This quick-hit excursion to Arenal Volcano National Park offers an outdoor adventure where Costa Rica's stunning waterfalls take center stage. The trip starts and ends in bustling San Jose, but the village of La Fortuna will be your base as you enjoy Arenal's many cascades. Keep an eye out for wildlife on a hike to the incredible Rio Celeste waterfall. Along the way, cool off with a swim at the base of the waterfalls, or indulge yourself with a dip in the healing waters of Tabacón before heading back to the capital.

Highlights

  • Go kayaking, biking, or zip lining in the La Fortuna area
  • Trek to the surreal turquoise waters of the Rio Celeste waterfall
  • Soothe sore muscles with a soak in the Tabacón hot springs
  • Take a quick morning excursion to the famous La Fortuna waterfall
  • Learn about the production process of Costa Rican chocolate

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in San José - Transfer to La Fortuna & Hotsprings Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 2 Río Celeste Day Trip Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 3 La Fortuna -> Drive back to San José Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 4 Depart San José San Jose

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in San José - Transfer to La Fortuna & Hotsprings

Arenal at sunset
Arenal at sunset

Welcome to the land of pura vida! After arriving at Juan Santamaria International Airport in San José, Costa Rica's capital city, your shuttle service will meet you for a 2.5 hour road trip 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. After check into 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 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 lining 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.

Tonight, you will soothe your muscles with a dip in the mineral-rich waters of Tabacón’s hot springs, used as therapeutic baths for more than 200 years, and enjoy a traditional dinner next to the hot springs.

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 offers daily theme dinners such as Italian, Mexican, Mediterranean and Costa Rican.

Day 2: Río Celeste Day Trip

Bridge over Rio Celeste
Bridge over Rio Celeste

Today you'll experience one of the country's most beautiful and mysterious natural places: Tenorio Volcano National Park and Río Celeste. The river’s blue hue is the result of a mixture of sulfur and carbonate, which originate in the nearby Tenorio Volcano. You'll hike rainforest trails for approximately 4 hours, stopping along the way at Los Teñideros, where two brooks meet to form the turquoise colored river until you reach the Río Celeste waterfall.

Day 3: La Fortuna to San José

La Fortuna Waterfall
La Fortuna Waterfall

Enjoy your last morning in La Fortuna. Take a stroll around the central plaza, or visit the La Fortuna Waterfall.

If you like, you'll have enough time for a chocolate-making tour. In this hands-on program, you’ll learn about the origin, history, and production of one of Costa Rica's most famous exports: chocolate. You'll participate in the cacao harvest, as well as the drying and grinding of the seeds used to produce creamy cocoa butter. You'll learn how a traditional Costa Rican chocolate drink was developed centuries ago, and, of course, sample the freshly made chocolate.

After lunch, it's time to transfer back to San José. You'll still have much of the evening to explore the city and take advantage of anything you may have missed at the beginning of the trip.

Day 4: Depart San José

San José at twilight
San José at twilight

It's time to say adiós to Costa Rica. Depending on your departure time, you'll have the morning to explore more of San José, relax in a coffee shop, or browse some shops before boarding your flight home.

Map

Map of Arenal Waterfall Expedition - 4 Days
Map of Arenal Waterfall Expedition - 4 Days