This itinerary is designed for all of you that are interested in non-stop action. Be prepared for surf lessons, zip lining, hiking, ATV riding, whitewater rafting, and more.

Adventure Lovers Itinerary- Day One

Land in San Jose/ Go hiking up an inactive volcano

San Jose airport is a very hit or miss experience. Sometimes you can end up waiting in line at Customs for an hour or so. The best thing I can suggest is to not take your time after getting off the plane. While everyone else is heading to the bathroom, go straight to Customs. This will help you get closer to the front of the line.

Customs is generally pretty easy. The Customs Officer will usually ask for the forms you filled out on the plane, how long you are planning to stay and what is the purpose of your visit. You will then be good to go! As a precaution I always have my flight info for my return flight with me so if asked I can show proof that I am leaving within 90 days.

After going through Customs you can pick up your bags at your baggage carousel. You will then put your bags through one last security check and out you go!

If you’ve ever wanted to feel like a celebrity, get ready! It’s your time to shine! 🙂 As you exit the airport you will be absolutely bombarded with men asking if you need a taxi. Politely decline and look for a person holding a sign from your rental car company.

We always recommend using Adobe for your rental car needs. We have used other companies in the past and have been charged crazy extra fees. You can read more about renting a car and why we like Adobe in the transportation section of this itinerary.

Bonus: We have partnered with Adobe to give Costa Rica Vibes readers an exclusive 10% discount! Find our more in the Transportation tab!

No matter which company you go with they will take you on a shuttle to their shop nearby. They are all about a 5 minute drive. You will then fill out some paperwork and you’ll be good to go!

Please, please, please read about renting a car in the Transportation section first though. I don’t want you to be surprised or have extra unexpected charges (which is something that tends to happen).

We have planned this itinerary for you to spend the night near the airport. It is about a four-hour drive to La Fortuna depending on traffic and we feel that flying and then driving in a different country is a lot for one day. Plus, there are plenty of nice things to see near the airport which are worth checking out.

So, now it is time to head to your hotel. We suggest you get a hotel near the airport for convenience. Driving in San Jose is absolute insanity. Definitely, check out our suggested places to stay in the Accommodation section of this itinerary. If you would like to do some searching on your own search for hotels in Alajuela rather than San Jose. This is actually where the airport is located.

If you will be arriving at your hotel before check in time, just email them ahead of time to see if you can check in early. Most places here are really good about letting people check in early as long as the room is clean and ready for you. If they won’t let you check in early, see if there is a place you can store your luggage at the hotel while you go out. It’s never a good idea to leave your belongings in the car while it is unattended in Costa Rica.

After checking in and getting settled a bit, it’s time to go do something fun and adventurous if it’s not too late.

If you are arriving in the evening, grab some dinner at one of our suggested places and head to bed. You have a bit of a drive ahead of you tomorrow morning.

If arriving earlier we suggest hopping in your rental car and driving about thirty minutes to check out Volcan Barva.

It is a nice moderate hike which has some good views on a clear day (although it’s hardly ever clear). There are also amazing views of the Central Valley along the drive. It’s ridiculously pretty and always reminds me a bit of Switzerland. You will need 4×4 to get there (directions are in the Maps section of this itinerary). It is about $12 per person for entry and I believe that it is open every day until around 4pm.

You can make this hike as long or as short as you like. There are several trail options. Typically we spend about three to four hours there. Definitely, pack a rain jacket and some shoes which can withstand mud if traveling here during the rainy season. Also, it can get a bit chilly up here so bring a sweater.

If you are not into hiking right now, check out our list of activities in the Activity section of this itinerary. We have tons of other fun options that you’ll love.

In the evening you can check out one of the great restaurants we listed in the restaurant section of this itinerary. We personally suggest Jalapenos Central for some filling Tex-Mex style food which is super tasty.

Adventure Lovers Itinerary- Day Two

Bad news!: The rest of this itinerary is only available with the full purchase of this itinerary.

Good News: Complete access to this itinerary as well as a printable PDF version is now available for just $2.95! Sweet!


The Adventure Lovers Itinerary needs to be done by rental car. The reason for this is that there is no direct public bus route between La Fortuna and Samara. You would have to take the bus all the way back to San Jose and then take another bus to Samara. This total trip would take you about 10 hours and would be completely stressful.

Another reason we suggest renting a car is that most of the activities listed in this itinerary are off the beaten path activities. What I mean is that we have selected activities for you which will give you a totally unique experience on a budget. There are several companies offering day tours from La Fortuna, but they are all expensive. When we calculated it out it is cheaper to rent a car and drive to destinations on your own than to participate in pre-packaged tours which include transportation.

To save you even more money we have partnered with our favorite rental car company in Costa Rica, Adobe, to give you a 10% discount on your car rental.


The reason we chose to partner with Adobe is that they are the only company in Costa Rica that we trust fully. We always try to give you guys the best info possible on budget travel in Costa Rica and I can ensure you that Adobe is the best of the best.

We have had some nightmare car rental experiences in this country and we don’t want you to go through the same thing.

In Costa Rica there is a mandatory Liability Protection insurance. This means that every single person who drives in Costa Rica needs to purchase this insurance. Even if your bank or credit card company from home covers certain damages, it doesn’t matter. You need this insurance.

The problem with most rental car companies in Costa Rica is that they do not include this insurance in their online quote. This means that you are quoted a price, think it’s a good price so you book the car, and then arrive and are told it will actually be a lot more expensive because you need to add on this insurance.

I have no idea why companies do it this way because it means that they are left with very unsatisfied customers. I guess in their minds they have you hooked at that point. It is too late for you to search for another rental car company so you’re going to go ahead and pay the extra insurance fees.

The reason we love Adobe is because they are completely upfront about their costs. The price you are quoted online is with the Liability Protection included.

If you book your rental car with Adobe through our site you get: -A second driver for free (it’s usually $4 per day) -0% deductible as part of the Liability Protection (it’s usually 20%) -A free cell phone to use -10% discount applied to your reservation

We also love Adobe because they are a local company who believes strongly in customer satisfaction.

For example, my dad and sister came to visit a few months ago and we rented a car from Adobe. I put in the online rental car registration form that we would need to be picked up from the airport along with their flight number. There flight ended up being delayed and got in at 10:30pm instead of 8:00pm.

I checked online and the Adobe rental car office closes at 10:00pm. I figured since my dad and sister would be getting in too late there wouldn’t be anyone from Adobe waiting to greet us and we would have to pick up the car the next day. I was so wrong! There was someone waiting for us at the airport with an Adobe sign and they then took us free of charge to the Adobe office which had stayed open to allow delayed passengers to pick up their cars.

How great is that?!

It’s this kind of local businesses that we are all about here at Costa Rica Vibes.

If you still have some questions about renting a car you can read our complete page on renting a car here and feel free to email us! We’re happy to help you out. It can be a bit nerve wracking to rent a car in another country. We totally get it!
[email protected]

Once you book your car head on over to the maps section of this itinerary to see how to drive this itinerary and our suggestions for GPS usage.


Casa Maki: This hotel is a 5-minute drive from the airport. It also has a shared kitchen for your use and free breakfast. You can expect to pay about $50 for a double room.

Hotel II Millenium: For about $50 you can get a basic double room with breakfast included. This hotel is about 3 minutes from the airport.

Hotel Cortez Azul: For about $25 you can find a room for two people with a shared bathroom. Breakfast is included as well as a free airport shuttle. This hotel is about a 5-minute drive from the airport.

La Villa Rio SegundoFor about $40 a night you can get a room for two people with a shared bathroom. Breakfast is included and there is also a nice pool on site. This hotel is an 8-minute drive from the airport. There is an airport shuttle, but you have to pay for it.

Note: When looking for hotels near the airport search for “Alajuela” as your location rather than San Jose.


Hotel Faro Arenal: Super cute cabins with a swimming pool and a really beautiful view of Arenal Volcano. This spot is great because it’s out of the downtown area and really nature-y. You can get a double room (cabin) for around $50 a night here.
Tifakara Boutique Lodge: A bit more expensive than the other places we suggest. You can expect to pay about $65 a night for a double room with breakfast included, but it’s worth it. The rooms and grounds are amazing. The volcano view is on point and there is a pool.
Hotel Secreto La Fortuna: This place just opened in 2016 so everything is super new and nice. It is located closer to the downtown area than the two previous places, but still far enough away that you aren’t in the middle of the craziness. For about $40 you can get a double room with free breakfast. Oh, and there is a pool!
Hotel Las Flores Fortuna: Very good basic rooms with breakfast included. Request a room on the second floor for a really nice volcano view from the balcony. You can expect to pay about $45 a night for a double room here.
Hotel Roco Negra del Arenal: This place is great because it is close enough to the action of downtown but still has a natural peaceful feel to it. Also, all the rooms have a fridge! There is a pool and a hot tub on the property as well. This will cost you about $55 a night for a double room.


Hostel Samara: For about $40 you can get a large basic room for two people with a private bathroom. breakfast is not included, but there is an onsite restaurant if you’d like to eat there.

Sunset Chill Out Bed and Breakfast: For less than $60 a night you can get a nice double room with breakfast included. This place is located a bit further down from the downtown area, but it is directly on the beach.

Hotel Oasis: For less than $50 a night you can get a cute and clean one bedroom house with a private kitchen. Breakfast is not included.

Hotel El Dorado: For about $30 a night you can get a twin room for two people with a private bathroom. Breakfast is not included but there is a shared kitchen on site which you can use.

Hotel Giada: For less than $60 a night you can get a double room with breakfast included. There is also a nice pool on site for guests to use.

Want an even more unique experience? Check out Airbnb. You can sometimes find some really unique accommodations at crazy good prices. Just make sure to read the reviews before you book anything. If this is your first time using Airbnb we have a $35 credit for you. Woot!AIRBNB

Want to look at more hotels? We like Hotels Combined because they compare the prices on all hotel booking sites which makes it easy to guarantee you get the best deals.



El Chante Vegano: This place doesn’t look like much from the outside, but get ready for super tasty vegan food. This is the perfect lunch spot.

Yellow Cafe: Great for lunch or dinner. They have good drinks, sandwiches, pasta and more. It has a nice cafe vibe.

La Calle-Beer & Street Food: Go here! This is basically a food truck with outside tables and it is the coolest. They have some great beers and good burgers. It’s not the cheapest (burgers are about $10) but it’s a fun spot to chill.

Pesqueria Qlity Fish: Totally unexpected amazingness. If you like seafood or fish, this is your spot. We suggest going here for dinner.

Jalapenos Central: Quality TexMex style food at super reasonable prices. This place is owned by a guy from the US (Norman) who likes to make his rounds through the restaurant to make sure everyone is happy. Perfect for lunch or dinner.

Denny’s: OK usually we wouldn’t suggest Denny’s as dining option, but it is open 24 hours a day and is close to the airport. If your flight gets in really late or you have an early departure, this is your best bet for a meal.


I’m Hungry Crepes: Perfect afternoon snack or dessert spot. For about $7 you can get a HUGE crepe. As in, it’s almost impossible to finish these big guys. They are seriously good though. If you are not extremely hungry I strongly suggest sharing one with your dining buddy.

Red Frog Coffee Roasters: These guys know coffee. If you’re looking for a good cup, this is the place to go. They also have a good selection of food. It’s a good breakfast spot, but just note they don’t open until 8 am.

Lava Lounge: The food here is not amazing. It’s definitely good, we’ve never had a bad meal, but it’s not the kind of place you rave about. However, we like the atmosphere here a lot. Also, it is located right on the main road in La Fortuna and is a great spot to do some serious people watching.

Organico Fortuna: Go here for lunch! you won’t be disappointed. They serve up super fresh organic food which tastes amazing! They also have plenty of vegetarian and vegan options.

Rain Forest Cafe: Good food at reasonable prices. This is a good spot for a large lunch or dinner.

Restaurante Mi Casa: The vibe here is the best. We look this spot because the food is consistently excellent and they are open from 6 am until 10 pm.


Samara Organics: Not a restaurant, more of an organic store, but they serve delicious smoothies. They also have great organic products you can take with you as snacks.

Bouticafe Bohemia: The vibe here is great plus the food is on point. We suggest going here for breakfast or lunch to get a healthy and tasty meal.

Microbar Samara: If you are into craft beer you’ve got to head here! Craft beer is pretty expensive in Costa Rica, but hey, sometimes you just need some quality beers. This is the place to get it! Plus the bartenders here actually know what they are talking about and will happily steer you in the right direction for the best drinks.

Falafel Cafe: If you are into Mediterranean food, head here. The prices are extremely fair and the food is absolutely delicious!

Soda La Perla: Great typical Costa Rican food at an affordable price.

LuvBurger: Ridiculously good food with tables on the beach. Their burgers are wonderful.

These are alternative activities to the ones listed in the itinerary. Sometimes things are closed, too expensive, not interesting to you etc. We want you to have plenty of backup ideas so you can always have an amazing time in Costa Rica!


Check out the city park: In downtown Alajuela, there is a cute city park which is the happening spot on the weekends. You probably won’t spend more than an hour there, but there is a nice church there that you can go in. There are also plenty of vendors selling snacks. Grab a bunch, get a snack, and do some people watching. Watch the planes take off: If you want a fun/ unique evening experience, check when the next planes are taking off and head on over to the airport. If you are coming from the downtown area of Alajuela, drive past the airport on the highway and you’ll see parking spots on the side of the road. You can pull off here or turn right on the street at the end of the runway. There aren’t any parking spot there, but you can just pull your car off the side of the road. You’ll probably see many families with picnics set up in the grass. This is (in my opinion) the best spot to watch the planes, but I’ll warn you, it’s absolutely terrifying to have planes flying literally right above your head. We like to go out night to get the full effect. There are also usually vendors here selling food. Do some shopping: If you’re coming from the US, the prices in Costa Rica will be a bit higher than what you are used to, but if you are coming from Europe they are pretty comparable to what you are used to. In Alajuela, there is a city mall, which has a ton of stores which you’ll love. If you want an even crazier experience, head to MultiPlaza. MultiPlaza is not in Alajuela, but it’s still close by in Escazu. That mall is crazy even by US standards. It is the largest mall in Central America and is super modern. Catch a film: Not really the optimal thing to do on your vacation, but if you are visiting during rainy season, you might be out of luck finding something else to do on a rainy afternoon. Both malls that I listed above have nice movie theaters in them which show films in English with Spanish subtitles. If you’d like to see what is showing, you can check that out here. Just click MultiPlaza Escazu or City Mall, depending on where you’d like to go. Take a drive through the Central Valley: From the city of Alajuela, head north and check out the amazing views of the valley. I always feel like I’m in Switzerland while driving through here. There are tons of little places selling fresh strawberries and cheese along the way. If you would like to see a nice waterfall, type in “Catarata de la Paz” into your GPS. This waterfall is free (just on the side of the road) and it’s a beautiful drive to this spot. It is really close to Poas Volcano, but unfortunately, Poas is currently closed indefinitely due to eruptions 🙁 Catch your lunch: From downtown Alajuela, you can take a 40-minute drive to a trucha called Los Arroyos. Now, I’m sure you have no idea what I’m talking about, but this is a super popular activity with locals. It’s a totally unique experience that most tourists aren’t lucky enough to have. At this place, they will give you a piece of fishing line with bait on the end and send you over to their little pond. It doesn’t look like much, but it is stocked with trout. Catch a trout for each person in your group and then they will cook it up for you on site with great side dishes. For about $10 you can have a fun half day activity and a really tasty meal. It’s one of our absolute favorite things to do with visitors. Play with hundreds of dogs: You may have seen a video of this place that has been going viral recently. Territorio de Zaguates (land of the strays) is located in the valley in Alajuela and is home to hundreds of stray dogs. It is possible to visit this beautiful place and play with the dogs, but only on certain days. They usually do one open day a month on a Saturday or Sunday. Check out their Facebook page to stay up to date on their next open day.


Swim under a waterfall: Check out La Fortuna waterfall if you want a nice half day trip that is not too expensive. It costs $15 for entry. This waterfall is seriously impressive and if there hasn’t been too much rain recently you can swim under it. If not, there is a nice stream you can swim in next to the waterfall. Just as a warning, be prepared to walk down over 400 steps to get there, which means walking back up 400 steps after. 😉 There is free parking, a bathroom with changing rooms, and a cafe on site. Go caving: About 45 minutes from downtown La Fortuna there is a place called Venado Caves. It’s $25 per person for a tour of the caves which lasts about 1.5 hours. It’s seriously intense and if you don’t do well with tight spaces this is not an activity for you. I thought I would freak out, but once the adrenaline kicked in I was good to go. Relax in a hot spring: There are tons of hot springs in La Fortuna, but most are expensive and really touristy. We like to go to the places the locals go to. Our faves are Termales Los Laureles and Termalitas del Arenal. If you want a free hot springs experience drive to the bridge ear Tabacon resort. You can pull your car over to the side of the road and walk to the river below the bridge. It’s crazy warm and a fun experience. Learn how chocolate is made: I did a chocolate tour with my mom at Rainforest Chocolate Tours and we both loved it! Plus it includes all the chocolate you can eat! ) This is something you should book ahead of time because the tours tend to fill up. You can just email them and they’ll reserve a spot for you. This place is located down the street from La Fortuna and you could easily combine both activities for a fun day. Go kayaking: There are many tour companies who will offer to take you kayaking on Lake Arenal, but these tend to be expensive. Instead, just drive to the lake and see if you can find some locals renting kayaks. They are not always there, but when they are they will give you a much more reasonable rate and you can paddle around for an hour or so. Go hiking: There are a few hiking spots in La Fortuna, but we’ve only done the Arenal 1968 trail. It costs about $12 for entry and will take you a few hours. It’s somewhat strenuous in places, but doable. I wasn’t overly impressed with this hike because you are never rewarded with great views, but if you just want to get some hiking in, go for it! Visit a butterfly sanctuary: The Butterfly Conservatory near Lake Arenal is a really nice place to spend a couple of hours. You’ll see some really cool butterflies and reptiles, take a nice nature walk and meet some very knowledgeable people who work there. You could combine this with a hike on the Arenal 1968 trail or a kayak trip around the lake. They are all located close together. Go swimming: A bit out of the downtown (like 5 minutes) you will find a bridge. Walk down the embankment (it can be a bit slippery) and you will come to a pool with a rope swing. Now, all you have to do is jump! It’s definitely not for kids or the faint of heart. In fact, it’s a bit terrifying. Make sure you have travel insurance. No, it’s not that scary and you don’t HAVE to try the rope swing. You can just enjoy swimming. If you need to search for it on your GPS just type in “El Salto”


Go surfing: There are plenty of places which offer surfing lessons rentals in Samara, but our personal fave is Pato’s Surfing because they offer a good rate for lessons and with each lesson you get five days of board rentals for FREE! Plus, they are just an all around wonderful company. They also offer amazing rates on SUP boards and kayaks. Explore nearby beaches: There are several beaches nearby you can check out. Our personal favorite is Playa Carillo because we love how it is lined with palm trees and it is almost always empty. Check out a waterfall: Near Samara is a waterfall called Belen. It is pretty difficult to find and you will need a 4×4 to get there, but it is a fun off the beaten path adventure. If you want more info check out the TripAdvisor page here. Take a yoga class: We are big fans of yoga classes at Samara Massage because they are well done and are taught in the shade on the beach! Classes are only $10 for a drop in and include use of a yoga mat. You can find out the class schedule and other details here. Walk the beach: Playa Samara is really long. It’s the perfect beach for a long relaxing walk to clear your head.

Bad news!: This information is only available with the full purchase of this itinerary.

Good News: Complete access to this itinerary as well as a printable PDF version is now available for just $2.95! Sweet!


Bad News: We’re sorry, but this complete itinerary in PDF version is only available with purchase.

Good News: You can access the complete itinerary and the PDF printable version of this itinerary for just $2.95! Sweet!



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