Delve into Costa Rica's fascinating traditions and magnificent landscapes on this eight-day tour that blends culture and nature. Highlights along the journey include a cooking class with a Costa Rican chef, tours of two local farms to learn about agriculture and rural life, and a visit to an indigenous community, where you'll have the chance to purchase handicrafts. You'll also go horseback riding to La Fortuna Waterfall, enjoy a jungle cruise in Palo Verde National Park, and sail on the Gulf of Papagayo at sunset.


  • Travel on horseback to La Fortuna Waterfall for a refreshing swim
  • Meet members of the Maleku indigenous group and learn about their culture
  • Visit a local farm to learn about Costa Rican coffee and chocolate
  • Wildlife-watch on a jungle cruise along the lush Tempisque River
  • Tour a local village known for its ceramics tradition

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in San José, Explore Downtown San José
Day 2 Visit a Farm & Take a Cooking Class  Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 3 Horseback Ride to La Fortuna Waterfall & Soak in Hot Springs Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 4 Experience Daily Life on a Costa Rican Farm Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 5 Sail on the Gulf of Papagayo at Sunset Gulf of Papagayo
Day 6 Go on a Jungle Cruise in Palo Verde National Park Gulf of Papagayo
Day 7 Explore Beaches & Snorkel Offshore Gulf of Papagayo
Day 8 Depart Costa Rica  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in San José, Explore Downtown

Afternoon scene in front of the National Theater of Costa Rica
Afternoon scene in front of the National Theater of Costa Rica

Welcome to Costa Rica! A driver will transfer you from the airport to your hotel in San José. After settling in, go for a self-guided walking tour of downtown. Depending on your hotel's location, you can walk or take a taxi to your first destination: Mercado Central (Central Market), featuring over 200 shops, food stalls, and sodas (traditional restaurants). It's a short walk to Central Park, a small plaza always bustling with activity. Pass various outdoor sculptures as you walk through the park toward Catedral Metropolitana and continue walking down Central Avenue until you reach the 19th-century Teatro Nacional.

Your first museum stop is the Museo del Oro Precolumbino, which is accessible from beneath the Plaza de la Cultura and holds the most extensive Pre-Columbian gold collection in Latin America. Next, head to the Museo del Jade, the world's largest collection of pre-Columbian jade artifacts. As you wander among thousands of unique jade pieces, you'll gain an even deeper appreciation for Costa Rica's rich history. 

Read this article about where to eat in San José.

Day 2: Visit a Farm & Take a Cooking Class 

Mules on a farm in Costa Rica

After breakfast, you'll travel to La Fortuna in a private van. The drive takes around three hours, depending on traffic. After settling in at your hotel, you'll have some time to relax before heading out for the afternoon's activity, a guided journey to a family-owned farm.

Upon arrival, you'll learn about the gardens and farms where fresh cooking ingredients come from, gaining an understanding of what it takes to get food from the farm to the table. You'll see several crops that Costa Rica is best known for: sugar cane, coffee, corn, yucca, cocoa, bananas, and plantains. Under the guidance of a local chef, you'll take a cooking class, mixing up a traditional cocktail to enjoy while you prepare several dishes. Sit down and enjoy the meal! 

Day 3: Horseback Ride to La Fortuna Waterfall & Soak in Hot Springs

Riding through the forest
Riding through the forest

Horseback ride to La Fortuna Waterfall this morning. It's a slow and easy ride up to the falls, so it is perfect for first-time riders and families. When you reach the entrance to the waterfall, you'll leave your horse and follow your guide down to the cascades. At the base, you'll have an opportunity to take lots of pictures and swim in the cool water.

On the ride back, you'll stop in a Maleku village to learn about the region's indigenous history. Pick up some traditional handicrafts before your itinerary continues at the Tabacon Hot Springs. Dip in warm waters heated by the nearby Arenal Volcano, then enjoy dinner at the hot springs.

If you're interested in staying in a hotel with access to hot springs, read Best Hot Spring Hotels in La Fortuna.
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Day 4: Experience Daily Life on a Costa Rican Farm

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

Today you'll visit a sustainable farm that uses natural resources while promoting traditional Costa Rican farming practices. The local hosts will welcome you with fresh fruit juice, at which point you'll embark on a property tour. This is a hands-on farming experience, and the first order of the day is learning how to milk a cow. Then the party starts as you sample a local concoction made from fresh milk, chocolate, and homemade liquor.

Afterward, you'll also be able to visit a small ranch and archeological site to view some ancient indigenous artifacts. Then you'll take a relaxing stroll through a beautiful orchid garden with medicinal plants. A guide will be on hand to point out the most interesting species. Afterward, you'll gather with the other guests, and everyone will share in a spread of freshly prepared farm favorites like coffee, tortillas, cheese, potatoes, and more.

Day 5: Sail on the Gulf of Papagayo at Sunset

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

This morning, a driver will pick you up in a private, air-conditioned minivan and transfer you to the Gulf of Papagayo. The drive takes approximately 3.5 to 4 hours, depending on traffic. Check into your hotel and take some time to relax. 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.

Soak up the bright afternoon sun until it transitions into soft pinks and oranges. You're likely to spot 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.

Read more about the best things to do in the Gulf of Papagayo.

Day 6: Go on a Jungle Cruise in Palo Verde National Park 

Prepare for a jungle cruise
A jungle cruise in Palo Verde National Park

Outdoor adventure and wildlife experiences await you today. First, you'll transfer to Palo Verde National Park, where you'll embark on a two-hour river trip. As you motor down the Tempisque River on this jungle cruise, white-faced capuchin monkeys swing from the tree branches on the shore while caimans and even the occasional crocodile patrol the waters.

Take in the sights and sounds of various species, including tiger herons, ospreys, ibises, and the jabiru. Afterward, you'll transfer to the small village of Guaitil. Many residents of this indigenous community make handcrafted pottery, and it's a great place to pick up some high-quality souvenirs. 

For more on the best cultural experiences in Costa Rica read this article.

Day 7: Explore Beaches & Snorkel Offshore

Sunset at Flamingo Beach
Sunset at Flamingo Beach

Today is yours to swim in crystal clear waters and relax on the sand. Visit Flamingo Beach, a white-sand crescent where kids can swim and play. You will then visit Grand Beach, where rare leatherback turtles lay their eggs on the sand each year. The third destination on the trip is Tamarindo Beach, the perfect spot for teens or older kids who want to learn how to surf.

One of the most beautiful spots along this eight-day trip comes at the end. Playa Conchal consistently tops lists as one of the best beaches in Costa Rica, with good reason. Small white shells make up the beach instead of sand, strikingly contrasting the bright turquoise waters. Offshore, the pristine water is full of colorful fish, so this is a great place to snorkel with the whole family. End your beach tour by doing just that, or kick back on the sand and relax.

Day 8: Depart Costa Rica

Take in a Costa Rica sunset 

The trip ends today. You will transfer to the airport to catch your flight out. Safe travels!

More Great Costa Rica Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Costa Rica? Check out these other Costa Rica itineraries, explore different ways to spend eight days in Costa Rica, or discover the best time to visit Costa Rica.


Map of Discover Costa Rica's Cultural & Natural Highlights - 8 Days
Map of Discover Costa Rica's Cultural & Natural Highlights - 8 Days
Written by Yenyi Fu, updated Aug 8, 2022