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14 days

Self-drive – Highlights of Costa Rica with Beach Holiday in Manuel Antonio

Experience the highlights of Costa Rica on this self-drive holiday to Tortuguero National Park, Arenal Volcano, Monteverde Cloud Forest and Manuel Antonio’s stunning beaches.

Self-drive – Highlights of Costa Rica with Beach Holiday in Manuel Antonio
Self-drive – Highlights of Costa Rica with Beach Holiday in Manuel Antonio
14 days

Self-drive – Highlights of Costa Rica with Beach Holiday in Manuel Antonio

Experience the highlights of Costa Rica on this self-drive holiday to Tortuguero National Park, Arenal Volcano, Monteverde Cloud Forest and Manuel Antonio’s stunning beaches.

HomeLatin AmericaCosta RicaSelf-drive – Highlights of Costa Rica with Beach Holiday in Manuel Antonio
What is included in the price?
This package includes the following
  • Return flights from the UK to San José (enquire regarding direct flights)
  • Transfer from San José airport to your hotel
  • Minibus: San José – Tortuguero – Guápiles
  • 9 days’ car rental (Suzuki Vitara or similar) including free mileage, one-way rental, GPS and mandatory insurance. All bookings in 2023 and 2024 also include free Wi-Fi
    Route: San José – Tortuguero – La Fortuna – Monteverde – Manuel Antonio – San José airport
  • 10 nights at good hotels, including breakfast
  • 2 nights at lodge in Tortuguero with full board
  • 1 x lunch (day 5)
  • 1 x dinner (day 6)
  • Welcome meeting in San José
  • Individual tour, where all excursions take place in small, international groups with local, English-speaking guides. Transfers also take place in smaller international groups
  • ATOL certificate
  • 24-hour manned emergency telephone throughout the tour
  • Departure guarantee – the tour will take place regardless of the number of participants
  • Possibility of daily departure

Comprehensive package of excursions:

  • Excursions in Tortuguero National Park
  • Hot springs and dinner at Arenal Volcano
  • Treetop walk in Monteverde Cloud Forest
  • Admission to all attractions mentioned


Costa Rica, with its long sandy beaches, lush rainforests, cone-shaped volcanoes, hot springs and mysterious cloud forests, is a mecca for nature and animal lovers. On this tour, you have the freedom of your own car to experience the highlights of Costa Rica.

The tour begins in San José, Costa Rica’s capital, heading from here to Tortuguero National Park, where you will experience unique nature and fascinating wildlife.
From here, you continue the tour in your own car to La Fortuna, which is known for the scenic, cone-shaped Arenal Volcano and the hot springs.
You will also be going on an adventure in Monteverde’s tree tops and experiencing the fascinating flora of the rainforest on a walk along hanging bridges.

Your tour rounds off with relaxation at Manuel Antonio’s stunning beaches, where you can also visit the town’s famous national park of the same name.

Why choose this tour

  • With a rental car, you have the freedom to plan your days on your own and to stop whenever you like
  • Experience Tortuguero National Park’s exciting inhabitants, such as turtles, monkeys, toucans, caimans and sloths on a boat ride down the canals
  • Feel the mystique of Monteverde’s cloud forest on a walk on suspended bridges fastened out among the treetops
  • Finish up with a beach holiday at Manuel Antonio’s fantastic beaches

Our prices always include

  • All international and domestic flights
  • All destination transfers
  • All specified excursions and activities
  • All accommodations
Detailed Itinerary
Day 1: Departure from the UK and arrival in San José

Today, you leave the UK and head to Costa Rica with connecting flight(s) along the way. On your arrival in the capital San José, you will be met at the airport by a driver, who will drive you to your hotel. The drive takes about 45 minutes.

Located 1,172 metres above sea level in central Costa Rica, San José enjoys a wonderful spring-like climate all year round. The city was established in the early 18th century, but it was not until around 50 years later, when a tobacco factory was founded and access to water was improved, that the city’s population and economy began to grow as a result. San José was made Costa Rica’s capital in the early 19th century, and today it is a modern city with bustling commerce and resplendent art and architecture.

Day 2: Welcome meeting in San José

In the morning, you will be picked up from your hotel and driven to our partner’s office, where you will run through the tour itinerary together. You will also receive more information on the pick-up and drop-off of your rental car.

The rest of the day is yours to do as you please. You can either choose to explore the city on your own or purchase one of our extra excursions.

You might like to go for a walk in the Parque Metropolitano La Sabana, Costa Rica’s largest city park, sample the delights of the city’s gastronomic heart, Barrio Escalante, or explore the historic neighbourhood of Barrio Amón, where colonial mansions have been transformed into contemporary art galleries.
You could also visit the city’s largest market, Mercado Central, where you can shop for souvenirs or try local dishes such as “casado”, which is Costa Rica’s national dish consisting of beans, rice and meat.

Day 3: San José – Tortuguero National Park

You will be picked up early from your hotel this morning and head for the Caribbean coast to Tortuguero National Park. On the way, you will pass numerous banana plantations, which are of great importance to the Costa Rican economy, as Costa Rica is one of the world’s largest exporters of bananas.
As it is not possible to drive all the way to your lodge, you will switch to a boat when the road ends. Sailing along small canals, you will continue to the lodge, which is located in the heart of Tortuguero’s lush wetlands.
After arrival and check-in, a delicious lunch awaits you in the lodge’s restaurant.

In the afternoon, you will visit the small village of Tortuguero with a local guide, who will show you around the village and tell you what it’s like to live in a town so remote that you can only get to it by boat or by plane.

When darkness falls after dinner, many of the animals and insects of the national park wake up, and it’s an almost magical experience to sit and listen to the sounds of nature from your little veranda.

Day 4: Experiences in Tortuguero National Park

Today, you’re going on an exciting boat trip along the canals of Tortuguero National Park. A skilled guide will help you spot the park’s residents, including tapirs, sloths, caimans, iguanas, toucans, macaws and the three fascinating monkey species: howler monkeys, spider monkeys and capuchin monkeys. On the boat trip, you will also learn about the park’s exotic flora.

In the afternoon, you will have time to yourself, which you can spend relaxing by the pool at the lodge, walking along the small paths in the national park or strolling along the beach. Extra excursions can also be purchased at the lodge.

The name “Tortuguero” comes from the Spanish word for “turtle” or “tortoise”, and, as the name suggests, the park is famous for its many turtles. If you visit the national park in the turtles’ breeding season – and are lucky – you will get to see them coming ashore to lay their eggs in the sand on the beach. During the period from February–July, you are in with a chance of seeing the green sea turtle, the leatherback sea turtle, the hawksbill turtle and the loggerhead turtle.
The turtles generally lay their eggs once the sun has gone down. After 6 pm, you can only go on the beach with a guide, as it is important that you do not disturb or scare the sea turtles when they come ashore to lay their eggs. For the same reason, you must remain very quiet and do not use a torch or flash camera.

Day 5: Tortuguero National Park – La Fortuna

After breakfast, it’s time to leave Tortuguero National Park and head west to La Fortuna. Travelling by boat and then bus, you make your way to Guápiles, where lunch (included) is served at a restaurant. This is where you pick up your car and your self-drive adventure begins. From Guápiles, you drive to the small town of La Fortuna.

The town is situated at the foot of Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica’s most famous volcano. Arenal, which is situated 1,670 metres above sea level, was inactive for more than 400 years until a violent eruption in 1968, which caused massive destruction and buried several small villages. Although described as one of Costa Rica’s most active volcanoes, Arenal has been dormant since 2010.

When you arrive at La Fortuna and have checked in to your hotel, you have the rest of the day to yourselves.

The day’s mileage: approx. 120 km

Day 6: Arenal’s hot springs

The morning is yours to do as you please before an excursion later in the day. Relax at the hotel or explore the area on your own.

You can drive up to the north-western part of Arenal Volcano and walk in Arenal Volcano National Park, or you can drive to a private reserve near the volcano, where a vantage point affords stunning views of the volcano, Laguna Verde and Lake Arenal. In the forest area around the volcano, you also have a good chance of spotting toucans, peacocks, reptiles and monkeys.

In the afternoon, you will drive to the hot springs of Arenal, which are naturally heated by the volcanic activity in the area. The temperature in the various pools is 37–41 degrees, making them the perfect place to lie and relax. Remember to bring a bathing suit.
There is also a small pool bar at the hot springs where you can have a drink before dinner (included) is served. After dinner, you will drive back to your hotel.

Day 7: La Fortuna on your own

Today is yours to do as you please.

At the foot of the inactive Chato volcano, located right next to Arenal, is the famous La Fortuna waterfall. Its waters spring from the Tenorio River and run through the Arenal mountain range and the rainforest before dropping 70 metres into a lagoon. You can even drive to the towering waterfall and enjoy a refreshing dip in the lagoon beneath the waterfall. From the car park, there is a 20-minute walk down to the waterfall through lush rainforest where you may be lucky enough to spot monkeys, toucans and other exotic animals on your way.

You also have the opportunity to try out a multitude of activities at La Fortuna. The area is very popular for mountain biking, horse riding, kayaking, rafting, ziplining and ATV tours.

Day 8: La Fortuna – Monteverde Cloud Forest

The time has come to say goodbye to La Fortuna and drive to the town of Monteverde. You head off after breakfast, and an incredibly scenic drive around Lake Arenal awaits you. Close to Monteverde lies the magical cloud forest of the same name, which you can look forward to visiting tomorrow.

The day’s mileage: approx. 115 km

Day 9: Treetop walk in Monteverde Cloud Forest

After breakfast, you drive to Monteverde Cloud Forest, a unique area of natural beauty. The rain forest is situated 1,440 metres above sea level and is also known as the “forest in the clouds” because of its location and its characteristic fog caused by the high humidity in the area.

In the rainforest, an exciting hike of around 2.5 kilometres awaits you, walking along hanging bridges between the tree tops! You will feel the very special and mysterious ambience that the mist creates in this enchanting landscape. You will be surrounded by orchids, ferns, huge trees and countless plant species growing on the trunks of the trees. The tree tops of the enchanting forest are filled with the chirping of colourful birds such as the resplendent quetzal, the golden-browed chlorophonia and the coppery-headed emerald. Monteverde Cloud Forest is home to some 400 different bird species.

After a couple of hours in the tree tops, the rest of the day is yours to do as you please. You can explore the area on your own, purchase an extra excursion or just drive back and relax at the lodge.

Day 10: Monteverde – Manuel Antonio

Today, you will drive to Manuel Antonio, where you will spend three nights.

The town of Manuel Antonio is located on the Pacific coast in western Costa Rica and is particularly famous for its national park of the same name. Manuel Antonio National Park is one of the most famous and popular of the country’s 27 national parks, despite being one of the smallest in Costa Rica. The picturesque park is hailed as one of the most scenic national parks in the world, with its lush green rainforest extending all the way to the beautiful white sandy beaches and turquoise waters. Manuel Antonio National Park is also one of the most species-rich national parks in the world, and home to animals such as sloths, common squirrel monkeys, white-headed capuchin monkeys, mantled howlers, spider monkeys, sloths, white-nosed coatis, iguanas, red-eyed tree frogs, toucans, hummingbirds and colourful butterflies.

Once you have arrived at your hotel in Manuel Antonio and checked in, the rest of the day is yours to do as you please.

The day’s mileage: approx. 190 km

Days 11-12: Manuel Antonio on your own

The next couple of days in Manuel Antonio are yours to do as you wish.

It goes without saying that we recommend a drive to the national park on one of the days and experience its breathtaking flora and fauna. It is best to set off early in the morning, when there is the greatest chance of seeing the animals and there are fewest visitors. The park has marked paths, making it is easy to find your way around in there. If you would like to know more about the nature you experience, you can also choose to purchase a guided tour.
Remember to bring your swimwear as the beaches inside the national park are fabulous and Playa Manuel Antonio beach is one of the world’s best beaches.
Please note that the national park is closed one day a week, usually on Monday or Tuesday.

Playa Espadilla is another beautiful beach located outside the national park, where you can swim and snorkel in the water and explore life under the ocean waves or simply sunbathe in the shade of the leafy trees and enjoy the view of the Pacific Ocean.

As a town, Manuel Antonio is very small but it has several shops and cosy restaurants where you will find both gourmet food and local Costa Rican dishes at all price levels.

Day 13: Manuel Antonio – San José – departure day

The time has come to say goodbye to Costa Rica. You drive to San José and drop the car off near the airport. From here, a shuttle bus takes you the last stretch of the way to the airport before you fly back to the UK with connecting flight(s) along the way.

The day’s mileage: approx. 170 km

Day 14: Arrival back home

You arrive in the UK after an eventful holiday.

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Corcovado National Park
4 nights

Dream of experiencing Costa Rica’s largest and most biodiverse national park, boasting unique nature and a wonderful abundance of wildlife? In that case, you should extend your holiday to include this tour to the jewel in the crown of the country’s national parks: Corcovado National Park.

The scenic national park is located in south-western Costa Rica on the Osa Peninsula, considered to be one of the most biodiverse areas in the world. Here, you will find a unique ecosystem and diverse wildlife – both on land in the national park and under water by the island of Caño. The park houses one of the world’s largest populations of the scarlet macaw, and you may also see monkeys, tapirs, sloths and anteaters. If you’re extra lucky, you may also see some of Costa Rica’s rare cats such as the jaguar and the puma.

During your time at Corcovado National Park, you will stay overnight in Drake Bay, which is located on the northern part of the Osa Peninsula. Drake Bay is the perfect base for your exciting excursions in the area, as the remote town with just a few hotels and lodges is close to both the national park and the sea. Here, you can really enjoy the sound of the roaring sea and the birds chirping.

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Laura Arundell Trelborg

Laura loves to travel and is extremely passionate about helping others achieve their travel dreams.

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