birdwatching tour in Los Quetzales, which is fantastic for amateur ornithologists, and particularly good for those who wish to spot the Resplendent Quetzal – a notoriously shy bird! So just ask us for more information if you are interested. Alternatively, keen hikers may wish to add on a couple of extra days, to complete one of the most iconic treks in Costa Rica, the Cerro Chirripo summit. From the top of the mountain you can see both the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea!

Day Four - On to the Pacific

It's time to leave the hinterland behind today, as you head to the Pacific Coast, to the village of Uvita. This peaceful place sits on 2 miles of sandy beaches, just a short drive from the surfing mecca of Dominical. The beach itself is simply beautiful, and an incredible natural oddity can be found here, the ‘Whale’s Tail’, a giant rock and sand formation that juts out from the coastline in the very distinct shape of a whale’s tail, created by converging currents. Bizarrely enough, this is the spot where thousands of migrating whales congregate and breed every year, and Uvita is among the top 3 best places in the country for whale-watching! (B)

Day Five – Free Day in Uvita

During the season, August to April, you can take a whale-watching boat trip, but there is also a protected marine reserve here too, with fantastic coral reefs. For those who enjoy water sports, you could spend the day in Dominical, surfing or sailing, or simply exploring the hippy markets and laidback beach bars. (B)

Day Six - Drive to Manuel Antonio

Today you will continue to explore Costa Rica, heading north along the coast to Manuel Antonio. The long white sand beaches, blue-green waters, and beautiful cliffs make this some of the most picturesque scenery in Costa Rica. Your hotel for the next few days is located in a privileged position overlooking both the beach and jungle, with fantastic 360-degree views. (B)

Days Seven and Eight - Free time in the Manuel Antonio National Park

One of Costa Rica's ecological gems and the second most-visited nature reserve in the country, Manuel Antonio National Park is no to be missed while visiting this beautiful area. There are many well-marked trails, that will introduce you to the varied flora and fauna of this rich rainforest. Many species can be easily observed here, but you can join a guided tour if you’d prefer – the guides always carry a high-powered telescopic lens that can be used to view resident wildlife obscured by the lush jungle. (B)

  • Just let us know if you’d like to add on a tour here in Manuel Antonio. As well as the national park, you could visit the mangrove swamps around Damas Island, which is another great spot for wildlife. There are also a variety of boat tours, as well as kayaking, and horse riding

Day Nine - Into the Cloud Forest

Continuing north today, you will drive into the Cloud Forest of Monteverde. Costa Rica is one of the most biologically diverse countries in the world, having 4% of all the known species of plants and animals in only 0.04% the earth's surface! Due to its altitudinal variation and its exposure climatic factors that vary between the Pacific and Caribbean slopes, Monteverde is perhaps one of the richest regions in the country, where there are over 3,000 known species! (B)

Day Ten - Monteverde National Reserve

One of the main attractions of the area is the reserve of Monteverde, with its 13-kilometre network of trails. There are over 500 bird species here, including the majestic quetzal and the three-wattle bellbird, 120 species of reptiles and amphibians and more than 3,000 plants, among them the highest diversity of orchids in the world. You can spend the day exploring the reserve at your leisure, or you could join a naturalist tour. (B)

Day Eleven - Driving to Arenal

Today you will drive to the active volcano of Arenal. Your hotel for the next few days is at the base of the volcano, not too far from the town of La Fortuna, so you’re perfectly placed to start exploring the area this afternoon. (B)

Days Twelve and Thirteen - Free time in Arenal

There is so much to do in this area that you’ll be spoiled for choice over the next couple of days! Of course, the volcano is a big draw, rising up at over 1,600 metres high and active since the 1960s. There are forest trails in the foothills of the volcano, and one particularly beautiful trail leads to a 70-metre high waterfall. There are also plenty of fun activities to do here in Arenal, including zip-lining and rafting. Or, if you’d prefer to end your holiday on a more relaxing note, you could spend a day soaking in natural thermal pools at one of the many hot springs resorts. (B)

  • Just let us know if you’d like to book an activity or tour whilst you’re in Arenal. The Hanging Bridges Park is a great place to do some of the adrenaline-pumping activities, or just explore the suspended canopy walkways. If you haven’t had enough wildlife yet, you could also book a river raft safari, just don’t forget your binoculars...

Day Fourteen - Last Day in Costa Rica

Unfortunately, today marks the end of your self drive adventure in Costa Rica! You’ll need to return to San Jose this morning, where you will drop off your rental car and then catch your international flight home. (B)

Options for our Costa Rica Self Drive Tours

Trek to Cerro Chirripo

Cerro Chirripo Hike – 2 nights from £350pp

The tallest mountain in Costa Rica, lofty Cerro Chirripo rises to 3,800m giving you some of the best views in the country. In fact, on a clear day you can see both the Pacific and the Caribbean from the top! So why not add this two-day trek through the mountains of Talamanca to your itinerary and enjoy not only great views, but the chance to see quetzals, tapirs and even the elusive jaguars...


Tamarindo Beach Break – 3 nights from £350pp

Costa Rica spoils you for choice when it comes to beautiful beaches, but people have been heading to Tamarindo in the Pacific North West for decades to enjoy the mix of great beaches, stunning turquoise waters, and a huge mix of activities, from watersports like surfing and kayaking, to wildlife-spotting in the Las Baulas National Park.

Corcovado National Park

Corcovado National Park – 3 nights from £795pp

Or why not leave the car behind and take a jaunt down to the Corcovado National Park in the south-west of Costa Rica? This vast protected reserve covers 13 different eco-systems, from golden beaches on the Pacific Coast to Highland Cloud Forest, and is the most bio-diverse region in the whole of Costa Rica, giving you the chance to see over 400 bird species as well as all 6 of Costa Rica's big cats...

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What's Included?

Our standard price for this self drive holiday in Costa Rica is £1850 per person, which is based on two sharing a double or twin room in our standard hotels and lodge.

That price includes all your accommodation, internal transport, transfers, tours, guides and entrance fees, plus all the specified meals.

We don't have any "local payments" or sneaky charges: everything you have read about on this itinerary is included in that price. And because everything we do is tailor-made, we don't have fixed departure dates or minimum numbers for our trips. Outside of national holidays or other special events, this price is valid for the whole of 2020.

International flights

So with the exception of a few meals, everything on your holiday is included. What we don't include as standard is your international flights, because with these you have a huge range of options depending on the date you want to travel, the route you want to fly, and your preferred departure airport in the UK.

We aren't tied to any particular airline, and we will be delighted to discuss all options with you, or you can even book the flights yourself if you prefer: it's totally up to you.

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