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1. Posted by AndyF (Moderator 1741 posts) 2w Star this if you like it!

My partner and her mum are looking to tour Costa Rica. However, they're interested in the wildlife but not beach time, and probably not Arenal volcano.

The small group tours they've found all involve a bit of compromise.

They wondered about just hiring a driver/guide but they want it to be well organised, with hotel bookings done for them, airport pickup etc. They're not Spanish speakers.

Has anyone got any suggestions of small local companies? So far we've just looked at UK-based operators so I wondered if there's anything that's a step up from a driver-guide who would sell a bespoke tour?

2. Posted by greatgrandmaR (Travel Guru 1254 posts) 2w Star this if you like it!

I used Pat Hewitt for both of my trips - I was also primarily interested in wildlife. He was originally with Costa Rica Travel Exchange - now it is LoveCostaRica and I think he will do what you want http://www.lovecostarica.com/meet-the-owner/

He did our trips in
1996 and 2015

THis is what he wrote on a Forum

The website SmartCostaRica.com is just a website. My company is actually Costa Rica Travel Exchange. We have another "main" website and a blog.

SCR was put together during the worst days of the recent recession. Business was getting to be very slow. We found that people were still traveling, they just wanted better pricing. .So we worked on special pricing for packages. The suppliers and myself all agreed to work for less profit in order to keep the prices down. It has been very successful for us. We were able to thrive (at least survive) while we watched several other competitors and suppliers go under. But we had to do a lot of volume to make it worthwhile.

Before the recession, my main site was LoveCostaRica.com. Before the tough economic time, we had spent almost two decades offering customized and specialized itineraries to Costa Rica. I really enjoyed that aspect of my job. I was able to take a lot of time getting to know our guests, and personally planning their experiences to suit their needs. That kind of fell by the wayside during the recession. I have been missing the personal contact and satisfaction of being more involved in that practice.

If you look at my original site, you will see that it has become quite dated. I was so focused on high volume / low price packages I kind of let it go. Along with regularly posting on Fodors. So we are in the midst of doing a full redesign or the original site, and hope to premier it in a month or so.

In the meantime, we are gradually handing over administration of SmartCostaRica.com to our ground operator, Coach Costa Rica. It makes the most sense. They have been offering private transportation and support

3. Posted by AndyF (Moderator 1741 posts) 2w Star this if you like it!

Thanks Rosalie - I'll pass that on.

4. Posted by ToonSarah (Travel Guru 1022 posts) 2w 1 Star this if you like it!

We used Real World to put together an itinerary in Ecuador a few years ago. They are UK based but we found that they worked with excellent local companies on the ground there to tailor make it to our interests: https://www.realworldholidays.co.uk/

I see they have a suggested wildlife route: realworldholidays.co.uk/costa-rica/wildlife.aspx

5. Posted by AndyF (Moderator 1741 posts) 2w Star this if you like it!

Thanks Sarah!

6. Posted by greatgrandmaR (Travel Guru 1254 posts) 2w Star this if you like it!

The wildlife route link does not work for me, but I went to the main Real World site and got to it from there.

I'm not familiar with the two places between Tortuguero and Manuel Antonio. I like the suggestions but I think the whale watching is kind of a waste as you can do that many other places, and Costa Rica has so many unique possibilities. For instance they ignore Monteverde and Corcovado as locations - possibly because they are harder to get to.

7. Posted by ToonSarah (Travel Guru 1022 posts) 2w Star this if you like it!

You're right Rosalie, the link doesn't work - I think because the 'https://' is missing. Trying again: https://www.realworldholidays.co.uk/costa-rica/wildlife.aspx

Monteverde and Corcovado are listed as options to add to the basic tour if wanted. As I said, it's just a suggested route, they will tailor it to individual wishes so I'm sure you could add both of those and drop the whale watching - although if it were me I would definitely want to include that as I never miss a chance to go whale watching, wherever I am!

8. Posted by greatgrandmaR (Travel Guru 1254 posts) 2w Star this if you like it!

I've been whale watching a couple of times, and I wasn't that thrilled with it.

9. Posted by Teoni (Travel Guru 788 posts) 2w Star this if you like it!

Any chance they could drive themselves? I found Costa Rica very easy to navigate, the local drivers are no where near as aggressive as other central American countries, roads are in great condition and every National Park there are local guides at the entrance that you can pay to help you spot the animals, in Manuel Antonio they even carried binoculars for you to use. Though if you are trying to spot Quetzals a guide is no guarantee though you can book bird watching tours at Los Quetzales National Park. When we visited Monteverde we were told to check out a bakery that had avocado trees that the birds apparently like but no luck for us:(.

10. Posted by greatgrandmaR (Travel Guru 1254 posts) 2w Star this if you like it!

There are some places in Costa Rica (Manuel Antonio, Monteverde) that driving yourself is quite doable. But I think for Tortuguero a tour is the best way to do it. On our first visit we took a tour to Tortuguero, drove ourselves to Monteverde and then came back to San Jose and flew to Drakes Bay where we took a boat to Corcovado. The second time we again took a tour to Tortuguero and drove ourselves to Manuel Antonio (and the roads were a lot better on the second visit).

We were too cheap to get a guide at Monteverde and that was a mistake because we did not know what we were looking at.