This 11-day trip starts with La Fortuna—home of Arenal Volcano National Park—where you'll zipline, whitewater raft, and soak in the local hot springs. In Monteverde, walk suspension bridges atop the cloud forest canopy and enjoy a coffee and chocolate tour. Then, you’ll reach Uvita, where you can give in to scenic, beachside relaxation, and visit an animal sanctuary, before ending the trip in San José.

Highlights

  • Go ziplining with views of Arenal and the La Fortuna Waterfall below
  • Enjoy coffee and chocolate tours and tastings in Monteverde
  • Visit with the resident animals at the Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Take on advanced rapids on a rafting tour down La Balsa River

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in San José and Travel to La Fortuna Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 2 Travel to Tortuguero National Park Tortuguero
Day 3 Travel to La Fortuna Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 4 La Fortuna - Ziplining and Rafting Excursions Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 5 La Fortuna - Arenal and Hot Springs Tours Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 6 Travel to Monteverde and Coffee and Chocolate Tours Monteverde
Day 7 Monteverde - Hanging Bridges and Ziplining Excursions Monteverde
Day 8 Travel to Uvita Uvita
Day 9 Uvita - Free Day Uvita
Day 10 Travel to San José San José
Day 11 Departure From San José  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in San José and travel to La Fortuna

La Fortuna Town
La Fortuna with a view of Arenal

Welcome to Costa Rica! Once you arrive in San José, a representative will be waiting for you at the airport and will provide all the travel documents you need. Then, a private vehicle will take you through the northern plains of the country with its exotic, tropical flora and different plantations before you get to La Fortuna, the little town located by the impressive Arenal volcano. Upon arrival, you will have a free afternoon to explore Arenal and the surrounding town.

For dinner, some restaurant recommendations include the following:

  • Ave del Paraíso, which serves a mix of local Costa Rican and international cuisine
  • 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 2: Travel to Tortuguero National Park

Tortuguero Town
Tortuguero 

Early in the morning, a driver will pick you up at your hotel and will transport you through the beautiful mountain ranges of the Braulio Carrillo National Park.

The tour continues after a typical breakfast by bus and boat along a 20-mile-long system of waterways and rivers surrounded by lush scenery until you reach the town of Tortuguero around noon. Tortuguero National Park is one of the most important protected areas in Costa Rica and offers a perfect nesting place for leatherback and green sea turtles, alike.

This afternoon, you’ll visit the colorful town of Tortuguero. Once at the lodge, you can enjoy the amenities at your disposal, including the tropical garden and the swimming pool.

Day 3: Travel to La Fortuna

Arenal Volcano
Arenal volcano

Today, very early in the morning, you will take a boat tour around the canals of Tortuguero National Park, where you’ll observe the animals, such as caimans, toucan, sloth, and many more.

After you finish the tour, you will go back to your hotel to enjoy breakfast, Afterward, it will be time to leave Tortuguero and continue your adventure. Travel back to the dock, and you will continue by bus to Guápiles, where you will enjoy lunch. After lunch, a shuttle will pick you up and will take you through the northern plains of the country—with its exotic tropical flora and different plantations—before you return to La Fortuna, the little town that is home to Arenal volcano.

You’ll have the afternoon free to explore the volcano, as well as La Fortuna. Refer to the recommended restaurants for a nice dinner in town.

Day 4: La Fortuna - Ziplining and rafting excursions

White Water Rafting
Go whitewater rafting down La Balsa River

Today calls for a fix of action and adventure. The first part consists of a zipline excursion. Begin the seven-cable tour with an adrenaline-filled climb up a 54-foot-high tower to fly over a canyon that is 360 feet high. From there, you can take in spectacular views of the Pino Blanco Waterfall, Arenal, and Cerro Chato. Next, you will cross a hanging bridge to the longest cable—which stretches more than 0.5 miles above the La Fortuna Waterfall—with great views of downtown Fortuna.

Afterward, you will be picked up to go on a rafting tour on La Balsa River with an English-speaking guide. You will master rapid Levels III-IV and get to know Costa Rica's nature up-close. Following your active morning, enjoy a hearty lunch. Note: The minimum age is 7 years old for this tour.

Then, the evening is yours to enjoy La Fortuna at your leisure.

Day 5: La Fortuna - Arenal and hot springs tours

Arenal Hike Tour
Embark on an Arenal hiking tour

Relax in the morning, and take in the hotel’s surroundings.

In the afternoon, around 2 pm, you’ll enjoy an unforgettable, 3-hour tour; you will hike through trails marked with the remains of the previous lava flows from a former Arenal eruption. The main attraction of La Fortuna is the Arenal volcano, with its nearly perfect cone shape, and a height of 5,358 feet. Along the hike, you will discover the abundant flora and fauna, and your guide will tell you all about Arenal volcano’s history and activity. 

Afterward, around 6 pm, you will visit the hot springs resort, settled in a tropical environment at the basin of the volcano. Here, you will absorb the peace and serenity of the tropical rainforest while enjoying views of Arenal. You will have 3 hours to relax, and unwind with a nice soak. At the end of this visit, your driver will take you back to the hotel.

Day 6: Travel to Monteverde and coffee and chocolate tours

Coffee Beans
Coffee beans in Monteverde

After breakfast, you will continue your trip by shuttle to the town of Santa Elena, where the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, known for its biodiversity, is located.

After you arrive at your hotel, a driver will pick you up to go on a nearby coffee tour. The tour starts with an introduction to the life cycle of a coffee plant—starting with the coffee seed itself—and looking at its fascinating evolutionary cycle (the harvest, drying, toasting, and grinding of the bean). This experience continues with a chocolate tour, where you will be completely immersed for 30 minutes within the world of chocolate, enjoying its delicious aromas and learning about its history.

The rest of the day and evening is yours to enjoy Santa Elena.

Day 7: Monteverde - Hanging bridges and ziplining excursions

Tackle Monteverde's hanging bridges and ziplines

Today you will visit Monteverde’s famous hanging bridges. Here, you can walk across 15 impressive steal bridges, some of which are suspended over the forest. The bridges offer multiple lengths and heights to allow access to the plants and wildlife at different perspectives as you go through the various levels of the rainforest.

This park also offers optional activities (for an additional charge), like a hummingbird garden, a butterfly farm, and one of the most thrilling zipline tours in the country, featuring 15 cables, 18 platforms, and an optional Tarzan swing at the end of the adventure.

Day 8: Travel to Uvita

Pacific Sunset
Pacific Coast sunset

After breakfast, you’ll start your journey to Uvita, which is nestled along the South Pacific Coast. In recent years, Uvita has grown into a favorite destination of many tourists. Along the coast, you’ll find miles of isolated, unspoiled beaches and beautiful bays that are great for surfing, fishing, and diving. Its real magic lies in the surrounding scenery.

You’ll have the afternoon to explore the area and then relax at your hotel or on the beach.

Day 9: Uvita - Free day

Whale Tail, Marino Ballena National Park
Whale Tail, Marino Ballena National Park

Today is a free day to explore the Dominical and Uvita beaches, and you can also book an onsite visit to the Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary, which offers tours in English and Spanish—the property is closed on Mondays, though. Tours last between 1-1.5 hours and provide information on Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary’s history, objectives, the animals’ individual stories and the rescue work performed. You will meet the sanctuary residents while learning about their history, biology, and conservation needs. The sanctuary hosts a wide variety of animals, including spider monkeys, capuchin monkeys, sloths, anteaters, raccoons, parrots, toucans, raptors, porcupines, and kinkajous.

You can also spend some time at the beach and visit the Marino Ballena National Park, depending on your preference. The night is yours to enjoy, as well.

Day 10: Travel to San José

National Theater
National Theater in San José

Enjoy the morning relaxing a bit longer in Uvita. In the afternoon, a driver will pick you up and drive you back to San José, where you will check in to your hotel.

Depending on your time of arrival and your preferences, you can explore a bit of the capital and have a nice farewell dinner. Along with the museums and markets, you can explore Barrio Amón, a historic neighborhood 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 Amón a popular bohemian district. 

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. However, San José is filled with great restaurants serving everything from traditional to forward-thinking fusion cuisine, too.

Day 11: Departure from San José

Airport
Farewell, Costa Rica!

In the morning, enjoy breakfast at your hotel. At the appropriate time, a driver will take you to the Juan Santamaría International Airport to catch your flight home. Safe Travels!

Map

Map of Costa Rica Great Outdoors: Tortuguero, Arenal, Monteverde, & More - 11 Days
Map of Costa Rica Great Outdoors: Tortuguero, Arenal, Monteverde, & More - 11 Days