Add a little adrenaline to your family vacation with this eight-day Costa Rica adventure. Starting in San José, you'll set out to experience the rainforest and its hidden treasures first-hand in Arenal Volcano National Park. Raft the rapids of the Sarapiquí River, zipline through the jungle canopy, and visit with monkeys and parrots at a local wildlife center. End your trip where the rainforest meets the ocean at Manuel Antonio National Park, where kids can swim and snorkel, relax on pristine white sand beaches, and go dolphin-spotting on a catamaran cruise.


  • Get to know San José's lively markets and museums
  • Raft through jungle scenery on the Sarapiquí River
  • Zipline over the rainforest canopy in Arenal Volcano National Park
  • Meet monkeys, sloths, parrots & snakes at the Proyecto Asis Rescue Center
  • Swim, snorkel, and sail along the turquoise coast of Manuel Antonio National Park

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in San José San José
Day 2 Transfer to Arenal - Whitewater Rafting on the Sarapiquí River Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 3 Arenal Volcano Excursions: Zipline, Hike & Hot Springs Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 4 Proyecto Asis Rescue Center Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 5 Arenal to Manuel Antonio Manuel Antonio
Day 6 Manuel Antonio - Catamaran & Snorkeling Manuel Antonio
Day 7 Manuel Antonio, Return to San José San José
Day 8 Depart From San José  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in San José

The National Theater of Costa Rica is an architectural jewel of San José
The National Theater of Costa Rica is an architectural jewel of San José

Welcome to the land of pura vida! After arriving at Juan Santamaria International Airport in Costa Rica's capital, San José, your shuttle service will take you to your hotel to check in, leaving you with the rest of the day free to explore on your own. 

Suggested activities include: 

  • Stroll through the San José Central Market, the largest in the city, with over 200 shops, food stalls, and sodas (traditional restaurants) perfect for an inexpensive lunch of casado—a traditional dish of rice, beans, and meat served with tortillas
  • Visit the Museo de los Niños, a children's museum with more than 40 rooms of interactive experiences on topics ranging from the human body to outer space
  • Spend the afternoon at the Spirogyra Butterfly Garden. Located in downtown San José amidst the city's lush botanical garden, kids will love seeing the butterflies in their natural habitat and learning more about different species.
  • Take a trip to the Teatro Nacional, an opulent neoclassical building constructed in the late 19th century, which offers free guided tours on the hour. You can also check their calendar to take in dance, music, and theatre performances.

For a casual dinner, try Café de los Deseos in the Bohemian neighborhood of Barrio Otoya for Costa Rican cuisine served at tables hand-painted by local artists. Or, for fine dining, head to Restaurante Grano de Oro, a local favorite helmed by French chef Francis Canal, who prepares Costa Rican ingredients using European techniques.

Day 2: Transfer to Arenal, Whitewater Rafting on the Sarapiquí River

Raft one of the country's most exciting rivers
Raft one of the country's most exciting rivers

After an early rise and breakfast at the hotel, you'll transfer by car the three hours to the entrance of Arenal Volcano National Park. Home to the 5,437-foot (1,657 m) peak of the same name, Costa Rica's most famous landmark is still classified as an active volcano.

On the way, you'll stop for a whitewater rafting adventure on the Sarapiquí River. After a lesson from your professional guide, embark on a seven-mile river journey featuring over 30 class III and IV rapids. About halfway through the trip, take a break onshore for some refreshing tropical fruit and a traditional Costa Rican lunch. After the second leg of the rafting journey, you'll transfer to your hotel for a well-earned rest.

Day 3: Arenal Volcano Excursions: Zipline, Hike & Hot Springs

See the rainforest canopy from above
See the rainforest canopy from above

One of Fortuna's main attractions is its famous Canopy Tour, where you can fly high over the rainforest on an adrenaline-fueled adventure. This morning you'll buckle into your zipline and travel between treetop platforms, enjoying dizzying views of the Arenal River Canyon. A high point of the experience is the chance to see the extraordinary flora and fauna of the rainforest up close. Keep an eye out for the three types of monkeys that call this zone home, as well as sloths, hummingbirds, and toucans.

In the afternoon, your bilingual guide will pick you up for a gentle hiking tour to the active side of Arenal. Here you will walk through rainforest trails to spot diverse wildlife such as monkeys, toucans, wild turkeys, sloths, a wide variety of birds, and sometimes snakes! Arriving at the observation point just in time for sunset, your tour guide will share some history and information about the area and the volcano's activity.

Later, you will be transferred to a local hot spring to take a relaxing dip in thermal waters and enjoy a delicious dinner at the end of the day.

Plan your trip to Costa Rica
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Day 4: Proyecto Asis Rescue Center

Help care for animals like white-faced capuchin monkeys at Proyecto Asis
Help care for animals like white-faced capuchin monkeys at Proyecto Asis

Today you'll visit Proyecto Asis, a rescue and rehabilitation center for local wildlife. The naturalist-led tour begins with a brief introduction to the facility, followed by a walk along the trails around the reserve. As you stop in front of each animal enclosure, you'll learn fascinating facts about the diverse creatures of this region. While the animals at the center vary, you're likely to see anteaters, snakes, monkeys, parrots, and sloths. Animal lovers and budding naturalists can sign up for a volunteer tour, where you'll get the chance to help feed and care for the animals during your visit.

Day 5: Transfer to Manuel Antonio, Explore

Drive to Manuel Antonio for some beach time
Drive to Manuel Antonio for some beach time

This morning, you'll transfer to the Pacific coast at Manuel Antonio National Park, where you can take your pick of one of the park's four beautiful beaches. If you're hungry for more adventure, you can also hike on one of the park's many trails (following the signs) and get up close to capuchin monkeys, sloths, and over 200 species of birds. Snorkeling is also accessible from multiple points along the beaches.

In the evening, head to the town of Quepos for dinner at Gabriella's for pretty sunset views over a meal of fresh fish or steak.

Day 6: Catamaran Cruise & Snorkeling

Swim, paddle, or snorkel in the pristine waters off Manuel Antonio National Park
Swim, paddle, or snorkel in the pristine waters off Manuel Antonio National Park

This morning takes you to the beautiful coastal town of Manuel Antonio, where you'll set sail on the turquoise waters of Costa Rica's Pacific coast. Onboard the 100-foot (31 m) Ocean King catamaran, you can swim, snorkel, or sit back with cold drinks and snacks as you watch for dolphins and enjoy spectacular views.

The rest of the day is free to relax on the beach.

Day 7: Return to San José

San José's Parque Nacional
San José's Parque Nacional

On your last full day in Costa Rica, take the morning to enjoy a leisurely breakfast and any last activities (or sunrise swims) around Manuel Antonio.

Then it's time to begin the 3.5-hour drive back to San José, where you'll have the evening to explore the city and take advantage of anything you may have missed at the beginning of the trip. If you prefer, your specialist can also organize a 30-minute flight. The rest of the day is yours to check out the city's local restaurants, plazas, and historic sites.

Day 8: Depart 

Farewell, Costa Rica
Farewell, Costa Rica

It's time to say "adiós" to Costa Rica. Depending on your departure, enjoy more time discovering San José. Relax in a café or browse the local shops for souvenirs before boarding your flight home. Safe travels!

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 eight days in Costa Rica, or discover the best time to visit Costa Rica.


Map of Costa Rica Family Adventure: San José, Arenal & Manuel Antonio - 8 Days
Map of Costa Rica Family Adventure: San José, Arenal & Manuel Antonio - 8 Days