With less than a week, it's possible to experience many of Costa Rica's star attractions. You can visit misty cloud forests, go whale watching on the Pacific, view wildlife in remote corners of the country, or hike around a volcano—just choose the adventure that suits you best. Let this diverse collection of 5-day itineraries inspire you to do just that.

Itinerary #1: Whitewater and Surfing Adventure

Brave the rapids of the Río Pacuare
Day Destination Overnight Details
Day 1 San José (Arrival) San José  
Day 2 Pacuare River Pacuare River Lodge Rafting 6mi (10km), 3 meals included
Day 3 Pacuare River/Puerto Viejo Pacuare River Lodge Rafting 16mi (25km), lunch included
Day 4 Puerto Viejo/San Jose Puerto Viejo Surfing
Day 5 San José (Departure) San José  

 

If you want to spend your vacation on the water, this itinerary is for you. After enjoying a bit of culture and local cuisine in the capital of San José, you'll journey a couple hours north to the 70-mile-long Pacuare River. After learning the ropes from your professional guide, you'll embark down the waters of one of the greatest rafting rivers in the world. You'll realize its potential quick as you white-knuckle it over a series of class II, III, and even IV rapids.

Then it's off to the Caribbean coast and an equally world-renowned surf location: the village of Puerto Viejo. Surfers chasing the endless summer flock to the beach of Salsa Brava, known for its epic break and unforgiving reef. If Brava is a little intimidating, try out the mellower waves at Playa Cocles, Playa Negra, Cahuita or Manzanillo. Regardless, immerse yourself in the local culture. Caribbean and Indigenous Bribri influences thrive in Puerto Viejo, and many locals speak Patois (pronounced “patua”), a creole language derived from Afro-Caribbean English, Spanish, and French. Learn more. 

Itinerary #2: Wildlife and Beaches of the Osa Peninsula

Remote beaches of the Osa Peninsula
Day Destination Overnight
Day 1 San Jose (Arrival) San Jose
Day 2 Osa Peninsula (Free Day) Osa Peninsula
Day 3 Osa Peninsula (Corcovado National Park) Hiking
Day 4 Osa Peninsula (Isla del Caño) Scuba Diving
Day 5 San Jose (Departure)  

 

If tourist crowds aren't your thing, spirit away to the most rugged and least developed region of the country: the Osa Peninsula. It's one of the most biodiverse regions in the world thanks to its protected virgin rainforest. After transferring in San José you'll fly to the north end of the peninsula. Enjoy free time (maybe try a bit of surfing) before embarking by boat to Corcovado National Park, the crown jewel of the region. On a hike through primary rainforest, your accompanying naturalist guide will point out wildlife as you go—expect to see species like capuchin monkeys, scarlet macaws, anteaters, and many more. 

Next, you'll go underwater for a diving or snorkeling expedition in the Caño Island Biological Reserve. This protected offshore area is home to an abundance of marine life including sharks, parrot fish, eels, turtles, and various types of coral. You may even spot migrating humpback whales. Learn more

Itinerary #3: Dive into Manuel Antonio National Park

The jade waters and soft white sands of Manuel Antonio
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Costa Rica, Explore San José's Culture & History San José
Day 2 San José to Manuel Antonio Manuel Antonio
Day 3 Guided Hike of Manuel Antonio National Park Manuel Antonio
Day 4 Sea Kayaking & Snorkeling Tour at Manuel Antonio Manuel Antonio
Day 5 Manuel Antonio to San José, Depart Costa Rica  

 

There are few destinations in Costa Rica more ideal for a short excursion than Manuel Antonio National Park. That's because you can find both virgin rainforest and postcard-perfect beaches within this one protected area. After a quick road trip from San José, you'll arrive in the park. You'll enjoy a hike into the jungle where your naturalist guide will point out the 300 species of animals and birds that live within the park's 1,680 acres. Then it's time to relax on the shore before hopping in a kayak and paddling off to a secluded white-sand beach. Enjoy one more tropical sunset before journeying home. Learn more

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Itinerary #4: Monteverde Cloud Forest Immersion

The Monteverde cloud forest
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in San José San Jose
Day 2 San Jose to Monteverde Monteverde
Day 3 Free Day and Night-time Nature Tour in Monteverde Monteverde
Day 4 Monteverde to San José San Jose
Day 5 Depart San José  

 

This itinerary gets you acquainted with one of Costa Rica's greatest hits: the cloud forest ecosystem of Monteverde, a region in the northern highlands. First, enjoy museums and gourmet cuisine in the capital of San José before heading north to Costa Rica's "green lung," and your introduction to it will be aerial acrobatics at the famed Sky Adventures Park, an amusement park in the clouds. Activities include gondola trips over the trees and zip-line adventures featuring "Tarzan swings." It's a fitting activity, considering that Monteverde is the birthplace of the canopy tour as we know it. 

Other activities here include a tour of a working coffee farm, hiking through the forest, visiting the Monteverde Butterfly Gardens, and viewing the 450 species of orchids at the Monteverde Orchid Garden. After enjoying some fine cuisine in the pleasant mountain town of Santa Elena, it's time to end the adventure and travel back to San José. Learn more

Itinerary #5: Explore the Pacific Coast of Guanacaste

Escape to Guanacaste Province
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Liberia - Transfer to Golfo de Papagayo Gulf de Papagayo
Day 2 Adventure Excursion From Golfo de Papagayo Gulf de Papagayo
Day 3 Free Day in Papagayo Gulf de Papagayo
Day 4 Beach Day and Sunset Catamaran Trip in Papagayo Gulf de Papagayo
Day 5 Depart Costa Rica From Liberia  

 

Costa Rica's Guanacaste Province is home to some of the most beautiful coastline in the country. You'll make the secluded Golfo de Papagayo (Papagayo Gulf) your base of operations over five days. Take an excursion to the Rincón de la Vieja National Park for horseback riding and zip-lining. You'll then have time to explore the coast and pick out a beach that suits your interests. Maybe go for Tamarindo, a surf haven famous for its long breaks. Your last sunset here will be one for the books: a twilight catamaran cruise that includes snorkeling and a freshly prepared dinner feast. Look out for dolphins and whales frolicking near the boat. Learn more

Itinerary #6: Hike, Zip-line, and More at Arenal

Arenal is one of Costa Rica's most iconic landmarks 
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in San José - Transfer to La Fortuna Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 2 Arenal Sky Trek and Zip-line Tour Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 3 Hike Arenal 1968 - Tabacón Hot Springs Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 4 La Fortuna - Drive back to San José Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 5 Depart San José San Jose

 

On this itinerary, you'll see your destination before you even arrive. That's because as you drive into the town of La Fortuna, the iconic monolith of Arenal Volcano looms over you. Over a few days, you'll embark on nature hikes at the base of this 1,670-meter (5,479-foot) active volcano, experiencing it up close and personal. You'll also partake in zip-lining tours and gondola rides affording prime vantage points of Arenal's smoky peak. After all that activity you'll want to relax and recharge in the natural hot spring of Tabacón. Cap your trip with a visit to the other star of the region, the La Fortuna Waterfall. These falls plunge around 200 feet into a large natural pool perfect for taking a dip. Learn more

Want to see more?

For more ideas, see all of our 5-day tours and itineraries. And you can also consider extending your stay—with just a few more days, you can explore more of the beautiful nature, wildlife, and adventure that Costa Rica has to offer.  See our itinerary guide for one week in Costa Rica or 10-days in Costa Rica to see how you can make the most of your stay.

Map

Map of 5 Days in Costa Rica - 6 Unique Itineraries
Map of 5 Days in Costa Rica - 6 Unique Itineraries