If you're looking for a taste of Costa Rica's world-class highlights but want to keep things spicy with a sampling of hidden treasures, this action-packed adventure tops the menu. Despite its small size, Costa Rica is one of the most biologically diverse countries in the world, with volcanoes, wildlife, rainforests, and beaches to explore.
This adventure offers an outstanding balance of guided excursions and free time. Optional activities abound — choose to get your adrenaline pumping or take it easy with a stroll through a butterfly garden.
As part of the Plus collection, you can travel with confidence. The maximum group size has been reduced to 12 travellers on most tours to ensure even smaller groups, there's exclusive use of private transportation (except planes), and the My Own Room option is available for 50% off. It also includes extra space on all the private vehicles, and most rooms on tour will be either single or twin-share and have en-suite bathrooms.
Spot wildlife while cruising through the canals of Tortuguero, hike through the cloud forest, enjoy the gorgeous beaches of the Pacific and Caribbean coasts, and savour a local lunch at a coffee plantation. Nature lovers will also appreciate the chance to spend two nights tucked away in a spectacular and unique jungle lodge, deep in the heart of the Sarapiquí Rainforest.
Day 1 – San Jose
You're welcome to arrive in San Jose at any time, as there are no activities scheduled, apart from meeting your CEO and fellow travellers and learning more about your tour. You could choose to join the group for a local meal afterwards and start the bonding for the next 16 days.
Day 2 – San Jose to Puerto Viejo de Talamanca
Head to Puerto Viejo de Talamanca on Costa Rica's Caribbean coast. The morning drive by private vehicle ends here, with spectacular scenery en route. This seaside town is perfect for relaxing or exploring the Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge. Don't forget to try some fantastic Afro-Caribbean cuisine.
Day 3 – Puerto Viejo de Talamanca
Spend today exploring Puerto Viejo de Talamanca. Start with a guided bike ride with your CEO to the beach, where you can enjoy a refreshing swim. This picturesque village's 14 kilometres of incomparable white and black-sand beaches are surrounded by exotic tropical vegetation.
Then, there are plenty of optional activities to select from. Grab a mask and snorkel and head out to explore the marine life off the coast, or visit the Finca la Isla Botanical Garden, a tropical farm just outside the town. The Gandoca Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge Hike will have you winding your way through beach communities, jungle and marshlands, or you could hit the waves for a surf lesson from a certified instructor.
Day 4 – Puerto Viejo de Talamanca to Tortuguero
Board a private van in Puerto Viejo, and then carry on by boat to arrive in Tortuguero. This unique village has walking paths that extend into the national park, a fantastic place to see wildlife. During the right season, you could also take an optional visit to the nesting grounds of the green and leatherback turtles at night (seasonal).
Day 5 – Tortuguero
Enjoy free time in Tortuguero, with plenty of choices for optional activities. Wake up early and head down to the beach to (hopefully) watch newly hatched green and leatherback sea turtles scramble their way from the nesting grounds in Tortuguero National Park to the ocean (seasonal).
Alternatively, you could board a boat for a Tortuguero National Park Guided Tour and witness a parade of tropical birds, reptiles, and mammals. If you prefer paddle power, select the guided kayak excursion through the park instead. Watch the shores for caimans, otters, iguanas, frogs, and look up to see monkeys sharing space with sloths.
Day 6 – Tortuguero to Sarapiquí Rainforest
Travel inland from the Caribbean coast to arrive at a jungle oasis in the Sarapiquí Rainforest. The journey to Sarapiquí is half the adventure. Begin by taking a boat from Tortuguero, board a private van, and finish it off with a tractor-drawn cart, which is excellent for navigating the jungle along rugged uphill terrain on the way to the special jungle lodge.
Spend the night immersed in the rainforest at a unique jungle accommodation. The Sarapiquí Valley is home to hundreds of species of animals, birds, and butterflies, and the jungle lodge brings us into the heart of it all. The lodge offers a variety of included activities, spend time hiking, swimming in the river, learning to make empanadas, or just lounging in a hammock surrounded by the stunning Costa Rican countryside.
Day 7 – Sarapiquí Rainforest
Enjoy a day in the beautiful Sarapiquí Valley with optional activities all included in the overnight package, weather-depending. Wake up and head into the Sarapiquí Rainforest for a Sunrise Birding hike, searching for some of the 400 plus birds that call this region home. Led by a local guide, keep your eyes peeled for rare species and learn tricks to spot birds that are hiding in plain sight.
If you're a bit of a foodie, why not get your hands covered in cornflour and learn to make tasty tortillas, tamales or empanadas, staples of most Latin American cuisine.
Tonight you'll get to fall asleep again to the sounds of the jungle surrounding you.
Day 8 – Sarapiquí Rainforest to La Fortuna
Travel from the Sarapiquí Rainforest to La Fortuna. Along the way, you'll also stop to find out where your cup of java comes from. Visit the Mi Cafecito coffee cooperative in San Miguel de Sarapiqui, see shade-grown coffee plants, learn about everything from harvesting to husking, drying, and roasting the beans before enjoying the best part – a fresh cup! Then, enjoy a typical lunch of plantains, beans, and freshly caught tilapia fish. Feel good about all this eating and drinking, knowing that you are supporting a project that helps 200 farmers and their families.
La Fortuna is near the foot of Arenal Volcano and is an excellent base for adventure, with plenty of optional activities. Hike the area's nature trails, swim in chilly La Fortuna waterfall, go canyoning (rappelling), and catch a bird's eye view of the forest greenery. Other options include white water rafting, mountain biking, a Venado Caves Exploration, or relaxing in local hot springs.
Day 9 & 10 – La Fortuna
You'll have two full days to discover La Fortuna, so anything optional activities you didn't get to see or do on Day 8, you can do on Day 9 and 10.
Grab a paddleboard and explore the calm waters of waves on Lake Arenal with the volcano looming above. Travel north to Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge near the Nicaraguan border and take a guided tour by covered boat through one of the world's most important wetlands. For more of a thrill, go Gravity Falls Waterfall Jumping, rappelling down the face of rushing waterfalls.
It's a choose your own adventure, with the option to do as much or as little as you like.
Day 11 – La Fortuna to Monteverde
Travel from La Fortuna to Monteverde and into the cool mountain air of the area. Ascend to the Monteverde cloud forest region. Spend a couple of days exploring the town and a cloud forest reserve, truly a bird lover's paradise. This unique community has several cooperatives worth visiting.
Your evening will be spent taking a Guided Cloud Forest Night Walk. Join a naturalist guide for a 1 hr 30 min to 2 hr tour in the cloud forest after dark. Learn more about the habits of the area's nocturnal wildlife, including mammals, birds, insects, reptiles, and amphibians, and keep your eyes and ears open on this slow-paced walk. You never know what you might see – it depends on the day and your luck!
Day 12 – Monteverde
Enjoy a free day to explore the cloud forest region of Costa Rica. There are many optional activities you can choose to participate in. Pull-on your hiking boots for a 12-kilometre adventure through the forest on a Santa Elena Cloud Forest Guided Tour. Alternatively, get up high to see the treetops of Monteverde's Cloud Forest from a bird's-eye view by crossing a series of hanging bridges.
Get close to butterflies, bump into giant bugs, and make friends with hairy eight-legged spiders in Monteverde Butterfly Garden nestled in the mountains. Or step back in time into El Trapiche (the sugar mill), home of three generations of Costa Rican farmers and explore plantations of sugar cane, coffee, bananas and cacao.
Finally, adrenaline seekers can also book the Costa Rica Adrenaline Bundle, which includes canyoning in the rugged mountains and lush rainforests around Costa Rica's Arenal Volcano, and ziplining adventure through the trees.
Day 13 – Monteverde to Quepos
Travel to Quepos and enjoy a couple of days of relaxing and exploring Manuel Antonio National Park. This small town is on the Pacific Coast, and this region of Costa Rica is a great place to relax and enjoy the sun and nearby sea. A short distance away, Manuel Antonio National Park offers beautiful white-sand beaches and warm turquoise water, ideal for swimming, fishing, kayaking, boogie boarding, sailing or surfing.
On arrival, enjoy some free time to get your bearings, or head over to Manuel Antonio National Park and hit the beach.
Day 14 – Quepos
Enjoy a free day in the Manuel Antonio region to explore and relax. Opt to go kayaking through mangroves, cast a fishing line and (depending on the season) hope to hook a marlin, sailfish, tuna or dorado (mahi-mahi), or enjoy a guided hike through the national park.
Cruise along the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica aboard a 100ft catamaran, taking in the impressive scenery and lush jungle on a Manuel Antonio Catamaran Tour. Get the adrenaline flowing with a white-water rafting tour, tackling Class II-IV rapids, or take a surf lesson at the beaches near Quepos and Manuel Antonio with their left, right, and well-shaped beach breaks.
Day 15 – Quepos to San Jose
Enjoy free time in the morning before heading back to San Jose for the final night with the group, taking the journey over the mountains back to the capital.
Day 16 – San Jose
Having spent your last night among your new-found friends with a head and camera roll full of memories, you're free to leave at any time today.