The centrally located capital is the largest metropolitan area in Costa Rica with 1.6 million inhabitants. The National Theatre and numerous museums such as the National Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art and Design, and the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum, are popular cultural sights. You’ll also find authentic market stands in the lively Mercado Central offering traditional delicacies.
San José is surrounded by natural beauty, so be sure to take a day tour and check it out. Drive through the picturesque Braulio Carrillo National Park towards the Caribbean coast – from there you can take a boat tour through the exotic canals of the impressive Tortuguero National Park. Enjoy secluded beaches, swim in lagoons, come face-to-face with green sea turtles, and watch hummingbirds, butterflies, and reptiles. This exciting jungle expedition only costs 95 euros and includes food, a guide, and a return transfer from San Jose.
Back in San Jose, you can stay at a hostel for 10 euros in a four-bed dorm.
Continue your journey on a bus trip further north to La Fortuna (for only four euros!).
This lovely little town is the perfect starting point for exploring some of the area’s best spots. We recommend the day tour below for visiting the famous Arenal Volcano and tropical rainforest in the Alajuela Province.
Discover exotic animal species in the Arenal Volcano National Park and hike from the foot of the dormant Cerro Chato Volcano (a lesser-known volcano right next to the Arenal) to La Fortuna – a 70-metre-high waterfall. Afterwards, enjoy a delicious, traditional lunch at a local granja and revel in breath-taking views of lush rainforest and the Arenal Volcano. Relax afterwards with a soothing bath in one of the many hot springs nearby. For dinner, sample more of the region’s cuisine for the perfect end to an eventful day. Return transfer, guide, and meals are included in the price of 128 euros per person.
Stay in town in an eight-bed dorm for 18 euros per night.
A shuttle will take you to the cloud forest region of Monteverde for about 25 euros.
Explore the national park from the small town of Santa Elena, one of the most biologically diverse areas in Costa Rica. The Sky Adventures Monteverde Park is a special highlight for adrenaline junkies. Hike overhanging bridges on the Sky Walk or zipline on the Sky Trek and whiz through the cloud forest canopy.
Get to know the region’s animal species in Selvatura Park and check out its butterfly garden. You can also visit a coffee plantation or explore the cloud forest by horseback or on an exciting night walk.
In Santa Elena, you can stay overnight in the center for 12 euros in a six-bed dorm.
Head to the Pacific coast of Costa Rica to a seaside resort in Jacó by shuttle for about 57 euros.
Relax and unwind on dark, lava-sand beaches after all the excitement in the jungle. If laying on the beach is too boring for you, rest assured – Jacó offers an unending list of outdoor activities, including kayaking, diving, zip-lining, and fishing.
Costa Rica is also known for its ideal surfing conditions. The beaches around Jacó are no exception and are perfect for both beginners and advanced surfers. The weekly farmers’ market is also worth a visit – pick up some fresh fruit and vegetables, delicious bread and cheese, as well as regional specialities. At night, go out on the town and indulge in Jacó’s vibrant nightlife.
Stay at a hostel near the beach in an eight-bed dorm for only 14 euros. Keep your eyes peeled, though, because some of the hostels offer surfing lessons!
Catch a ride to Quepos for only 2 euros. Near the small, coastal town lies a long peninsula, Isla Damas, that forms an estuary into which four rivers flow. Book a boat trip in Quepos harbour and explore the estuary reserve, which is densely covered with mangroves and home to many regional animal species. Not far from Quepos is the Manuel Antonio National Park, totalling a tiny seven square kilometres. Despite its small size, the park offers a varied landscape with hills, rock formations, forests, and twelve small islands. Relax on white sandy beaches and watch coatis and monkeys swing by through the trees. Take one of the many hiking trails and discover lizards, sloths, macaws, toucans, and many other animal species. Keep walking until you reach a viewing platform and enjoy a spectacular view over this unique natural paradise.
An overnight stay in an eight-bed dorm at a hostel costs 16 euros.
Hop on a bus for just three euros and head to your last stop: Uvita.
In this idyllic coastal town, you can experience the truly wild and unspoiled side of Costa Rica since there aren’t many tourists. Uvita’s golden-coloured beach is one of the most beautiful on the southern Pacific coast and is popular with surfers and beachgoers alike.
The Ballena Marine National Park lies off the coast of Uvita and is not to be missed. The rocky reefs around the islands are home to a large variety of species like corals, tropical fish, and dolphins. Go diving or snorkelling and you might even see humpback whales, who migrate through these protected waters from May to December. Swim back to shore and go further inland to find hidden waterfalls, lagoons, and rainforests.
Stay the night for 11 euros at a hostel in a four-bed dorm.
From Uvita, you can take the bus (for about 8 euros) back to San José and catch a flight home.