Autotour: Het Zuiden van Costa Rica

Discover the southern Pacific Coast of Costa Rica at your own pace, a region that remains unknown for most people. You will notice that many parts can be enjoyed in complete seclusion; consequently, those who love silence will be delighted. Some of the highlights of this trip are the drives and the stopovers by the bleak moors of Cerro de la Muerte; which means that you will drive surrounded by a variety of alpine tundra ecosystems. But before that, you will stop by a zone of oak forests where, with a bit of luck, it may be possible to get a glimpse of the alluring Resplendent Quetzal. Later, on your way to the South, you will be amazed by the rapidly changing weather patterns from the pretty cool biome of the tundra to the tropical warmth of the coast. With a little bit of luck, you may even see dolphins playing and leaping around in the waters of the gulf. Last but not least is the visit to Manuel Antonio National Park, a place known for its high levels of biodiversity and beautiful sandy beaches. Among the tropical lads you may run into while strolling around the park are the white-headed capuchin monkey, the shy squirrel monkeys, the crab-eating raccoon, basilisk lizards and the three-toed sloth.
Don't let this opportunity pass you by and remember the words of an old wise man who once said: “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page”.

Day 1: San José - Cartago - Cerro de la Muerte - San Gerardo de Dota

You start your journey driving through the former capital of Costa Rica, the town of Cartago, where you can visit the Basilica, one of the most beautiful churches in Costa Rica. You continue then on the Panamerican Highway, where the road soon starts to climb the Talamanca mountain range. About 80 km later you will be at 3'000 metres above the sea level and turn right to San Gerardo de Dota. This small village is located at 2'200 metres above sea level and is surrounded by beautiful cloud forest. It is one of the best place in Costa Rica to observe the Quetzal, a shy and strikingly coloured bird, already worshipped by the Mayas and other aboriginal populations. Enjoy a walk through the jungle and observe the variety of exotic birds in the late afternoon.

Included meals: None
Included fees/tours: None
Total km today: About 90 km
Total driving time today: About 2 hours

 

Day 2: San Gerardo de Dota - Esquinas Rainforest Lodge

If you are into birding try to get up as early as possible; in the early morning hours, birding is excellent because this is when birds are usually most active. Make the most of this morning walk, because pretty soon you are to start a long drive to Golfo Dulce. Get back into the car and head off to the Panamerican Highway. In no time, you will find yourself crossing one of the highest mountain passes in Costa Rica, named Cerro de la Muerte and located at 3'400 metres above sea level. This mountain pass is widely known and its name means "Mountain of Death", but don´t be afraid; this place owes its name to the past when crossing the mountains meant a three or four-day journey on foot or on horseback, and many ill-prepared travellers perished in the cold. Later on, after many curves, you will reach San Isidro de El General, one of the most important towns near the southern Pacific coast. You continue on the Panamerican Highway, passing large pineapple plantations. Once reached the little village Villa Briceño turn to the left and soon you will arrive at the Esquinas Rainforest Lodge** or The Austrian Rainforest" how this place is called as well.

Included meals: Breakfast, dinner
Included fees/tours: None
Total km today: About 210 km
Total driving time today: About 3.5 hours

Day 3: Esquinas Rainforest Lodge

Today we recommend you a tour by boat to Rio Esquinas, where you have the chance to discover the beauty and peace of mangrove forests. By kayak is the best way to enjoy this adventure. Afterwards, you can choose to hike trough the jungle or do some bird watching.

Included meals: Breakfast, dinner
Included fees/tours: None
Total km today: None
Total driving time today: None

Day 4: Esquinas Rainforest Lodge - Dominical

The journey continues along the coast. With no rush you will pass several beautiful beaches and if you feel up to stop for a while and take a bath or just enjoy the tropical sun. In the late afternoon, you will finally arrive in Dominical.

Included meals today: Breakfast
Included fees/tours: None
Total km today: About 120 km
Total driving time: About 2 hours

Day 5: Dominical – Quepos / Manuel Antonio

While staying in Dominical you could take advantage of a horseback ride to a beautiful waterfall. As they say: a ramble in the great outdoors is always good for body and soul. Alternatively, if you don’t feel like horseback riding, you could take a hike through the jungle at Hacienda Barú, or spend a couple of hours relaxing at the beach. Later, you will have to continue your journey driving north to Quepos and Manuel Antonio. Once there, you will find that many tours and activities can be programmed, e.g., horseback riding, jungle walks, or tours to palm oil plantations.

Included meals: Breakfast
Included fees/tours: None
Total km today: About 50 km
Total driving time today: About 1 hour

Day 6: Quepos / Manuel Antonio

You should definitively pay a visit to Manuel Antonio National Park (closed on Mondays, entrance fee US$ 16 per person). Apart from the beautiful beaches within the limits of the park, there are trails through the rainforest, where, with a little bit of luck, you have the chance to see different species of mammals. Almost for sure, you will have the chance to run into a couple of furry squirrel monkeys that call the park their home. Unfortunately, these funny little primates are listed as endangered. Even though Manuel Antonio is one of the smallest conservation areas in the country, the diversity of wildlife in its 6.83 km2 with 109 species of mammals and at least 184 types of birds is beyond compare.

Included meals: Breakfast
Included fees/tours: None
Total km today: None
Total driving time today: None

Day 7: Quepos / Manuel Antonio - Carara National Park - San José

On the way back to San José, you will have the possibility to visit Carara National Park. There, some rare species of orchids can be observed. Nevertheless, the main attraction is its large population of wild Scarlet Macaws. See this gorgeous bird in flight is something beautiful you will remember for a long time. 
Return to San José and drop off of the car.

Included meals: Breakfast
Included fees/tours: None
Total km today: About 170 km
Total driving time today: About 3 hours