This eight-day adventure trip to Costa Rica offers an array of adventures in a variety of landscapes, from city to cloud forest to the sea. Enjoy hiking near an active volcano, some of the world’s best bird-watching, paddle-boarding across a lagoon, and snorkeling with sea turtles. Start the trip in Arenal for nature walks, then transfer to Monteverde for zip line tours of the forest canopy. End in Tamarindo — a surfer's paradise.

Highlights

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Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Liberia, Transfer to La Fortuna & Hot Springs Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 2 Hike to Hule Lagoon Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 3 Arenal to Monteverde by Boat & Nocturnal Nature Tour Monteverde
Day 4 Zip-Line Fun in the Cloud Forest Monteverde
Day 5 Monteverde Transfer to Tamarindo Tamarindo
Day 6 Private Surf Lesson at Playa Tamarindo Tamarindo
Day 7 Beach Day & Sunset Catamaran Sail in Tamarindo Tamarindo
Day 8 Tamarindo Transfer to Liberia International Airport  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Liberia, Transfer to La Fortuna & Hot Springs

View of Arenal Volcano
View of Arenal Volcano

Welcome to the land of Pura Vida! After arriving at Daniel Oduber Quíros International Airport in Liberia, 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 checking into your hotel, you'll have the rest of the day to explore. 

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-line tour over the forest canopy, where you'll see the La Fortuna and Pino Blanco Waterfalls, along with the majestic Arenal Volcano.

In the evening, you can soothe your muscles with a relaxing dip in one of the many mineral-rich hot springs in the area. Afterward, enjoy dinner in town.

Day 2: Hike to Hule Lagoon

You might spot a sloth on the trail
You might spot a sloth on the trail

Today you'll hike to one of the natural highlights of Costa Rica: the volcanic Hule Lagoon. You'll set out from La Fortuna early in the morning and drive 1.5 hours to the outskirts of Juan Castro Blanco National Park. This is your starting point. Hike five miles (eight km) through the plains bordering the volcanic crater before heading up into the rainforest toward the lagoon. 

Along the way, enjoy the rich biodiversity of the area. The landscape here runs the gamut from grassy plains to clay soil to volcanic rock, which makes for a wide array of ecosystems within a relatively small area. Keep your eyes peeled for tropical birds, monkeys, and even three-toed sloths! You'll also pass several other lagoons on your way before reaching the magnificent Hule, located at the base of the Cerro Congo Volcano.

Stop here and enjoy a traditional Costa Rican lunch as you take in panoramic views of the mountains. Return to La Fortuna for an evening of relaxation.

Day 3: Arenal to Monteverde by Boat & Nocturnal Nature Tour

A guide will point out animals like sloths during the night tour
A guide will point out animals like sloths during the night tour

After breakfast at your resort in La Fortuna, you'll transfer to the Monteverde region of Costa Rica. This is no ordinary route; you'll skip the drive and board a boat, which will take you across the tranquil waters of Lake Arenal. On this 3.5-hour boat ride, you'll have ample opportunity to spot local birds like herons and anhingas. 

When you arrive at Monteverde, take the afternoon and evening to enjoy nearby Santa Elena, a charming town with Quaker influences known for excellent coffee and cheese. There are also plenty of dining options featuring delectable Costa Rican favorites like ceviche and arroz con pollo (rice with chicken).

This evening, you'll have the chance to see the wildlife of the Cloud Forest Reserve at their most active on a guided night tour. A naturalist will point out sloths, armadillos, and kinkajous, as well as sleeping birds. You'll have the chance to hear and see different animals than during the daytime, like agoutis, porcupines, gray foxes, tarantulas, and frogs.
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Day 4: Zip-Line Fun in the Cloud Forest

One of the cloud forest's high-altitude suspension bridges
One of the cloud forest's high-altitude suspension bridges

Today is devoted to an adrenaline-pumping zip-line ride through the cloud forests of Monteverde. You'll start by ascending hundreds of feet above the jungle canopy via a network of trails and suspension bridges. The exotic flora and fauna of the region will be on full display, and your specialized guides will point out the most interesting specimens and residents of the forest's remarkable ecosystem.

Upon reaching the end of the line, the adventure of whizzing down the mountain begins. You will connect to a zip-line cable that stretches over the treetops and across canyons, ultimately returning you to the starting point. Monteverde's zip-line excursions are considered the most thrilling in the country and are an unmissable highlight of any Costa Rican vacation.

Day 5: Monteverde Transfer to Tamarindo

Playa Tamarindo on Costa Rica's Pacific coast
Playa Tamarindo on Costa Rica's Pacific coast

It's time to leave the hilltops of Monteverde as you travel east. The landscapes will change as you leave the rainforests behind and enter the tropical dry forest and vast savannahs of Guanacaste Province. After three hours you'll enter Liberia, the region's capital.

Continue onward over paved and dirt roads towards the Nicoya Peninsula. After an hour you'll arrive at the ocean and your destination: the popular surf haven of Tamarindo. This is a small community teeming with activity, famous for its sunny beaches and world-class surf.

Day 6: Private Surf Lesson at Playa Tamarindo

A surfer at sunset on Playa Tamarindo
A surfer at sunset on Playa Tamarindo

In the morning, enjoy a private surf lesson on Playa Tamarindo. Take the rest of the day to practice riding the waves on your own, or enjoy some well-deserved relaxation on the beach. 

A must-visit spot near Tamarindo for more experienced surfers is Playa Naranjo, which locals have nicknamed "Witch's Rock." It's located in a national park, is accessible only by boat, and features big surf with both left and right breaking waves. A few miles beyond, you'll reach Ollie's Point, another excellent surf locale.

You can also take a yoga class at one of Tamarindo's studios, stroll through town, or enjoy a meal at a local café.

Day 7: Beach Day & Sunset Catamaran Sail in Tamarindo

Keep an eye out for dolphins on the tour
Keep an eye out for dolphins on the tour

There's no shortage of secluded bays and inviting beaches in Guanacaste Province. And after so much activity, you're likely eager for a day relaxing on the sand. If you happen to be a surfer (or just want to learn), Tamarindo is the place. You'll find both beginner and advanced waves here, as well as a number of surf schools. This laid-back surfer haven is also home to some of the best restaurants in the country. 

In the afternoon, you'll board a catamaran for a sunset sail. The ship will stop in a tranquil bay, drop anchor, and you'll explore the crystalline waters while the crew prepares a dinner feast. While you eat, enjoy the sunset over the Pacific horizon while keeping a sharp eye out for dolphins, sea turtles, flying fish, or even a breaching whale.

Day 8: Tamarindo Transfer to Liberia International Airport

Bid Costa Rica farewell
Bid Costa Rica farewell

It's time to say adiós to Costa Rica! After breakfast, you'll begin the hour-long drive back to Liberia and the airport, where you'll catch your return flight home. Until next time!