Explore the natural beauty and biodiversity of Costa Rica on this 6-day adventure around the country's beautiful landscapes. The itinerary begins with a hike around La Fortuna Waterfall Reserve and a walk along the famous Arenal Hanging Bridges. Enjoy views of volcanoes and relax in natural hot springs before continuing to Manuel Antonio National Park, where you'll interact with sloths at a wildlife sanctuary and boat through a unique tidal landscape around Damas Island. Offering a mix of active excursions and relaxation, this trip is perfect for families.

Highlights

  • Hike through the forest at the base of Arenal Volcano
  • Go for a relaxing dip in natural hot springs
  • Interact with sloths and monkeys at a wildlife sanctuary
  • Boat through the unique tidal landscape around Damas Island

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive, Hike to La Fortuna Waterfall La Fortuna
Day 2 Explore Arenal & Tabacon Hot Springs La Fortuna
Day 3 Transfer to Manuel Antonio National Park Manuel Antonio
Day 4 Visit a Rainforest Wildlife Sanctuary Manuel Antonio
Day 5 Discover Damas Island on a Boat Tour Manuel Antonio
Day 6 Depart Cost Rica, End of Trip  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive, Hike to La Fortuna Waterfall

La Fortuna Waterfall
Enjoy a swim after your short hike to La Fortuna Waterfall
Welcome to Costa Rica! You'll arrive at San José International Airport to meet your driver and transfer to your hotel in La Fortuna (around three hours, depending on traffic). In the afternoon, visit La Fortuna Waterfall Reserve. After paying the entrance fee, you'll cross a small bridge to get to the trailhead. Beyond that is the first observation deck, where you can snap a great elevated view of the waterfall as it plunges into the river below.

After taking in the views from the platform, it's time to descend the steps to get close to the waterfall at its base! As you make your way down the roughly 500 steps along the trail, feel free to take breaks to check out the local flora and fauna. Once you reach the falls, cool off with a swim in the refreshing water of La Fortuna River, staying close to the shore to avoid the strong undercurrent. Alternatively, downriver and to the left of the waterfall is another natural pool that is calmer and warmer, ideal for swimming.

Enjoy the falls and the river as long as you like before starting the trek back up the stairs. You'll overnight in La Fortuna.

Day 2: Explore Arenal & Tabacon Hot Springs

Arenal Hanging Bridges
Arenal Hanging Bridges

Today you'll 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 elevated walkways, some 180 feet (55 m) above the rainforest floor, you'll also be able to appreciate the area's incredible biodiversity in a zone where upland and lowland rainforest meet. The birdwatching is superb, with more than 350 resident avian species, including the iridescent, turquoise-browed motmot. The trail is two miles (3 km) long and crosses 10 fixed bridges and six hanging bridges between 16 and 328 feet (5 and 100 m).

Next, hike around the volcano with your 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. In addition to the forested parts where you can spot wildlife, you'll also explore sections devastated by the 1968 lava flow, resulting in little to no vegetation. Your guide will explain the history of the area pre and post-eruption. 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 and international fare, before being picked up and transported back to your hotel for the night.

Day 3: Transfer to Manuel Antonio National Park

Some of Costa Rica's most beautiful beaches are in Manuel Antonio
A beautiful beach in Manuel Antonio National Park
Today is a travel day. After breakfast, you'll transfer to Manuel Antonio National Park in a private, air-conditioned minivan. The drive takes approximately five hours, depending on traffic. Tomorrow, you'll venture into the park to explore the rainforest. Today, you'll have the afternoon and evening free to relax, take a short hike, enjoy dinner in a local restaurant, and get some rest before the next day's excursion.

Day 4: Visit a Rainforest Wildlife Sanctuary

Visit Kids Saving the Rainforest Wildlife Sanctuary
A sloth at Kids Saving the Rainforest Wildlife Sanctuary
Kids Saving the Rainforest is a non-profit organization based in Quepos. The sanctuary rescues over 100 animals each year with the primary goal of rehabilitating them to be released back into the wild. The staff has a deeply rooted passion for animals and teaching the public about the dangers of human and wildlife interaction, the underground pet trade, and much more.

On this educational wildlife tour, you'll learn invaluable lessons about engaging with various animals in an ecologically responsible way. Species that have been part of the rehabilitation program range from sloths (two and three-toed) to marmosets, great macaws, toucans, and all four species of monkey found in Costa Rica.

You'll also be introduced to the unreleasable animals who live at the sanctuary full time. The sanctuary is a refuge for nearly 50 animals who cannot be released into the wild due to various physical disabilities or unnatural behavior after being kept as illegal pets. You'll see firsthand how much care is taken to ensure that these full-time residents are given the best life possible.
 
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Day 5: Discover Damas Island on a Boat Tour

The mangrove roots provide a unique sanctuary for hatching fish
Mangrove roots, a unique sanctuary for 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 river's ebb and flow 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.

Head back to the hotel for one last relaxing evening.

Day 6: 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 6-Day Costa Rica Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Costa Rica? Check out these other 6-day Costa Rica itineraries, with outdoor adventures, family-friendly trips, and beach vacations to hit the highlights. 

Map

Map of Outdoor Adventures & Wildlife of Costa Rica - 6 Days
Map of Outdoor Adventures & Wildlife of Costa Rica - 6 Days
Yenyi
Written by Yenyi Fu, updated May 17, 2022