Costa Rica's mountainous Monteverde region is a traveler favorite, topping lists for its distinct cloud forest ecosystem, abundant wildlife, and options for hiking and zip-lining. In this 4-day quick getaway, you'll head northwest of San Jose to explore this unique destination. Perfect for a long weekend or just a quick middle-of-the-week getaway.

Highlights

  • Cross suspensions bridges for tree-top views of the cloud forest
  • Go ziplining through the trees for a bit of adventure
  • Go for a night hike with a naturalist guide

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in San José San Jose
Day 2 San Jose to Monteverde Monteverde
Day 3 Monteverde to San José San Jose
Day 4 Depart San José  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in San José

Afternoon street scene in downtown San José
Afternoon street scene in downtown San José

Welcome to Costa Rica, the land of pura vida! After arriving at Juan Santamaría International Airport, in the capital of San José, a local representative will meet you and escort you to your hotel. The rest of the day you'll have free to explore the city at your leisure.

Perhaps take a stroll through Mercado Central (Central Market), featuring over 200 shops, food stalls, and sodas (traditional restaurants). Then visit the Catedral Metropolitana (Metropolitan Church), whose interior combines Greek Orthodox, Neoclassical, and Baroque styles, and features wood carvings and stained-glass windows. There's also a pair of popular museums in San José. The Museo del Oro Precolumbino (Pre-Columbian Gold Museum), holds a large collection of Pre-Columbian gold artifacts, and the Museo del Jade (Jade Museum) features the world's largest collection of pre-Columbian jade artifacts.

Be sure to explore Barrio Amón, a historic neighborhood home to cafetalero (coffee grower) mansions built during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Many of this area’s historic buildings have been converted into hotels, restaurants, and galleries, making Amón a popular bohemian district. For dinner, you might want to opt for a restaurant in the hills of Escazú. This elevated region on the western edge of the city offers panoramic views of the valley below. No matter where you go, though, the whole city is filled with delectable restaurants serving everything from traditional local to forward-thinking fusion cuisine.

Day 2: San Jose to Monteverde

Hummingbird in Monteverde
Hummingbird in Monteverde

After breakfast, you’ll head toward Monteverde, known as the "Green Lung” of Costa Rica due to its rich biodiversity. Located in the mountainous northwest region of the country, Monteverde is famed for its 26,000-acre Cloud Forest Reserve, home to countless wildlife species. Suspension bridges throughout allow for walks above the forest canopy, with plenty of opportunities to spot the colorfully-plumed resplendent quetzal. The reserve’s marked trails pass through exotic fauna and flora, including the greatest number of orchid species on the planet—500—with new ones discovered regularly. 

After check-in at your hotel, you’ll spend the afternoon at the Sky Adventures Park, where 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 up-close encounters with elusive bird species and other wildlife. 

Take the evening to enjoy nearby Santa Elena, a charming town with a heavy Quaker influence that’s known for excellent coffee and cheese. Or take a guided evening hike through Monteverde to witness natures nightlife.

Day 3: Monteverde to San José

Valley in the mountainous jungles of Costa Rica
Valley in the mountainous jungles of Costa Rica

After breakfast in Monteverde, you'll begin the 4.5-hour return drive to the capital city of San José. Once you check into your hotel, you will have the rest of night to explore, perhaps taking advantage of anything you may have missed at the beginning of the trip.

Day 4: Depart San José

San José at twilight
San José at twilight

It's time to say adiós to Costa Rica. Depending on your departure time, you'll have the morning to explore more of San José, relax in a coffee shop, or browse some shops before boarding your flight home.