Day 1 – Arrive in San Jose
Welcome to Costa Rica! Your flight is over, and now all that’s left is for you to pick up your rental car and head to Manuel Antonio. The drive will take you around three hours depending on traffic.
There’s no better way to get acclimated to a new environment (and time zone) than by jumping straight into daily life. Once you arrive at your hotel, drop off your belongings and head into Manuel Antonio National Park. Stretch your legs with a 30-minute hike to Playa Espadilla Sur or Playa Manuel Antonio, keeping your eyes peeled for any of the nearly 300 species of birds and mammals. If you arrive in Manuel Antonio after the park closes at 4:30pm, you can still watch the brilliant sunset from Playa Espadilla Norte. Keep in mind that the park is closed on Mondays.
It’s your first full day in Costa Rica! Though you could spend your entire visit exploring the nearby environs on foot or by shuttle, having a rental car makes it easy for you to be spontaneous and travel where the spirit of adventure takes you.
Start your morning with a nature tour
You’ve come all the way to Costa Rica—you deserve to experience it as completely as you can. Head out on a morning tour of Manuel Antonio National Park. Even if you did some exploring on your own yesterday, your professional tour guide will give you a whole new perspective on the flora and fauna of the area. Be on the lookout for such exotic species as white-faced howler monkeys and the endearing two-toed sloth.
A mere 15-minute drive from Manuel Antonio, Quepos is known as the Gateway to Manuel Antonio National Park. Its pedestrian-friendly streets offer a variety of restaurants, bars, and souvenir shops. If you’re visiting on a Friday or Saturday, be sure to check out the Quepos Farmers’ Market. Common wares include exotic produce, artisanal cheeses, homemade bread and ice cream, and handmade crafts.
Visit Kids Saving the Rainforest
Kids Saving the Rainforest is a rescue center and wildlife sanctuary situated just four miles outside of main Quepos. The organization was started in 1999 by two nine-year-old girls and focuses on rescuing and rehabilitating injured animals. The sanctuary, which houses animals that cannot be released back into the wild, is open to visitors.
Hop onboard your eco-friendly boat for a half-day cruise through the Damas Island Estuary. Your naturalist guide will introduce you to the tropical plant and animal species unique to the area.
Add a little spice to your day
Rainforest Spices operates a sustainable working farm about 10 miles outside of Quepos. Its main crops are vanilla and cinnamon, but the farm also cultivates turmeric, black pepper, cocoa, and allspice. Embark on a tour of the farm to learn about how the spices are grown and harvested, then enjoy a spice tasting. There’s even an onsite pastry chef who bakes up delectable aromatic treats for purchase.
On your last full day in Costa Rica, take in as much of your tropical surroundings as you can.
Take a chocolate tour
If you’re looking to get the most use from your rental car and don’t mind a bit of a drive, La Iguana Chocolate in the mountains of Mastatal (2–2.5 hours away) is a great family-friendly experience. You’ll have a chance to tour the 10-acre property and even try your hand at grinding raw cacao and tempering chocolate! The road can be rough in places, but the drive is scenic and takes you past pineapple fields and traditional villages.
About an hour’s drive south of Quepos lies the multicultural village of Ojochal, populated by American and European expats. From here, you have access to a whole host of activities. Explore the sea caves of Playa Ventanas, bird-watch in the mangrove forests, or spend some time with the sea turtles that dot the nearby beaches from July through January. One of Ojochal’s main draws is its incredible culinary scene, which features high-quality local and international fare (and wine!) that’s more than worth the day trip.
Day 5 – Head home
Alas, your time in magical Costa Rica has come to an end. Pack your bags and climb into your rental car one last time for the return drive to (and flight home from) San Jose. Come back soon!
Want to make this four-night itinerary a reality? You can when you book our Costa Rican Beach Escape package!