- Embark on a luxury road trip from the Caribbean to the Pacific coasts
- Learn about Costa Rican cuisine on farm visits and in cooking classes
- Sample Costa Rica's famous chocolate and coffee on tasting tours
- Visit animal rehabilitation centers and go birding in the cloud forest
- Visit waterfalls, hike nature trails, and take surf lessons on the beach
|Day 1||Arrive in San José, Barrio Escalante Tour||San José|
|Day 2||Fly to Limón, Drive to Puerto Viejo & Cooking Class||Puerto Viejo de Talamanca|
|Day 3||Kekoldi Indigenous Reserve & Waterfall Tour||Puerto Viejo de Talamanca|
|Day 4||Bribri Rituals & Medicinal Plants, Surf Lesson at Salsa Brava||Puerto Viejo de Talamanca|
|Day 5||Morning Trip to Jaguar Rescue Center||Puerto Viejo de Talamanca|
|Day 6||Drive to Turrialba, Chocolate Tour||Turrialba|
|Day 7||Farm Tour & Cooking Class, Canyoning Adventure||Turrialba|
|Day 8||Drive to San Gerardo de Dota, Coffee Tour||San Gerardo de Dota|
|Day 9||Cloud Forest Hike & Birding, Afternoon Spa Treatment||San Gerardo de Dota|
|Day 10||Drive to Uvita, Nauyaca Waterfall Tour||Uvita|
|Day 11||Caño Island Biological Reserve Snorkeling Trip||Uvita|
|Day 12||Marino Ballena National Park Tour, Surf Lesson||Uvita|
|Day 13||Drive to Playa Herradura, Manuel Antonio Hike||Playa Herradura|
|Day 14||Return Drive to San José, Depart|
Day 1: Arrive in San José, Barrio Escalante Tour
Welcome to Costa Rica! This Central American nation may be small, but it contains a whopping four percent of the world's flora and fauna (around 500,000 species). About 25% of the country is protected in the form of national parks and reserves, there's plenty of unspoiled natural beauty to enjoy. However, before hitting the beaches and rainforests, you'll spend a day in San José, Costa Rica's dynamic capital.
Upon arrival at the airport, a driver will pick you up and transfer you to your hotel, the Marriott Hacienda Belen. Nestled amid tropical gardens, this sprawling 5-star hotel is an introduction to the luxury and elegance that will define your two weeks in Costa Rica. After checking in, feel free to relax with a body scrub or massage at the day spa. If you're hungry, enjoy gourmet international cuisine at La Isabela Steakhouse or sip on a specialty cocktail on the hotel's terrace amid sweeping views of the Central Valley mountains.
Just make sure to save your appetite because this evening, you'll meet a guide and venture out into one very special neighborhood: Barrio Escalante. This trendy enclave near the city center is a famous nightlife hub, but its array of diverse eateries also attracts serious foodies. On a private tour, you'll stop to sample some famous Costa Rican coffee and grab a bite at one of the area's gastropubs, fusion restaurants, chic cafés, and French-inspired bakeries. You can also stop at the Mercado Escalante food hall to sample a variety of dishes all under one roof.
Day 2: Fly to Limón, Drive to Puerto Viejo & Cooking Class
After breakfast at the hotel, you'll transfer back to the airport and catch a 40-minute flight to Limón. This city on Costa Rica's southern Caribbean coast is the nearest hub to your ultimate destination: the beach resort town of Puerto Viejo de Talamanca. Upon arrival at the airport, you'll pick up your rental car and kick off the self-drive portion of this adventure. From Limón, it's a 45-minute drive straight down the coast to Puerto Viejo, a colorful beach town famous for its white-sand beaches, crystalline waters, Afro-Caribbean culture, and reggae vibes.
Once there, you'll check into Aguas Claras, your hotel, for the next few nights. Situated amid tropical gardens, this 4-star hotel occupies a whitewashed manor home that exudes colonial elegance. Highlights include themed suites adorned with local artwork, a gorgeous lagoon swimming pool, and direct beach access. You'll want to try the indoor-outdoor restaurant, DaLime Beach Club, which serves a mix of Caribbean and international flavors accompanied by live local music.
First, though, you'll head into Puerto Viejo for an introduction to Afro-Caribbean culture through its cuisine. Take part in a private cooking class led by local chefs who have inherited their culinary skills from generations of Afro-Caribbean families. Over three hours, you'll learn to cook traditional dishes—like spicy jerk chicken, coconut rice, and chocolate desserts—that are rich in flavor and history. As you cook, your chefs will share stories and insights about their heritage, and you can even learn some popular dance moves and rhythms central to the local culture.
Day 3: Kekoldi Indigenous Reserve & Waterfall
Transfer a little ways inland from town this morning for a full-day outing to the Kekoldi Indigenous Reserve. This 19 square mile (49 sq km) protected area is home to the Bribri community, and it preserves their traditional culture and way of life. Kekoldi is also a haven for the green iguana, a species that was in danger of extinction but is now safe thanks to initiatives like these.
At the reserve, you'll visit the home of an Indigenous Bribri family, who will show you the medicinal uses of tropical plants from their garden. You'll also see the ways the Brirbi cultivate cacao. Not only is this fruit used in chocolate production, but it's also prized by the Bribri for purification rituals, food, and medicine. The last part of the tour will take you to a secluded waterfall where you can take a dip in the lagoon, followed by a traditional lunch. Afterward, you'll return to the hotel.
Day 4: Bribi Rituals & Medicinal Plants, Surf Lesson at Salsa Brava
Continue learning about Bribri culture this morning by participating in an immersive introduction to the tribe's spiritual rituals and traditional medicine. This half-day private experience begins when you meet a local shaman. He'll lead you through a ceremony accompanied by traditional instruments designed to connect participants with the natural and spiritual worlds. The second part of the tour involves a workshop to learn about various native plants and how the region's peoples have used them since antiquity for medicinal purposes. You'll even try some in different forms, such as teas and ointments.
The final leg of the tour begins with a hike through the jungle to a beautiful waterfall. It's a scenic journey, and along the way, your Indigenous guide will point out exotic flora and fauna in the region. Once at the falls, you can cool off in the refreshing waters before hiking back to the starting point and returning to town.
A little while later, you'll take advantage of the other highlight of Puerto Viejo: its beaches. Head to the town's most famous beach, Playa Salsa Brava, for a surf lesson. This is an excellent place for it, as the right-hand reef break at Salsa Brava is regarded as the best surf in the country. Once here, you'll meet an expert instructor and grab a board for a private two-hour lesson. You'll learn the basics, like proper paddling technique and balance, and when you're ready, head out into the surf and catch a few waves.
Day 5: Morning Trip to Jaguar Rescue Center
Meet your private guide this morning and transfer just outside of Puerto Viejo to the Jaguar Animal Rescue Center. The good people who run this foundation rescue, rehabilitate, and protect ill or wounded wild animals in the South Caribbean area. Over the years, it's become a sanctuary for many species of wild animals, including snakes, monkeys, and sloths. You'll get to see many of these specimens on a private tour that will take up most of the morning.
Afterward, you'll stop to browse handmade chocolate and crafts at a local Bribi family farm, then head to a local waterfall to cool off in some refreshing natural pools. Return to the hotel after lunch, where you can spend the remainder of the day on the beach, enjoying the hotel's secluded, lagoon-style pool or hanging out in town.
Day 6: Drive to Turrialba, Chocolate Tour
It's time to bid farewell to the Caribbean. After breakfast, hop back in your rental car for the 3.5-hour ride north and inland to Turrialba. This idyllic town in Costa Rica's green Central Valley is surrounded by coffee plantations. It's also near Turrialba volcano, the second highest in the country at 10,958 feet (3,339 m). Over the years, Turrialba has become a hub for adventure sports in Costa Rica. Whitewater rafting, kayaking, canyoning, mountain biking, and hiking are just some of the highlight activities here.
Located a few minutes outside of Turrialba is your hotel: Casa Turire. This colonial-deco gem exudes charm and style as it sits on expansive grounds with networks of hiking trails leading into the surrounding rainforest. There's even a farm on the property with an herb and vegetable garden the hotel uses to supply its gourmet restaurant. The spacious suites are tastefully decorated with bright tropical colors, and there's an on-site spa offering various treatments—some of which utilize fresh herbs from the farm.
Speaking of produce, after checking into the hotel, you'll venture out for a private guided tour that celebrates one of the country's most popular exports: chocolate. During this two-hour excursion, you'll visit a local cacao plantation and walk amid the trees, learning about the cultivation process as you go. It's a hands-on experience as you learn the bean-to-bar process of turning this pulpy fruit into decadent chocolate. Of course, free samples are included.
Day 7: Farm Tour & Cooking Class, Canyoning Adventure
Today you'll visit a local family farm to get a taste of the native crops and rustic cuisine of the Central Valley. It's a private, farm-to-table tour during which the friendly farm owners will teach you about the cultivation of sugar cane, coffee, and various other regional crops. But it doesn't end there—this is a hands-on experience. So after touring the fields, you'll participate in a cooking class and learn to cook some traditional Costa Rican dishes. When it's over, everyone will sit down and enjoy their delicious culinary creations for lunch.
Next up is a more active adventure as you enjoy one of the region's adrenaline-pumping activities: canyoning. Experience the area's waterfalls up close as you rappel down the cascade face while strapped into a harness connected by safety lines. Even if you're a first-timer, there's nothing to worry about, as a private expert guide will be there every step of the way to ensure you're following all safety protocols. When you reach the bottom, feel free to do some swimming in the waterfall lagoon.
Day 8: Drive to San Gerardo de Dota, Coffee Tour
This morning's road trip adventure involves a scenic three-hour drive south from Turrialba into the highlands and the San Gerardo de Dota/Tarrazú regions. These areas are home to virgin rainforests that abound with rivers and waterfalls. These highland ecosystems are also filled with abundant birdlife, and visitors can embark on nature trails to spot colorful specimens not typically seen at lower altitudes. Dota and Tarrazú, in particular, are also famous for the exceptional coffee produced from beans grown on local family farms.
Upon arrival in San Gerardo de Dota, you'll check into your hotel, the Hotel Savegre. Lush cloud forests surround this charming 3-star mountain retreat, and it features independent rooms and suites with incredible forest views from the patio. The gourmet restaurant whips up international dishes with ingredients sourced fresh from the hotel garden, and the relaxing lounge not only serves handcrafted cocktails but coffee produced by local growers.
After dropping your things off at the hotel, you'll head out to discover the local coffee culture on a private tour. During a visit to a nearby coffee farm, you'll learn all about the growth cycles of the beans, plus the drying and roasting techniques that go into making the perfect cup of joe. Naturally, there will be a tasting and the chance to purchase a bag or two of excellent beans to take home.
Day 9: Cloud Forest Hike & Birding, Afternoon Spa Treatment
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Wake early and meet an expert guide for a private excursion to discover the rich biodiversity of this highland region. This two-hour nature hike kicks off in the early morning, as this is the best time to try and spot the region's most prized resident: the resplendent quetzal. This bird, known for its electric green plumage, was sacred to the ancient Aztec and Maya cultures. Even today, it remains elusive and only appears in specific areas like this cloud forest ecosystem. Hopefully, you and your guide will get lucky and spot one.
The day's outing doesn't end with the quetzal. Later, you'll continue on another forest hike with a naturalist guide. You won't have to travel far, either, as this route follows trails adjacent to the hotel property. The whole area here is a highly diverse biosphere, and local experts have curated the routes to showcase the wide variety of tropical flora and fauna.
After hiking around the cloud forest and snapping plenty of pics, you'll head back to the hotel and give your legs a break at the hotel's Del Río Spa. Here, you can choose from a variety of treatments to refresh your tired muscles and center your mind. Even better, you'll enjoy these treatments while listening to the sounds of forest animals and the running waters of the Río Savegre in the distance.
Day 10: Drive to Uvita, Nauyaca Waterfall Tour
After breakfast, you'll leave the highlands on a three-hour drive south to the golden beaches of the Pacific and the seaside town of Uvita. This tranquil coastal gem sits between lush green mountains and unspoiled beaches and is the primary entrance to Marino Ballena National Park. This spectacular protected area on the coast is most famous for the humpback whales that migrate here from July to October and December to March to rear their young.
Upon arrival, you'll drive to your accommodation for the next few nights: Kura Design Villas. Located in the hills above Uvita, this 5-star boutique hotel stuns with its panoramic ocean views and modern design that blends seamlessly into the surrounding nature. Highlights include spacious luxury suites, a gourmet restaurant that uses locally sourced ingredients, and the pièce de résistance: a shimmering infinity pool offering some of the best sunset views in the country.
Once you've checked in, you'll meet a local guide and head out for a scenic private hike (or horseback ride) to the gorgeous Nauyaca Waterfalls. This romantic locale is comprised of two falls that plunge 141 feet (43 m) over cliffs into a crystalline lagoon. It's a perfect swimming spot, so don't forget your bathing suit.
Day 11: Caño Island Biological Reserve Snorkeling Trip
In the morning, you'll head out on a private, full-day snorkeling tour around the Caño Island Biological Reserve. This protected marine area (once the site of a pre-Columbian cemetery) is located off the northern tip of Costa Rica's famous Osa Peninsula. The excursion begins when you transfer to a meeting point on the beach in Uvita. There, you'll board a boat for the 1.5-hour ride south to the island reserve. Enjoy the ride, as there's a good chance that you'll spot dolphins, sea turtles, and even whales, depending on the season.
When you arrive at the reserve, you'll visit two different dive spots and swim among the abundant marine life, which includes reef sharks, sea turtles, parrotfish, eels, manta rays, pufferfish, and octopuses. There's also a wide variety of coral-building organisms and 19 different species of coral in the area. Visibility is excellent throughout the year, making the area around Isla del Caño a perfect site for underwater photography. After a couple of hours of snorkeling with a break for lunch, you'll get back in the boat and return to Uvita.
Day 12: Marino Ballena National Park Tour, Surf Lesson
Today, you'll venture into Marino Ballena National Park, famous for its beach and coastal rock formation in the shape of a whale's tail. Half of this full-day private excursion will be a hike, while the other half will involve a boat tour along the coast. Throughout the tour, you'll be accompanied by an expert guide who will point out the park's wildlife (both marine and terrestrial), which includes humpback whales, dolphins, and orcas. They'll also offer insight into the ecosystem, which accounts for one percent of Costa Rica's protected marine territory.
After returning to Uvita, you'll head to the beach for a private surfing lesson. Over two hours, your instructor will help you brush up on the basics you learned earlier in the trip, such as paddling and pop-up techniques as well as proper balance and body position. Then it's time to hit the water and use that knowledge to catch the perfect wave. Afterward, you'll return to your hotel.
Day 13: Drive to Playa Herradura, Manuel Antonio Hike
This morning, you'll set off on another leg of this memorable road trip. Leave Uvita and drive two hours up the coast to Playa Herradura, another picturesque Pacific beach. Located just north of Costa Rica's surf capital of Jacó, the waters here are more mellow and better for swimming.
On the way, you'll stop at the famous Manuel Antonio National Park for a private tour. Spend the morning exploring this 1,680-acre (680 ha) protected area, which is home to coastal mountains, rainforest, unspoiled beaches, and flourishing coral reefs. You'll head into the park on a three-hour hike that follows a 2-mile (3-km) trail. As you go, your expert guide will point out wildlife in the area, including howler monkeys, sloths, iguanas, and tropical birds like araçaris and hummingbirds. The guide will also offer insight into medicinal plants and trees used in traditional Costa Rican culture.
Afterward, continue to Playa Herradura and Hotel Villa Caletas. Nestled in the coastal mountains overlooking the Pacific, this 4-star hotel features themed rooms and suites. From the hotel's infinity pool, you'll enjoy sweeping views of tropical forests and the ocean below (keep an eye out for migrating humpback whales). If you arrive early enough, unwind with a yoga session on the terrace or visit the spa for a massage amid the sounds of toucans singing in the trees. For more great views, enjoy al fresco fine dining at Mirador Restaurant, which serves delectable steaks, seafood, and pasta.