- Rafting the white water rapids of Río Pacuare
- Volcano hike followed by a soak in Tabacón’s hot springs
- Spotting wild jungle cats in Parque Nacional Corcovado
- Snorkeling, and sunsets in Manuel Antonio National Park
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|Day 1||Arrive in San José, Dinner Reservation for Two||San José|
|Day 2||Rafting Río Pacuare on Class II-IIl Rapids||Pacuare|
|Day 3||Free Day for Jungle Adventures in Río Pacuare||Pacuare|
|Day 4||Rafting Class III-IV Rapids, Continue to Arenal||Arenal|
|Day 5||Hike Arenal 1968, Visit Tabacón’s Hot Springs||Arenal|
|Day 6||Arenal to Manuel Antonio||Manuel Antonio|
|Day 7||Snorkeling & Sunset Sail in Manuel Antonio||Manuel Antonio|
|Day 8||Manuel Antonio to Osa Peninsula||Osa Peninsula|
|Day 9||Corcovado National Park Hike||Osa Peninsula|
|Day 10||Flight to San José, Depart Costa Rica|
Day 1: Arrive in San José, Dinner Reservation for Two
Welcome to the land of pura vida! After arriving at Juan Santamaria International Airport in San José, a local representative will meet you and escort you to your hotel.
The rest of your day is designated free time for the two of you to explore the country's capital city. Suggested activities include:
- A stroll through Mercado Central (Central Market), the largest in the city, with over 200 shops, food stalls, and sodas (traditional restaurants). For lunch, try a traditional casado, a favorite local dish of rice, beans, and meat, served with tortillas.
- Explore Barrio Amón, a historic neighborhood that's home to cafetalero (coffee farmer) mansions constructed during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Many of the area’s historic buildings have been converted into hotels, restaurants, and galleries, making this a popular district for taking in the art-deco manses and painted tropical Victorian structures.
- Visit the Teatro Nacional, an opulent Neo-Classical 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.
In the evening, head out on the town and check out one of the city's best restaurants:
- For special-occasion dining, try Restaurante Grano de Oro, an upmarket favorite helmed by French chef Francis Canal, who uses European techniques to prepare Costa Rican-fusion fare paired with an excellent wine list.
- Though it's technically attached to one of the more interesting hotels in Costa Rica (visit the lobby and you'll understand), Del Mar's 24-hour restaurant is a nice continental dinner spot in an amazing 19th century restored mansion with a series of beautiful rooms and stained glass windows.
- The restaurant Tin Jo serves a variety of excellent Asian dishes including vegetarian options—this is popular with locals, so make a reservation.
- Kalú is a sleek and modern option run by a female chef with a love for French culture as well as Asian, Mediterranean, and Creole gastronomy.
For more travel advice, check out 24 Hours in San José.
Day 2: Rafting Río Pacuare on Class II-IIl Rapids
This morning, you'll wake up early, meet your guide, and begin the 2.5-hour drive out through the city and countryside east of San José. Stop along the way for a classic Costa Rican breakfast before you arrive at Río Pacuare (Pacuare River), where you'll begin your rafting excursion. Located along Costa Rica’s Caribbean slope, Río Pacuare’s river gorge is considered one of the best rafting rivers in the world with warm water and stunning green scenery.
After a guided orientation, you'll embark on today's thrilling 1-1.5 hour river rafting trip on class II-III rapids. Then, check into your luxury jungle accommodations and take the rest of the day to explore the surrounding area with your guide.
After lunch, you can hike through the lodge’s protected forest to a waterfall, opt for a couple's massage at the Jawa Juü Spa, or relax in your private bungalow or suite and enjoy the tropical nature of this remote and beautiful place.
Learn more about the best active experiences in Costa Rica.
Day 3: Free Day for Jungle Adventures in Río Pacuare
Today is purposely unscheduled—this is free time for you to explore the jungle-cloaked mountains of Río Pacuare together. Outdoor adventure options include ziplining through the rainforest canopy trees or canyoning El Tesorito Creek, where you'll descend a small waterfall, slide along cables, and rappel down a 30-meter rock face.
You can also opt for a hike through the jungle to reach the fabled sendero de las mulas (mule trail), among the primary routes used by the Cabécar Indians. After the initial climb, you'll hike to the Nairi Awari Indigenous Reserve to reach a hidden waterfall. You'll picnic at this scenic spot before hiking back along the trail to a Cabécar indigenous community.
In the afternoon, return to the lodge for one last cozy night surrounded by trees. Check out our list of the best luxury hotels in Costa Rica.
Day 4: Rafting Class III-IV Rapids, Continue to Arenal
This morning, you'll take a more challenging route that lasts approximately 3.5 hours over class III-IV rapids. As you travel down Río Pacuare, expect to see beautiful canyons, waterfalls, and virgin forests. During the calmer stretches, be on the lookout for various species of birds and other wildlife that call the region home.
In the afternoon, you'll be driven to La Fortuna, the perfect home base for exploring Arenal Volcano National Park. Located north of the Tilaran Mountains, the cone-shaped Arenal juts out above the San Carlos Plains.
During your stay in La Fortuna, consider making reservations at one of these restaurants:
- La Parrilla de María Bonita, for perfectly cooked steak as well as Mediterranean dishes like falafel and baba ghanoush.
- Rancho Perla, a popular open-air restaurant (you may even spot sloths hanging from the nearby trees) serving well-prepared Costa Rican staples.
- Ave Del Paraíso, which serves up Costa Rican and international dishes.
Read over our list of the top places to eat in La Fortuna.
Day 5: Hike Arenal 1968, Visit Tabacón’s Hot Springs
Today, after breakfast at your hotel, you'll make a visit to Arenal 1968, a private reserve named for the volcano’s eruption of that same year, which transformed some of the region’s topography. Trails wind through lava fields and rainforest, offering views of the volcano.
Afterward, take a dip in the mineral-rich waters of Tabacón’s hot springs, used as therapeutic baths for more than 200 years. The Tabacón Thermal Resort includes a spa where treatments like couples massages are performed in outdoor bungalows. End the day with a nice dinner at the resort’s pretty Ave Del Paraíso Restaurant, serving Costa Rican dishes as well as international fare.
If you're interested in staying in a hotel with access to hot springs, see this list of our top picks.
Day 6: Arenal to Manuel Antonio
This morning, you'll transfer to the Pacific coast at Manuel Antonio National Park, where you can take your pick and wind down on one of the park's four beautiful beaches—some of the best in Costa Rica. 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.
Related article: The Ultimate Guide to Manuel Antonio National Park
Day 7: Snorkeling & Sunset Sail in Manuel Antonio
After breakfast at your hotel, you can experience one of Costa Rica’s most photogenic coastlines via a two-man open-seat ocean kayak. Your trip starts near Pez Vela Marina in Quepos and winds along the Manuel Antonio coastline. Relax on the beach of Biezans Bay, go for a swim and enjoy a picnic on the sand. You'll also have the chance to see the coral reef and marine life during a snorkel along the shore.
In the evening you'll embark on a sunset dinner sail. Drop anchor and swim while the crew prepares a feast. While you dine, keep an eye out for dolphins, sea turtles, flying fish, or even a breaching whale. Read more about the best nature experiences in Manuel Antonio National Park.
Day 8: Manuel Antonio to Osa Peninsula
After breakfast, you'll be transferred from Manuel Antonio to Osa Peninsula, where rainforests and rugged natural beaches make this region among the most beautiful in the country. While expats from around the world are drawn here, few tourists travel to this remote region of Costa Rica. The afternoon is yours to relax at the hotel or on Bahía Drake, a long stretch of beautiful beach.
Learn more about the top nature experiences in Costa Rica.
Day 9: Corcovado National Park Hike
This day trip to the rainforest is a chance to explore Parque Nacional Corcovado, home to a range of wildlife, including the endangered giant anteater, harpy eagle, tapir and felines like the jaguar, puma, and margay. From the hotel, you’ll take a 25-minute boat ride along the west coast of the Osa Peninsula. After the wet landing at the station (boats go in stern first and drop you a few feet from the beach), you’ll begin the rainforest journey.
During the hike, your bilingual guide will point out the diverse wildlife on the trail. Look for spider, white-faced, and howler monkeys, coatimundi, and countless birds and insects. The trails through the rainforest are clearly marked and easy to navigate.
After the morning hike and break for lunch, take another trail to a waterfall with more diverse flora and fauna along the way. There will be time to relax and swim in the waterfall's pools before you return to the ranger station and catch the boat back to the hotel. Be on the lookout for humpback whales or dolphins breaching and spinning in the ocean.
Take some time to look at this article on 4 Regions to Visit in Costa Rica.
Day 10: Flight to San José, Depart Costa Rica
It's time to say goodbye to Costa Rica! Wake up this morning with a sunrise beach walk and take any last photos or dips in the ocean. After breakfast, you'll be picked up from your hotel and transferred to the airport where you'll catch a short flight back to San José. From here, you'll connect to your flight home.
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