With a mix of rugged jungles and active volcanoes, Costa Rica offers some of the best natural sights and experiences in the world. We have packed some of our all-time favorites into this 6-day itinerary. With almost a quarter of the land preserved within national parks,  the country is rich in wildlife and unique flora and fauna, making Costa Rica an ideal destination for eco-tourism. Sloths, birds, macaws, and monkeys are awaiting your visit!

Highlights

  • Explore the canals of Tortuguero and spot the many animals that call the park home
  • Enjoy the waterfalls and hot springs of Arenal
  • Cross suspensions bridges for tree-top views of the jungle
  • See tons of wildlife like macaws, monkeys, and more

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Welcome to Costa Rica - Experience San Jose's Culture and History San Jose
Day 2 Explore the Megadiverse Tortuguero National Park Tortuguero
Day 3 Boat Safari in Tortuguero National Park Tortuguero
Day 4 From Tortuguero to La Fortuna Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 5 Arenal Hanging Bridges & La Fortuna Waterfall Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 6 Arenal Volcano to San Jose  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Welcome to Costa Rica - Experience San Jose's Culture and History

The Edificio Correos (Post Office) in the city's center
The Edificio Correos (Post Office) in the city's center

Welcome to Costa Rica, the land of pura vida! After arriving at Juan Santamaría International Airport in San José, a local representative will meet you to give you all of the travel documents you need for your trip and escort you to your hotel. The rest of the day you'll have free to explore the city at your leisure.

Perhaps take a stroll through Mercado Central (Central Market), featuring over 200 shops, food stalls, and sodas (traditional restaurants). Then visit the Catedral Metropolitana (Metropolitan Church), whose interior combines Greek Orthodox, Neoclassical, and Baroque styles, and features wood carvings and stained-glass windows. There's also a pair of popular museums in San José: Museo del Oro Precolumbino (Pre-Columbian Gold Museum), and Museo del Jade—the world's largest collection of pre-Columbian jade artifacts.

Be sure to explore Barrio Amón, a historic neighborhood home to cafetalero (coffee grower) mansions built during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Many of this area’s historic buildings have been converted into hotels, restaurants, and galleries, making Amón a popular bohemian district. 

For dinner, opt for a restaurant in the hills of Escazú. This elevated region on the western edge of the city offers panoramic views of the valley below. That said, San José is filled with great restaurants serving everything from traditional to forward-thinking fusion cuisine.

Day 2: Explore the Megadiverse Tortuguero National Park

Colorful Tortuguero Town
Colorful Tortuguero Town

Today, you'll wake up early to be transferred by car to Guápiles. Once in Guapiles, you will stop for a traditional Costa Rican style breakfast before continuing by bus to the dock in La Pavona. Here, you'll board a boat for a 15-mile ride through a system of jungle waterways and rivers to reach your eco-lodge located in the heart of Tortuguero National Park. After settling in and having lunch, you will depart for a guided visit of the main beach and the colorful town of Tortuguero. Your guide will give you insight into the local way of life on the Caribbean coast, as well as the thousands of marine turtles who lay their eggs and hatch at the beach every year from June through December.

Day 3: Boat Safari in Tortuguero National Park

Sloth lounging in the trees
Sloth lounging in the trees

The optimal time to spot wildlife in Tortuguero is early in the mornings, so today you'll wake up bright and early to experience the beauty of the rainforest on a boat trip through the canals of Tortuguero National Park. During the boat trip, you will discover many animals that can only be seen in this tropical paradise, such as birds, monkeys, sloths and more. After the tour, you will return to the lodge for breakfast. In the afternoon, you will have a second boat tour where you can enjoy the beauty of the canals and focus on the flora and fauna of the national park. The rest of the day is free to enjoy the tropical garden and the swimming pool at the lodge.

Day 4: From Tortuguero to La Fortuna

View of Arenal volcano at sunset
View of Arenal volcano at sunset

After breakfast, it's on to La Fortuna, best known as the base for exploring the Arenal Volcano National Park. Located north of the Tilaran Mountains, the cone-shaped Arenal juts out above the San Carlos Plains. After check 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 through the park toward the village of El Castillo. Or, opt for a zip lining tour through the forest canopy, where you'll cross canyons, and take in the Fortuna and Pino Blanco Waterfalls, along with the majestic Arenal Volcano.

Here are a few restaurant recommendations for your 2-night stay in La Fortuna

  • Don Rufino, which serves a mix of local and international flavors in charming digs that include an open-air bar overlooking the main street. 
  • Café Mediterraneo, a friendly osteria serving up homemade pasta and pizza. 
  • La Parrilla de María Bonita, a must-visit 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 well-prepared Costa Rican staples.
  • Ave Del Paraíso, which offers daily theme dinners such as Italian, Mexican, Mediterranean and Costa Rican.

Day 5: Arenal Hanging Bridges & La Fortuna Waterfall

La Fortuna Waterfall
La Fortuna Waterfall

Today you will enjoy a great tour for forest lovers and wildlife lovers! You'll start by transferring to a nearby rainforest where hanging bridges at different heights offer breathtaking views of the tree canopy. You will go for a 2-mile hike, and with some luck, you'll get to spot howler monkeys, spider monkeys, white-faced capuchins, tons of tropical birds, coatis, and other animals. After your hike, you will continue your journey to La Fortuna Waterfall; a beautiful place lush with vegetation. Once there, you'll hike down  (500 steps with some resting areas) to the waterfall base to go for a swim in the cool and pristine waters of La Fortuna river. After all this exercise, you will be hungry! So we will take you to a favorite local restaurant for a delicious lunch. Once the tour is over, you will be driven back to your hotel to relax for the evening. 

Day 6: Arenal Volcano to San Jose

National Theater in downtown San José
National Theater in downtown San José

Today, you will check out of your hotel and transfer back to Juan Santamaria International Airport in San Jose for your flight back home.  We wish you a safe flight and hope to greet in Costa Rica again soon!

Map

Map of Wonders of Tortuguero National Park & Arenal Volcano - 6 Days
Map of Wonders of Tortuguero National Park & Arenal Volcano - 6 Days