Perfect for active couples, this 10-day self-drive adventure in paradise gives you a glimpse of Costa Rica's lesser-explored gems. After a city tour of San José, drive deep into the Central Valley for mountain biking adventures, then head toward the Pacific, stopping for tours of coffee farms and birding in cloud forests. Everything culminates at the coast, where you'll go whale watching and enjoy relaxing beach time, gourmet culinary experiences, and catamaran adventures in Manuel Antonio National Park.


  • Tour the colonial highlights of San José and visit national monuments
  • Learn to make artisanal cheeses and tour working coffee farms
  • Venture into misty cloud forests to spot exotic birds, like the quetzal
  • Relax on the beaches of Manuel Antonio and embark on rainforest hikes

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in San José, Self-Guided Walking Tour of Downtown San José
Day 2 Drive to Turrialba, Visit the Guayabo National Monument Turrialba
Day 3 Mountain Biking Tour & Cheese-Making Workshop Turrialba
Day 4 Drive to San Gerardo de Dota, Night Birding Tour San Gerardo de Dota
Day 5 Los Quetzales Nature Hike, Private Spa Treatment San Gerardo de Dota
Day 6 Coffee Cooperative Tour, Drive to Dominical, Whale-Watching Tour Dominical
Day 7 Drive to Manuel Antonio, Relaxed Half-Day Catamaran Trip Manuel Antonio
Day 8 Manuel Antonio Guided Hike, Optional Activities Manuel Antonio
Day 9 Manuel Antonio Beach Day Manuel Antonio
Day 10 Drive to San José, Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in San José, Self-Guided Walking Tour of Downtown

The National Theater
The Teatro Nacional is one of many historic highlights in San José

Welcome to Costa Rica! This honeymoon adventure kicks off immediately with your arrival in the capital of San José. Pick up your rental car at the airport and make the 40-minute drive into the city and your hotel. After dropping off your bags, feel free to head out and stretch your legs on a self-guided tour of this dynamic city.

You can start in the city's green lung, Parque La Sabana, a 177-acre (72 ha) urban park. From there, it's a short walk to downtown highlights like the Teatro Nacional, a masterpiece of neoclassical architecture that dates to 1897, and the Museo del Oro Precolombino (Pre-Columbian Gold Museum), which holds an extensive collection of pre-Columbian gold artifacts. Then stroll through the Mercado Central, which features over 200 shops, food stalls, and sodas (traditional restaurants). In the evening, return to your hotel.

Day 2: Drive to Turrialba, Visit the Guayabo National Monument

Explore the remains of the ancient city at Guayabo

Rise and shine! After a leisurely breakfast, you'll hit the road for your first full day in Costa Rica. It's a 2.5-hour scenic drive east out of the city, deep into the country's Central Valley and Turrialba. This region is famous for its vast coffee fields and active volcanoes. 

On the way, you'll stop at the Guayabo National Monument. Set in the shadow of the Turrialba volcano, you'll take a private tour through the remains of this ancient city, which is thought to have housed over 10,000 people who mysteriously vanished just before the arrival of Spanish colonialists in the 16th century.

When you arrive at the site, you'll meet an expert guide and explore on foot. As you stroll the ruins, your guide will reveal insight into what archaeologists have uncovered about Guayabo and the mysteries that remain. Afterward, you'll drive to your hotel in Turrialba.

Day 3: Mountain Biking Tour & Cheese-Making Workshop

Bike on dirt trails through tropical plantations
Bike on dirt trails through tropical plantations

Eat a hearty breakfast because afterward, you'll get the blood pumping on an off-road bike ride. This thrilling mountain bike excursion lasts a couple of hours and will take you around the tropical forests, plantations, and botanical gardens that are part of a local agricultural research center. The excursion will be led by a local guide who will reveal the history of the center and the various community-building projects they facilitate. Also, the topography of the trails is suitable for all levels of cycling experience, allowing you to relax and enjoy the gorgeous countryside surrounding you.

After the mountain biking adventure, you'll visit Finca la Florita, a sustainable cattle farm that has opened its doors to visitors. Here, you'll meet the mother and daughter owners, who will reveal generations-old secrets to how they produce their famous artisanal cheeses. You'll spend about 1.5 hours on the farm, learning about different cattle breeds, their feeding, milking, how to process the milk, and, of course, sampling the finished cheeses. At the end of the day, you'll return to your hotel.

Day 4: Drive to San Gerardo de Dota, Night Birding Tour

See various types of owls on a nocturnal nature hike in San Gerardo de Dota

Time to head west! Hop in the car this morning and point your car west toward the Pacific. On the way to the coast, you'll stop in San Gerardo de Dota, a region famous for its virgin rainforests dotted with rivers and waterfalls. It's a great place to spend a couple of days on nature excursions, as these highland ecosystems abound with exotic birdlife.

The region is also famous for Parque Nacional Los Quetzales. This park spans 30,515 acres (12,355 ha), making it one of the largest protected areas in Costa Rica. Its diverse landscapes range from cloud forests and montane forests to rugged mountains and pristine rivers.

That's exactly where you're headed when, after checking into your hotel, you'll meet a naturalist guide for an evening nature hike. Beginning at 6:30 pm, you'll enter the park on an expedition to spot exotic avian species. Nocturnal specimens you might glimpse on this two-hour hike include various types of owls and the dusky nightjar, the only endemic nightjar in Costa Rica. 

Day 5: Los Quetzales Nature Hike, Private Spa Treatment

Indulge in a massage or treatment with a relaxing afternoon spa session 
Wake early and meet a guide to discover the rich biodiversity of Los Quetzales. 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.
Plan your trip to Costa Rica
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
After hiking around the cloud forest and snapping plenty of pics, you'll return to the hotel and give your legs a break at the Del Río Spa. Here, you can choose various 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 6: Coffee Cooperative Tour, Drive to Dominical, Whale-Watching Tour

Welcome to Costa Rica's Pacific coast and the white sands of Playa Dominical

This morning, you're off on a 2.5-hour drive from San Gerardo de Dota to the azure waters of the Pacific coast. On the way, you'll stop at a coffee cooperative in the Dota Valley, renowned for producing some of the finest coffee in the world. During a two-hour guided tour, you'll stroll the plantation's fields and learn about the different varieties of coffee cultivated in the region. This is a sustainable operation, and throughout the tour, you'll learn about how the co-op uses all-natural methods to control pests and fertilize the plants.

Then, visit the processing plant to see how the coffee fruit is harvested, sorted, and processed. Next up is the roasting facility, where you'll learn about the different types of roasts and how the process affects the flavor and aroma of the beans. Finally, you'll get to sample some of the co-op's delicious coffees and learn about the different brewing methods used to make the perfect cup.

Then, get back on the road for the drive to Playa Dominical, a wide and inviting beach right out of a postcard. After checking into your hotel, you'll travel to nearby Marino Ballena National Park and leave on a half-day whale watching/snorkeling tour. Throughout the boat trip, you'll be accompanied by an expert guide who will point out the region's exotic marine animals, including humpback whales and dolphins.

Day 7: Drive to Manuel Antonio, Relaxed Half-Day Catamaran Trip

Experience Manuel Antonio's famously beautiful coastline on a catamaran ride

It's another memorable drive as you journey an hour up the Pacific coast this morning to Manuel Antonio National Park. This 1,680-acre (680 ha) protected area is a true gem of Costa Rica, home to virgin rainforest running from the mountains to the coast, where white-sand beaches and coral reefs await. 

On the way, feel free to stop for a private scenic hike (or horseback ride) to the gorgeous Nauyaca Waterfalls, a pair of two falls that plunge 141 feet (43 m) over cliffs into a crystalline lagoon below. It's a perfect swimming spot, so don't forget your bathing suit. Don't delay too long, though, because a very special excursion is in store once you reach Manuel Antonio.

After checking into your hotel in the park, you'll experience Manuel Antonio's coastal wonders on a half-day catamaran tour. You'll board this vessel in the park's main town of Quepos, and from there, kick back on deck and relax as you cruise past islands, rock formations, and dramatic cliffs along the scenic coastline. Keep an eye out for the playful dolphins that often trail the boat. The tour includes a delicious barbecue meal served onboard, plus a stop for swimming and snorkeling in a secluded bay. Afterward, you'll return to Quepos and your hotel.

Day 8: Manuel Antonio Guided Hike, Optional Activities

A squirrel monkey hanging out in the trees of Manuel Antonio National Park

Wake up early for a private adventure into Manuel Antonio National Park. This three-hour hike follows a 2-mile (3 km) trail, during which your expert guide will point out interesting wildlife in the area. These include howler monkeys, sloths, iguanas, and birds like araçaris and hummingbirds. The guide will also offer insight into medicinal plants and trees used in traditional Costa Rican culture.

After the tour, you'll return to the hotel and have the rest of the day free. Some optional activities include private surf lessons, zipline rides, river rafting, kayaking, catamaran tours, snorkeling, and more. If you like, take a relaxing sunset cruise on the coast as the last light of the day disappears behind the Pacific.

Also, don't miss the fine cuisine in this part of Costa Rica. For dinner, you can head into Quepos, where you'll have your choice of various world-class restaurants. The food here reflects the eclectic character of the Manuel Antonio area, as here you can find everything from traditional Costa Rican fare to exotic fusion restaurants.

Day 9: Manuel Antonio Beach Day

Free day to enjoy the beach.
Spend your penultimate day in Costa Rica relaxing in total comfort
The day is yours to enjoy Manuel Antonio on your own schedule. Feel free to stake out your secluded spot on powdery white sands fronting turquoise waters. Then cuddle up with your newlywed and while away the hours with a good book and a tropical drink in hand. You can also opt for a snorkeling adventure and/or embark on another nature hike in the coastal rainforest. Then, enjoy dinner back at the hotel amid panoramic coast views as the sun dips behind the Pacific.

Day 10: Drive to San José, Depart

Sun setting over the beaches of Manuel Antonio National Park

Though the honeymoon is over, this experience in paradise will hopefully be a harbinger of a lifetime of romance and adventures. After breakfast at the hotel, get behind the wheel one more time for the three-hour ride back to the Juan Santamaría International Airport in San José. There, you'll drop off your rental car and catch your flight home. Adiós!

More Great Costa Rica Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Costa Rica? Check out these other Costa Rica itineraries, explore different ways to spend 10 days in Costa Rica, or discover the best time to visit Costa Rica.


Map of Romantic Costa Rica Road Trip: Mountains, Cloud Forests & Beaches - 10 Days
Map of Romantic Costa Rica Road Trip: Mountains, Cloud Forests & Beaches - 10 Days