- Hike around the base of Arenal Volcano, then dip in hot springs
- Explore the biodiverse Monteverde Cloud Forest on a guided nature tour
- Kayak along the coast in Manuel Antonio National Park
- Enjoy a barbecue lunch on a boat while cruising Biesanz Bay
- Swim or learn to surf on Playa Scull beach
|Arrive in San José, Transfer to La Fortuna & Nighttime Rainforest Walk
|Go on a Sloth and Bird Hike & Dip in Hot Springs
|Taste Costa Rican Coffee & Enjoy a Nighttime Nature Walk
|Tour Monteverde Cloud Forest on a Guided Hike
|Transfer to Manuel Antonio National Park
|Explore Manuel Antonio National Park
|Boat & Snorkel in Manuel Antonio National Park
|Depart Costa Rica
Day 1: Arrive in San José, Transfer to La Fortuna & Nighttime Rainforest Walk
Welcome to Costa Rica! You'll arrive at San José International Airport. Your driver will be waiting for you just outside the customs area to transfer you to your hotel in La Fortuna (around three hours, depending on traffic).
You will head to Ecocentro Danaus in the late afternoon, a private ecological reserve located 2.75 miles (4.5 km) east of La Fortuna. Here, you will wait for nightfall to embark on a guided nature hike and discover the reserve's nocturnal creatures. As you walk, your guide will point out various insects, birds, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals. You're sure to spot bullfrogs, the iconic red-eyed tree frog, the translucent glass frog, and perhaps the brightly colored poison dart frog, one of the planet's most poisonous frogs.
Return to town for dinner. Read this Where to Dine in La Fortuna article for dining recommendations.
Day 2: Go on a Sloth and Bird Hike & Dip in Hot Springs
Go on a hiking excursion today along the so-called "Sloth Trail." This nature trail cuts through a habitat for sloths (both two-toed and three-toed) who like to hang on the branches of the trees and feed on bright green leaves. On this two-hour guided hike, you'll see a few slow-moving animals and perhaps even spot a mother sloth and its baby. During the walk, your bilingual guide will also point out other animals common to this area, like the famous red-eyed tree frog.
In the afternoon, discover the La Fortuna area with a hike around Arenal Volcano and other nearby nature reserves. Start at the entrance of the 1968 Trail, then hit the well-maintained trails that skirt the base of the Arenal Volcano and Lake Arenal. This 1.5-hour route offers some of the best wildlife viewing opportunities in the park, and your naturalist guide will keep a well-trained eye out for exotic birds, monkeys, and other animals along the way. The trail also provides magnificent views of the extinct volcano Cerro Chato.After hiking the trails, your guide will drop you off at Tabacon Hot Springs so you can soothe your muscles with a dip in mineral-rich waters. If you're interested in staying in a hotel with access to hot springs, read about the best hot spring hotels in La Fortuna.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 3: Taste Costa Rican Coffee & Enjoy a Nighttime Nature WalkFrom your hotel, you'll transfer to the boat dock at the shores of Lake Arenal, where you'll board a boat and journey to the other side of the lake. Upon arrival, you'll officially be in the Monteverde region of Costa Rica. First, you'll walk through a local coffee plantation, where you'll have the opportunity to identify and learn about the coffee plant first-hand. Your guide will walk you through every step of the process, from harvesting to roasting and brewing, and show you the simplest way to prepare a perfect cup of coffee.
After finishing your coffee, it's time to head into the jungle! This part of the tour takes place in a protected forest that is about 50% of the plantation's property. The trail extends along a creek that runs through the farm, making it the perfect location to spot creatures in the trees and along the shores of the water. It is common to observe frogs and various snake species along the trail. With a bit of luck, you might even observe forest dwellers such as the two-toed sloth or the kinkajou.
You may want to look at this Ultimate Guide to Costa Rican Coffee.
Day 4: Tour Monteverde Cloud Forest on a Guided Hike
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 high in the country's mountainous northwest region. 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 quetzal. It's a nature lover's paradise.
Check out the Best Things to Do in Monteverde for more ideas of what to see and do.
Day 5: Transfer to Manuel Antonio National Park
After breakfast, you'll transfer to Manuel Antonio National Park in a private, air-conditioned minivan. The drive takes approximately five hours, depending on traffic. You'll stop along the way in the town of Tárcoles and make your way to a bridge over the Tárcoles River. The river is famous for having the largest American crocodile population in Central America, and this is your chance to see these toothy reptiles in the wild. You can usually see at least a dozen sunbathing on the riverbanks or floating in the water from the bridge.
Continue to Manuel Antonio National Park, check in to your hotel, and get some rest before the next day's excursion. If you have the energy or inclination, both the beach and the edge of the national park are close to town, so you can easily spend time here with water sports on Espadilla Beach or a hike on the trails through the forest. You can also explore the adjacent town of Quepos for sunset views. Or you may prefer to take it easy, wandering at your own pace and stopping for dinner in a local restaurant. Here are some dining recommendations for the area.
Day 6: Explore Manuel Antonio National Park
Today you'll go on a guided tour to explore the pristine natural beauty of the world-famous Manuel Antonio National Park, filled with exotic wildlife such as monkeys, sloths, birds, reptiles, and butterflies. Your picturesque hike will take you to one of the country's best beaches, known for its white sandy beaches and crystalline blue waters. Have your camera ready as your knowledgeable guide points out diverse flora and fauna along the way.
Check out the Ultimate Guide to Manuel Antonio National Park for more information.
Day 7: Boat & Snorkel in Manuel Antonio National Park
This morning, board a catamaran at the pier in Quepos for a sailing adventure along the coast. Your guide will highlight notable wildlife and vegetation as you admire the region's islands, cliffs, and rock formations. After touring the coastline, the captain will set anchor at Biesanz Bay, where you can snorkel or relax onboard. You may spot parrotfish, starfish, angelfish, and dolphins from the boat while enjoying a barbecue lunch.
You'll have the chance to take a surfing lesson at Playa Scull later in the day. Alternatively, relax on the beach and enjoy the scenery on the last day of the trip!
Day 8: Depart Costa RicaThe trip ends today. Depending on your departure details, there may be time to complete any last-minute souvenir shopping before you transfer to the airport to catch your flight out. Safe travels!
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