On this 16-day itinerary, you'll explore the biodiversity of Costa Rica while visiting three distinct regions of the country. First is a visit to Arenal Volcano National Park for some adventure sports, then it's off to remote Bajos del Toro and its three incredible waterfalls. As a grand finale, you'll embark on a guided hike into Corcovado National Park, the most biodiverse region in Costa Rica.

Highlights

  • Enjoy adventure sports in Arenal Volcano National Park
  • Visit the countryside of Bajos del Toro and hike to three waterfalls
  • Go on a river safari on the RĂ­o Tarcoles
  • Venture into Corcovado National Park, the most biodiverse area in Costa Rica
  • Snorkel in the waters of the Caño Island Biological Reserve

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Costa Rica - Transfer to Arenal and Luxurious Hot Springs La Fortuna
Day 2 Horseback Riding to La Fortuna Waterfall - Exclusive Farm Tour & Cooking Lesson La Fortuna
Day 3 Private Nature Walk in Ecological Park & Butterfly Garden Danaus La Fortuna
Day 4 Arenal Hanging Bridges & Luxury Hot Springs La Fortuna
Day 5 Arenal Private Zip-Line Adventure La Fortuna
Day 6 Full-Day Exclusive Whitewater Rafting Trip on the Balsa River La Fortuna
Day 7 Private Transfer from Arenal to Bajos del Toro Bajos del Toro
Day 8 Bajos del Toro Private Guided Waterfall Tour Bajos del Toro
Day 9 Exclusive Horseback Riding at Bajos del Toro Bajos del Toro
Day 10 Private Tour of La Paz Waterfall Gardens Vara Blanca
Day 11 Grand Safari on the Tárcoles River Uvita
Day 12 Private Guided Hike in Corcovado National Park Uvita
Day 13 Exclusive Snorkeling Trip at Caño Island Biological Reserve Uvita
Day 14 Private Nature Walk at Marino Ballena Park Uvita
Day 15 Luxury Free Day in Uvita Uvita
Day 16 Departure  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Costa Rica - Transfer to Arenal and Luxurious Hot Springs

Natural Hot Springs at Arenal
Natural Hot Springs at Arenal

Welcome to Costa Rica!

Upon arrival at Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO), in the capital of San José, the driver of your private car service will meet you. Rather than stay in the city, you'll immediately kick off your grand Costa Rica luxury adventure with a three-hour drive northwest to Arenal Volcano National Park. This is a scenic journey that passes through rainforest-blanketed mountains with howler monkeys swinging from the trees and the calls of toucans and macaws carrying through the air.

You'll arrive in the town of La Fortuna, the gateway to excursions within Arenal Volcano National Park. You won't miss the namesake volcano, as it stands an impressive 5,479 feet (1,670 meters) high and overlooks La Fortuna. You'll likely be tired from your long journey, so the only thing remaining on today's itinerary is total relaxation, which is waiting for you at the natural hot springs on the property of your luxury hotel.

For dinner, you can either enjoy gourmet room service or hit the town. Despite its small size, there are over 100 restaurants in La Fortuna, and you can find everything from fine dining to sushi to steakhouses serving perfectly grilled meat.

Day 2: Horseback Riding to La Fortuna Waterfall - Exclusive Farm Tour & Cooking Lesson

Horseback riding to La Fortuna Waterfall
Horseback riding to La Fortuna Waterfall

You'll have a full day to enjoy Arenal Volcano National Park. It begins with a four-hour horseback excursion to the most famous cascades in the country: the La Fortuna Waterfall. Led by an English-speaking guide, you'll trot over to the entrance and then hike down 1,000 steps to the waterfall. The sight of these falls plunging 200 feet (75 meters) straight down into a sky-blue lagoon is a romantic dream come to life. And if you can't resist the lagoon's charms, then feel free to dive right in. 

After having enjoyed your half-day waterfall adventure, you'll then embark on a guided tour of a local organic farm. On the tour, you'll learn the differences between traditional and organic farming as well as take part in activities like harvesting vegetables from the garden and milling fresh-cut sugar cane. Also in store is a cooking lesson with a family at a local farm in which you'll help prepare a typical organic meal on a woodstove. Once it's ready, everyone will sit down and enjoy dinner.

Day 3: Private Nature Walk in Ecological Park & Butterfly Garden Danaus

The iconic blue morpho is one species you'll find in the butterfly garden
The iconic blue morpho is one species you'll find in the butterfly garden

It's now time to venture further into the tropical rainforest around Arenal and explore. On this half-day tour, you'll be led by a bilingual private guide on a nature walk through the Ecological Park & Butterfly Garden Danaus. This is a small reserve that was saved from exploitation by conservationists, and now the secondary rainforest that encompasses the area regenerates naturally. This makes it a model of sustainable tourism. 

You'll begin the hike on a circuit trail that leads through the rainforest and will make a stop at a botanical garden along the route. It boasts more than 600 varieties of plants, a butterfly garden home to more than 40 species, plus areas specifically designated for frog reproduction. Other areas are dedicated to the cultivation of medicinal plants while others feature wetlands that are nesting sites for exotic birds. 

Then there are the Maleku. The Malekus are a small indigenous tribe (only around 650 people left) from the north of Costa Rica. Part of the nature walk involves visiting their community to learn about their culture and their focus on the environment and reforestation. Throughout the walk, you'll also have ample opportunities to spot exotic wildlife like tree frogs, caimans, monkeys, sloths, and many species of birds. Afterward, you'll stop at the park's souvenir shop to enjoy a delicious snack of fresh fruit.

Day 4: Arenal Hanging Bridges & Luxury Hot Springs

Suspension bridges in the rainforest canopy
Suspension bridges in the rainforest canopy

Today you'll enjoy Arenal's scenery from a different vantage point: above the jungle canopy. Accompanied by your guide, you'll wander along well-marked trails that lead you over suspension bridges above the treetops—some that are hundreds of feet long—for a once-in-a-lifetime view of Arenal Volcano. You'll also get an up-close look at the incredible biodiversity that occurs in this region. More than 350 bird species can be found here alone.

There's a lot of hiking in store as you view the jungle's various flora and fauna from the hanging bridges. When you return to your hotel you can return to the hot springs to soak your weary muscles before dinner.

Day 5: Arenal Private Zip-Line Adventure

Zip-line adventure in Arenal
Zip-line adventure in Arenal

You've explored Arenal on foot, now it's time to explore it in the air. Today your guide will arrange a private zip-line excursion over the rainforest canopy around Arenal. It's a high-flying, pulse-pounding adventure as you soar over the treetops with the iconic cone of Arenal Volcano in the background.

The canopy tour area is located at a canyon in the Arenal River. The depth at points means you'll be soaring 262 feet (80 meters) above the ground. There are 12 platforms here with cables running over 1,150 feet (350 meters), so there will be no shortage of excitement. And if you're traveling with the family, not to worry—the minimum age requirement for zip-line tours is 10 years old.

Day 6: Full-Day Exclusive Whitewater Rafting Trip on the Balsa River

Rafting fun on the Balsa River
Rafting fun on the Balsa River

Running through the Arenal area is the Río Balsa, one of the funnest rivers to ride in the entire region. The fact that it features class II and III rapids mean that it is just wild enough to be exciting while also being safe enough for the whole family (min. age is 8 y/o). In the morning you'll embark on a full-day whitewater adventure on the Balsa, which includes a stop for lunch. It's also something of a safari in that you'll be able to spot many exotic animals on the banks of the river as you travel down it. 

You'll meet the English speaking rafting guides in the morning at the river put-in, which is located 30 minutes from La Fortuna. Then, after a safety talk and paddling instructions, you'll grab your helmet and life vest and be underway. Expect a fun ride as you paddle through rolling rapids with names like Morning Coffee and Rock around the Croc. There will be stops in tranquil river pools for swimming, and throughout the trip you'll be able to spot exotic wildlife in the jungles along the banks of the river.

Day 7: Private Transfer from Arenal to Bajos del Toro

Cataratas del Toro, the star of Bajos del Toro
Cataratas del Toro, the star of Bajos del Toro

In the mid-morning, you'll embark on a two-hour private transfer from La Fortuna southeast to the small reserve of Bajos del Toro. Famous for its beautiful waterfalls and rivers, it makes a great day trip for those who want to get off the tourist trail and experience real, rugged Costa Rican wilderness. But it isn't all roughing it; in the afternoon you'll enjoy a private guided tour of the town of Los Bajos, a thriving rural community with rich traditions and beautiful landscapes.

This guided excursion also pays a visit to the private garden of a local orchid enthusiast, Don Martín Porras. His collection features more than 400 orchid species, from large and brightly colored blooms to smaller specimens whose beauty is best appreciated through a magnifying glass. Afterward, you'll take a leisurely stroll through town and stop at Doña Olga’s Pulpería, where you'll sample local pastries and learn to make fresh tortillas

Day 8: Bajos del Toro Private Guided Waterfall Tour

On the path to waterfalls
On the path to waterfalls

In the morning a bilingual guide will take you on a private hike along the wilderness trails around Bajos del Toro. You'll travel along paths that run next to a winding creek until you reach your ultimate destination: three luxurious, cascading waterfalls. Along the way, the guide will reveal insight into the cloud forest eco-system and the various exotic flora and fauna it supports. Eventually, you'll reach the waterfalls where you'll be treated to incredible views as well as an opportunity to swim in the lagoons. 

Day 9: Exclusive Horseback Riding at Bajos del Toro

Horseback Riding in Bajos del Toro
Horseback Riding in Bajos del Toro

In the morning our naturalist guide will lead you on a horseback riding adventure around the bucolic region of Bajos del Toro. It's a great opportunity to view and appreciate the landscapes of Costa Rica's unforgettable countryside. You'll trot along at a relaxed pace as you enjoy the incredible scenery that surrounds you, from the misty cloud-forests to the green plains.

The journey places you right in the middle of a real tropical paradise as you ride near the steep slopes of the Poas Volcano, along running clear-water streams, and past awe-inspiring waterfalls. The excursion also affords an opportunity to meet and get to know members of the local community as the horseback trails pass by local farms.

Day 10: Private Tour of La Paz Waterfall Gardens

La Paz Waterfall Gardens

After breakfast, you'll enjoy a private guided visit to the La Paz Waterfall Gardens, which is located north of Costa Rica's capital of San José. La Paz is a protected area and expansive open-air theme park home to a wide variety of natural attractions. These, of course, include the namesake waterfalls as well as wildlife habitats and even a butterfly enclosure and aviary home to exotic birds.

The special thing about La Paz is that it is home to all the exotic wildlife you'll continue to encounter over the course of your adventure in Costa Rica. Fauna you'll see in the habitats include big cats, tropical snakes and frogs, various monkeys, and many types of hummingbirds and other exotic avian species. To arrive at the waterfalls you'll follow a network of jungle trails amid stunning tropical scenery until you reach the falls, at which point you'll be able to admire them and snap photos from different perspectives. 

Day 11: Grand Safari on the Tárcoles River

American crocodile returning to the Tárcoles River
American crocodile returning to the Tárcoles River

After breakfast, you'll travel by private car service 4.5 hours to the west of Costa Rica and the coastal village of Uvita. You'll stop en-route not only to enjoy lunch but to take part in a safari jungle cruise down the Tárcoles River. This waterway is famous as a haven for American crocodiles.

On this private boat adventure, you'll get to see these magnificent reptiles, some of which exceed 13 feet (four meters). Leading the river safari is a captain and a bilingual guide, both experts in the region, who will provide information about the flora and fauna around the river. Also interesting is that the Tárcoles functions as a biological corridor between inland rainforest and coastal mangrove forest and thus is home to many species of exotic birds.

Day 12: Private Guided Hike in Corcovado National Park

Get lucky and you might spot a jaguar
Get lucky and you might spot a jaguar

Today you'll travel south to the small village of Sierpe, which is located on the river of the same name. This is one of the main access points into Corcovado National Park, a 163-square-mile protected area on Costa Rica's famously secluded Osa Peninsula. Containing 13 major eco-systems, Corcovado is the most biodiverse region in the country, and you'll get to experience it on a guided day hike. 

From Sierpe you'll take a boat to the San Pedrillo ranger station, located in the north of the park. From there you'll hike along Corcovado's ruggedly beautiful coastline before venturing into the jungle to spot a wide variety of exotic animals. These include monkeys, sloths, tapirs, white-lipped peccaries, anteaters, scarlet macaws, and the occasional jaguar. Your bilingual guide will be there every step of the way to point out all the exotic species you'll see from the many trails you'll hike throughout the day.

Day 13: Exclusive Snorkeling Trip at Caño Island Biological Reserve

Get ready for some snorkeling
Get ready for some snorkeling

This full-day excursion allows you to enjoy the wonders of the Osa Peninsula from the water. Your destination is the Caño Island Biological Reserve, located off the north coast of Osa in the Bay of Corcovado. The island and its waters enjoy protected status, as the region is home to a variety of marine life. Common species include reef sharks, sea turtles, parrot fish, eels, manta rays, puffer fish, octopuses, and more. There's also many coral-building organisms and 19 different species of coral.

On this guided snorkeling tour you'll embark from Sierpe by boat and arrive at the turquoise waters off the coast of Isla del Caño. Then it's time to dive in and explore this underwater menagerie. Isla del Caño is a diver's dream, with fantastic underwater visibility of 30-100 feet throughout the year, making it a perfect site for underwater photography. Overall, it's one of the best places in all of Costa Rica for snorkeling/diving, and, fun fact, it is a common migratory route for humpback whales. 

Day 14: Private Nature Walk at Ballena National Marine Park

The
The "Whale's Tail" of Ballena National Marine Park

Now it's time for a guided nature walk at Punta Uvita. Located here is Ballena National Marine Park, which protects 13,000 acres of ocean and nine miles of coastline. There's a diverse array of wildlife in this park, including exotic birds and mammals, and a great variety of vegetation including mangrove forest.

The day starts with a brisk walk for roughly a mile, passing through the historic town of Bahia on the way to the beach. At the entrance to Uvita Beach, you'll find a trailhead leading deeper into the park. As you walk the trail, your guide will point out any exotic wildlife you might encounter along the way, such as howler and capuchin monkeys, sloths, bats, raccoons, and colorful exotic birds like the scarlet macaw.

On the hike back, the route runs along the beach, at which point you'll be able to stop and admire the famous Tombolo. Locally known as the "Whale’s Tail," this is a natural barrier reef created by two rivers, which, due to currents, has formed the uncanny shape of a whale’s tail. It's one of the most unique stretches of coast anywhere in the country.

Day 15: Luxury Free Day in Uvita

Perhaps explore the nearby mangroves
Perhaps explore the nearby mangroves

Today is yours to spend however you choose. If you'd like, you can embark on another adventure. Optional excursions include a boat tour of the mangrove ecosystem that affords many opportunities for viewing exotic wildlife. Species you can see on this tour include monkeys, snakes, crocodiles, toucans, herons, fruit bats, and more.

You can also opt for a kayak/snorkeling adventure in Ballena National Marine Park, a whale-watching excursion (September to November only) or hit the road on a visit to local towns. Of course, another option is to simply spend the day relaxing in your luxury villa and while away the hours by the pool.

Day 16: Departure

Farewell, Costa Rica
Farewell, Costa Rica

After breakfast, you will travel either by private land transfer (four hours) or charter flight (20 minutes) to the international airport in San José, where you will catch your flight home. Adios, and come back soon!

Map

Map of Costa Rica Luxury Adventure: Volcanos, Cloud Forests, and Rivers - 16 Days
Map of Costa Rica Luxury Adventure: Volcanos, Cloud Forests, and Rivers - 16 Days