Discover Costa Rica's spectacular landscapes and vibrant wildlife on this four-day itinerary. After touching down in San José, you'll transfer to La Fortuna, your base for exploring the Arenal region. Go on a guided rainforest hike, walk through a sloth habitat, see how chocolate is made, soak in natural hot springs, and walk high above the jungle on the Arenal Hanging Bridges before heading back to the capital city to catch your flight out.


  • Spot sloths, tropical birds, and colorful frogs on a guided rainforest walk
  • Hike around the base of Arenal Volcano, then soak in natural hot springs
  • Learn how to make chocolate during a hands-on tour of a cacao farm
  • Walk along the Arenal Hanging Bridges, taking in sweeping views of volcanoes

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in San José, Transfer to La Fortuna & Nighttime Rainforest Walk La Fortuna
Day 2 Go on a Sloth & Bird Hike, Dip in Hot Springs La Fortuna
Day 3 Explore the Hanging Bridges & Visit a Chocolate Farm  La Fortuna
Day 4 Transfer to San José, Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in San José, Transfer to La Fortuna & Nighttime Rainforest Walk

The colorful yet lethal poison dart frog
The colorful yet lethal poison dart frog

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'll head to Ecocentro Danaus in the late afternoon, a private ecological reserve located 2.75 miles (4.5 km) east of La Fortuna. Wait until 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. While the reserve is open to the public by day, it is closed to most groups by night, making this an exclusive opportunity to see how the rainforest transforms after dusk.

Check out the Ultimate Guide to Arenal for more information.

Day 2: Go on a Sloth & Bird Hike, Dip in Hot Springs

Look up to see wildlife
A sloth clinging to a tree

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 of these slow-moving animals and perhaps even spy 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, hike around Arenal Volcano and other nearby nature reserves. The trails in the area are generally not strenuous—perfect for a leisurely and informative hike with a naturalist guide. 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. These springs have been used as therapeutic baths for centuries. End the day with a nice dinner at the resort's restaurant, which serves Costa Rican dishes and international fare, before being picked up and transported back to your accommodations.

Learn more about visiting the hot springs by reading this article.

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Day 3: Explore the Hanging Bridges & Visit a Chocolate Farm 

Arenal Hanging Bridges
Walk on the Arenal Hanging Bridges

This morning is your chance to explore the Arenal Hanging Bridges. This trail system features suspension bridges that take you high above the treetops before treating you to a once-in-a-lifetime view of Arenal Volcano soaring above the canopy. With more than 350 avian species found here, bird-watching is superb.

In the afternoon, enjoy a hands-on tour to learn about the origin, history, and production of one of Costa Rica's most famous exports: chocolate. You'll participate in the cacao harvest as well as the drying and grinding of the seeds used to produce creamy cocoa butter. You'll learn how a traditional Costa Rican cocoa drink was developed and, of course, sample freshly made chocolate.

Learn more here about visiting the chocolate farm.

Day 4: Transfer to San José, Depart

Catch a glimpse of San José's National Theater

The trip ends today. You'll transfer to San José and head 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 four days in Costa Rica, or discover the best time to visit Costa Rica.


Map of Explore the Volcanoes & Wildlife of Arenal - 4 Days
Map of Explore the Volcanoes & Wildlife of Arenal - 4 Days
Written by Yenyi Fu, updated Oct 17, 2022