Venture into Costa Rica's pristine landscapes on this 6-day itinerary featuring boat tours, jungle hikes, and wildlife viewing. An excellent choice for families, the adventure begins with a day of cultural sightseeing in historic San José. Then you'll move onward to the cloud forest of Monteverde, where you'll trek to waterfalls and visit the country's largest butterfly garden. Base yourself in Tamarindo for the last part of the trip, enjoying a sunset catamaran tour and a safari-style float down a jungle river to spot crocodiles in the wild.

Highlights

  • Soak up the history and culture of downtown San José
  • Discover the misty cloud forest of Monteverde
  • Explore the Children's Eternal Forest at night
  • Dine on a catamaran and take in sunset views of Tamarindo
  • Look for crocodiles as you float down a river on a safari tour

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive, Explore Downtown San José San José
Day 2 Visit La Paz Waterfall Gardens & Children's Eternal Forest Monteverde
Day 3 Tour Monteverde Cloud Forest on a Guided Hike Monteverde
Day 4 Enjoy a Catamaran Sailing Tour at Sunset Tamarindo
Day 5 Float Down the Corobicí River on a Safari Tour Tamarindo
Day 6 Depart Costa Rica, End of Trip  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive, Explore Downtown San José

The National Theater
The National Theater in San José
Welcome to Costa Rica! Your driver will transfer you to your hotel in San José. After settling in, go for a self-guided walking tour of the city's downtown. Depending on your hotel, you can walk or call a taxi to visit Mercado Central. Featuring over 200 shops, food stalls, and sodas (traditional restaurants), Mercado Central is the perfect spot to kick off your city tour. Explore the colorful fruit stands full of fresh produce, scope some souvenir ideas, or pop over to a soda for an early lunch of traditional Costa Rican casado

It's a short walk to Central Park, a small plaza that is always bustling with activity. Admire various outdoor sculptures as you make your way through the park toward Catedral Metropolitana, whose interior combines Greek Orthodox, Neoclassical, and Baroque styles. Continue walking down Central Avenue until you reach the historic Teatro Nacional, an opulent Neoclassical building constructed in the late 19th century. A free guided tour is offered on the hour. If you require a caffeine fix, the theater's café is an excellent place for a quick coffee and pastry before moving on to explore the city's museums.

Your first museum stop is The Museo del Oro Precolumbino. Accessible from the Plaza de la Cultura, the museum is located beneath the plaza and holds the most extensive Pre-Columbian gold collection in Latin America. A guided visit provides unique insight into the history of Costa Rica and the rest of Central America. Next, head to the Museo del Jade, the world's largest collection of pre-Columbian jade artifacts. The museum's distinctive modern architecture is hard to miss as it was built to look like a block of raw jade. As you wander among thousands of unique jade pieces, you'll gain an even deeper appreciation for Costa Rica's rich history.
 
If you're still up for more exploring, head just outside San José to the hills of Escazú for dinner. This elevated region on the western edge of the city offers panoramic views of the valley below and is easily reached by taxi.

Day 2: Visit La Paz Waterfall Gardens & Children's Eternal Forest

La Paz Waterfall Gardens
La Paz Waterfall Gardens
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Today you'll hit the road and travel to Monteverde. You'll pass through unforgettable scenery, including misty cloud forests, rolling green hills, and charming lakeside villages. Stop along the journey to visit La Paz Waterfall Gardens and the largest butterfly garden in the country. The park also has an aviary full of local bird species, an impressive hummingbird gallery, and snake, frog, insect, and wildcat exhibits. 

After a delicious buffet lunch, you will visit an old farmhouse and walk along forest trails to five waterfalls. Continue your journey toward Monteverde. Check into your hotel before the evening's activity, a nocturnal walk in the Children's Eternal Forest, begins. The largest private reserve in Costa Rica is part of UNESCO's Water and Peace Biosphere, the Costa Rican Network of Private Reserves, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The activity starts right after nightfall, allowing you to observe the awakening animals and others who seek their nests and caves to sleep.

Day 3: Tour Monteverde Cloud Forest on a Guided Hike

Explore the dense jungle of the Monteverde Cloud Forest
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 located high in the mountainous northwest region of the country. 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 resplendent quetzal. It's a nature lover's paradise.

Day 4: Enjoy a Catamaran Sailing Tour at Sunset

Enjoy the sunset aboard a luxury catamaran
Enjoy the sunset aboard a luxury catamaran

Head to the surf town of Tamarindo today. Soak up the bright afternoon sun until it transitions into soft pinks and oranges later in the afternoon. You'll be picked up at your hotel and transferred to the landing dock in Playas del Coco. You'll board a catamaran and begin silently gliding along the Gold Coast past picturesque bays, white-sand beaches, and tropical jungles.

You're likely to spot many animals, from dolphins to sea turtles, flying fish, and the occasional breaching whale. The crew will be serving up plenty of delicious tropical drinks as you make your way to a tranquil bay where you can swim in the crystal clear waters of the Pacific. Snorkel in the bay or stroll down the deserted beach. Have dinner on the boat, then sit back and listen to the waves lapping at the sides of the catamaran as you make your way back to shore, taking in gorgeous sunset views along the way.

Day 5: Float Down the Corobicí River on a Safari Tour

A Costa Rican crocodile

On a safari-style tour of the Corobicí River today, you'll float with a naturalist guide through a special ecosystem where you can see an incredible variety of animals, birds, fish, plants, and more. Keep your eyes open as you look out at gigantic kapoks, figs, rubber, and shoreline trees, which serve as habitats for monkeys, bats, lizards, birds, iguanas, and more.

Your guide will help you to spot some of these animals as you float down the river looking for the main attraction — crocodiles. You're likely to see quite a few!

Day 6: Depart Costa Rica - End of Trip

Sunset over the ocean
The trip ends today. Transfer back to Liberia to catch your flight out. Safe travels!

More Great 6-Day Costa Rica Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Costa Rica? Check out these other 6-day Costa Rica itineraries, with outdoor adventures, family-friendly trips, and beach vacations to hit the highlights. 

Map

Map of Discover the Cloud Forests, Rivers & Beaches of Costa Rica  - 6 Days
Map of Discover the Cloud Forests, Rivers & Beaches of Costa Rica - 6 Days
Yenyi
Written by Yenyi Fu, updated May 18, 2022