Natural wonders await on this refreshing weeklong journey around Costa Rica. Highlights along the 7-day trip include the beautiful beaches of Manuel Antonio National Park, the awe-inspiring Arenal Volcano and the nearby Hanging Bridges, the pristine Damas Island Estuary, and much more. Mixing wildlife viewing and outdoor adventure, this itinerary captures the essence of the Costa Rican motto — Pura Vida!

Highlights

  • Go on a wildlife tour of Damas Island estuary
  • Laze on the white-sand beaches of Manuel Antonio National Park
  • Traverse hanging bridges over the jungle canopy
  • Enjoy a relaxing dip in natural hot springs
  • Visit an animal rescue center in Arenal

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Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Travel to Manuel Antonio National Park Manuel Antonio
Day 2 Boat Around Damas Island Estuary Manuel Antonio
Day 3 Go on a Guided Hike in the National Park Manuel Antonio
Day 4 Transfer to Arenal & Soak in Hot Springs La Fortuna
Day 5 Visit the Arenal Hanging Bridges & La Fortuna Waterfall La Fortuna
Day 6 Tour the Proyecto Asis Rescue Center La Fortuna
Day 7 Depart Costa Rica - End of Trip  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Travel to Manuel Antonio National Park

Manuel Antonio National Park
Manuel Antonio National Park

Welcome to Costa Rica! You'll arrive at San José International Airport. Your driver will be waiting for you just outside the customs area. Today you'll travel down the Pacific coast to one of Costa Rica's premier ecological wonderlands: Manuel Antonio National Park. This national park features not only untouched rainforest, but four different tropical beaches, as well.

After checking into your hotel, spend the day relaxing as you see fit. If you still have the energy, you can explore some of the beaches outside of the park. Aquatic activities include snorkeling at the beaches or parasailing over the ocean. In the evening, head to the adjacent town of Quepos for dinner and sunset views. Try the famous seafood here — it's as fresh as it gets.

Read more about the best nature experiences in Manuel Antonio National Park.

Day 2: Boat Around Damas Island Estuary

The mangrove roots provide a unique sanctuary to hatching fish
The mangrove roots provide a unique sanctuary to hatching fish

Today you'll explore the Damas Island Estuary and mangrove ecosystem on a boat, gliding along the water while birdwatching and admiring the verdant flora of the area. You'll weave your way through the natural tunnels and passageways created by the ebb and flow of the river as you discover this fascinating tidal world.

The unique conditions created by the shifting sediment and saltwater in the mangroves attract various sea animals. Your experienced guide will spot flora and fauna along the way, pointing out species such as reptiles, anteaters, and monkeys. Birdwatchers will be delighted by the variety of Herons, Kingfishers, Ospreys, Frigate birds, and more. Lunch is provided before or after the boat trip.

Check out our Ultimate Guide to Manuel Antonio National Park for more information.

Day 3: Go on a Guided Hike in the National Park

Squirrel monkey in Manuel Antonio
A squirrel monkey in Manuel Antonio

Today you'll wake up early and explore the roughly 1,680 acres (680 hectares) of Manuel Antonio National Park. This is a true gem of Costa Rica, in that the park is home to virgin rainforest running all the way from the mountains down to the coast, where white-sand beaches and coral reefs await.

You'll start your hike on the trails within the park. The walk is easy with mostly flat trails — perfect for families with kids. A naturalist guide will point out the more than 300 species of mammals and birds that call this reserve home, including three-toed sloths, hawks, iguanas, and several different species of monkeys. You'll also have time to enjoy the park's expansive white sand beaches on this half-day tour.  For more travel tips and inspiration, read Top Active Experiences in Manuel Antonio National Park and Where to Dine in Manuel Antonio National Park.

What you do the remainder of the afternoon is up to you! Continue exploring the trails on your own, relax on the sand, or switch gears and visit the nearby adventure park, MidWorld, for zip-lining and ATV tours.

Day 4: Transfer to Arenal & Soak in Hot Springs

Arenal Volcano stands at an impressive 1,633-meters (5,358-feet) high
Arenal Volcano

In the morning, you will ride about five and a half hours northwest from Manuel Antonio. After arriving in La Fortuna — the closest town to Arenal Volcano — you'll have the rest of the afternoon and evening free to enjoy the area. Take the edge off the day's long journey with a soak in one of the region's natural hot springs.

For dinner, hit the town and sample one of the many restaurants here. Solid dining options include Don Rufino, an upscale grill with a good wine list, Cafe Mediterraneo, an Italian restaurant with fresh pasta and a wood-fired pizza oven, and Rancho Perla, serving up Costa Rican staples like beef, chicken, and seafood. Get lucky and you might spot toucans, iguanas, and even sloths in the trees near your table.

Find out more about the area's best luxury hotels and best hotels for families.

Day 5: Visit the Arenal Hanging Bridges & La Fortuna Waterfall

Suspension bridge at Mistico Hanging Bridges Park
Suspension bridge in the jungle

Today is your chance to explore the thrilling Arenal Hanging Bridges. This trail system in a rainforest reserve features suspension bridges that take you high above the treetops before treating you to a once-in-a-lifetime view of Arenal Volcano. Venturing along these spectacular elevated walkways, some of which are 180 feet (55 meters) above the rainforest floor, you will also be able to appreciate the area's incredible biodiversity in a zone where upland and lowland rainforest meet. With more than 350 resident avian species, including the iridescent, bright green and blue Turquoise-browed Motmot, the birdwatching is superb. The trail you will walk is two miles (3 km) long, crossing ten fixed bridges and six hanging bridges with lengths between 16 and 328 feet (5 and 100 meters).

Next, head off on a hike around Arenal Volcano with a naturalist guide. The 1.5-hour route offers some of the best wildlife viewing opportunities in the park, and your guide will keep a well-trained eye out for exotic birds, monkeys, and other animals along the way. In addition to the forested parts where you can spot wildlife, you'll also walk through sections of the park that were devastated by the lava flow of 1968, resulting in little to no vegetation in the surroundings. Your guide will explain the history of the area both pre-and post-1968 eruption, while also pointing out the unique flora and fauna you will encounter. Of course, the trail also provides magnificent views of the massive Arenal Volcano, pristine Lake Arenal, and 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 as well as international fare, before being picked up and transported back to your hotel for the night. For other ideas, read over this list of the best things to do in Arenal.

Day 6: Tour the Proyecto Asis Rescue Center

You can help care for animals like white-faced capuchin monkeys at Proyecto Asis
A white-faced capuchin monkey at Proyecto Asis

Today you'll visit Proyecto Asis, a rehabilitation and rescue center for local animals. The tour, led by a naturalist, begins with a brief introduction to the center, followed by a walk along the trails around the reserve. You'll stop in front of each animal enclosure to learn about its residents. While the animals at the center vary, visitors will likely see anteaters, snakes, monkeys, parrots, and sloths. Volunteer tours also offer you the chance to help care for the animals during your visit, preparing food and helping to feed them.

Learn more about the top nature experiences in Costa Rica.

Day 7: Depart Cost Rica - End of Trip

The coastline of Manuel Antonio National Park
The trip ends today. Transfer to San José International Airport to catch your flight out. Safe travels!

More Great 7-Day Costa Rica Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Costa Rica? Check out these other 7-day Costa Rica itineraries, with outdoor adventures, family-friendly trips, and best-of tours to hit the highlights. 

Looking for other ideas for Costa Rica?

Driving yourself is a great way to explore Costa Rica. Check out some of our other great ideas for how to spend a week in Costa Rica, plus weeklong trips designed for families. For more planning advice, check out this article on how many days to spend in Costa Rica.

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Map

Map of Discover Manuel Antonio National Park & La Fortuna- 7 days
Map of Discover Manuel Antonio National Park & La Fortuna- 7 days
Yenyi
Written by Yenyi Fu, updated Jun 24, 2022