Costa Rica wildlife vacation, Coastal Secrets

“A two week vacation, traveling in a small group with expert guides, from coast to coast, national park to nature reserve. This is where wild dreams come true.”


Tortuguero National Park | Cahuita National Park | Sloth Sanctuary | La Marta Wildlife Refuge | Turrialba Valley | Savegre Cloud Forest | Osa Peninsula | Drake Bay | Caño Island | Dolphin and whale watching in season | Sierpe | Corcovado National Park

Travel Team

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Check dates

2019: 5 Oct
2020: 11 Jan, 18 Jan, 21 Jan, 25 Jan, 15 Feb, 22 Feb, 7 Mar, 14 Mar, 24 Mar, 18 Jul, 25 Jul, 1 Aug, 8 Aug, 15 Aug, 19 Sep, 26 Sep, 3 Oct, 10 Oct, 17 Oct, 31 Oct, 7 Nov
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.

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.
“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?”
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

Costa Rica wildlife vacation, Coastal Secrets

Carbon reduction

Your vacation will help support local people and conservation. We must also reduce CO2. Learn about the CO2 emissions of this vacation and how to reduce them.


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 Drake Bay Wilderness Resort, a family run business in a stunning location on the Osa Peninsula – the first resort of its kind in the area.

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 Tortuguero and Corcovado, where entrance fees directly support conservation efforts. We also visit Aviarios del Caribe, the sloth sanctuary, an educational visit to increase awareness of the dangers that sloths face and the rehabilitation process for those injured animals coming into the center.

Local Craft and Culture:
Although this is a largely nature based trip, we incorporate as much benefit to local people as possible. One of the ways to support local people and boost the economy is to buy crafts in some of the remote regions that we visit, such as Tortuguero and Cahuita. Having the opportunity to purchase locally made handicrafts encourages cultural exchange and provides a significant form of alternative income. Guides are careful to explain that any souvenirs on sale over the duration of the trip which are made from animal parts, shells or local hardwoods should not be purchased.

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.

4 Reviews of Costa Rica wildlife vacation, Coastal Secrets

4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed on 18 Aug 2019 by

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

I loved the boat rides and seeing the humpback whales, and also the humming bird garden.

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

Make sure you bring insect repellent and also wet weather stuff.

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

Very much so

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

Wonderful vacation. We were not in the more touristy areas of Costa Rica so in that sense it felt very personal. We did plenty of walking, ate lots of healthy food
and the lodges we stayed in were in the midst of the wildlife we had come to see.

Reviewed on 05 Feb 2019 by

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

Seeing such a variety of animals and birds every single day. But the highlights must be the quetzals, the racket of the howler monkeys and of course the sloths.

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

Be prepared for long long days in the mini bus when transferring between national parks. Still lots to see but through a window! Also very little downtime to just relax and enjoy your surroundings.

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

The majority of tourism of course benefits the local economy and must indirectly
benefit the country’s goals for the environment and their conservation targets.
Had little opportunity to meet and talk to Ticos.

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

A full-on trip! Wildlife galore.
I will definitely be back in Costa Rica soon.

Reviewed on 24 Jan 2019 by

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

There were many as we saw several different habitats! I loved the Cloud forests and the rainforests especially being able to walk some of the trails on my own as then I can experience the forest more quietly and directly and see animals and bird life that is not possible when people on a group walk are chatting. The group were great too with lovely people to share experiences with.

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

Invest in a reasonably good pair of binoculars! Several people on my trip just had very small binoculars so struggled to see things, but when I lent them mine they would say "ohhh!!" Makes a big difference to your enjoyment of the wildlife.

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

To some extent yes as there were several lunches and dinners when we ate out at local restaurants thus were spending money locally. Also we had a visit to a woman who ran her own small dairy farm and learned about her way of life which was really interesting. Several of the lodges we stayed at recycled and one made their own compost. We learned from our guide that the partner organisation supported a local rural school by getting them school supplies and by sponsoring and organising trips for the children to some of the best wildlife sites in Costa Rica.

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

Very enjoyable indeed and would recommend it to anyone especially if this would be someone's first time in that area or first time someone would be doing a wildlife trip. The only reason I am not rating it with 5 stars is that I personally prefer to stay in much smaller lodges, whereas we often stayed in very large lodges although they were well run and well organised.

Reviewed on 13 Mar 2019 by

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


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

Drink lots at altitude; a number of us suffered from altitude headaches and nausea.
A travel kettle and supplies were welcome as was that other travel essential, a wash basin plug.

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

Well, we spent some money. We also filled our water bottles from bulk water in the hotels rather than buying bottled water.

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

Poor. Long bumpy journeys in a mini bus with uncomfortable front and rear seats. Didn't see as many birds as I expected; one needs to be interested in lichen, lizards, termites, ants, spiders etc as well! And I was also disappointed by the lack of mountain scenery.

Read the operator's response here:

We would like to thank Maryanne for her feedback regarding her vacation in Costa Rica, although we are very sorry that some aspects of the vacation did not meet her expectations. We regret that she found the journeys to be long and the transportation to be uncomfortable; the feedback about our ‘Costa Rica's Coastal Secrets’ tour is usually overwhelmingly positive, so we are very sorry that Maryanne’s experience was not so positive.

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