Though bio-diverse Costa Rica is Central America’s most popular destination, areas of the country are still off the beaten track for most visitors who travel to Costa Rica. This ten-day trip takes you on hikes in the ethereal cloud forests of San Gerardo de Dota in the mountainous interior and explores three top locations for observing humpback whales that migrate to Costa Rica’s southern Pacific coast from the Artic and Antarctica to breed and give birth. You will travel to two little-visited coastal national parks, Ballena and Corcovado, and snorkel in marine waters. Much wildlife and few tourists make these Costa Rica tours a most memorable vacation. 


On arrival at San Jose’s airport (SJO), you will be met by a Southern Explorations representative and be transferred to San Gerardo de Dota, about a three-hour drive from the airport. San Gerardo de Dota is located between the mountains that comprise part of the Continental Divide and is surrounded by extensive cloud forests, offering an ecological paradise in its purest state. Here you will explore the abundant biodiversity of the tropical forest, hiking various trails, and discover why this is considered one of the most authentic natural destinations in the country. Due to its high altitude at more than 6,500 feet above sea level, San Gerardo de Dota benefits from a temperate and cool climate, making this an enjoyable destination for natural history lovers who enjoy hiking on their Costa Rica tours. Overnight at your selected hotel.


Today you will enjoy a pleasant five-hour guided hike in the highlands of the scenic Cerro Buena Vista. From your hotel, you will be transferred to the starting point at 11,450 ft above sea level, the top of Buena Vista mountain, to follow a trail leading down through the cloud forest that ends in the secluded valley of San Gerardo de Dota, elevation 7,220 feet. The hike travels through a sub-alpine forest characterized by dwarf vegetation. This zone, also known as páramo, is only found at the high elevations of the Talamanca Mountain Range and in the Andes. On a clear day, it is possible to see the central and southern Pacific Coast as well as some of the volcanoes of the Central Mountain Range. On the descent, you watch the eco-system change until you are totally immersed in cloud forest with its huge oaks, perpetually green vegetation and stunning wildlife. You will be returned to your hotel and have the balance of the afternoon at leisure. Overnight at your selected hotel. (B,L)


This morning you are transferred from your hotel to the area of Uvita at Bahia Ballena on the southern Pacific coast, about a three and a half hour drive from San Gerardo de Dota. Bahia Ballena is named for the humpback whales that arrive annually for courting and calving. This beautiful coast is comprised of many unique, beautiful deserted beaches and majestic mountains that meet the sea. The area also features lush tropical forests, teeming with wildlife, scenic waterfalls and plenty of opportunities for adventure. You will check in and spend the night at your selected hotel. (B)


Today’s Costa Rica tours provide an overview of the area. The half-day boat tour starts at Punta Uvita Beach and visits the famous Punta Uvita Whale Tale, Ballena Island, Tres Hermanas Islets and Ventana Sea Caves. During the tour, you will search for humpback and pilot whales as well as three different species of resident dolphins. Humpback whales regularly pass through Costa Ballena between mid-July and October, and again in December through March, as they migrate to and from feeding and mating grounds. With luck, you will see and hear the humpback whales or observe the acrobatics of the dolphins. You also visit the coral and rock reefs to snorkel and search for the abundant marine wildlife. While cruising along the beautiful coastline of Costa Ballena, you will observe the diversity of pelagic birds in the islets and the amazing caverns of Ventanas Beach. If conditions permit, your experienced boat captain will navigate through these natural water passages for some spectacular views. You are returned to your hotel around noon and spend the balance of the day at leisure. Overnight at your selected hotel. (B)


Today you will enjoy a nice half day guided hike in the highlands of the scenic Cerro Buena Vista. You will be transferred to the starting point at 11,450 ft above sea level at top of Buena Vista mountain, where you will follow a trail that leads down through the cloud forest and ends in the secluded valley of San Gerardo de Dota at 7,220 feet high. The first part of the hike takes place in a sub-Alpine forest where vegetation characterized by dwarf vegetation. This forest zone is also known as páramo and is only found on the high grounds of the Talamanca Mountain Range and in the South American Andes. On a clear day, it's possible to see the central and southern Pacific Coast and some of the volcanoes of the Central Mountain Range.  As you start going down, you can see how the eco-system changes until you are totally immersed in the cloud forest with its huge oaks, perpetually green vegetation and stunning wildlife.  The afternoon is free on your own to relax and enjoy your accommodations. (B)


In the morning, you will be transferred from your hotel to Sierpe, about a one-hour drive. Upon arrival at the Sierpe dock, you'll take a ninety-minute boat ride downriver, viewing mangrove wetlands along the river's edge until reaching your jungle lodge on the Osa Peninsula. After lunch, spend a leisurely afternoon exploring the nature trails and the beach. Overnight at your selected lodge. (B,L,D)


These two memorable days of Costa Rica ecological tours will be spent observing wildlife. This wilderness park is home to many endangered species: monkeys, jaguars and tapirs as well as 400 bird species including the country's largest population of scarlet macaws, making it a popular stop for tropical biologists and eco-tourists alike. Here you will enjoy full-day excursions to Corcovado National Park and Cano Island Biological Reserve accompanied by a naturalist guide (the order of the tours may vary depending on weather conditions). The tour to Cano Island includes time to snorkel. A picnic lunch will be provided on both tours. You will be returned to the lodge in the afternoon. Overnight at your lodge on the Osa Peninsula. (B,L,D)


In the morning (depending upon the tides), you will depart the coast to fly from Palmar Sur back to San José. On arrival, a Southern Explorations guide will transfer you to your hotel for the last night of your travel to Costa Rica. You have the afternoon at leisure to explore San Jose. Overnight at your selected hotel. (B)


You will be transferred to San Jose Airport for your trip home, concluding your Costa Rica tours with Southern Explorations. (B)


When to Visit
  • jan
  • feb
  • mar
  • apr
  • may
  • jun
  • jul
  • aug
  • sep
  • oct
  • nov
  • dec

Costa Rica has a mild, tropical climate with average annual temperatures for most of the country ranging between 70°F (22°C) and 85°F (27°C), with warmer temperatures on the moderately humid coasts and cooler temperatures in the mountains and Central Valley. The coolest months are from November to January and the warmest from March through May. Traditionally, the country's climate has been divided into two major seasons: dry (December to April) and rainy (May to November); however, this description is too simplistic for the complex climate of Costa Rica, which varies locally according to elevation, location, and other topographical influences. With more than a dozen complementary climate zones, Costa Rica is a pleasant place to visit any time of year.

Although rainfall patterns in Costa Rica are seasonal, they vary greatly throughout the country due to the mountain ranges that run from the northwest to the southeast and divide the nation into the Pacific and Caribbean slopes, and the central highlands. The wonderful thing about the Costa Rican rain is that it often comes later in the day, offering at least about 5 hours of daily sunshine, and when one coast receives more rain, the other coast tends to be far drier so even the "rainy" season is not what one might expect.

The Pacific coast of Costa Rica is generally a few degrees warmer and less humid than its Caribbean counterpart, receiving most of its rain from May through November. The North Pacific Region is often called the "Gold Coast" due to its sunnier and much drier climate, which averages around 89°F (32°C). During the dry season, no rain may fall for several months in this microclimate. The Central Pacific is greener, due to more rainfall, and gets increasingly humid as you head south.

While the Caribbean slope of Costa Rica tends to receive more rain than the Pacific coast, these showers give the coastal micro-climate more lush vegetation and less crowds. This humid coast is a bit cooler, with an average temperature of 82°F (28°C), and experiences its driest months during February and March. Annually in July and August, you can also expect the predictable, dry veranito, or little summer, to break up the green season.

The Central Valley and highlands, including the capital city of San Jose, are prized for their relatively mild temperate climate, with a mean annual temperature of 70°F (22°C). The higher altitude of this area makes for the pleasant weather year round that the locals call the "eternal spring."


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*Year Round Temperatures in °F, Rainfall in Inches


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*Year Round Temperatures in °F, Rainfall in Inches


Min-Max Air Temp

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*Year Round Temperatures in °F, Rainfall in Inches


Min-Max Air Temp

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*Year Round Temperatures in °F, Rainfall in Inches


Undiscovered Costa Rica

Per Person

Single Supplement: $900
A single supplement is the additional cost of a single traveler not sharing a room in double occupancy.

Included in tour cost
  • Airfare Palmar Sur or Quepos – San Jose
  • Snorkeling gear
  • All airport/hotel transfers
  • All hotel accommodations
  • All listed activities
  • English-speaking certified guides
  • Entrance fees for all scheduled tours, national parks & archaeological sites
  • Meals as indicated
  • Southern Explorations pre-departure services
Excluded from tour cost
  • Airport taxes, international and local
  • Domestic airfare within South America
  • International airfare to and from Central & South America
  • Tips and gratuities
  • Medical & travel insurance (highly recommended)

Undiscovered Costa Rica

Trip Dates
Can’t find a date that works for you in the list below? Southern Explorations can arrange a private departure on any date that works with your schedule. Custom tours are also available. Contact us for details.
Friday, January 11, 2019 to Sunday, January 20, 2019
Friday, February 15, 2019 to Sunday, February 24, 2019
Friday, March 15, 2019 to Sunday, March 24, 2019
Friday, April 19, 2019 to Sunday, April 28, 2019
Friday, May 17, 2019 to Sunday, May 26, 2019
Friday, June 14, 2019 to Sunday, June 23, 2019
Friday, July 19, 2019 to Sunday, July 28, 2019
Friday, August 16, 2019 to Saturday, August 24, 2019
Friday, September 20, 2019 to Sunday, September 29, 2019
Friday, October 11, 2019 to Sunday, October 20, 2019
Friday, November 15, 2019 to Sunday, November 24, 2019
Friday, December 13, 2019 to Sunday, December 22, 2019
Friday, January 17, 2020 to Sunday, January 26, 2020
Friday, February 14, 2020 to Sunday, February 23, 2020
Friday, March 13, 2020 to Sunday, March 22, 2020
Friday, April 10, 2020 to Sunday, April 19, 2020
Friday, May 22, 2020 to Sunday, May 31, 2020
Friday, June 12, 2020 to Sunday, June 21, 2020
Friday, July 17, 2020 to Sunday, July 26, 2020
Friday, August 14, 2020 to Sunday, August 23, 2020
Friday, September 4, 2020 to Sunday, September 13, 2020
Friday, October 16, 2020 to Sunday, October 25, 2020
Friday, November 6, 2020 to Sunday, November 15, 2020
Friday, December 11, 2020 to Sunday, December 20, 2020

Playa Ballena
Hotel upgrades are available, please contact us to discuss your options.
San Gerardo de Dota
Hotel upgrades are available, please contact us to discuss your options.
  • 3 Star
     Included Hotel (subject to availability) 
Osa Peninsula
Hotel upgrades are available, please contact us to discuss your options.
San Jose
Hotel upgrades are available, please contact us to discuss your options.

costa rica travelI have dreamed about going to Costa Rica for years and this trip exceeded all of my expectations! The pre-trip planning by the Southern Explorations was exceptional. With short notice, your team pulled out all of the stops to put together a customized, self-guided itinerary for us during one of the busiest times of the year. Your flawless attention to detail ensured that everything ran like clockwork, from the moment we were met at the airport and delivered to our first hotel to the final day when we dropped off our rental car at the airport before flying home. Each location on the itinerary offered a different type of scenery (and weather!) and an endless variety of activities to pursue, all of which were spectacular. Overall, it was a fascinating adventure and we will always treasure the memories. We look forward to booking our next adventure with Southern Explorations. - Lisa & Geoffrey Marsden, Canada (Costa Rica)

costa rica travelWhat a beautiful country and your company helped plan a seamless trip that flowed for us from place to place and let us experience Costa Rica in all its natural beauty- Gracias. Pura Vida. - Carol & Barry Berger, Florida (Costa Rica)

We absolutely enjoyed travelling with you. It was a great introduction to Costa Rica, the friendly Ticos and their beautiful country. The quality of your tour, the guides, the lodges & hotels, transportation and wide variety of activities was just perfect. This was certainly a grand way to have a celebration with my Canadian nursing class on the occasion of our 45th graduation anniversary! Thanks for making it an experience we will always remember fondly! ‘Rainforests & Volcanoes’ was a great tour. Thanks to all of your excellent staff in Seattle & in Costa Rica for making it so very interesting & exciting!  - Flo & Vic Boyko, Canada (Costa Rica)

Excellent trip, very well organized an choreographed by SE! Will most definitely recommend you to friends that may wish to plan similar trips. Thank you all, and best wishes to you.  - Lee Schultz, Maryland (Costa Rica)

Wonderfull trip, every day exceeded expectations. Thank you for the last minute work to get this organized, all went well. - Ken Stead (Custom Costa Rica)

We had a wonderful trip to Costa Rica. All of the accommodations were better than expected and the food was terrific. The Costa Rican people are warm and friendly. We had a bridge wash out , due to the rainy season, which caused a major detour to get to our final destination. But that ended up being the most fun adventurous part of the vacation. We had a great time and will try to go back in the future.  - Les & Deb, Louisiana (Costa Rica)

We loved pretty much all of the excursions. Some of our favorite excursions included - Tabacon hot springs, Cloud forest hike, zip line and hike, and white water rafting. At Monteverde, we went to a local farm and had a tour of the coffee and sugar cane produced - it was fun, and very interesting. The accommodations were very nice, they all were immaculate and had wonderful surroundings. Our favorites were the Trapp family lodge (very bed and breakfast like, in the woods, close to the cloud forest) and the Costa Verde in Manuel Antonio (huge studio with kitchen, view of the ocean from the room's deck and walking distance to the national park and beach). I think the guide team of Roxana and Antonio was a huge part of what made this a fantastic trip. Everybody's need was a priority and attended to with a lot of thought. Roxana was well educated and articulate in an interesting way about Costa Rica, all the places visited and everything seen along the way. They were both very friendly and welcoming - this created a fun vacation atmosphere and all activities were very enjoyable.  - Janet Murphy, Connecticut (Costa Rica)

There wasn’t a guide that I wouldn’t recommend on this trip. They were all very knowledgeable and enjoyable to talk to and ask questions. They seemed to enjoy being with travelers and we would recommend them to future travelers. Thank you for all your help for our memorable trip. After giving our comments we want to say that we did enjoy the trip very much and would love to go back down to Costa Rica in the future. A special thanks to Jonathan for his help in arranging the tour and helping to get things set up. - David and Jennifer Watt (Costa Rica)ica in all its natural beauty- Gracias. Pura Vida. - Carol & Barry Berger, Florida (Costa Rica)

I just wanted to let you guys know what an amazing time we had in Costa Rica. The itinerary you set up for us was outstanding and the guides were superb. The support and help we received from Jonathan (Borgida) booking our trip at your office was first class. We enjoyed everything about the trip, the accommodations, food, guides, everything was perfect. Thank you so much and we will definitely use you again and recommend your services to anyone who is planning a trip to Costa Rica.  - Josh Cook, Colorado (Costa Rica)

Our tour guide, Pedro Bollannios was terrific. He was a true naturalist genuinely interested in passing on his knowledge of the environment to us, as well as providing a sense of adventure. Overall, an excellent trip. I definitely plan to return to Costa Rica in the future for a more in depth exploration of the culture and rain forests. Thanks! - Vishal Patel (Costa Rica)


Costa Rica - Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How do I choose an itinerary?
A: We offer both active and cultural tours that take you from volcanoes to beaches, with all of the natural beauty, wildlife, and adventure found in between. These itineraries vary in length and level of accommodation. Our Adventure Travel Coordinators would be happy to chat with you to help you find the itinerary that best meets your needs and interests.
Q: Can I make changes or additions to these tours?
A: Yes! We are happy to put together a custom Costa Rica tour for you if our current itineraries are not quite what you are looking for. We can also add extensions onto any of our existing tours.
Q: When is the best time to go to Costa Rica?
A: Costa Rica is best visited during the dry season, which runs from December to May, with the busiest times of year being around Christmas, the New Year, and Easter.
Q: What is the weather like?
A: Costa Rica’s mild, tropical climate makes it a great destination most of the year. From November to May you can expect temperatures in the low-70s to upper-80s, depending on the region you’re exploring, and little rainfall. The rainy season (May to November) offers similar temperatures with frequent afternoon rain storms. May and November are transitional months and can offer nice weather. Please see the weather tab on your specific trip for more details.
Q: What is a typical day like on a Costa Rica tour?
A: A typical day in Costa Rica will vary from tour to tour, but you can generally expect to start your excursions right after breakfast, with a full day of scheduled activities or sightseeing. A lunch break is included and you’ll retire to your accommodations in the late afternoon, with evenings free.
Q: How physically fit do I need to be to enjoy a trip to Costa Rica?
A: Our Costa Rica trips vary in level of activity, so the requirements differ based on itinerary. Please check our physical ratings for each itinerary to see what may be required of you when assessing your ability to enjoy a trip. If you have any specific questions, please contact your Adventure Travel Coordinator. We have personal experience with these activities and can help you decide whether a trip is right for you.
Q: How much time do we need to visit Costa Rica?
A: Most of our Costa Rica trips are between seven and 10 days, depending on how much of the country you would like to see.
Q: How far in advance should I book?
A: For the best guide availability and selection in hotels, we recommend booking three to six months in advance. December through April are especially popular times for Costa Rica travel, so more advance planning is ideal. For the Christmas holiday season and the week prior to Easter, we recommend booking a year in advance.
Q: What are your booking and cancellation policies?
A: Click here to see our booking and cancellation policies.
Q: Do you use certified guides?
A: Our guides have been carefully selected for their knowledge, professionalism, experience and ability to effectively manage groups with finesse. We only hire guides who are native to the destination and licensed or certified in accordance with the government regulations of their country. All are fluent in Spanish and English. Most have advanced degrees in tourism, biology, native culture or other related field. All guides are experienced in the outdoors and trained in basic first aid.
Q: What kind of accommodations can I expect?
A: In major cities we offer a variety of hotels including boutique properties and larger business-style hotels. Throughout the rest of the country we work with a combination of resorts, small traditional hotels, and remote lodges. The majority of the properties are family-run or locally owned. All of our accommodations are clean and comfortable, with private bathrooms and hot water. We offer basic or luxury options in many locations, depending on taste and budget.
Q: Do tours include airfare?
A: Travelers are responsible for their own international airfare. Internal flights are quoted separately from our base trip costs. We will include any necessary internal flight pricing in your quote.
Q: How many people are on your tours?
A: Eight travelers is the maximum for our Costa Rica trips, but the majority of our departures are private.
Q: Will I get more information on packing, vaccines, currency, electricity, etc.?
A: After booking you will receive a link to our online trip portal, which includes all of the need-to-know information that is specific to your itinerary. This includes packing lists, restaurant recommendations, tipping guides, FAQs, vaccine recommendations and currency information. Your Adventure Travel Coordinator will also be a great resource for any other information you may need.