This quick getaway will let you experience the many sides of Costa Rica in just five days. After enjoying an evening in San José, you'll head to Manuel Antonio, a national park boasting some of Costa Rica's most famous white sand beaches and coastal jungles. Hike, kayak, and snorkel until your heart's content before heading home.

Highlights

  • Spend a day exploring San José, Costa Rica's capital
  • Hike in Manuel Antonio National Park with a naturalist guide
  • Enjoy sea kayaking and snorkeling in the Pacific Ocean
  • Spot monkeys, sloths, and tropical birds while trekking in the jungle

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Costa Rica, Explore San José's Culture & History San José
Day 2 San José to Manuel Antonio Manuel Antonio
Day 3 Guided Hike of Manuel Antonio National Park Manuel Antonio
Day 4 Sea Kayaking & Snorkeling Tour at Manuel Antonio Manuel Antonio
Day 5 Manuel Antonio to San José, Depart Costa Rica  

Detailed overview

Day 1: Arrive in Costa Rica, Explore San José's Culture & History

The striking interior of Catedral Metropolitan
The striking interior of Catedral Metropolitan

Welcome to the land of pura vida! After arriving at Juan Santamaría International Airport in San José, a local representative will meet you and escort you to your hotel. The rest of the day is free for you to explore the country's vibrant capital by yourself or with a guide.

Suggested activities include: 

  • Taking a stroll through Mercado Central (Central Market), the largest such market in the city, featuring over 200 shops, food stalls, and sodas (traditional restaurants). These little eateries are perfect for an inexpensive lunch of casado, a traditional dish of rice, beans, and meat, served with tortillas. 
  • Visit the Catedral Metropolitana (Metropolitan Church) where interiors combine Greek Orthodox, Neoclassical, and Baroque styles and feature wood carvings and stained-glass windows.
  • Explore Barrio Amón, a historic neighborhood that's 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 district for architecture enthusiasts. 

For a casual dinner, head to Tiquicia, a hilltop stalwart featuring views of the Central Valley below. They serve delicious local fare accompanied by live folk music on weekends. Or, for special-occasion dining, try Restaurante Grano de Oro, a local favorite helmed by French chef Francis Canal, who uses European techniques to prepare Costa Rican-fusion cuisine supported by an excellent wine list.

Day 2: San José to Manuel Antonio

Beach time on the Pacific coast
Beach time on the Pacific coast

This morning, you'll transfer by car to the Pacific coast at Manuel Antonio National Park, where you'll have your pick of the area's four beautiful beaches (regarded as some of the best in Costa Rica). If you're hungry for more adventure, you can choose to hike on one of the park's many well-marked trails offering close-up vantage points of 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. Enjoy the sunset views at Gabriella's over a meal of fresh fish or steak.

Day 3: Guided Hike of Manuel Antonio National Park

Be on the lookout for sloths
Be on the lookout for sloths

Today you'll explore the biodiversity found within the roughly 680 hectares (1,680 acres) of Manuel Antonio National Park. A naturalist guide will point out the more than 300 species of mammals and birds that call the reserve home, including sloths, hawks, iguanas, and several different species of monkeys. You'll also have time stroll and sunbathe on the park's white sand beaches.

Day 4: Sea Kayaking and Snorkeling Tour at Manuel Antonio

The coral reef and abundant sea life at Manuel Antonio National Park
The coral reef and abundant sea life at Manuel Antonio National Park

After breakfast, you'll have the whole day to enjoy Manuel Antonio's shoreline. This is regarded as one of the nation's most idyllic coastal areas, and you'll start this ocean adventure on a two-person open-seat kayak. The route begins near Pez Vela Marina in Quepos and winds along Manuel Antonio's coastline. There will be time to relax on the secluded beach of Playa Biesanz, where you can go for a swim and enjoy a picnic on the sand. You'll also experience the area's thriving coral reef and marine life during a snorkeling outing just offshore.

Wondering where to eat in Manuel Antonio? Try Arbol Food & Wine. This concept here is based on using seasonal products from Central Pacific farmers and fishermen, so you're only getting the freshest fish around. 

Day 5: 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 transfer back to San José by car where you'll depart the airport for your journey home.

Map

Map of San José and Manuel Antonio - 5 Days
Map of San José and Manuel Antonio - 5 Days