Costa Rica Self-drive: National Parks, Volcanoes and The Coast

This 12 day trip will take you from the colourful capital of Costa Rica through the country’s many national parks, with eight days of self-guided driving between the volcanoes of Arenal and the beautiful coastline of the Nicoya Peninsula.


  • Explore Costa Rica’s wildlife-rich Caribbean coast in Tortuguero National Park
  • Discover the rainforest canopy and impressive volcanic scenery in Arenal
  • Spend time within the amazing biodiversity of Monteverde Cloud Forest
  • Relax on the beaches of the Nicoya Peninsula and stay in a boutique eco-lodge
  • Enjoy the freedom of a self-drive holiday with easy driving distances and ample time in each place
Costa-Rica self drive holiday map



Day 1 – Arrive in San Jose

Fly into the capital, San Jose. You’ll spend the night in a hotel close to the city, where you can enjoy a vibrant introduction to Costa Rica’s ‘pura vida’ lifestyle.

Day 2 – Fly to Tortuguero

A short 30-minute domestic flight delivers you to Tortuguero National Park on Costa Rica’s northern Caribbean coast. Here you’ll discover unspoilt beaches, turtle nesting habitats and freshwater lagoons surrounded by dense, wildlife-rich rainforest.

Day 3 – Exploring Tortuguero

Costa Rica is renowned for its ecotourism and the high standard of its guiding, which will help you to get the most from your experience. On group guided wildlife tours you’ll navigate the lagoons by canal boat and trek on foot through the jungle. Keep your eyes peeled – and your camera handy – for the many bird species and monkeys that inhabit the rainforest.

Day 4 – Drive to Arenal

After a morning transfer to Guapiles, centre of the country’s banana growing region, you’ll collect your hire car for your first self-drive experience. Hit the road and head for Arenal, a dormant volcano set in stunning national parkland.

Day 5 – Discovering Arenal

The rainforest canopy is dense and lush, and after exploring on foot in Tortuguero your tour in Arenal offers a different perspective. Head up into the treetops and enjoy a bird’s-eye view of the rainforest from a three-kilometre series of suspension bridges, elevated into the canopy. You might spot toucans, turkeys, sloths and tapirs, with a stunning backdrop of the Arenal Volcano.

Day 6 – Drive to Monteverde

Leave Arenal behind and drive to Monteverde, where your hotel awaits. The mountainous region is renowned for its biodiversity, including jaguars, ocelots and the resplendent quetzal, as well as its steamy cloud forests.

Day 7 – Tour Monteverde Cloud Forest

The sprawling tropical forest is famous for its wide variety of plant and animal species, with thick woodland concealing amazing biodiversity. The forest’s towering trees are festooned with colourful orchids, bromeliads, mosses and vines, often wreathed in the dense mist that gives the area its name. You’ll view the amazing landscapes and diverse ecosystems on a half-day tour.

Days 8-10 – Uncovering the Nicoya Peninsula

The Nicoya Peninsula on Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast is a blend surf culture, quiet backroads cutting through incredible scenery, tangled jungle and refreshingly unspoilt beaches. Driving to Nosara you’ll discover paradise at Lagarta Lodge, a boutique eco-lodge on the cusp of the Pacific Ocean, with its own private nature reserve dotted with mangroves. You’ll have three nights at the lodge to enjoy its uniquely relaxing location and excellent services, from yoga courses to tours of the biological reserve by boat, kayak or on horseback – or simply watching the sun go down from one of the lodge’s infinity pools.

Day 11 – Drive to San Jose

Head back to San Jose where you’ll leave your car and stay overnight in the city.

Day 12 – Return flight

Say ‘Pura Vida’ to Costa Rica and fly back to the UK.


For more information please contact us directly for a tailor-made travel quote.