Join us for this “best of” Costa Rica trip and explore three of the country’s most exciting regions—the Pacuare River, Arenal Volcano, and Manuel Antonio National Park.
Nestled between the Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean, Costa Rica’s diverse landscape is an adventurer’s playground. This 9-day, action-packed Costa Rica trip takes you from the country’s lush rainforests and mountainous volcanic interior to the wildlife-rich trails and beaches of Manuel Antonio National Park along the Pacific Ocean. Venture to a private nature reserve for two days of Pacuare River rafting and ziplining before heading inland to the Arenal Volcano region to explore by foot, soak in magnificent natural hot springs, and frolic in the canopy. Costa Rica’s biodiversity amazes at every point of this adventure, but exploring Manuel Antonio National Park with a naturalist is sure to be a highlight of the itinerary for any wildlife lover. This expertly curated Costa Rica trip combines a nice balance of exciting activities with time to relax and reset in some of the world’s most captivating natural landscapes.
What to Expect
Itinerary & Map
Itinerary at a Glance
We pride ourselves in running a relaxed and flexible schedule. Every Costa Rica trip is different depending upon the group, other trips in the area, and sometimes the weather. The following is a sample of what your trip might be like:
San José, Costa Rica
Arrive at Juan Santamaría International Airport and transfer to our hotel in San Jose. Depending on your time of arrival, you may have to time explore the area.
Dinner is on your own tonight. Try the on-site restaurant, or if you’re feeling adventurous, venture to a local establishment nearby.
Pacuare River Rafting
After breakfast, we depart San Jose for a 3-hour drive to the Pacuare River. At the river, our guides will give an orientation and safety talk, then it’s into rafts for fun and exciting whitewater action on Class II-III rapids. As we are swept down the Rio Pacuare by the currents, the natural beauty of the primary and secondary rainforests surrounds us. Water level and time permitting, a guide may lead us on a hike up one of the many gorgeous side creeks that spill into the Rio Pacuare.
When we arrive at our unique riverside eco-lodge, enjoy lunch, settle into your room, and spend the evening relaxing in a hammock or soaking in the natural pools by the river. Then, come on down to the open-air dining area, where the guides will have prepared fresh appetizers and the guest-acclaimed famous “jungle punch.” As the sun dips behind the hills and the twilight fades, we will be treated to a delicious, freshly prepared dinner. (B, L, D)
Canopy Zipline Course, Hiking, Relaxing
Wake up to the beauty of the light through the forest, the sound of toucans, and the smell of coffee. This day is designed to enjoy the lodge and its natural surroundings. Here, you will have the unique opportunity to experience the Pacuare from above and the wonders of the rainforest canopy on the zipline course. With distinctive platforms that blend in seamlessly with the natural surroundings and lines traversing far above the Pacuare River, you get an exhilarating ride with an amazing vantage point of the river and rainforest below.
After ziplining, you can choose from several hikes on the property—a short nature hike near the lodge or a two- to three-hour hike to a nearby waterfall with a natural slide and pools. This 2,000-acre private rainforest reserve offers limitless places to get away from it all and enjoy nature. Just a short walk from the dining area, the lodge offers a sheltered hammock area that makes for the perfect spot to catch up on your reading, enjoy a cool drink, or just relax and take in the stunning beauty of this amazing retreat. (B, L, D)
Whitewater Rafting on the Pacuare River
After breakfast and loading the rafts, we’ll prepare to paddle downriver through the Class III-IV Pacuare Gorge, past gushing waterfalls, serene pools, and pounding rapids. A quick stop allows us to explore a riverside waterfall and pool. Running rapids like Upper and Lower Huacas, Cimarron, Dos Montañas, and many more will have you cheering ecstatically on this adrenaline-packed morning.
Our river journey ends with a riverside picnic lunch, and we continue to our next destination—the Arenal Volcano. We’ll arrive at our hotel in the late afternoon (approximate drive time is 3.5 hours), just in time for a nice dinner with views of the volcano and to prepare for our next day’s adventure. (B, L, D)
Rainforests & Hot Springs
This full day starts off with a three-hour morning zipline tour that takes you into the middle of the forest and allows you to experience the canopy as you glide along a series of 12 ziplines with incredible views of waterfalls, the Arenal Volcano and Cerro Chato, providing a nice balance of adrenaline and nature.
After lunch, we’ll head out with the guide to the Arenal Hanging Bridges, a set of treetop suspension bridges. Here, we will explore the canopy, paying attention to the different layers of the rainforest, from the forest floor to the understory and the treetops. Your guide will point out the unique flora and fauna in this diverse ecosystem.
The day ends with a visit to natural hot springs to unwind and relax in the mineral-rich pools that are fed by the geothermal activity of the Arenal Volcano. Enjoy a dinner in this unique setting before returning to our accommodation. (B, L, D)
After a good night’s sleep and breakfast, we will depart Arenal and head to the resort town of Manuel Antonio along the Pacific Coast, our home base for the next three nights. This scenic drive (4.5 hours) follows valleys that cut through Costa Rica’s central mountains lined with lush forest and volcanoes. We’ll stop for lunch en route at a local restaurant and see the crocodiles from the Tarcoles Bridge. Once at our accommodations, the evening is yours to explore. Enjoy dinner on your own in any of Manuel Antonio’s restaurants and savor the sea breeze, sunset, and Costa Rica’s cuisine. (B, L)
Manuel Antonio National Park Guided Hike
An intersection of protected, lush rainforest and white sandy beaches, Manuel Antonio National Park is a natural paradise. The forest understory and canopy are home to rich flora and fauna, including sloths, howlers and squirrel monkeys, toucans, scarlet macaws, iguanas, and millions of colorful crabs. Explore the forest trails and coast with your guide during a three-hour morning tour.
Your afternoon is free to enjoy lunch, relax, or arrange an additional activity such as snorkeling, surf lessons, sea kayaking, mangrove boat tours, and fishing. These can be arranged in advance or locally with your guide for an added cost. (B)
Manuel Antonio Free Day
Whether you want to be active or simply relax after a fun and action-packed week, today is wide open for you to choose what you want to do on this once-in-a-lifetime Costa Rica trip.
See the Activities tab below for a list of activities that can be reserved in advance.
Enjoy a farewell dinner with your travel companions and guide, sharing stories about the week’s adventures. (B, D)
Return to San Jose & Connect to Flights Home
This morning, we will enjoy breakfast at the hotel before packing up for our return to San Jose and flights home. (B)
Meeting Time & Place
San José, Costa Rica
A representative will meet you at the airport on Day 1
For flights departing after 2 PM on day 9, or anytime on day 10
Dates & Prices
Costa Rica is a year-round destination, and this trip operates year-round. If you don’t see a date below that works for you, please call us to discuss your travel plans and options.
|December 16||$3,640 – $4,180|
|January 13||$3,640 – $4,180|
|February 10||$3,640 – $4,180|
|March 9||$3,640 – $4,180|
|April 13||$3,640 – $4,180|
Price per person based on double occupancy and group size.
• Mandatory emergency medical & evacuation coverage
Starting at $835
The Need-to-Know Info
Included in Your Trip Cost
Not Included in Your Trip Cost
- Flights to and from San Jose, Costa Rica
- Single supplement fee
- Airport transfers for arrivals or departures outside of days 1 and 9
- Optional activities in Manuel Antonio
- Insurance of any kind, including a travel protection plan or mandatory emergency medical & evacuation coverage
- Alcoholic beverages
On the Pacuare River, our guides use paddle rafts to navigate the rapids. One of the sportiest of crafts on the water, 4-6 guests handle a paddle while the guide steers and gives directions from the rear. Paddling together is essential to finding the right run, and teamwork begets success. It’s a thrilling way to brave the rapids. Helmets required.
On this lodge-based Costa Rica trip, you’ll stay at four unique and comfortable hotels/lodges as we explore different regions:
Studio Hotel – Five-star boutique “art” hotel in San Jose, Costa Rica. (Night 1)
Rios Lodge – Nestled in the jungle on a 2,000-acre private reserve above the Pacuare Gorge, the sustainable eco-lodge offers very comfortable accommodations in “Cabecar Indian” style bungalows with spacious rooms, private bathrooms, and hot water showers provided by the self-sufficient mini hydro plant that generates the electricity. Beautiful tropical gardens frame the native wood structures. (Nights 2, 3)
Arenal Manoa Hotel – A beautiful Arenal resort where you can relax and enjoy the marvelous view of Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica while soaking in the resort’s mineral-rich thermal springs. Surrounded by gardens, pastures, and animals, the rooms have been designed so that each one offers you a panoramic view of the Arenal volcano. Guests can take advantage of the spacious gardens for walking and meditation, as well as the opportunity to see the daily operations of a typical Costa Rican farm. (Nights 4, 5)
Hotel San Bada – Located adjacent to the Manuel Antonio National Park entrance, Hotel San Bada is just a few steps from Espadilla Beach. Enjoy views of the jungle and the ocean from the hotel, and discover the wildlife from your balcony as you listen to waves crashing nearby. The hotel has multiple swimming pools, including an adults-only pool with a pool bar and a great ocean view for a perfect sunset spot. (Nights 6-8)
At all of our partner lodges, you can expect comfortable rooms with private bathrooms. Amenities vary by property.
Costa Rica is known for its varied cuisine. You will be able to experience a variety of foods during your stay. Fresh fruit and seafood are a special delight.
We need to know as soon as possible about any dietary restrictions we must consider in planning your trip. If you have food allergies or necessary restrictions, we will do our best to accommodate your needs.
In the cloud and rainforest areas this trip will visit, average temperatures range from the high 80s to low 60s. It can rain at any time in Costa Rica (there is a lot of rainforest), and rain gear is a must! Guests are also advised to bring a warm layer for evenings, particularly in San Jose. Humidity can be expected throughout the region. Elevation ranges from 0 to 3,845 ft (the highest point is the city of San Jose).
Averages for San Jose:
|Air (High) °F||Air (Low) °F||Rainfall|
Averages for Manuel Antonio:
|Air (High) °F||Air (Low) °F||Rainfall|
The Pacuare River, or Rio Pacuare, has been named one of the top ten rivers in the world by National Geographic. Winding through lush, primary rainforest, the Rio Pacuare offers unparalleled views of Costa Rican wildlife and natural beauty. The rainforest that surrounds the river is home to exotic species such as jaguars, monkeys, ocelots, and a great number of birds, including toucans, kingfishers, herons, hawks, osprey, egrets, and orioles. Add exciting Class III and IV whitewater rafting on warm, celadon-colored water, and you can expect a tropical adventure packed with rich experiences that will offer memories to last a lifetime.
We intentionally built in free time in Manuel Antonio so you can choose your activities or simply relax after the action-packed days on the Pacuare and in Arenal. Here is a sample of Manuel Antonio adventures that are available at an additional cost:
Sea Kayaking Tours: Kayak the Manuel Antonio Coastline or opt for a Damas Island Mangrove kayak tour, which is a great opportunity for bird and wildlife watching.
Sunset Catamaran Cruise: Sail to the Manuel Antonio Marine Preserve for a unique perspective of the coastline. Stop for a leisurely swim and the chance to snorkel and keep your eyes out for dolphins and even the chance to spot migrating sea turtles or humpback whales. Dinner is included.
Damas Island Boat Tour: Take a boat tour in the estuary of Damas Island among the mangroves. Damas Island fulfills an important role as an ecosystem and is a birdwatcher’s paradise with opportunities to spot monkeys and anteaters.
Stand-Up Paddleboarding & Surfing: Grab a board and explore Manuel Antionio’s beautiful beaches. Stand-up paddleboarding and surf lessons or tours can be arranged regardless of your experience level.
Savegre River Whitewater Rafting: Just an hour’s drive from Manuel Antonio, a Savegre River rafting trip offers whitewater lovers fun, Class II-III rapids, warm waters for swimming, and lush, tropical scenery.
Sportfishing Charters & Tours: Head out on a half or full-day fishing charter in one of the best sportfishing destinations in Costa Rica in search of yellowfin tuna, sailfish, snapper, roosterfish, grouper, and mackerel.
If you’re interested in adding any of these activities to your itinerary or inquiring about additional options, contact an OARS Adventure Consultant at 800-346-6277.
Before booking your trip with OARS, there are a few important considerations we’d like you to know about.
Reservations and Deposits
An $800/person deposit is required at the time of reservation. Deposits may be made by check, money order, or Visa/Mastercard (American Express and Discover incur a 3% processing fee). Prices are in US Dollars, and all payments must be made in US Dollars. Payment of the deposit establishes your acceptance of our complete Terms and Conditions. Individual departures and trip capacity are strictly limited by the managing agency.
Canceling your trip after your deposit is processed will incur cancellation fees because OARS has absorbed costs on your behalf and will turn others away who would like to book the spaces we’re holding for you. Final payment is due 90 days before departure. Accounts on which final payment has not been received 80 days before the departure date will be canceled without exception.
Cancellations and Refunds
If you must cancel your reservation after the rescission period described above, your cancellation fee will be determined according to the schedule below. We regret we cannot make exceptions to the cancellation policy for any reason, including foul weather, poor air quality, wildfire activity, acts of terrorism, civil unrest, or personal emergencies. There is no refund for arriving late or leaving a trip early. For these reasons, we strongly urge you to consider purchasing a travel protection plan.
|Date of Cancellation||Cancellation Fee|
|90 or more days before your trip||$250/person, balance refunded|
|89 to 60 days before your trip||$500/person|
|59 to 30 days or less before your trip||50% of the trip price/person|
|29 to 0 days before your trip||100% of the trip price/person|
Requests to transfer a date will be treated as a cancellation, per the terms above.
OARS International and the outfitter Tropical Rivers & Adventures Tours reserve the right to cancel any trip due to insufficient registration or other factors that make the trip impractical to operate. Do not make nonrefundable travel arrangements unless you have spoken to your Adventure Consultant regarding the status of your trip.
If a trip must be canceled or postponed due to force majeure (factors outside the control of OARS), OARS will provide full credit for payments made toward future travel, or a refund less a 5% service fee plus any nonrefundable payments made on your behalf to 3rd-party suppliers. OARS will make good faith efforts to recover deposits made on your behalf to 3rd-party suppliers, however, we can’t guarantee recovery of any or all of the advance payments made. OARS is not responsible for expenses incurred by participants in preparation for a canceled trip.
Our Costa Rica trips are run by an affiliate company and arranged through O.A.R.S. International, Inc.
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