This itinerary was designed for all of you want to see a lot of amazing wildlife and enjoy the varied natural beauty of Costa Rica. Get ready for cute sloths, colorful birds, bright blue rivers, cloud forests and more!


14 nights total

Airport Area (1 night) -> Monteverde (2 nights) -> La Fortuna (2 nights) -> Manuel Antonio (2 nights) -> Uvita ( 2 nights) -> San Gerardo de Dota ( 2 nights) -> Airport Area (2 nights)  

This itinerary needs to be done by rental car. The reason for this is that there is no direct public bus route between some of these locations. For example, to go from La Fortuna to Manuel Antonio you would have to take the bus all the way back to San Jose and then take another bus to Maanuel Antonio. This would be completely stressful and would take you about ten hours.

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 these destinations, 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.

We suggest renting a 4×4 for this itinerary. Some of the roads around Monteverde, La Fortuna, and San Gerardo de Dota are not paved and very hilly.

To save you 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.


Camino Verde Bed and Breakfast: This place is newly done and looks beautiful. You can expect to pay about $47 a night for a double room. Breakfast is included and there is a communal kitchen which you can use.

Manakin Lodge: Nice basic rooms. Some have amazing views of Monteverde. Breakfast is included. You can expect to pay about $35 a night for a double room here.

Casa Campo Verde: This place is amazing. The owners are the sweetest people ever and will help you out with whatever they can. For about $40 a night you can stay in a basic triple room.

Sarita’s Family Home: Perfect place if you want a whole house. Everything is nicely designed and you will have your own private kitchen. This place is a bit higher on the price scale. You can expect to pay about $60 a night.

Greemount Hotel: This place is the best. The owners are amazing people who are just trying to make their dreams come true (and we’re all about that). They are still working on making this place exactly how they want it (and are doing an amazing job at it). You can expect to pay about $35 a night here for a double room with breakfast included.


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 Wide Mouth Frog: This hostel is located in Quepos (a ten minute drive from Manuel Antonio). For about $30 you can get a private dorm for two people with a shared bathroom. There is a shared kitchen for guests and a pool.

Guest House Pura Vida: Located in Quepos (about 10 minutes from Manuel Antonio), this guest house has studio apartments with a kitchenette and breakfast for two people at prices as low as $20 a night. It really depends on the date though. sometimes the price can be higher.

Torino Backpackers Beach: This hotel is only a one minute walk from the beach in Manuel Antonio. For about $50 a night for two people you can get a large room with breakfast included. There is also a shared kitchen on the property.

Selina Manuel Antonio: This place has a super cool vibe. There is a nice pool and an amazing view of the jungle. For about $50 a night you can get a double room with a shared bathroom. There is also a shared kitchen on site.

Waterfront Hotel Verde Mar: For about $45 you can get a super basic room for two people, but you can’t beat the location. They have a nice outdoor pool and access directly onto the beach from the hotel. It’s about a 10-minute walk to the national park.


Hotel Cabinas y Camping el Teca: Located about a four-minute walk from the beach in Uvita, this place has rooms with small kitchens for about $40 a night. There is also a pool on site which guests can use.

Cascada Verde Hostel: Amazing place in the jungle. For about $30 a night you can stay in a double room with a shared bathroom. There is also a communal kitchen area you can use.

Tucan Hotel: The vibe here is cool. This place is located in the jungle in Uvita. They have bikes you can use for free, an onsite restaurant, yoga classes, and a nice garden area. For about $30 a night you can stay in a double room with a shared bathroom.

Cool Vibes Beach Hostel: Across the street from the beach in Dominical, this hostel has double rooms for around $30 a night. There is also a shared kitchen you can use on the site.

Tropical Sand Dominical: Located right next to the beach in Dominical. For about $50 a night you can get a standard double room.


Hotel Savegre: This hotel is super nice. We haven’t actually stayed here, but we’ve eaten dinner here (which was excellent), hiked their trails, and communicated extensively with their staff. Everything is completely top notch here.

Suenos del Bosque: We loved these cute cozy cabins. The staff is also amazing and breakfast is included. Definitely eat a nice fish dinner here one night. it is super tasty and very fairly priced.

Hotel de Montana Suria: Really nice rooms with great scenery at a reasonable price.

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.


Orchid Coffee: Great place for an afternoon coffee and cake or dessert. Their baked goods are ridiculously good!

Beso Espresso: This is coffee snob heaven. I’ve never been to a place which is more knowledgeable about coffee than Beso Espresso. They have a few sandwiches and baked goods, but this is mostly just a coffee place (and it is perfect).

Taco Taco: Super tasty Tex-Mex style tacos at a good price. Go here!

Sabor Tico: Great typical Costa Rican food at an affordable price.

The Green Room: This is a great dinner spot. It’s definitely not the cheapest (you’ll pay about $20 for dinner) but it’s really tasty.

Tree House Restaurant: This is one of those tourist destinations that I think you should go to just for the experience. The food isn’t the cheapest or the best, but we suggest going just for a drink. After all, when else can you went to a treehouse restaurant?


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.


Ronny’s Place: Really good food (fish, steaks, etc) and even better drinks. This place also has one of the best sunset views in town. The road is a little difficult to get here so 4 wheel drive would help, but you can probably make it without. It is not the cheapest though. You can expect to pay about $20 for dinner and a beer.

Falafal Bar: The perfect cute lunch spot. Their falafal is on point and the prices are good.

El Avion:We weren’t overly impressed with the food, but when else can you say that you ate in a cargo plane? You could also just go there for drinks. This place also has a killer sunset view.

Sancho’s: Quality burritos at a reasonable price. Plus the atmosphere is really fun.

El Avion: We weren’t overly impressed with the food, but when else can you say that you ate in a cargo plane? You could also just go there for drinks (that’s what we do). This place also has a killer sunset view.

TA-CHO’S: Amazing Mexican food and the nicest people ever. You’ll feel so welcome here. This is a great dinner spot.

Sol’s Frozen Yoghurt: Great froyo and smoothies next to the national park.

Backpacks Paradise Costa Linda: Your best bet for lunch after a day in the national park. Located next to Sol’s Frozen Yoghurt, this hostel has good typical Costa Rican food at an affordable price.

Baguette: Pastry heaven. A seriously good little coffee shop which I would happily eat at every day and be huge from due to carb overload.


PorQueNO: Located in Dominical, this place has the best coastline view! It’s not the cheapest restaurant, but the food is great. We like this place for dinner with a sunset view that will blow your mind.

Del Mar Taco Shop: Our go-to lunch spot in Dominical. Extremely good tacos with fresh ingredients located across from the beach.

El Pescado Loco: This place in Dominical has a super nice vibe, prices are great, and the fish here is the best. Try the fish tacos!

Ranchos Remo: Located in Uvita, this place has the perfect ocean view from up on a cliff. You will need a 4 wheel vehicle to get up here. This is a great dinner spot, but it is not the cheapest. You can expect to pay about $20 per person for dinner with a beer.

The Dome Drive Thru: Located in Uvita this is a good spot for burritos and fruit juices. Prices are reasonable and the food is wonderful.

Roadshack Deli: Super cute deli with quality craft beer and good sandwiches in Uvite. We highly recommend this place for lunch.

Bar Restaurant Los Laureles: Quality food in Uvita. You can’t go wrong here. Everything is delicious and the service is wonderful.


You have to eat some trout while here! I don’t know who trained everyone in San Gerardo in service, but every place we ate was exceptionally tasty and the staff was better than any place we’ve ever seen in Costa Rica.

Cafe Kahawa: This place is amazing. You can sit outside on their nice wooden deck and enjoy tasty food while looking for birds in the trees. They make trout in a million amazing ways, but I recommend trying one of their dishes with smoked trout. It’s to die for.

Comidas Tipicas Miriam: Tasty typical food with the area’s specialty, trout!

Hotel Savegre and Suenos del Bosque also serve great food at their hotels.


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.


Go to the butterfly garden: For $15 this place is totally worth it. You get to see so many cool butterflies and the guides are extremely knowledgeable. Find out more here.

Take a coffee tour: There are several great coffee tours in Monteverde, but we suggest going to Cafe de Monteverde. Their tour is the most detailed and interesting, in our opinion. We like this place because they are very eco-friendly and we love supporting small local businesses which are amazing.

Visit some art galleries: There are a ton of really cool art galleries in the Monteverde area. To start you off we suggest visiting Sarah’s Gallery. Sarah is absolutely the cutest and her art is amazing. It is a bit of a jjourney to get here, but you can walk the access road to her house from the Monteverde Cheese Factory. Ignore the map on TripAdvisor to Sarah’s Gallery. It’s completely wrong.

Take an archery lesson: Total off the beaten path fun activity. Still Water Journeys is a retreat center that also provides archery lessons. For $20 per person, you can take a 1.5-hour archery lesson which goes through the proper techniques of shooting. The property here is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. I highly recommend this activity. It’s unique, relaxing, and not filled with tourists.

Go hiking in the cloud forest: There are several reserves you can hike at in Monteverde. We have only visited Reserve Bosque Nuboso Sante Elena, and we loved it. We paid $14 per person, which is a lot for a hike, but we took the time to hike pretty much every trail (we were there for about three hours) and I don’t regret paying the steep price. The cloud forest is seriously beautiful and something I think you’ll all enjoy experiencing.


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”


Visit playa Biesanz and go sea kayaking /snorkeling: Playa Biesanz is not the most beautiful beach you’ve ever seen, but it has a charm about it which we love. You can park on the side of the road and have an attendant watch your car for under $5. Then walk down the path to the beach (check for howler monkeys in the trees). The beach is filled with locals selling everything you need. You can rent sea kayaks, snorkel gear, stand up paddle boards, buy cocktails, buy food, rent beach chairs, and more! All of this is at a very reasonable rate.  Plus it’s usually not very full with tourists.

Visit the national park: The main reason you are probably in Manuel Antonio is probably to go to the national park. You can read our full post with tips for the park here.

Go to the Quepos farmers market: The nearby town of Quepos has a farmers market every Friday afternoon and Saturday morning. It is located along the sea wall in Quepos. We suggest picking up some unusual fruits you’ve never seen before and trying them out.

Head to La Playita: This beach is located at the very end of Playa Espadilla. It used to be known as the gay scene beach and there were a lot of nude sunbathers. Last time we were there I didn’t see any of this cool scene. It was mostly just couples who wanted a quieter beach experience away from the action of Playa Espadilla.

Watch the sunset: Please don’t miss the sunset while you are here. It’s amazing! We suggest getting dinner on the cliffs for a good view (we have suggestions in the restaurant section) or watching it from Playa Espadilla.



Hike to a nice waterfall: We absolutely loved the hike to Rio Savegre Waterfall. It is definitely intense in spots (there are random stairs missing and stuff) but it was so fun! Plus the waterfall is pretty cool.

Go birding: Most people who visit San Gerardo de Dota are there to try to see the famous quetzal. Bring your binoculars and set out for a hike. We hiked the trails behind Hotel Savegre and saw a lot of birds. If you are not staying at that hotel you can pay $10 for entry or they will allow you free entry if you eat a meal there (and their food is tasty).

Go fishing: Last time we were here Thomas was on a serious mission to fish some trout. We talked to some locals and they told us that although it is technically illegal to fish the trout in the streams there, you can try to do it secretly. If you have your fishing pole with you, head to the river, find a good hiding spot and do some fishing, but shhh, you didn’t hear it from us. 😉

Go to the spa: Sometimes you just have to splurge and get a massage. The whole atmosphere in San Gerardo is so relaxing and cozy that I feel like a massage here just fits in perfectly with the overall feeling of the area. There is a nice spa called Del Rio Spa on the hotel Savegre property.






Of course you do!

Join our 30,000 monthly readers in planning your dream travels in Costa Rica. Plus, we will send you our travel planning packet which will keep your travels super organized.

No spam ever. That's not how we roll! Unsubscribe at any time. Powered by ConvertKit