Costa Rica Tours – 8 Guided Vacation Ideas

horse costa rica rain
about us

Hi! We’re Thomas (the German) and Sarah (the US-er).

We met in Virginia, moved to Germany, and now live in sunny Costa Rica.

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One of the best ways to travel in Costa Rica (or any country) is with a guided multi-day tour. A Costa Rica tour allows you to leave the planning to someone else. You can then relax knowing that your guide has your whole trip under control.

In other words, leave the stress to someone else! You are on vacation and deserve to enjoy it.

We created this guide to Costa Rica guided vacations to help you choose a great tour, consider if a tour is worth it for you, and analyze the factors that go into finding the best option.

Let’s get to it!

Tours We Suggest

costa rica tour

We have included 8 tours that we have hand selected based upon reviews, the itinerary, and more. All of these tours can be booked on the Tour Radar website or from Viator

We suggest Tour Radar because they work with some of the best tours around the world to connect travelers with unforgettable travel experiences. 

Tour Radar never charges booking fees, provides 24/7 customer service, and has flexible booking conditions.

In other words, we completely get that with life right now it is always a risk to book a trip without the possibility of cancellation, Tour Radar has you covered. 

We like Viator because they partner with local Costa Rican companies but you still have the security of booking through a larger company (like Viator). 

We only selected Viator tours with great cancellation policies, but always double-check before booking because things do change. 

Juste note, when searching for multi-day tour on Viator the easiest way to do this is by filtering in the “Duration” section for tours over 3 days. We also filter for four stars and above as well as filtering by free cancellation.

Costa Rica Quest

Start and End Location

This tour starts and ends in San Jose

Tour Length

9 days

Max Group Size

16 people max

Age Range

12 to 99 years old

Destinations

San Jose, La Fortuna, Monteverde, Manuel Antonio/ Quepos area

Tour Operator 

G Adventures

Itinerary Highlights

  • Relaxing in hot springs in La Fortuna
  • Taking a wildlife night walk in Monteverde
  • Ziplining over cloud forests
  • Exploring Manuel Antonio National Park

What’s Included

  • Eight nights at hotels
  • Transportation within the country to all destinations
  • A dedicated English-speaking guide as well as local guides for some tours
  • Certain activities in each destination
  • One lunch

What’s Not Included

Travel Insurance, your flight, all meals except for one lunch, and optional add-ons (catamaran tour and adventure package can be added at checkout).

Our Opinion

This is a good tour option if you want to get a taste of the country in a short amount of time. It’s a great combination between jungle and beaches. I would recommend this to families with teens and grandparents or people who want to get a feel for the country before more exploring more in-depth. 

However, it does go to some of the most popular destinations in the country. If you are looking for a more off-the-beaten-path adventure, keep reading, we have some tour suggestions for you coming up. 

One thing I don’t love about this tour is that only one lunch is included. However, if you are not a huge eater or would like to choose more budget-friendly dining options, this might actually be great for you.

Onward Travel Suggestions

This tour ends in San Jose. If you would like to continue your travels from here we suggest heading to the Caribbean coast for some exploring on your own. Specifically we suggest Tortuguero, Cahuita, Manzanillo, and Bocas del Toro, Panama

We have created a Caribbean Itinerary you can follow and easily do on your own. 

Eco-Adventure in Costa Rica

Start and End Location

Starts and Ends in San Jose

Tour Length

9 Days

Max Group Size

20 Participants

Age Range

12 – 65

Destinations

San Jose, La Fortuna, Monteverde, Samara

Tour Operator 

Green World Adventure

Itinerary Highlights

– Go white water rafting on the Pacuare River

– Enjoy repelling down canyon walls next to a waterfall in La Fortuna

– Take in the views with a horseback riding trip in the Monteverde cloud forest

– Enjoy zip lining over a dense rainforest

– Try mountain biking, surfing, or snorkeling in Samara

What’s Included

– 8 nights at hotels

– Transportation within the country to all destinations

– A dedicated English-speaking guide as well as local guides for some tours

– Activities in each destination

– Daily breakfast, 2 lunches, 1 dinner

What’s Not Included

Travel Insurance, your flight, all meals except for the ones listed above

Our Opinion

If you are looking for adventure, this is the perfect tour for you. We like that it combines some jungle action and some beach action into 9 days.

Plus, we have heard nothing but great things about the tour operator, Green World Adventure. They go above and beyond to really make sure that travelers have an unforgettable experience. 

Costa Rica: Ocean Waves & Sunsets

Start and End Location

Starts and Ends in San Jose

Tour Length

8 Days

Max Group Size

18 Participants

Age Range

18 to 39 years old

Destinations

San Jose, La Fortuna, Santa Teresa/ Montezuma

Tour Operator 

G Adventures

Itinerary Highlights

– Swim under La Fortuna waterfall

– Rapel down the side of a waterfall

– Try surfing for all levels in Santa Teresa

– Combine snorkeling with a visit to an uninhabited island. 

What’s Included

– 3 nights in simple hotels and 4 nights in hostels

– An experienced guide for the entirety of your trip

– Transportation via all destinations

What’s Not Included

Flight to Costa Rica, meals, some activities

Our Opinion

I would suggest this tour mostly for people in their twenties. It is very affordable as far as tours go and tends to have a younger vibe to it. It would be a great option for solo travelers or a small group of friends. 

Onward Travel Suggestions

At the end of your trip, you will end up back in San Jose. From here we either suggest heading to the Caribbean coast (Tortuguero, Puerto Viejo, and down to Bocas del Toro, Panama) or to the Central Pacific coast (Manuel Antonio, Uvita, Dominical)

Costa Rica: See & Experience it ALL in 11 Days

Start and End Location

Start in Tamarindo and end in San Jose

Note: for this tour, we suggest flying into Liberia International Airport and out of San Jose International Airport

Tour Length

10 night and 11 days

Max Group Size

8 people

Age Range

1 to 99 years old

Destinations

Tamarindo, Monteverde, La Fortuna, Tenorio, Manuel Antonio, Alajuela

Tour Operator 

Charlie the Traveler

Itinerary Highlights

– Zip-Lining in a dense cloud forest

– Enjoying a sunset catamaran cruise

– Hiking around multiple volcano national parks

– Touring a coffee farm

– Learning to surf with an experienced instructor

– Seeing Leatherback turtles and other wildlife

What’s Included

– one breakfast, five lunches, and two dinners

– transportation throughout your trip

– an experienced guide

– all entry fees to activities

– One night of accommodation

What’s Not Included

Definitely note that hotels (besides one night) are not included in this tour. The tour company feels that it is best to have people book their own accommodations because everybody has a different quality and price level they feel comfortable with.

They are happy to arrange accommodations for you based on your budget if you request it.

– flights, travel insurance, and other meals are not included in the rate. 

Our Opinion

We love that this is such a small group tour. Also, it packs a lot of amazing highlights between beaches and jungles in a short amount of time. In our opinion, this is a great option for just about anyone.

Onward Travel Suggestions

After your travels, we suggest heading to the Caribbean coast or to the Nicoya Peninsula (Santa Teresa or Montezuma) for a few relaxing days of beach bars, fishing, and surfing. 

Discover Costa Rica

Start and End Location

This tour starts and ends in San Jose

Tour Length

15 days

Max Group Size

16 group members

Age Range

16+

Destinations

Tortuguero, La Fortuna, Monteverde, Manuel Antonio, Savegre, San Jose

Tour Operator 

Exodus Travel

Itinerary Highlights

– Canoeing through Tortuguero National Park waterways, 

– Hiking to La Fortuna waterfall

– Seeing wildlife in Manuel Antonio National Park

– Look for birds in Quetzel National Park

What’s Included

All accommodations, transportation, guide, all breakfasts, 8 lunches, 6 dinners

What’s Not Included

Flights, additional activities, meals outside of what is listed above

Our Opinion

We suggest this tour for those of you that love nature and wildlife. This involves a lot of hiking and nature exploring. If you are looking for more action and adventure, this is not the tour for you. 

Trek Hidden Adventure

Start and End Location

San Jose

Tour Length

12 days

Max Group Size

16 participants

Age Range

12+

Destinations

San Jose, San Isidro, Piedras Blancas, Dominical, Uvita 

Tour Operator 

G Adventures

Itinerary Highlights

– Hike to a jungle homestay

– Take a medicinal plant walk

– Raft the Savegre River

– Try waterfall repelling

What’s Included

– Hotels (5 nights twin-share, 2 nights triple-share), jungle homestay (3 nights, multi-share), cave camping (1 night, sleeping bags, no electricity)

– 4 breakfasts, 5 lunches, 4 dinners

– Transportation

– Guide

What’s Not Included

– Other meals

– Additional Activities/ Tours

– Flights

Our Opinion

We suggest this for people who are physically fit and don’t mind a more rustic/ shared rooming experience. This is great for those of you who want a really unique Costa Rican experience and aren’t as keen to see all the touristy spots. 

All-inclusive Package

Start and End Location

Juan Santamaria International Aip[ort in San Jose

Tour Length

7 nights

Max Group Size

This is a private tour for you

Age Range

There is no specified age range

Destinations

Alajuela, La Fortuna, Manuel Antonio, Cartago area

Tour Operator

Summer Travel Costa Rica 

Itinerary Highlights

– Take a coffee production tour

– See a volcano up close

– Hike in Manuel Antonio National Park

– Relax in a hot spring

– Try zip lining

– Go white water rafting

What’s Included

Dinners, 7 breakfasts, 6 lunches, transportation within the country, and accommodations in a 4-star hotel. 

What’s Not Included

Gratuity, transportation to Costa Rica

Our Opinion

We love that this is a private tour and is open to all ages. This would be fun as a group of friends or a family. This tour is also a nice mix of popular destinations (La Fortuna & Manuel Antonio) and not as heavily visited spots such as Orosi.

Costa Rica Wildlife Tour

Start and End Location

San Jose

Tour Length

15 Days

Max Group Size

16 Participants

Age Range

16 -85

Destinations

San Jose, San Gerardo de Dota, Turrialba, Tortuguero, Sarapiqu, La Fortuna, Manuel Antonio 

Tour Operator 

Explore!

Itinerary Highlights

– Try out painting an oxcart

– Search for the quetzals in san Gerardo cloud forest

– Go whitewater rafting on the Pacuare River

– Learn how chocolate is made

– Hike in Manuel Antonio National Park

What’s Include

– Accommodations (12 nights standard hotel & 2 nights standard lodge)

– 14 Breakfasts, 4 Lunches, 3 Dinners

– Transportation

– All activities listed in the itinerary

– A knowledgeable guide

What’s Not Included

– Meals not listed in the itinerary

– Flights

– Other activities

Our Opinion

This Costa Rica guided vacation packs a lot of things into a two-week time period. We like that it is a nice mix of touristy spots and off-the-beaten-path destinations. 

Also, it is nice that most things (besides several meals) are included in the tour package. 

Private Tour Options

Almost all of the tours listed above are available as private tours. This is great if you are traveling with a group of friends or family. Usually, you will need at least 15 participants in order to request this option. 

If you are interested in this, check out the listings from Tour Radar and click in the top right corner where it says, “Request as Private.”

Other Group Tour Sites

We like Tour Radar and Viator because they offer such a comprehensive list of group tours, but there are plenty of other sites to check out as well.

– If you live in the United States and are a AAA member, check out their tour options. They have a few really great choices.

– If you are not the best with English and would like a tour in your native language, there are most likely plenty of options for that as well.

– If you would like a retreat experience, Costa Rica has plenty of those as well. Some popular retreat choices are wellness, yoga, and surfing.

– Are you interested in diving? Another unique option is a liveaboard adventure to Costa Rica’s Coco’s Islands to dive with sharks. It’s definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience! We wrote a full guide about the opportunity.

What to Look Out for When Booking a Tour in Costa Rica

boat tour

Places the Tour Goes

If it is your first time traveling to Costa Rica we definitely suggest a tour that combines some beach and some jungle exploration. It is a great way to get a feel for the wide variety that the country has to offer. We mostly included tours that do just that!

Size of Group

Personally, I feel as though the size of the group is really important. I prefer small groups for a more personalized Costa Rica vacation experience. If you love to socialize with tons of people, you might prefer a larger group. 

Type of Group

By “type of group” I mean does the group fit your vibe? For example, Thomas and I are in our early thirties and don’t have children but also aren’t really into the whole party/ hostel scene anymore. 

If we were to book a tour I would likely opt for something that is only for adults, offers mid-range accommodations, and focuses a lot on hiking, wildlife, and action. This type of tour would most likely return the best “vibe” for us. 

Time of Year

Keep in mind that the dry season in Costa Rica runs from the middle of December until late April. During this time of year, you will experience almost no rain on both the Pacific coast and in the Central region of the country.

However, prices also tend to go up during this time because it is the most popular time of year to visit.

If you are looking to save some money, tour prices typically go down during the rainy season, but some of the activities on your tour may be affected by rainy weather.

Hotel Class

Some of the tours I listed above offer stays in high-end hotels and others involve more simple stays. Some even have home stays with local families. We always like to analyze our desired comfort level when choosing the right tour for us.

What is Included?

This is so important! Some tours include things like all meals and all activities while others don’t. This plays such a big factor in analyzing cost/ value. Personally, I rather pay a bit more upfront and not have to think about paying for things during my tour. 

Is the Cost Worth It?

I’ll let you in on a little secret in Costa Rica. Almost all activity companies such as zip lining, surfing companies, etc. offer commissions or discounts to travel providers. 

In other words, sometimes tour companies factor in this commission or discount on your tour. I’ve seen several Costa Rican tours in which I’ve thought, “How can they possibly provide this tour for such an affordable rate?” These discounts are how.

So, sometimes it actually comes out much more affordable to book a tour versus planning everything yourself.

Definitely weigh out the prices if you are unsure and see which makes the most sense for you. Also, definitely factor in the ease of not having to organize everything yourself. Sometimes that alone makes the cost worth it.

Reviews

We only ever suggest tours or activities that are very highly rated by past participants. I read every review and analyze if anything is a deal breaker before I suggest anything on Costa Rica Vibes. However, please do your own research. Read all reviews before booking any tour. 

Cancellation Policy

We tried to include only tours with good cancellation policies, but it is always good to check yourself as well. 

Especially now with COVID, we think it is extremely important to make sure that the cancellation policies align with your needs. 

Things to Remember About Group Tours

atv tour

Go With the Flow

The motto in life here in Costa Rica is “Pura Vida!” Which directly translated means “pure life”. But here it is used to say “go with the flow, everything is good, life is chill.” 

And that is really the mindset in this country. 

Sometimes things won’t work out the way you plan them. Sometimes there will be bad traffic on the highway and you will arrive at your destination much later than planned. Sometimes a day activity will be canceled due to heavy rain. 

It’s no fun, but it is what it is, and you’re on vacation so try to relax. 

Not Everyone Will be Your BFF

I mean, I’m sure you are the coolest person ever and any person who doesn’t want to be your best friend is totally missing out, but 

Don’t Forget to Tip

In Costa Rica, it is somewhat expected that you will tip your tour guide, but not required. The percentage is completely at your discretion and can be based on the overall quality of the experience.

If you feel comfortable, you can always discuss with the other members of your tour group to gauge how much they plan to give. 

Is a Costa Rica Group Tour the Right Option for You?

costa rica rafting

Ah yes, now we have come to the most difficult question in all of this. Are you the group tour type of person?

In my opinion, everyone can benefit from a group tour. 

If you are a solo traveler, a group tour is a great way to feel safe traveling while meeting other people. 

If you are a couple, a multi day tour can be a nice way to relax and fully enjoy your experience without the stress of planning anything yourself. 

If you are a family or group of friends, you might meet other awesome people that will make your experience so much more enjoyable. Plus, take it from me, my family’s resident travel planner, organizing a bunch of people for a vacation is stressful! If you have the option of a group tour it will make your life so much easier.  

Now, I get it. I’m an introvert that likes people. In other words, being alone for hours at a time is my favorite thing ever (hence why I’ve chosen to make a living running this website from my home office). I enjoy socializing as well, but to an extent.

If you are like me, I know the thought of being surrounded by a bunch of people all day every day can sound like some form of torture. But, you can always make time for yourself. 

I find people are usually understanding when I say “I’m going to go read a book on the beach alone for a few hours,” or if I pop in headphones on a long ride between destinations. Just let them know that you need some time alone.

In other words, if you are on the fence about booking a group tour, I say try it out. You might discover that it is your new favorite way to travel. And you’ll never know if you don’t try, right?

Booking Your Flight

None of the guided tours include transportation to Costa Rica. You will need to book your flight and organize that it arrives in Costa Rica before your tour start date.

There are two international airports in Costa Rica. These are Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO) located in the capital city of San Jose and Liberia International Airport (LIR) located in the city of Liberia in the northwest corner of the country.

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Hotels Before the Start or at the End of Your Tour

Most of the options listed above include transportation for the night before and at the end of your trip in San Jose. 

However, if you plan on scheduling an early flight we definitely suggest staying close to the airport. Traffic here can be insane during the early morning commute. 

For a great hotel option near the San Jose Airport, we highly suggest Hacienda Belan by Marriott. It is located super close to the airport (under 5-minute drive). There is a free airport shuttle, outdoor pool, restaurant on-site, and fitness center. It is beautiful!

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance

I can’t stress travel insurance enough. Not only will most insurance policies cover you for illness, but they are also a must-have for things such as delayed flights, lost luggage, and the need to cancel your trip or vacation package at the last minute due to illness. 

Do you have any questions about multi-day tours in Costa Rica, don’t hesitate to leave them in the comment section below. We are always happy to help you out!

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