This fantastic 11-day itinerary includes many of Costa Rica's greatest hits. You will venture into some of the country's most beautiful national parks to enjoy hikes, relax in hot springs, go on beach excursions, spot wildlife, and more. In this trip, you won't just be looking outwards, but also inwards, with wellness activities and yoga lessons. Waking up to the sound of waves and trying new poses with the Pacific Ocean in the backdrop will help you be even more mindful during this unique experience.

Highlights

  • Explore the canals of Tortuguero and spot wildlife
  • Hike Arenal 1968 and visit La Fortuna Waterfall
  • Bathe in the Tabacón Mineral Hot Springs
  • Explore the beautiful Santa Teresa Beach
  • Take yoga Lessons in the Pacific Coast

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival at San José: Welcome to beautiful Costa Rica. San José
Day 2 Explore the Megadiverse Tortuguero National Park Tortuguero
Day 3 Boat Safari in Tortuguero National Park Tortuguero
Day 4 From Tortuguero Village to the Amazing Arenal Volcano Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 5 Arenal Volcano Hike & Visit to La Fortuna Waterfall Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 6 From Arenal to Playa Tamarindo Tamarindo
Day 7 Yoga Lesson - Namaste. Tamarindo
Day 8 Tamarindo Transfer to Santa Teresa Santa Teresa
Day 9 Leisure Day to Explore Santa Teresa Santa Teresa
Day 10 From Santa Teresa Beach to San José San José
Day 11 Hasta Luego & Pura Vida  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival at San José: Welcome to beautiful Costa Rica.

Metropolitan Cathedral
Metropolitan Cathedral

¡Bienvenidos a Costa Rica. When you arrive in this beautiful country, a representative will be waiting for you at the airport and will provide all the travel documents you will need. The transportation service will take you to your hotel located in the heart of the metropolitan area of San José.

San José is the capital of Costa Rica and is home to almost two-thirds of the country's total population. It has buildings more than 100 years old and vividly maintains its culture, art, and history. A myriad of theaters and museums make the capital a city full of treasures to enjoy. If you arrive early, you'll be free to explore the city at your leisure.

Be sure to visit Barrio Amón, a historic neighborhood that is 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 it a frequented bohemian district. 

For dinner, opt for a restaurant on the hills of Escazú. This elevated region on the western edge of the city offers breathtaking panoramic views of the valley below. That said, San José's culinary offerings cover everything from traditional Costa Rican food to forward-thinking fusion cuisine.

Day 2: Explore the Megadiverse Tortuguero National Park

Tortuguero Town
Tortuguero Town

Today, you will wake up early and transfer to Guápiles. Once there, you will stop for a traditional Costa Rican breakfast before continuing by bus to the dock in La Pavona. You will then board a boat for a 15-mile ride through a system of jungle waterways and rivers to reach your eco-lodge located in the heart of Tortuguero National Park.

After settling in and having lunch, you will depart for a guided visit to the main beach and the colorful town of Tortuguero. From July to September, you can book a turtle nesting tour onsite. This tour starts approximately at 8:00 pm. The hotel will let you know the exact time and the place where you will enjoy this incredible experience.

Day 3: Boat Safari in Tortuguero National Park

Sloth lounging in a tree
Sloth lounging in a tree

Today, you'll wake up bright and early to experience the beauty of the rainforest on a boat trip through the canals of Tortuguero National Park. During the boat trip, you will encounter several endemic and local species, such as birds, monkeys, and sloths. After the tour, you will return to the lodge for breakfast.

In the afternoon, you will have a second boat tour where you can enjoy the beauty of the canals and focus on the national park's astonishing flora and fauna. The rest of the day is free for you to enjoy the tropical garden and the swimming pool at the lodge.

Day 4: From Tortuguero Village to the Amazing Arenal Volcano

Arenal Lake and the towering volcano
Arenal Lake and the towering volcano

Enjoy breakfast at your accommodation, and get ready to continue your adventure.

You will travel back to the dock and continue by bus to Guápiles, where you will enjoy lunch. After lunch, a transportation service will pick you up and take you through the northern plains of the country. Here, you'll see their tropical flora and pass by different plantations before arriving at La Fortuna, a beautiful small town at the base of the magnificent Arenal Volcano.

La Fortuna is known for its unusual combination of adventure and nature. You will have the opportunity to explore the town's beautiful surroundings and visit the incredible Arenal Volcano National Park. Enjoy spectacular views as you walk through trails in the rainforest and marvel at the great variety of flora and fauna that inhabits the area. You can also head to one of the hot springs resorts and let your worries melt away. 

If you want to get close to the volcano, kayaking on Lake Arenal affords astonishing views of its peak, as does a mountain bike ride through the park toward the village of El Castillo. Alternatively, you can 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 volcano.

Here are a few restaurant recommendations for your 2-night stay in La Fortuna: 

  • Don Rufino: 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 serving well-prepared Costa Rican staples. Be on the lookout for sloths hanging from the nearby trees. 
  • Ave Del Paraíso: offers daily themed dinners such as Italian, Mexican, Mediterranean, and Costa Rican.

Boat transfer from Tortuguero to the Dock: ~1:15 hours
Transfer from Guápiles to the Arenal Volcano: 2 hours

Day 5: Arenal Volcano Hike & Visit to La Fortuna Waterfall

La Fortuna Waterfall
La Fortuna Waterfall

The main attraction of La Fortuna is the Arenal Volcano, with its nearly perfect cone shape and a height of 1633 meters. Today, you will enjoy an unforgettable guided hike in its surroundings. You will pass through trails formed by lava during the forceful 1968  Arenal Volcano eruption.  You can opt to go on the Los Patos Lagoon trail, which has medium difficulty and covers unique landscapes. This mostly-flat 3-mile trail also offers panoramic views of Arenal Volcano and Arenal Lake. Along the hike, you will discover the area's abundant flora and fauna.

After the hike on this famous volcano, you will continue the journey to La Fortuna Waterfall, which is surrounded by verdant beauty. Once there, you will hike down about 500 hundred steps to the waterfall base and take a dip in the pristine waters of La Fortuna river. Finally, the tour ends with a delicious lunch.

Day 6: From Arenal to Playa Tamarindo

Sunset on the Pacific coast
Sunset on the Pacific coast

After breakfast at your hotel in La Fortuna, a transportation service will take you west through Guanacaste, past volcanic mountain ranges, flatlands, and villages as you head toward the Pacific coast.

Once you arrive, you can rest up at your hotel or spend the afternoon exploring with a sea kayak and snorkeling tour. As you row from Tamarindo Beach towards the white sands of Capitán Island, you can enjoy the azure blue of the crystalline waters while observing the underwater coral reef and tropical fish.

If you happen to visit between October and March, head to Las Baulas National Marine Park to see leatherback turtles come ashore for a truly memorable experience. Every night during high tide in the nesting season, female leatherbacks make their way up the beach to lay eggs— It's an incomparable sight.

Here are a few suggestions for meals in Tamarindo: 

  • For breakfast, head to charming La Bodega and order one of their fantastic egg sandwiches (like the Kristina, served with tomato, local organic goat cheese, red onion, and local smoked trout on a buttered and toasted homemade bread). Homemade banana bread and fresh juices are other standout items of the menu. 
  • Pull up a stool at the Green Papaya, which serves some of the best tacos and burritos in town (and offers vegetarian options) in a casual atmosphere. 
  • Steps from the beach, Surf Shack serves topnotch burgers, onion rings, and milkshakes in an aluminum-sided hut decorated with surfboards. 
  • Nogi's is perfect for sunset dining thanks to its beachfront location. They serve a varied menu of seafood and grilled meat—be sure to save room for a slice of their coconut cream pie. 

Day 7: Yoga Lesson - Namaste.

Yoga lessons at the hotel
Yoga lessons at the hotel

Today, you will find serenity and peace in your heart. Your hotel offers free open-air yoga lessons with professionally trained instructors on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. You can enjoy your vacation days feeling powerful and renewed. The hotel also offers evening classes to wrap the day up with mindfulness and appreciation. Private yoga instruction is available on request.

Tamarindo has several activities to enjoy with the family, such as kayaking tours, surf lessons, ATV rentals, snorkeling, and yoga lessons. There are also several beautiful beaches to visit:

  • Conchal
  • Brasilito
  • Flamingo
  • Potrero

Day 8: Tamarindo Transfer to Santa Teresa

Playa Santa Teresa
Playa Santa Teresa

This morning, you'll have a 4-hour transfer to the South Nicoya Peninsula and the small fishing village of Santa Teresa. Renowned for its excellent surf, beautiful stretches of sand, and laid-back atmosphere, Santa Teresa officially kicks off the beach-holiday portion of your itinerary. After checking into your hotel, the rest of the day is yours to surf or explore or both.  

The town has rapidly grown in the past few years, as its beautiful coastline and its white sandy beaches make it a popular destination among surfing enthusiasts. There is a variety of bars, restaurants, and cafés where visitors can relax near the beachside.

Here are a few restaurant recommendations for your stay in Santa Teresa: 

  • Enjoy a meal with your feet in the sand at Banana Beach, which offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner (as well as potent tropical cocktails) overlooking the water. Note: it's cash only.
  • Burger Rancho serves up a long list of patties (including veggie options) as well as salads, seafood, and smoothies in an airy, wood-filled space that has TVs for watching games.
  • Zuma Restaurant is a favorite for Israeli fare like hummus, shish kebabs, and falafel, as well as Costa Rican dishes. They also mix a lengthy menu of smoothies that hit the spot for breakfast or a healthy post-surf snack.
  • Soda Tiquicia is an easy stop for Casados (traditional Costa Rican meals with rice, meat, beans, and salad) in a casual, family-friendly space. 

Day 9: Leisure Day to Explore Santa Teresa

Get into warrior pose at one of several yoga studios
Get into warrior pose at one of several yoga studios

Today, you can explore Santa Teresa and the nearby area at your leisure. When it comes to activities, there's something for everyone: 

  • Playa Santa Teresa has some of the best and most consistent waves in all of Costa Rica, making it an excellent choice for beginners who want to try a surf lesson. 
  • Go on a guided horseback ride through the hills of nearby fishing hamlet Mal País, ending with a sunset ride along the beach. 
  • Unwind with a yoga session or a standup paddleboarding lesson along the shore. 
  • Spend the morning sport fishing for mahi-mahi, tuna, sailfish, and marlin, then bring your catch to Banana Beach Restaurant and have them prepare it for you.
  • Rent an ATV to explore the forest trails and visit some of the area's more remote beaches.
  • Nature hiking in the Curú Wildlife Refuge: Located in Paquera, this private refuge is considered one of the best places in the Nicoya Peninsula for nature and wildlife lovers. On this 90-minute guided hike, you'll find diverse ecosystems with a wide variety of species, such as monkeys, iguanas, and macaws. You'll also learn about organic agriculture, sustainable use of the land, animal behavior, and how the locals use various plants as natural remedies and medicines.

Day 10: From Santa Teresa Beach to San José

National Museum in San José
National Museum of Costa Rica in San José

Today, you will head back to San José. First, you will travel to the area of Paquera. Once there, you will take a  ferry to Puntarenas Province. This trip takes approximately 65 minutes, curving around the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula. Once in Puntarenas, you will continue your drive until you arrive at San José.

If you have time and energy, you can explore the city at your leisure. 

Day 11: Hasta Luego & Pura Vida

National Theater in San José
National Theater in San José

Today at the appropriate time, you will check out from your hotel and transportation service will take you to the Juan Santamaría International Airport. Once there, you will catch your international flight to your onward destination. Have a safe trip, and be sure to visit the beautiful country of Costa Rica again soon.

Map

Map of Nature & Yoga in Costa Rica: Tortuguero, Arenal, & the Pacific - 11 Days
Map of Nature & Yoga in Costa Rica: Tortuguero, Arenal, & the Pacific - 11 Days