This packed 12-day itinerary combines the mind and body rejuvenation offered by wellness retreats with all the tropical adventure Costa Rica is famous for. You'll enjoy spa treatments and soaking in natural hot springs before embarking down wild rivers and hiking to exotic waterfalls. Add in some beach time on the Pacific coast and you have the perfect vacation for total enrichment.


  • Enjoy spa treatments in the tranquil valley above San José
  • Brave class III/IV rapids on a whitewater rafting adventure down the Río Pacuare
  • Soak in natural hot springs near Arenal Volcano
  • Go snorkeling off the tropical beaches of Manuel Antonio National Park
  • Start your day with a yoga class in a luxurious mountain hotel

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Costa Rica - Private Transfer to The Retreat Alajuela
Day 2 Luxury Rainforest Lodge on the Pacuare River Turrialba
Day 3 Rafting the Río Pacuare - Bajos del Toro Bajos del Toro
Day 4 Bajos del Toro Waterfall Hike With Private Guide Bajos del Toro
Day 5 Transfer to Arenal - Luxury Tabacón Hot Springs Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 6 Exclusive Chocolate Making Experience Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 7 Transfer to the Pacific Coast - Playa Esterillos Quepos
Day 8 Pacific Coast Excursion With Private Guide Quepos
Day 9 Transfer to San Isidro del General San Isidro del general
Day 10 Free Day at Hacienda AltaGracia San Isidro del general
Day 11 Transfer to Alajuela Alajuela
Day 12 Depart Costa Rica  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Costa Rica - Private Transfer to The Retreat

Welcome to San José
Welcome to San José

Welcome to Costa Rica!

Upon arrival at Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO), your private driver will meet you and whisk you off on a 45-minute journey west to the city of Atenas, located in Costa Rica's Central Valley. This remarkably beautiful area makes up most of Costa Rica’s interior and is home to over 50% of the country's population. It boasts many coffee plantations and is fringed by rugged mountains and two active volcanoes, Irazú and Poás

Your destination is The Retreat, a luxury wellness center located on the slopes of a mountain just outside Atenas. Immediately after check-in, you will enjoy their signature "heaven on earth" 60-minute massage. You can then spend the remainder of the day relaxing and enjoying the prime views overlooking Atenas and the Central Valley below.

The Retreat is the creation of celebrity chef, best-selling author and health and wellness life-coach, Diana Stobo. The aesthetics of the deluxe rooms, suites, and bungalows seamlessly blend with the natural beauty of the grounds, and luxury amenities include organic “farm-to-spa” treatments and gourmet gastronomic experiences. Also, easily accessible from The Retreat are many sights and excursions such as botanical gardens, chocolate tours, and waterfalls.

Day 2: Luxury Rainforest Lodge on the Pacuare River

Your next destination
Your next destination

In the early morning, you'll transfer to San José and continue east for three hours down the Atlantic slope of the Talamanca Mountains towards the Caribbean coast. Your destination is the Pacuare River Lodge. As the name suggests, this rainforest lodge is located on the banks of the Pacuare River. This is not only one of the world's premier whitewater rafting destinations, it's also a highly biodiverse region home to much exotic flora and fauna.

The scenery around the river is characterized by lush primary rainforest, lowland tropical forest, and dramatic waterfalls. The lodge is situated in the midst of all this natural beauty, offering visitors both rustic rainforest accommodation and luxury amenities. The 20 villas and suites offer terraces with river views and king-size canopy beds with 300-thread-count Egyptian sheets. There's even a bar, wellness spa, and a millennium pool on site.

This is an eco-lodge in the strictest sense of the term. Their operation promotes sustainability within this river region, which is why their maximum capacity is a mere 56 guests. Even the wood used to construct the lodge came not from the surrounding rainforest trees but from local reforestation projects.

Upon checking in you'll have time to relax, tour the grounds, and learn a little bit about the lodge, its sustainability initiatives, and all the activities on offer. These include massage treatments, waterfall hikes, canyoning, and river rafting excursions.

Read more about the best luxury hotels in Costa Rica.

Day 3: Rafting the Río Pacuare - Bajos del Toro

The incredible scenery along the Pacuare River
The incredible scenery along the Pacuare River

After breakfast, you'll embark on a 2-5-hour whitewater rafting adventure down the Pacuare. You'll experience the best of both worlds as you alternate between exciting class III/IV rapids and long stretches of tranquil, slow-moving water that allows you to enjoy the passing scenery on the riverbanks. This includes towering river canyons and unspoiled rainforest abounding with wildlife such as macaws, toucans, and monkeys.

After the rafting excursion, you'll hop in a vehicle and transfer three hours west to the highland region around the town of Bajos del Toro. The town sits at the foot of the towering Poás Volcano and is surrounded by a number of protected wilderness areas including the Poás Volcano National Park, Juan Castro Blanco National Park, and the Bosque de Paz Rain/Cloud Forest Biological Reserve

You'll arrive at the El Silencio Lodge & Spa, a secluded and luxurious eco-hotel in the mountains and flanked by two national parks. After checking into your private villa, you'll have the rest of the afternoon free to relax and enjoy the surroundings.

Day 4: Bajos del Toro Waterfall Hike With Private Guide

Catarata Del Toro
Catarata Del Toro

You're in for a treat, as today you'll visit the Catarata del Toro, a cascading waterfall that plunges 300 feet into a volcanic crater. The best part is that this waterfall is off the tourist trail so most of the visitors are locals. This is a medium-difficulty, 90-minute hike along the wilderness trails around Bajos del Toro.

Along the way, the guide will reveal insight into the eco-system and the various exotic flora and fauna it supports. This is a cloud-forest region, meaning the temps are cooler due to the higher mountain altitude, and the area gets more precipitation. This results in burgeoning green forests as far as the eye can see that abound with exotic animals.  Eventually, you'll reach the waterfall where you'll be treated to incredible views as well as an opportunity to swim in the lagoon.

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Day 5: Transfer to Arenal - Luxury Tabacón Hot Springs

The natural hot springs at Tabacón
The natural hot springs at Tabacón

After spending the morning at El Silencio,  you will transfer 2.5 hours north to the town of La Fortuna, which is the home base for excursions into Arenal Volcano National Park. Even though the imposing (and active) Arenal Volcano is the major attraction here, the surrounding rainforest eco-system is equally impressive. You can enjoy a variety of activities in the Arenal region, including whitewater rafting, rappelling, hiking, and canopy tours. 

The Arenal region is also renowned for its natural hot springs, and some of the most luxurious can be found on the grounds of the luxurious Tabacón Grand Spa Thermal Resort. This resort is situated on more than 900 acres of unspoiled tropical reserve, and it's where you'll stay for your duration in Arenal. After checking in, you'll have the afternoon free to relax and enjoy the flowing waters of the thermal hot springs.

If you're interested in staying in a hotel with access to hot springs, read over this article.

Day 6: Exclusive Chocolate Making Experience

Make your own chocolate
Make your own chocolate

Start the day with a hands-on program in which you'll learn about the origin, history, and production methods of one of Costa Rica's most famous exports: chocolate. Participate in the harvesting of cacao, the drying and grinding of the seeds, and learn how a traditional chocolate drink was developed centuries ago. Of course, you'll have the opportunity to sample freshly made chocolate.

This is a three-hour guided tour, after which you'll return to your luxurious resort and can soak in the natural hot springs.

For other ideas, read over this article about the best things to do in Arenal.

Day 7: Transfer to the Pacific Coast - Playa Esterillos

Time for some R&R
Time for some R&R

In the morning, you'll transfer four hours west to the central Pacific coast and Playa Esterillos. Along the way, we'll make scheduled stops for rest and food. This section of coast is situated relatively close to the capital of San José, making it a popular weekend retreat for beach lovers.

You'll be staying at the Alma del Pacífico Beach Hotel & Spa, located on the beach at Playa Esterillos. The hotel features an array of amenities, and the open-air restaurant offers sweeping views of the beach from every table. The menu includes gourmet international and Costa Rican dishes that emphasize fresh seafood and local produce. The seaside spa is comprised of treatment rooms that open into a private tropical garden, and the therapies available here incorporate organic ingredients.

Day 8: Pacific Coast Excursion With Private Guide

Stop at beaches along the central Pacific coast
Stop at beaches along the central Pacific coast

It's time to leave the hotel amenities behind and get out on the water. After breakfast, you'll embark on a three-hour outrigger canoe, kayak, or stand up paddleboard excursion. It's the perfect way to enjoy Costa Rica's magnificent central-Pacific coastline. You'll be guided by local experts who will point out interesting sights during the trip. and fresh fruit and water are included.

If you do opt for the Hawaiin-style outrigger canoe, you'll find it to be a great team-building activity as well as a fun excursion. The steersperson in the canoe controls the direction and everyone has to work together to power the boat. The nice thing is that the canoes are more efficient than kayaks, and paddling is also easier. There will also be stops along the journey for snorkeling (weather permitting) as well as wildlife spotting and beachcombing.

Day 9: Transfer to San Isidro del General

Hacienda AltaGracia
Hacienda AltaGracia

In the morning you'll transfer 2.5-hours east to the area around San Isidro del General. Located in a wide valley in the mountains of Costa Rica’s Southern Zone, 74 miles (120 km) southeast of the capital city San José, lies this prosperous agricultural town. San Isidro del General is most famous for its massive weekly farmers market, which sees over 200 vendors selling every kind of fruit and vegetable you can imagine.

Nearby attractions include Chirripó National Park, which is home to the nation’s tallest mountain; Cloudbridge Nature Reserve with its exquisite gardens, impressive waterfalls and areas of a dense forest; and Nauyaca Waterfalls, one of the country’s most spectacular waterfalls.
You'll be staying at Hacienda Altagracia. This is a boutique hotel located in the mountains just east of San Isidro. All rooms feature exquisite interiors and terraces with panoramic views. Guests can enjoy innovative fusion meals at the hacienda's Ambar Restaurant and/or enjoy sweet treats, pastries, and a coffee at El Bistro. La Cantina features a fully stocked bar and a pool table for entertainment. The hotel also has a wellness center offering a large variety of spa treatments.

After checking in you'll have the afternoon free to relax and enjoy the hotel amenities.

Day 10: Free Day at Hacienda AltaGracia

Enjoy the hacienda's emenities
Enjoy the hacienda's emenities

This will be a day of leisure where you can enjoy any number of optional activities in and around this luxurious mountain hotel. One option is to take a walk on one of the serene garden paths to our thatched-roof Meditation Rancho. Here you can clear your mind, relax, and commune with nature as you listen to nothing except the mountain breeze rustling through the treetops.

If you're feeling more adventurous, you can get the heart pumping with one of the more challenging hiking trails around the property. Perhaps you'd like to visit the local farmers market featuring over 200 vendors selling fresh fruits and vegetables, meats, fish, handicrafts and more. You can also stroll through serene garden paths to our thatched-roof yoga sanctuary to partake in a restorative power of yoga session.

Day 11: Transfer to Alajuela

The swimming pool at Xandari
The swimming pool at Xandari

It's a long 3.5-hour drive to Alajuela Province, but of course, you'll have a chance to stop along the way for picture breaks, pictures, and snacks. Your destination is the Xandari Resort and Spa, located in the hills just north of Alajuela. This is a city known for its rich history and laid-back charm. Its biggest claim to fame is being the hometown of Costa Rica’s most beloved national hero, Juan Santamaría, a humble drummer boy who sacrificed his life at the Battle of Santa Rosa against William Walker’s Filibusters.
The Xandari Resort and Spa is a five-star tropical paradise comprising of 24 individually designed villas nestled on a plantation overlooking the Central Valley of Costa Rica. The resort is a natural oasis with trails, exotic gardens, waterfalls, three lap pools, two poolside Jacuzzis, and five private spas with panoramic views. It's no overstatement to say that this is one of the true hidden gems of Costa Rica.

Day 12: Depart Costa Rica

One last view of Costa Rica
One last view of Costa Rica

With a newly rejuvenated body and soul, it's time to say adiós to Costa Rica! After breakfast, you'll transfer to the airport and catch your international flight home. Come back soon!

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Map of Luxury Spas and Outdoor Adventures in Costa Rica - 12 Days
Map of Luxury Spas and Outdoor Adventures in Costa Rica - 12 Days