Costa Rica's legendarily friendly "Tico" culture goes back a long time to the region's first indigenous inhabitants. On an eight-day tour of the Caribbean coast, you'll spend a day at a local indigenous village and learn about their culture and traditions. You'll even visit Arenal Volcano National Park and spend a day working on a local farm.

Highlights

  • Enjoy a cultural tour of San JosĂ©
  • Travel down an exotic river to a traditional indigenous village
  • Visit Arenal and spend a day on the farm with a local family

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Costa Rica – Experience San José's Culture San Jose
Day 2 San José to the Caribbean Coast Puerto Viejo de Talamanca
Day 3 Transfer to BambĂş - Boat Ride to Bribri Village Yorkin
Day 4 Waterfall Hike - Transfer to Puerto Viejo Puerto Viejo de Talamanca
Day 5 Puerto Viejo to Arenal Volcano Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 6 Los Campesinos Farm Experience Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 7 Arenal to San José San Jose
Day 8 Depart San José  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Costa Rica – Experience San José's Culture

the National Theater in San José
the National Theater in San José

Welcome to Costa Rica, the land of pura vida! After arriving at Juan Santamaría International Airport in San José, a local representative will meet you and escort you to your hotel. The rest of the day you'll have free to explore the city at your leisure.

Perhaps stroll through Mercado Central (Central Market), which features over 200 shops and food stalls. Then visit the Catedral Metropolitana (Metropolitan Church), whose interior combines Greek Orthodox, neoclassical, and Baroque styles. There's also the neo-classical National Theater and the Museo del Jade, which houses the world's largest collection of pre-Columbian jade artifacts.

Be sure to explore Barrio Amón, a bohemian neighborhood home to historic cafetalero (coffee grower) mansions built during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. For dinner, opt for a restaurant in the hills of Escazú. This elevated region on the western edge of the city offers panoramic views of the valley below. That said, San José is filled with great restaurants serving everything from traditional Costa Rican fare to forward-thinking fusion cuisine.

Day 2: San José to the Caribbean Coast

Off to Puerto Viejo
Off to Puerto Viejo

Today the adventure starts! After breakfast, a car service will pick you up for the drive east four hours to the Caribbean coast and the surf village of Puerto Viejo. This small community is known for its epic surf breaks, palm-fringed beaches fronting crystalline waters, and laidback attitude. The town's cultural influences are an interesting mix of Afro-Caribbean, Bribri Indian, Tico (local Costa Rican), and with a dash of hippy counterculture. 

Upon arrival in town, you'll check into your hotel and then you can spend the remainder of the day relaxing. Perhaps head out for some snorkeling, surfing, or just sunbathing on the beach. You can find some great nearby beach options at Playa Cocles, Punta Uva, and Playa Chiquita. 

In addition to the amazing beaches, Puerto Viejo has two national parks, Cahuita and Manzanillo. These protected areas are the natural habitat of a wide variety of wildlife, including sloths, howler monkeys, and many species of exotic birds. If you have the energy you can visit these parks, or you can opt for a tour of the Jaguar Rescue Center to see recently rescued and rehabilitated animals before they're reintroduced back into the wild.

In the evening enjoy dinner at one of the many restaurants this melting pot has to offer. Here you'll find Caribbean cuisine, fresh seafood, traditional Tico fare, and even Asian fusion and some vegan options. For a fun night out, visit some of Puerto Viejo's raucous bars and enjoy the rollicking Caribbean culture. Or maybe just sip a tropical cocktail or two on the beach while staring up at the stars.

Day 3: Transfer to BambĂş - Boat Ride to Bribri Village

On the way to YorkĂ­n
On the way to YorkĂ­n

It's time for a rich cultural experience deep in the Costa Rican jungle. In the morning a car service will pick you up from your hotel in Puerto Viejo and drive you one hour to the small village of BambĂş, located in the Talamanca Mountains. Once there, you'll meet a local guide and embark down the YorkĂ­n River on a 1.5-hour journey in a dugout canoe. Your destination is the village of YorkĂ­n, which is home to the native Bribri people.

Once in Yorkin, you'll enjoy a guided tour of the small village as well as the organic cocoa and banana plantations that surround it. After a snack, you'll hike on a suspension bridge over the river Skui to some natural pools where you can take a refreshing dip. Then it will be time to enjoy a traditional Bribri lunch before meeting with members of Stibrawpa, the local women's association, who will talk about the work they do in the community and about sustainable tourism.

Then it's time for delicious fun as you take part in a chocolate-making demonstration. Of course, at the end of the epxerience, you can sample the fruits of your labor. The Bribri will also show you the art of making palm-thatched roofs or perhaps introduce you to the ancient tradition of archery. You'll also receive a crash course on the Bribri language in order to learn more about their culture.

In the evening you'll spend some time with an indigenous family and maybe even taste homemade chicha, a fermented corn drink the Bribris offer to special guests. To cap the day, you'll enjoy a delicious dinner prepared with local products grown on the property and cooked over a wood-fired stove. All in all, it's a rewarding trip that offers a lot of fun while supporting the preservation of a fascinating culture and community.

Day 4: Waterfall Hike - Transfer to Puerto Viejo

The Yorkin River
The Yorkin River

Take the morning to enjoy a delicious local breakfast amid the peace and tranquility of this Bribri village. You can then embark on an optional 2.5-hour hike along the river to a stunning waterfall, weather permitting. On this route, you'll enjoy the surrounding nature, observe different species of exotic birds, and appreciate the unique flora and fauna of the rainforest. If you wish, you can even take a dip in the Yorkin River.

From the waterfall, you'll head back down the river in a cayuco, a traditional indigenous canoe. This 1.5-hour trip leads back to the community of BambĂş, where a car service will meet you for the one-hour drive to your hotel in Puerto Viejo. Upon arrival, you'll have the rest of the day free to relax and laze on the beach.

Day 5: Puerto Viejo to Arenal Volcano

Arenal Volcano
Arenal Volcano

After breakfast, a car service will pick you up and drive you five hours west to La Fortuna, the village that's the home base for excursions into Arenal Volcano National Park, which is home to the 5,437-foot-high volcano of the same name. This is one of Costa Rica’s most famous landmarks and it's still classified as an active volcano. 

After checking into your hotel you can take the rest of the day to get out and explore. There are many nature trails around La Fortuna thick with the rich flora and fauna that comprises this rainforest region. There's also the famous La Fortuna Waterfall, an impressive 200-foot (75-meter) cascade located just a few minutes outside of town. Also on offer are zip-line tours and kayaking around nearby Lake Arenal.

Day 6: Los Campesinos Farm Experience

Spend a day on the farm
Spend a day on the farm

After enjoying breakfast at your hotel, a car service will pick you up and transfer you 10 minutes from La Fortuna to the small town of Agua Azul. This is a full-day excursion in which you'll visit a nearby sustainable farm that uses natural resources while promoting traditional Costa Rican farming practices. The local hosts will welcome you with a fresh fruit juice, at which point you'll embark on a tour of the property. 

This is a hands-on farming experience, and the first order of the day is learning how to milk a cow. Then the party really starts as you sample a local concoction made from fresh milk, chocolate, and homemade liquor. You'll also participate in the processing of sugar cane to extract its sweet juice, which when mixed with organic spearmint liquor makes another potent cocktail. Throughout the experience, you'll observe what's known as alambique, the distillation process which results in artisanal liquor. 

You'll also be able to visit a small ranch and archeological site where you can view some ancient indigenous artifacts. Then, you'll take a relaxing stroll through a beautiful orchid garden, which also abounds with medicinal plants. A guide will be on hand to point out the most interesting species. 

Afterward, you'll gather with the other guests on the tour and everyone will share in a spread of freshly prepared farm favorites like coffee, tortillas, cheese, potatoes, and other hearty fare. Once the tour is over the car service will take you back to the hotel and you can spend the rest of the day relaxing.

Day 7: Arenal to San José

Farewell, Arenal
Farewell, Arenal

In the morning you'll say goodbye to Arenal as your private transfer takes you on a three-hour drive south back to San José. On the way, you'll pass towering volcanoes and enjoy the fertile green valleys and rolling hills of Costa Rica's Central Valley. After arriving at your hotel, you can relax after your long journey. 

Day 8: 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 café, and/or browse some shops before boarding your flight home.

Map

Map of Costa Rica's Indigenous Culture & Arenal Excursion - 8 Days
Map of Costa Rica's Indigenous Culture & Arenal Excursion - 8 Days