Costa Rica Nature & Wildlife Vacation: Volcano, Hot Springs, Jungle & More

A 8 day trip to Costa Rica 
4.77 out of 5 stars
96 reviews

The word paradise conjures images of palm trees and coconuts, a sense of harmony in a tropical wonderland. Find paradise and let majesty open its gates in Costa Rica. The country is set between two stunning oceans and filled with verdant tropical rainforests. Discover the friendly locals and explore the jungle canopy in search of exotic birds and elusive jaguars. Find comfort in natural thermal hot springs and witness the powerful conical peak of an active volcano. Experience the marvels of ecstasy in the real life utopia of Costa Rica. 

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General Information

Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

San Jose, Tortuguero, Arenal Volcano, Cano Negro Reserve, Tamarindo 

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Exuberant Beginnings

Welcome to the capital of Costa Rica, the fast moving city of San Jose. The metropolis quickly shows you its charm, vibrant in sporadic murals and locals’ jovial smiles. Shopping arcades overflow with active people passing the afternoon with friendly faces and window-shopping. Colonial art mansions display contemporary artwork in refurbished modern galleries. Your private guide meets you at the airport and soon you settle into the lovely grounds of your boutique hotel, filled with the famous warmth of Ticos, Costa Rican locals. The scent of rich Costa Rican coffee drifts through the lobby and you are easily swept up into the city’s underlying charm.

The Art Deco Décor matches the home-country edifice to create a chic, yet comfortable ambiance. San Jose was once a small town in the mid 16th century set atop a landscape that continues to rise up to its highest point at 4,100 feet. The Blue Castle is located on Central Avenue and was constructed in the early 1900s. The neoclassical home presents the classic style and color of the past, tinted with the continued blue coloration it is known for today. The beauty of the building represents the magnetism of the city, and hidden around every energetic corner is a treasure waiting to be noticed and uncovered. 

What’s Included: transfer, accommodation

Day 2: Where Turtles Tread

Morning is filled with exotic fruits and sweet fragrances. Breakfast comes with the delights of bright yellow mango and auburn papaya. The Costa Rican coffee is rich, layered with flavor. After your meal you will be escorted to the airport for your flight to the fabulous region of Tortuguero. The area is known for its winding canals, natural beauty, and beaches popular with various species of turtles. Board a small boat and tour through the canals with your private guide. You immediately notice the change in atmosphere, from abundant, endless energy to slow paced tranquility. Even the water moves at a serene and reflective pace. The rainforest brushes against marshlands.

Crocodiles linger in the water and are camouflaged by fallen branches and sprawling tree roots. Chestnut-mandibled toucans perch in the canopy. Their bright yellow plumage encircles their arched beaks and dark eyes. They can weigh up to one and a half pounds. River otters careen through the water and the scent of freshwater mixes with the damp earth. As you get closer to the shore you will see more mangroves beginning to sprout from the salty water.

In the afternoon you will arrive at your accommodation, home to lush gardens and accessible only by boat. The seclusion and unique placement along the slow-moving rivers and lush rainforest offers you a place in paradise inside the exuberant wilds of Costa Rica. 

What’s Included: breakfast, dinner, transfer, tour, accommodation

Day 3: Turtle Friends

In the morning you can hear the river’s gentle current sweeping alongside the verdant banks. The nearby port town of Limon lends itself to Caribbean influence and carries over into the lovely aromas and flavors of the lodge’s cuisine. Large and delicious plantains catch your eye in the morning. After breakfast the day is yours to explore Tortuguero as you please, whether visiting Limon to experience the Caribbean culture of Costa Rica or delving deeper into the rainforest of Tortuguero National Park. The beaches are filled with soft sand framed by towering palm trees and edged by the rainforest.

In January, female turtles swarm with leatherback sea turtles, which hatch through July to October. The nests are buried under the sand past the peeling water of high tide. In the evenings the whisper of cracking turtle shells echoes just beneath the sweeping waves. A male leatherback turtle can weigh up to 1,540 pounds but after hatching they weight just over 1.5 ounces. They dig their way out of the sandy nest and push themselves along the shore. Their innate senses angle them towards the water where they dip into the tide and disappear in a perfect show of nature’s majesty. 

What’s Included: breakfast, lunch, dinner, accommodation

Day 4: Rushing Water to Remnants of Lava

The sounds of the river are familiar and serene in the morning light. You wake up to the pleasant and spellbinding aromas of plantains and rich coffee. After breakfast your private transfer takes you along the river and back into the developed world to reach Arenal. Once in Arenal you will arrive at your celebrated 5-Star accommodation, home to lavish spas and sensual hot springs. Small waterfalls trickle into larger pools. Vivacious tropical trees surround the water and steam rises from the surface. The area is known for its rejuvenating and relaxing hot springs, along with its paradisiacal luxuries.

The trees open to a vast prairie where horses graze on the fertile grass. In the background the looming peak of Arenal Volcano rises over the region. The summit rises 3,740 feet and overflowed with magma until 2010. Now steam continues to rise into the sky without the nightly simmering glow. After a day of exploration and travel you can sit in the natural hot springs and enjoy the variety of temperatures, from 77 degrees to 122 degrees Fahrenheit. Stand under the waterfall and let the water rush against your shoulders for a subtle massage.

What’s Included: breakfast, transfer, hot springs, accommodation

Day 5: Watching the Refuge

The trees and winding rivers of Arenal fill the landscape with endless worlds waiting to be discovered. Bright orchids blossom in the trees and energetic monkeys rush through the branches. After breakfast you will make your way to the outskirts of the Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge. Board a boat at Lost Chiles and sail near the Nicaraguan border on the Rio Frio. The closer you get to the refuge the denser the surrounding trees and the more active the wildlife. The refuge is 39 square miles and is home to endangered jaguars and ocelots. Fallen trees litter the marshy banks.

Howler monkeys sit in the treetops and lazily watch you pass by.  They can grow up to 36 inches and their tails can grow longer than the rest of their body length. They reach for high hanging berries and nuts. The males’ call explains its name as it howls through the forest canopy. Your guide points out the hard to see wildlife, from caiman to a basilisk referred to as the Jesus Christ Lizard for its ability to run on water using only its hind legs. In the afternoon you return to the gorgeous landscape of Arenal and the sweeping greenery brought by the trees and prairies.

What’s Included: breakfast, lunch, tour, accommodation

Day 6: The Edge of the Surf

The beauty of Tamarindo verges on the legendary. The water curls into perfect barrels along the beach and when the sun sets over the horizon it casts a golden color over the entire sky. The relaxed ambiance of the city continues to weave through the popular destination. When you arrive, the world seems to open up into two sections, the majestic beaches and the cosmopolitan streets. The water shifts between turquoise and sapphire, depending on the angle of the sunlight.

When you arrive in the city your private transfer escorts you to your elegant boutique hotel, situated on the celebrated Langosta Beach.  The secluded beachfront property maintains a close enough distance to the jovial streets of the city, while also providing a romantic and private setting. You can hear the waves rolling onto the sand from your room. The sunlight peaks over the rising palms. In the evening you can enjoy a fabulous meal at El Jardin del Eden, located on the hillside overlooking the city. The open dining experience gives a romantic view of the sparkling city lights at night with the fresh and flavorful aromas of Mediterranean inspired cuisine. The evening air of the coastal city is as captivating as the view during the day.  

What’s Included: breakfast, transfer, accommodation

Day 7: Protected Paradise

The luster of the city comes to life late in the morning, but the waves continue throughout the night. Wake up to the graceful sound of the tide peeling against the sandy shores. The trees sway in the early morning breeze. Indulge in the wonderful sweet flavors of exotic fruits, juicy pineapple, and luscious coconut.

After breakfast, visit the protected shores of Marino Las Baulas National Park. The park overlaps Playa Langosta and encompasses Playa Grande as well. The shores are known as nesting areas for the giant leatherback turtle. The park encompasses over 84 square miles of ocean.

Past the beaches you find exceptional forests of mangroves, home to caiman and crocodile hiding amidst the trees’ twinning roots. Roseate spoonbills resemble flamingoes. Their plumage is pink and bright and they dip their beaks into the water in search of an aquatic meal. From a canoe you can paddle close to the mangroves and see their strong, firm branches rising from the saltwater. The trees carve the water into canals that wrap around pods of trunks and dangling leaves. Kingfisher perch around the water and wait for fish to catch their eye. Paddling through the jungle is a unique and memorable experience, from the adventure to the wildlife that surrounds you.

What’s Included: breakfast, tour, accommodation

Day 8: Cheerful Goodbyes

Listen to the waves crash against the beach in the morning. The sunlight hovers over the horizon and brings the sapphire shade back to the Pacific. You have traversed the rainforest and coastline of Costa Rica and found the allure of paradise and the exuberance of wildlife.

After breakfast you return by air to San Jose where your flight home awaits you. As you soar through the air you cherish the fond memories of the turtles and volcanoes, luxurious lodges and soothing sounds of the country.

What’s Included: breakfast, transfer

Consider extending your stay beyond 8 days. Read the Costa Rica travel reviews on Zicasso for additional ideas and to see what other travelers have to say about their experiences in Costa Rica.


Starting Price 

This trip is customizable for your private travel.

What's Included 

  • Accommodations
  • In-country transportation
  • Some or all guided tours and activities (dependent on season)
  • Expert trip planning
  • 24x7 support during your trip
The starting price is based on travel during the low season for a minimum of two travelers staying in shared 3-star accommodations. Please inquire for a custom trip quote based on your travel preferences and travel dates.