On this eight-day journey through the Costa Rican outdoors, you’ll discover the biodiverse native flora and fauna of Monteverde, along with the stunning beaches of Santa Teresa. From ziplining through the forest canopies to surfing at world-renowned beaches, your outdoor adventure awaits.

Highlights

  • Explore the cultured museums and local markets in San José
  • Zipline through the 26,000-acre Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
  • Take a surfing lesson on the beautiful beaches of Santa Teresa
  • Go kayaking and snorkeling after dark via the Curú Wildlife Refuge

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in San José and City Tour San José
Day 2 Travel to Monteverde - Cloud Forest Reserve Monteverde
Day 3 Monteverde - Tour Selvatura Park Monteverde
Day 4 Travel to Santa Teresa Santa Teresa
Day 5 Santa Teresa - Surfing Lessons Santa Teresa
Day 6 Santa Teresa - Free Day and Evening Bay Tour Santa Teresa
Day 7 Travel Back to San José San José
Day 8 Departure from San José  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in San José and city tour

The Edificio Correos (Post Office) in the city center.
The Edificio Correos (Post Office) in the city center

Welcome to Costa Rica, the land of Pura Vida! After arriving at Juan Santamaría International Airport in San José, a local representative will meet you and escort you to your hotel. The rest is free for you to explore the city at your leisure.

Take a stroll through Mercado Central (Central Market), featuring more than 200 shops, food stalls, and sodas (traditional restaurants). Then, visit the Catedral Metropolitana (Metropolitan Church), whose interior combines Greek Orthodox, Neoclassical, and Baroque styles, and features wood carvings and stained-glass windows. There's also a pair of popular museums in San José: Museo del Oro Precolumbino, the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum, and Museo del Jade, the world's largest collection of pre-Columbian jade artifacts.

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. However, San José is filled with great restaurants serving everything from traditional to forward-thinking fusion cuisine, too.

Day 2: Travel to Monteverde and tour the Cloud Forest Reserve

Hummingbird in Monteverde
Hummingbird in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

After breakfast, you’ll head toward Monteverde, which is known as the "Green Lung” of Costa Rica, due to its rich biodiversity. Located in the mountainous northwest region of the country, Monteverde is famed for its 26,000-acre Cloud Forest Reserve, which is home to countless wildlife species. Suspension bridges throughout allow for walks above the forest canopy, with plenty of opportunities to spot the colorfully-plumed resplendent quetzal. The reserve’s marked trails pass through exotic fauna and flora, including the greatest number of orchid species on the planet–500–with new ones discovered regularly. 

After check-in at your hotel, you’ll spend the afternoon in the cloud forest, where you’ll have your pick of ways to explore: ziplining for the action-inclined, sky tram trips for a panoramic perspective, or walks along suspension bridges for up-close encounters with elusive bird species and other wildlife. 

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
Monteverde Hanging Bridges
Monteverde Hanging Bridges

Today, you will hike through the cloud forest at Selvatura Park. 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.

This park also offers optional activities (for an additional charge), like a hummingbird garden, a butterfly farm, and one of the most thrilling zipline tours in the country, featuring 15 cables, 18 platforms, and an optional Tarzan swing at the end of the adventure.

Day 4: Travel to Santa Teresa

Playa Santa Teresa
Playa Santa Teresa

This morning, you'll drive 3.5 hours to the western Nicoya Peninsula and transfer by boat 1.5 hours to the small fishing village of Santa Teresa. Renowned for its excellent surfing, beautiful stretches of sand, and laid-back atmosphere, Santa Teresa officially kicks off the beach holiday portion of your itinerary. After checking in to your luxury hotel, the rest of the day is yours to surf, explore, or both. 

At the end of the day, kick back in a local restaurant or beach bar and enjoy a sundown cocktail. There are many international restaurants here featuring a variety of cuisines, including vegetarian options. 

Day 5: Santa Teresa - Surfing lessons

Time to hit the waves
Take a surfing lesson in Playa Santa Teresa

Today, you'll take a private, 2-hour surf lesson on the waves of Playa Santa Teresa, which are noted as some of the best, and most consistent in all of Costa Rica. Beginners will gain confidence under the tutelage of expert teachers, while more advanced surfers can expect to hone their technique. 

After your lesson, you can hike along the coastline toward nearby Playa Carmen, another star of Costa Rica's Pacific beaches. Go for a dip in the tidal pools here, or head back into town. Santa Teresa attracts expats from around the world, and everyone seems to be clutching a surfboard or a yoga mat. The long gravel road that runs along the beach is great for people watching and people meeting. You can even rent a vintage Land Rover or hop on an ATV and cruise the coast on your own.

Day 6: Santa Teresa - Free day and evening bay tour

Bioluminescence at dusk
Bioluminescence at dusk

Make your way to Playa Tambor, where you'll have the morning and afternoon free to explore as you’d like. Some recommended options include:

  • Nature hiking in the Curú Wildlife Refuge: Located in Paquera, this private refuge is considered one of the best places in the Nicoya Peninsula for nature and wildlife lovers. Here, you'll find lots of different ecosystems with a wide variety of species, such as monkeys, iguanas, and macaws, on this 90-minute guided hike. You'll also learn about organic agriculture, sustainable use of the land, animal behavior, and how the locals use various plants as natural remedies and medicines.
  • Curú Wildlife Refuge and Isla Tortuga: Combine a trip to Curú with a stopover at the neighboring Isla Tortuga, one of the region's best snorkeling spots. Take a boat from Curú to the snorkeling spot, about 15 minutes away. When you've had enough snorkeling for the time being, head toward the island for some fresh fruit and play time on the beach. After a two-hour break, sail back to the beach at Curú on a different route that will take you by the majestic Rainbow Rock formation jutting out of the sea.
  • Horseback riding: Explore the beautiful Nicoya Peninsula from a different vantage point and go horseback riding on the beach, through the jungle, inside the Curú Wildlife Refuge, or in the hills above the bay. 
  • Fishing: Try your hand at fishing informally, or ask your guide about booking a half-day, deep-sea fishing trip, where you can catch marlin, tuna, mahi-mahi, and more.

You can also simply relax on the golden beaches of Tambor, where the waves are placid and the sand is flat at low tide–perfect for soccer or beach volleyball. Or, maybe go for a peaceful walk along the 2.5-mile-long beach path around the bay.

In the evening, set out on a bioluminescent tour of the bay. This three-hour interactive trip starts with a short sea kayaking excursion from the beach at the Curú Wildlife Refuge to Quesera Beach, about a 20-minute paddle away. Take a break on the fine white sands of Quesera, and watch the sunset as you snack on fresh fruit and sip on refreshing drinks.

Feel free to take a dip in the crystal-clear waters as your guide explains the phenomenon of bioluminescence emitted by the surrounding flora and fauna. Then, don your snorkeling mask and follow your guide to the best spots to observe the natural, neon-blue light in the water around you. 

Kayaking Distance: 3.75 miles

Day 7: Travel to San José

National Theater of Costa Rica
National Theater of Costa Rica

Today, you’ll transfer back to San José after an eventful trip among the great landscapes and impressive biodiversity of Costa Rica. Spend your last night in the country doing something special before your departure flight tomorrow. Circle back to any landmarks you did not get to experience upon arrival and treat yourself to a delicious farewell meal with beautiful views.

Day 8: Departure from San José

Airport
Farewell, Costa Rica!

Today, you will say goodbye to Costa Rica. Depending on your hotel check-out time, you’ll drive to the Juan Santamaria International Airport. Once there, return your car at the car rental office and catch your international flight to your final destination. Have a safe flight, and be sure to come visit the beautiful country of Costa Rica again soon!

Map

Map of Explore Costa Rica: Monteverde Cloud Forest & Pacific Coast - 8 Days
Map of Explore Costa Rica: Monteverde Cloud Forest & Pacific Coast - 8 Days