Go on a hybrid vacation, and you’ll never be bored! When we say hybrid, we’re referring to a destination that offers a mix of everything: adventure, nature, country, city, as well as relaxation. Costa Rica has all the elements of an ideal vacation. It’s the quintessential locale for travellers who want to feel grounded in the earth while still being immersed in a colourful culture. Here you can fully live the Pura Vida.
Costa Rica, the land of the sloth (the animal, not the people), has endlessly biodiverse flora and fauna and is brimming with magnificent sites to discover. We recommend renting a car so you can optimize your trip. With a trusty vehicle, you’ll be ready for anything, whether it’s skirting around cows on the road or escaping huge mud puddles with your four-wheel drive.
Here is the perfect itinerary for a 10-day road trip around Costa Rica.
1. San José
Once you arrive in Costa Rica’s capital, you can stroll through neighbourhoods dating back to the eighteenth century, visit historical artifact museums and go on yummy food tours. If you’re craving some thrills, try the Parque Diversiones theme park for a day of good old-fashioned fun. For some education around Costa Rica’s wildlife, check out the Spirogyra Butterfly Garden.
Plan to spend a night in San José. Hotel prices vary depending on their location and rating. Be prepared to pick up your rental vehicle in the morning, and you will be ready to go north.
2. Poas (Alajuela)
It takes less than an hour to get from San José to Poas if you don’t make any stops. If you love coffee, you’ll definitely want to stop. Doka Estate Costa Rica Coffee Tour & Plantation is the place to taste (and stock up on) delicious Costa Rican serum. Heavily caffeinated, you can then visit the Rescate Wildlife Rescue Center to view the wild animals in action.
Hopped up on bean juice, visit the Poás Volcano and the surrounding hot lagoon. Two crater lakes have formed around the active volcano, one of them being amongst the most acidic in the world! Cross your fingers for a sunny day; otherwise, a cloud forest can block the gorgeous view.
Plan to spend the night in the heart of Poas. The next day you will drive further north to La Fortuna.
3. La Fortuna
It takes about 2 hours and 30 minutes to drive from Poas to La Fortuna by car. La Fortuna is one of the most popular destinations in Costa Rica because of its famous Arenal Volcano. Today’s itinerary features a hike on the “lava flow trail” of a much-loved and currently resting volcano. You can traverse this majestic beauty without fear of an imminent eruption, allowing yourself to soak in the mountaintop views.
Arenal is also known for its thermal spas. You can swim at a private resort, like at the Baldi Hot Springs Resort, or opt for the public baths, which are free and very pleasant. Nearby, visit the Catarata Río Fortuna Falls and if the weather permits, finish the day with a tour of the Arenal Natura Ecological Park.
Plan to stay 2 nights in La Fortuna. You will then take the road to Monte Verde, another destination worth seeing.
4. Monte Verde
It will take you approximately 3 hours to drive from Arenal to Monte Verde. During this time, keep your eyes peeled for exotic animals, including coatis and sloths. Monte Verde is a rainforest sanctuary that does not disappoint the senses. Your hair might not love the epic humidity (see how to have beautiful hair while travelling), but you’ll be in awe of the lush beauty that surrounds you.
The Selvatura Adventure Park is the perfect place to take an artsy photo for Instagram: the suspension bridge seems to float above the mist. And if you like zip lines, you don’t want to miss The Original Canopy Tour, where you will soar above the jungle, taking in the sights below.
If you dare, book the Kinkajou Night Walk, where you might see snakes, tarantulas, scorpions and bats in their natural habitat.
Plan to stay 2 nights in Monte Verde. You’ll want the extra time to do as many activities as possible! You will then drive further south to Jaco.
It takes about 2 hours to get from Monte Verde to Jaco. Along the way, you’ll stop at the Crocodile Bridge, where you can spot these mighty creatures sunbathing just below the road.
In Jaco, you’ll marvel at the magnificent white sand beaches and the sparkling turquoise ocean beyond. Here you can relax, try horseback riding in the shallow seas, snorkel and swim before admiring the beautiful sunset.
Plan to spend one night in Jaco. Your next and last stop in the morning will be Manuel Antonio National Park.
6. Manuel Antonio National Park (Quepos)
It will only take you an hour and 15 minutes to drive from Jaco to Quepos. In Quepos, there is something for everyone! End your trip with a bang by doing all the fun things: surfing, rafting, horseback riding, boat touring, and more!
Should you get tired of adventure, you can always take a slow stroll through Manuel Antonio National Park. Monkeys, sloths and all kinds of exotic animals will greet you from their home environment. Your reward for walking 10,000 steps is the pretty beach at the end, where you can sip coconut milk (if a prowling monkey hasn’t taken you captive.) Just kidding.
Plan to spend 2 nights near Quepos. Enjoy every last moment because you will then make the bittersweet 3 hours and 15-minute drive back to San José. Time to say to return your rental vehicle and say chao to beautiful Costa Rica.
We hope the “Pura Vida” of Costa Rica inspires you to plan your own road trip (or feel free to steal this itinerary)!
What is your idea of a perfect hybrid vacation?
This article was originally published in French by Marie St-Yves and adapted in English by Britney Claveau.