The 32 Best Day Trips from San Jose, Costa Rica

Are you looking for the best day trips from San Jose, Costa Rica? 

San Jose is the capital city of Costa Rica. The city is located in the central part of the country and is surrounded by lush hills filled with coffee farms, volcanoes, waterfalls, and more. There are plenty of fun things to do within the city limits, but there are even more fun things to do in the surrounding area.

We live in San Jose and aren’t really city people. However, we still love living here because the Central Valley area has so much to offer within a short drive.

We compiled this list of the 32 best day trips from San Jose to help you plan your perfect visit. This list includes activities at a variety of price points and for all interests. Plus, we put a lot of unique off the beaten path things on this list that most tourists have no idea about.

So, let’s get to it!

San Jose Day Trip on a Map

Before I get into all the best San Jose day trip options, I would like to give you a better understanding of the area so you can more accurately plan your activities. 

The city of San Jose is located in the Central Valley. It is basically the center of the country on a map. 

To the west of San Jose is the city of Alajuela. The San Jose International Airport is actually technically located in Alajuela. Above Alajuela are many nice coffee farms, Poas Volcano, waterfalls, and more. 

It’s a great place to enjoy a fun day with plenty of things to do.

To the east of San Jose is the city of Cartago. Near Cartago is Irazu Volcano, old ruins, and nice hiking spots.

From San Jose it is possible to take a day trip to the Pacific Coast, Caribbean Coast or up north to La Fortuna or Monteverde.

However, these are a long drive and really I think these places deserve longer visits. But, If you only have a short amount of time it is possible to visit as a day trip.

We just suggest doing this as a guided excursion with one of the many reputable Cosra Rican tour operators because the drives are long. It will be much more comfortable than driving yourself.

We created a complete Google Map of all the experiences on this list that you can drive yourself to. This will help you better understand how close things are to eachother so you can plan fun day trip routes.

Here is the San Jose day trip Google Map link

How to Get Around for San Jose Day Trips

In this list we tried to include a good mix of things you can do ion your own with a rental car and activities that have transportation included. As we mentioned above, we definitely suggest booking activities with transportation included if you are going far distances. 

If you will have a rental car, you can visit a lot of sights in the Cental Valley region on your own. We suggest this mainly for the flexibility.

Our favorite rental car company in Costa Rica is a local company called Adobe. They have given us a 10% discount plus other great perks to pass on to you.

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The 32 Best Day Trips from San Jose, Costa Rica

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Now let’s get to all the fun best San Jose Costa Rica day trips!

1. Visit Poas Volcano National Park

poas volcano crater

Poas Volcano is an active volcano located in the hills above Alajuela. The Poás Volcano National Park houses one of Costa Rica’s most active and accessible volcanoes.

Its crater, with a bubbling blue sulfuric lake, is one of the largest and most impressive in the world.

Check out our guide to Poas Volcano for more info

Best Time to Visit: Early mornings during the dry season, from December to April. This will give you the best chance of having a clear view.

Things to Know: The park sometimes closes on short notice due to volcanic activity. You will need to pre-book your Poas Volcano National Park tickets. You can do that here

What to Expect: There are two main craters. The larger, active one frequently emits gases, while the other is a serene, cold-water lake. You can only visit for a limited time during your allotted ticket. This is because it is an active volcano and it is not safe to stay for too long while breathing in the gasses.

Safety Tips: Follow park guidelines, stay on designated paths, and be prepared for sudden changes in weather. You will need to back your vehicle into your parking space. This is so the area can be evacuated quickly if needed. 

Find Poas Volcano on the Google Maps link

🌋 Visit Poas Volcano with Transportation 🌋

2. Visit Irazu Volcano National Park

The 32 Best Day Trips from San Jose, Costa Rica

Irazu Volcano is the tallest volcano in Costa Rica, standing at over 11,000 feet. Typically, the cloud line is actually below the crater. It’s a pretty cool place to visit!

Check out our guide to Irazu Volcano for more info

Best Time to Visit: Early mornings, December to April for the clearest views. 

Location: The volcano is located in the hills above the city of Cartago. It’s a little over an hour’s drive from San Jose.

The 32 Best Day Trips from San Jose, Costa Rica

Facilities Available: Visitor center, restrooms, and parking.

Safety Tips: Adhere to all park rules and stay on designated paths. Also, take it slow. Keep in mind that you are at a very high altitude. I always feel a little lightheaded up here. It may just be in my head, but I always buy some Gatorade before coming up here and I think it helps. 

Booking Information: Entry tickets can be bought on-site.

If you do not have a rental car and need a day tour with transportation we suggest a combo tour that includes Irazu Volcano, Lankster Botanical Gardens, and a visit to Orosi Valley.

3. Take a Coffee Farm Tour

hacienda alsakia coffee tour

There are several coffee farms that you can visit and tour in the Central Valley.

Here are our three favorite ones:

Hacienda Alsacia

This farm is the first and only coffee farm owned by Starbucks. Hacienda Alsacia serves as both a working coffee farm and a global agronomy research center.

The tour here begins with a walk through the coffee nursery and continues through the coffee fields. Along the way, you can learn about the entire coffee process, from seedling to the brewed cup.

Check out our guide to Hacienda Alsacia for more info

The tour concludes with a coffee-tasting session at the farm’s Starbucks coffee shop, where you can enjoy a freshly brewed cup of Hacienda Alsacia coffee.

Our Opinion: I really want to not like this place because I much rather support small local coffee farms rather than Starbucks. However, I have to admit, this place is awesome!

Even if you decide not to take a coffee farm tour, I still suggest stopping here and getting a drink or snack at their open-air coffee shop with a waterfall view. 

Location: Alajuela, on the slopes of the Poás Volcano.

Book Your Hacienda Alsacia Tour Here

Doka Estate Coffee Tour

Doka Estate is one of the oldest coffee plantations in Costa Rica.

The coffee tour here offers a comprehensive overview of the coffee production process from seedling to final roasted bean.You’ll also get the chance to explore the historic main building, where some of the original machinery is still in use.

The tour concludes with a coffee tasting session where visitors can sample and appreciate the various roasts that the estate produces.

Aside from coffee, the estate also has butterfly and tropical flower gardens for visitors to explore.

Our Opinion: I really like the tour of Doka coffee plantation. It’s super detailed and you get the chance to really see the production in process, unlike some of the other coffee farm tours in Costa Rica. 

Location: Alajuela

Book Your Doka Estate Tour with Transportation from San Jose

Café Britt Coffee Tour

Café Britt is one of the most renowned coffee producers in Costa Rica. The Café Britt Coffee Tour is theatrical and interactive, with professional actors playing characters who teach visitors about Costa Rican coffee culture and history.

Our Opinion: We have done this tour many times. It is very much geared towards tourists rather than giving an overall genuine experience.

However, if you have kids I think this tour is a great option. They will likely stay engaged and interested throughout the whole tour.

Plus, this tour includes all the coffee you could ever want to drink and plenty of chocolate samples as well. 

Cafe Britt is typically considered the best coffee in Costa Rica. And, I can’t say I necessarily agree with that.

However, they are definitely the most popular coffee brand to buy. If you visit here, stop in their souvenir shop to buy a few bags to bring home for family and friends.

Location: Heredia

Take a Britt Coffee Tour with Transportation

4. Visit La Paz Waterfall

la paz waterfall

La Paz is one of Costa Rica’s most iconic waterfalls. There are two ways to visit this waterfall. So, let’s go through each option.

1. You can visit the base of the waterfall for free. Just pull your rental car off to the side of the road and you can walk to the fall. Just be careful, it can be slippery. I marked this on the San Jose day trip map for you.

2. You can pay to visit La Paz Waterfall Gardens Nature Park. This park has multiple platforms with waterfall views, well-maintained trails, a wildlife refuge for native Costa Rican animals, a section on Costa Rican culture, and more!

Check out our guide to La Paz Waterfall for more info

​The La Paz Waterfall Garden Nature Park is a good option if you have children. We like it for really getting a taste of Costa Rica in a curated environment. 

However, a lot of people have mixed feelings about La Paz because some of the wildlife is kept in small cages. The park argues that this is an animal sanctuary and the wildlife can not be released due to injury or having already been domesticated.

I’ll leave it up to you to decide how you feel about it. 

Pro Tip: There is also a restaurant that serves basic good Costa Rican food called Mirador Cinchona thart offers really nice views of the waterfall. I marked it on the Google Map.

Check Availabilty and Rates for a Full Day Trip to La Paz with Transportation

5. Take a Day Trip to the Beach

If you have a rental car you can always take a day trip to the beach on the Pacific Coast. The closest beach (and one of the most beautiful beaches in the country in our opinion) is called Playa Blanca. 

Playa Blanca is a white sand beach dotted with palm trees. Usually you can see a lot of macaws here in the trees. 

It will take about 1.5 hours to drive here from San Jose. We suggest getting here early because Costa Ricans love this beach and the parking area is somewhat small. 

You can find out all the details of visiting Playa Blanca here.

We suggest combining this with a visit to Carara National Park and to see the crocodiles on Rio Tarcoles

6. Go Zip Lining

⭐️ RATING: 5/5 Stars on Viator | ⏳ TOUR LENGTH:  3 hours | ✅ Book it!

Zip lining is one of the most popular outdoor activities in Costa Rica!

On this canopy tour adventure, you will get the chance to unleash your inner explorer. It’s a three-in-one experience that includes zip lining, rappelling, and hiking.

We like this tour because it is definitely one of the very best zip line experiences that isn’t too far from the city.

Getting There: Carpintera Hills is conveniently located near San Jose. Unfortunately, transportation is not included so you will need to drive yourself to the start location. We have marked it on the San Jose day trip map for you.

Arrange Your Thrilling Zip Lining Adventure

7. Visit Braulio Carrillo National Park

The 32 Best Day Trips from San Jose, Costa Rica

Braulio Carrillo is a vast national park with diverse ecosystems, ranging from rainforests to cloud forests.

This national park is not very popular. Mostly because it’s in a somewhat weird location and there are not a whole lot of trails.

However, if you want to get out of the city for the day and have a moody cloud forest hiking experience filled with natural beauty, this is a good option.

Also, if you are driving to the Caribbean coast this is a good place to stop for a couple of hours along the way.

Check out our guide to Braulio Carrillo for more info

Alternatively, you can visit the national park as a day trip with Rainforest Adventures. This is a 6 in 1 tour which means you’ll get to enjoy 6 fun activities in one fun filled day.

You’ll get the chance to:

Take an aerial tram ride above the jungle, go zip lining, visit a orchid and butterfly garden, check out the terrariums filled with amphibians and reptiles, walk on hanging bridges, and take a nature hike with an experienced guide.

We suggest this tour because it includes transportation from San Jose and is so fun!

Arrange a Day Trip with Zip Lining to Braulio Carillo

8. Visit the Valley Village of Orosi

orosi costa rica

The village of Orosi offers a blend of history, nature, and a glimpse into the Tico lifestyle.

We suggest spending a few hours exploring this area. You can easily combine it with a visit to Irazu Volcano, downtown Cartago, Lankster Gardens, or Tapanti National Park. 

We suggest parking your rental car in the downtown area and checking out the oldest church still in use in Costa Rica (built in 1743). This church is called Iglesia Colonial de Orosi. It is almost always open to the public and free to explore.

You can also walk across a suspension bridge over the river in this small town as well. It is located very close to the church, so I suggest leaving your car and just walking to the bridge.

Just note, I just read some reports of people being robbed on this bridge after dark, so definitely go during the day. 

I marked the church and bridge on the San Jose day trips map so you can easily find them. The bridge is called Puente Hamaca de La Alegria on Google Maps.

9. Buy Some Fresh Cheese or Strawberries


Embrace the Costa Rican food culture by indulging in fresh, locally produced cheese and strawberries!

The best places to buy strawberries and fresh cheese are in the hills above the city of Alajuela. It is not unusual to see someone with a stand set up on the side of the road selling strawberries or cheese. 

The cheese is called Palmito. It comes in a ball and is kind of similar to string cheese (but way better). The taste is somewhat light and salty. You can eat it by just cutting slices, but I suggest peeling it like you would with string cheese. 

10. Take a Tortuga Island Full Day Tour

⭐️ RATING: 4.5/5 Stars on Viator | ⏳ TOUR LENGTH:  12 to 18 hours | ✅ Book it!

Tortuga Island is a remote white sand Pacific Coast island that is uninhabited. The waters around here are great for snorkeling and the island itself has a hiking trail, kayaks for rent, beach chairs, and more.

As part of a day tour here from San Jose you will be picked up from your San Jose area hotel in the morning by a van and transferred to Puntarenas. In Puntarenas, you will board a comfortable boat that will take you towards Isla Tortuga. 

Near Isla Tortuga you will have 45 minutes to snorkel with provided equipment. After snorkeling you will continue to the island where you will have five hours to enjoy the tropical vibes. You will also be served lunch. 

At the end of the experience you will enjoy a boat ride back to the main land. You will then be transferred back to your hotel in San Jose. 

It’s a really fun day trip and a unique experience!

🥥 Check Rates and Availabilty for Tortuga Island Tour 🌴

11. Take a Day Trip to Tortuguero National Park on the Caribbean Coast

⭐️ RATING: 5/5 Stars on Viator | ⏳ TOUR LENGTH:  12 hours 30 minutes | ✅ Book it!

Do you want to see sea turtles? On this day tour you might get the chance to!

You will spend the day navigating through serene canals, witnessing diverse wildlife in their natural habitats. You might possibly get the chance see olive ridley or leatherback turtles nesting on the beaches and a green sea turtle in the canals.

Tour Itinerary:

  • As you leave San José, admire coffee farms before ascending into the mountains of Braulio Carrillo National Park. Here, thick cloud forests blanket steep slopes, and waterfalls cascade in the distance.
  • Transition from the bus to a boat and head into the heart of Tortuguero National Park’s jungle. I think it always feels a bit like you are entering Jurrasic Park.
  • Refuel with a delicious buffet lunch of local flavors.
  • Post-lunch, you’ll have the chance to stroll through the car free Tortuguero Village
  • The journey back to San José includes a restful stop, with an expected arrival time of around 6:30 p.m.


  • Meals: Breakfast and Lunch
  • Transport: Air-conditioned vehicle ensuring comfortable travel, with pickup and drop-off services.
  • Park Fees: Entry charges to the national park are covered.

🐢 Check Rates and Availability for Tortuguero Day Trip 🛶

12. Hike at Barva Volcano


Nestled within the sprawling Braulio Carrillo National Park, Barva Volcano is a dormant volcano.

It is not a popular destination and the road to get here is a bit rough.

However, we think that this is part of the appeal. You’ll hardly see anyone else here as you hike. It’s way less crowded than most other Costa Rican national parks

We marked Barva Volcano on the day trips map so you can easily find it.

Best Time to Visit: During the dry season, from December to April.

What to Wear: Hiking boots, rain jacket, and layers as it can get chilly at higher altitudes.

Expect: Lush forests, three crater lakes, and rich biodiversity.

13. Visit Manuel Antonio National Park

manuel antonio national park

⭐️ RATING: 5/5 Stars on Viator | ⏳ TOUR LENGTH:  12 hours | ✅ Book it!

Manuel Antonio National Park is the most popular national park in the country, and for good reason! With its pristine beaches and dense rainforests, is undoubtedly one of Costa Rica’s crown jewels. 

This guided tour from San Jose is perfect for nature lovers looking to experience the park’s beauty while working with a limited schedule. 

It includes multiple stops at places like fruit stands, the Rio Tarcoles bridge to see crocodiles, the Tarcoles beach, the viewpoint of Jaco beach, and of course plenty of time at Manuel Antonio National Park.

At the national park you’ll embark on an hour-long guided hike and hopefully see TONS of wildlife.

You might see howler monkeys, white-faced monkeys, sloths, toucans, agoutis, tropical birds, and more in their natural habitat! We always see new animals when we visit.

After your hike, you can unwind on the Manuel Antonio beaches and then eat a delicious Costa Rica lunch before heading back to your hotel.

What’s Included:

  • Round-trip transportation in a comfortable, air-conditioned vehicle.
  • Hotel pickup and drop-off from most San Jose hotels.
  • Entrance fee to Manuel Antonio National Park.
  • Breakfast & Lunch

🐒 Check Rates and Availability for Manual Antonio Day Trip 🦥

14. Hike at Prusia Forest

The Prusia Forest (sometimes spelled “Prussia”) is part of the Irazú Volcano National Park. It’s situated on the slopes of the Irazú Volcano and offers an alternative experience to the volcano’s primary crater viewpoint. 

A few things to note:

  • The forest features several trails, ranging from shorter, easier walks to longer, more challenging hikes.
  • I’ll warn you, these trails are intense! You are at a super high elevation here so please take it easy. 
  • The main attraction (in our opinion) is the tall coniferous tree forest (pictured above). 
  • On clear days, from certain viewpoints, you can even catch a glimpse of both the Pacific and Caribbean coasts.
  • It’s often cooler in the Prusia Forest than in San José due to its altitude, so it’s a good idea to bring layers.

What to Do After

prusia costa rica

This is kind of a weird recommendation, but on your way in and out of the park you will pass an abandoned sanatorium. You can walk through all the buildings, and it’s just kind of interesting and unique. 

It costs a few dollars to enter. We like to bring a picnic lunch and eat here after a visit to Prusia forest.

I marked it on the Things to Do map.

15. Visit the Bright Blue Rio Celeste Waterfall

⭐️ RATING: 4.5/5 Stars on Viator | ⏳ TOUR LENGTH:  8 hours or more | ✅ Book it!

Escape the city and dive into nature’s embrace with a day trip to the mesmerizing Rio Celeste, located in the Tenorio Volcano National Park!

Rio Celeste is a bright blue river and waterfall that almost looks fake. I assure you, the water really is as blue as that photo above.

Note: This is an activity we do not suggest doing as a day trip on your own. The drive is really long from San Jose. So, the best way to visit is on a day tour with transportation or spend a few nights up near Rio Celeste.

The tour we recommend consists of:

  • Rio Celeste Waterfall: Hike through the national park with a guide
  • Suspended Bridge: Offers a unique vantage point over the rainforest canopy.
  • Hot Springs: Natural pools to unwind and soak in after your hike.


  • Meals: Breakfast and Lunch
  • Beverages: Bottled water, coffee, and tea.
  • Transport: Air-conditioned vehicle with hotel pickup and drop-off.

Good to Know:

  • The park’s trail is considered easy, but can be slippery if it rains.
  • The Rio Celeste’s blue hue is due to a chemical reaction between volcanic minerals.
  • We only suggest this tour during the dry season. During the rainy season the water can often turn brown, so it really isn’t very exciting. 

Check Rates and Availability for Rio Celeste Tour

16. Visit Rescate Wildlife Center

This wildlife rescue center is dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of local wildlife. 

Visitors can witness a diverse range of animals, from colorful birds to playful monkeys, many of whom are rehabilitated and reintroduced into the wild. 

A visit to Rescate Animal Center not only offers an insightful experience into the country’s native species but also supports the center’s conservation efforts.

We like this activity for families with young kids who want to see a lot of wildlife in a condensed area with easy walking paths. 

You do not need to pre-book tickets. Just drive here, pay the entrance fee, and enjoy!

We marked it on the San Jose map.

17. Take a Full Day Trip to Arenal Volcano

arenal volcano view sunny day

⭐️ RATING: 5/5 Stars on Viator | ⏳ TOUR LENGTH:  14 hours | ✅ Book it!

Discover Costa Rica’s natural wonders all in one day! From the majestic Arenal Volcano to the soothing thermal waters of Paradise Hot Springs. This guided tour from San Jose to La Fortuna promises a mix of thrill, relaxation, and cultural insights.

This tour is actually one of the most booked tours in all of Costa Rica. It’s really good!

What’s Included:

  • Comfortable transport in an air-conditioned vehicle.
  • Hotel pickup and drop-off from most San Jose area hotels.
  • Professional bilingual guide to enhance your experience.
  • Meals: Lunch, Dinner, Coffee or Tea with local snacks.
  • All entrance fees to attractions.


  • Witness the grandeur of the Arenal Volcano and soak in the Paradise Hot Springs.
  • Discover the allure of La Paz Waterfall and the verdant rainforest.
  • Dive deep into Costa Rican culture and history.
  • Enjoy thrilling activities like zip-lining and rappelling with view of arenal Volcano National Park.

Check Rates and Availability for Arenal Volcano Day Trip

18. Check Out Catarata del Toro and the Blue Falls

Catarata del Toro and the Blue Falls are located above Alajuela on the way towards La Fortuna. You could combine a visit here with a trip to Poas Volcano. Just note, it is a bit of a drive.

Both places are owned by the same person. The hike to Catarata del Toro is somewhat strenuous and involves a lot of steps, but the view is worth it.

The owner didn’t even know the blue falls existed until about 8 years ago. He told us that the jungle was so dense on the property that he had never really explored it too deeply. He then hired a man with a drone to get. abetter overview of the property.

The man came back and basically said “You’re sitting on a goldmine of a bright blue river and waterfall.”

The owner then started building trails here.

I marked both spots on the Google Map.

19. Visit the Town of Sarchi

The 32 Best Day Trips from San Jose, Costa Rica

Ever heard of the colorful, hand-painted oxcarts in Costa Rica? That’s the town of Sarchí’s specialty! 

This cozy town is located north west of Alajuela. It is a hotspot for unique handmade crafts. As you wander around the downtown area you’ll spot loads of cute souvenir shops selling wooden goods.

Definitely don’t forget to snap a pic with the world’s largest oxcart in the town square! It’s pretty cool. 

Also, there is a nice church in the center of town that is worth checking out if you get the chance.

Typically you don’t need a full day here, but it is a nice spot to stop for a few hours and get some culture.

20. Explore Downtown Cartago

Cartago is not the nicest city in the world, but if you go to Irazu Volcano from San Jose you will need to drive through the downtown area. So, we suggest stopping here to see a few different things.

1. Ruinas de Cartago: This is an unfinished church that was destroyed by an earthquake. It is now a city park. I love the look of this place.

2. Basílica de Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles: This is arguably the most well known church in Costa Rica. This church honors the Virgin of Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles, discovered by a peasant girl.

Legend says the statue mysteriously returned to its original location multiple times, prompting the church’s final location.

Every year, up to 2.5 million pilgrims, many from San José, visit the basilica on August 2nd, some even crawling on their hands and knees.

The church is usually open to the public and you can usually go in for free.

21. Take a Cacao Tour at Sibö Chocolate 

The best place we have found to take a cacao and chocolate tour near San Jose is at Sibö Chocolate in Heredia. 

Sibö Chocolate is a boutique chocolate maker known for producing some of the finest chocolates in Costa Rica. 

Their tour includes:

– A tasting tray with bonbons and chocolate tasting squares 

– samples of both classic and indigenous hot chocolates

– A guided tasting experience with their chocolatier

– Info on Central American chocolate history

– coffee and cookies at the end of the tasting experience

They also have a really nice restaurant for lunch on the property.

You can check out their website here to get in contact with them about booking a tour. 

Just note that they have two locations. The spot with the tour is in Heredia. I marked it on the map.

22. Take a Full Day Tour to Monteverde

monteverde hanging bridge

⭐️ RATING: 5/5 Stars on Viator | ⏳ TOUR LENGTH:  13 hours | ✅ Book it!

Discover the enchanting cloud forests of Monteverde in this day-long expedition from San Jose.

We suggest taking a trip to Monteverde with transportation because it will take a long time for you to drive for just a day trip.

Alternatively, you can visit Monteverde on your own, but we suggest at least 2 nights here if you do that. 

What’s Included:

  • Transport in a comfortable, air-conditioned vehicle.
  • Pickup and drop-off from most San Jose hotels.
  • A knowledgeable bilingual guide to enrich your journey.
  • A hearty lunch.
  • All entrance fees for activities and stops.


  • Traverse the landscapes of Monteverde’s cloud forests.
  • Observe wildlife in its natural surroundings.
  • Wander through the treetops on Selvatura’s hanging bridges.
  • Learn about the biodiversity of the region.

Check Rates and Availability for Monteverde Day Tour

23. Go White Water Rafting

From the capital city of San Jose there are plenty of white water rafting tours. Most of these tours include hotel pickup, lunch, and an action-packed day.

For less experienced rafters the Sarapiqui River is always a great option. This is a great place to see wildlife.

For more experienced white water rafters the Pacuare River is definitely where you want to be. This river is arguably one of the best whitewater rafting places in the world.

For a Class II – III Experience we suggest:

White Water Rafting Sarapiqui River

⭐️ RATING: 4.5/5 Stars on Viator | ⏳ TOUR LENGTH:  10 hours | ✅ Book it!

On this tour, you will dive into an exhilarating white-water rafting experience down the Sarapiquí River, starting from San Jose.

You will paddle about 10-mile (16-kilometer). Along the way, the stunning jungle vistas and diverse wildlife will captivate you.

After about 2 ½ hours of heart-pounding action, you’ll be treated to a delicious traditional meal by the riverside.

For a Class III – IV Experience we suggest:

White Water Rafting Pacuare River

⭐️ RATING: 5/5 Stars on Viator | ⏳ TOUR LENGTH:  9 hours | ✅ Book it!

On this tour, you will embark on a thrilling white-water rafting journey down the Pacuare River.

You will navigate through 38 pulsating Class III-IV rapids.

While you tackle the challenging rapids, don’t forget to keep an eye out for the diverse wildlife.

After conquering the waters, a hearty lunch awaits to wrap up your unforgettable day before you are chauffeured back to your hotel.

24. Take an ATV River, Beach, Jungle Adventure and Crocodile Adventure

⭐️ RATING: 4.5/5 Stars on Viator | ⏳ TOUR LENGTH:  6 hours | ✅ Book it!

Discover Costa Rica on this 6-hour tour that combines adrenaline and nature.

Roar through the dense tropical rainforest terrains on an ATV, and then unwind on a serene beach. Further the adventure with a visit to the Tarcoles River, a renowned haven for crocodiles.


  • Refreshments: Light snacks and bottled water to keep you energized.
  • Transport: Air-conditioned vehicle bearing a yellow tourism sign, with a seating capacity for 12 or more guests.
  • Equipment: Safety gear and ATV, ensuring a safe adventure.
  • Guidance: Instruction and oversight to make sure you have a fun and safe experience.

Check Rates and Availability for ATV River Adventure

25. Walk Around the Jardín Else Kientzler

This garden, also known as Else Kientzler Botanical Garden is run a by a company that exports tropical flowers.

Here you will have the chance to walk around and explore all the tropical plants. The walking trails are flat, so it is a good activity for almost all ages.

If possible, we suggest visiting on a weekday morning for the most peaceful experience. 

This garden is located in Sarchi. We suggest combining it without a visit to the downtown area of the town. 

26. Visit a Trucha

People fishing around small lake in Alajuela, Costa Rica

Visiting a trucha is not really a tourist activity, which is precisely why we suggest it.

A trucha is basically a small lake stocked with fish. When you visit you will be given a line with some bate on the end. You will then stand at the lake until you catch your fish.

You can then go to the restaurant on the property and they will cook up your fish for you with some side dishes such as rice, beans, and salad. Usually it is not a super high quality meal, but it is fairly priced and fun!

It is a uniquely Costa Rican experience that we love doing! We always take friends and family who are visiting to truchas for lunch. 

We marked the trucha that is pictured above on the Costa Rica day trip map for you. We like this spot because you can easily stop here when visiting Poas Volcano, a coffee farm, and La Paz Waterfall.

27. Hike at Grecia Forest Reserve – Children’s Forest

This reserve is home to three main hiking trails of varying length and degrees of difficulty. Our favorite trail (but also the most strenuous one) goes to an impressive waterfall view point.  You might also see wildlife here from fox to armadillo to sloths. 

We like this place because it is not too popular with tourists. If you come on a weekday it should be decently empty. 

There is an admission fee, but it is only about $5 per person. 

28. Walk Under a Waterfall at Los Chorros Municipal Recreative Park

This park includes multiple waterfalls that you can hike to and swim under. The hike here is a bit intense. You will have to hike downhill and then back up again at the end of your experience. 

Also, you can see the waterfalls from the trails, but if you would like to get to them you will have to walk through the water. We suggest stable water shoes because it is very rocky and slippery. 

If you visit here you will have to pay a few dollars for parking. A guard will be standing at the entrance collecting money.

This is technically a park run by the municipality, but they don’t maintain it well (or at least they didn’t in the past). So often the person collecting money for parking is just a random local person. 

Google says that the park is temporarily closed, but I don’t think this is accurate. I marked it on the map.

29. Visit Hacienda y Beneficio La Chimba

Hacienda y Beneficio La Chimba is located in Santa Ana, just south west of San Jose. This is a private property that has a high ropes course, coffee tour, and walking trails. The main draw here is definitely the walking trails. 

We first visited after seeing a bunch of pictures on Instagram of people standing at a view point on what looked like an arm and hand made out of wood. We discovered that these picture were taken at Hacienda y Beneficio La Chimba, so we had to check it out. 

The walking trail is long (5.5 miles) and somewhat strenuous in spots. We only recommend it for people who are in very good physical condition. 

You can find out more about visiting on the Hacienda y Beneficio La Chimba website

30. Visit Parque Nacional Tapantí

tapanti national park

Tapanti National Park is somewhat remote and not heavily visited. The trails are rugged and you can potentially see a lot of wildlife here.

It is possible to hire a guide at the national park, but you can also just hike on your own. 

Once you enter the park we suggest driving to the various trail heads. You can also park at the central lot, but you will save yourself a lot of walking by driving to each trail head.

There are three trail options and two are loops. 

For more info, check out the national park website

31. Visit Turrialba Volcano


Turrialba Volcano is one of the most active volcanoes in Costa Rica. It is located near Cartago and Orosi.

It is not always possible to visit here (because of the whole active volcano thing) but there are sometimes tours. We suggest checking out the official national park website for more info.

Alternatively, you can admire the volcano from afar. We took the picture above from the top of Irazu Volcano at a time when Turrialba was especially active. Check out all that smoke spewing out!

32. Visit Jardín Botánico Lankester

Situated near donwtoan Cartago is this really nice botanical garden. The garden is a research center affiliated with the University of Costa Rica. Here you can see thousands of orchid species, tropical plants, and picturesque walking trails. We love the Japanese garden section. It is a peaceful place to relax. 

  • Best Time to Visit: February to April when many orchids are in bloom.
  • Local Tips: Visit during weekday mornings for fewer crowds.

And that is the entire list of 32 things to do as day trips from San Jose. I’m sure you might have a few questions, so we tried to answer them all below.

Also, here is the map link one last time.

Are There Any Good Full Day Day Trip Plans from San Jose?

Of course! Because there are so many amazing things to do in the areas surrounding San Jose we tried to combine them into some fun full days for you. 


If you head towards Alajuela we suggest spending a full day going to Poas Volcano, visiting a coffee farm, stopping at La Paz Waterfall, buying fresh strawberries and cheese, and getting lunch at a trucha.

If you would like to add a bit of adventure in your day you can also stop at Los Churros Park. 

If you will not have a rental car, a combo tour is a great way to experience some of the most popular day trips in one action packed experience. Here is a good one for Alajuela from San Jose. 

Book a Combo Tour in Alajuela (Poas Volcano, La Paz Waterfall, Coffee Tour)

Cartago / Orosi

If heading towards Cartago/ Orosi we suggest visiting Irazu Volcano, Prusia Forest, downtown Orosi, and downtown Cartago to go to; Basilica of Our Lady of the Angels, the Ruins of Cartago, and Jardín Botánico Lankester.

Book a Combo Tour to Cartago (Irazu Volcano and Orosi Valley)

Sarchi/ Grecia

If you head towards the Sarchi/ Grecia area you can explore downtown Sarchi, visit Jardín Else Kientzler, and hike at Los Chorros waterfall.

Should You Make San Jose Your Base for a Trip to Costa Rica? 

We don’t think you should make San Jose your main base for a trip to Costa Rica. 

It is an OK spot to spend a few nights after you land in Costa Rica or before you fly out again at the end of your trip, but this country has so many beautiful places to see that we don’t suggest limiting yourself to just this area.

Tip: Check out our Destination Guides for info on all the best places to visit throughout the country.

See, San Jose is the largest city in the country. We think that the very best things to do in Costa Rica are to enjoy the beaches and lush rainforests. 

Check out our guide to the 21 Best Hotels in San Jose

By staying in San Jose and only taking day trips you just won’t get the full experience of this Central America paradise.

What Are Some Fun Things to Do in San Jose?

If you are looking for things to do in the capital city of San Jose, we’ve got your covered! The downtown area has plenty of fun things to explore from the National Theater and National Museum, to the central market.

Check out our guide to 29 things to do in San Jose for info on all the main attractions and plenty of lesser-known places as well in this great city. 

Conclusion: Best San Jose Costa Rica Day Trips

In conclusion, there are so many fun things to do as day trips from San Jose Costa Rica within a few hour drive. 

We have been living in the city since 2016 and we still haven’t run out of great day trip ideas. Every weekend we try to get out of the city and explore all the great things to do nearby.

If you have any questions about day trips from San Jose, don’t hesitate to leave them in the comment section below. We are always happy to help you out!

You Might Also Like:

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.

🏄🏽 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?

Of course! I suggest joining our Facebook group for specific questions and head to our Start Here Page to get started planning.

✈️ 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?

We highly suggest for hotel bookings and typically use VRBO for Costa Rica vacation rentals.

🗣️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.

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  1. I’ve never visited Costa Rica but MAN those water falls look amazing. This’ll be great for a longer trip to San Jose because I really do enjoy taking day trips. Thanks for sharing!

  2. i had no idea how many day trips could be done from CR! This post is amazing, thanks for sharing. I am thinking about going in April and now I have a lot more to add to my itinerary!

  3. Hi Sarah,

    The dog thing looks like fun! We have been to CR 2 times. Loving it more each time. Our fave beach in by Manual Antonio – a distance from San Jose – but loved spending a few weeks in Atenas, a hop skip and jump from SJ.

    Thanks for sharing 🙂


    1. Hi Ryan,
      Thanks for commenting. I agree, the Manuel Antonio area is amazing, but lately, it is wayyyy too crowded!
      Let me know if you head back here someday 🙂