- Great for adults and older kids
- Budget friendly if you travel in the off/transition season – we traveled at the beginning of May and didn’t have many rain issues.
- More outdoor + adventure than leisure
- Hotel Karahe in Quepos
- Monteverde Lodge and Gardens in Monteverde
- Hotel El Velero in Playa Hermosa, Guanacaste
Transportation: We rented a Suzuki Jimney
- It’s small, fuel efficient, and has 4 wheel drive, which is necessary.
- Pick up at San Jose Airport and drop off at Liberia Airport
- Always do the speed limit – tickets are expensive in Costa Rica
- All gas stations are full service
- Download the Waze App (someone shared this with us when we were lost because our GPS wanted to go on a road that wasn’t a road anymore)
- Read about how to use a foreign sim card here for data for your phone GPS
- There are a few toll roads out of the airport so be sure to pull some colones from the ATM to be prepared
Things to Know:
- It’s HUMID in Costa Rica – I recommend packing quick drying fabrics + taking essential oils or some form of Febreeze to freshen up your clothes.
- Also pack bug spray, sunscreen, a baggy for your camera/phone if it’s rainy, and a raincoat for the cloud forest. It’s significantly cooler in the cloud forests.
- Notify your credit card and bank of your travel plans
Day 1: Arrive in San Juan + Drive to Quepos
We flew into San Juan, Costa Rica and rented a Suzuki Jimney. Along, the way, we stopped at a few scenic overlooks. After arriving at the Hotel Karahe, we had a late dinner at the hotel restaurant.
Day 2: Manuel Antonio National Park + Cafe Milagro
We got up early and went to Manuel Antonio National Park. I can’t completely recall, but I believe parking was free. Just drive up until you see lots of tour guides. At the entrance, there are plenty of guides so we ended up going with one. Without a guide, we would have missed much of the wildlife. The guides help you take pictures with your phone through the telescope, which is pretty cool. We hiked trails half the day, then relaxed on the main beach before heading back. Beware of the raccoons on the beach – they are adorable, clever, and will steal your food and bags if you’re not careful! Apparently the monkeys sometimes try, too! Also – take water, snacks, and sunscreen. You will sweat a lot hiking. We caught the sunset at Beisanz Beach, had dinner at Cafe Milagro, and stopped at the grocery store nearby after.
Day 3: Manuel Antonio National Park, SUP + La Barba Roja
We went to the park again but didn’t use a guide this time. Hiking the trails early before there were many people out allowed us to see so many animals – white faced and howler monkeys, deer, agouti, sloths, birds, and lizards. After hiking and beaching at the park, we went stand up paddle boarding through mangroves with Paddle 9. The guide actually met us at our hotel which was nice. For dinner, we went to La Barba Roja and sat outside for sunset.
Day 4: The Rainmaker, Beach + Cafe Agua Azul
We went to the Rainmaker forest in Quepos for the hanging bridges, hiking, and a beautiful waterfall and had lunch after at their restaurant. For the remainder of the day, we relaxed at the hotel beach. Then, we went to dinner at Cafe Agua Azul.
Day 5: From Quepos to the Monteverde Lodge and Gardens
We left the Hotel Karahe right after breakfast for the Monteverde Lodge and Gardens, stopping at a downtown market we saw in Quepos on our way out. The trip across the country took longer than the maps said it would, getting us there just in time to explore the grounds before sunset. We had dinner at the hotel restaurant.
Day 6: Monteverde Cloud Forest, Taco Taco + La Soda Salvadita
After breakfast at the hotel, we went to the Monteverde Cloud Forest. We took a tour with a guide which was great because we saw so many creatures we wouldn’t have otherwise seen – like Quetzals, toucans, a hummingbird in her nest, a baby viper, tarantula, and more. There’s a restaurant/shop across the street from the Cloud Forest parking lot with lots of hummingbirds. We had lunch at Taco Taco, explored the shops in that area, then had happy hour at the Monteverde Beer House. For dinner, we went to La Soda Salvadita.
Day 7: Bats, Chocolate, Cheese + a Night Hike
It was a rainy day, so we went to the Monteverde Bat Jungle, had chocolates at the place in the same building as the bats, and cheese and ice cream at the Monteverde Cheese Factory. We went on a night hike arranged by the hotel and watched the sunset over the continental divide. Then, we had dinner at Sabor Tico. We had trouble finding it at first, but it’s on the top floor of the shopping mall so picked up a few groceries after.
Day 8: Monteverde Lodge Trails + Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve
In the morning, we hiked on the trails at the Monteverde Lodge and Gardens and then went to the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve in the afternoon. We stopped at a coffee shop on the way home to warm up and returned to Taco Taco for dinner.
Day 9: From Monteverde to Playa Hermosa
In the morning, we left Monteverde and drove to Playa Hermosa where we stayed at Hotel El Velero. We spent the day on the beach at the hotel and then walked along the beach to La Casita del Marisco for dinner and the sunset.
Day 10: Return to the US
After a morning at the beach, we drove to the Liberia Airport to return our rental car and catch a flight home.