San José and Manuel Antonio - 5 Days
- 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
Are you planning a trip to Costa Rica?
Whether you want to see jungles, beaches, volcanoes, or a mix of everything, our local experts can help you craft the perfect trip. Get in touch now
|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|
Day 1: Arrive in Costa Rica, Explore San José's Culture & History
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.
For more travel advice, check out 24 Hours in San José and look over our list of the best hotels in San José.
Day 2: San José to Manuel Antonio
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.
Check out our Ultimate Guide to Manuel Antonio National Park for more information, and be sure to read this list of the best area hotels with views.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 3: Guided Hike of Manuel Antonio National Park
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 to stroll and sunbathe on the park's white sand beaches.
For more travel tips and inspiration, read Top Active Experiences in Manuel Antonio National Park.
Day 4: Sea Kayaking and Snorkeling Tour at Manuel Antonio
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. Read Where to Dine in Manuel Antonio National Park for more ideas.
Day 5: Manuel Antonio to San José, Depart 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.
Looking for other ideas for Costa Rica?
Looking for other ideas for your trip to Costa Rica? We have some great ideas for how to spend 5 days in Costa Rica, plus a list of family-friendly 6-day itineraries. Read more about how many days to stay in Costa Rica here.
Ready to Start Planning Your Trip?
Our specialists can help you customize this itinerary or help you discover the perfect regions in Costa Rica to fit your travel style. Get started now