COSTA RICA TOURIST BOARDNational parks and Pacific beaches The southern end of Costa Rica's Pacific coastline, the Osa Peninsula's coastalrainforest vegetation contrasts with the open pastures of the northern NicoyaPeninsula. There are wildlife and national parks throughout the coastal region. In the lowlands between the two peninsulas sweeping beaches defined by palm groves and rocky headlands harbour a range of accommodation choices.The Osa Peninsula (left) hosts a choice of properties from which to observe the wildlife or just relax. One of the best permanent camps is La Leona, a laid-back family-run tent camp on a densely forested private reserve adjoining Corcovado National Park. At the other end of the scale is the luxurious eco-lodge Lapa Rios (p40), great for honeymooners. At La Paloma Lodge set on a bluff overlooking Drakes Bay with private balconies and breathtaking views; tropical bird sounds, from scarlet macaws to hummingbirds, pierce the air. Follow walks on the trails of Corcovado National Park, snorkel around Cano Island or go dolphin spotting.Halfway down the coast is Manuel Antonio National Park, a tropical fairy-land of palms, creepers and mangrove swamps, where monkeys scamper down to the sweep of ochre beach at sunset. There are several up-market hotels scattered over the hills and along the shady shoreline that leads to the national park, we especially like Tulemar Bungalows and Arenas del Mar.Inland from the north coast is Monteverde Reserve, a lush environment of humid cloud forest so rich in wildlife that it has become a base for naturalists worldwide (see Imagine, facing page).On the remote Nicoya Peninsula we recommend Punta Islita, an exclusive property with its own airstrip on a wooded hillside: walk down a steep path to a palm-shaded sandy stretch of beach with a pool and lawn dotted with hammocks. The thatched bungalows at Capitán Suizo sit on a lovely beach near the village of Tamarindo. Punta Islita was amazing ?best hotel we've ever stayed in. EH, Bath36 Costa Rica
MONTEVERDE LODGECOSTA RICA EXPEDITIONSPETE SELMANPUNTA ISLITACOSTA RICA tourist boardCoast and cloud forest 15 days, 13 nightsSan José 1 night, Osa Peninsula 3n, San Ramon 2n, Arenal 2n, Monteverde 2n, Tamarindo 3n.Day 1 Fly from the UK, arriving at the capital San José same evening. Overnight at Hotel Grano de Oro. Day 2 Fly to Palmar Sur on the Osa Peninsula and continue by boat to La Paloma Lodge. Days 3&4 Guided excursions from the lodge (p36) Day 5 Fly to San José and by road to San Ramón. 2 nights at Villa Blanca, formerly a farm and now an acclaimed eco-lodge in Los Angeles Cloud Forest Reserve. Day 6 At leisure to explore trails, visit a coffee farm, take a canopy tour or go bird-watching. Days 7&8 Drive to Arenal. Spend two nights at Arenal Manoa, in rich forested surroundings with impressive views of the lively volcano. The hotel has its own dairy farm, and there are hanging bridges and hot springs to investigate. Day 9 An adventure by boat and 4WD vehicle to Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. Guided hike and overnight at the lodge (below). Days 11-13 By land to Tamarindo on the Nicoya Peninsula. 3 nights based at Hotel Capitán Suizo to relax on remote beaches. Day 14 Transfer to San José airport by road and fly to the UK, arriving day 15. Prices from £2,601pp based on two sharing, excluding transatlantic flights. Daily from the UK monteverde lodge From this cheerful lodge, the best accommodation option close to the mountainous cloud forest reserve, you'll venture on guided walks to observe some of the 320 bird species and 2000 plant varieties native to the area, including many wild orchids. You might well spot the bright plumage of the iconic quetzal - a highlight for bird lovers. Back at the lodge you can soak in the covered Jacuzzi before taking a pre-dinner drink by the log fire in the cosy bar and returning to your spacious, airy room where large windows open onto well-laid out tropical gardens.how about?» Extending your stay to include Tortuguero National Park on the Caribbean side of the country (p38). » A side-trip from San José to Poás Volcano where you can peer into the steaming crater.020 8747 8315 / journeylatinamerica.co.uk bookings, consultant advice and additional information 37Above The Resplendent quetzal......San JoséMonteverde ArenalPalmar SurTamarindoSan RamónCOSTA RICANicoya PENINSULAOSA PENINSULAPANAMA.