Experience Costa Rica in style, enjoying excursions with private guides and overnight stays in luxury hotels on this wide-ranging itinerary around the country. Start with birdwatching and snorkeling on the Osa Peninsula, then transfer to Manuel Antonio National Park, where you'll take surf lessons. Go horseback riding in the Monteverde Cloud Forest, hike around Arenal Volcano, and relax in natural hot springs before heading back to San José for one last night out on the town.


  • Snorkel with turtles and rays at the pristine Isla del Caño Biological Reserve 
  • Explore Manuel Antonio National Park on a guided nature hike
  • Rest and relax at luxurious eco-lodges between wildlife viewing excursions
  • Hike through the forest around Arenal Volcano, then soak in natural hot springs

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in San José, Explore Downtown San José
Day 2 Transfer to Drake Bay & Take a Birdwatching Tour Drake Bay
Day 3 Hike in Corcovado National Park Drake Bay
Day 4 Snorkel at Isla del Caño Biological Reserve Drake Bay
Day 5 Transfer to Manuel Antonio National Park Manuel Antonio
Day 6 Explore Manuel Antonio National Park, Sailing & Snorkeling Trip Manuel Antonio
Day 7 Take a Surf Lesson in Manuel Antonio Manuel Antonio
Day 8 Travel to Monteverde, Nighttime Nature Walk Monteverde
Day 9 Tour Monteverde Cloud Forest on a Guided Hike Monteverde
Day 10 Go Horseback Riding in the Cloud Forest Monteverde
Day 11 Continue to La Fortuna, Nighttime Rainforest Walk Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 12 See Rio Celeste & Tenorio Volcano National Park  Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 13 Hike Around Arenal Volcano, Canyoning & Hot Springs Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 14 Visit Hanging Bridges & Proyecto Asis  Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 15 Return to San José, Night on the Town San José
Day 16 Depart San José  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in San José, Explore Downtown

The National Theater
The National Theater in San José

Welcome to Costa Rica! A driver will transfer you from the airport to your hotel in San José. After settling in, go for a self-guided walking tour of downtown. Depending on your hotel's location, you can walk or take a taxi to your first destination: Mercado Central (Central Market), featuring over 200 shops, food stalls, and sodas (traditional restaurants). It's a short walk to Central Park, a small plaza always bustling with activity. Pass various outdoor sculptures as you walk through the park toward Catedral Metropolitana and continue walking down Central Avenue until you reach the 19th-century Teatro Nacional.

Your first museum stop is the Museo del Oro Precolumbino, accessible from beneath the Plaza de la Cultura and holds the most extensive Pre-Columbian gold collection in Latin America. Next, head to the Museo del Jade, the world's largest collection of pre-Columbian jade artifacts. As you wander among thousands of unique jade pieces, you'll gain an even deeper appreciation for Costa Rica's rich history. 

Read about the top restaurant recommendations in San José here.

Day 2: Transfer to Drake Bay & Take a Birdwatching Tour

The beautiful toucan is one of many birding highlights in Corcovado National Park
A toucan in Corcovado National Park

Return to San José International Airport this morning and board a short flight to Drake Bay on the Osa Peninsula. When you land, you'll be transferred to your hotel. The luxurious Lapa Rios Lodge is an excellent option.

This evening, you'll embark on a birdwatching adventure. Starting in time to see the sun setting over Drake Bay, the tour will take you into the wild jungle at one of the peak times for avian activity. Your experienced guides will help you to identify the bird species, pointing out different species' behavior and food sources, as well as their colors, sizes, and calls. You may spot various tanagers, toucans, motmots, trogons, flycatchers, hummingbirds, and several birds of prey.

After your jungle hike, you'll return to Drake Bay. For more travel inspiration, you might like to check out the Ultimate Guide to the Osa Peninsula.

Day 3: Hike in Corcovado National Park

A king vulture alights on a branch near San Pedrillo in Corcovado National Park - image by scigelova
A king vulture in Corcovado National Park (photo courtesy of scigelova)

Starting at Agujitas Beach on Drake Bay, today's exciting adventure takes you to an interesting and remote part of Corcovado National Park. The park is home to species including the endangered giant anteater, harpy eagle, tapir, and jungle cats like the jaguar and puma.

Begin your journey with a 30-minute boat trip south down the peninsula's western shore to the San Pedrillo Ranger Station, one of the park's checkpoints. Boats here come in bow first, and you must splash the final distance to shore—an exciting experience reminiscent of what early explorers of this remote region would have done. You'll be in the San Pedrillo area for approximately five to six hours, with time for hiking, wildlife spotting, relaxing on the beach, and cooling off in waterfalls and swimming holes. Afterward, you'll return to Agujitas Beach by boat.

Find out more about activities in the area by reading this article on the best things to do on the Osa Peninsula.

Day 4: Snorkel at Isla del Caño Biological Reserve

The sea turtle, a magnificent and regal creature
A sea turtle near Isla del Caño

Today, you'll explore the waters of the Caño Island Biological Reserve (Isla del Caño) on a scuba or snorkeling excursion. This protected marine area is just off the Osa Peninsula's northern tip.

The excursion begins when you board a boat and take a safety lesson geared to all ages and experience levels. Then it's time to plunge into the water, where you'll find abundant marine life, including reef sharks, sea turtles, parrotfish, eels, manta rays, pufferfish, snappers, sea cucumbers, and octopus. There's also a wide variety of coral-building organisms and 19 different species of coral. Visibility is excellent throughout the year, making Caño Island a perfect site for underwater photography.

Day 5: Transfer to Manuel Antonio National Park

Sunset at Manuel Antonio Beach
Sunset at Manuel Antonio Beach

After breakfast, you'll transfer to Manuel Antonio National Park in a private, air-conditioned minivan. You'll stop along the way in the town of Tárcoles and make your way to a bridge over the Tárcoles River. The river is famous for having the largest American crocodile population in Central America, and this is your chance to see these toothy reptiles in the wild. You can usually see at least a dozen sunbathing on the riverbanks or floating in the water from the bridge.

Continue to Manuel Antonio National Park, check in to your hotel, and get some rest before the next day's excursion. If you have the energy or inclination, both the beach and the edge of the national park are close to town, so you can easily spend time here with water sports on Espadilla Beach or a hike on the trails through the forest. You can also explore the adjacent town of Quepos for sunset views. Or you may prefer to take it easy, wandering at your own pace and stopping for dinner in a local restaurant. Here are some dining recommendations for the area.

Day 6: Explore Manuel Antonio National Park, Sailing & Snorkeling Trip

Snorkeling in Costa Rica

Today you'll go on a guided tour to explore the pristine natural beauty of the world-famous Manuel Antonio National Park, filled with exotic wildlife such as monkeys, sloths, birds, reptiles, and butterflies. Your picturesque hike will take you to one of the country's best beaches, known for its white sand and crystalline blue waters. Have your camera ready as your knowledgeable guide points out diverse flora and fauna along the way.

Later in the day, board a catamaran at the pier in Quepos for a sailing adventure along the coast. Your guide will highlight notable wildlife and vegetation as you admire the region's islands, cliffs, and rock formations. After touring the coastline, the captain will set anchor at Biesanz Bay, where you can snorkel or relax onboard. You may spot parrotfish, starfish, angelfish, and dolphins from the boat while enjoying a barbecue lunch.

Check out the Ultimate Guide to Manuel Antonio National Park for more information.

Day 7: Take a Surf Lesson in Manuel Antonio

Surf Lesson in Manuel Antonio
Learn to surf in Manuel Antonio
Plan your trip to Costa Rica
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Try a challenging and fun activity on the beaches of Manuel Antonio today. Surfboards will be provided, and experienced instructors will teach you to ride the waves. After the lesson, feel free to extend your board rental and spend the afternoon practicing! Alternatively, relax on the beach or go for a hike. 

Learn more here about taking a surf lesson in the national park.

Day 8: Travel to Monteverde, Nighttime Nature Walk

Coffee beans ready for the harvest.
Coffee beans ready for the harvest

Today you'll leave Manuel Antonio National Park and travel to the Monteverde region of Costa Rica. After checking into your hotel, it's time to head into the jungle on a nighttime nature walk. With the assistance of a knowledgeable guide, it's common to observe frogs and various snake species along the trail. With a bit of luck, you might even see forest dwellers such as the two-toed sloth or the kinkajou.

Read this list of the best luxury hotels in Costa Rica.

Day 9: Tour Monteverde Cloud Forest on a Guided Hike

Explore the dense jungle of the Monteverde Cloud Forest
Explore the dense jungle of the Monteverde Cloud Forest

Explore the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, one of Costa Rica's ecological crown jewels. Known as the "green lung of Costa Rica" due to its rich biodiversity, this sprawling reserve is high in the country's mountainous northwest region. On a guided tour, you'll get an overview of the incredible biodiversity of this region, where upland and lowland rainforest meet. More than 350 bird species live here, including the quetzal. It's a nature lover's paradise.

Check out Best Things to Do in Monteverde for more ideas of what to see and do.

Day 10: Go Horseback Riding in the Cloud Forest

A relaxing horseback ride through the forest
A relaxing ride through the forest

You'll horseback ride today through Monteverde's picturesque landscapes. Keep your eyes open for sloths and toucans, and learn about the coffee, banana, and sugar grown in the area. Two and a half hours of riding will bring you to a secluded clearing on the banks of a river, where you can rest and enjoy a picnic under the trees. During the ride back to the stables, your guide will make time to stop at a local café for a beer or a soft drink.

Find out more about the horseback riding experience here.

Day 11: Continue to La Fortuna, Nighttime Rainforest Walk

The colorful yet lethal poison dart frog
The colorful yet lethal poison dart frog

By boat and car, you'll transfer to La Fortuna today and check into your hotel. 

You'll head to Ecocentro Danaus in the afternoon, a private ecological reserve located 2.75 miles (4.5 km) east of town. Here, you'll wait for nightfall to embark on a guided nature hike and discover the reserve's nocturnal creatures. As you walk, your guide will point out various insects, birds, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals. Enjoy spotting bullfrogs, the iconic red-eyed tree frog, the translucent glass frog, and perhaps the brightly colored poison dart frog, one of the planet's most poisonous frogs. 

For other ideas, read this list of the best things to do in Arenal. La Fortuna has many excellent luxury hotels, including the Tabacón Thermal Resort & Spa.

Day 12: See Rio Celeste & Tenorio Volcano National Park 

Hike to dreamlike waterfalls
Hike to dreamlike waterfalls

Today you'll venture into Tenorio Volcano National Park for a moderate three-hour hike along the Río Celeste, one of the most stunning natural attractions in Costa Rica. The legend says that after God painted the sky, He washed His brushes in this river, which resulted in its famous electric-blue waters. 

Highlights along the hike include Los Teñideros, the site where two streams of crystalline water come together and form the "heavenly" blue that gives the river its name. You'll also see the volcano's furnace vents, which expel gases at extremely high temperatures, and the spectacular Río Celeste waterfall. Enjoy a gourmet lunch at the end of the journey.

Learn more about the top nature experiences in Costa Rica

Day 13: Hike Around Arenal Volcano, Canyoning & Hot Springs

Canyoning down the waterfall
Canyoning down the waterfall

Today you'll try waterfall rappelling, also known as canyoning, in the jungle. This activity is one of the most popular adventure sports in Costa Rica. After hiking along winding rivers in the rainforest, you'll strap into a harness and rappel down the side of the waterfall. No experience is necessary, and expert guides will make sure everyone is safe throughout the experience.

In the afternoon, go for a hike around Arenal Volcano. Start at the entrance of the 1968 Trail, where you'll hit the well-maintained trails that skirt the base of the volcano and Lake Arenal. This 1.5-hour route offers some of the best wildlife viewing opportunities in the park, and your naturalist guide will keep a well-trained eye out for exotic birds, monkeys, and other animals along the way. After hiking the trails, your guide will drop you off at Tabacon Hot Springs so you can soothe your muscles with a dip in mineral-rich waters. 

Find out more about hiking around Arenal Volcano here.

Day 14: Visit Hanging Bridges & Proyecto Asis 

Help care for animals like white-faced capuchin monkeys at Proyecto Asis
Help care for animals like white-faced capuchin monkeys at Proyecto Asis

Today, you'll visit Proyecto Asis, a rehabilitation and rescue center for local animals. The tour, led by a naturalist, begins with a brief introduction to the center. As you walk along the center's trails with your guide, you'll likely see anteaters, snakes, monkeys, parrots, and sloths. You'll also learn about animal conservation, sustainability, and the impact of tourism in the region. Enjoy some hands-on time to help with the animals. You'll have the opportunity to learn how to prepare and give the animals their food. When you leave the center, you'll have a much greater knowledge of local wildlife. Learn more about visiting Proyecto Asis.

This afternoon is your chance to explore the Arenal Hanging Bridges. This trail system features suspension bridges that take you high above the treetops before treating you to a once-in-a-lifetime view of Arenal Volcano soaring above the canopy. With more than 350 avian species found here, birdwatching is superb. 

Learn more about hiking around the Arenal Hanging Bridges here.

Day 15: Return to San José, Night on the Town

Shop for traditional Costa Rican pottery 
This morning, a driver will pick you up in a private, air-conditioned minivan and transfer you to San José. The drive takes approximately three hours, depending on traffic. The rest of the afternoon and evening are yours to shop for souvenirs, sightsee, and enjoy one last Costa Rican dinner.

Day 16: Depart San José

Take in a Costa Rica sunset 
The trip ends today. You'll transfer to the airport to catch your flight out. Safe travels!

More Great Costa Rica Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Costa Rica? Check out these other Costa Rica itineraries, explore different ways to spend 16 days in Costa Rica, or discover the best time to visit Costa Rica.


Map of Wildlife Luxury Adventure in Arenal, Monteverde & the Osa Peninsula - 16 Days
Map of Wildlife Luxury Adventure in Arenal, Monteverde & the Osa Peninsula - 16 Days