- Hike through virgin rainforest in Corcovado National Park
- Snorkel or dive off the coast of Isla del Caño Nature Reserve
- Go on nature excursions and soak in hot springs near Arenal Volcano
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|Day 1||Arrival in San José and Flight to Osa Peninsula||Drake Bay|
|Day 2||Corcovado National Park Hike - La Sirena||Drake Bay|
|Day 3||Snorkeling/Scuba Diving Isla del Caño||Drake Bay|
|Day 4||Free Day in Osa Peninsula||Drake Bay|
|Day 5||Fly to San José - Transfer to La Fortuna & Hotsprings||Arenal/La Fortuna|
|Day 6||Hike Arenal 1968 - Tabacón Hot Springs||Arenal/La Fortuna|
|Day 7||Arenal Free Day||Arenal/La Fortuna|
|Day 8||Transfer from Arenal to San José - Depart Costa Rica|
Day 1 Arrival in San José - Transfer to Osa Peninsula - Explore Bahía Drake
Welcome to the land of pura vida! Upon arrival at Juan Santamaria Airport in San José, you'll hop a connecting flight to Bahía Drake (Drake Bay), a village on the Osa Peninsula. This peninsula is located on the southern Pacific coast of the country, and while not inaccessible per se, it is one of the least developed regions in Costa Rica. It's also the gateway to Corcovado National Park, which is located directly south of Drake. This famous protected area is known for its virgin rainforests and wind-swept beaches.
Upon arrival to Bahía Drake, you'll check into your hotel. You'll now have the entire day to relax and enjoy the beaches until your heart's content. At night, tuck into dinner at your lodgings. Drake's remoteness and limited restaurant options mean most accommodations offer all-inclusive meals. Check out our Ultimate Guide to the Osa Peninsula.
Day 2: Corcovado National Park Hike - La Sirena
La Sirena, located in the heart of Corcovado, is the park's largest ranger station. The extraordinary diversity and concentration of wildlife here means that you're likely to spot exotic animals at any time on any part of any trail. None of these animals are hunted, so they don't have much fear of human beings. As a result, tapirs often cool off in nearby mud holes, and herds of peccaries frequently roam within a few hundred meters of the ranger station itself.
To arrive at La Sirena involves a delightful one-hour boat ride along the scenic coastline in a skiff. Once you arrive at the beach near La Sirena there will be cold drinks waiting for you before you embark on your hike. Avid naturalists will enjoy seeing the exotic flora and fauna that abounds in and around this remote station. The guided tour leaves at 6 am and returns at mid-afternoon.
Learn more about the top nature experiences in Costa Rica.
Day 3: Snorkeling/Scuba Diving Isla del Caño
Today, you'll have the pleasure of exploring the waters of the Caño Island Biological Reserve on a scuba-diving excursion. This protected marine area is located just off the northern tip of the Osa Peninsula, by Bahía Drake. It's home to an abundance of marine life including reef sharks, sea turtles, parrot fish, eels, manta rays, puffer fish, snappers, sea cucumbers, octopus, and many more. There's also a wide variety of coral-building organisms and 19 different species of coral, such as fan, head, and brain coral.
You'll board a 30-foot Island Hopper and an expert will offer a safety lesson geared for all ages and experience levels. Then it's time to plunge into the water. Visibility is 30-100 feet throughout the year, making Caño Island a perfect site for underwater photography. If you're interested in sailing and snorkeling, take a look at this list of the best active experiences in Costa Rica.
Day 4: Free Day on the Osa Peninsula
Today you'll choose your own adventure, whether that's spending more time in the waves or exploring on land. If you'd like to see some of the country's wildlife you can make an excursion deep into the park. This guided rainforest hike is a chance to explore a diverse range of wildlife, including the endangered giant anteater, harpy eagle, tapir, and felines like the jaguar, puma, and margay. You may also see various monkeys, white-lipped peccaries, scarlet macaws, coatis, and other exotic birds and insects.
Or, for those who prefer the water, you could opt for a boat tour along the coast in pursuit of dolphins, turtles, and whales (viewing season is Aug-Sep). In the late afternoon, consider pampering yourself in the town of Puerto Jiménez with spa treatments or yoga classes before heading out for a gourmet dinner.
Find out more about your options by reading Best Things to Do on the Osa Peninsula.
Day 5: Fly to San José - Transfer to La Fortuna & Arenal Volcano
After flying back to San José from the Osa Peninsula, your transfer service will meet you for a 2.5-hour chauffered road trip to La Fortuna, which is best known as the base for exploring Arenal Volcano National Park. Located north of the Tilaran Mountains, the cone-shaped Arenal Volcano juts out above the San Carlos Plains and stands an impressive 5,479 feet (1,670 meters). After checking into your hotel, you'll have the rest of the day to explore on your own. Look at this article about the best things to do in the area for inspiration.
If you want to get close to the volcano, kayaking on Lake Arenal provides spectacular views of its peak, as does a mountain bike ride through the park toward the village of El Castillo. Or, opt for a zip-line tour over the forest canopy as you soar above the La Fortuna and Pino Blanco Waterfalls. In the evening, hit the town for a meal at one of the area's best restaurants.
Day 6: Hike Arenal 1968 - Tabacón Hot Springs
After breakfast, you can take the morning to relax. In the early afternoon, you'll visit Arenal 1968, a private reserve named after 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 the mineral-rich waters in and around the Tabacón Thermal Resort. These hot springs have been used as therapeutic baths for more than 200 years, and the luxury resort includes a spa where various treatments, like couples massages, are performed in outdoor bungalows. You'll end the day with an unforgettable dinner at one of the resort’s fine-dining restaurants, which serve Costa Rican dishes as well as international fare.
If you're interested in staying in a hotel with access to hot springs, read over this list of our top picks.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 7: Arenal Free Day
Today is a free day, which is good because there's a lot more to see and do in Arenal. One optional activity is a chocolate tour. During this hands-on experience, you’ll visit a working cacao plantation, participate in the harvest of the fruit, learn how to dry and grind the seeds that produce creamy cocoa butter, taste a traditional chocolate drink that was developed centuries ago, and, of course, sample the freshly made chocolate.
An even more exciting option is a whitewater rafting adventure on the Balsa River or Sarapiqui River. After a lesson from your professional guide, you'll begin your two-hour journey down one of Costa Rica’s most exciting rivers, which features over 30 class III/IV rapids. About halfway through the trip, you’ll stop and enjoy a traditional, Costa Rican picnic lunch right on the riverbank. Then, after the second leg of the rafting journey, you’ll return to your hotel.
Find out more about hiking around Arenal Volcano here and learn about the region's top luxury hotels by reading this article.
Day 8: Transfer from Arenal to San José - Depart Costa Rica
It's time to say goodbye to Costa Rica! Wake up early, enjoy one last sunrise over the volcano, and be sure to take plenty of photos. After breakfast, a driver will pick you up from your hotel and transfer you to the airport, where you'll catch a short flight back to the capital of San José. From here, you'll connect to your flight home. Adios!
Looking for Other Ideas for Costa Rica?
Looking for other ideas for your trip to Costa Rica? We have some great ideas for how to spend 8 days in Costa Rica, plus a list of family-friendly 8-day itineraries. Read more about the best time of year to visit here.
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