On this 14-day tour, you’ll experience some of Costa Rica’s most iconic destinations. First, stroll the capital city of San José prior to adventuring through La Fortuna, from Arenal volcano to whitewater rafting. Next, zipline through the biodiverse cloud forests of Monteverde. Then, tour three of the country’s most iconic beaches—Manuel Antonio, Uvita, and Jacó—which will include equal-parts exploration and relaxation, topped off with beautiful nightly sunsets.

Highlights

  • Adventure through Arenal volcano lava field remains in La Fortuna
  • Climb the hanging bridges and zipline through the cloud forest in Monteverde
  • Trek from the lush rainforests to the active beaches in San Antonio
  • Conquer advanced rapids while whitewater rafting down La Balsa River

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in San José San José
Day 2 Travel to La Fortuna and Explore Arenal Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 3 La Fortuna - Rafting and Ziplining Tours Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 4 La Fortuna - Floating Safari and Hot Springs Tours Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 5 Travel to Monteverde Monteverde
Day 6 Monteverde - Hanging Bridges and Night Walk Tour Monteverde
Day 7 Travel to Manuel Antonio Manuel Antonio
Day 8 Manuel Antonio - Free Day Manuel Antonio
Day 9 Travel to Uvita Uvita
Day 10 Uvita - Free Day Uvita
Day 11 Travel to Jacó Jacó
Day 12 Jacó - Free Day Jacó
Day 13 Jacó - Free Day Jacó
Day 14 Departure From San José  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in San José

Metropolitan Cathedral
Metropolitan Cathedral in San José

Welcome to Costa Rica! Once you arrive, a representative will be waiting for you at the airport and will provide all the travel documents you need. A transportation service will take you to on the 20-minute commute to your hotel located in the heart of the metropolitan area of San José.

San José is the capital of Costa Rica and is home to almost two-thirds of the country's total population. It has buildings more than 100 years old and maintains a large amount of art and history that visitors can enjoy. Theaters and museums full of culture provide plenty of room for discovery.

Depending on your time of arrival, you can take rest the day to enjoy the city at your leisure. Be sure to explore Barrio Amón, a historic neighborhood home to cafetalero (coffee grower) mansions built during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Many of this area’s historic buildings have been converted into hotels, restaurants, and galleries, making Amón a popular bohemian district. 

For dinner, opt for a restaurant in the hills of Escazú. This elevated region on the western edge of the city offers panoramic views of the valley below. San José is filled with great restaurants serving everything from traditional to forward-thinking fusion cuisine, as well.

Day 2: Travel to La Fortuna and explore Arenal

Arenal Volcano
Arenal volcano

Enjoy breakfast at the hotel. Then, a transportation service will pick you up and take you through the northern plains of the country, decorated with tropical flora and different plantations, before you get to La Fortuna, the little town located by the impressive Arenal volcano.

In the afternoon, enjoy a hike through trails marked with the remains of previous lava flows of Arenal. The main attraction of La Fortuna is the volcano, itself, with its nearly perfect cone shape, and a height of 5,358 feet. Along the hike, you will discover the abundant flora and fauna, and your guide will teach you all about the volcano’s history.

For dinner, try one of these recommended restaurants:

  • Ave del Paraíso, which serves a mix of local Costa Rican and international cuisine
  • Café Mediterraneo, a friendly osteria serving up homemade pasta and pizza
  • La Parrilla de María Bonita, a must-visit for perfectly cooked steak, as well as Mediterranean dishes, like falafel and baba ghanoush
  • Rancho Perla, a popular open-air restaurant (you may even spot sloths hanging from the nearby trees) serving well-prepared Costa Rican staples

Day 3: La Fortuna - Rafting and ziplining tours

White Water Rafting
Go Whitewater rafting on La Balsa River

Today calls for a fix of action and adventure. The first part consists of a zipline excursion. Begin the seven-cable tour with an adrenaline-filled climb up a 54-foot-high tower to fly over a canyon that is 360 feet high. From there, you can take in spectacular views of the Pino Blanco Waterfall, Arenal, and Cerro Chato. Next, you will cross a hanging bridge to the longest cable—which stretches more than 0.5 miles above the La Fortuna Waterfall—with great views of downtown Fortuna.

Afterward, you will be picked up to go on a rafting tour on La Balsa River with an English-speaking guide. You will master rapid Levels III-IV and get to know Costa Rica's nature up-close. Following your active morning, enjoy a hearty lunch. Note: The minimum age is 7 years old for this tour.

Then, the evening is yours to enjoy La Fortuna at your leisure.

Day 4: La Fortuna - Floating safari and hot springs tours

Floating
Enjoying a floating safari down Peñas Blancas River

Today, you’ll visit the quiet waters of the Peñas Blancas River, where you'll enjoy a scenic floating excursion on inflatable rafts. Embark on a relaxing, half-day tour, led by a bilingual naturalist guide and expert in safari adventures. Your guide will point out the local plants and animals of the region. Animals like sloths, monkeys, toucans, crocodiles, Jesus Christ lizards, and turtles might cross your path, along with a collection of native, tropical birds. 

You’ll finish the tour in the Rancho La Cocina de Tita Yolanda, where you can enjoy a short tour of the garden to learn about coffee, chocolate, and sugarcane. Learn the importance of these crops to Costa Rica, followed by a typical snack and tasting of the final products crafted from the plants. Once this activity is over, you’ll return to your hotel to regroup before your late-afternoon activity.  

Next, you’ll visit the hot springs resort, settled in a tropical environment at the basin of the volcano. Here, you will absorb the peace and serenity of the tropical rainforest while enjoying views of Arenal. You’ll have a few hours to relax and unwind with a nice soak. At the end of this visit, your driver will take you back to the hotel.

Day 5: Travel to Monteverde

Monteverde Cloud Forest
Sunset in Monte Verde

After breakfast, you will continue your adventure to Monteverde, known as the "Green Lung” of Costa Rica, due to its rich biodiversity. Located in the mountainous northwest region of the country, Monteverde is best known for its 26,000-acre Cloud Forest Reserve, which is home to countless wildlife species. 

Take the evening to enjoy nearby Santa Elena, a charming town with a heavy Quaker influence that’s known for excellent coffee and cheese. Here are a few restaurant suggestions: 

  • Grab a seat on the front porch of local favorite Orchid Coffee, which serves a menu of smoothies, salads, and sandwiches; sweet-toothed visitors will appreciate the café’s extensive hot chocolate menu made with Costa Rican chocolate and mixed with unique ingredients, like cardamom and orange
  • El Jardin Bar & Restaurant wins visitors over with its lovely setting overlooking the trees, friendly service, and fresh, homemade bread served alongside every meal
  • Built around an old higueron (fig) tree, the Tree House Restaurant & Café serves well-prepared Costa Rican standards, like ceviche and arroz con pollo in a romantic, open-air setting

Day 6: Monteverde - Hanging bridges and night walk tour

Monteverde Hanging Bridges
Monteverde hanging bridges

Today, you will visit Monteverde’s famous hanging bridges. Here, you can walk across 15 impressive steal bridges, some of which are suspended over the forest. The bridges offer multiple lengths and heights to allow access to the plants and wildlife at different perspectives as you go through the various levels of the rainforest.

You’ll have the opportunity to appreciate a wide variety of flora and fauna, and observe the endemic biodiversity of the cloud forest canopy—which is not found anywhere else in the world. The treetop walkways provide the best vantage points to observe the beauty of the multi-level cloud forest.

At night, embark on a nighttime nature walk, where you’ll learn about the nocturnal wildlife of the forest. Depending on the season, you may see sleeping birds, such as quetzals, toucans, bellbirds, and other migratory species. You’ll likely spot kinkajous and other mammals, such as sloths, olingos, and monkeys. Other night creatures you might cross paths with include snakes, tarantulas, frogs, and unique insects. The 2-hour night walk is accompanied by knowledgeable naturalist guides. Pay attention to your surroundings—many of which you will not experience during the daylight hours on your tour of Costa Rica.

Day 7: Travel to Manuel Antonio

Manuel Antonio National Park
Manuel Antonio National Park

Enjoy breakfast at the hotel, then a transportation service will pick you up and drive you toward Manuel Antonio—known as one of the nicest beach areas in Costa Rica. Most of the hotels and restaurants are located up on a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean, which offers spectacular sunsets.  

On the way there, keep an eye out for the scenic landscapes before arriving in Quepos, a small town close to Manuel Antonio National Park. After you check in your hotel, you can enjoy the afternoon exploring the beach or just relaxing by your hotel pool.

Some recommended restaurants in the area include the following:

  • Gabriella's: Treat yourself to some fine dining at this local institution; go for the seafood—whether it's the pan-seared scallops, ceviche, or snapper, you won't be disappointed
  • Cafe Agua Azul: Come during sunset and experience the second-floor patio’s beautiful bay views, along with fresh fish and delectable desserts—like homemade brownies and bread pudding
  • Manuel Antonio Falafel Bar: For something different, head to this casual Middle-Eastern joint that serves great falafel, shawarma, hummus, and a salad bar any vegetarian would love

Day 8: Manuel Antonio - Free day

Playa Espadilla, Manuel Antonio
Playa Espadilla in Manuel Antonio

Today is yours to enjoy on your own. Beyond eventful wildlife hikes, there are several activities to choose from. 

A visit to Manuel Antonio National Park is a must. This park has one of the most impressive landscapes in the world—several coves with white-sand beaches and lush foliage among the mountains and forests.

You can also consider a boat tour to the Damas Island Estuary. Along with a guide, you'll make your way down a network of mangrove canals as white-faced capuchin monkeys swing from branch to branch and exotic birds fly overhead. You might spot caimans or even a crocodile or two.

You can also take a surfing lesson on the beach. If that isn't for you, then simply stake your claim on a section of white sand and relax with a good book. One of the most ideal beaches in the park is Playa Espadilla, which stretches on for nearly a mile. It is a tranquil public beach that is great for families—with lifeguards on hand during the day.

Day 9: Travel to Uvita

Pacific Sunset
Pacific Cost sunset

After breakfast, you’ll start your journey to Uvita, which is nestled along the South Pacific Coast. In recent years, Uvita has grown into a favorite destination of many tourists. Along the coast, you’ll find miles of isolated, unspoiled beaches and beautiful bays that are great for surfing, fishing, and diving. Its real magic lies in the surrounding scenery.

You’ll have the afternoon to explore the area and then relax at your hotel or on the beach.

Day 10: Uvita - Free day

Whale Tail, Marino Ballena National Park
Whale Tail in Marino Ballena National Park

Today is a free day to explore the Dominical and Uvita beaches, and you can also book an onsite visit to the Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary, which offers tours in English and Spanish—the property is closed on Mondays, though. Tours last between 1-1.5 hours and provide information on Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary’s history, objectives, the animals’ individual stories and the rescue work performed. You will meet the sanctuary residents while learning about their history, biology, and conservation needs. The sanctuary hosts a wide variety of animals, including spider monkeys, capuchin monkeys, sloths, anteaters, raccoons, parrots, toucans, raptors, porcupines, and kinkajous.

You can also spend some time at the beach and visit the Marino Ballena National Park, depending on your preference. The night is yours to enjoy, as well.

Day 11: Travel to Jacó

Bijagual Waterfall

After breakfast, a shuttle will take you to Jacó Beach, which is one of the most famous beaches in Costa Rica. Jacó is known for its active nightlife, restaurants, sunsets, and beachside activities.

After your arrival, you can enjoy the beach, or you can opt to visit Bijagual Waterfall, located about 20 minutes north of Jacó. This site plunges 600 feet into an expansive pool below, making it the largest waterfall in all of Costa Rica.

Then, the evening will be at your leisure, before you dive into more activities tomorrow.

Day 12: Jacó - Free day

Sunset in Jaco
Sunset in Jacó

Today is yours to enjoy Jacó. Feel free to soak up the sun while relaxing on the beach.

If you are up for an adventure, you can visit Tarcoles, and take the Tarcoles River Crocodile Safari Boat Tour. You're bound to see a multitude of wildlife, including the famously large, 20-foot-long American crocodiles that inhabit the Carara Biological Reserve area of the Tarcoles River. The tour concludes with lunch.

You can also take a catamaran trip across the bay to Isla Tortuga. First, board a catamaran, and cruise across the Gulf of Nicoya. During the day, you can go snorkeling in the crystal-clear, turquoise waters that Tortuga Island is known for, or go on a banana boat ride.  After lunch, enjoy the beach or a game of volleyball, or simply indulge in a nap in a nearby hammock.

At the end of the day, relax at your all-inclusive resort, and enjoy the stunning sunset.

Day 13: Jacó - Free day

Try some surfing in Manuel Antonio
Go surfing in Jacó

Today includes another free day to enjoy Jacó. Feel free to experience any of the activities you did not get to yesterday. You can also consider the following:

  • Take a private surfing lesson
  • Rent an ATV and tour the beaches
  • Go on a ziplining excursion
  • Book a scuba diving trip
  • Indulge in birdwatching at Carara National Park
  • Tour the Pura Vida Botanical Gardens
  • Embark on a picnic cruise from nearby Puntarenas
  • Visit Playa Herradura and go for a scenic swim
  • Go sportfishing and try your hand at catching sailfish

After sunset, check out the local nightlife scene. Enjoy some dancing and a farewell toast to your last night in Costa Rica.

Day 14: Departure From San José

Airport
Farewell, Costa Rica!

Today, it will be time to say goodbye to Costa Rica. Depending on your flight’s departure, check out of the hotel, and a transportation service will take you to the Juan Santamaria International Airport. Once there, you’ll catch your international flight home. Safe Travels!

Map

Map of Costa Rica Nature & Beach Adventure: Arenal, Monteverde, Manuel Antonio, Uvita, & Jacó
Map of Costa Rica Nature & Beach Adventure: Arenal, Monteverde, Manuel Antonio, Uvita, & Jacó