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Bathe in the hot springs of Arenal Volcano, soak up sunsets and surf on Santa Teresa, and go sloth spotting in Costa Rica’s smallest national park.

A must-see on most people’s Costa Rica itineraries are these three destinations. Combining smouldering peaks and volcanic landscapes, with tropical beaches and a national park bursting with wildlife. 

Overview:

  • 1 night in San Jose, staying at Grano de Oro
  • 3 nights in Arenal, staying at Nayara Gardens
  • 3 nights in Santa Teresa, staying at Nantipa Hotel
  • 2 nights in Manuel Antonio, staying at Arenas del Mar

In more detail:

Beginning in San Jose, you’ll sleep off the jetlag for a night, before heading out into the mountains the following day. A two-hour journey will take you to Nayara Spa Hotel & Gardens, a lodge with breathtaking views of Arenal’s conical peak. Set up camp for a few days in the middle of the tropical rainforest, and a stone’s throw from hanging bridges, sky-blue waterfalls and adrenaline adventures. 

After some pulse-raising activities, treks around the volcano and visits to ecological reserves teeming with wildlife, it’s time to hit up the beach. Heading west towards the sunset, you’ll visit Costa Rica’s hottest beach town - Santa Teresa. On the Nicoya Peninsula, Santa Teresa is famous for its palm-fringed beaches and its surf. It’s an exciting destination to find your footing on the Pacific waves and swim amongst glowing plankton at night. 

From relaxing on one beach, you’ll move on to explore another. Manuel Antonio is the smallest National Park in Costa Rica, and although it’s situated around three powdery tropical beaches, there are much more species to discover in the forest beyond. Squirrel, howler, and white-faced capuchin monkeys thrive alongside sloths, coatis, caimans, crocodiles, and myriad bird species. Hike in the tropical forest, swim in the warm ocean and stretch out on sandy beaches all on the same day. 

What's Included:

  • All accommodations on B&B basis
  • Transfers with English-speaking driver
  • Arenal & La Paz Waterfall and Gardens private tour
  • Arenal hanging bridges & La Fortuna waterfall private tour
  • Bioluminescent plankton kayak tour
  • Surfing lessons in Santa Teresa
  • Manuel Antonio National Park with a naturalist guide

Trip Itinerary

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Days 1-2: San Jose

Day 1 - Welcome to the Rich Coast!

Today you’ll touch down in Costa Rica. You’ll be met by our Wayfairer Representative at the arrivals gate and driven to your hotel in San Jose for the night. 

Grano de Oro is a converted tropical mansion tucked away on a quiet street on the outskirts of the city. The laid-back feel is completed by fountains, lush gardens and a sunny central courtyard.

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Days 2-5: Arenal

Day 2 - En-route to Arenal

Today, you’ll be picked up by your driver and taken to La Paz Waterfall Gardens, an ecological reserve where you’ll walk along a forested trail dotted with various falls and plunge pools. The reserve is home to over 100 species of animals, a hummingbird garden, serpentarium, a birdhouse, a butterfly garden and a frog exhibit. 

After lunch, you’ll head onwards to one of the best hotels in Arenal for your stay. Nayara Hotel Spa & Gardens is located with a prime view of Arenal Volcano. It is amongst beautifully manicured grounds and surrounding jungle. Choose from a casita, suite, villa or safari tent with four-poster beds, outdoor showers and oversized terraces. All the plunge pools are mineral spring fed.

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Day 3 - Adventure and adrenaline

Accompanied by your guide, you’ll be escorted to Arenal Hanging Bridges, a 617-acre stretch of rainforest that boasts a series of winding trails and bridges. Hike along 16 different bridges in the canopies and sprawling jungle flora. Learn about the diverse natural history and keep an eye out for resident wildlife, such as monkeys, toucans and sloths.

Head onwards to the 60-meter-high cascading La Fortuna waterfall. The train continues downwards towards the thundering falls. Follow a series of steps to the base of the cascade, where water plummets into a wide aquamarine pool. A perfect spot to cool off in the invigorating water. 

Your afternoon is at leisure, but our Wayfairer specialists recommend spending some time soaring through the treetops on a series of ziplines before you return to the lodge. We can arrange this for you.

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Day 4 - Hikes and vistas

After a morning soaking in the springs, spend the afternoon on a half-day hike in the National Park. Verdant rainforest, expansive savannah and two volcanoes dominate this 30,000-acre stretch of land. Explore the park on a 45-minute hike along the sandy trail and over a lava field formed in 1992 as your guide introduces you to volcanism, Costa Rican geography and the history of Arenal. 

Currently dormant, Arenal erupted almost continuously from 1968 to 2021. The hike culminates atop a cooled magma stream where stunning views of Lake Arenal await.

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Days 5 - 8: Santa Teresa

Day 5 - Night-time glow

This morning, your dedicated driver will transfer you from Arenal to Santa Teresa. The journey time is roughly 4 hours, and you’ll cross over to the Nicoya Peninsula by ferry. Look out for the frigate birds soaring overhead! 

Upon arrival, you’ll feel the heat of Costa Rica’s dry forest. Santa Teresa and Playa del Carmen are known for dependable breaks and safe swimming areas. On the southern tip of the peninsula, there are plentiful opportunities for hiking, horseback riding, and canopy ziplining with forest and ocean views.  

Nantipa Hotel is a true beachfront paradise where bungalows and villas back out onto deep blue waters fringed by vivid green forests. This afternoon, simply relax, soak up the sun, and enjoy your surroundings. 

Dusk is when the magic awaits. Set off into the night, and climb on board a kayak to a secret spot famous for bioluminescent plankton. There are very few places in the world where bioluminescence can be seen year-round. And luckily for travellers to the Nicoya Peninsula, this is the prime place to experience it. After diving beneath the surface and swimming amongst the most entrancing and magical light show, return to your beach lodge for a blissful night’s sleep.

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Day 6 - Surf’s up!

Choose from a morning or afternoon surf lesson today. Costa Rica is well-known as a world-class surf destination, so today you can get to know the infamous Pacific waves, or in Spanish - “las olas”! Your lesson will last two hours with certified guides, and all ages are welcome. All you’ll need is your swimsuit, some sun cream, and good surf spirit.

Day 7 - Recline and relax

Today is yours to make the most of being by the beach, so drink up a few Piña Coladas, enjoy watching the world go by, and catch some rays.

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Days 8-10: Manuel Antonio

Day 8 - Santa Teresa to Manuel Antonio

Bid farewell to Santa Teresa this morning, before setting off to Costa Rica’s smallest and most popular national park. The journey time is over five hours, and you’ll travel by car and by boat. 

Manuel Antonio is characterised by stretching sandy beaches that meet with tropical rainforests and mangroves. The beach is bustling with Costa Rican and international visitors, but when looking at the landscape alone, you’re taken back in time to before it was discovered by humans. White capuchins swing in the trees, and pelicans dive into wavy waters. 

Arenas del Mar is a luxurious eco-friendly rainforest resort, built in harmony with nature. It was finely designed and constructed to fit around the existing trees. Atop a hill overlooking the Pacific, the lodge has beach access and two swimming pools - one by the sea and one overlooking it. It’s the ideal place to relax for your last few nights.

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Day 9 - Rainforest safari

This morning, your guide will take you to Manuel Antonio National Park, where you’ll be met by your naturalist expert. The park covers 4,900 acres along the coast and combines the mysteries of the jungle with postcard-perfect ocean views along its trails. It’s home to hundreds of tropical birds, iguanas, sloths, frogs and three types of monkeys - the howler, capuchin and squirrel. Whilst you explore the numerous trails, your guide will use a high-powered spotting scope to help spot birds, animals, and curious plant life. You’ll likely have a blue-morpho butterfly stop you in your tracks! 

Finish up with a swim at one of Central America’s most beautiful beaches, in the same park.

Day 10 - Departure day

Sadly, today marks the day of your flight home. At an appropriate time, your driver will escort you and wish you a safe journey back.

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