Costa Rica National Parks Adventure - 14 Days

This tour includes 4 of Costa Rica's best national parks and includes a variety of nature tours and activities. For those who want to experience the country to the fullest extent, this is the way to do it.

Overview

This two-week tour offers a complete experience in Costa Rica, covering both the Caribbean and Pacific coasts as well as multiple national parks and beaches. Costa Rica is known for its volcanos, zip-lines, and high density of wildlife, all which will be touched upon on this tour. Regions that will be covered include San Jose, Tortuguero, Arenal, Monteverde, and Manuel Antonio. Parts of many days will be spent traveling from one region to another on land vehicles and boats, but Costa Rica's compact size will make for convenient transfers. If you want a longer trip that includes everything that makes Costa Rica iconic, this is the ideal tour for you.

Regions that will be covered include San Jose, Tortuguero, Arenal, Monteverde, and Manuel Antonio. Costa Rica's compact size makes it possible to explore so many regions in a relatively short amount of time.  

If you want a longer trip that includes everything that makes Costa Rica iconic, this is the ideal tour for you.

Highlights

  • See the Caribbean's largest sea turtle nesting site in Tortuguero National Park
  • Discover the hanging bridges, zip-lines, and hot springs of Arenal Volcano and the surrounding park
  • Trek the trails of the Monteverde Cloud Forest and see a variety of local wildlife
  • Enjoy the white-sand beaches and calm waters of Manuel Antonio National Park.

Brief Itinerary


Day Destination
Day 1 San Jose (Arrival)
Day 2 Tortuguero National Park
Day 3 Tortuguero National Park
Day 4 Arenal
Day 5 Arenal
Day 6 Arenal
Day 7 Monteverde
Day 8 Monteverde
Day 9 Monteverde
Day 10 Manuel Antonio National Park
Day 11 Manuel Antonio National Park
Day 12 Manuel Antonio National Park
Day 13 Manuel Antonio National Park / San Jose
Day 14 San Jose (Departure)


Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in San José

San Jose's National Museum

Welcome to San Jose! If you arrive with some time left in the day, check out the downtown of Costa Rica's capital. Grand plazas and buildings with centuries of history are a common sight, and most can be easily accessed by tourists. Here are some of the best, must-see destinations:

  • Mercado Central (Central Market): A great place to check out if you're a morning person, the central market opens at the crack of dawn and is one of the oldest and most iconic parts of San Jose.  Experience the bustling center of commerce as locals gather to chat, buy and sell all kinds of goods, and enjoy a variety of generations-old recipes. Additionally, if you're looking for a last-minute souvenir, this is the place to get something truly unique.
  • Museo del Oro Precolumbino (Pre-Columbian Gold Museum): This museum holds the largest Pre-Columbian gold collection in all of Latin America in an underground, protected vault. Despite its outside form, the inside is very extensive and modern and is bound to satisfy both history buffs and casual observers.
  • Museo Nacional (National Museum): The Museo Nacional is hard to miss, it is in a bright yellow building that used to be a military barracks (Bellavista Fortress).   Now the building is hosting a range of exhibits that showcase the country from pre-columbian times to modern-day Costa Rica.  A favorite for many visitors is the butterfly garden that is inside the museum, a nice piece of serenity in the otherwise hustle and bustle of a capital city.

Day 2: Tortuguero National Park - Hiking

Sea Turtle in Tortuguero National Park

Wake up early and begin your 3-day excursion to Tortuguero National Park. Ground transportation will take you from San Jose to Caño Blanco or Finca Pavona, where you will then ride a motor boat to Tortuguero.  This is because there are no cars allowed in Tortuguero, so boats are the only means of transportation.  The boat ride into Tortuguero itself,  is one of the attractions of visiting Tortuguero, along the way, you will see lush forests, crocodiles, sloths, monkeys and various species of birds.

After you get in the area, get introduced to the local sights of the town through a short guided hike. Afterwards, get rest of the day free and relax in your hotel. Then, once the sun sets, lookout for the green sea turtles coming up to the beach. If you happen to visit during the nesting season from June through mid-October, you can marvel at one of the Carribean's largest nesting sites at its busiest times.

Day 3: Tortuguero National Park - Boating

Boat in Tortuguero National Park

For the first half of the day, take a boat tour through the canals on the park grounds and admire a stunning array of wildlife.
Note: Entrance fee to the park is not included.

The afternoon is free for a variety optional adventure activities in the area, including:

  • Canopy tour: a combination of zip lines and suspended bridges that will allow you to get up and personal with the flora and fauna around.
  • Fishing: with all the canals near the sea, there are many fishing opportunities.  Some lodges will even let you cook what you catch for dinner.
  • Canoeing: You can explore the waterways by yourself by renting a canoe.  This way you can explore some of the areas that are a bit hard to reach by motor boat.

If you are interested, there is even a night boat tour.  You will meander down the canals in the darkness and the guide will shine a spotlight to show you the nocturnal animals, including crocodiles, frogs, caimans, and bats.

Day 4: Arenal Volcano

Arenal Volcano

Today you will drive to the town of La Fortuna after breakfast, the town closest to Arenal Volcano.

Once you arrive, you have the rest of the afternoon free to explore and adjust to your new surroundings. Make sure to get plenty of rest in preparation for the next few days!

Day 5: Arenal Volcano – Hanging Bridges, La Fortuna Waterfall, and Hot Springs

Hot springs in Arenal area

Start your day by visiting the Arenal hanging bridges, complete with panoramic views of the Arenal Volcano and Lake Arenal. Continue to the breathtaking Rio Fortuna waterfall, which drops 120ft (35 meters) into a large natural pool. Hiking down will pass through steep slopes full of spectacular flora and fauna. Below, the pool and the smaller cascades are perfect for a swim or quick break.

Spend the afternoon exploring the town of La Fortuna on your own or relaxing in your hotel. If you want, you can even sign up for an optional adventure. From a canopy zip line tour to a butterfly garden, an ATV tour to a canyoning session complete with ropes, harnesses, and waterfalls, all options and pricing can be determined after some quick discussions.

Finish the day with dinner right by the water, followed by a refreshing soak in the area's famous hot springs.

Day 6: Arenal Volcano - Free Day

Rappelling down a waterfall

This day is free for you to explore the rest of the area on your own or do some of the adventure tours available in the Arenal area. Some ideas of what you can do include, waterfall rappelling, caving, canoeing, mountain biking, horseback riding, ATV, stand up paddling, kayaking, safari float trips, rafting, and more. Be sure to enjoy your last day at Arenal to the fullest, as we will hit the road tomorrow morning.

Be sure to enjoy your last day at Arenal to the fullest, as we will be leaving Arenal tomorrow morning.

Day 7: Monteverde Cloud Forest - Zip-lining

Zip-lining in the cloud forest

Right after breakfast, ground transportation will take you to Lake Arenal Dam, and after a 30-minute boat ride to the town of Río Chiquito, another driver will transfer you from the South Side of Lake Arenal to your Monteverde hotel.  

Your first adventure here will be a thrilling zip lining tour in the canopy of the cloud forest.  A combination of natural trails and cables will allow you to observe the forest from multiple perspectives.  With professionally-trained tour guides and state-of-the-art safety equipment, fly from tree to tree and feel your adrenaline rush as you take on 16 cables and a rappel.  Then, finish off with the tour's most iconic activities: the Tarzan Swing.  

Day 8: Monteverde Cloud Forest - Hiking to the Reserve

Monteverde Nature Tour

In the morning, a bilingual nature guide will pick you up from your hotel. Venture into the Reserve of Monteverde and discover some of Costa Rica's most spectacular natural wonders. The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is globally renown for its a great diversity of flora and fauna. If you're lucky, you might even spot the Resplendent Quetzal, one of the most beautiful and unique-looking birds in the New World.

Spend the rest of the afternoon to enjoy the area on your own.

Day 9: Monteverde Cloud Forest - Free Day

Summer Tanager
 
The day is free for you to finish your adventures around the town of Santa Elena and its surroundings.  We can arrange additional activities including hanging bridges, a twilight hike, a bat jungle, a local serpentarium, a butterfly farm, or horseback riding.

Day 10: Manuel Antonio National Park and Beaches

The coast of Manuel Antonio National Park

This morning after breakfast, head to Quepos and Manuel Antonio National Park. There will be plenty of time for pictures, as incredible scenery and interesting towns can be found all along the route. Your first glimpse of Manuel Antonio will be from high on a cliffside, looking down at a stunning jagged coastline where the forests meet the open seas.

Day 11: Manuel Antonio National Park - Catamaran & Snorkeling

Scuba Diving

Start off your day with some snorkeling and cruising aboard the Ocean King, a 100 ft catamaran complete with a range of amenities. On board, you will have unlimited snacks, soft drinks, and alcoholic beverages including premium beers and liquors. Make sure to keep an eye out for dolphins, which sometimes play in the surrounding waters and swim next to boats!

Once you get back on shore, spend the rest of the day relaxing at the beach.

Day 12: Manuel Antonio National Park - Boat Tour

A capuchin monkey

In the morning, take a boat tour of Damas Island Estuary. Navigate through the extensive mangrove swamps and kayak through some of the smaller waterways. Make sure to be on the lookout for fascinating island wildlife, including boas, caimans, and over 200 species of birds.  

In the afternoon, take a break on one of the beautiful beaches inside Manuel Antonio National Park. Lay down on the white sands and sunbathe, or go snorkeling in the nearby reefs. If you still seek more adventure, you can hike through the park on one of the many well-marked trails, and if you’re lucky, you can even see a capuchin monkey or a sloth up close!

Day 13: Beach and Return to San José

The shores of Manuel Antonio

Today is your last full day in Costa Rica, so take the morning to relax at your hotel, visit the National Park, and enjoy the beach one final time.  By noon, you will be transferred by land transportation back to San José, where you can check into your hotel. A 30 minutes local flight is also an option, but there is a luggage weight restriction of 40 pounds per person as well as an additional charge. 

This is your last chance to explore San Jose.  Another option is to take a night tour of the city.  In 3.5 hr,  stroll through the city with a guide, you will meet local vendors and taste authentic cuisine in the Central Market, see a plethora of architectural wonders including the National Theater, and savor a fine 3-course meal complete with some of Costa Rica's best wine.

Day 14: Departure

Your journey in Costa Rica has come to an end. A representative will pick you up from your hotel and drive you to the airport for your flight home.