Perfect for nature lovers and first-time travelers to Costa Rica, this fast-paced itinerary takes you to two of the country's most beloved national parks. With the diverse wildlife of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve and the jungle-lined white sand beaches of Manuel Antonio, you'll get to the essence of the Costa Rican motto: Pura Vida!

Highlights

  • Experience the history and Culture of San José
  • Zipline over the treetops at Sky Adventures Park
  • Take a sunset snorkeling cruise from Manuel Antonio

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in San José San Jose
Day 2 San Jose to Monteverde Monteverde
Day 3 Aerial Fun in the Cloud Forest Monteverde
Day 4 Monteverde to Manuel Antonio Manuel Antonio
Day 5 Snorkeling & Sunset Catamaran Cruise in Manuel Antonio Manuel Antonio
Day 6 Manuel Antonio to San José, Depart Costa Rica  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in San José

The Neo-Classical Teatro Nacional in San José
The Neo-Classical Teatro Nacional in San José

Welcome to Costa Rica, the land of pura vida! After arriving at Juan Santamaria 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), with 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

Suspension bridges in the cloud forest
Suspension bridges in the cloud forest

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. Here are a few restaurant suggestions: 

  • Grab a seat on the front porch of local favorite Orchid Coffee, which serves a menu of smoothies, salads, and sandwiches. Sweet-toothed visitors will appreciate the café’s extensive hot chocolate menu made with Costa Rican chocolate and mixed with unique ingredients like cardamom and orange.  
  • El Jardin Bar & Restaurant wins visitors over with its lovely setting overlooking the trees, friendly service, and fresh homemade bread served alongside every meal. 
  • Built around an old higueron (fig) tree, the Tree House Restaurant & Café serves well-prepared Costa Rican standards like ceviche and arroz con pollo in a romantic, open-air setting. 

Overnight: Monteverde

Day 3: Aerial Fun in the Cloud Forest

Monteverde
Monteverde

Sky Adventures Monteverde Park is an aerial amusement park that literally raises jungle excitement to the next level. Its Sky Tram network of gondolas transport visitors from one adrenaline pumping activity to another. First, you'll start with a guided Sky Walk, which combines trails and suspension bridges that ultimately reach heights of up to 984 feet above the jungle canopy. The flora and fauna of the region will be on full display, and our specialized guides will point out the most interesting specimens. Later, you'll ride in an open-air Sky Tram gondola. During this journey, you'll ascend over the rainforest and enjoy sweeping views over the mountains. 

Upon reaching the end of the line, the exhilarating adventure of whizzing down the mountain begins. You will connect to a zip-line cable that stretches over the treetops and across canyons, ultimately returning you to the starting point at Sky Adventures' main building. Sky Trek is regarded as the most thrilling zip line in the country, and this makes sense considering that Monteverde is the birthplace of the canopy tour as we know it.

Day 4: Monteverde to Manuel Antonio

In Manuel Antonio, you can relax on some of Costa Rica's most beautiful beaches
In Manuel Antonio, you can relax on some of Costa Rica's most beautiful beaches

This morning, you'll be picked up from Monteverde and driven to the Pacific coast at Manuel Antonio National Park, where you can take your pick and wind down on one of the park's four beautiful beaches—some of the best in Costa Rica. If you're hungry for more adventure, you can also hike on one of the park's many trails (following the signs) and get up close to capuchin monkeys, sloths, and over 200 species of birds. Snorkeling is also accessible from multiple points along the beaches. 

In the evening, head to the town of Quepos for dinner at Gabriella's to watch the sunset over fresh seafood and steak.

Day 5: Snorkeling & Sunset Catamaran Cruise in Manuel Antonio

Watch for dolphins during the boat trip
Watch for dolphins during the boat trip

After breakfast at your hotel, the morning is yours to spend however you like:

  • You can explore the incredible biodiversity found within park during a guided tour. A naturalist will point out the more than 300 species of mammals and birds that call the reserve home, including sloths, hawks, iguanas, and several different species of monkeys. You'll also have time to spend exploring the park's expansive white sand beaches.
  • Tour the Damas Island Estuary on a guided boat tour through the mangroves.
  • Take a surf lesson or simply relax on Playa Manuel Antonio.

In the afternoon, you'll embark on a sunset dinner cruise. Stop in a calm bay, drop anchor and swim while the crew prepares a feast. While you dine, you'll marvel at the sunset over the horizon while keeping an eye out for dolphins, sea turtles, flying fish, or even a breaching whale.

Day 6: Manuel Antonio to San José, Depart Costa Rica

Farewell, Costa Rica
Farewell, Costa Rica

It's time to say goodbye to Costa Rica! After breakfast, you'll be driven back to San José where you'll depart Juan Santamaría International Airport for your journey home.

Map

Map of Monteverde Cloud Forest & Manuel Antonio National Park - 6 days
Map of Monteverde Cloud Forest & Manuel Antonio National Park - 6 days