Gardens of Costa Rica

13 Days

From £3795pp

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  • World’s largest butterfly garden at La Paz Waterfall Gardens
  • Breathtaking views from the Ileana Teran garden
  • The imposing volcanoes of Poás and Arenal 
  • Spotting subtropical wildlife in the Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge

Costa Rica, Spanish for ‘rich coast’, is perfectly named when you consider the extraordinary wealth of plant life found within the small Central American country.

The term ‘biodiversity’ might have been coined with Costa Rica in mind, such is the range and number of different species that flourish within its pristine, tropical forests. Add some truly spectacular scenery and a resplendently laid-back, happy people to the mix, and you have the makings of a life-affirming holiday experience. 

We visit a range of gardens during our tour. The Else Kientzler Botanical Garden has a world-class collection of plants. This private garden is home to over 2,000 different varietals from around the world, including hibiscus, helicons, succulents and bromeliads. It is also home to fine examples of trees in danger of extinction including: Red Foxwood, Zebrawood, and Macawood. There is also an area for flowering plants: ground covers, shrubs and trees that flower abundantly. A trip here is a holiday in itself. 

In such a beautiful setting, we spend plenty of time taking in the spectacular natural features of the country. Lake Arenal is Costa Rica’s largest body of fresh water, and was enlarged to three times its original size when a hydro-electric dam was built here. The Poás Volcano is another highlight and is one of Costa Rica’s most spectacular volcanoes, with an enormous crater and a steaming lake at the bottom.

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Day 1

We depart from London on our flight to San José, the capital city of Costa Rica. Please note that regional flight connections, flight upgrades and/or overnight accommodation before or after the tour are available on request. Upon arrival in San José we will be met by our coach and local guide and transferred to our accommodation, the Bougainvillea Hotel in Santo Domingo de Heredia, a few miles to the north of San José. The hotel is set within 10 acres of lush tropical garden and has a secluded outdoor swimming pool and sauna.  Dinner will be served upon arrival.

Day 2

This morning after breakfast we visit the Else Kientzler Botanical Garden in Sarchi Norte at the foot of the Poás Volcano. This private garden is home to over 2,000 different plants from around the world, including hibiscus, helicons, succulents and bromeliads. In addition there are examples of woody trees in danger of extinction like Cocobolo (Dalbergia retusa "Red Foxwood"), Ron ron (Astronium graveolens "Zebrawood"), Cristóbal (Platymiscium parviflorum "Macawood") and Guayacán real (Guaiacum sanctum "Roughbark lignumvitae"). There is also an area for flowering plants: groundcovers, shrubs and trees that flower abundantly.

After lunch we visit the private garden of Esther Rodriguez.

We return to the hotel where the evening is at leisure.

Day 3

This morning after breakfast we check out of our hotel and depart for a visit to the Poás Volcano – one of the most spectacular volcanoes in the country.  Its enormous crater is 1 kilometre in diameter and 3114 metres deep with an astonishing steaming lake at the bottom.  The main crater has shown some eruptive activity during the last two centuries.  

Our second visit of the day is to La Paz Waterfall Gardens where we visit the world’s largest butterfly garden and learn about the surprisingly complex life of the butterfly. We visit the Hummingbird garden where we will be serenaded by the gentle hum of tiny wings lightly brushing the air as dozens of these colourful jewels buzz around you in search of food and a quiet resting spot.  We then take a short walk to the magical waterfalls where the refreshing spray of water from the streaming cascades cools us.   Lunch is included here.

We then travel north to Sarapiqui and our accommodation at the La Quinta. Dinner is served in the evening.

Day 4

After breakfast this morning we travel to La Tirimbina reserve, where we visit an organic cacao plantation, with the chance to make and eat our very own chocolate!

In the afternoon we travel to the Corsicana Pineapple Plantation, where, on the Organic Paradise Tour, we will learn about the process of pineapple farming, from the harvesting to then packing and export. There will of course be an opportunity to taste this delicious, sweet fruit.

Dinner is served back at our hotel.

Day 5

Following breakfast we check out of the hotel and head west towards Arenal where we will see the majestic Arenal volcano, which has not erupted since 2010 but still rumbles and smokes from time to time. Here we will visit a medicinal garden and discover how various endemic plants are used to produce effective medicines. 

After lunch (included), we journey on to our comfortable hotel which enjoys marvellous views of the volcano, and enjoy the rest of the afternoon at our leisure.

Dinner is served in the evening.

Day 6

This morning after breakfast we depart on a full day excursion to the Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge, close to the Nicaraguan border. This area of protected marshland is the epitome of ‘biodiversity’ – in the course of our two and a half hour boat trip we will see an astonishing variety of birds, monkeys, iguanas, sloths, alligators and turtles as well as a diverse range of flora. We will travel back to the Arenal Area where we will visit some of the abundant hot springs to be found here, fed by the constant geo-thermal activity of the region.  Lunch is included today, along with dinner at the hot springs.

Day 7

After breakfast we leave the hotel and after a boat trip on Lake Arenal, Costa Rica’s largest body of fresh water, which was enlarged to three times its original size when a hydro-electric dam was built here, we head south to Monteverde. Lunch is included today.

On arrival at our accommodation dinner will be served in the evening.

Day 8

Enjoy your breakfast. This morning we visit a nearby Orchid Garden. Costa Rica has the richest orchid flora in Central America with more than 1400 identified species.

After lunch (included) we shall have a tour of the Monteverde Cloud Reserve, whose variable climate and large altitudinal gradient supports a complex and extensive eco-system: over 100 species of mammals, 400 species of birds, tens of thousands of insect species, and over 2,500 varieties of plants, including orchids, bromeliads, ferns, vines and mosses. Animal species include the jaguar, ocelot and Baird’s tapir and birds such as the three-wattled bellbird, bare-necked umbrella bird, and the famously elusive resplendent quetzal – you never know with animals and birds but we might be lucky!

We return to our accommodation and in the evening there will be an opportunity to have dinner in the unique Tree House restaurant, built into the upper branches of a huge tree (not included).

Day 9

After breakfast we leave the Lodge and depart for a visit to an incredible butterfly garden, where we can expect to see myriad different species in a garden that has been specially designed to attract these delicate, colourful creatures. Following lunch (included) we drive down to the west coast to our accommodation for the next two nights.

Following our return to our hotel, the evening is at leisure.

Day 10

This morning, after breakfast, we tour the Manuel Antonio National Park, which was established in 1972 to preserve, for future generations, one of the most beautiful and bio-diverse areas in the world. Although it is the country's smallest national park, the stunning beauty and diversity of wildlife in its 683 hectares is unequalled, with its charming combination of rain forest, beaches and coral reefs. The forest is home for sloths, iguanas, the rare squirrel monkeys and millions of colourful little crabs.

After lunch we will take the Rainforest Spices Plantation tour. In this highly sensorial journey we will smell, touch and taste many different spices such as vanilla, cinnamon, cocoa, black pepper and a variety of essential oils and medicinal plants.

We return to the hotel where the evening is at leisure.

Day 11

After breakfast we will depart from then hotel and head back to San José, with a visit to The Orchid Garden in La Garita and lunch included en route. On arrival at our hotel there will be some free time to relax.

Day 12

This morning after breakfast we check out of the hotel and travel to San José’s Juan Santamaria airport for our return flight to London.  

Day 13

Arrival is due in London this morning, when the group will disperse or make onward connections.

What's Included

  • 11 nights’ accommodation on bed and breakfast basis: 3 nights at the Bougainvillea Hotel, Heredia (or similar); 2 nights at La Quinta, Sarapiqui (or similar), 2 nights in the Arenal area, 2 nights in Monteverde, 2 nights in Manuel Antonia (all hotels subject to change). All rooms have private facilities.
  • Seven dinners and ten lunches
  • Return flights from London to San José (Please note that regional flight connections, flight upgrades and/or overnight accommodation before or after the tour are available at a supplement)
  • Comfortable coaching throughout Costa Rica
  • Visits to Poás Volcano National Park, Else Kientzler Botanical Garden, Arenal Lake, Monteverde Reserve, Manuel Antonio National Park, Caño Negro Boat Tour, orchid and butterfly gardens and further private gardens
  • Services of Julia Corden of the Explorers’ Garden as Brightwater Holidays Tour Manager and local English-speaking guides

Supplements Per Person

  • Single room supplement: £845.00
  • Insurance: On request
  • Local Departure Tax

Please note: a reasonable level of mobility is required to get the most out of this holiday.

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Departures

06/02/2018 from £3795pp

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Departure points and times

Depart Return
London
(Airport TBA)
Outbound TBA Inbound TBA