Itinerary #1: Highlights of Costa Rican Wildlife
Monkeys, sloths, lizards, birds, insects, jaguars—Costa Rica's wildlife await you on this colorful itinerary that takes you to beaches, jungles, and cloud forests.
|Day 1||Arrive in San José||San José|
|Day 2||Fly to Osa Peninsula - Explore Bahía Drake||Corcovado National Park|
|Day 3||Corcovado National Park Hike||Corcovado National Park|
|Day 4||Snorkeling, Dolphins and Whales Tour Osa Peninsula||Corcovado National Park|
|Day 5||Osa Peninsula - Drive to Manuel Antonio National Park||Manuel Antonio|
|Day 6||Guided Hike of Manuel Antonio National Park||Manuel Antonio|
|Day 7||Horseback Riding Day Trip from Manuel Antonio||Manuel Antonio|
|Day 8||Transfer to Monteverde||Monteverde|
|Day 9||Zip-Line Fun in the Cloud Forest||Monteverde|
|Day 10||Boat from Monteverde to Arenal & Hot Springs||Arenal/La Fortuna|
|Day 11||Proyecto Asis Rescue Center||Arenal/La Fortuna|
|Day 12||Chocolate Making Class, Then Back to San José||San José|
Arrive in San José, then fly to the Osa Peninsula, where you'll explore Corcovado National Park for the next few days. You'll see exotic birds on a full-day hike through the park, swim with tropical fish while snorkeling in the waters offshore, then have the chance to spot whales and dolphins during a boat tour around the peninsula. On day five, you'll pick up a rental car and drive to Manuel Antonio National Park, stopping along the way to look for humpback whales at Marino Ballena National Park.
Once you arrive at Manuel Antonio, go on a guided hike through the park, then go horseback riding in nearby Tocori Private Ecological Reserve. Move onto Monteverde the next day for a zip-line adventure in the cloud forest and a tour of local flora and fauna with a knowledgeable guide.
You'll catch a boat to the Arenal region of Costa Rica, where you'll hike to La Fortuna Waterfall and visit Proyecto Asis, a rehabilitation and rescue center for local animals. Visitors usually see anteaters, snakes, monkeys, parrots, and sloths. Finish up the trip with an educational program focused on the history and production of one of Costa Rica's key exports: chocolate. Learn more
Itinerary #2: Arenal, Monteverde, & Pacific Coast Road Trip
See many of Costa Rica's highlights, from national parks to world-class beaches, on this road trip around the country.
|Day 1||Arrive in Liberia - Drive to Río Celeste||Tenorio National Park|
|Day 2||Hiking in Río Celeste - Drive to La Fortuna||Arenal/La Fortuna|
|Day 3||Hanging Bridges & La Fortuna Waterfall||Arenal/La Fortuna|
|Day 4||Arenal - Whitewater Rafting on the Sarapiquí River||Arenal/La Fortuna|
|Day 5||Drive from Arenal to Monteverde - Night Nature Tour||Monteverde|
|Day 6||Aerial Fun in the Cloud Forest||Monteverde|
|Day 7||Drive from Monteverde to Playa Sámara||Playa Sámara|
|Day 8||Sámara Beach Free Day||Playa Sámara|
|Day 9||Playa Sámara - Drive to Playa Tamarindo||Tamarindo|
|Day 10||Private Surf Lesson at Playa Tamarindo||Tamarindo|
|Day 11||Free Day in Tamarindo||Tamarindo|
|Day 12||Depart Costa Rica from Liberia|
The trip begins in Liberia. Pick up a rental car and drive to Río Celeste, just outside Tenorio National Park. After a day of hiking, you'll get back in the car and drive to La Fortuna to explore Arenal Volcano National Park, including the La Fortuna waterfall and the region's famous Hanging Bridges. On day four, you'll go whitewater rafting on the Sarapiquí River. Continue along the road trip to Monteverde for a guided nighttime nature tour and an aerial canopy adventure in the cloud forest, spotting colorful birds high up in the trees.
On day seven, drive from Monteverde to Playa Sámara, where you'll relax for a day on the beach. Continue along to the Refugio Nacional Ostional (Ostional Wildlife Refuge), a protected mile of coastline is where hundreds of olive ridley sea turtles come during nesting season to lay their eggs. (The peak time is from August through December, but turtles lay eggs all year long.) Then drive to one of the country's most beloved beaches, Playa Tamarindo, for a private surf lesson followed by a free day to practice your newfound skills, try other water sports, go for a hike, or just enjoy some sand and sun. Learn more
Itinerary #3: Costa Rica's Wild South
This action-packed trip plan features 12 days of zip-line tours, canyoning, horseback rides, rafting trips, and kayak excursions in Costa Rica's beautiful southern region.
|Day 1||Arrive in Costa Rica - Experience San José's Culture and History||San José|
|Day 2||Rafting Río Pacuare||Río Pacuare|
|Day 3||Free Day in the Jungles of Río Pacuare||Río Pacuare|
|Day 4||Río Pacuare -> Transfer to Turrialba||Turrialba|
|Day 5||Canyoning and Zipline||Turrialba|
|Day 6||Transfer to San Gerardo de Dota - Optional Birding||San Gerardo de Dota|
|Day 7||Transfer to the Southern Pacific Coast||Dominical|
|Day 8||Kayak in Marino Ballena National Park||Dominical|
|Day 9||Free Day in Dominical||Dominical|
|Day 10||Horseback Ride to Nauyaca Waterfalls||Dominical|
|Day 11||Transfer to San José and Sightseeing||San José|
|Day 12||Depart San José|
Get to know a few things about Costa Rican culture and history with a day and night in San José at the start of the trip. Then get out of the city for your first outdoor adventure: a rafting trip down Río Pacuare. The next day, you have options: you could zip-line through the jungle canopy or go canyoning at El Tesorito Creek, where you'll rappel down a 98-foot rock face that extends beside a small waterfall. Afterward, transfer to Turrialba for more canyoning and zip-line opportunities in virgin rainforest, followed by an optional birding excursion in San Gerardo de Dota.
Midway through the trip, you'll move onto the southern Pacific coast. Go kayaking in Marino Ballena National Park, where you might spot humpback whales in the water. From Dominical, the next stop on the trip, you could go hiking in Corcovado National Park or snorkeling past a vibrant coral reef at Caño Island Biological Reserve. Finish up the outdoor adventures with a horseback riding excursion to the gorgeous Nauyaca Waterfalls before you head back to civilization for one last night in San José. Learn more
Itinerary #4: Luxury Spas & Outdoor Adventures
On this luxury itinerary, you'll enjoy Costa Rica's great outdoors while whitewater rafting and hiking, then treat yourself to spa treatments and relax in natural hot springs.
|Day 1||Arrival in Costa Rica - Private Transfer to The Retreat||Alajuela|
|Day 2||Luxury Rainforest Lodge on the Pacuare River||Turrialba|
|Day 3||Rafting the Río Pacuare - Bajos del Toro||Bajos del Toro|
|Day 4||Bajos del Toro Waterfall Hike With Private Guide||Bajos del Toro|
|Day 5||Transfer to Arenal - Luxury Tabacón Hot Springs||Arenal/La Fortuna|
|Day 6||Exclusive Chocolate Making Experience||Arenal/La Fortuna|
|Day 7||Transfer to the Pacific Coast - Playa Esterillos||Quepos|
|Day 8||Pacific Coast Excursion With Private Guide||Quepos|
|Day 9||Transfer to San Isidro del General||San Isidro del general|
|Day 10||Free Day at Hacienda AltaGracia||San Isidro del general|
|Day 11||Transfer to Alajuela||Alajuela|
|Day 12||Depart Costa Rica|
This high-end itinerary kicks off in style with a private transfer to The Retreat, a wellness center where guests can practice yoga, get a massage, or just relax over healthy meals made with locally grown produce. On day two, you'll move onto Pacuare River Lodge, a riverside getaway in the rainforest. After a few days of taking it easy, you'll be ready for the rafting adventure down the Río Pacuare to Bajos del Toro, where you'll go on a waterfall hike with a private guide. Transfer to Arenal on day five and check into Tabacón Grand Spa Thermal Resort, an elegant refuge with its own thermal hot springs — the perfect place to relax.
In the second part of the trip, you'll be treated to an exclusive chocolate-making tour and class before traveling to the Pacific coast and the beach of Playa Esterillos. Here, you'll go on a three-hour outrigger canoe, kayak, or stand up paddleboard excursion with optional stops for snorkeling and wildlife viewing. Continue onward to San Isidro del General, where you'll check into the luxurious boutique lodge known as Hacienda Altagracia. Hang out by the pool or visit the local farmer's market on the next day before the final stop of the trip: the five-star Xandari Resort and Spa, complete with hiking trails, gardens, waterfalls, three pools, two poolside Jacuzzis, and a spa with panoramic views. Learn more
Itinerary #5: Bike Costa Rica - Manuel Antonio to the Caribbean Coast
Pedal from the Pacific coast to the Caribbean coast—crossing the entire country—on this challenging bicycle trip.
|Day 1||Arrival in Costa Rica – Experience San José's Culture||San José|
|Day 2||Transfer to Quepos||Quepos|
|Day 3||Biking & Trekking to Naranjito||Naranjito|
|Day 4||Cemetery Hill Trekking & Cycling||Santa Maria de Dota|
|Day 5||Biking Over the Continental Divide||Orosi|
|Day 6||Cycling & Trekking Through Tapantí||Taus|
|Day 7||Pacuare Adventure – Biking & Rafting||Rio Pacuare|
|Day 8||Pacuare Adventure - Free Day in Pacuare Valley||Rio Pacuare|
|Day 9||Pacuare Adventure - Finca Pacuarito||Siquirres|
|Day 10||Pacuare Cycling & Kayak Adventure - Puerto Viejo||Puerto Viejo|
|Day 11||Caribbean Coast Free Morning - Transfer to San José||San José|
Spend a day sightseeing in San José before taking a three-hour bus ride the next day to the village of Quepos, next to Manuel Antonio National Park on the Pacific coast. There, you'll get fitted for a bicycle that you'll use for the rest of the trip. Get some rest before the next day's cycling and trekking trip to Naranjito with sweeping coastal views along the way.
On day four, push yourself to pedal up the famously challenging Cemetery Hill: the strenuous eight-mile ride ascends to an elevation of 5,200 feet. Sleep in a cozy bungalow in Santa Maria before biking over the Continental Divide and cycling and trekking through Tapantí National Wildlife Refuge.
Take a break from your bike to go whitewater rafting down Río Pacuare, then pedal around Pacuare Valley before continuing onward to Finca Pacuarito, where you'll spend the night. The next day, pedal through a series of old banana plantations before hopping on a kayak and traveling seven miles down the river. Overnight in Puerto Viejo and enjoy a free morning on the Caribbean coast to relax on the sand. You'll head back to San José, weary but happy, to finish the trip. Learn more
More Great 12-Day Costa Rica Itineraries
Looking for more inspiration for your Costa Rica trip? Check out these other 12-day Costa Rica itineraries, ranging from active, to cultural, to luxury, or family-friendly trips.
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