Boca Tapada

Secret Costa Rica: Dawn’s Guide to the road less travelled

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A Costa Rica holiday is all about getting back to nature, soaking up the magic of the natural world and being stopped in your tracks by spectacular wildlife around every corner. Everywhere you go in Costa Rica is going to be special. But we like to work a little harder to get you off the beaten track.

We believe in the importance of visiting the lesser-known places in the countries we love. Both to share the support of tourism and to give you a real insight into the authentic traditions and day-to-day life of the people.

Finding these lesser-known highlights can be tricky. But that’s where we come in.

Our Dawn has spent countless weeks in her beloved Costa Rica, befriending the locals and uncovering all of the very best secret Costa Rica spots. Below she shares 3 of her favourite places to go and why you’ll love them. If you want to chat through any Costa Rica holiday ideas, give us a call on 01242 253 073 and our Dawn will be ready to delight you with travel tales and inspire your next big adventure.  

Meet your Expert - Dawn - Costa Rica expert


Dawn’s quick guide to secret Costa Rica

San Gerardo de Dota 

An absolute paradise for bird watchers and hikers alike, the tranquil cloud forest of San Gerardo de Dota feels a world away from Costa Rica’s busier tourist attractions.

At first, the 85-kilometre drive southeast from San Jose to reach this sleepy hamlet seems fairly easygoing, with most of the journey following the famous Pan American Highway. However, as you reach the edge of the imposing Talamanca mountain range and the ominously named Cerro de la Muerte (‘hill of death’), brace yourself for the start of the dramatic 9km descent down twisting roads. You’ll quickly understand the meaning of a ‘Costa Rica massage’ here!

When you make it to the bottom of the valley, you’ll emerge in San Gerardo itself, alongside the roaring Savegre River.   


Secret Costa Rica - Rio Savegre - San Gerardo de Dota - where to go in Costa Rica  


The average altitude of San Gerardo is around 2200 metres, and it’s the subtle differences in elevation throughout the region’s forests that make it the perfect spot for so many different ecosystems to thrive. What’s more, the population of different highland birds found here is staggering – with more than 170 species recorded in the wider area.  So, if you’re a keen twitcher, San Gerardo de Dota deserves a spot on your ‘where to go in Costa Rica‘ list.  


Secret - Costa Rica - Resplendent Quetzal - where to go in Costa Rica  


By far, San Gerardo’s most famous resident is the Resplendent Quetzal. This bird is so remarkably beautiful and was considered sacred by the ancient Aztec and Maya civilisations. So, during your time in San Gerardo de Dota keep your eyes peeled for a glimpse of its shimmering turquoise wings, vivid scarlet chest, and fluffy emerald crest.

San Gerardo is the only place in Costa Rica that boasts year-round sightings of the quetzal – so you’re in with a great chance here!  


Where to stay in San Gerardo de Dota

Book a stay at the Savegre Hotel in San Gerado. With its incredible location in a 400-hectare private reserve, this property attracts an incredible number of nesting quetzals. So, if ticking a glimpse of the quetzal is on your Costa Rica bucket list, there’s no better place to stay in Costa Rica.

The lodge has a good network of cloud forest trails as well as huge areas in the gardens where you can simply sit and listen to the sounds of the birds. This is a bird paradise.   


It might be only 40 miles to the east of San Jose, but Turrialba feels so refreshingly far removed from the main tourist trail. Though best known as an agricultural region, Turrialba offers plenty of attractions that cater to a wide range of interests and will add a slice of variation to your Costa Rica holiday.

If you’re a history buff, you simply must add Turrialba to your Costa Rica holiday – it’s the best base for visits to Costa Rica’s ancient archaeological site, Guayabo.  


national monument guayabo  


This mystery in Costa Rica’s Central Valley is thousands of years old. When you visit Guaybo, you’ll find the largest pre-Columbian ruins that have ever been discovered in Costa Rica. Archaeologists believe this was once a bustling city and a regional centre for politics, culture and religion, populated from 1000 BC to 1400 AD. For no known reason, the city was abandoned.

To this day it’s unknown why! If you’re looking to enjoy the slower pace of life, head to the lush botanical gardens and the macadamia nut plantations for a spot of excellent bird watching.  


Turrialba volcano  


It’s the perfect spot for those with a sense of adventure, too. Test your white-knuckle endurance with a whitewater rafting adventure, explore by mountain bike or on horseback, try your hand at canyoning, and catch a glimpse of the smoking Turrialba Volcano. This volcano is currently in the midst of a particularly active phase, making the attached national park too dangerous to visit, but its smoking peak is an impressive sight even from afar as you travel around the region.     


Where to stay in Turrialba

Pacuare is one of the most special places to stay in Turrialba. This secluded rainforest escape on the banks of the Río Pacuare has a highly unusual mode of arrival and departure: via white-water raft. Owned by a small family, the lodge works hard to always emphasise sustainability and works closely with local communities, including the indigenous Cabécar people. With an abundance of wildlife and countless amazing activities to enjoy, this is the place to stay in Turrialba.  



Boca Tapada 

Boca Tapada is without doubt one of my favourite spots in all of Costa Rica. Hidden up in the Northern Lowlands between Ciudad Quesada and the Nicaraguan border, Boca Tapada is as remote as it is special. Every single client I’ve sent to this eco-tourism spot never fails to rave about its natural beauty and tranquillity.  


Boca Tapada  


The journey here is another bumpy one! As you leave the city of San Jose, you’ll gradually see the landscape change with many farms and true rural Costa Rican life popping up through the car windows. This is an area of real agricultural significance in Costa Rica. In addition to cattle, the farms produce pineapples, bananas, heart of palm, plantains, and yucca.

Boca Tapada is a hidden haven for birds and wildlife.

It’s a primary nesting area for the endangered Great Green Macaw, so you’re in with a great chance of spotting one. In addition to the macaws, more than 400 other species of birds have been identified in Boca Tapada.

But, it’s not just about the bird watching. There are so many species of mammals, amphibians, and reptiles living amongst the trees, with various frog and snake species that can be observed on guided night hikes along the trails.  


Macaws - Boca Tapada - Secret Costa Rica  

The rainforests surrounding Boca Tapada are home to sloths, white-faced monkeys, howler monkeys, coati, and even wild cat species such as jaguars. If you are planning to visit Boca Tapada on your Costa Rica holiday, be sure to plan for at least two nights. It takes a bit of time to reach the area as well as a reliable 4×4 vehicle! We don’t say it’s off-the-beaten-track for nothing!   

Where to stay in Boca Tapada

You’ll struggle to find a more special place to stay in Costa Rica than the family-run Macquenque Eco Lodge.

The lodge is located inside the Maquenque Eco Reserve, set in lush tropical rainforest alongside the majestic San Carlos River.

The rainforest is home to more than 400 species of birds including great green and scarlet macaws, toucans and tanagers. Plus, the forests are alive with the sounds of wildlife! Stay in one of their treehouses for a truly unforgettable experience (and a tuneful wakeup!)  


Dawn - Costa Rica specialist

So, there you have it. Dawn’s favourite 3 secret Costa Rica spots for your holiday. Of course, this is just the tip of the rainforest! Dawn (and Lou, our other fantastic Costa Rica expert), are at the other end of the phone or email ready to design a Costa Rica holiday that’s perfect for you.

Request a quick quote below or give us a call on 01242 253 073 to chat things through today.



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