This active 11-day itinerary is designed to appeal to nature lovers and adventure fiends of every stripe. It starts on the southern Pacific coast, in the remote, Corcovado National Park. Here you'll enjoy rugged hikes abounding with wildlife-spotting opportunities. Then it's off to the north where you'll explore the misty cloud forests of Monteverde and fly over the forest canopy.  After a visit to the famed Arenal Volcano, it's time for another hike, this time to the Hule Lagoon, an ancient crater lake like something out of Conan Doyle's "Lost World." Enjoy waterfall rappelling before ending your Costa Rican adventure with a wild rafting trip down the Pacuare River.

Highlights

  • Trek through the rugged jungles of Corcovado National Park
  • Zip-line over cloud forests in Monteverde
  • Hike to the Hule Lagoon, an ancient crater lake near Poás Volcano
  • Brave the rapids of the Pacuare River

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Costa Rica - San José City Tour San Jose
Day 2 Fly to Puerto Jimenez -> Transfer to La Leona Eco-Lodge Corcovado National Park
Day 3 Corcovado National Park Hike Corcovado National Park
Day 4 La Leona Eco Lodge - Free Day Corcovado National Park
Day 5 Flight to San Jose -> Transfer to Monteverde Monteverde
Day 6 Aerial Fun in the Cloud Forest Monteverde
Day 7 Boat from Monteverde to Arenal Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 8 Trekking to Hule Lagoon Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 9 Waterfall Canyoning Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 10 Rafting Pacuare -> Transfer to San José San Jose
Day 11 Depart San José  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Costa Rica - San José City Tour

The Edificio Correos (Post Office) in the city's center
The Edificio Correos (Post Office) in the city's center

Welcome to Costa Rica, the land of pura vida! After arriving at Juan Santamaría International Airport, in the capital of San José, a local representative will meet you and escort you to your hotel. 

On a guided tour beginning at noon, you will experience a slice of Costa Rica's rich culture and history by visiting museums and historical sites around the city. It starts with a drive to downtown and a visit to "the lungs of San José," La Sabana Metropolitan Park, which is the country's largest urban park. Next, you'll take a walking tour of the historic center, which includes a visits to the Teatro Nacional, an opulent Neo-Classical building constructed in the late 19th century, and the Museo del Oro Precolumbino (Pre-Columbian Gold Museum), which holds the one of the largest Pre-Columbian gold collections in all of Latin American.

Other points of interest include the Museo Nacional (which features a butterfly garden), the Universidad de Costa Rica, which is the oldest and most prestigious university in the country, and the Corte Suprema de Justicia de Costa Rica (Supreme Court). You'll also stop along the way for a bit of souvenir shopping.

City tour duration: Three hours

Day 2: Fly to Puerto Jimenez -> Transfer to Carate - La Leona Eco-Lodge

Scarlet macaw, one of the many exotic residents of Corcovado
Scarlet macaw, one of the many exotic residents of Corcovado

After breakfast, you'll leave from the San José airport on an hour-long flight to Puerto Jimenez, located on Costa Rica's rugged Osa Peninsula. Home to Corcovado National Park, this is one of the most biodiverse regions in the entire country. A representative will meet you at the airport and will transfer you to the small village of Carate. The road literally ends here, as it's the gateway to Corcovado.

You'll then hike a kilometer or so to the La Leona Eco-Lodge and prepare for your epic hiking adventure the following day. Overnight accommodation will be in tented cabins.

Day 3: Corcovado National Park Hike

You might spot a jaguar in Corcovado
You might spot a jaguar in Corcovado

Today you'll venture into Corcovado National Park on a scenic half-day hike. This rigorous but moderate trek will take you mostly along Corcovado's rugged coastline. The route covers a number of hiking trails leading eventually to Punta La Chancha. The coastal rock outcroppings here jut out of the water like the spiked backbone of a giant prehistoric reptile. 

The trails will also take you into both secondary and primary rainforest. Corcovado is known as one of the most biodiverse places on earth, and you'll learn this first hand as you walk through the jungle and glimpse the abundant and exotic wildlife in the area. It's not uncommon to witness tapirs cooling off in nearby mud holes or herds of peccaries roaming just a few meters away. 

You'll also spot other endemic animals like howler and capuchin monkeys, and exotic birds like toucans, trogons, and scarlet macaws. If you get really lucky you might just spot a jaguar or puma. Each hiker will carry a packed lunch, and additional refreshments will be served at the end of the hike in mid-afternoon. You'll then return to La Leona where you'll overnight.

Corcovado hike duration: 5-6 hours

Day 4: La Leona Eco Lodge - Free Day

Sunset off the coast of the Osa Peninsula
Sunset off the coast of the Osa Peninsula

Awake to a  beautiful sunrise over the Osa Peninsula and rejoice in the fact you have nothing to do today except relax. There are beachside hammocks calling your name, or just pull up a spot in the sand. If you didn't get enough nature the previous day, you're in luck. La Leona is a mini national park in its own right, as it sits on 500 acres of protected reserve. After lazing on the beach you might want to stretch those legs on the reserve's network of trails, where you'll be treated to the calls of even more exotic birds and monkeys. Later, enjoy a glass of wine, tropical cocktail, fruit juice or smoothie in the oceanfront bar as the sun sets.

Optional tours you can partake in include jungle night walks, kayaking, horseback riding, and seasonal turtle watching.

Day 5: Transfer to Puerto Jimenez - Flight to San Jose -> Transfer to Monteverde

Monteverde cloud forest
Monteverde cloud forest

After breakfast, make the short hike back to Carate. Upon arrival you'll transfer to the airstrip at Puerto Jimenez and hop a domestic flight back to San José. A driver will meet you and you'll embark on a 2.5-hour road journey to the region of Monteverde. Located 3,000 feet above sea level in the misty Tilaran Mountains of northwestern Costa Rica, Monteverde is famous for its cloud forests and canopy tours. It's one of the country’s most famous destinations and its Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is a model of conservation.

Day 6: Aerial Fun in the Cloud Forest

Bridge walk, Monteverde
Bridge walk, Monteverde

Sky Adventures Monteverde Park is an aerial amusement park that literally raises jungle excitement to the next level. Its Sky Tram network of gondolas transport visitors from one adrenaline pumping activity to another. First, you'll 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 will be on full display, and our specialized guides will point out the most interesting specimens. Later, you'll ride in an open-air Sky Tram gondola. During this journey, you'll 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. You will connect to a zip-line cable that stretches over the treetops and across canyons, ultimately returning you to the starting point at Sky Adventures' main building. Sky Trek is regarded as the most thrilling zip line in the country, and this makes sense considering that Monteverde is the birthplace of the canopy tour as we know it.

Day 7: Boat from Monteverde to Arenal

Lake Arenal
Lake Arenal

After breakfast, you'll be taken by ground transportation to Rio Chiquito. From here, you'll sail down the river on a 30-minute boat ride to the Lake Arenal dam, where another driver will take you to your hotel near the town of La Fortuna.

La Fortuna is the gateway to the Arenal Volcano area and its endless array of activities. Take the afternoon to settle in and explore your surroundings. If you're up to it, go for a hike on the Arenal 1968 Trail for close-up views of the volcano. If you'd rather relax ahead of tomorrow's adventure, try some of the local fare at one of La Fortuna's more than 100 restaurants.

Day 8: Trekking to Hule Lagoon

You might spot a sloth on the trail
You might spot a sloth on the trail

Today you'll hike to one of the natural highlights of Costa Rica: the volcanic Hule Lagoon. You'll set out from La Fortuna early in the morning and drive 1.5 hours to the outskirts of Juan Castro Blanco National Park. This is your starting point. Trek five miles (eight km) through the plains bordering the volcanic crater before heading up into the rainforest toward the lagoon. 

Along the way, enjoy the rich biodiversity of the area. The landscape here runs the gamut from grassy plains to clay soil to volcanic rock, which makes for a wide array of ecosystems within a relatively small area. Keep your eyes peeled for tropical birds, monkeys, and even three-toed sloths! You'll also pass several other lagoons on your way before reaching the magnificent Hule, located at the base of the Cerro Congo Volcano.

Stop here and enjoy a traditional Costa Rican lunch as you take in panoramic views of the mountains. Return to La Fortuna for an evening of relaxation.

Hike duration: Four hours each way

Day 9: Waterfall Canyoning

Off into the canyons
Off into the canyons

Today you will participate in an unforgettable adventure. That's right, you'll be rappelling down the sheer face of a 55-meter (165-foot) waterfall. After hiking into a canyon at the heart of the rainforest and traveling along winding rivers, you'll reach your final destination. Now it's time to rappel down the plunging falls under the watchful eye of expert guides. Not to worry, though—there's no experience necessary and the minimum age is 13 years old (exceptions can be made for some 12-year-olds).

Canyoning duration: Four hours

Day 10: Transfer to Siquirres - Rafting Pacuare -> Transfer to San José

A calm and beautiful section of the Pacuare
A calm and beautiful section of the Pacuare

Early in the morning, you will embark on a three-hour drive to the town of Siquirres, where you will meet the rest of the group for an exhilarating trip down the Pacuare River. Rated one of the top rafting rivers in the world, you’ll travel 19 miles over class III-IV white water. As for scenery, you'll pass by cascading waterfalls, virgin rainforest, tropical plants, and all of it abounding with exotic wildlife. Common sightings include parrots, toucans, deer, jaguars, ocelots, monkeys, butterflies, and more. Afterward, a driver will meet you and you'll transfer about two hours back to San José.

Day 11: Depart San José

San José at twilight
San José at twilight

It's time to say adiós to Costa Rica. Depending on your departure time, you'll have the morning to explore more of San José, relax in a coffee shop, or browse some shops before boarding your flight home.

Map

Map of Costa Rica Wildlife Adventure - 11 days
Map of Costa Rica Wildlife Adventure - 11 days