Most people visiting both Arenal and Manuel Antonio spend about 8 to 10 days in Costa Rica, usually with some time in Monteverde as well. For travelers wanting to visit Arenal and Manuel Antonio exclusively, plan 6 to 8 days for a well-paced trip. With less time it's possible to see the highlights in as few as 4 days. Read on for best itineraries to explore Arenal and Manuel Antonio.

How many days do you need?

  • Most travelers spend 6, 7, or 8 days in Costa Rica when combining Arenal/La Fortuna and Manuel Antonio
  • Visiting Arenal/La Fortuna and Manuel Antonio in just 4 days is possible, but will feel rushed
  • Longer trips are possible as well, but most travelers choose to add additional destinations to their trip when they have 9 or more days
  • The most common extensions are Monteverde, Río Pacuare, and Tortuguero
  • Most travelers also visit Monteverde, for a total trip duration of 8, 9, or 10 days

How Many Days Should You Spend in Costa Rica

Recommended Itineraries for Arenal/La Fortuna and Manuel Antonio

Recommended Itinerary for 6 Days

Arenal volcano peaking its head into the clouds
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in San José - Transfer to La Fortuna & Luxurious Hotsprings Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 2 Arenal Gondola, Zip-Line and Canopy Tour Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 3 Day Trip to Raft Rio Balsa Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 4 Arenal to Manuel Antonio Manuel Antonio
Day 5 Sunset Catamaran Cruise with Snorkeling in Manuel Antonio Manuel Antonio
Day 6 Manuel Antonio to San José, Depart Costa Rica  

 

This exciting 6-day itinerary is perfect for travelers who want to experience quintessential Costa Rica. You'll take in awe-inspiring views of Arenal volcano, and have an exciting rafting day on the Sarapiqui River before heading to Manuel Antonio to explore the jungle and white sand beaches of this nature lovers paradise. Read more

Recommended Itinerary for 7 Days

The lush slopes of Arenal 
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 San José Transfer to Manuel Antonio Manuel Antonio
Day 2 Damas Island Mangrove Boat Tour Manuel Antonio
Day 3 Guided Hike of Manuel Antonio National Park Manuel Antonio
Day 4 Manuel Antonio Transfer to Arenal Volcano Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 5 Hanging Bridges & La Fortuna Waterfall Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 6 Proyecto Asis Rescue Center Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 7 Arenal Transfer to San José - Departure  

With the awe-inspiring Arenal volcano, an exciting rafting trip, visiting the jungle in Manuel Antonio, and just some time to relax on the beach in Manuel Antonio, this trip captures the essence of the Costa Rican motto - Pura Vida! Read more

Extended Itineraries

11-Day Itinerary Including Monteverde

The hillsides around Arenal 
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Liberia -> Drive to Arenal Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 2 Hanging Bridges & La Fortuna Waterfall Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 3 Day Trip from Arenal - Whitewater Rafting on the Sarapiquí River Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 4 Waterfall Rappelling in Arenal Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 5 Arenal to Monteverde Self Drive, with Nocturnal Nature Tour Monteverde
Day 6 Zip-Line Fun in the Cloud Forest Monteverde
Day 7 Monteverde to Manuel Antonio, Self Drive Manuel Antonio
Day 8 Horseback Riding Day Trip from Manuel Antonio Manuel Antonio
Day 9 Guided Hike of Manuel Antonio National Park Manuel Antonio
Day 10 Manuel Antonio Drive Back to San José San Jose
Day 11 Depart San José  

This itinerary combines mountain excursions with a bit of a beach holiday and some aquatic adventure. You'll arrive in Liberia, the hub of Costa Rica's Guanacaste Province. From there, drive to Arenal Volcano National Park, where you'll hike to a waterfall, relax in natural hot springs, and raft world-class whitewater. Then it's west to the Monteverde to see the cloud forest canopy via suspension bridges and a zip-line tour. A drive south will take you to Manuel Antonio, a unique destination with a combination of the beach, jungle and national park. After a couple days enjoying the beach and wildlife in Manuel Antonio, you'll return to San Jose for your journey home. Read more

16-Day Itinerary Including Monteverde and Tortuguero

Future surf champ at work
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in San José, Free time to Experience San José's Culture San Jose
Day 2 Private Transfer San José to Tortuguero National Park Tortuguero
Day 3 Turtle Tour in Tortuguero Tortuguero
Day 4 Tortuguero Transfer to La Fortuna Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 5 Hanging Bridges & Hiking in the Arenal 1968 Lava Fields Reserve Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 6 La Fortuna Waterfall - Free Afternoon Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 7 River Float & Chocolate Tour in Arenal Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 8 Arenal Free Day Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 9 Arenal to Monteverde by Boat, with Coffee & Chocolate Tour Monteverde
Day 10 Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve Guided Hike Monteverde
Day 11 Zip-Line Fun in the Cloud Forest Monteverde
Day 12 Monteverde Transfer to Manuel Antonio - Free Afternoon Manuel Antonio
Day 13 Guided Hike of Manuel Antonio National Park Manuel Antonio
Day 14 Free Day in Manuel Antonio Manuel Antonio
Day 15 Sunset Catamaran Cruise with Snorkeling in Manuel Antonio Manuel Antonio
Day 16 Manuel Antonio to San José, Depart Costa Rica  

Costa Rica is a favorite destination for all ages. This 16-day adventure allows your family to experience the country from both coasts and includes a visit to the bustling capital of San José, the lush rainforest of Tortuguero National Park, the towering Arenal Volcano, the cloud forest of Monteverde and the spectacular, white sand beaches of Manuel Antonio National Park. There are plenty of kid-friendly activities along the way, from watching sea turtles hatch on a Caribbean beach to sampling locally produced chocolate to whitewater rafting. Read more

How to travel between Arenal/La Fortuna and Manuel Antonio

The most affordable and convenient way to get from the scenic peaks of Arenal to the coastal paradise of Manuel Antonio is driving the circuitous 168 miles (271 km). Another excellent alternative is to book a private transfer, so you're not too busy worrying about wrong turns to take in the gorgeous views. A shared shuttle is another good option, with door-to-door convenience, but you will have other passengers to pick up and drop off. Read more