Snorkel with tropical fish, hike through the rainforest, and spot sloths hanging from the trees on this exciting week-long trip through the wilderness of Costa Rica. This itinerary leads you through three of the country's most beautiful destinations: Arenal, Monteverde, and Manuel Antonio National Park, for a variety of outdoor excursions and hands-on activities. This lively adventure is fun for the whole family, featuring boat rides, wildlife viewing hikes, and a chocolate-making workshop.

Highlights

  • Learn how chocolate is made during a tour of a cocoa bean farm
  • Go for a dip in one of the most famous waterfalls in the country, La Fortuna
  • Look for monkeys and sloths in the wild on a guided hike through the cloud forest
  • Explore the lush rainforest of Manuel Antonio National Park
  • Enjoy a relaxing soak in natural hot springs after a jungle hike

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Taste Chocolates on a Tour of a Cocoa Bean Farm La Fortuna
Day 2 Go on a Sloth and Bird Hike & Dip in Hot Springs La Fortuna
Day 3 Discover the Children's Eternal Forest Monteverde
Day 4 Tour Monteverde Cloud Forest on a Guided Hike Monteverde
Day 5 Transfer to Manuel Antonio National Park Manuel Antonio
Day 6 Hike, Sail & Snorkel in the Park Manuel Antonio
Day 7 Depart Costa Rica  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Taste Chocolates on a Tour of a Cocoa Bean Farm

Cocoa beans
The cocoa bean harvest in Costa Rica

Welcome to Costa Rica! You'll arrive at San José International Airport. Your driver will be waiting for you just outside the customs area and transfer you to your hotel in La Fortuna (around three hours, depending on traffic).

A delicious activity awaits in the afternoon. During a hands-on chocolate tour, you'll learn about the origin, history, and production of one of Costa Rica's most famous exports. You'll participate in the cacao harvest, as well as the drying and grinding of the seeds used to produce creamy cocoa butter, learn how a traditional Costa Rican chocolate drink was developed centuries ago, and you'll have the opportunity to sample plenty of freshly made chocolate.

Head back to the hotel to rest before the adventure continues on day two.

Day 2: Go on a Sloth and Bird Hike & Dip in Hot Springs

Look up to see wildlife
A sloth clinging to a tree

Go on a hiking excursion today along the so-called "Sloth Trail." This nature trail cuts through a habitat for sloths (both two-toed and three-toed) who like to hang on the branches of the trees and feed on bright green leaves. On this two-hour guided hike, you'll see a few of these slow-moving animals and perhaps even spy a mother sloth and its baby. During the walk, your bilingual guide will also point out other animals common to this area, like the famous red-eyed tree frog.

In the afternoon, discover the La Fortuna area with a hike around Arenal Volcano and other nearby nature reserves. The trails in the area are generally not strenuous—perfect for a leisurely and informative hike with a naturalist guide. Start at the entrance of the 1968 Trail. Then, it's time to hit the well-maintained trails that skirt the base of the Arenal Volcano and Lake Arenal. This 1.5-hour route offers some of the best wildlife viewing opportunities in the park, and your naturalist guide will keep a well-trained eye for exotic birds, monkeys, and other animals along the way.

In addition to the forested parts where you can spot wildlife, you'll also walk through sections of the park devastated by the lava flow of 1968, resulting in little to no vegetation in its surroundings. Your guide will explain the history of the area, both pre-and post-1968 eruption, while also pointing out the unique flora and fauna you will encounter. Of course, the trail also provides magnificent views of the massive Arenal Volcano, the 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 accommodations.

Day 3: Discover the Children's Eternal Forest

Monteverde cloud forest
Monteverde cloud forest
Plan your trip to Costa Rica
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Today you will transfer to Monteverde, traveling over water. But this is no ordinary route. You will be picked up at your hotel and taken to the boat dock. After arriving at the shores of Lake Arenal, you'll board a boat and begin the journey to the other side of the lake. Upon arrival, you'll officially be in the Monteverde region of Costa Rica. 

Check into your hotel before the evening's activity, a nocturnal walk in the Children's Eternal Forest begins. The largest private reserve in Costa Rica, is part of UNESCO's Water and Peace Biosphere, the Costa Rican Network of Private Reserves, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).  The activity starts right after nightfall, allowing you to observe the animals that are awakening and others that seek their nests and caves to sleep.

Day 4: Tour Monteverde Cloud Forest on a Guided Hike

Explore the dense jungle of the Monteverde Cloud Forest
The dense jungle of the Monteverde Cloud Forest

Transfer from your hotel to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, one of the jewels in Costa Rica's ecological crown. Known as the "green lung of Costa Rica" due to its rich biodiversity, this sprawling reserve is located high in the mountainous northwest region of the country. 

On a guided tour, you'll get an overview of the incredible biodiversity of this region, where upland and lowland rainforest meet. More than 350 bird species live here, including the resplendent quetzal. It's a nature lover's paradise.

Day 5: 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 6: Hike, Sail & Snorkel in the Park

Be on the lookout for sloths hanging from the trees
A sloth hanging from the trees

Explore the pristine natural beauty of the world-famous national park today. The region is filled with wildlife, including monkeys, sloths, birds, reptiles, and butterflies. Start with a picturesque hike that leads you to a beautiful beach. Enjoy the sights and sounds of the lush rainforest, white sandy beaches, and crystalline blue waters along the journey. 

Later in the day, you will board your catamaran at the pier in Quepos and go for a sailing adventure along the coast. Your guide will highlight notable wildlife and vegetation as you admire islands, cliffs, and natural rock formations. After touring the coastline, the captain will set anchor at Biesanz Bay, where you can snorkel or relax onboard and enjoy a barbecue lunch. If you venture into the water, you're likely to see parrotfish, starfish, angelfish, and dolphins. 

Please note that afternoon sailing is unavailable from May through November, but morning sailing is available year-round.

Day 7: Depart Cost Rica

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 7-Day Costa Rica Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Costa Rica? Check out these other 7-day Costa Rica itineraries, with outdoor adventures, family-friendly trips, and best-of tours to hit the highlights. 

Map

Map of Outdoor Adventures & Wildlife of Costa Rica - 7 days
Map of Outdoor Adventures & Wildlife of Costa Rica - 7 days
Yenyi
Written by Yenyi Fu, updated May 20, 2022