Costa Rica wildlife vacation

“Discover what Costa Rica does best: wildlife. Private transport and comfortable lodges balance out the busy pace, while naturalist guides reveal the secrets of the forests.”

Highlights

Tortuguero | Monteverde | Arenal Volcano | Zip wires | Esquinas Ecolodge | Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve | Manuel Antonio National Park | Piedras Blancas National Park | Savegre Cloud Forest | Turtle nesting (in season)

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19 Dec 2016
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Our top tip:
This tour is fast-paced, so pack light. But do bring warm layers – the cloud forest gets chilly at night.
Trip type:
Small group tour, min. age 16.
Activity level:
Leisurely – included and optional walks of up to 2-3 hours.
Accomm:
Small hotels and ecolodges – many family run, often with pools.
Solos:
Solo travelers welcome. Singe rooms available with surcharge.
Included:
Lodging, transport, transfers, listed activities. Flights if booked.
Meals:
Buffet-style breakfasts, 8 lunches, 6 dinners.
Vouchers
Accepted
Vacation type

Small group vacation

Small group travel is not large group travel scaled down. It is modelled on independent travel – but with the advantage of a group leader to take care of the itinerary, accommodation and tickets, and dealing with the language. It’s easy to tick off the big sights independently – but finding those one-off experiences, local festivals, traveling markets and secret viewpoints is almost impossible for someone without the insider knowledge gained from years in the field. If you’re heading off on a gap year your, perhaps – but for those with a two-week vacation, a small group tour will save valuable planning time.

The leaders are not guides – they’re not there to shepherd you around. Instead, they’ll let you know which local restaurant serves great value food – without running the risk of travelers’ tummy. They’ll allow you to avoid hour-long queues at train stations and attractions.

We like to think of small group travel as the Goldilocks option. It is independent travel without the fuss, worry and bunk beds – and organised travel without the coaches. And it’s cheaper than a tailor made tour. It’s sits somewhere in the middle – and we think it’s just about right.

What are the main benefits?
Big experiences
Have big, life-enriching experiences that would be impossible to organise without lots of time and insider knowledge.

Simplicity
Make the most of your vacation time by letting someone else do the hard work and boring logistics!

Peace of mind
Small group tours take care of the security aspects – and provide a safety net should anything unexpected happen.
Who is it ideal for?
Travelers who are short of time
If you don’t have three months to spend exploring, small groups trips let you cover more ground in less time. Your days are not spent queuing for tickets or finding hotels – so you can squeeze more into your vacation.

Solo travelers who’d like company
Likeminded travel companions plus peace of mind for those traveling alone. Single supplements are usually available – providing privacy if you want it.

Less confident travelers
Stray from the tourist trail without worrying about getting lost, and meet local people without dealing with the language barrier.
Mythbuster
“I won’t get any privacy!”
Couples and friends have private rooms, and you can choose to eat alone or not. Single supplements give solo travelers their own room.

“There won’t be any free time”
Free mornings or afternoons let you explore on your own, or just relax.

“The accommodation will be basic”
Trips are as high or low end as you like. Though off the beaten track destinations won’t have luxury hotels, this is all part of the adventure.

“I won’t like the other travelers!”
Tour operators try to create groups with a similar demographic – age, families, activity levels... Chances are, you’ll even make new friends.

“Will we be following an umbrella?”
No.
Valerie Parkinson
Meet a group Leader
Name: Valerie Parkinson

Story: The first British woman to climb Manaslu, Valerie climbed Everest for her 50th birthday. She’s spent fourteen Christmas Days trekking to Everest Base Camp, and is involved insetting up Responsible Tourism initiatives in the Himalayas.
Roshan Fernando
Meet a local guide
Name: Roshan Fernando

Story: Roshan has led over 130 trips – he adores showing travelers around Sri Lanka. He won the company Leader Award in 2010, but his career highlight was working on their Tsunami Project – which earned him a responsible tourism award.

Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Costa Rica wildlife vacation

Environment

Accommodation and Meals:
We spend two weeks in a combination of hotels and eco-lodges around Costa Rica. We use fairly small, family run and locally staffed establishments which ensures that we are benefiting local communities. Our local operator is a leading member of the Rainforest Alliance and has been awarded a "4 Leaf" award from the Costa Rican Tourism Institute for their sustainable tourism practice & dedication to improving standards. An example of eco-friendly accommodation on this trip is the Esquinas Rainforest Lodge, a model project combining conservation, environmental research and community development in a rural area. It is 100 % carbon neutral and helps to fund local healthcare and education.

Activity:
Being a wildlife based tour, we are very conscious of our effects on the environment and how we can reduce negative impact and aid conservation. On this trip we visit national and private parks, including the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve, one of the first community-managed reserves in the country. Entrance fees directly support conservation efforts in the areas we visit. Our activity also benefits the rural village of Copey, which is nestled in the highlands of the Central Mountain Range. By passing through this area, seeing how the locals live and work and having lunch in a typical home, we are encouraging cultural exchange and providing valuable avenues of income here.

UK Office:
It all starts at home so we have first worked at reducing our carbon footprint in our UK Offices. Through energy conservation measures and recycling policies, we are proud to be actively reducing the waste produced and our impact on the environment. We support various projects all over the world to try and give something back to the places we visit.

Community

Charity:
Last January we contributed school supplies though the Costa Rican Association of Tour Operators (ACOT). We organised the donation of school packages to children and teenagers in indigenous communities (Dueri, Cerro Alto, Tolok Saku, Jamaikiri, Tsinikicha, Mata de Limón, San Miguel, Gandoca and Yorkin). If guests would like, they are also able to support local schools by delivering a gift of educational supplies when we visit Copey area on this tour. The cost of this is included in the full price of the tour. In terms of environmental charity, we give a monetary donation on a monthly basis to the Organisation for Tropical Studies.

Group Size:
This small group tour has a maximum of 16 participants, meaning that we have a low impact on the environments and communities we visit and are able to ensure that we do not disrupt or lead to the displacement of local people. The small number also allows us to stay in unique, family-run hotels that cannot benefit from coach tours and other mass tourism due to their limited sizes.

Reviews of Costa Rica wildlife vacation

You can trust Responsible Travel reviews because, unlike many other schemes, reviews can ONLY be written by people who we have verified have been on the vacations.

I am reborn! Simply the best vacation I have ever been on
Some great stories to tell the grandchildren. Would recommend to a friend
Very enjoyable
It was OK
A bit disappointing really

Reviewed on 03 Oct 2016 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


The whole experience was mind blowing but I guess seeing a Sloth on the first day's lunch stop has to be the one.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Don't pack too much and remember most hotels and lodges have laundry facilities.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Yes except for the flight over there.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Fantastic.

Reviewed on 26 May 2016 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


Diverse landscapes, biodiversity, wildlife viewing - loved the humming birds at Savegre Lodge

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Take a good camera and be prepared for a wide range of weather conditions

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Yes, to some extent

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Excellent, had a great time

Reviewed on 22 Feb 2016 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


Many. Great variety of eco-lodge type locations enabled great wildlife watching. Playa Blancas area favourite location.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Leave kit behind- no need for mosi nets, towels etc, as venues all great. And do night walks where they are offered.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Yes, by providing jobs, income and security.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Great, would get top score if not for too long a time on bus at end and a day including Cartago and San Jose which I would drop from future itineraries.

Reviewed on 14 Feb 2016 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


All good, made even better by the local guide Gustavo and driver Carlos. Location excellent and birds and wildlife fantastic.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Ponchos and insect repellent

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Yes

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Wonderful experience with good group of people

Reviewed on 10 Nov 2016 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


The natural landscapes and forests along with the different mammals and birdlife. Resplenent Quetzal say no more!!

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


You will get rain - but it is warm.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Not a poor country but very environentally aware. Vacation fitted into this.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


If you like every type of different forest you will enjoy. We enjoyed.

Reviewed on 08 Oct 2015 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


Staying in Tortuguera and floating down the canals thru the jungle watching birds,monkeys and iguanas, The cloud forest, Esquinas lodge in the rain forest where we also had free time to follow the forest trails

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Costa Rica is very humid.Take more clothes than normal as they will be soaking wet 10 min after you put them on and will not dry. Take every optional trip offered, this is an amazing country

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Yes, most accomodation was locally owned and run - we did not use any large chains. The food was all locally produced. The company supports a school and small local farms.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Excellent

Reviewed on 25 Apr 2015 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


A wonderfully diverse trip visiting lots of different areas of Costa Rica seeing lots of different ecosystems and wildlife.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Be prepared to get wet it does rain even in the "dry" season.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Yes.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Very good.

Reviewed on 08 Jan 2014 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


Seeing all the wildlife and amazing natural landscapes. Costa Rica is a beautiful country and you will stand in awe at the beauty of the rainforests.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Travel light. There is a lot of traveling around the country and you will only stay in the one location for a couple of days. Also be prepared for it being hot. When we travelled it wasn't the 'summer' season yet it was incredibly hot and humid in the rainforests.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


The hotels do put some effort into energy saving and conservation yet this is only in its infancy. On the penultimate day we did travel to a local school where some of the vacation fee had been donated. This was a worthy cause.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Fantastic vacation. The wildlife and natural landscapes are amazing and worth the trip alone. For the sheer scope of diversity, colour and experiences this trip is unrivalled.

Reviewed on 22 Dec 2014 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


Looking at the two poisonous snakes that the guide found for our group to see and the two that I saw only one of which one other member of the group also saw and the fourth which I showed to everyone else including the guide who did not find it for us.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


If you are bird crazy then this is the vacation for you since this was designated as a bird watching special the guide spent a lot of time identifying the various species seen and there were many of them. Those people who like to watch birds but are not of the "twitcher" type of person should bring a good book with them as the guide will often spend 30 mins in identifing the bird sitting on a telephone wire two hundred yards away which appears in outline only against a bright sky.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Yes sometimes at the expense of the tourists, an example is the Esquiners lodge where the local water is only filtered but not treated in any other way so those of us with delicate stomachs could not drink the water or the coffee or eat the soup or anything made with the water as we got the "runs". All the lodges supported the conservation ideals and we paid for them locally in cash as well.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


This was a three star vacation the people were nice touristas and locals

Reviewed on 26 Feb 2013 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


Seeing a rhinoceros beetle the size of a hamster.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Take a spare battery for your camera

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


It indirectly benefitted local people and conservation simply by distributing money in those areas.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


One of the best we've had.

Reviewed on 15 Dec 2013 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


Saw lots of animals, birds, plants and butterflies. Thankfully did not see the tarantula. Seeing sloths close up, active but moving in slow motion was great as was seeing little turtles hatching and running to the sea. Saw lots of birds and had a very knowledgeable guide to help us. The quetzel fly past was pretty good!

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


If you are interested in birds then you do need a decent zoom, though good quality compact may be enough just to get pictures for identification.
May need to take an extra change of lightweight quick drying clothing.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Yes, there is a lot of emphasis on 'Eco-tourism', some hotels this just seemed to mean not changing the towels every day but in other places like Esquinas, the lodge was a local community project.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Good vacation, lots of traveling and a few places like Manuel Antonio park very noisy and touristy but other places really great.
Would like to have spent more time in fewer places but this was a good introduction to Costa Rica. Accommodation and food good.

Reviewed on 21 Feb 2012 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


Difficult to pick one highlight. The boat trips at Tortegua where we saw an osprey, an otter who played alongside the boat. A very angry caiman coming to protect her youngster. The resplendent Quetzel in the cloud forest is unbelievable. Looking at the frogs in a night hike in the rainforest and also finding a feu de lance.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Take warm clothes for the cloud forest it can be very cold at night and some of the lodges have limited heating. Expect to get wet somewhere. Have plenty of camera cards and take good binoculars - essential. This is a vacation for wildlife enthusiasts. There is lots of walking over uneven ground and some very bumpy roads.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


It is obvious that the tourism in Costa Rica is set up to minimise the impact on the environment and there is much evidence to see how local people were involved in supporting the industry. We visited a local school and a family farm - lovely highlight.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Fantastic and tiring but nice tired! , wonderful experience, so glad we did it.

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