This trip is perfect for those who want to explore Costa Rica's highlights, combined with active tours that get your blood pumping. Start this adventure navigating rapids on the Pacuare River — one of the top 10 rivers in the world for whitewater. Explore Arenal Volcano by bike, then head to the misty cloud forest of Monteverde for nature hikes and a zip line tour. End your trip on Tamarindo Beach, one of Costa Rica's premier beach destinations. Relax on the sand, take a surf lesson, or go snorkeling, then finish things off with a sunset sail on the Pacific.

Highlights

  • Navigate whitewater rapids on the Pacuare River
  • Go mountain biking & stand up paddleboarding in Arenal
  • Zipline through the cloud forest canopy
  • Experience wildlife on a guided hike of the cloud forest
  • Go snorkeling and surfing on Tamarindo Beach

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in San José San José
Day 2 Pacuare River Rafting Tour & Transfer to La Fortuna Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 3 Pedal & Paddle in Arenal Volcano  Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 4 Transfer to Monteverde Monteverde
Day 5 Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve Tour & Ziplining Excursion Monteverde
Day 6 Transfer to Tamarindo Beach Tamarindo
Day 7 Free day in Tamarindo Beach Tamarindo
Day 8 Sunset Sail Tour & Snorkeling in Tamarindo Beach Tamarindo
Day 9 Beach Time & Transfer to San Jose San José
Day 10 Depart From San José  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in San José

SJO Airport
Welcome to Costa Rica

Upon arrival at the Juan Santamaría International Airport, meet up with your designated travel representative. Collect your travel packet that contains an in-depth travel itinerary, vouchers for services, and other important documents. Your hotel for the night is located in San José, just 30 minutes away from the airport.

During the short drive, you will receive a brief introduction to Costa Rica and some recommendations for your trip. The guide will explain your itinerary in detail once you are at the hotel. Enjoy dinner at the hotel restaurant, or out on the town, and get ready to start a relaxed and fun trip early tomorrow.

Day 2: Pacuare River Rafting Tour & Transfer to La Fortuna

Conquer the rapids along the Pacuare River
Conquer the rapids along the Pacuare River

Early this morning, a driver will pick you up at the hotel in San Jose and take you to the area of Siquirres on the Caribbean slopes. Once you get to Siquirres, a delicious typical breakfast will be waiting for you to provide plenty of sustenance before a day full of activity.

After breakfast, change clothes and get ready to experience the Pacuare River. The access point to the river is a few minutes away. Upon arrival at the river, the expert guides will proceed with the safety talk, technical instructions, and you will have the chance to practice paddling on calmer waters.

From there, explore the stunning river rapids and enjoy the gorgeous scenery all around. Some of the most exciting rapids are the Upper and Lower Huacas, Cimarron, and Dos Montañas, but the waterfalls next to the river are an added bonus to the whole experience. Once half the river is conquered, have lunch on the banks of the river to recharge your energy for the last part of the rafting tour. 

After this trip, continue traveling northwest to the northern plains of the country to the La Fortuna area, where the stunning Arenal Volcano welcomes you. Arenal was discovered after a full-force volcanic eruption in July 1968. It has also erupted in 1975, 1993, and 1998, but is currently inactive.

Arrive by late afternoon at the hotel in the Arenal area, and the rest of the day is free to rest and enjoy the hotel facilities.

Day 3: Pedal & Paddle in Arenal Volcano 

Mountain Bike in Arenal
Mountain biking in Arenal

Today, explore the Arenal region by mountain bike. This scenic and moderate ride takes an old road connecting the dam with the main entrance to Arenal Volcano National Park. From there, you'll pedal towards the village of El Castillo, through forest and cattle farms. Stop for snacks on the shore of Lake Arenal where you can go for a refreshing swim before heading back to the hotel. 

In the afternoon, enjoy a freshwater adventure on Lake Arenal. Get close to nature on a stand-up paddleboard, enjoying exploring the lake, racing, and even trying yoga while balancing on your stand-up paddleboard.                

Day 4: Transfer to Monteverde

Monteverde Cloud Forest
Monteverde Cloud Forest

After breakfast at your resort in La Fortuna, you'll transfer to the Monteverde region of Costa Rica. This is no ordinary route; you'll skip the drive and board a boat, which will take you across the tranquil waters of Lake Arenal. On this 3.5-hour boat ride, you'll have ample opportunity to spot local birds like herons and anhingas. 

When you arrive at Monteverde, take the afternoon and evening to enjoy nearby Santa Elena, a charming town with Quaker influences known for excellent coffee and cheese. There are also plenty of dining options featuring delectable Costa Rican favorites like ceviche and arroz con pollo (rice with chicken). 

If you want to enjoy the rainforest at night, make sure to request a nighttime wildlife excursion, where you'll have the chance to hear and see different animals than during the daytime, like agoutis, porcupines, gray foxes, tarantulas, and frogs.

Plan your trip to Costa Rica
Customize your trip with help from a local travel specialist.

Day 5: Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve Tour & Ziplining Excursion

Zipline Tour in Monteverde
Zipline Tour in Monteverde

This morning you'll embark on a 2-4 hour guided hike of the cloud forest, home to some of the country's most exotic birds including the resplendent quetzal, hummingbird, black guan, toucanet, and more. You'll also see mammals like howler monkeys, agoutis, coatimundis, tapir, and pumas. A naturalist at the reserve will help you spot the animals, and provide information about the area and its wildlife. 

Return to the hotel after the informative hike for a break in the day. 

In the afternoon, head out to tackle one of the most popular activities in Costa Rica—the canopy tour, or ziplining, as it’s called locally. It consists of gliding between trees and mountains via wires and a harness specially designed for the movements. While you “fly” through the dense cloud forest, see and feel all the natural activity occurring within the treetops. Birds, insects, and some other mammals are easy to see with the help of your guides. Don't forget your camera, so you can capture the amazing views of the cloud forest on your own.

Day 6: Transfer to Tamarindo Beach

The white sands of Tamarindo Beach
The white sands of Tamarindo Beach

Following breakfast at the hotel, a driver will transfer you to the beautiful, white-sand Tamarindo Beach, which is located 3 hours from Monteverde.

You'll have the afternoon free to explore the beach and enjoy the warm waters of the tropical Pacific Coast. The waters are perfect for relaxing with the family, as well as various activities, like surfing or snorkeling. Linger on the beach into the evening to catch one of Costa Rica's famed sunsets. 

Day 7: Free day in Tamarindo Beach

Susent in Tamarindo
Sunset in Tamarindo

Today can be as relaxing or adventurous as you like. If you've had enough of the beaches, you can drive east back to Rincón de la Vieja National Park. Here you can hike a jungle trail called Sensoria, which is part of a wildlife sanctuary featuring thermal pools and waterfalls that plunge into turquoise lagoons.

Or, you can experience the rainforest from the water during a two-hour safari float down the Corobicí River, where a guide will point out a variety of animals including monkeys, bats, lizards, and even crocodiles. 

You can also choose to take a guided whitewater rafting trip down the Tenorio River. Its class III-IV rapids make it the best river in the Guanacaste area for rafting. After a challenging trip down the rapids, have lunch and head back to your hotel in time to catch one last sunset.

Day 8: Sunset Sail Tour & Snorkeling in Tamarindo Beach

Sunset Sail Cruise
Sunset Sail Cruise

There's no shortage of secluded bays and inviting beaches in Guanacaste Province. And after so much activity, you're likely eager for a day relaxing on the sand. If you happen to be a surfer (or just want to learn), Tamarindo is the place. You'll find both beginner and advanced waves here, as well as a number of surf schools. This laid-back surfer haven is also home to some of the best restaurants in the country. 

In the afternoon, you'll board a catamaran for a sunset sail. The ship will stop in a tranquil bay, drop anchor, and you'll explore the crystalline waters while the crew prepares a dinner feast. While you eat, enjoy the sunset over the Pacific horizon while keeping a sharp eye out for dolphins, sea turtles, flying fish, or even a breaching whale.

Day 9: Beach time & Transfer to San Jose

A lionfish, which you might see while snorkeling
A lionfish, which you might see while snorkeling

The morning will be free to enjoy the hotel facilities and the beautiful beach. In the afternoon, your guide will bring you back to San Jose for the last night in the country. Your hotel for tonight is a convenient property located close to the airport.

Day 10: Depart From San José

One last evening in the city

As they say, all good things must come to an end. After breakfast, say goodbye to beautiful Costa Rica and make your way to the airport. 

Keep in mind that in Costa Rica, you must arrive at the airport 3 hours prior to your departure time.