- Brave the rapids on one of the world's best rivers for whitewater rafting
- Hike to hidden waterfalls and zipline through the tropical forest canopy
- Go for a post-hike dip in Tabacón’s mineral-rich hot springs
- Walk on suspension bridges in Monteverde's famous Cloud Forest
- Take in colorful tropical fish during a snorkel trip to Biezans Bay
|Day 1||Arrive in San José, Dinner Reservation for Two||San José|
|Day 2||Rafting Río Pacuare on Class II-IIl Rapids||Pacuare|
|Day 3||Free Day for Jungle Adventures in Río Pacuare||Pacuare|
|Day 4||Rafting Class III-IV Rapids, Continue to Arenal||Arenal|
|Day 5||Hike Arenal 1968, Visit Tabacón’s Hot Springs||Arenal|
|Day 6||Boat from Arenal to Monteverde, Coffee Finca Tour||Monteverde|
|Day 7||Guided Hike in the Monteverde Cloud Forest||Monteverde|
|Day 8||Monteverde to Manuel Antonio||Manuel Antonio|
|Day 9||Sea Kayaking & Snorkeling Tour at Manuel Antonio||Manuel Antonio|
|Day 10||Manuel Antonio to San José, Depart Costa Rica|
Day 1: Arrive in San José, Dinner Reservation for Two
Welcome to the land of pura vida! After arriving at Juan Santamaria International Airport in San José, a local representative will meet you and escort you to your hotel. The rest of your day is designated free time for the two of you to explore the country's capital city. Suggested activities include:
- Take a stroll through Mercado Central (Central Market), the largest in the city, with over 200 shops, food stalls, and sodas (traditional restaurants). For lunch, try a traditional casado, the favorite local dish of rice, beans, and meat, served with tortillas.
- Explore Barrio Amón, a historic neighborhood that's home to cafetalero (coffee farmer) mansions constructed during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Many of the area’s historic buildings have been converted into hotels, restaurants, and galleries, making this a popular district for taking in the art-deco manses and painted tropical Victorian structures.
- Visit the Teatro Nacional, an opulent Neo-Classical building constructed in the late 19th century, which offers free guided tours on the hour. You can also check their calendar to take in dance, music, and theatre performances.
In the evening, head out on the town and check out one of the city's best restaurants:
- For special-occasion dining, try Restaurante Grano de Oro, an upmarket favorite helmed by French chef Francis Canal, who uses European techniques to prepare Costa Rican-fusion fare, paired with an excellent wine list.
- Though it's technically attached to one of the more interesting hotels in Costa Rica (visit the lobby and you'll understand), Del Mar's 24-hour restaurant is a continental dinner spot in a 19th century restored mansion with beautiful rooms and stained glass windows.
- The restaurant Tin Jo serves a variety of excellent Asian dishes including vegetarian options—this is popular with locals, so make a reservation.
- Kalú is a sleek and modern option run by a female chef with a love for French culture as well as Asian, Mediterranean, and Creole gastronomy.
Day 2: Rafting Río Pacuare on Class II-IIl Rapids
This morning, you'll wake up early, meet your guide, and begin the 2.5-hour drive out through the city and countryside east of San José. Stop en route for a classic Costa Rican breakfast before you arrive at Río Pacuare, where you'll begin your rafting excursion. Located along Costa Rica’s Caribbean slope, Río Pacuare’s river gorge is considered one of the best in the world for rafting.
After a guided orientation, you'll embark on today's exciting 1-1.5 hour trip on class II-III rapids before checking in at your riverside eco-lodge. You'll have the rest of the day to explore the surrounding area with your guide.
After lunch, you can hike through the lodge’s protected forest to a waterfall, opt for a couple's massage at the Jawa Juü Spa, or simply relax in your private bungalow or suite.
Day 3: Free Day for Jungle Adventures in Río Pacuare
Today is purposely unscheduled—this is free time for you to explore the jungle-cloaked mountains of Río Pacuare together. Outdoor adventure options include ziplining through the rainforest canopy trees or canyoning El Tesorito Creek, where you'll descend a small waterfall, slide along cables, and rappel down a 30-meter rock face.
You can also opt for a hike to the fabled sendero de las mulas (mule trail), among the primary routes used by the Cabécar Indians. After the initial climb, you'll hike to a waterfall in the Nairi Awari Indigenous Reserve. Have a picnic here before hiking back along the trail to a Cabécar indigenous community.
In the afternoon, return to the lodge for one last cozy night surrounded by trees.
Day 4: Rafting Class III-IV Rapids, Continue to Arenal
This morning, you'll embark on a more challenging route that lasts approximately 3.5 hours over class III-IV rapids. As you travel down Río Pacuare, expect to see canyons, waterfalls, and virgin forests. During the calmer stretches, be on the lookout for birds and other wildlife that call the region home.
In the afternoon, you'll be driven to La Fortuna, your home base for exploring Arenal Volcano National Park. Located north of the Tilaran Mountains, the cone-shaped Arenal juts out above the San Carlos Plains.
During your stay in La Fortuna, a few recommended restaurants are:
- La Parrilla de María Bonita, for perfectly cooked steak as well as Mediterranean dishes like falafel and baba ghanoush.
- Rancho Perla, a popular open-air restaurant (you may even spot sloths hanging from the nearby trees) serving Costa Rican staples.
- Ave Del Paraíso, which serves up Costa Rican and international dishes.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 5: Hike Arenal 1968, Visit Tabacón’s Hot Springs
Today, after breakfast at your hotel, you'll make a visit to Arenal 1968, a private reserve named for the volcano’s eruption of that same year, which transformed some of the region’s topography: lava fields now predominate on one side of Arenal. Trails wind through those lava fields as well as through the rainforest, offering beautiful views of the volcano.
Afterward, take a dip in the mineral-rich waters of Tabacón’s hot springs, used as therapeutic baths for more than 200 years. The Tabacón Thermal Resort includes a spa where treatments like couples massages are performed in outdoor bungalows. End the day with a nice dinner at the resort’s pretty Ave Del Paraíso Restaurant, serving Costa Rican dishes as well as international fare.
Day 6: Boat from Arenal to Monteverde, Coffee Finca Tour
After breakfast at your resort in La Fortuna, you'll begin your transfer to Monteverde. This is no ordinary route: you'll skip the drive and board a boat instead, which will take you across Lake Arenal where you'll have opportunities to spot birds like herons and anhingas along the way. On the other side of the lake, you'll head to a local coffee farm for a tour centered around one of Costa Rica's most famous exports. You'll participate in the entire farm-to-cup process, from picking the beans to roasting to tasting.
After your coffee tour, you'll head back to Monteverde where you can take the evening to enjoy nearby Santa Elena, a town with Quaker influences known for excellent coffee and cheese. Here are a few restaurant suggestions:
- For a late lunch, Orchid Coffee serves a menu of smoothies, salads, and sandwiches. Sweet-toothed visitors will appreciate the café’s extensive hot chocolate menu made with Costa Rican chocolate and mixed with unique ingredients like cardamom and orange.
- El Jardin Bar & Restaurant wins visitors over with its lovely setting overlooking the trees, friendly service, and fresh homemade bread served alongside every meal.
- Built around an old higueron (fig) tree, the Tree House Restaurant & Café serves Costa Rican standards like ceviche and arroz con pollo in a romantic, open-air setting.
Day 7: Guided Hike in Monteverdes Cloud Forest Reserve
After breakfast, you'll transfer a short distance to the Monteverde cloud forest Reserve, one of the jewels in Costa Rica's ecological crown. Known as the "green lung of Costa Rica" due to its rich biodiversity, this 26,000-acre reserve is located high in the mountainous northwest region of the country. The views of the misty cloud forest here are the stuff of postcards.
But Monteverde offers more than sweeping panoramas. On a guided tour you'll get an up-close look at the incredible biodiversity that occurs in this region, where upland and lowland rainforest meet. More than 350 bird species exist here alone, including the aptly named resplendent quetzal. In other words, it's a nature lovers paradise.
In the afternoon you'll return to your hotel and have the rest of the day to spend as you like.
Day 8: Monteverde to Manuel Antonio
This morning, you'll be picked up from Monteverde and driven 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 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 the beach.
In the evening, head to the town of Quepos for dinner at Gabriella's to watch the sunset over fresh seafood and steak.
Day 9: Sea Kayaking & Snorkeling Tour at Manuel Antonio
After breakfast at your hotel, you will have the whole day to enjoy one of Costa Rica’s most striking Pacific coast areas, starting with a two-person ocean kayak. The guided kayaking adventure 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 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 coral reef and marine life during a snorkel journey along the shore.
Tonight is your last night of the trip, so consider a special restaurant in Manuel Antonio, like 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 10: Manuel Antonio to San José, Depart 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.