Time to hit the open road and enjoy the wonders of Costa Rica on this 11-day self-drive tour. Your adventure begins on the Pacific beaches of Tamarindo and Nosara, both gems of Costa Rica's Guanacaste Province. On top of exploring and surfing these beaches, you'll make pit stops in coastal villages and glean insight into the local culture. Continue your journey eastward to the towering Arenal Volcano. Here you will soak in natural hot springs and brave whitewater rapids on a rafting trip.

Highlights

  • Surf and kayak around Tamarindo Bay
  • Take a road trip down the Nicoya Peninsula
  • Soak in natural hot springs at Arenal Volcano area
  • Brave the rapids of the Sarapiquí River

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Liberia to Tamarindo - Self Drive Tamarindo
Day 2 Private Surf Lesson at Playa Tamarindo Tamarindo
Day 3 SUP in Tamarindo Hacienda Pinilla
Day 4 Free Day at Hacienda Pinilla Hacienda Pinilla
Day 5 Kayak Tamarindo Hacienda Pinilla
Day 6 Tamarindo to Nosara - Optional Beach Excursion Nosara Beach
Day 7 Nosara Mangrove Tour - SUP Paddle Board Nosara Beach
Day 8 Nosara to Arenal - Self Drive Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 9 Hike Arenal 1968 - Tabacón Hot Springs Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 10 Sarapiquí River Rafting La Fortuna
Day 11 Arenal to Liberia depart Costa Rica  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Liberia to Tamarindo - Self Drive

Tamarindo, Costa Rica
Tamarindo, Costa Rica

Welcome to Costa Rica! Liberia is the northern hub of Guanacaste Province, an area famous for both its Pacific beaches and inland mountainous regions. You'll get to experience all of it on this self-driving Costa Rican road trip.

After touching down at Daniel Oduber Quirós International airport, you'll meet our representative and pick up your rental vehicle. Get behind the wheel and travel about 1.5 hours west to Tamarindo, on the Pacific coast. On the way you'll pass along the tropical dry forest of Guanacaste until you reach the azure waters of the Pacific. After arriving in the popular surf village of Tamarindo, check into your luxurious villa at Hacienda Pinilla and spend the rest of the day unwinding.

Day 2: Private Surf Lesson at Playa Tamarindo

A surfer at sundown on Playa Tamarindo
A surfer at sundown on Playa Tamarindo

This morning you'll receive a private lesson on Playa Tamarindo, then you'll have the rest of the day on your own to ride the waves or just relax on the beach. 

Another must-visit surf spot near Tamarindo is Playa Naranjo, which locals have nicknamed "Witch’s Rock." It's located in a national park and accessible only by boat. Made famous by the film "The Endless Summer II," Naranjo features big surf with both left and right-breaking waves, meaning it is ideal for any surf style. A few miles beyond here is Ollie’s Point, which has right-breaking waves only. This is a big area, so it won’t feel quite as crowded as Witch’s Rock.

You can also take a yoga class at one of Tamarindo's local studios (optional) and then wander around town, stopping at a café for a snack or meal.

Day 3: SUP in Tamarindo

Try some stand-up paddle boarding
Try some stand-up paddle boarding

If you'd like to spend a more mellow day on the water while still being active, stand-up paddle-boarding is the excursion for you. Rent a board and hit Tamarindo Bay. Not only will you enjoy the scenery from out on the water, but you'll get a full-body workout, too. If you've never paddle-boarded before that isn't a problem—individual and group classes are readily available in Tamarindo.

Day 4: Free Day at Hacienda Pinilla

Enjoy a tropical drink on the beach
Enjoy a tropical drink on the beach

Today is yours to relax on Hacienda Pinilla's sprawling 4,500 acres however you see fit. You can choose from any number of luxurious amenities, be it the private beaches, health spa, hiking and biking trails, wildlife spotting and birding, or simply staking your claim at the poolside tiki bar. 

You can also partake in an optional tour. These include: surfing or stand-up paddle-boarding, snorkeling excursions, a catamaran tour, horseback riding, a mangrove kayak outing, and more.

Day 5: Kayak Tamarindo

Get ready for some kayaking
Get ready for some kayaking

On the agenda today is some kayaking around Tamarindo Bay. Not only that, you'll also be paddling out to Capitán Island, located just a couple hundred meters offshore (about a 20-minute trip. As you paddle over the azure waters near Playa Tamarindo you'll eventually reach the crystalline waters and white-sand beaches of the island.

Here you'll have an opportunity to do some snorkeling and observe the underwater coral reef, which abounds with exotic fish. This tour is perfect to enjoy with the entire family (snorkeling equipment and drinking water included). Be sure to bring sunscreen.

Day 6: Tamarindo to Nosara - Optional Beach Excursion

There's more surfing opportunities south of Tamarindo
There's more surfing opportunities south of Tamarindo

Today you will hit the road again, this time driving south from Tamarindo towards another great surf spot, Nosara. The trip itself only takes a couple hours, but there are plenty of places you can stop along the way for a drink, food, or a dip in the water.

For example, Playa Avellanas (just south of Tamarindo) is a famous surfing beach (nicknamed "little Hawaii" for its large waves), and it's also home to Lola's Beach Bar. This is perhaps the most famous watering hole in Guanacaste Province, thanks in large part to Lolita, the resident pig who doubles as the bar's official mascot.

Once you arrive in Nosara you'll check into your hotel. If you still have energy, there are other beaches you can explore nearby, such as Sámara and Carillo.

Day 7: Nosara Mangrove Tour - SUP Paddle Board

Paddling the mangrove wetlands in Nosara
Paddling the mangrove wetlands in Nosara

Nosara is interesting in that it is home to the Boca Nosara, a river mouth where both the Nosara and Montana rivers converge. Where these rivers meet the ocean is a section of mangrove wetlands home to an abundance of marine life. It's also the departure point for many kayak and SUP tours in Nosara. 

Today you'll paddle around while also taking in the region's exotic flora and fauna. Birders will enjoy the sights of egrets, kingfishers, and spoonbills, and you might even get lucky and spot a crocodile or two. Tours typically involve a stop at a remote beach where you'll enjoy some fresh fruit.

Day 8: Nosara to Arenal - Self Drive

Arenal Volcano from the sky
Arenal Volcano from the sky

Today you'll hop back in your vehicle and leave Nosara for Arenal, further inland and to the east. As you leave the tropical dry scrub of Guanacaste you'll note the transformation of the landscape as you enter the higher-elevation rainforests of Alajuela Province.

This 4.5-hour route will take you through little villages emblematic of rural Costa Rican life. You can break up the drive by stopping along the way and enjoying lunch at a local "soda." These smaller Costa Rican eateries are typically family run and offer set menus. Sampling one is a great way to indulge in local culture. 

Back on the road, if skies are clear, views of the imposing namesake volcano will announce your arrival to Arenal. After checking into your hotel in La Fortuna, you can relax and enjoy the hotel's amenities or even take a dip in a relaxing natural hot spring. 

Day 9: Hike Arenal 1968 - Tabacón Hot Springs

A hot spring near Arenal
A hot spring near Arenal

After breakfast, you can take the morning to relax. In the early afternoon, you'll visit Arenal 1968, a private reserve named after the year of the last major eruption of the volcano. The event was so catastrophic that it transformed some of the region’s topography: lava fields now dominate one side of Arenal. Trails wind through those lava fields as well as the surrounding rainforest. Along the way, you'll find lookout points featuring prime views of the volcano. 

After hiking the trails, soothe your muscles with a dip in the mineral-rich waters in and around the Tabacón Thermal Resort. These hot springs have been used as therapeutic baths for more than 200 years, and the resort includes a spa where various treatments, like couples massages, are performed in outdoor bungalows.

End the day with a nice dinner at the resort’s restaurant, which serves Costa Rican dishes as well as international fare.

Day 10: Sarapiquí River Rafting

Braving the Sarapiquí
Braving the Sarapiquí

Located in the Arenal/La Fortuna area, the Sarapiquí River’s La Virgen section is an ideal introduction to white water rafting. This trip begins in La Fortuna, where our expert guide will pick you up and drive you 1.5 hours to the river. The Class II-III rapids here are perfect for first-time paddlers looking for a challenge or families interested in a wet roller coaster ride. With nicknames like Gringo’s Hole, Confusion, and Air Force, you can bet the excitement will live up to the hype.

But the adventure is only half the experience—there's also ample opportunity for spotting exotic wildlife in the rainforests that hug the riverbanks. You'll certainly see tropical birds like scarlet macaws as well as primate residents like howler monkeys. You'll also stop at little pools between the rapids for a swim. Of course, lunch will be provided on this excursion.

Day 11: Arenal to Liberia depart Costa Rica

Liberia, Costa Rica
Liberia, Costa Rica

It's time to say adiós to Costa Rica! After breakfast, you'll begin the 2.5-hour drive to Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport, in Guanacaste’s capital city of Liberia, for your return flight home.

Map

Map of Self-Drive Luxury Beach and Volcano Adventure - 11 days
Map of Self-Drive Luxury Beach and Volcano Adventure - 11 days