This easy week-long itinerary lets you experience some of Costa Rica's finest national parks and natural areas. Spot turtles on the beach at the Tortuguero National Park; hike, swim, canoe or cycle in the Arenal Volcano National Park, with the mighty volcano as your backdrop; learn about one of Costa Rica's most important crops, coffee, at a plantation, and much more. Travelers with a range of interests will enjoy this varied tour, which packs a lot into a week.

Highlights

  • Spot turtles in the Tortuguero National Park
  • Take a jungle hike in Arenal Volcano National Park
  • Explore the jungle canopy around La Fortuna
  • Soak your aches away at natural thermal hot springs

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in San José - Fly to Tortuguero National Park Tortuguero
Day 2 Turtle Tour in Tortuguero Tortuguero
Day 3 Transfer to La Fortuna Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 4 Jungle Canopy & La Fortuna Waterfall Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 5 Coffee Farm Tour & Tabacon Hot Springs Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 6 Chocolate Tour - Transfer to San José San José
Day 7 Depart San José  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in San José - Fly to Tortuguero National Park

Typical denizen of Tortuguero National Park
Typical denizen of Tortuguero National Park

Welcome to Costa Rica! Arrive into the country early in the morning, and then take a domestic flight to the Tortuguero National Park, on the Caribbean coast. It's just a 45-minute flight from San Jose.

Once you arrive, the rest of the day is free for you to relax in your hotel or you can take a short guided hike to the town of Tortuguero, which will introduce you to the local sights. 

Day 2: Turtle Tour in Tortuguero

Tortuguero Beach
Tortuguero Beach

Today, you'll explore Tortuguero's 22-mile (35 km) expanse of beach. It's a favorite nesting area for three different species of turtle: the hawksbill, leatherback, and green sea turtle. All of these nest in the area from July through October (mostly at night), and seeing the mother turtles lay their eggs is an unforgettable experience. If you're traveling between February and July, you'll spot the leatherback, which is the largest sea turtle in the world, at 6- 7 feet (2 m) long and up to 1500 pounds (680 kg).

Day 3: Transfer to La Fortuna

The famous Arenal Volcano
The famous Arenal Volcano

After breakfast, make the four-hour trip to the town of La Fortuna, best known as the base for exploring the Arenal Volcano National Park. Located north of the Tilaran Mountains, cone-shaped Arenal juts out from the San Carlos Plains like a giant arrowhead. After checking into your hotel, you'll have the rest of the day to explore on your own. 

If you want to get close to the volcano, kayaking on Lake Arenal provides awesome views of its peak, as does a mountain bike ride toward the village of El Castillo. Or, opt for a zip-lining tour through the forest canopy, where you'll not only cross canyons but pass by waterfalls as well, and all with a view of majestic Arenal Volcano in the background.

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Day 4: Jungle Canopy & La Fortuna Waterfall

Mistico Hanging Bridges at Arenal
Mistico Hanging Bridges at Arenal

Head out early to spend the day exploring the jungle canopy. You'll wander along well-marked trails that lead you over suspension bridges high above the treetops—some that are hundreds of feet long—for a once-in-a-lifetime view of Arenal Volcano. You'll also get an up-close look at the area's incredible biodiversity—more than 350 bird species are found here. 

Next, head to La Fortuna Waterfall at the base of the dormant Chato Volcano, a 15-minute drive outside town. The falls plunge some 210 feet (64 m), and the hike down 500 steps to the base provides an opportunity to see them from a different vantage point. After making the descent, go for a swim and relax in the La Fortuna River, located right below the falls.

The afternoon and evening are yours to explore the area and visit the local thermal waters for a relaxing soak.

Day 5: Coffee Farm Tour & Tabacon Hot Springs

Learn about the coffee harvesting process, from farm-to-cup
Learn about the coffee harvesting process, from farm-to-cup

This morning you'll head to a local farm for a tour centered around one of Costa Rica's most famous exports: coffee. You'll participate in the entire farm-to-cup process, from picking the beans to roasting. 

Afterward, spend the evening relaxing with a dip in the mineral-rich waters of Tabacon's hot springs, used as therapeutic baths for more than 200 years. Tabacon Thermal Resort also offers day passes and includes a spa where treatments are given in outdoor bungalows.

Day 6: Chocolate Tour - Transfer to San José

Cacao beans
Cacao beans

Enjoy your last morning in La Fortuna by taking a stroll around the central plaza or visiting the La Fortuna Waterfall. There will even be time for a chocolate-making tour. In this hands-on program, you’ll learn about the origin, history, and production of one of Costa Rica's most famous exports. You'll participate in the cacao harvest, as well as the drying and grinding of the seeds used to produce creamy cocoa butter. Learn how a traditional Costa Rican chocolate drink was developed centuries ago. And, of course, sample some delicious freshly made chocolate.

After lunch, it's time to drive back to San José. You'll still have much of the evening to explore the city and do some last-minute shopping and dining.

Day 7: Depart San José

San José at twilight
San José at twilight

It's time to say adiós to Costa Rica. Depending on your departure time, you'll have the morning to explore more of the city, relax in a café, or browse some shops before boarding your flight home.

Map

Map of Wildlife, Jungles, & Volcanoes of Costa Rica - 7 Days
Map of Wildlife, Jungles, & Volcanoes of Costa Rica - 7 Days
Yenyi
Written by Yenyi Fu, updated Mar 4, 2020