Explore the best of Costa Rica on this exciting 10-day adventure through the country's outdoor landscapes. Get to know the capital city of San José before heading off to Arenal for several days of volcano hikes and soaking in natural hot springs. You'll explore the cloud forest, learn about coffee production in Monteverde, and then continue to Manuel Antonio National Park for boating and snorkeling in aquamarine waters.


  • Hike around Arenal Volcano and soak in volcanic hot springs
  • Spot sloths, birds, and red-eyed tree frogs on a tropical forest walk
  • Learn about (and taste) Costa Rican coffee and chocolate 
  • See dolphins and whales on a sunset catamaran trip
  • Snorkel in a bay in Manuel Antonio National Park 

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Sightsee in Downtown San José San José
Day 2 Explore the Rainforest at Night La Fortuna
Day 3 Sloth & Bird Hike, Soak in Hot Springs La Fortuna
Day 4 Visit the Rio Celeste & Finca Verde Nature Farm La Fortuna
Day 5 Taste Costa Rican Coffee, Nighttime Nature Walk Monteverde
Day 6 Tour the Monteverde Cloud Forest Monteverde
Day 7 Transfer to Manuel Antonio National Park Manuel Antonio
Day 8 Explore Manuel Antonio National Park  Manuel Antonio
Day 9 Boat in Manuel Antonio & Learn to Surf  Manuel Antonio
Day 10 Depart Costa Rica  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Sightsee in Downtown San José

The National Theater
The National Theater in San José

Welcome to Costa Rica! A driver will transfer you from the airport to your hotel in San José. After settling in, go for a self-guided walking tour of downtown. Depending on your hotel's location, you can walk or take a taxi to your first destination: Mercado Central (Central Market), featuring over 200 shops, food stalls, and sodas (traditional restaurants). It's a short walk to Central Park, a small plaza always bustling with activity. Pass various outdoor sculptures as you walk through the park toward Catedral Metropolitana and continue walking down Central Avenue until you reach the Teatro Nacional, an opulent neoclassical building constructed in the late 19th century. 

Your first museum stop is the Museo del Oro Precolumbino, which is accessible from beneath the Plaza de la Cultura and holds the most extensive Pre-Columbian gold collection in Latin America. Next, head to the Museo del Jade, the world's largest collection of pre-Columbian jade artifacts. As you wander among thousands of unique jade pieces, you'll gain an even deeper appreciation for Costa Rica's rich history. 

Read about the top restaurant recommendations in San José here.

Day 2: Explore the Rainforest at Night

The colorful yet lethal poison dart frog
The colorful yet lethal poison dart frog

This morning, your driver will transport you to your hotel in La Fortuna (around three hours, depending on traffic). You'll head to Ecocentro Danaus in the late afternoon, a private ecological reserve located 3 miles (4.5 km) east of La Fortuna. Here, you'll wait for nightfall to embark on a guided nature hike and discover the reserve's nocturnal creatures.

As you walk, your guide will point out various insects, birds, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals. Enjoy spotting bullfrogs, the iconic red-eyed tree frog, the translucent glass frog, and perhaps the brightly colored poison dart frog, one of the planet's most poisonous frogs. 

Learn more about the top nature experiences in Costa Rica.

Day 3: Sloth & Bird Hike, Soak in Hot Springs

Look up to see wildlife
A sloth in the trees

Go on a hiking excursion today along the so-called "Sloth Trail." This nature trail cuts through a habitat for sloths (both two-toed and three-toed) who like to hang on the branches of the trees and feed on bright green leaves. On this two-hour guided hike, you'll see a few of these animals and perhaps even spy a mother sloth and its baby. During the walk, your bilingual guide will also point out other animals common to this area, like the famous red-eyed tree frog.

In the afternoon, discover the La Fortuna area with a hike around Arenal Volcano and other nearby nature reserves. Start at the entrance of the 1968 Trail, where you'll hit the well-maintained trails that skirt the base of the Arenal Volcano and Lake Arenal. This 1.5-hour route offers some of the best wildlife viewing opportunities in the park, and your naturalist guide will keep a well-trained eye out for exotic birds, monkeys, and other animals along the way. After hiking the trails, your guide will drop you off at Tabacon Hot Springs so you can soothe your muscles with a dip in mineral-rich waters. 

Find out more about hiking around Arenal Volcano here.

Day 4: Visit the Río Celeste & Finca Verde Nature Farm

The Blue Lagoon at the Río Celeste
The Blue Lagoon at the Río Celeste

Today you'll venture into Tenorio Volcano National Park for a moderate three-hour hike along the Río Celeste, one of the most stunning natural attractions in Costa Rica. The legend says that after God painted the sky, he washed his brushes in this river, which resulted in its famous electric-blue waters. The hike takes you 4 miles (7 km) along the river through a rainforest ecosystem home to animals like monkeys, sloths, peccaries, and anteaters. The hike culminates with a descent of 253 steps to reach the Catarata Río Celeste, a waterfall of such profound beauty you'll think you've found your private paradise.

After the hike, stop at Finca Verde Farm and go on an inspiring walk to spot natural wonders such as tropical plants and flowers, birds, sloths, frogs, snakes, and insects. Learn about the life cycle of butterflies and the day-to-day practices of organic farming along the way.

Day 5: Taste Costa Rican Coffee, Nighttime Nature Walk

Coffee beans ready for the harvest.
Coffee beans ready for the harvest
Plan your trip to Costa Rica
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

From your hotel, you'll transfer to the boat dock at the shores of Lake Arenal, where you'll board a boat and journey to the other side of the lake. Upon arrival, you'll officially be in the Monteverde region of Costa Rica. First, you'll walk through a local coffee plantation, where you'll have the opportunity to identify and learn about the coffee plant first-hand. Your guide will walk you through every step of the process, from harvesting to roasting and brewing, and show you the simplest way to prepare a perfect cup of coffee.

After finishing your coffee, it's time to head into the jungle! This part of the tour takes place in a protected forest that is about 50% of the plantation's property. The trail extends along a creek that runs through the farm, making it the perfect location to spot creatures in the trees and along the shores of the water. It is common to observe frogs and various snake species along the trail. With a little luck, you might even observe forest dwellers such as the two-toed sloth or the kinkajou.

Day 6: Tour the Monteverde Cloud Forest

Explore the dense jungle of the Monteverde Cloud Forest
Explore the dense jungle of the Monteverde Cloud Forest

Transfer from your hotel to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, one of Costa Rica's ecological crown jewels. Known as the "green lung of Costa Rica" due to its rich biodiversity, this sprawling reserve is high in the country's mountainous northwest region. On a guided tour, you'll get an overview of the incredible biodiversity of this region, where upland and lowland rainforest meet. More than 350 bird species live here, including the quetzal. It's a nature lover's paradise.

Check out Best Things to Do in Monteverde for more ideas of what to see and do.

Day 7: Transfer to Manuel Antonio National Park

Sunset at Manuel Antonio Beach
Sunset at Manuel Antonio Beach

After breakfast, you'll transfer to Manuel Antonio National Park in a private, air-conditioned minivan. The drive takes approximately five hours, depending on traffic. You'll stop along the way in the town of Tárcoles and make your way to a bridge over the Tárcoles River. The river is famous for having the largest American crocodile population in Central America, and this is your chance to see these toothy reptiles in the wild. You can usually see at least a dozen sunbathing on the riverbanks or floating in the water from the bridge.

Continue to Manuel Antonio National Park, check in to your hotel, and get some rest before the next day's excursion. If you have the energy or inclination, both the beach and the edge of the national park are close to town, so you can easily spend time here with water sports on Espadilla Beach or a hike on the trails through the forest. You can also explore the adjacent town of Quepos for sunset views. Or you may prefer to take it easy, wandering at your own pace and stopping for dinner in a local restaurant. Here are some dining recommendations for Manual Antonio.

Day 8: Explore Manuel Antonio National Park 

A capuchin monkey in Manuel Antonio National Park

Today you'll go on a guided tour to explore the pristine natural beauty of the world-famous Manuel Antonio National Park, filled with exotic wildlife such as monkeys, sloths, birds, reptiles, and butterflies. Your picturesque hike will take you to one of the country's best beaches, known for its white sandy beaches and crystalline blue waters. Have your camera ready as your knowledgeable guide points out diverse flora and fauna along the way.

Check out the Ultimate Guide to Manuel Antonio National Park for more information.

Day 9: Boat in Manuel Antonio & Learn to Surf 

Take a surf lesson on Playa Scull

This morning, board a catamaran at the pier in Quepos for a sailing adventure along the coast. Your guide will highlight notable wildlife and vegetation as you admire the region's islands, cliffs, and rock formations. After touring the coastline, the captain will set anchor at Biesanz Bay, where you can snorkel or relax onboard. You may spot parrotfish, starfish, angelfish, and dolphins from the boat while enjoying a barbecue lunch.

Later in the day, take a surf lesson at Playa Scull. Beaches on Costa Rica's central Pacific coast are famous for hosting international surf tournaments, but even beginners can have fun catching a wave here.

Day 10: Depart Costa Rica

Take in a Costa Rica sunset 
The trip ends today. You will transfer to the airport to catch your flight out. Safe travels!

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