- Snorkel around the Isla del Caño Island Biological Reserve
- Explore lush Corcovado National Park on a guided hike
- Go on a birdwatching tour around Drake Bay
- Learn about Costa Rica's coffee traditions
- Soak in volcanic hot springs after trekking around Arenal Volcano
|Day 1||Arrive in San José, Explore Downtown||San José|
|Day 2||Transfer to Drake Bay & Take a Birdwatching Tour||Drake Bay|
|Day 3||Hike in Corcovado National Park||Drake Bay|
|Day 4||Snorkel at Isla del Caño Biological Reserve||Drake Bay|
|Day 5||Transfer to Manuel Antonio National Park||Manuel Antonio|
|Day 6||Explore Manuel Antonio National Park||Manuel Antonio|
|Day 7||Boat & Snorkel in Manuel Antonio National Park||Manuel Antonio|
|Day 8||Taste Costa Rican Coffee, Nighttime Nature Walk||Monteverde|
|Day 9||Tour Monteverde Cloud Forest & Go to Sky Adventures Park||Monteverde|
|Day 10||Transfer to La Fortuna & Explore the Rainforest at Night||La Fortuna|
|Day 11||See Rio Celeste & Tenorio Volcano National Park||La Fortuna|
|Day 12||Hike Arenal Volcano & Soak in Hot Springs||La Fortuna|
|Day 13||Return to San José||San José|
|Day 14||Depart Costa Rica|
Day 1: Arrive in San José, Explore Downtown
Welcome to Costa Rica! A driver will transfer you from the airport to your hotel in San José. After settling in, go for a self-guided walking tour of downtown. Depending on your hotel's location, you can walk or take a taxi to your first destination: Mercado Central (Central Market), featuring over 200 shops, food stalls, and sodas (traditional restaurants). It's a short walk to Central Park, a small plaza always bustling with activity. Pass various outdoor sculptures as you walk through the park toward Catedral Metropolitana and continue walking down Central Avenue until you reach the 19th-century Teatro Nacional.
Your first museum stop is the Museo del Oro Precolumbino, which is accessible from beneath the Plaza de la Cultura and holds the most extensive Pre-Columbian gold collection in Latin America. Next, head to the Museo del Jade, the world's largest collection of pre-Columbian jade artifacts. As you wander among thousands of unique jade pieces, you'll gain an even deeper appreciation for Costa Rica's rich history.
Read about the top restaurant recommendations in San José here.
Day 2: Transfer to Drake Bay & Take a Birdwatching Tour
Return to San José International Airport this morning and board a short flight to Drake Bay on the Osa Peninsula. When you land, you'll be transferred to your hotel. The luxurious Lapa Rios Lodge is an excellent option.
This evening, you'll embark on a birdwatching adventure. Starting in time to see the sun setting over Drake Bay, the tour will take you into the wild jungle at one of the peak times for avian activity. Your experienced guides will help you to identify the bird species, pointing out different species' behavior and food sources, as well as their colors, sizes, and calls. You may spot various tanagers, toucans, motmots, trogons, flycatchers, hummingbirds, and several birds of prey.
After your jungle hike, you'll return to Drake Bay. For more travel inspiration, you might like to check out the Ultimate Guide to the Osa Peninsula.
Day 3: Hike in Corcovado National Park
Starting at Agujitas Beach on Drake Bay, today's exciting adventure takes you to an interesting and remote part of Corcovado National Park. The park is home to species including the endangered giant anteater, harpy eagle, tapir, and jungle cats like the jaguar and puma.
Begin your journey with a 30-minute boat trip south down the peninsula's western shore to the San Pedrillo Ranger Station, one of the park's checkpoints. Boats here come in bow first, and you must splash the final distance to shore—an exciting experience reminiscent of what early explorers of this remote region would have done. You'll be in the San Pedrillo area for approximately five to six hours, with time for hiking, wildlife spotting, relaxing on the beach, and cooling off in waterfalls and swimming holes. Afterward, you'll return to Agujitas Beach by boat.
Find out more about activities in the area by reading this article on the Best Things to Do on the Osa Peninsula.
Day 4: Snorkel at Isla del Caño Biological Reserve
Today, you'll explore the waters of the Caño Island Biological Reserve (Isla del Caño) on a scuba or snorkeling excursion. This protected marine area is just off the Osa Peninsula's northern tip.
The excursion begins when you board a boat and take a safety lesson geared to all ages and experience levels. Then it's time to plunge into the water, where you'll find abundant marine life, including reef sharks, sea turtles, parrotfish, eels, manta rays, pufferfish, snappers, sea cucumbers, and octopus. There's also a wide variety of coral-building organisms and 19 different species of coral. Visibility is excellent throughout the year, making Caño Island a perfect site for underwater photography.
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.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
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. Later, you'll have the option to take a surfing class.
Read more here about luxury hotels in Manuel Antonio.
Day 8: Taste Costa Rican Coffee, Nighttime Nature Walk
From 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 makes up 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 see forest dwellers such as the two-toed sloth or the kinkajou.
Day 9: Tour Monteverde Cloud Forest & Go to Sky Adventures Park
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.At the Sky Adventures Park in the afternoon, you'll have your pick of ways to explore the cloud forest: zip-lining for the action-inclined, sky tram trips for a panoramic perspective, or walks along suspension bridges for close encounters with elusive bird species and other wildlife. You'll start with the guided Sky Walk, which combines trails and suspension bridges. Later, you'll ride in an open-air gondola for sweeping views across the mountains. At the end of the line, you'll connect to a zip-line cable that stretches over rainforest treetops and across clifftops, finally returning you to the starting point.
Day 10: Transfer to La Fortuna & Explore the Rainforest at Night
This morning, your driver will transport 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 3 miles (4.5 km) east of La Fortuna. Here, you'll 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. Enjoy spotting 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.
You might like to check out this list of recommended luxury hotels in the La Fortuna area.
Day 11: See Rio Celeste & Tenorio Volcano National Park
Today you'll venture into Tenorio Volcano National Park for a moderate three-hour hike along the Río Celeste, one of the most stunning natural attractions in Costa Rica. The legend says that after God painted the sky, He washed His brushes in this river, which resulted in its famous electric-blue waters.
Highlights along the hike include Los Teñideros, the site where two streams of crystalline water come together and form the "heavenly" blue that gives the river its name. You'll also see the volcano's furnace vents, which expel gases at extremely high temperatures, and the spectacular Rio Celeste waterfall. Enjoy a gourmet lunch at the end of the journey.
Day 12: Hike Arenal Volcano & Soak in Hot Springs
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, birdwatching is superb.
In the afternoon, go for a hike around Arenal Volcano. Start at the entrance of the 1968 Trail, where you'll 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. 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. Consider spending the night at the luxurious Tabacón Thermal Resort & Spa.
Find out more about hiking around Arenal Volcano here.
Day 13: Return to San José
Head back to San José today in a private, air-conditioned minivan. The drive takes around three hours, depending on traffic. You'll have the afternoon and evening free to sightsee, shop for souvenirs, and enjoy one last Costa Rican dinner.
For more ideas of what to see and do, check out this article on how to spend 24 Hours in San José.
Day 14: Depart Costa RicaThe trip ends today. Depending on your flight details, you may have time for one last outing before you catch your flight out. Safe travels!
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