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14 days

Self-drive – Highlights of Costa Rica with Beach Holiday at Playa Sámara

Explore Costa Rica’s magical landscapes in your own car, taking in Tortuguero National Park, the iconic Arenal volcano, Monteverde’s cloud forest and Playa Sámara’s idyllic beach.

Self-drive – Highlights of Costa Rica with Beach Holiday at Playa Sámara
Self-drive – Highlights of Costa Rica with Beach Holiday at Playa Sámara
14 days

Self-drive – Highlights of Costa Rica with Beach Holiday at Playa Sámara

Explore Costa Rica’s magical landscapes in your own car, taking in Tortuguero National Park, the iconic Arenal volcano, Monteverde’s cloud forest and Playa Sámara’s idyllic beach.

HomeLatin AmericaCosta RicaSelf-drive – Highlights of Costa Rica with Beach Holiday at Playa Sámara
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 2024 also include free Wi-Fi
    Route: Guápiles – La Fortuna – Monteverde – Playa Sámara – 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 welcomes you with its unique nature, fantastic wildlife and friendly people.

After a gentle start in San José, attending a welcome meeting with our local business partner, you will head for the fascinating Tortuguero National Park. Look forward to experiencing Costa Rica’s diverse wildlife, including sloths, caimans, turtles, monkeys, iguanas and a myriad of beautiful exotic birds.

This is where your self-drive adventure begins, and the first stop is the town of La Fortuna and the stunning, cone-shaped Arenal Volcano and hot springs.
You continue up into the mountains towards the magical cloud forest in Monteverde, where even more beautiful scenery awaits you, not to mention a walk in the tree tops.

The tour rounds off on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast at the beautiful sandy beach Playa Sámara, surrounded by swaying palm trees.

Why choose this tour

  • With a rental car, you have the freedom to stop whenever you like and plan your days on your own
  • Enjoy Costa Rica’s lush jungle and impressive animal life in Tortuguero National Park
  • Experience the cone-shaped Arenal Volcano and the beautiful nature surrounding it
  • Finish up with a beach holiday in the lovely vacation town of Sámara, where the beautiful Playa Sámara beach awaits you

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

Departure from the UK and travel to the capital of Costa Rica, San José, with connecting flight(s) along the way. On your arrival, you will be picked up at the airport and driven to your hotel. The drive into the city takes around 45 minutes. The rest of the day is then yours to do as you please.

Founded in the early 18th century, San José became the country’s capital in the early 19th century. Today, it is a modern big city with bustling commerce and resplendent art and architecture.

The city is located at an altitude of 1,172 metres and is known for its mild, spring-like climate all year round.

Day 2: Welcome meeting in San José

After breakfast, you will be picked up from your hotel and driven to the office of our partner, where there will be a welcome meeting when you go through your tour itinerary together and get answers to any questions you may have. You can either choose to explore the city on your own or purchase an extra excursion.

San José has many exciting museums where you can learn about the country’s history and the pre-Columbian era and see modern art. The city also has a fantastic park, Parque Metropolitano La Sabana, where the local Costa Ricans, known as “ticos”, like to exercise or meet with family and friends for a picnic.

Day 3: San José – Tortuguero National Park

You depart from San José early and head for the Caribbean coast and Tortuguero National Park. Look forward to experiencing the fantastic flora and fauna of the rainforest and sailing along Tortuguero’s extensive canal network, because the only way to get here is by boat or by plane.

From San José, you drive past large banana plantations, which are an important source of income for the country. When the road ends, you continue by boat along the small canals to your lodge, where you arrive just enough time for a delicious lunch.

In the afternoon, you visit the cosy little village of Tortuguero with a guide. He will show you around the village and tell you what it’s like to live somewhere as remote as Tortuguero.

After dinner, you can relax on your veranda to the sounds of the jungle animals and insects that never sleep.

Day 4: Experiences in Tortuguero National Park

Today, you will go on a boat trip along Tortuguero’s canals in search of the park’s exciting wildlife. You may be lucky enough to see sloths, caimans, river otters, turtles, tapirs and several different kinds of monkeys, including spider monkeys, howler monkeys and capuchin monkeys. You are accompanied by a skilled guide to help you spot the exotic animals. He will also tell you about the park’s fascinating flora.

At midday, you return to the lodge, where lunch will be served in the restaurant. The rest of the day is yours to do as you please, and you can spend it relaxing by the pool or walking along the beach or along small paths in the rainforest around the lodge. It is possible to purchase extra excursions at the lodge.

Tortuguero National Park is famous for its sea turtles, and its name comes from the Spanish word “tortuga”, which means “turtle” or “tortoise” in English. During the period from February–July, you may be lucky enough to witness the green sea turtle, the leatherback sea turtle, the hawksbill turtle and the loggerhead turtle laying their eggs on the Caribbean coast at Tortuguero National Park. The turtles usually lay their eggs when the sun has gone down, so you may only go on the beach with an experienced guide in the evening. It is important not to disturb or frighten the sea turtles when they come ashore to lay their eggs. For that reason, no torches or flash cameras should be used, and you must be as quiet as a mouse.

Day 5: Tortuguero National Park – La Fortuna

From the unique nature of Tortuguero National Park, you head to yet more stunning scenery at Arenal volcano and La Fortuna. After breakfast, you leave the lodge and are transported first by boat and then bus to the small town of Guápiles, where you make a stop for lunch before picking up your rental car. This is where your self-drive adventure begins, and you drive the last stretch from Guápiles to La Fortuna, which lies at the foot of the beautiful cone-shaped Arenal volcano, Costa Rica’s most famous volcano.

The volcano was inactive for more than 400 years until a violent eruption one day in 1968, which caused mass destruction and buried several small villages. However, the volcano has remained calm since 2010 and is described as a dormant volcano that is safe to visit.

You arrive in La Fortuna in the afternoon, where the rest of the day is spent at your leisure.

The day’s mileage: approx. 120 km

Day 6: Arenal’s hot springs

You have the morning to yourself when you can, for example, drive up to the north-western part of Arenal Volcano and walk in the beautiful 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, various reptiles and monkeys.

In the afternoon, you will enjoy the treat of Arenal’s hot springs, which are naturally heated by the volcanic activity in the area. The water is 37–41 degrees hot, so you can enjoy a natural wellness experience. Don’t forget your swimwear!
After relaxing in the warm pools, you dress for dinner (included), which you enjoy in the scenic surroundings. You drive back to the hotel after dinner.

Day 7: La Fortuna on your own

The whole day is yours to do as you please. You have the option to buy some extra excursions from home or drive out to explore the area on your own.

We recommend a visit to La Fortuna waterfall, situated at the foot of the dormant Chato volcano. You can drive out to the waterfall yourself. 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.
The waterfall cascades 70 metres into a small lagoon where you have the opportunity to enjoy a refreshing dip.

Day 8: La Fortuna – Monteverde

After breakfast, a scenic drive awaits you around Lake Arenal and up into the Cordillera de Tilarán Mountains to Monteverde, which is located at an altitude of around 1,400 metres. Monteverde is better known as the “forest in the clouds” due to its elevated location and the low cloud and the thick fog that enshrouds the forest.

The day’s mileage: approx. 115 km

Day 9: Treetop walk in Monteverde Cloud Forest

Today, you will experience Monteverde Cloud Forest from above, where a thrilling 2.5-kilometre walk along hanging bridges in the treetops awaits you. From up here, you can see and feel the unique and mysterious ambience created by the mist. You are in a fairytale landscape surrounded by large trees, ferns, orchids, moss and myriad plant species growing on the tree trunks.
Monteverde is also home to more than 400 different bird species, so there is ample opportunity to see a whole host of exotic birds, including the resplendent quetzal bird and the small hummingbird called the coppery-headed emerald. You have an experienced guide with you who will tell you all about the area’s flora and fauna.

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, drive back to the lodge and relax or purchase an extra excursion. If you wish to experience more of the cloud forest, we highly recommend purchasing a ziplining tour, where you whisk from tree top to tree top, naturally securely fastened to the cables.

Day 10: Monteverde – Playa Sámara

From Monteverde, you drive to Costa Rica’s Pacific coast where your journey ends in a paradise setting at one of our favourite destinations on the Nicoya Peninsula, Playa Sámara.

Playa Sámara is surrounded by lush nature, and everything takes place at a calm pace in the small holiday town. You really get a feel for the Costa Ricans’ famous “Pura Vida” life philosophy here. Despite its popularity, Sámara has managed to retain its charm, and though the demand for rooms is high here, you will only find small hotels.

The town’s big draw is the wonderful beach surrounded by palm trees – and of course the beautiful sunsets. The beach is made for both relaxation and water sports activities, and the relatively shallow, calm water makes it very child-friendly.

It is possible to round off your tour at other beautiful beach destinations on the Nicoya Peninsula. Read more about them under our selection of upgrade hotels.

The day’s mileage: approx. 145 km

Days 11-12: Playa Sámara on your own

The days at Sámara are yours to do as you please. Relax by the hotel’s swimming pool or laze on the wide, golden sandy beach. Explore the town’s dusty main street and soak in the bohemian atmosphere. Small shops selling jewellery and beachwear lie side by side local bars and restaurants.

You can also drive over to the neighbouring beach, Playa Carrillo, a mere 10-15-minute drive from Sámara. At Playa Carrillo, there are no hotels or restaurants on the beach, and the pristine beach is a lovely place to relax, swim and snorkel.

You also have the option of purchasing a kayak tour to the small island of Chora, with its exciting underwater life, or heading off on a boat trip to experience playful dolphins in their natural element.

End the day with a drink in your hand and your feet buried in the sand at a cosy beach bar, while the sun slowly goes down over the horizon, painting the sky in a palette of orange and purple hues.

Day 13: Playa Sámara – San José – departure day

The time has come to say goodbye to the wonderful Playa Sámara and Costa Rica. You drive back to San José and drop the car off near the airport. A shuttle bus will take you from the car rental office to the airport, where the return journey to the UK begins.

The day’s mileage: approx. 230 km

Day 14: Arrival back home

You arrive in the UK after an eventful holiday in Costa Rica.

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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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