Explore Costa Rica off the beaten path on this family-friendly 8-day itinerary. Start with some rainforest adventure as you hike to waterfalls and volcanoes in Arenal and zipline through the forest canopy in Guapiles. Then shift gears and head to the pristine Nicoya Peninsula, where you'll relax on golden beaches, snorkel the coral reefs of Tortuga Island, and spot dolphins, sea turtles, macaws, and monkeys at the Curu Wildlife Reserve.


  • Hike to waterfalls & hanging bridges in Arenal
  • Zipline through the rainforest near Braulio Carillo National Park
  • Spot dolphins & sea turtles at Curu Wildlife Reserve
  • Snorkel with coral reefs & tropical fish on Tortuga Island
  • Relax on the beach at Playa Tambor

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Welcome to Costa Rica - Private Transfer to Arenal Volcano Area Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 2 Arenal Hanging Bridges, La Fortuna Waterfall & Volcano Walk Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 3 Aerial Tram & Zipline Adventure Guapiles
Day 4 Transfer to the Nicoya Peninsula  Tambor
Day 5 Curu Nature Reserve,Tortuga Island, & Pochote Mangrove Safari  Tambor
Day 6 Free Day in Tambor Tambor
Day 7 Beach Time & Transfer to San José San José
Day 8 Depart Costa Rica San José

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Welcome to Costa Rica - Private Transfer to Arenal Volcano Area

Arenal Volcano
Blue skies over Arenal Volcano 

Welcome to Costa Rica! Upon arrival, you'll be welcomed at the airport and transferred to your hotel in La Fortuna. At 350 feet (106 m) above sea level, this village is best known as the gateway to Arenal Volcano National Park. From town, you'll have panoramic views of the mammoth 5,357-foot (1,633 m) volcano, which remains one of the country's most iconic landmarks.

Enjoy dinner in your hotel, or head out to explore the town. Solid local dining options include: 

  • 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.
  • Rancho Perla, a popular open-air restaurant (you may even spot sloths hanging from the nearby trees) serving well-prepared Costa Rican staples.

Day 2: Arenal Hanging Bridges, La Fortuna Waterfall & Volcano Walk

Explore Arenal via treetop hanging bridges
Take a treetop hike at the Arenal Hanging Bridges

Today you'll venture deep into the rainforest, starting with a guided treetop hike along the Arenal Hanging Bridges. This network of hiking trails involves crossing 15 bridges—some hundreds of feet long—before arriving at lookout points affording sweeping views of Arenal Volcano. You'll also get an up-close look at the incredible biodiversity in this region. More than 350 bird species can be found here alone. Your nature guide will teach you about Costa Rican culture, history, and nature while pointing out rare and remarkable plants, animals, and birds along the way.

After your adventure on the hanging bridges, you will head to the Arenal Volcano National Park. The trails are generally flat and not very strenuous, perfect for a leisurely and informative guided walk.

After breaking for a leisurely lunch, you'll experience another star of the Arenal region: La Fortuna Waterfall. If Arenal is the most famous volcano in the country, then La Fortuna is easily the most famous falls. It's located a 15-minute drive from the town of La Fortuna, at the base of the dormant Chato Volcano. The waters here plunge 210 feet (64 m) into a tropical lagoon, and a 500-step downhill hike provides the opportunity to see the falls from the bottom up. Besides taking photos, be sure to swim and relax in the La Fortuna River below the falls.

Day 3: Aerial Tram & Zipline Adventure

Zip Line
Zipline through the rainforest canopy

Today takes you east to Guapiles, where you'll embark on an immersive nature experience for the whole family. The Aerial Tram Tour lets you live firsthand all the secrets the forest holds, while you fly above the treetops and experience magnificent views of the Braulio Carrillo National Park. Besides the gondola ride, you will also have time for a guided nature walk and a visit to the butterfly and orchid garden, finishing at the terrarium to admire the amphibian and reptile species.

In the afternoon, get ready to push your limits on one of the most popular activities in Costa Rica—ziplining. Experience adrenaline and adventure as you slide safely above the magnificent natural scenery of Braulio Carrillo National Park. Travel from platform to platform, admiring the close-up views of plants and wildlife as you fly through the rainforest canopy.

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Day 4: Transfer to the Nicoya Peninsula 

Tambor Beach
A beach paradise at Playa Tambor 

This morning you'll grab breakfast to go and set off for the beautiful Nicoya Peninsula. The drive takes you through farmlands and small forests as you head down to the coast. Once you reach the beach, a ferry will take you to the peninsula on an hour-long scenic ride. There are many opportunities to see dolphins, turtles, stingrays, and other marine wildlife en route. 

Arrive at the hotel in Tambor after midday, and the afternoon is yours to enjoy the beach and explore the hotel property, which is home to horses, a nine-hole golf course, and lookouts with breathtaking views.

Day 5: Curu Nature Reserve, Tortuga Island, & Pochote Mangrove Safari 

Tortuga Island
Snorkel off Tortuga Island's white sand beaches

Early in the morning, board a comfortable boat in Bahia Ballena to enjoy a relaxing cruise. Watch seabirds and keep an eye out for jumping fish while making your way to the Curu Nature Reserve. You may also see dolphins, whales, and sea turtles along the way. After arriving at the reserve's beach, you can set off to explore trails surrounded by the dense rainforest. There is a large variety of wild animals, including monkeys; they live in a natural habitat that coexists with the plantations and the cattle farms.
Next, reboard the boat and pass a shipwreck and a magnificent rock archway carved by nature. Once you get to Tortuga Island, snorkel to admire the coral reef and a large variety of tropical fish, oysters, and octopi. Enjoy a stroll along the gorgeous, white-sand beaches, where you can rent kayaks and other watersports equipment.

Following the Tortuga Island visit, move on to the Pochote Mangrove. While the boat glides along the calm water, listen to the sounds of the jungle and see some of the hundreds of types of birds and animals that have lived in this mangrove for many centuries. After this short safari, the boat will return you to your hotel for the evening. 

Day 6: Free Day in Tambor

Golden sands at Playa Tambor
Golden sands at Playa Tambor

Today is free for you to enjoy at your own pace—simply relax on the golden beaches of Tambor, where the waves are placid and the sand is flat at low tide — perfect for soccer or beach volleyball. Or maybe go for a peaceful walk along the 2.5-mile-long (4km) beach path around the bay.

Day 7: Beach Time & Transfer to San José

San José at sunset

Spend this morning enjoying the hotel facilities and the beautiful beach. In the afternoon, your guide will bring you back to San José for your final night in Costa Rica.

Day 8: Depart Costa Rica

San Jose at twilight
Adios Costa Rica!

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 café, and/or browse some shops before heading to the airport to catch your flight home. Safe travels!

More Costa Rica Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Costa Rica? Check out these other Costa Rica itineraries, with outdoor adventures, cultural trips, and best-of tours to hit the highlights. 

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