Wildlife Group Tour

Costa Rica Group Tour - In Search of Spinner Dolphins

Discover the Osa Peninsula with Hugh Pearson

12 days

from £6,295pp
  • Travel to Costa Rica in the company of natural world film-maker Hugh Pearson
  • Explore the flora and fauna of Costa Rica's paramo, a unique highland area.
  • Discover Corcovado National Park, one of the most biologically diverse regions in the world.
  • Search for and swim with, a super pod of spinner dolphins.

Accompanied throughout by accomplished BBC director and filmmaker, Hugh Pearson, this one-off small group tour (only ten people), explores the magical marine and land-based wildlife of Southern Costa Rica.

The journey begins in Costa Rica’s cosmopolitan capital, San Jose. Visit the orchid botanical gardens, for a colourful introduction to the flora you are likely to see in the cloud forest later in the trip. With a local guide, you will also visit some of the historic neighbourhoods that boast attractive architecture from the late 19th century.

Continue to the cloud forest of San Gerardo de Dota and spend a few days exploring the wonderful native flora and birdlife of this area. Tropical montane cloud forest offers a magical environment that’s filled with epiphytic orchids, bromeliads, giant ferns, mosses, lichens and lianas. 2,200 metres above sea-level, Trogon Lodge has an extraordinary setting. Mist shrouds the forest and the dewy dawn is a prime time to walk trails with specialist local guides for incredible birding, including opportunities to spot the resplendent quetzal, possibly the most beautiful and ornate bird in the western hemisphere.

Leaving the mystical cloud-forest behind, continue south to the Osa Pensinula, a region described by National Geographic as one of the ‘most biologically intense places on earth’, where the verdant rainforest jungle meets the blue Pacific Ocean. This wilderness area is outstanding for general wildlife and you will have plenty of opportunity to explore the rainforests of Piedras Blancas National Park as well as famous Corcovado National Park. Both host a staggering array of animals including four species of monkey, jaguars and tapirs. In addition, there will be three dedicated days with Hugh Pearson on the marine-life rich waters of Golfo Dulce and the open Pacific Ocean, searching for a variety of species of dolphins, including bottlenose and (our ultimate aim) a super-pod of spinners, and you may have the opportunity to swim with them too. 


This tour is for anyone who wishes to experience Costa Rica’s wildlife in an area that is unsurpassed for biological diversity by any other region of a similar size on the planet. You will be accompanied by expert local guides as well as renowned film-maker Hugh Pearson for a specialist insight to both the wildlife and the challenges of documenting nature on film, specifically the resident 'super-pods' of spinner dolphins that can be found off the coast of the Osa Peninsula. These can be over 10,000 dolphins in size. Hugh has spent hundreds of hours filming these animals and has agreed to work with Steppes to give a handful of our clients the rare opportunity to experience a unique and extraordinary natural phenomenon. Join Hugh both in and on the water, in search of these extraordinary marine mammals to observe behaviours that most people will only ever get to see from their sofa.

Who is Hugh Pearson?

Hugh Pearson is known for his work as a BBC director and filmmaker. Hugh has over twenty years experience working in the field on a variety of natural-world projects that have taken him around the world. His knowledge and passion are evident, and he will share his stories and experiences with you throughout the trip. We asked Hugh what was so special about the Osa Peninsula - this is what he had to say:

"I have been fortunate to travel to Costa Rica's Osa Peninsula on two occasions, once in 2013 to film spinner dolphins for The Hunt and again in 2018 to film for Our Planet, a major new series we are producing for Netflix. On the last trip we spent virtually every waking hour with spinner dolphins as we were able to find them so easily, and some pods were 10,000 strong, but we also saw numerous different species of cetaceans, birds, turtles, sailfish and other ocean life. If I had to pick one part of our oceans to spend time at then the seas off the Osa peninsula would definitely be it." 

Does this tour offer value for Money?

Travelling to Costa Rica with Hugh Pearson is a rare opportunity to join one of the creators of Planet Earth to experience what it is like to film one of nature’s most spectacular phenomena. Soon to be aired on Netflix, the series Our Planet “takes viewers on an un unprecedented journey through some of the worlds’ most precious natural habitats”. This is your chance to experience first-hand the remarkable habitats and nature of Costa Rica before the series airs. You will be joined by expert naturalist guides throughout the trip and follow in the footsteps of film producer Hugh Pearson’s epic project filming super pods of spinner dolphins, not only with Hugh but also his skipper, who was responsible for finding the pods. This tour takes you to some of the country’s best nature lodges in remote locations without compromising on comfort. Playa Cativo is one of the leading properties in Costa Rica and Casa Corcovado is unrivalled in terms of location, bordering Corcovado National Park. All meals have been included over 10 days, as well as expert led tours from sunset sails, trail hiking, kayaking and birding to dedicated days in search of the spinner dolphins.

Is this tour suitable for solo travellers?

Due to the size of lodges used in this trip, single occupancy is not permitted. Please find a friend to travel with or we will do our best to match you up with another solo traveller of the same sex.

What is the accommodation like in Costa Rica?

You will be staying in comfortable three-star hotels in San Jose and San Gerardo de Dota with the trip culminating in two of Costa Rica’s most respected jungle lodges for remote wildlife experiences.

Do I need to be fit to join this tour?

You do not need to be particularly fit to join this trip, but you must be comfortable with getting in and out of boats and happy to hike on uneven ground. Sealegs are a distinct benefit.  Should you wish to swim with dolphins, you will need to be comfortable using a rope ladder to board the boat from the water.

HOW ROUGH WILL THE WATER BE When we are looking for Dolphins?

Around the protected bay of the Golfo Dulce the water is relatively undisturbed. However from Casa Corcovado, you will be travelling in relatively small boats offshore in the open water, so expect it to be choppy. However, excursions in search of the dolphins will be departing early morning and if there is little wind, then the sea can be beautifully calm and glass-like.

What wildlife might I see during my time in Costa Rica?

We hope you will see an array of wildlife both in the cloud-forest and on the Osa Peninsula. There is prolific birdlife in the cloud-forest of San Gerardo de Dota and in the south, it is possible to see many species of monkey, scarlet macaws, sloth, coatimundi, possibly tapir, and of course a number of dolphin species.


January is a great time to travel in Costa Rica and it is one of the most popular months to visit this corner of the world. However, the most pertinent reason for travelling in January is, that it is the month you are most likely to see the spinner dolphins gather in such huge numbers. It will be cooler in San Gerardo de Dota, especially at night, due to the elevation of the cloud-forest; it can often be misty and a little damp here too. The Osa Peninsula will be warmer and while humid under the forest canopy, the beach brings a refreshing breeze.

Can I extend my time in Costa rica?

A three-night stay at Kura Design Villas located in the hills of the south Pacific coast would be a wonderful property at which to extend your stay in Costa Rica.  Please call our travel experts John or James for more information about tailoring a post-trip extension to Kura Design Villas or any other region of Costa Rica.


Departing on:
  • 22nd January 2019

For a detailed itinerary or to book your place on this tour, please contact us.

STARTFINISHPrice Excluding Flights £Flight cost fromSingle SupplementTour ExpertStatus 
22nd Jan 2019 2nd Feb 2019 £ 6,295 £ 950 call Hugh Pearson Available
  Click here to see what is included/excluded

what is included

  • Accompanied by English speaking local guides
  • Accompanied by Hugh Pearson throughout
  • Airport transfers
  • All entrance fees to sites visited
  • All meals mentioned in the itinerary
  • Entrance fees to sites visited
  • Gratuities for local guides, drivers and porters
  • Transport as detailed in the itinerary

what is excluded

  • Drinks with meals
  • International flights
  • Items of a personal nature
  • Travel insurance
  • Visa (if necessary)


Itinerary at a glance

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Day 1

Arrival Transfer and Welcome
You will be met off your flight and transferred to your hotel in San Jose. There will be a welcome meeting to briefly discuss the days ahead. This evening is at your own leisure to have dinner or retire for an early night.

Most visits to Costa Rica start and finish in San José, the country's capital. This bustling city lies in Costa Rica's Central Valley and has a year round, spring-like climate and a cosmopolitan feel. While it may lack the impressive colonial architecture of other Latin cities, it offers a handful of good museums, regular cultural events and excellent day trips into the surrounding countryside.

In the central highlands above San Jose, you will find the small towns of Alajuela and Heredia as well as numerous coffee plantations located on the fertile slopes of the Poas Volcano. The accommodation in this area offers a tranquil retreat that's just a short drive from San José's city centre.

You will be staying at Bougainvillea, bed and breakfast

Day 2

Orchid Botanical Gardens
The Orchid Botanical Garden is set in a former coffee plantation that had its own native trees, typical of the flora found in the tropical dry forests of Costa Rica. The plantation was owned by Claudio Salas, a botanist and orchid expert who wanted to conserve the trees whilst providing a habitat for orchids which would add a wonderful swathe of colour to the arboretum.

A visit to the Orchid Botanical Garden is an opportunity to learn about the orchids in a variety of settings such as tropical trails, interactive nurseries and exhibitions. A number of other tropical and ornamental plants can also be seen including heliconias, gingers and palms. One of Claudio’s greatest achievements over the past 30 years, is that nearly 100% of the orchid plants observed were laboratory produced.

Lunch included.

Sunset Walking Tour of Historic Neighbourhoods
Explore on foot, San Jose's architectural and cultural highlights in the historic neighbourhoods of Aranjuez and Amon.

First stop is the National Theatre, one of the most impressive buildings in San Jose. Built in the 1890's, statues of Calderón del Barca and Ludwig Van Beethoven can be seen on the outside and close to the entrance is a monument of Frederic Chopin. Continue to the Morazan and Spain Parks, where further examples of late 19th century buildings can be viewed, including the National Distillery, Paseo Las Damas and the Supreme Court of Elections.

Later visit Barrio Amon, one of the oldest neighbourhoods in San Jose. Designed by Amon Fasileau, a Frenchman who settled in the area, Barrio Amon has become one of the most scenic parts of the city boasting a rich architectural history and is home to a cluster of coffee-grower mansions built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In recent years, many of the areas historic buildings have been converted into hotels and restaurants. You'll find everything in this popular district from art-deco to brightly painted Victorian properties in various states of repair. The walking tour will conclude at a local restaurant for dinner that serves excellent dishes using Costa Rica's freshest ingredients.

Dinner tonight is at Barrio Amon Restaurant.

You will be staying at Bougainvillea, bed and breakfast

Day 3

Transfer to San Gerardo de Dota via Paraiso de Quetzales

After a leisurely start, depart around 10:00am for your drive to San Gerardo de Dota. Stop at Paraiso de Quetzales for approximately two hours to hike the trails and have lunch.

A gentle 1.5 kilometre walk through the cloud forest will take you into the habitat of the resplendent quetzal. The trail immerses you in the cloud forest close to a beautiful stream and an area home to one of the many great mountain Cyprus trees, approximately one thousand years old. Epiphytes, such as orchids and bromeliads, adorn the trees. Despite its normally reticent and silent behaviour, the male quetzal, during the mating season (February to May), sometimes emits a wide range of sounds to attract a nearby female to initiate their reproductive cycle. The hike takes approximately two hours, led by a professional guide equipped with spotting scope who will provide detailed explanations along the way.

Continue the journey approximately half an hour to San Gerardo de Dota.

This tight valley cuts through the western slopes of Cerro de la Muerte and contains a handful of simple forest lodges that are perfect bases for exploring the mysterious world of the moss and vine draped, mist shrouded cloud forest.

San Gerardo de Dota is one of the best locations in Costa Rica to experience a close encounter with the possibly one of the world's most flamboyantly plummaged birds, the resplendent quetzal. Don't miss this unique opportunity to spot the rare quetzal in this tranquil and outstandingly beautiful environment.

Dinner tonight is included at the nearby Dantica Lodge restaurant.

You will be staying at Trogon Lodge, breakfast

Day 4

Trogon Lodge Full Day
This morning head out at dawn (coffee and biscuits will be provided) for a short hike in search of the quetzal before returning to the lodge for breakfast.

After breakfast, depart the lodge for a short drive to the paramo for a hike. The "Paramo" is a unique highland area that develops in altitudes higher than 3,000 metres above sea level (9,840 feet approximately). It is an ecosystem that develops in the summits with its singular flora and fauna. In Costa Rica, the paramo is located mainly along the Talamanca Mountain Range. This tour will take you to the paramo at Cerro de la Muerte, at an altitude of 3,300 metres above sea level (10,800 feet) to discover, with your guide, the variety of birds and plants that reside here. Box lunch included.

This evening you will have a further opportunity to go out on the lodge trails to discover the forest during the last daylight hours.

Dinner included.

You will be staying at Trogon Lodge, breakfast

Day 5

Drive from San Gerardo de Dota to Golfito (Road Journey)

Depart early this morning with a box breakfast for your transfer to Golfito dock, approximately four hours.

Travel from Golfito to Playa Cativo (Boat Journey)

Boat transfer to Playa Cativo, arriving in time for lunch.

Playa Cativo Sunset Dolphin Tour
Head out into the gulf this afternoon for a sunset dolphin tour.
Golfo Dulce is one of four tropical fjords around the world and home to a variety of marine animals and mammals. With large areas of mangrove and many rivers flowing into the gulf, the ocean is rich in minerals and a healthy source of food. Dolphins (spinner, bottlenose and spotted), humpback whales (August - November), manta rays, whale sharks and sea turtles all come to feed in this area.

You will be staying at Playa Cativo, full board

Day 6

Golfo Dulce Dolphin Tour and Afternoon At Leisure
This morning head out again with Hugh and the local guide in search of the gulf's marine life (approximately four hours). Return to the lodge for lunch and afternoon at leisure. There are a number of self-guided activities to choose from, alternatively just relax by the pool.

You will be staying at Playa Cativo, full board

Day 7

Piedras Blancas National Park Nature Hike Tour
With the beauty and convenience of the surrounding Piedras Blancas National Park, Playa Cativo guests don’t have to go far to see wildlife at its best. There are networks of trails in nearly every direction from the lodge.

Parts of Playa Cativo are rugged and steep due to its characteristic topography, so trails are rated for different excursion levels, from touring to challenging.

The flora of Piedras Blancas National Park is among the richest on the planet, with several thousand different species of plants and hundreds of trees, some very rare and in danger of extinction. It is very similar to the Corcovado National Park but less travelled and with even more tree species.

The fauna is composed of approximately 140 species of mammals, 350 species of birds, over 100 amphibians and reptiles and several thousand insects. Get ready to hike through the virgin rainforest and pristine waterfalls, with panoramic views of the Golfo Dulce, wetlands and beach.

Includes: Guide, use of rubber boots, walking stick, refreshment and snacks.

Duration: three to four hours.

You will be staying at Playa Cativo, full board

Day 8

Travel from Playa Cativo to Golfito (Boat Journey)

Depart early this morning with a box breakfast for your transfer to Golfito dock, approximately four hours.

Drive from Golfito to Rio Sierpe (Road Journey)

Depart early this morning with a box breakfast for your transfer to Golfito dock, approximately four hours.

The drive from Golfito to Rio Sierpe is approximately two hours.

Travel to Casa Corcovado
Travel by boat along the beautiful Sierpe River, past a jungle of mangroves, and then out into the Pacific Ocean, following the coast before arriving at the lodge for a wet landing and then a trailer ride up a steep hill to the lodge. There are no roads to Casa Corcovado Jungle Lodge and access is only by motor launch.

According to National Geographic, the south pacific region of Costa Rica is 'the most biologically intense place on earth'. The Osa Peninsula with Corcovado National Park is home to more than 100 species each of amphibians and mammals. The tropical, humid, primary forest, more than 40,000 hectares of protected land, is home to monkeys, scarlet macaws, coatimundis and other wildlife. Even ponderous humpback whales can often be seen breaking the surface of the water (December to February). This is paradise found for nature lovers.

Lunch at Casa Corcovado and afternoon at leisure.

Evening Hike

You will be staying at Casa Corcovado Lodge, full board

Day 9

Full day assigned to search and spend time with spinner dolphins

You will be staying at Casa Corcovado Lodge, full board

Day 10

La Sirena Ranger Station Tour
The Sirena ranger station is situated in the heart of Corcovado National Park and the trails surrounding the station offer some of the best wildlife viewing opportunities in Costa Rica. After breakfast, board a boat for a one-and-a-half-hour journey along a beautiful stretch of coast. A packed lunch and cold refreshments are provided.

During the voyage keep a look out for dolphins and even whales, as well as the chance to see scarlet macaw in the almond trees lining the shore. After a wet beach landing, decide at what time to break for lunch at the ranger station and which of the trails to explore. This is a remarkable section of the Corcovado National Park with an excellent chance to spot tapir as well as sloth, poison dart frog, peccary pigs and many other reptiles and birds.

You will be staying at Casa Corcovado Lodge, full board

Day 11

Half day to explore the ocean and spend time with spinner dolphins

Late afternoon at leisure to relax in one of the most beautiful corners of Costa Rica.

Excess luggage will be collected this evening to be driven to San Jose ahead of your internal flight

Day 12

Depart Casa Corcovado
Return this morning by boat along the Pacific coast to the jetty at Rio Sierpe, a journey of approximately 90 minutes. You'll be driven back to the airstrip at Palmar Sur to board your onward flight.


Below you can see some of the wonderful places we recommend you stay on your journey.

Casa Corcovado Lodge

Casa Corcovado Lodge

Set in a prime location and only accessible by motor boat, Casa Corcovado offers a remote rainforest experience nestled within a 170-acre private reserve bordering Corcovado National Park....

View Accommodation

Trogon Lodge

Trogon Lodge

Trogon Lodge is located in the highlands of the Talamanca mountain range, the oldest geological formation in Costa Rica....

View Accommodation



The Bougainvillea Hotel is situated in a quiet residential area just 40 minutes from the international airport and 15 minutes from downtown San Jose....

View Accommodation

Playa Cativo

Playa Cativo

Playa Cativo is a luxury eco lodge offering excellent accommodation comprising of deluxe, luxury and premium rooms....

View Accommodation

For a detailed itinerary or to book your place on this tour, please contact us.

Destination Experts

Our experts have unrivalled firsthand knowledge of Costa Rica

James Armitage, Travel Expert

"The help and great knowledge James offered really made the holiday special"

"James listened and managed our expectations and therefore made sure we were prepared for all eventualities when going on our holiday to Brazil"

"James was brilliant and all the advice was spot on."

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Jennifer Evans, Travel Expert

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John Faithfull, Travel Expert

"Personalised service. Seemed to really want to get it right for us. Very impressed when I first called and John spent 40 minutes finding out what we wanted to do and tailoring it for us."

"The expertise that John has really gave us faith in where we were going, the regions, the hotels, the trips. John knew about it all, he described them in detail, and when we asked for different regions he was straight in there with suggestions and ideas. The way the whole trip was planned and presented to us, never any pressure to book or any problem to change plans /ideas."

"John Faithful was wonderfully helpful and conscientious in arranging the itinerary and was always ready to suggest alternatives or rearrange matters without any hesitation; this and his detailed knowledge gave one great confidence."

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For a more detailed itinerary with great ideas on what to do and where to stay, please get in touch with our experts.

Tour Expert

Hugh Pearson

Hugh Pearson
Hugh has been producing world-class wildlife films for over 20 years and is one of the most experienced and respected in the business; he specializes in telling stories about life in our oceans and has produced some of the most memorable sequences filmed at sea. Hugh worked at the BBC Natural History Unit for nearly 20 years on BAFTA and Emmy award-winning programmes such as The Blue Planet, Coast, Big Cat Diary, Nature’s Great Events and Africa. Hugh recently produced two episodes of The Hunt for the BBC/Silverback Films and is currently producing the Shallow Seas and Open Ocean episodes on Our Planet, a major new landmark series for Netflix.

Hugh has travelled extensively and, with the exception of Antarctica, he has filmed on every continent and has been fortunate to dive around the world’s oceans and film some of our most charismatic animals.

Hugh has a First Class degree in Marine Biology from Plymouth Polytechnic and an MSc in Science Communication from Imperial College, London.
Enquire about this Wildlife tour:

Group Size:

Min 4 / Max 10

Tour Expert:

Hugh Pearson

Departure Date (S):

  • 22nd January 2019

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