This six-day trip is ideal for travelers looking to unwind yet still experience the country's natural wonders. You'll learn to prepare traditional Costa Rican cuisine and visit a coffee plantation near Arenal, and have the chance to spot monkeys and other wildlife during a night walk in Monteverde. Spend your last full day ziplining and exploring the cloud forest by day before heading back to San José for your flight home.


  • Swim at the base of the La Fortuna waterfall
  • Tour a working sugar cane mill
  • Cross suspensions bridges for tree-top views of the cloud forest

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Costa Rica, Explore San José
Day 2 Transfer to La Fortuna, Coffee Plantation Tour Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 3 Waterfall Hike & Cooking Class Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 4 Boat to Monteverde, Nocturnal Nature Tour Monteverde
Day 5 Zipline Fun in the Cloud Forest Monteverde
Day 6 Return to San José, Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Costa Rica, Explore

The Edificio Correos (Post Office) in the city's center
The Edificio Correos (Post Office) in the city's center

Welcome to Costa Rica, the land of pura vida! After arriving at Juan Santamaria International Airport, in the capital of San José, a local representative will meet you and escort you to your hotel. The rest of the day, you'll have free to explore the city at your own pace.

Take a stroll through Mercado Central (Central Market), the largest in the city, with over 200 shops, food stalls, and sodas (traditional restaurants). These sodas are perfect spots for an inexpensive lunch of casado—a traditional dish of rice, beans, and meat served with tortillas. Then visit the Catedral Metropolitana (Metropolitan Church), whose interior combines Greek Orthodox, neoclassical, and Baroque styles and features wood carvings and stained-glass windows.

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, you might want to 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. No matter where you go, though, the whole city is filled with restaurants serving everything from traditional to forward-thinking fusion cuisine.

For more travel advice, check out 24 Hours in San José and look over kimkim's list of the best hotels in San José.

Day 2: Transfer to La Fortuna, Coffee Plantation Tour

Today, you'll learn about the process of harvesting coffee
Today, you'll learn about the process of harvesting coffee

After breakfast, it's on to La Fortuna, best known as the base for exploring the Arenal Volcano National Park. Located north of the Tilaran Mountains, the cone-shaped Arenal juts out above the San Carlos Plains. Along the way, you'll visit a Coffee Plantation in the village of Naranjo, where you'll learn about one of the country's most important exports, coffee, seeing how it's grown, harvested, and roasted.

After check in at your hotel, you'll have the rest of the day to explore on your own. If you want to get close to the volcano, kayaking or standup paddleboarding on Lake Arenal (optional) provides spectacular views of its peak. Or, opt for a ziplining tour through the forest canopy, where you'll cross canyons and take in the Fortuna and Pino Blanco Waterfalls, along with the majestic Arenal Volcano. For other ideas, read over this list of the best things to do in Arenal.

Here are a few restaurant recommendations for your stay in La Fortuna: 

  • Don Rufino, which serves a mix of local and international flavors in charming digs that include an open-air bar overlooking the main street. 
  • 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.
  • Ave Del Paraíso, which offers daily theme dinners such as Italian, Mexican, Mediterranean, and Costa Rican.
Plan your trip to Costa Rica
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Day 3: Waterfall Hike & Cooking Class

Take a cooking class on typical Costa Rican cuisine
Take a cooking class on typical Costa Rican cuisine

After breakfast in La Fortuna, you'll begin today's adventure with a visit to La Fortuna Waterfall Reserve, where heavy annual precipitation gives you the chance to enjoy a stunning 210-foot (64 m) waterfall. As you descend downhill on the trail, you'll get a chance to see the falls from the very bottom, where a natural pool awaits if you want to swim in the freshwater of La Fortuna River.

In the afternoon, take a guided journey to the family-owned Arenal Vida Campesina Farm, where you'll find several crops that Costa Rica is best known for: sugar cane, coffee, corn, yucca, cocoa, bananas, and plantains. The trip includes a visit to the mill for fresh-squeezed sugar cane juice and a taste of sugar cane liquor. Next, you'll head to the restaurant La Guaria Morada for a cooking class on typical Costa Rican cuisine, followed by a family-style dinner.

Read about the region's best family-friendly hotels and luxury hotels.

Day 4: Boat to Monteverde, Nocturnal Nature Tour

A guide will point out animals like sloths during the night tour
A guide will point out animals like sloths during the night tour

After breakfast at your resort in La Fortuna, you'll transfer to the Monteverde region of Costa Rica. This is no ordinary route: you'll skip the drive and board a boat, which will take you across the tranquil waters of Lake Arenal. On this 3.5-hour boat ride, you'll have ample opportunity to spot local birds like herons and anhingas.

When you arrive at Monteverde, take the afternoon and evening to enjoy nearby Santa Elena, a charming town with Quaker influences known for excellent coffee and cheese. There are also plenty of dining options featuring delectable Costa Rican standards like ceviche and arroz con pollo (rice with chicken). In the evening, you'll have a chance to see nocturnal wildlife at its most active on a guided night tour of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. A naturalist will point out sloths, armadillos, and kinkajous, as well as sleeping birds and frogs.

Check out this list of Top Experiences in Monteverde for more ideas of what to see and do.

Day 5: Zipline Fun in the Cloud Forest


Sky Adventures Monteverde Park is an aerial amusement park that literally raises jungle excitement to the next level. Its Sky Tram network of gondolas transports visitors from one adrenaline-pumping activity to another. First, you'll start with a guided Sky Walk, which combines trails and suspension bridges that ultimately reach heights of up to 984 feet (300 m) above the jungle canopy. The flora and fauna of the region will be on full display, and specialized guides will point out the most interesting specimens. Later, you'll ride in an open-air Sky Tram gondola. During this journey, you'll ascend over the rainforest and enjoy sweeping views over the mountains.

Upon reaching the end of the line, the exhilarating adventure of whizzing down the mountain begins. You'll connect to a zipline cable that stretches over the treetops and across canyons, ultimately returning you to the starting point at Sky Adventures' main building. Sky Trek is regarded as the most thrilling zipline in the country, and this makes sense considering that Monteverde is the birthplace of the canopy tour as we know it.

Discover more about ziplining in Monteverde here.

Day 6: Return to San José, Depart

After breakfast in Monteverde, you'll begin the 4.5-hour return drive to the capital city of San José. Once you check into your hotel, you'll have the rest of the night to explore, perhaps taking advantage of anything you may have missed at the beginning of the trip.

More Great Costa Rica Itineraries


Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Costa Rica? Check out these other Costa Rica itineraries, explore different ways to spend six days in Costa Rica, or discover the best time to visit Costa Rica.


Map of La Fortuna & Monteverde - 6 Days
Map of La Fortuna & Monteverde - 6 Days
Written by Emily Strauss, updated May 3, 2023