Stay overnight in San José, Costa Rica’s centrally located capital, before transferring east to the wonderful Pacuare Lodge for your first rainforest adventure, completing the journey with a rafting trip.
Head southeast to Cahuita, an 80-mile drive. Cahuita’s white-sand palm-fringed beaches are truly idyllic and there’s excellent coral reef snorkelling to be had, while guided tours of the national park promise wildlife such as sloths and armadillos. From Cahuita, continue north up the coast to Tortuguero National Park, taking a shuttle to Moin and completing the journey by boat rather than driving the whole route. Tortuguero is famed for its jungly waterways, ripe for wildlife spotting, with nearby beaches supporting nesting turtles.
Volcano vs cloud forest
Head inland now for two nights around Arenal, staying near the town of La Fortuna. Big draws include hiking the national park with its perfectly shaped volcano, navigating the Arenal Hanging Bridges, and enjoying the local hot springs, with free geothermal soaks on offer in the local river. If it’s more wildlife you’re after, spend both nights in Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve exploring the extensive walking trails, zip-lines and canopy walks.
Head north to Nicaragua and the laid-back Pacific resort of San Juan del Sur. Various operators in town offer trips to local surf beaches.
Next up, the lake island of Ometepe, a few hours’ drive north. Nicaragua is known as the land of lakes and volcanoes, and the disarmingly pretty island of Ometepe, in the vast Lake Cocibolca, accessed by boat from San Jorge, is dominated by two of them.
Continuing north to reach Granada. This pretty colonial gem, founded in 1524, has a strong tourism infrastructure, backed by the drinking and dining strip of Calle de Calzada as well as activities such as chocolate-making workshops and cigar rolling.
Leaving Granada, drive up to Masaya to peer into the volcano’s crater en route to colonial León. León is considered the country’s intellectual centre — it’s awash with political murals, crumbling buildings and lively street stalls.
HOW TO DO IT
Travelsphere’s 16-day Costa Rica and Nicaragua tour starts from £2,649 including flights.