- Explore the canals of Tortuguero National Park by boat
- Walk high above the rainforest canopy on suspension bridges
- Spot wildlife in the cloud forest on a guided nighttime tour
- Snorkel off the coast in Manuel Antonio National Park
- Ride a zip-line through the jungle in Monteverde
|Day 1||Arrive & Explore Downtown San José||San José|
|Day 2||Guided Jungle Night Hike||Tortuguero|
|Day 3||Boat Along the Tortuguero Canals||Tortuguero|
|Day 4||Explore the Wilderness of Arenal||La Fortuna|
|Day 5||Hike Around a Volcano & Soak in Hot Springs||La Fortuna|
|Day 6||See Rio Celeste & Tenorio Volcano National Park||La Fortuna|
|Day 7||Guided Night Walk of Children's Eternal Forest||Monteverde|
|Day 8||Tour Monteverde Cloud Forest on a Guided Hike||Monteverde|
|Day 9||Have Fun at the Sky Adventures Park||Monteverde|
|Day 10||Transfer to Manuel Antonio National Park||Manuel Antonio|
|Day 11||Explore Manuel Antonio National Park||Manuel Antonio|
|Day 12||Boat & Snorkel in Manuel Antonio National Park||Manuel Antonio|
|Day 13||Go Horseback Riding to Nauyaca Waterfalls||Manuel Antonio|
|Day 14||Manuel Antonio to San José, Depart|
Day 1: Arrive & Explore Downtown San José
Welcome to Costa Rica! A driver will transfer you from the airport to your hotel in San José. After settling in, go for a self-guided walking tour of downtown. Depending on your hotel's location, you can walk or take a taxi to your first destination: Mercado Central (Central Market), featuring over 200 shops, food stalls, and sodas (traditional restaurants). It's a short walk to Central Park, a small plaza always bustling with activity. Pass various outdoor sculptures as you walk through the park toward Catedral Metropolitana and continue walking down Central Avenue until you reach the 19th-century Teatro Nacional.
Your first museum stop is the Museo del Oro Precolumbino, which is accessible from beneath the Plaza de la Cultura and holds the most extensive Pre-Columbian gold collection in Latin America. Next, head to the Museo del Jade, the world's largest collection of pre-Columbian jade artifacts. As you wander among thousands of unique jade pieces, you'll gain an even deeper appreciation for Costa Rica's rich history.
Read about the top restaurant recommendations in San José here.
Day 2: Guided Jungle Night Hike
Travel this morning from San José to Tortuguero National Park. A driver will pick you up in an air-conditioned minivan and transfer you to the boat dock near Tortuguero. From there, a boat will take you to your hotel in Tortuguero. Read more about the best boutique hotels in the area.
Later, you'll be outfitted with wet weather gear and a flashlight for wildlife spotting. Then you'll embark on a guided twilight adventure through the rainforest. The jungle transforms at night, and you'll have the rare opportunity to witness the transition on this excursion. Your guide will point out various nocturnal animals, insects, and plants along the walk.
Day 3: Boat Along the Tortuguero Canals
Tortuguero National Park is one of the world's most important locations for several species of nesting sea turtles. Explore the park's jungle waterways on a motorboat tour that allows you to see the forest and its wildlife from the water.
A 2021 count registered 186 species of birds in the area, along with three monkey species, crocodiles, caimans, toucans, sloths, and much more. You will likely see most of these creatures on your tour; on some of the canals, you can get close to the tangled jungle on the riverbanks where many animals can be observed.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Check out this article on the best things to do in the national park.
Day 4: Explore the Wilderness of Arenal
Transfer by land to La Fortuna, the closest town to Arenal Volcano. Later in the afternoon, visit La Fortuna Waterfall Reserve. After paying the entrance fee, you'll cross a small bridge to get to the trailhead. Beyond that is the first observation deck, where you can snap photos with a great elevated view of the waterfall as it plunges into the river below. Then it's time to descend the steps to get close to the waterfall at its base!
As you make your way down the roughly 500 steps along the trail, take breaks to check out the local flora and fauna. Once you reach the falls, cool off with a swim in the refreshing water of La Fortuna River. Enjoy the falls and the river as long as you like before starting the trek back up the stairs. For dinner, hit the town and try out one of La Fortuna's many restaurants. You might spot toucans, iguanas, and even sloths in the trees near your table.
Day 5: Hike Around a Volcano & Soak in Hot Springs
This morning is your chance to explore the Arenal Hanging Bridges. This trail system features suspension bridges that take you high above the treetops before treating you to a once-in-a-lifetime view of Arenal Volcano soaring above the canopy. With more than 350 avian species found here, birdwatching is superb.
In the afternoon, go for a hike around Arenal Volcano. Start at the entrance of the 1968 Trail, where you'll hit the well-maintained trails that skirt the base of the Arenal Volcano and Lake Arenal. This 1.5-hour route offers some of the best wildlife viewing opportunities in the park, and your naturalist guide will keep a well-trained eye out for exotic birds, monkeys, and other animals along the way. After hiking the trails, your guide will drop you off at Tabacon Hot Springs so you can soothe your muscles with a dip in mineral-rich waters.
Find out more about hiking around Arenal Volcano here.
Day 6: See Rio Celeste & Tenorio Volcano National Park
Today you'll venture into Tenorio Volcano National Park for a moderate three-hour hike along the Río Celeste, one of the most stunning natural attractions in Costa Rica. The legend says that after God painted the sky, He washed His brushes in this river, resulting in its famous electric-blue waters.
Highlights along the hike include Los Teñideros, the site where two streams of crystalline water come together and form the "heavenly" blue that gives the river its name. You'll also see the volcano's furnace vents, which expel gases at extremely high temperatures, and the spectacular Rio Celeste waterfall. Enjoy a gourmet lunch at the end of the journey.
Day 7: Guided Night Walk of Children's Eternal ForestTravel from La Fortuna to Monteverde by car and boat. After crossing Lake Arenal, you'll officially be in the Monteverde region of Costa Rica. A private vehicle will transfer you to your hotel. This evening, go on a nocturnal walk through the Children's Eternal Forest, the largest private reserve in Costa Rica. The tour starts right after nightfall, allowing you to watch the animals awakening and others seeking their nests and caves to sleep.
Day 8: Tour Monteverde Cloud Forest on a Guided HikeTransfer from your hotel to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, one of Costa Rica's ecological crown jewels. Known as the "green lung of Costa Rica" due to its rich biodiversity, this sprawling reserve is high in the country's mountainous northwest region. On a guided tour, you'll get an overview of the incredible biodiversity of this region, where upland and lowland rainforest meet. More than 350 bird species live here, including the quetzal. It's a nature lover's paradise. Check out the Best Things to Do in Monteverde for more ideas of what to see and do.
Day 9: Have Fun at the Sky Adventures Park
At the Sky Adventures Park today, you'll have your pick of ways to explore the cloud forest: zip-lining for the action-inclined, sky tram trips for a panoramic perspective, or walks along suspension bridges for close encounters with elusive bird species and other wildlife. You'll start with the guided Sky Walk, which combines trails and suspension bridges. Later, you'll ride in an open-air gondola for sweeping views across the mountains. At the end of the line, the exhilarating adventure of whizzing down the mountain begins. Connect to a zip-line cable that stretches over rainforest treetops and across clifftops, finally returning you to the starting point.
Check out this article about the best zip-lining in Monteverde for more information.
Day 10: Transfer to Manuel Antonio National Park
After breakfast, you'll transfer to Manuel Antonio National Park in a private, air-conditioned minivan. The drive takes approximately five hours, depending on traffic. You'll stop along the way in the town of Tárcoles and make your way to a bridge over the Tárcoles River. The river is famous for having the largest American crocodile population in Central America, and this is your chance to see these toothy reptiles in the wild. You can usually see at least a dozen sunbathing on the riverbanks or floating in the water from the bridge.
Continue to Manuel Antonio National Park, check in to your hotel, and get some rest before the next day's excursion. If you have the energy or inclination, both the beach and the edge of the national park are close to town, so you can easily spend time here with water sports on Espadilla Beach or a hike on the trails through the forest. You can also explore the adjacent town of Quepos for sunset views. Or you may prefer to take it easy, wandering at your own pace and stopping for dinner in a local restaurant. Here are some dining recommendations for the area.
Day 11: Explore Manuel Antonio National Park
Today you'll go on a guided tour to explore the pristine natural beauty of the world-famous Manuel Antonio National Park, filled with exotic wildlife such as monkeys, sloths, birds, reptiles, and butterflies. Your picturesque hike will take you to one of the country's best beaches, known for its white sandy beaches and crystalline blue waters. Have your camera ready as your knowledgeable guide points out diverse flora and fauna along the way.
Check out the Ultimate Guide to Manuel Antonio National Park for more information.
Day 12: Boat & Snorkel in Manuel Antonio National Park
This morning, board a catamaran at the pier in Quepos for a sailing adventure along the coast. Your guide will highlight notable wildlife and vegetation as you admire the region's islands, cliffs, and rock formations. After touring the coastline, the captain will set anchor at Biesanz Bay, where you can snorkel or relax onboard. You may spot parrotfish, starfish, angelfish, and dolphins from the boat while enjoying a barbecue lunch.
Day 13: Go Horseback Riding to Nauyaca WaterfallsToday you'll go horseback riding to the Nauyaca Waterfalls near Dominical. On this 5-mile (8km) journey, you'll follow nature trails surrounded by the rainforest. Keep your camera close and look for exotic wildlife like capuchin monkeys. Upon arrival at the falls, you'll have a couple of hours to enjoy the area and the lagoon. There are also rock outcroppings that make ideal diving spots! Afterward, enjoy a traditional meal before returning to the hotel for the evening.
Day 14: Manuel Antonio to San José, DepartThe trip ends today. You will transfer to the airport to catch your flight out. Safe travels!
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