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)
DAY ONE – Land in San Jose / Tour Britt coffee plantation or visit Poas Volcano
DAY TWO – Drive to La Fortuna / Visit the La Fortuna waterfall / Relax in a hot spring
DAY THREE – Take a day trip to Rio Celeste
DAY FOUR – Tubing / Cacao tour / Visit a natural hot spring
DAY FIVE – Drive to Monteverde / Climb a ficus tree / Take a nighttime wildlife tour
DAY SIX – Go hiking / Go zip lining
DAY SEVEN – Cacao tour / Drive back to the airport area
DAY EIGHT – Leave Paradise….for now
We designed this Costa Rica itinerary to be done by rental car.
Having a car makes transportation a whole lot easier in this country.
It is possible to do this itinerary without four-wheel drive but we suggest at least renting something with decent clearance (as in an SUV).
Most of the roads you will encounter are paved (except for a few near Monteverde), but there are some steep hills in the Monteverde area and on your drive to La Fortuna.
If you are looking for a great car deal, we have partnered with our favorite rental car company in Costa Rica, Adobe, to give you a 10% discount, free extra drivers, a free cell phone to use, free roof racks, and more!
Land in San Jose / Tour Britt coffee plantation or visit Poas Volcano
Yeay! You’ve arrived in Costa Rica.
Now you’re probably wondering, “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 and picking up your rental car.
Once you have exited the airport, taken the shuttle to Adobe, and picked up your rental car, it is time to do something fun.
We have three choices for you.
- Visit Poas Volcano. Check out the guide to Poas Volcano for all the details
- Tour a coffee plantation. We suggest Britt, Dota, or Hacienda Alsacia (it is owned by Starbucks). Check out the guide to coffee plantations for info on all of them.
- Visit La Paz Waterfall Gardens. La Paz is great for families. There is a wide variety of Costa Rican wildlife here as well as an amazing waterfall.
If your flight gets in early in the morning you can even do more than one of these activities (or all of them). They are all in the same general area.
In the evening, we suggest staying near downtown Alajuela. This will make it easy for you to hop on the highway in the morning to the coast.
For some hotel and dinner suggestions, check out our Alajuela (airport area) guide.
Drive to La Fortuna / Waterfall Swimming / Hot Spring Chilling
After breakfast, it’s time to pack up your stuff and get ready for a long drive to La Fortuna. In total, the drive will take you about four hours.
It may seem long, but the second half of this drive is the most beautiful drive in Costa Rica (at least in my opinion).
Just a warning, the roads are in decent condition but it can get pretty curvy in places for all of you who tend to get car sick.
Once you arrive in La Fortuna, you will need to check in to your hotel and get changed into swimwear. It’s time to check out the amazing La Fortuna waterfall! We have a full guide to visiting the La Fortuna waterfall.
After the waterfall, stop at Rainforest Chocolate tour. It is located right down the street from the waterfall. This is a great activity to do on your last morning before heading back to the airport area, but it fills up fast. It is best to stop in and see if you can reserve a spot for the morning tour two days away.
Now it’s time to relax at a hot spring!
We suggest contacting the hotel you are planning to stay at in La Fortuna and ask if they have any discounts with local hot spring companies. Sometimes they can get you a great deal.
If not, check out our Arenal hot spring guide. We have suggestions for all budgets and interests.
Some of the hot springs have restaurants on site, but if you are looking for something different, check out our guide to La Fortuna restaurants.
After a nice evening at the hot springs, head back to your hotel and get some sleep. Tomorrow is going to be filled with action!
Take a day trip to Rio Celeste
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.
Tubing / Cacao tour / Visit a natural hot spring
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.
Drive to Monteverde / Climb a ficus tree / Take a nighttime wildlife tour
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.
Go hiking / Go zip lining
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.
Drive Back to the Airport Area
After enjoying breakfast it’s time to check out of your hotel and head back towards the airport.
The drive back will take you about three hours depending on traffic.
We suggest not starting too late because hitting the airport area during the afternoon rush hour is a nightmare.
Once you arrive in Alajuela, check into your hotel, and chill.
If you are feeling up for an activity, you can check out our Alajuela guide for some good ideas.
In the evening, grab some dinner at one of our suggested places and get some sleep before your flight tomorrow.
Leave Paradise….For Now
We hope you had an amazing trip and hope you will be back soon!
Our Advice for This Itinerary
– 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.
– Costa Rica is a restaurant paradise. You can find our favorite places to eat for every budget in our destination guide.
– If you would like some alternative activity ideas, check out our destinations guides for the places you are visiting.
– This itinerary does involve a lot of driving, but we tried to space it 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 made this one week Costa Rica itinerary with the idea that you would be flying into San Jose instead of Liberia. However, this is totally doable from Liberia as well!
– Please take into consideration that we created this guide from our personal experience. We try to always give you the best and most updated info possible, but that is not always possible.
For example, even in writing this I discovered three restaurants I planned on including here are now closed.
Things change fast in this country!
Costa Rica Travel Details: What You Need to Know
🚗 Should I rent a car in Costa Rica?
Having a rental car will give you the most flexibility when traveling in Costa Rica. This will also allow you to take fun day trips on your own.
- Save 10% Plus Other Perks with Our Adobe Rental Car Discount
- You might also consider; shared shuttle services or private transfer services
🏄🏽 How can I book things to do?
We find that Viator tends to have the most comprehensive selection of activities with secure booking and good cancellation policies.
🍍 I’m overwhelmed with planning. Can you help?
✈️ What is the best way to book a flight?
Usually, we have the best luck finding great prices with Skyscanner. Check for flights to both San Jose Airport (SJO) and Liberia Airport (LIR).
🛏️ What is the best way to book my Costa Rica hotels?
🗣️What is the main language in Costa Rica?
The main language in Costa Rica is Spanish. Most people working in tourism speak at least some English.
💰 What is the currency in Costa Rica?
The currency used in Costa Rica is the Costa Rican colón (CRC). However, the US dollar is widely accepted in most tourist areas
📞 What is the best way to stay connected?
An eSIM from Airalo is the easiest way to get 4G data while traveling in Costa Rica.
🌴 Is Costa Rica safe?
Generally, Costa Rica is considered safe for tourists. However, like any travel destination, it’s best to use caution and be aware of your surroundings.
🛂 Do you need a passport to go to Costa Rica?
Yes, Costa Rica is its own country. You will need a passport to visit.