- Spend a day sightseeing in the historic center of San José
- Explore the lush canals of Tortuguero National Park by boat
- Hike, snorkel, and bike in beautiful Cahuita National Park
- Learn about rehabilitating wild animals at the Jaguar Animal Rescue Center
- See how chocolate is made from bean to bar, then swim in a waterfall
|Day 1||Explore Downtown San José||San José|
|Day 2||Spot Wildlife on a Night Hike in Tortuguero||Tortuguero|
|Day 3||Boat Along the Tortuguero Canals||Tortuguero|
|Day 4||Discover the Beaches Around Puerto Viejo||Puerto Viejo de Talamanca|
|Day 5||Tour Cahuita National Park||Puerto Viejo de Talamanca|
|Day 6||Visit a Jaguar Rescue Center||Puerto Viejo de Talamanca|
|Day 7||Depart Costa Rica|
Day 1: Explore Downtown San JoséWelcome to Costa Rica! A driver will transfer you from the airport to your hotel in San José. After getting settled in, go for a self-guided walking tour of the city's downtown. Depending on your hotel's location, you can walk or request a taxi to Mercado Central (Central Market). Mercado Central is the perfect spot to kick off your city tour, featuring over 200 shops, food stalls, and sodas (traditional restaurants). Explore the colorful fruit stands full of fresh produce, scope some souvenir ideas, or pop over to a soda for an early lunch of traditional Costa Rican casado.
Then it's a short walk to Central Park, a small plaza that is always bustling with activity. Admire various outdoor sculptures as you make your way through the park toward Catedral Metropolitana, whose interior combines Greek Orthodox, Neoclassical, and Baroque styles. Continue walking down Central Avenue until you reach the historic Teatro Nacional (National Theater), an opulent Neoclassical building constructed in the late 19th century. A free guided tour is offered on the hour. If you require a caffeine fix, the theater's café is a great place for a quick coffee and pastry before exploring the city's museums.
Your first museum stop is The Museo del Oro Precolumbino. Accessible from the Plaza de la Cultura, the museum holds the largest Pre-Columbian gold collection in Latin America. A guided visit provides unique insight into the history of Costa Rica and the rest of Central America. Next, head to the Museo del Jade, the world's largest collection of pre-Columbian jade artifacts. The museum's distinctive modern architecture is hard to miss, having been built to look like a block of raw jade stone. As you wander among thousands of unique jade pieces, you'll gain an even deeper appreciation for Costa Rica's rich history.
If you're still up for more exploring, head just outside San José to the hills of Escazú for dinner. This elevated region on the western edge of the city offers panoramic views of the valley below and is easily reached by taxi. See more dining recommendations here.
Day 2: Spot Wildlife on a Night Hike in Tortuguero
Today you will transfer from San José to Tortuguero. A driver will pick you up and take you to the boat dock near Tortuguero to transfer you to a boat, which will take you to your hotel.As the day draws to a close, the nocturnal animals and insects wake up, utterly transforming the jungle's sights, sounds, and atmosphere. This transformation is spellbinding to behold and is the focus of your activity this evening as you take a magical nighttime hike through the mysterious jungle surrounding Tortuguero.
Starting at your lodge, you will leave by boat around 5:30 pm for a 5-minute ride to the lodge's network of private trails, located close to Tortuguero National Park. Your walk with an expert naturalist guide begins, taking you along forest trails as twilight descends. There are many creatures to spot—keep your eyes open for moths, crickets, spiders, frogs, bats, sloths, porcupines, nocturnal birds, and caiman. You'll return to the lodge in time for dinner.
Day 3: Boat Along the Tortuguero Canals
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
You will start your journey by boat to the Tortuguero National Park ranger station. The park ranger will tell you and your group which canals you will be able to explore on the day. Tortuguero's flora and fauna are impressive. A 2021 count registered 186 species of bird in the area, along with three monkey species, crocodiles, caimans, toucans, sloths, and much more. You are likely to see some of these creatures on your tour. You can get close to the tangled jungle on the riverbanks of some waterways, where many animals are.
After lunch, get ready to see the most spectacular panoramic view in Tortuguero as you climb the area's highest peak, Cerro Tortuguero. Your adventure starts with a boat ride from Mawamba Lodge to the trailhead. The peak is only 390 feet (119 m) above sea level, but climbing through the jungle is quite demanding. During the hike, your guide will share interesting facts about the area and tell you about the plants and animals you will see along the way. When you get to the top, the most exquisite view of Tortuguero opens up, spanning the Tortuguero canals, the Caribbean Sea, and the communities of San Francisco and Tortuguero. You might even make out the shape of Turrialba Volcano in the distance.
After hiking down to the trailhead, you will take your boat back to the lodge.
Day 4: Discover the Beaches Around Puerto Viejo
You will travel from Tortuguero today to Puerto Viejo de Talamanca and Cahuita National Park. No trip to this stunning coastal area would be complete without time to explore the diversity of its Caribbean beaches. You'll have your pick of black, golden, or white sand beaches, all within a short distance of town. Great beaches in the area include what many consider one of Costa Rica's most beautiful, Playa Punta Uva. Rent a bicycle and pedal there! The rest of the day is yours to sunbathe, swim, surf, and relax on the sand.
Day 5: Tour Cahuita National Park
Take a short drive to Cahuita National Park this morning. You'll start at the beach, climbing on board a boat for a scenic 20-minute cruise to Cahuita Point. If the sea conditions allow, you will have the opportunity to have two snorkeling sessions just off the coast near the most extensive coral reefs. The seafloor off the coast of Cahuita is as much a jungle as the rainforest, with tropical fish, stingrays, octopus, and nurse sharks on view for snorkelers. The best time for snorkeling is from July to October, as the sea is typically too rough between December and March. Still, regardless of the time of year, the boat ride is a great way to approach Cahuita Point and start your exploration of the park.
Fuel up with a spread of tropical fruit on the beach before heading out on a guided hike through the coastal rainforest. You'll head onto land and enter the national park from the boat. Since the region is home to an abundance and diversity of wildlife, the chances are good that you'll see monkeys, tropical birds, sloths, iguanas, poisonous dart frogs, and more. After your hike, head back to Puerto Viejo with your guide. Find out more here about adventures in the national park.
Day 6: Visit a Jaguar Rescue Center
Start the morning at the Jaguar Animal Rescue Center, which offers shelter, treatment, rehabilitation, and protection to ill or wounded wild animals in the area. The shelter is run by a biologist with many years of experience caring for wild mammals in captivity. The center has become a sanctuary for wild animals through the organization's hard work, with terrariums for snakes and small animals, larger spaces for the monkeys, and special quarantine cages for animals arriving with serious injuries. Your entrance fee and support help keep the center running.
After the rescue center, visit a local family that grows cacao trees on their land. They will show you the entire process, from cacao fruit to a bar of chocolate. You will have the opportunity to purchase some of their chocolate or other indigenous handmade crafts. Later, your guide will bring you to a waterfall with beautiful swimming holes. Enjoy a dip in the water before hiking back to the vehicle and returning to the hotel.