- Brave the rapids on a whitewater rafting trip along the famed Pacuare River
- Go hiking and biking around Arenal Volcano and soak in the La Fortuna hot springs
- Embark on an ocean kayaking and snorkeling tour from Manuel Antonio
- Fly over the treetops on a zipline adventure in the cloud forests of Monteverde
- Go surfing and sail on a sunset catamaran in Tamarindo Beach
|Day 1||Arrival in San José||San José|
|Day 2||Pacuare River Rafting Adventure & Travel to La Fortuna||Arenal/La Fortuna|
|Day 3||Day Trip to Celeste River in Tenorio Volcano National Park||Arenal/La Fortuna|
|Day 4||Arenal Volcano Hike & Visit La Fortuna Waterfall||Arenal/La Fortuna|
|Day 5||Free Day - Explore Arenal Volcano National Park||Arenal/La Fortuna|
|Day 6||Transfer From La Fortuna to Manuel Antonio Beach||Manuel Antonio|
|Day 7||Manuel Antonio National Park Hike||Manuel Antonio|
|Day 8||Kayaking & Snorkeling in the Pacific Ocean||Manuel Antonio|
|Day 9||Free Day - Manuel Antonio Beach||Manuel Antonio|
|Day 10||Travel to Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve||Monteverde|
|Day 11||Excursions at Sky Adventures Monteverde Park||Monteverde|
|Day 12||Travel From Monteverde to Tamarindo Beach||Tamarindo|
|Day 13||Free Day - Tamarindo Beach||Tamarindo|
|Day 14||Beach Day & Catamaran Sunset Sailing Tour||Tamarindo|
|Day 15||Travel to San José & Departure|
Day 1: Arrival in San José
¡Bienvenidos a Costa Rica! When you arrive in this beautiful country, a representative will be waiting for you at the airport to provide all the travel documents needed for your trip. A designated transportation service will take you to your hotel located in the heart of the metropolitan area of San José.
San José is the capital of Costa Rica and is home to almost two-thirds of the country's total population. It has buildings more than 100 years old and vividly maintains its culture, art, and history. A myriad of theaters and museums make the capital a city full of treasures to enjoy. If you arrive early, feel free to explore the city at your leisure.
Be sure to explore Barrio Amón, a historic neighborhood that is home to cafetalero (coffee grower) mansions built during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Many of this area’s historic buildings have been converted into hotels, restaurants, and galleries, making it a frequented bohemian district.
For dinner, opt for a restaurant on the hills of Escazú. This elevated region on the western edge of the city offers breathtaking panoramic views of the valley below. That said, San José's culinary offerings cover everything from traditional Costa Rican food to forward-thinking fusion cuisine.
Day 2: Pacuare River rafting adventure and travel to La Fortuna
Wake up early and prepare yourself for an action-packed day with a delicious breakfast. Your guide will pick you up and you drive to Turrialba. Here, the adventure begins. Launch your raft into the Pacuare River and paddle 14 miles deep into the heart of one of Costa Rica's most impressive primary rain forests.
Pass through overgrown rainforest gorges, enjoy wonderful cascading waterfalls, and relax in serene natural pools. After a lunch break, get ready for a thrilling afternoon, as you master Pacuare's largest Class IV rapids. At the take out location, a driver awaits you for a short ride to the operations center, where you can take showers and have a drink. Then, continue your journey to La Fortuna, home to Arenal Volcano, where you check into your hotel for a good night's sleep.
Enjoy dinner at the following restaurants:
- Café Mediterraneo, a friendly osteria serving up homemade pasta and pizza
- La Parrilla de María Bonita, a must-visit 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
Day 3: Day trip to the Celeste River in Tenorio Volcano National Park
Today, depart at 7:30 am for a 7.5-hour tour. Undoubtedly, the Celeste River, located on the slopes of the Tenorio Volcano, is one of the most incredible places in Costa Rica. Magnificent, turquoise-blue waters complement surrounding natural elements.
Start the tour on a 4.3-mile trail that will take you through the forest. Pass through several sites of interest, starting with a visit to the magical waterfall along the Celeste River, then visit other attractions, such as the Blue Lagoon and a river breach that forms a natural lagoon. Later, visit a scenic lookout with views of Tenorio Volcano and its surrounding hills. At the end of the tour, trek to "Los Teñideros," the location where the river acquires its characteristic color.
On the way back, continue walking along the river admiring the bubbling waters, thermal springs, and beautiful natural environment. The visit concludes with a tasty lunch, and water and snacks are provided throughout the day.
Day 4: Arenal Volcano Hike and visit La Fortuna Waterfall
The main attraction of La Fortuna is the Arenal Volcano, with its near-perfect cone shape and a height of 5,358 feet. Today, enjoy an unforgettable guided hike through Arenal and its surroundings. Pass through trails formed by lava during the forceful 1968 eruption. You can opt to go on the Los Patos Lagoon trail, which is of medium difficulty and covers unique landscapes. This mostly-flat, 3-mile trail also offers panoramic views of Arenal Volcano and Lake Arenal. Along the hike, take time to discover the area's abundant flora and fauna.
After the hike on the famous volcano, continue the journey to La Fortuna Waterfall, which is surrounded by verdant beauty. Once there, hike down about 500 steps to the waterfall base and take a dip in the pristine waters of the river. The tour concludes with lunch, and the rest of the day and evening are at your leisure.
Day 5: Free day - Explore Arenal Volcano National Park
After breakfast, enjoy a free day to explore Arenal Volcano National Park as you wish. One popular excursion is to explore the Arenal region by mountain bike. The 15-mile route follows an old road connecting the dam of Lake Arenal with the main entrance to the park.
You can also consider the following activities:
- Book a ziplining tour
- Go bird watching
- Embark on a floating safari excursion
- Enjoy a local chocolate tour and tasting
Additionally, indulge in some pampering and relaxation. Book a massage at your hotel and relax your muscles at the hot springs (accompanied by a hike on historic lava fields). For an evening adventure, discover the nocturnal wildlife of the area on a night walk, or simply enjoy the activities offered at your hotel.
Day 6: Transfer from La Fortuna to Manuel Antonio Beach
Enjoy breakfast at the hotel, then a transportation service will pick you up and drive you 4.5 hours to Manuel Antonio, one of the nicest beach areas in Costa Rica. Most of the hotels and restaurants here are located up on a hill, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, which offers spectacular sunsets.
On the way, take in the amazing landscapes before arriving at Quepos, a small town close to Manuel Antonio National Park. After you check in to your hotel, enjoy the afternoon exploring the beach or relaxing at your hotel's pool area.
Some recommended restaurants include the below:
- Gabriella's: Enjoy local fine dining, and go for the seafood—whether it's the pan-seared scallops, ceviche, or snapper, you won't be disappointed; the steaks are great, too
- Cafe Agua Azul: Visit during sunset—the second-floor patio dining here offers some of the best bay views in the entire area; try fresh fish and delectable desserts, like homemade brownies and bread pudding
- Manuel Antonio Falafel Bar: For something different, head to this casual Middle-Eastern joint that offers great falafel, shawarma, hummus, and a salad bar for vegetarians
Day 7: Manuel Antonio National Park hike
Today, visit Manuel Antonio National Park, which has one of the most impressive landscapes in the world. There are several coves with many white-sand beaches and lush foliage amidst great mountains and forests that reach the beaches.
The park has three trails that go from flat to very steep. On this tour, a very knowledgeable nature guide will walk you through the park, while explaining the mysteries of the rainforest. The trail you will take is flat and picturesque, and loops through the park, making your course about 2 miles long.
Throughout the hike, your guide will stop and teach you about the park’s natural history, which includes exhaustive descriptions of animals and plants that can be observed along the way. You can take pictures on the journey, or just admire the live view.
One of the highlights of this tour is that Manuel Antonio hosts three of the four existing tropical primates (monkeys) living in Costa Rica. During the hike, it is common to see monkeys, along with sloths, birds, reptiles, butterflies, exotic orchids, and tropical trees.
Following the tour, transportation will be provided back to your hotel. Enjoy the evening on your own.
Day 8: Kayaking and snorkeling in the Pacific Ocean
Today, depart from the pier in Quepos and head out on a kayaking and snorkeling excursion to explore marine life in the Pacific Ocean. Paddle your kayak for about 1 hour, navigating past tiny islands and observing marine birds and their nesting grounds.
Stop in Biesanz Bay, a beautiful, hidden inlet where you can rest, enjoy a snack, and snorkel. The 30-minute stop will allow you to explore the coastline.
Note that the water’s visibility will vary, depending on the season, and there will be opportunities to spot various species, including parrotfish, starfish, angelfish, and perhaps, sea turtles.
As you paddle back to the pier on your kayak, look for pelicans, flying fish, or other native marine life. Upon returning to the pier, head back to base camp to enjoy conversation over a delicious, homemade meal.
Day 9: Free day - Manuel Antonio Beach
Today is yours to enjoy all on your own. Beyond amazing wildlife hikes, there are many activities to choose from.
Consider an optional boat tour to the Damas Island Estuary. This adventure is like a Disney Jungle Cruise come to life. Along with a guide, make your way down a network of mangrove canals, as white-faced capuchin monkeys swing from branch to branch and exotic birds fly overhead. You might spot caimans, or even a crocodile or two.
Another option is to take a surfing lesson on the beach. If that isn't for you, then simply stake your claim on a section of white sand and relax with a good book. Consider a trip to Playa Espadilla, too, which stretches on for nearly 1 mile. It is a tranquil, public beach with lifeguards on hand during the day.
Day 10: Travel to Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
Enjoy a final morning on the beach. In the afternoon, depart Manuel Antonio for Monteverde. Known as the "Green Lung” of Costa Rica, this biodiverse region is located in the mountainous northwest of the country.
Arrive at Monteverde in approximately 3.5 hours, at the famous, 26,000-acre Cloud Forest Reserve, home to countless species of flora and fauna, where suspension bridges throughout the reserve allow for walks above the forest canopy.
Once in Monteverde, enjoy a nice dinner. Head to nearby Santa Elena, a charming town with a heavy Quaker influence that’s known for excellent coffee and cheese. Consider the below dining options:
- Orchid Coffee, which serves a menu of smoothies, salads, and sandwiches, along with an extensive hot chocolate menu made with authentic Costa Rican cacao and mixed with unique ingredients, like cardamom and orange
- El Jardin Bar & Restaurant, which wins visitors over with its treetop setting, friendly service, and fresh, homemade bread served alongside every meal
- Tree House Restaurant & Café, which was built around an old higueron (fig) tree, and serves Costa Rican standards, like ceviche and arroz con pollo in a romantic, open-air setting
Day 11: Excursions at Sky Adventures Monteverde Park
Today, some great adventures await. Visit Sky Adventures Monteverde Park—an aerial amusement park that takes jungle excitement to the next level—where the Sky Tram network of gondolas will transport you from one adrenaline-pumping activity to another.
First, start with a guided Sky Walk, which combines trails and suspension bridges that ultimately reach heights of up to 984 feet above the jungle canopy. The flora and fauna of the region are on full display, and specialized guides will point out the most interesting specimens. Later, ride in an open-air Sky Tram gondola. During this journey, ascend over the rainforest, and enjoy sweeping views over the mountains.
Upon reaching the end of the line, the exhilarating adventure of whizzing down the mountain begins. Connect to the Sky Trek, a zipline cable that stretches over the treetops and across canyons, ultimately returning you to the starting point at the main building of Sky Adventures. Sky Trek is regarded as one of the most thrilling ziplines in the country, as Monteverde is often credited as the birthplace of the canopy tour.
Day 12: Travel from Monteverde to Tamarindo Beach
After breakfast at your hotel in Monteverde, take a transfer to the province of Guanacaste, past volcanic mountain ranges, flatlands, and villages, as you head toward the gorgeous Pacific Coast. Tamarindo Beach is one of the best destinations to end your travels. You can enjoy surfing, other beach-related activities, great food, and of course, beach relaxation.
Once you arrive, rest up at your hotel or spend the afternoon exploring. If you happen to visit between October and March, head to Las Baulas National Marine Park to see leatherback turtles come ashore for a truly memorable experience. Every night during the high tide of the nesting season, female leatherback turtles make their way up the beach to lay eggs. Watch the turtles come and go before the hatchlings follow suit into the water.
A few dining suggestions in Tamarindo Beach include the below:
- For breakfast, head to charming La Bodega and order one of the fantastic egg sandwiches, along with banana bread and fresh juices
- Pull up a stool at the Green Papaya, which serves some of the best tacos and burritos in town, with vegetarian options, too, in a casual atmosphere
- Steps from the beach, Surf Shack serves up topnotch patties, onion rings, and milkshakes in a hut decorated with surfboards
- Nogi's is a perfect pick for sunset dining, thanks to its beachfront location; enjoy a varied menu of seafood and grilled meat, and be sure to save room for a slice of the coconut cream pie
Day 13: Free day - Tamarindo Beach
Today can be as relaxing or adventurous as you'd like.
Enjoy the beach with an optional surf lesson tailored specifically for you—the most popular is a single-day lesson. Your guide takes the frustration out of your first surf lesson by introducing surfing in a fun, energetic, and friendly atmosphere, and caters the lesson to your personal needs.
Beyond the beaches, you can experience the rainforest—from the water—during a 2-hour safari float down the Corobicí River, where a guide will point out monkeys, bats, lizards, and even crocodiles.
Tamarindo also offers a lot of leisurely beach activities to enjoy, from kayaking tours to ATV rentals, and snorkeling to yoga lessons. Additionally, be sure to visit the following beaches, all of which offer great food and beautiful sunsets:
Day 14: Beach day and Catamaran Sunset Sailing Tour
Relax in the morning and enjoy the beauty surrounding the location of your hotel. Spend a few hours enjoying the soft, sandy beaches. Lay down a blanket and soak up some sun with your favorite book, and take a dip in the tropical water to cool off.
Beginning in the afternoon, enjoy the Catamaran Sunset Sailing Tour. Start in Playa del Coco, and silently glide along Costa Rica’s Gold Coast while passing some of Guanacaste’s exotic bays, white-sand beaches, and tropical jungles. Enjoy amazing views of Costa Rica, mesmerizing wildlife sightings of dolphins, sea turtles, flying fish, and the occasional whale, and chilled tropical drinks that are prepared by the experienced crew.
Next, drop anchor in a tranquil bay, and swim in the deep-blue waters of the Pacific. Snorkel in the bay or run down the deserted white-sand beach. The crew will prepare delicious and unique snacks, too.
Then, listen to the waves lapping at the sides of the giant catamaran as you watch a gorgeous sunset that illuminates the clouds left in the sky. Bring your camera to capture these great and final moments of your trip.
Day 15: Travel to San José and departure
Today, make the 4-hour drive back to San José to catch your departure flight home. (Make sure your flight is scheduled in the afternoon, or later). On the drive, pass through many volcanic mountains and along coasts, providing exceptional farewell views.
Once you arrive at the Juan Santamaria International Airport, it is time to catch your international flight back home. Until next time!