Travel Guide

15 Best Day Trips From San José, Costa Rica

As the capital and largest metropolis in Costa Rica, San José is a wonderful place to spend your time within the nation. In half, as a result of there may be a lot to do within the metropolis, but in addition as a result of it’s close to the middle of Costa Rica which makes day journeys from San José a breeze.

Generally, day journeys are going to take a minimum of an hour’s commute due to the terrain in Costa Rica. But there’s an excessive amount of to see in Costa Rica to spend the entire journey in San José.

Depending on how lengthy you spend within the nation, you would do a number of day journeys in your trip. Going sizzling springs hopping, galavanting round Arenal Volcano, strolling by means of La Paz Waterfall Gardens, or seeing as many nationwide park spots as you may, there are tons of the way to take pleasure in your Costa Rican journey.

Many of the largest day journey sizzling spots from San José are simply an hour or two away whereas others would require an extended commute. Once you see the Costa Rican wilderness and tradition (to not point out the unbelievable meals) you’ll begin planning your subsequent journey across the nation.


1. Get in Touch with Nature at Manuel Antonio National Park

Mother monkey with baby in Manuel Antonio National Park
Simon Dannhauer / Shutterstock

Trekking from San José to Manuel Antonio National Park goes to take some time. It’ll take about three hours every option to get to the park, and even when it’s a very long time within the automotive, I extremely suggest it. There are plenty of nationwide parks in Costa Rica, however Manuel Antonio National Park is by far one of the best.

Not solely do you get miles and miles of trails by means of the plush rain forest at Manuel Antonio, however you additionally get enchanting white sand seaside entry to chill off in between path walks. In reality, there are two seashores within the park, so don’t overlook to convey your swim gear alongside. You’ll be bummed for those who overlook it, belief me.

With the assistance of a information, you’ll see all of the wildlife you would think about. From the tiniest bugs to sloths napping in a tree, Manuel Antonio National Park is a biodiverse paradise. It demonstrates why the biodiversity in Costa Rica is so vital to guard.

You could even spot a few of my favourite little floor dwellers – the coatimundi. Also known as a coati, these little fellows are lovable raccoon-like animals with lengthy noses and tails.

They’re plenty of enjoyable to observe due to how twitchy their noses are. You can discover coati throughout Costa Rica, particularly on roadsides as a result of they journey in teams and typically motorists feed them snacks. Here is your disclaimer to not feed wild animals as a result of it could encourage harmful habits.

When visiting the park, for those who select to not have a information, watch out on the Manuel Antonio entrance for faux tour guides. They could even appear like precise park rangers however they aren’t. You don’t have to purchase parking or tickets from them; they’re simply attempting to stress you into the sale. Just preserve going to the doorway and also you’ll be okay.

See Related: Most Stunning, Unique Costa Rica Animals

2. Feel the Serenity at La Paz Waterfall Gardens

La Paz Waterfall with visitors In the foreground
Kobby Dagan / Shutterstock

Beyond the gorgeous views of La Paz Waterfall, the encircling rainforest, the wildlife, and the butterfly gardens, La Paz Waterfall Gardens might be an all-day journey by itself. Getting to La Paz Waterfall Gardens takes about 75 minutes every approach from San José, so the commute is fairly affordable.

Once you’re there, you may have entry to their eating places and the whole premises. If you’re going to spend the entire day, I like to recommend splitting the day in half. Either happening to La Paz Waterfall first, having lunch, after which doing the gardens and wildlife areas or vice versa.

Unless you’re in excellent form, don’t do what we did and attempt to get by means of the La Paz Waterfall areas in an hour. There are over 600 stairs main guests to the totally different viewing areas on the property and attempting to hurry by means of them may make some vacationers sick.

Feel free to take your time. Stop in every space for somewhat relaxation to absorb the view after which keep it up. The most tough part by far is the ultimate stretch going again up the steps which have only a few resting factors.

If you’d slightly not simply dedicate a day journey to La Paz Waterfall Gardens, you may keep at their on-property lodge. The Peace Lodge is a beautiful resort property with a spa, room service, airport shuttles, and an out of doors pool.

Be positive to get some conventional Costa Rican breakfast when you’re right here, or a minimum of order the nationwide dish, casado, which is one among my favorites. Beyond the scrumptious meals, for those who keep there, you may spend some high quality time in La Paz Waterfall Gardens.

3. Relax or Adventure Around Jacó Beach

Jacó Beach at sunset
TrylMag / Shutterstock

The greatest problem with staying in San José is that it’s completely landlocked. In order to get to the white sand seashores of Jacó Beach, you’ll hit the highway for slightly below two hours. That could also be rather a lot for a chill seaside day, however there’s a lot to do within the space to fill a day apart from simply hanging on the sand.

Take a part of the day to go horseback using and see some waterfalls or take an ATV and ziplining tour. You can clearly simply pack a picnic and by no means depart your seaside spot, although you’d be ignoring every little thing else that makes Jacó Beach an iconic Costa Rican vacation spot.

Jacó Beach can also be an amazing place for first-time or newbie surfers to catch some waves. There are loads of professionals providing surf classes from the seaside.

The waters close to Jacó are light sufficient for newbies whereas nonetheless having sufficient swell to be place to surf. So it’s a great spot to offer it a attempt.

Not removed from the gorgeous seaside, you would take pleasure in a chocolate tour or create your personal model of a bar crawl. Jacó is a partying vacation spot so there isn’t a scarcity of beachside cocktails.

Watch the sundown from Clarita’s Beach Bar or take pleasure in some Thai meals at Jerah. Within strolling distance of the seaside, there are plenty of choices on the spectrum of food and drinks provides.

See Related: Most Beautiful Beaches within the World

4. Fall in Love at Tortuga Island

Tortuga Island in Costa Rica
Joan Vendrell / Shutterstock

Getting in tune with nature isn’t simply designated to the nationwide parks in Costa Rica. One of the nation’s most visited and beloved locations is Isla Tortuga, or Tortuga Island, and for good cause.

Between the drive and the boat to the island, it’s going to take you rather less than 4 hours to get to Tortuga from San José. But the idyllic island with its calm gulf waters will seize your coronary heart.

Named for the turtles that reside throughout Tortuga Island, guests can see dolphins, whales, and turtles whereas stress-free on the seaside. Go snorkeling or paddle boarding within the aqua waters, lounge beneath a palm tree, or go climbing across the island.

Wander by means of the Islas Negritos Biological Reserve for some biodiverse wildlife sightings. Part of the rationale that the realm is protected is that the land serves as an vital nesting space for marine birds that take refuge on Tortuga Island. There are wildlife within the reserve you gained’t see elsewhere in Costa Rica.

Unlike the opposite long-haul day journeys on this checklist, you, sadly, can’t keep in a single day on Tortuga Island. If you don’t need to make the journey from San José, you may keep in Puntarenas Province which is only a brief ferry journey away from Isla Tortuga.

Los Sueños Marriot Ocean and Golf Resort gives you some beachfront consolation whereas OPacifico Hotel Boutique will present related facilities with a extra mid-range value level. For price range vacationers, the Puerto Azul Hotel & Club Nautico and Hotel Cerro Lodge are financial decisions nonetheless surrounded by the plush nature of Costa Rica.

5. Get to Know Costa Rica in La Fortuna

Water Fall in La Fortuna
iacomino FRiMAGES / Shutterstock

When it involves going to La Fortuna, most guests know the realm for 2 issues: the Arenal Volcano and the new springs. While Arenal Volcano National Park is a large draw to the realm, La Fortuna doesn’t get sufficient credit score for being a vacation spot in itself in Costa Rica. In reality, many vacationers suppose the realm is simply known as Arenal due to the volcano.

About three hours every approach, La Fortuna can simply fill a time out of San José. For outdoorsy adventurers, you may take a look at the Arenal Volcano, varied sizzling springs, and waterfalls with a mix tour or see La Fortuna Waterfall, Arenal Volcano, and the hanging bridges for an additional day of exploration.

For those that need to get to know Costa Rica extra intimately, La Fortuna might be skilled in a different way. Take half in a rainforest chocolate tour to get to understand how cacao impacted the nation’s historical past. Take a cooking class to be taught some Costa Rican dishes earlier than having fun with the fruits of your labor or go to an natural farm with a farm-to-table cooking expertise.

Once evening falls, you may take pleasure in cocktails and stay music on the widespread Voodoo Bar or Lava Lounge which is often taking part in reggae music. It might be arduous to suit every little thing you need to expertise in La Fortuna right into a single-day journey, particularly if you wish to see Arenal Volcano and Lake Arenal or chill out within the many native sizzling springs.

If the prospect of La Fortuna, Costa Rica, feels like one thing you need to take pleasure in for greater than a day, think about staying at one of many many space lodges like my favourite the Arenal Springs Resort and Spa with its cozy mini cabins, the boutique Casa del Rio, or the funky and tremendous budget-friendly Selina.

See Related: Costa Rica Packing List: What to Pack for Your Trip

6. Explore Irazú Volcano and Orosi Valley

Irazú Volcano crater from above
milosk50 / Shutterstock

Irazú Volcano National Park is sort of the polar reverse of Arenal Volcano National Park. Because the Irazú Volcano was persistently energetic till the early Sixties, the realm round it isn’t as lush as its cousin the Arenal Volcano. It’s additionally the most important volcano in Costa Rica, so it packs a wallop when it’s energetic.

Even so, nature has a approach of accommodating itself so guests can search for the resident volcano junco and volcano hummingbirds.

A 90-minute drive will take you from the massive metropolis of San José to the virtually otherworldly Irazú Volcano. Many excursions are supplied to mix the volcano with different pure wonders within the space because it doesn’t take all day to see the now-deep blue water lagoon within the crater.

The close by Orosi Valley reintroduces guests to the exuberant plethora of vegetation they’ve come to know in Costa Rica. Immerse your self within the rejuvenating Hacienda Orosi Hot Springs after seeing the tempting lagoon at Irazú.

Or pay a go to to Costa Rica’s oldest nonetheless energetic church, Iglesia Colonial de Orosi, which dates again to 1743. The ruins of the nation’s oldest church are additionally on this space: the Ujarrás church from 1693.

Costa Rica’s second largest volcano is virtually neighbors with Irazú. The Turrialba Volcano continues to be presently energetic, so entry to the realm can rely upon how the volcano is behaving. You can go to each volcanos and the Guayabo Archeological Site in a single three-part tour to boost your appreciation for native historical past.

The Guayabo National Monument, discovered alongside the slope of the Turrialba, acknowledges the traditional city that when housed a number of thousand folks 3,000 years in the past. Guayabo, which interprets to “guava tree,” is particularly vital in Costa Rica as a result of it’s the largest pre-Columbian wreck ever found within the nation.

7. Go Rafting on the Pacuare River

Rafters on the Pacuare River
Pafnuti / Shutterstock

For brand-new and skilled rafters alike, the Pacuare River is a kind of locations you need to go to for a whitewater rafting journey. Considered the most effective rafting rivers on this planet, the Pacuare is rated a 3 to 4 on a scale of six.

Technically, there are scores for seven and eight however not for industrial whitewater rafting. For context, a Class III speedy is taken into account acceptable for rookies.

Even for those who’re nervous as a first-timer, whitewater rafting might be some of the exhilarating experiences of your life. My first time rafting was in Costa Rica and it stays one among my favourite recollections of all time.

As a non-sports, risk-averse traveler, I’m nonetheless shocked on the complete expertise. You’ll be astounded at how a lot enjoyable you and your group can have navigating the river. Plus your rafting guides are there to assist alongside the way in which, so there’s no have to concern.

It will take 90 minutes to get to Pacuare from San José, however a rafting journey to the most effective rivers wherever is price it. There is loads of time throughout a Pacuare rafting day to benefit from the surroundings. That’s one cause the Pacuare River is taken into account the most effective.

Surrounded by lush jungle, the river has many wildlife residents that rafters can spot whereas going downstream. Toucans, coatis, sloths, parrots, and different rainforest-dwelling critters will likely be round to greet you in your journey. Think of a rafting journey on the Pacuare as an adrenaline-filled wildlife tour.

See Related: Best Whitewater Rafting within the World

8. Get a Bird’s-Eye View with an Aerial Tram and Zipline

Rainforest tram without visitors in Costa Rica
Nick Fox / Shutterstock

Back in Jacó, 90 minutes from San José, a plethora of adventures exist exterior of seaside time. The metropolis is dwelling to a tour host known as Rainforest Adventures which provides a a lot totally different rainforest expertise than you’ve had thus far. Their Pacific Aerial Tram takes visitors up and away in a relaxed journey by means of the rainforest.

Aboard Rainforest Adventures’ tram, there may be loads of time to absorb the encircling greenery and discover the wildlife among the many bushes. Spotting the birds is a selected vacationer favourite since Costa Rica is among the greatest birding places on Earth. Over 900 species of birds reside within the nation.

For of us wanting that fowl’s-eye view with a facet of adrenaline, ziplines are additionally a well-liked exercise in Jacó. Rainforest Adventures even has a five-in-one expertise that features zip traces, the tram, climbing, their butterfly backyard, a excessive ropes course, and a mountaineering wall.

9. Marvel at Braulio Carrillo National Park

Hiker going through Braulio Carrillo National Park
Jakub Maculewicz / Shutterstock

As Costa Rica’s largest nationwide park, Braulio Carrillo is an absolute marvel to behold. Made up of each cloud forest (a high-altitude forest the place clouds hover among the many cover) and plush rainforest, the park provides guests one of the best of each ecological worlds.

Just half an hour exterior of San José, Braulio Carrillo is the simplest day journey of any from this checklist. With over 32 miles of climbing trails, there may be a lot to see in a day.

The rainforest wildlife right here consists of over 500 fowl species and 1,150 mammal species. You can spot every little thing from tapirs and ocelots to warblers and quetzals.

Aboard the aerial tram on the nationwide park, you’ll get a fair nearer take a look at a few of the critters and vegetation that may’t be seen from the forest ground. And identical to in Jacó, you may kick the expertise up a notch by ziplining by means of the forest too.

See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in Liberia, Costa Rica

10. Witness Turtle Nestings in Tortuguero National Park

Baby turtle at Tortuguero National Park
Kevin Wells Photography / Shutterstock

It shouldn’t be stunning that Tortuguero National Park whose title interprets to “place of turtles” is among the foremost turtle nesting websites on this planet. From July to October every year, the endangered inexperienced sea turtle, in addition to large leatherback, hawksbill, and loggerhead turtles lay their eggs within the sand. That’s why this park is such a significant piece of protected land.

Tour firms will take guests by means of the park on boats to see the varied wildlife from the rivers and canals. You may lease kayaks or canoes to undergo the park by yourself. The sorts of native wildlife you’ll see right here embrace turtles, crocodiles, monkeys, and lots of, many birds.

You may even take excursions at evening throughout turtle nesting season which is when turtles are most energetic. They nest in the dead of night to guard their eggs and newly hatched infants from predators.

It’s a harmful life for little turtles — just one in 1,000 will survive till maturity. Turtles nesting is an unbelievable wildlife feat so don’t let the chance to see it cross you by.

11. Hike Around Poás Volcano National Park

Poás Volcano crater in Costa Rica
Bas van den Heuvel / Shutterstock

Don’t embark on the practically two-hour drive from San José to Poás Volcano National Park considering you’ll spend the entire day seeing the volcano. Because the volcano continues to be energetic, you’re solely permitted to be up by its crater for about 20 minutes due to gasoline emissions. The stroll as much as the crater is a reasonably straightforward stroll, although in case you are delicate to air high quality, take it straightforward the nearer you get to the crater viewing space.

Even from afar, the crater is a stunner. Not solely does it appear like a tremendous sizzling spring, however it’s additionally one of many largest craters on Earth. It is important sufficient that the park is among the few in Costa Rica that’s wheelchair pleasant.

Since the volcano gained’t take up a whole day on the park, tour firms supply a mix tour with visits to a espresso plantation and La Paz Waterfall Gardens. It’s an interesting option to see an space that, due to frequent acid rain from the volcano, represents a scarcity of life, then to see how a few of the greatest espresso on this planet is produced adopted by a forest that’s continually rising.

See Related: Best Hiking Trails within the World You Must Visit

12. Get Outside at Arenal Volcano

Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica
Esdelval / Shutterstock

Other than the cultural spots discovered all through La Fortuna, Arenal Volcano National Park’s enchantment connects to the realm’s pure wonders as a complete. It is the realm the place journey excursions are born. Not solely do the day excursions embrace the majestic volcano, they typically mix sizzling springs excursions and waterfalls as properly.

Arenal Volcano is previously probably the most energetic volcano in Costa Rica, although it’s been in a resting state since 2010. You can’t see lava flows or magma right here, although its large presence is not possible to disregard. The closest you’ll in all probability get to volcanic exercise within the volcano’s space is having fun with some sizzling springs.

Some of one of the best excursions embrace a cease on the space’s hanging bridges which elevates guests’ expertise within the tree canopies. Day excursions embrace visiting the Arenal Volcano space, the bridges, and La Fortuna Waterfall. Beginning close to the volcano to see the pure parts of the realm is a incredible option to kick off any day journey from San José.

13. Doka Coffee Estate

Raw coffee beans at Doka Coffee Estate
Domicile Media / Shutterstock

If espresso plantations aren’t in your checklist of excursions, you must rethink the checklist. The frozen frappe pattern you get at Doka is sufficient for today journey to make the checklist.

It was so scrumptious, I requested our information José from Passport Adventure to get the recipe for me — he did. And you completely should attempt it. It’s clean, simply candy sufficient, and the proper finish to a espresso plantation tour.

Doka is a espresso plantation owned by the Vargas household which has been producing espresso since 1940. This is among the largest espresso plantations in Costa Rica and the espresso tour takes you thru the entire processes of constructing espresso, from plucking the espresso cherries from their crops to drying the seeds within the solar and every little thing in between. You’ll by no means take a cup of espresso without any consideration once more after this espresso plantation tour.

For guests fascinated about extra tradition of Costa Rica, there’s a mixture tour with Doka and oxcart factories to be taught extra about agriculture in Costa Rica. Of all of the day excursions you may take within the nation, a espresso tour at Doka is likely to be probably the most stunning.

See Related: Fun & Best Things to do in Tamarindo, Costa Rica

14. Baldi Hot Springs

Even non-hot spring connoisseurs will respect a Baldi Hot Springs tour. Believed to have therapeutic properties, the springs are literally the most important on this planet. Costa Rica’s sizzling spring experiences are additionally a few of the greatest.

What could possibly be higher than a day tour that takes you to the heights of the Arenal Hanging Bridges earlier than indulging within the Baldi Hot Springs? Or one which takes you to Arenal Volcano earlier than heading to the springs? As far as day excursions are involved, visiting Baldi might be probably the most stress-free. You’ll simply snooze on the journey again after a full-day tour that features Baldi.

When the serene waters on the sizzling springs beckon you to remain, think about extending that day tour by staying on the Baldi Hot Springs Hotel & Spa. Guests have entry to the 25 thermal swimming pools, a free scrumptious breakfast, and the stunning gardens throughout the property.

Anyone doing a day tour has to pay entrance charges to return again once more. Otherwise, you may keep on the close by Paradise Hot Springs as an alternative which is extra mid-range than Baldi.

15. Pay a Visit to the Toucan Rescue Ranch

Toucan at the Toucan Rescue Ranch
Samuel Morgan / Shutterstock

Although the Toucan Rescue Ranch (TRR) was developed to rehabilitate toucans, they assist all native wildlife. Nature excursions at TRR tackle a complete new that means for guests. Just a half hour exterior of San José, vacationers can take a non-public day tour of the ability and be taught all in regards to the animal sanctuary.

Clearly, there isn’t a nature park scarcity in Costa Rica, although TRR is totally different from many others. Nature lovers will adore their time at this animal sanctuary the place they’ll be taught not simply in regards to the animals there however their pure habitat as properly. Then you’ll have extra appreciation for them at dwelling within the lush rainforest.

A day tour consists of studying in regards to the wide selection of wildlife on the TRR animal sanctuary which incorporates spider monkeys, toucans, sloths, and parrots amongst many others. Take a while to study how they rescue, rehabilitate, and launch their residents. Further, uncover how organizations like TRR assist defend Costa Rica’s vital biodiversity.


What is San José, Costa Rica, recognized for?

On prime of being the capital metropolis of Costa Rica, the nation’s largest metropolis can also be dwelling to many fascinating museums, the National Theater, and loads of buying. Costa Rica’s capital has a lot to supply vacationers apart from proximity to the worldwide airport.

How many days do you want in San José, Costa Rica?

Day tour plans apart, you want a minimum of just a few days to expertise every little thing you need to in San José. The nation’s largest metropolis is the proper central place for those who plan on touring round Costa Rica, particularly the Central Valley space.

Can you journey Costa Rica in a day?

While you may actually drive by means of the nation in someday, you’ll want much more time to discover and see the entire sights. Costa Rica is a small nation and it solely takes about eight hours to drive from coast to coast.

The greatest option to totally expertise Costa Rica is by breaking apart the journey into a number of elements. That approach, you may spend time in every space and never commit your complete journey to touring.

Is there rather a lot to do in San José, Costa Rica?

Yes! From museums to galleries, a number of buying, and eating places, San José has every little thing a significant metropolitan space would. Plus, since it’s the capital of Costa Rica, there are vital authorities buildings there too.

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