If you like your wildlife, then Costa Rica and Nicaragua can supply you with plenty of photographic models, from the outrageously colourful to the downright weird. You’ll see manatees and macaws, spider monkeys and capuchins, in a variety of locations from El Castillo to Bajos del Toro.
You can bathe in thermal springs and visit a volcano in Arenal, watch birds on Lake Nicaragua, browse through time in the ancient city of Granada, or simply laze to your heart’s content on the fine white sand of a glorious beach in San Juan del Sur.
Fly to Miami where you’ll meet your connecting flight to San Jose. You’ll be met and taken to your hotel, about 20 minutes from the airport.
It’s a great place to unwind after your flight; the Gaudi-style hotel is surrounded by coffee plantations and extravagant gardens and has an inviting swimming pool.
Stay: One night in a junior suite at the Finca Rosa Blanca.
Bajos del Toro
Now you plunge into the jungle on a two hour drive taking you deep into the cloud forest. You’ll arrive at a spectacular, white, fairy castle hotel perched high on a hillside.
It’s the ideal spot for bird watching and exploring the forest, not to mention visiting nearby Poas Volcano or Arenal and its hot springs. Or simply luxuriating in a spa with jungle views.
Stay: Two nights in a standard luxury suite at El Silencio Lodge.
In the morning you’ll be driven through highly photogenic mountain scenery to the Arenal Volcanic region. Here you can visit the breath-taking Arenal Hanging Bridges as your experienced guide takes you on a natural history walk, giving you ample opportunity to appreciate the region’s flora and fauna.
Your final day in Arenal sees you visiting the Tabacon Thermal Resort where you’ll experience the total relaxation that only bathing in natural thermal pools can bring.
Stay: Three nights in a deluxe casita in the Nayara Hotel Spa and Gardens.
Now for Nicaragua. You’ll transfer to the Las Tablillas/Los Chiles Border to cross into Nicaragua and on, by boat, to El Castillo. It’s a two hour trip winding through dense vegetation that’s home to all manner of forest creatures and birdlife. At El Castillo you’ll visit the Spanish fortress, built in the 18th century as a defence against British pirates. You’ll also set off by moonlight in search of caiman, escorted by a specialist guide.
On your second day in El Castillo, you visit the Indio Maize Biological Reserve to see birds including toucans, hummingbirds, macaws and other parrots – not to mention rainforest animals like pumas, jaguars, wild boars, sloths, deer, pacas and aquatic manatees. A boat will take you along the Bartola River to an organic cocoa plantation to inspect – and taste – their chocolate products.
Stay: Two nights in a standard room in the Luna Del Rio Hotel.
From El Castillo you’ll take a 90 minute boat ride to San Carlos, for a short flight to Managua where you’ll be met and taken to Granada. This colonial city is a great base for visiting the Masaya Volcano National Park where you’ll see the effects of volcanic action on the area, as well as learn about the regions flora and animals. You can visit the top of the volcano to see the Santiago Crater before visiting the Masaya market to bargain for locally-produced arts and crafts, ceramics, hammocks and souvenirs.
Granada city itself dates back to 1524 and a walking tour takes you around local historic landmarks, including the San Francisco Convent – home to an impressive collection of pre-Colombian sculptures. A 45 minute boat trip onto Lake Nicaragua gives you some great photographic opportunities.
Stay: Two nights in a standard room in the Hotel Plaza Colon.
San Juan del Sur
A short, two hour drive brings you to San Juan del Sur. Just outside the town is an idyllic spot to stay, surrounded by rainforest and a mile long stretch of white beach that is visited by giant leatherback turtles, in season. You’ll be staying in an eco-friendly – but very luxurious – bungalow overlooking a private bay. It’s connected to the resort’s main lodge by a 100 metre suspension bridge over a heavily forested canyon.
You can relax on the beach, swim in the pool, go on fishing trips or take nature walks to discover wildlife including many different species of birds, spider monkeys, capuchins, armadillos, sloths and opossums.
Stay: Three nights in a bungalow in Morgan’s Rock Hacienda.
To start your journey home you’ll be taken to Managua Airport for your flight to Miami.
Your connecting flight will take you back home.