Boating, hiking, snorkeling, cycling—all outdoor activities await travelers on this family-friendly 6-day tour around Costa Rica's beaches and wetlands. Beginning and ending in San José, and you'll get to know the historic city on a walking tour before heading into the wilderness of Tortuguero National Park for a nighttime wildlife hike and a boat trip along jungle canals. Spot monkeys in the wild and baby turtles on the sand before continuing onto a snorkeling excursion in Cahuita National Park and the stunning black, golden, and white sand beaches around Puerto Viejo.

Highlights

  • Enjoy a stunning coastal region with black, golden, and white sand beaches
  • Look for frogs, bats, sloths, and porcupines on a night hike
  • Snorkel around a coral reef in Cahuita National Park 
  • Cycle to Playa Punta Uva for a relaxed beach afternoon
  • See nesting turtles or baby turtles hatching on Tortuguero Beach

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive, Explore Downtown San José San José
Day 2 Spot Wildlife on a Night Hike in Tortuguero Tortuguero
Day 3 Boat Along the Tortuguero Canals Tortuguero
Day 4 Discover the Beaches Around Puerto Viejo Puerto Viejo de Talamanca
Day 5 Tour Cahuita National Park Puerto Viejo de Talamanca
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.
 
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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: Spot Wildlife on a Night Hike in Tortuguero

The red-eyed tree frog is one of the creatures you might spot on a nocturnal exploration of Tortuguero National Park
A red-eyed tree frog in Tortuguero National Park

Today you will transfer from San José to Tortuguero. A driver will pick you up in an air-conditioned minivan, help you with your luggage, and take you to the boat dock near Tortuguero. You will transfer to a boat, which will take you to your hotel.

As the day draws to a close, the nocturnal animals and insects wake up, utterly transforming the jungle's sights, sounds, and atmosphere. This transformation is spellbinding to behold and is the focus of your activity this evening as you take a magical nighttime hike through the mysterious jungle surrounding Tortuguero.

Starting at your lodge, you will leave by boat around 5:30 pm for a 5-minute ride to the lodge's network of private trails, located close to Tortuguero National Park. Your walk with an expert naturalist guide begins, taking you along forest trails as twilight descends. There are many creatures to spot—keep your eyes open for moths, crickets, spiders, frogs, bats, sloths, porcupines, nocturnal birds, and caiman. You'll return to the lodge in time for dinner.
 
For more information on traveling around the country, read this Costa Rica FAQ

Day 3: Boat Along the Tortuguero Canals

Sun on the tree branches
Sun on the tree branches in Tortuguero
Tortuguero National Park is one of the world's most important locations for several species of nesting sea turtles. The park's canals can be explored by boat, and today's guided tour of the canals gives you a thrilling chance to see the forest and its wildlife from the water. 

You will start your journey by boat to the Tortuguero National Park ranger station, where you will get your park admission tickets. Here, the park ranger will tell you and your group which canals you will be able to explore on the day. Tortuguero's flora and fauna are impressive. A 2021 count registered 186 species of bird in the area, along with three monkey species, crocodiles, caimans, toucans, sloths, and much more. You are likely to see some of these creatures on your tour. On some waterways, you can get close to the tangled jungle on the riverbanks, where many animals are seen. 

After lunch, get ready to see the most spectacular panoramic view in all of Tortuguero as you climb the area's highest peak, Cerro Tortuguero. Starting with a boat ride from Mawamba Lodge to the trailhead, the peak is only 390 feet (119 m) above sea level, but the climb through the jungle is nevertheless demanding. During the hike, your guide will share interesting facts about the area and tell you about the plants and animals you will see along the way. The most exquisite view of Tortuguero open up at the top, spanning the Tortuguero canals, the Caribbean Sea, and the communities of San Francisco and Tortuguero. You might even make out the shape of Turrialba Volcano in the distance.

After hiking down to the trailhead, you will take your boat back to the lodge. 

Day 4: Discover the Beaches Around Puerto Viejo

Punta Uva, in Puerto Viejo
Punta Uva in Puerto Viejo

You will travel from Tortuguero today to Puerto Viejo de Talamanca and Cahuita National Park. No trip to this stunning coastal area would be complete without time to explore the diversity of its Caribbean beaches. You’ll have your pick of black, golden, or white sand beaches, all within a short distance of town. Great beaches in the area include what many consider to be one of Costa Rica's most beautiful, Playa Punta Uva. Rent a bicycle and pedal there! The rest of the day is yours to sunbathe, swim, surf, and relax on the sand.

Day 5: Tour Cahuita National Park

Cahuita National Park
Cahuita National Park

Take a short drive to Cahuita National Park this morning. You'll start your adventure at the beach, boarding a boat for a scenic 20-minute cruise to Cahuita Point. If the sea conditions allow, you will have the opportunity to have two snorkeling sessions just off the coast near the most extensive coral reefs. The seafloor off the coast of Cahuita is as much a jungle as the rainforest, with tropical fish, stingrays, octopus, and nurse sharks on view for snorkelers. The best time for snorkeling is from July to October, as the sea is typically too rough between December and March.

Fuel up with a spread of tropical fruit on the beach before heading out on a guided hike through the coastal rainforest. From the boat, you'll head onto land and enter the national park. Since the region is home to an abundance and diversity of wildlife, the chances are good that you'll see monkeys, tropical birds, sloths, iguanas, poisonous dart frogs, and more. After your hike, head back to Puerto Viejo with your guide.

Day 6: Depart Costa Rica, End of Trip

Puerto Viejo National Park
The trip ends today. Transfer to San José International Airport 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 best-of tours to hit the highlights. 

Map

Map of Explore Wetlands & Caribbean Beaches - 6 Days
Map of Explore Wetlands & Caribbean Beaches - 6 Days