This 4-day quick getaway allows you to experience a taste of the diversity of Costa Rica. Start off in the bustling capital of San José, you'll have time to explore the history and culture of the city for an evening before heading on to Manuel Antonio, a national park boasting some of Costa Rica's most pristine white sand beaches and coastal jungles.


  • Spend an afternoon and evening exploring Costa Rica's capital city
  • Go for a guided hike in Manuel Antonio National Park with a naturalist guide
  • Spend a day sea kayaking and snorkeling on the Pacific ocean

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Costa Rica - Experience San José's Culture and History San José
Day 2 San José to Manuel Antonio Manuel Antonio
Day 3 Guided Hike or Snorkel Adventure  Manuel Antonio
Day 4 Manuel Antonio to San José, Depart Costa Rica  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Costa Rica - Experience San José's Culture and History

Jocote fruits and sineguelas for sale at a local market
Jocote fruits and sineguelas for sale at a local market

Welcome to Costa Rica, the land of pura vida! After arriving at Juan Santamaria International Airport, in the capital of San José, a local representative will meet you and escort you to your hotel. The rest of the day you'll have free to explore the city at your own pace.

Take a stroll through Mercado Central (Central Market), the largest in the city, with over 200 shops, food stalls, and sodas (traditional restaurants). These sodas are perfect spots for an inexpensive lunch of casado—a local dish of rice, beans, and meat, served with tortillas. Then visit the Catedral Metropolitana (Metropolitan Church), whose interior combines Greek Orthodox, Neoclassical, and Baroque styles, and features wood carvings and stained-glass windows.

Be sure to explore Barrio Amón, a historic neighborhood home to cafetalero (coffee grower) mansions built during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Many of this area’s historic buildings have been converted into hotels, restaurants, and galleries, making Amón a popular bohemian district. For dinner, you might want to opt for a restaurant in the hills of Escazú. This elevated region on the western edge of the city offers panoramic views of the valley below. No matter where you go, though, the whole city is filled with delectable restaurants serving everything from traditional local to forward-thinking fusion cuisine.

Day 2: San José to Manuel Antonio

Look for squirrel monkeys in the park
Look for squirrel monkeys in the park

This morning, you'll transfer to the Pacific coast at Manuel Antonio National Park, where you can take your pick and wind down on one of the park's four beautiful beaches—some of the best in Costa Rica. If you're hungry for more adventure, you can also hike on one of the park's many trails (following the signs) and get up close to capuchin monkeys, sloths, and over 200 species of birds. Snorkeling is also accessible from multiple points along the beaches. 

In the evening, head to the town of Quepos for dinner at Gabriella's for pretty sunset views over a meal of fresh fish or steak.

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

Day 3: Guided Hike of Manuel Antonio National Park

Wild beaches of Manuel Antonio
Wild beaches of Manuel Antonio

Today you'll wake up early and explore the incredible biodiversity found within the roughly 680 hectares (1,680 acres) of Manuel Antonio National Park. This is a true natural gem of Costa Rica, in that the park is home to virgin rainforest running all the way from the mountains down to the coast, where white-sand beaches and coral reefs await. Below are two ways you can spend your day in the park.

Option 1: Guided Hike of the Park  

You'll start your hike on the trails within the park. A naturalist guide will point out the more than 300 species of mammals and birds that call this reserve home, including three-toed sloths, hawks, iguanas, and several different species of monkeys. You'll also have time to enjoy the park's expansive white sand beaches.

Option 2: Sea Kayaking and Snorkeling

This guided kayaking adventure begins near Pez Vela (Sail Fish) Marina in Quepos and winds along Manuel Antonio's coastline. There will be time to relax on the secluded beach of Biezans Bay, where you can go for a swim and enjoy a picnic on the sand. You'll also have the chance to see the area's gorgeous coral reef and marine life during a snorkel journey along the shore.

Want a special restaurant in Manuel Antonio?  Try Arbol Food & Wine. This is a concept based on seasonal products from Central Pacific farmers and fishermen, and the chef uses modern culinary techniques.

Day 4: Manuel Antonio to San José, Depart Costa Rica

Farewell, Costa Rica
Farewell, Costa Rica

It's time to say goodbye to Costa Rica! After breakfast, you'll be driven back to San José where you'll depart Juan Santamaría International Airport for your journey home.


Map of San José and Manuel Antonio - 4 Days
Map of San José and Manuel Antonio - 4 Days
Written by Emily Strauss, updated Feb 18, 2021