We made this Costa Rica Jungle Vibes itinerary for all of you that want to get a feel for the jungle in a short amount of time.
This itinerary is packed with cool things like swimming under a waterfall, hiking a volcano, tubing down a river, zip lining, and more.
Don’t worry, there is plenty of time for things such as relaxing in a hot spring and enjoying cocktails in a tree house as well!
Airport Area (day 1) → La Fortuna (day 2, 3, 4) → Monteverde (day 5, 6) → Airport Area (day 7) → Leave paradise (day 8)
You will need to rent a car for this itinerary. The reason for this that a lot of the activities mentioned are somewhat off the beaten path. If you depend on day trips from tour companies you will end up spending a lot more money. Having a car gives you a lot more flexibility and is almost always cheaper in the long run.
For this particular Costa Rica trip, we strongly recommend a 4×4 or at least an SUV with higher clearance. The roads around Monteverde are unpaved and can be very steep in some places. You will also need a 4×4 for getting to Rio Celeste.
We have partnered with our favorite rental car company in Costa Rica, Adobe, to give you all a 10% discount, free extra drivers, a free cell phone to use etc. Adobe is the most trustworthy and helpful rental car company we have found in Costa Rica.
You can find out more and grab your discount here.
Yeay! You’ve made it to Costa Rica. Now you’re probably thinking, “what’s next?” First off, we suggest reading our guide to landing in San Jose. This will tell you all you need to know about going through customs, getting your rental car, etc.
Once you have exited the airport, taken the shuttle to Adobe, and gotten your rental car, it is time to do something fun. We suggest either visiting Irazu volcano (here’s our complete guide) or checking out the Britt coffee tour.
If your flight gets in early in the morning you will have plenty of time to explore Irazu and the surrounding area. If you get in around midday, we suggest the Britt coffee tour. If you arrive in the evening it is probably best to grab some dinner and rest up before your drive to La Fortuna in the morning.
We personally suggest Jalapenos Central for dinner. They serve filling Tex-Mex style food which is super tasty.
For some other great dinner spots check out our Alajuela (airport area) guide.
After breakfast and checking out of your hotel, it’s time to head to La Fortuna and fully start your Costa Rica adventure! The drive will take about four hours, maybe a bit more depending on the traffic towards the beginning of the drive. It’s my absolute favorite drive in the whole country. Just be warned if you get motion sickness, it is really curvy at some points. There are tolls on this road near the start of your drive, so make sure you have colones or a few dollars with you (they do take dollars at the toll booths and will give you colones as change).
Once you arrive in La Fortuna, you will need to check in to your hotel and get changed into swimwear. If it is too early to check in to your hotel we suggest asking if you can leave your belongings somewhere safe in the hotel. It’s never a good idea to leave anything in your car in Costa Rica.
Now it’s time to check out the amazing La Fortuna waterfall! We have a full guide to visiting the La Fortuna waterfall here.
After the waterfall, we suggest relaxing at a hot spring! We like to get as much out of the hot springs as possible so we tend to stay until late (they are open until 9 or 10pm).
However, you probably want to eat as well. We usually grill (both hot springs that we recommend have free grills which you can use), but we also have the luxury of bringing paper plates, aluminum foil, etc from home. If you have to buy all of that stuff, it might be better to just eat at a restaurant or get takeout before going.
We suggest Organico Fortuna for a good healthy meal which you can get to go, but you may end up getting there and want to just eat there (it’s ridiculously cute).
Another great option is Que Rico Arenal. They have great pizza and are located very close to both hot springs we will suggest below. You could pick up a pizza there and take it with you.
After picking up your food, head to the hot springs. We have two hot springs which we love, so I’ll describe them both and you can pick which sounds better to you.
Termalitas de Arenal: This is where the locals go. It costs 4,500 colones to enter (so about $9). On the weekends it tends to get pretty crowded. We like this place because at night it is all lit up with different colored lights. The setup is also really nice and you have more privacy at the various picnic table areas.
Termales Los Laurales: This hot spring costs about 6,000 colones (so about $12) to enter. It is much more open than Termalitas de Arenal. We love it because it has an amazing view of Arenal volcano. It’s absolutely beautiful at sunset. It also has lights at night, but they are not multi-colored like Termalitas de Arenal.
If you’d like more info we have guides to the hot springs here.
I suggest going to one on this first night and trying the next one on the next evening. I (Sarah) like Los Laurales more, but Thomas likes Termalitas de Arenal more. We’d love if you report back on your favorite so we can continue to argue about the best one. Maybe I’ll start a tally.
Both hot springs have multiple hot and cold pools, bathrooms, lockers, changing rooms, and a snack bar (but the food is not the best and it’s expensive for what it is).
After a nice evening at the hot springs, head back to your hotel and get some sleep.
In case you are wondering, Rio Celeste, is a bright blue river that you can hike along. Unfortunately, you no longer swim within the park, but there are a few places outside of the national park where you can hop into the water.
Anyway, we suggest driving to Rio Celeste somewhat early in the day, especially if you are traveling during the rainy season when you are almost guaranteed some afternoon showers.
The drive to Rio Celeste will take you about 1.5 hours from downtown La Fortuna. The park is open from 8 am until 4 pm (but you have to enter by 2 pm) and costs $12.
To get here just enter “Tenorio Volcano National Park” into your GPS. This is where the ranger station and parking is for the waterfall. Oh, and we suggest wearing shoes like Keens. We hear it can be rather muddy during rainy season.
When you arrive back in La Fortuna we suggest spending the afternoon relaxing before dinner.
Before eating, park your car in downtown La Fortuna and check out the cute park. It is really well maintained and a nice spot to chill for a bit and do some people watching. Also, the fee you paid to enter the La Fortuna Waterfall goes towards maintaining this park, so might as well take full advantage of it. ?
Try out one of the places in our suggested restaurant list which you haven’t tried yet. We personally like the vibe at Lava Lounge. It is right down the street from the La Fortuna park so you can just leave your car where you’ve parked it.
Ready for an amazingly fun activity? This morning you are going tubing! Arenal River Tubing will take you on a half day tour down a river in a personal inner tube. It’s ridiculously fun and the guides are absolutely amazing.
The price is $45 per person, which I know isn’t exactly a budget activity, but sometimes you’ve got splurge a little! If this is out of your price range, check out our La Fortuna guide for other great activity ideas. It is best to reserve a spot ahead of time so, head on over to their website right now and email them to confirm a spot. They are generally really good about emailing you back within 24 hours.
The tour will begin at 10 am and will return around 2 pm. Transportation from your hotel is included (which is awesome). Make sure to wear a bathing suit or something you don’t mind getting wet. After your fun-filled tubing adventure, it is time to grab some lunch at one of our suggested places.
If you’re not watered out yet, we suggest going for a dip in the natural hot springs. The free hot spring is located under the bridge near Tabacon resort. You can find out more about how to visit in our hot springs guide.
Another fun option for the afternoon is taking a cacao tour. You can find out more about the tour through Rainforest Chocolate Tour. We suggest making a reservation ahead of time for a tour. It does tend to fill up, especially during high season in Costa Rica.
Good morning! Monteverde is the next stop on your Costa Rica jungle adventure! Although Monteverde and La Fortuna are close in distance it takes about three hours to drive between the two. The reason for that is big Lake Arenal. It’s a really nice drive though. We definitely suggest stopping along the way to take pictures. The view of Lake Arenal is really nice in spots.
Once you arrive in Monteverde you can check in to your hotel and grab some lunch if you haven’t already eaten. We have tons of good food suggestions in our Monteverde Guide.
After grabbing some food we suggest checking out the ficus tree. This is a large ficus tree in the woods that you can climb to the top of. It’s pretty cool and it’s free!
The easiest way to get here is by entering “Cloud Forest Lodge” into your GPS. When you arrive at the Cloud Forest Lodge just park your car on the side of the road. As always, don’t leave anything valuable in the car. Across from the lodge you will see dirt pathways going into the woods. Follow these paths and you will pass a few other ficus trees before finding the tree you really want. You’ll know you are in the correct spot when you see a tree that you can stand inside of and climb like a beautiful ladder from nature. Eventually, you will get to the top where you will have a really nice view.
Just be careful though. There is nobody around out there and you are climbing a tree. It is, of course, possible to slip.
After your ficus tree adventure, we suggest relaxing a bit before the evening. If you need a good dinner spot just check out our Monteverde guide.
In the evening you will be going on a wildlife night tour. You can read our complete post about it here.
Today is action packed! After eating some breakfast (there are some great little coffee shops in downtown Monteverde) it is time to head over to Selvatura Adventure Park.
This is something you could arrange ahead of time, but we don’t like to. On their website you, unfortunately, can not just save a spot. You actually have to pay ahead of time. For us, we don’t like doing that because you never know if your plans will change.
Instead, we suggest going there in the morning and seeing when they have space for zip lining. They have all sorts of different packages you can choose from such as combo packages of zip lining, hanging bridges, and the butterfly garden. We have only done the zip lining but have heard the hanging bridges are nice as well.
Anyway, for the rest of the morning, you will be zip lining and hiking. It really depends on what time you were able to arrange the zip lining for, but up the street from Selvatura is the Santa Elena Reserve. This is the perfect cloud forest hiking spot. We have a full post about visiting here.
In the afternoon you will likely be tired. We suggest relaxing and grabbing a few early evening cocktails at Tree House restaurant. For dinner check out one of our suggested places in the Monteverde guide.
Don’t rush too much to leave Uvita. The drive back will only take you about four hours depending on traffic.
About thirty minutes after passing Jaco you will cross a bridge with a bunch of people standing on it. Pull your carr off on the side of the road and walk on to the bridge. Look below and you will see tons of big crocodiles relaxing in the sun. Just keep an eye on your car because all of your belongings will be left inside.
After checking out the crocodiles, continue to the airport area. We have a full guide to this area here so you can get a better idea of where to stay and good restaurants to eat at in the area.
Unfortunately it is time to go back to reality. We hope you had a great visit and come back soon!
In every destination guide, we list our favorite accommodations. Recently we have had really good luck with Airbnb and have gotten some really good deals. We have a guide to using Airbnb in Costa Rica here. Our guide to budget accommodations in Costa Rica will also help you out.
If you plan on booking a hotel, we’d appreciate it if you booked by clicking this link to booking.com. It doesn’t cost you anything but we get a percentage of their profits which allows us to keep making these Costa Rica trip plans available to you for free.
Also, if you are new to Airbnb we have $20 off for your first stay. Just click here to sign up for an account.
As I mentioned earlier, we tried to keep things mostly on budget, but there are for sure some activities in this itinerary that are not as cheap. We tried to only pick more expensive activities which we feel are worth splurging for and support wonderful local businesses.
If you would like some alternative activity ideas, check out our destinations guides for the places you are visiting.
– This itinerary does involve a fair amount of driving, but we tried to space it out enough that it becomes doable.
– Check out our Must Know page for more tips for preparing for your travel including packing lists, gear suggestions, using your cell phone here etc.
– We spent A LOT of time creating this itinerary. However, we can’t always keep up with the latest in Costa Rica travel because things change so fast. If you follow this Costa Rica itinerary and discover any of the information is outdated or wrong, could you please let us know by leaving a comment below? It will help us make this itinerary better for future travelers like yourself.
– We created this itinerary with the thought that you will be flying in and out of San Jose, but this itinerary can also easily be done to and from Liberia airport instead.
Does this itinerary sound good, but you would like a more customized Costa Rica experience? Just fill in our Costa Rica Trip Planner form! One of our favorite Costa Rica experts will contact you and help with the entire Costa Rica planning process.