Last year, Drew and I escaped winter for a week by traveling to Costa Rica at the end of February. We loved Costa Rica–there’s so much to see and do there! In fact, there are so many options that we struggled to put together an itinerary that combined adventure and relaxation. Knowing how challenging it can be to plan a week-long trip, here is our itinerary for Costa Rica in hopes that it can help give you a good foundation for planning your own trip!
We landed in San Jose, Costa Rica in the early afternoon on Saturday and hit the ground running. We used Service Car Rental as they were reasonably priced while including all necessary coverage and meeting Costa Rican insurance requirements.
La Paz Waterfall Gardens
The entrance fee is a little steep, but the multiple stunning waterfalls made it worth it. We had fun visiting the aviary house to hold toucans, seeing the various animals throughout the park, and hiking to the waterfalls. It’s very easy to spend a few hours here!
We had also hoped to hike to a viewpoint for Poas Volcano following the La Paz Waterfall Gardens, but daylight wasn’t on our side and we had to drive to our hotel. Next trip!
For lodging, we stayed at Volcano Lodge and Springs in the Arenal/La Fortuna area for three nights, four days. The property was nice and the staff was welcoming. Breakfast is included which certainly adds value. Though the springs on the property pale in comparison to the Tabacon Resort’s hot springs, it was still a nice way to relax in the evenings.
We had hoped to visit La Fortuna waterfall, but the road was closed. There had been a lot of rainfall recently, so the roads were washed out and the waterfall basin was overflowing. We were super bummed and plan to go back to see this waterfall someday. However, you should definitely try and visit while you’re in Costa Rica!
Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park
This was a fun way to spend the morning–good hiking, incredible views, great bridges! We visited on a rainy day, so we had the place to ourselves. Probably not a great place for anyone who is uncomfortable with heights, but the forest, bridges, and waterfalls were all beautiful! Note: admission is $26 USD for a self-guided walk.
After traipsing through the rainforest, we ventured into town for a late lunch at Restaurante Mi Casa for some delicious arroz con pollo. We closed the day relaxing in the hot springs at our hotel.
Tabacon Hot Springs
We decided to spend the whole day at the Tabacon Grand Spa Thermal Resort. We bought the Day Spa Package for $150 per person which included access to the hot springs all day, $100 spa credit towards any spa service, and one meal. We elected to do a couples massage in a private bungalow–it was so peaceful and relaxing.
That evening we went to a popular night spot in the center of town called Lava Lounge Bar & Grill. It was a hopping spot with a great atmosphere!
Cerro Chato hike – Arenal Volcano viewpoint
I previously chronicled this insane hike in this post. Drew and I are avid hikers and have put miles in on trails around the globe, but this hike was one of the most challenging we have encountered. However, this should not deter you from doing it. The hike is strenuous, but the view of Arenal Volcano from the top of the dormant Cerro Chato Volcano is worth the effort!
After the Cerro Chato hike, we stopped at Soda Mima in La Fortuna for a bite. We were ravenous and the food hit the spot–one of the best meals we had in Costa Rica! The owner was incredibly welcoming and the food was great and wicked inexpensive. Highly recommend if you’re looking for a casual meal in La Fortuna.
After a late lunch, we hit the road to travel to our next hotel, Rio Celeste Hideaway. With beautiful individual bungalows, this remote hideaway is a great spot for couples and honeymooners. Conveniently located by a national park, you can both relax and enjoy recreation at the Rio Celeste Hideaway.
Tenorio Volcano National Park
Walk to a breathtaking waterfall and then hike alongside a river for spectacular views and gorgeous scenery. You may even see coati and monkeys on the trail if you look closely. If it’s rained recently, the trail will be a little muddy, so be sure to wear shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty.
Zip Lining in Monteverde Cloud Forest
We were so excited to zip line in the Monteverde Cloud Forest. We used Sky Adventures‘ sky trek canopy zip lining tour for $81 USD per person. The zip lining offered incredible views and satiated our appetite for advenure. The zip lines are on top of a mountain overlooking the cloud forest and the Pacific Ocean. The guides are great–super knowledgeable, very friendly, and fun.
After zip lining, we made our way to Jaco where we stayed at an Air B&B right on the beach.
We got our start in Jaco at Sunrise Breakfast for a delicious breakfast. Then we went back to our place to put on our bathing suits, slap on some sunscreen, and grab our beach chairs. We vegged out on Jaco Beach watching the surfers and enjoying the sun for the majority of the day.
In the evening, we ventured over to the Tiki Bar at Jaco Laguna Resort for some cocktails and appetizers. Then we enjoyed a sunset on the beach.
We got an early start this day to drive from Jaco to the outskirts of San Jose to go white water rafting on the Rio Pacuare.
White Water Rafting the Rio Pacuare
We booked our experience with Rios Tropicales and they were awesome–highly recommend! We rafted for more than 4 hours down class III and IV rapids on the Rio Pacuare. Our guide was lighthearted and fun, but also made me feel incredibly safe.
The river was astounding and the scenery was truly breathtaking. The rapids were perfectly spaced, keeping the raft floating down the river with ease. It was a great way to close our trip.
After our amazing rafting adventure, we made our way to downtown San Jose where we stayed at the DoubleTree by Hilton Cariari San Jose. We chose the hotel for it’s proximity to the airport as we had a flight first thing the next morning.
Overall, we really enjoyed our time in Costa Rica and truly hope to go back one day as there’s so much more we would like to do and see. It was a great way to break up the winter and the country is so beautiful you have to pinch yourself to know that it’s real. If you have any questions about any of our trip, feel free to reach out–I love sharing our travel experiences and helping others plan their trips.