We absolutely fell in love with Costa Rica! Despite not being a very big country, it offers so many amazing things to see and do, and the people are incredibly friendly. We were able to find a great deal on tickets, and after waiting six months, we finally got to visit. Our trip lasted for eight days, and we highly recommend renting a car and driving around the country to take it all in.
Keep in mind that renting a car can sometimes take a bit of time. For us, it took about two hours in the evening. We suggest downloading the Waze app instead of relying on Google Maps, as it proved to be more reliable.
While we didn’t spend much time in San Jose, we highly recommend heading straight to the national parks and exploring the country’s incredible nature. You won’t be disappointed!
Los Quetzales National Park
Los Quetzales National Park is a hidden gem located 2-3 hours from San Jose. Despite arriving late, we were grateful for using Waze as our Google Maps directed us to a lodge in the middle of nowhere. However, we still had to travel another mile to reach our lodge. This park is renowned for its Quetzal birds, and we highly recommend taking a morning tour to catch a glimpse of their beauty. We stayed at Miradore de Quetzales hotel, where we were given a thermophore for our beds, ensuring a comfortable night’s rest. As the park is situated in the mountains, make sure to bring warm clothes as the evenings and mornings can be chilly.
Although the tour requires an early wake-up call, it is worth it to witness the stunning birds. The tour lasts around 1-1.5 hours, followed by a delicious breakfast that includes traditional food like Gallo Pinto, a rice and beans dish. We chose to sit on the first floor of the hotel and watch the hummingbirds fluttering around the feeders
Next on our list was Tortuguero National Park. You can get there by boat from La Pavona. Before reach, check boats schedule. Last boat is around 4:30 and to island takes around 40min to 1 hr (depend of water level). Boat ticket is $3 (when is lot of water) and $10 (when is shallow). Don’t take big suitcases it will be difficult to put them to and from boat. Keep eyes open during ride because you can see crocodiles, caimans, monkeys, and birds.
Tortuguero National Park
Tortuguero is beautiful place and very humid. Our hotel Casa Marbella was about 10 min from port. You will like walking around cute small town. From Hotel we took night tour and saw some spiders, toads and frogs. We really recommend morning tour by kayak. We took whole day (total 3 tours) with Johnny (Johnny’s tours Tortugeuro). He is really good and we didn’t know how he can see all this animals. The guides are working together and helping if they see animals. They know each other very well.
Morning tour was amazing and we saw lot of birds (e.g. herons, anhinga, egret), caimans, and our favorite lizard – Jesus Christ lizard.
We did with him Jaguar trail in national park and saw sloths, yellow snake and toucans. During the season from June to October you can see turtles nesting on the beach and they have specials tours. This time many jaguars are coming to the beach. We were in February so no luck for turtles and jaguars.
And night tour was amazing and we walked 2hr and saw famous red-eye frogs and raccoon.
Arenal Volcano National Park
From Tortuguero we went to Arenal Volcano and on the way we saw advertisement Dave and Dave’s Nature Park. We just changed our road and went to check. They usually want reservation but we didn’t make and still could do it. Beautiful place with terrace when you can observe birds. They have feeders for hummingbirds.
After Park we went to our hotel Volcano Lodge Hotel and Thermal Experience. Very good hotel with view of Arenal Volcano and hot springs. Very popular are Tabacon thermal specially on instagram but we enjoyed ours with not too many people and close to room.
We didn’t do hike to Volcano but chose rappeling with Pure Trek near La Fortuna. It was very good adventures with rappel of waterfalls and zip line. Guides were awesome and very helpful. We took private tour and took around 2 hrs. You will get wet and lot of fun. One of our guide was singing… Despacito …
After canyoning we got delicious vegetarian lunch (included) and after we were so full 🙂 During eating we were watching our photos. One of guide is a photographer so after you have nice souvenir.
We recommend Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park on the way to Manuel Antonio National Park. We took self- guide and saw some birds. Really impressed to walk by bridges and there is nice view of volcano. You can book online but also on the spot no problem with tickets.
Manuel Antonio National Park
Our final destination in Costa Rica was Manuel Antonio National Park, and we were excited to see a lot of animals, especially sloths from our hotel room. On the way there, we stopped in Jaco and decided to take a tour the next day that included Karara National Park and Jungle Crocodile Safari. The tour was amazing, with so many different bird species (such as the Anhiga, white ibis, egret, heron, turkey vulture, and hawk) and sightings of river crocodiles. We highly recommend this tour!
If you enjoy the beach, Manuel Antonio is a good place to relax. However, it is a very popular spot, so be prepared for crowds. We also took a five-hour bird-watching tour with Oscar Herrera, where we saw around 50 different bird species, including a beautiful toucan feeding its mate. This tour is highly recommended for bird enthusiasts.
After bird watching tour we had still lot of time and we went to Uvita, nice park with beach. From air shape of beach looks like whale tale. If you have time you can do scuba, snorkel and whale watching there. We just visited and walk around and next went again to Los Quetzales National Park to see hummingbirds. Our flight was at 5 am so we just drove around.