Experience the best of Costa Rica's tropical forests and its beaches on this week-long itinerary. You'll explore the rainforest via suspension bridges and zip-line tours while spotting exotic birds, playful monkeys, and other wildlife. Then, it's on to the western Nicoya Peninsula for a few days spent snorkeling, swimming, and relaxing at the beach.

Highlights

  • Soar over the treetops on a zip-line tour of Arenal
  • Hike near an active volcano
  • Spend a day sea kayaking and snorkeling near the coast
  • Take a sunset catamaran cruise around the Pacific

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Liberia -> Drive to Arenal Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 2 Volcano Hike & Hot Springs Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 3 Arenal Zip-Line Tour Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 4 Arenal to Playa Tamarindo Tamarindo
Day 5 Kayak Tamarindo Tamarindo
Day 6 Sunset Catamaran Adventure Tamarindo
Day 7 Tamarindo to Liberia International Airport  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Liberia -> Drive to Arenal

The iconic Arenal Volcano

Welcome to Costa Rica! Liberia is the northern hub of Guanacaste Province, an area famous for both its Pacific beaches and inland mountainous regions. After touching down at Daniel Oduber QuirĂłs International Airport you'll pick up your rental car and drive about two hours east through misty cloud forests and wild jungles to the town of La Fortuna, home to Arenal Volcano National Park. The volcano itself stands an impressive 6,266 feet (1,916 meters) high and dominates the skyline of the area.

But there's no need to rush it. Once on the road towards Arenal, there are a number of stops you can make on the way. One is the Centro de Rescate Las Pumas, located right off the Pan-American Highway. It's a rescue center for wild animals like monkeys and jungle cats. Further east, and closer to Lake Arenal, you can stop at the hillside town Tilaran. This laid-back mountain town is all charm and makes a great place to stop and stretch your legs. Activities here include horseback riding over the hills and windsurfing on the lake. There are good birding opportunities here as well, with herons and egrets a common site. 

Day 2: Volcano Hike & Hot Springs

Soak in natural hot springs at Arenal

In the early afternoon, you'll visit Arenal Volcano National Park to walk on the lava flow of 1968, the year of the last major eruption of the volcano. The event was so catastrophic that it transformed some of the region’s topography: lava fields now dominate one side of Arenal. Trails wind through those lava fields as well as the surrounding rainforest. Along the way, you'll find lookout points featuring prime views of the volcano. 

After hiking the trails, soothe your muscles with a dip in mineral-rich waters at one of the hot springs in the area. These springs have been used as therapeutic baths for more than 200 years, and the resort includes a spa where various treatments, like couples massages, are performed in outdoor bungalows. 

Day 3: Arenal Zip-Line Tour

Soar over the jungle canopy on a zip-line tour

Enjoy a bird's-eye view of Costa Rica—literally. You'll begin the day with a relaxing, scenic ride up a mountain by open-air gondola. The panoramic views broaden the higher you rise, and when you reach the top observation platform you’ll have 360° views of the Arenal landscape. 

Now you're in for a treat because it's time for an adrenaline-pumping zip-line tour through the cloud forest. You'll fly like a bird for miles, from tree to tree and canyon to canyon. You'll journey through untouched nature over eight cables that stretch 2,460 feet and reach heights of 660 feet. Through it all, our knowledgeable naturalist guide will educate you about Costa Rica’s exotic flora and fauna.

Day 4: Arenal to Playa Tamarindo

The surf town of Tamarindo

Road trip time! This drive takes you from La Fortuna west through Guanacaste, past volcanic mountain ranges, flatlands, and villages as you head toward the Pacific coast. Stop for a bite and enjoy traditional foods, exotic local fruits, or perhaps a batido (fresh fruit smoothie) made con leche (with milk). 

Once you arrive, you can rest up at your hotel or spend the afternoon enjoying a sea kayak and snorkeling tour. As you row from Tamarindo Beach towards the white sands of Capitán Island, enjoy the azure blue and crystalline waters—all the better observe the underwater coral reef and exotic fish. If you visit between October and March, head to Las Baulas National Marine Park to see female leatherback turtles come ashore to lay their eggs on the beach. It's truly an incomparable sight.

Day 5: Kayak Tamarindo

Take to the sea on a kayak

On the agenda today is some kayaking around Tamarindo Bay. Not only that but you'll also be paddling out to Capitán Island, located a couple hundred meters offshore (about a 20-minute trip). As you paddle over the azure waters near Playa Tamarindo you'll eventually reach the crystalline waters and white-sand beaches of the island. Here you'll have an opportunity to do some snorkeling and observe the underwater coral reef, which abounds with exotic fish. This tour is perfect to enjoy with the entire family (snorkeling equipment and drinking water included).

Day 6: Sunset Catamaran Adventure

Relax on a catamaran cruise around the bay

Spend the morning relaxing on the beaches of Tamarindo. In the afternoon, you'll embark on a sailing trip. The boat will stop in a tranquil bay, drop anchor, and you'll be free to swim and snorkel. It's not uncommon to see schools of tropical fish, sea turtles, and even dolphins frolicking in the surf. Admire the sunset from the water, with a tropical beverage in hand.

Day 7: Tamarindo to Liberia International Airport

A last, joyful walk on the beach at Sámara before departure
Goodbye, Costa Rica!

It's time to say adiĂłs to Costa Rica! After breakfast, you'll begin the hour-long drive back to Liberia and the airport, where you'll catch your return flight home. Until next time!

Map

Map of Arenal and the Nicoya Peninsula - 7 Days
Map of Arenal and the Nicoya Peninsula - 7 Days
Yenyi
Written by Yenyi Fu, updated May 3, 2019