Pura Vida. Maybe you’ve heard it before. It translates to something like “the simple life,” and it’s the unofficial motto of Costa Rica. But to see it for yourself is to realize that a simple life does not mean going off the grid like some sort of doomsday prepper, but rather: living a life jam-packed with rainforest hiking, whitewater rafting, ziplining above the clouds, and splashing around coral reefs under the waves. Pura vida is an always optimistic outlook fueled by delicious Mesoamerican-inspired cuisine, the freshest coffee, and the occasional guaro sour cocktail. If you’re looking for all that and a little quality face time with sloths, monkeys, and dolphins, this is the trip for you.
Explore the biodiversity and wildlife of Costa Rica
You’ll stay at accommodations hand-picked by our team of local experts, in rooms only for EF Ultimate Break travelers. Each property is located in a safe, convenient area. You’ll receive your exact accommodations 30 days before your trip departs.
Click here for examples of where you'll stay.
Admit it, booking flights is the worst. Here's why you should let us do it for you:
- Flight costs are included in your monthly payment plan, so you can pay over time
- Airport transfers are included, so we’ll be waiting, sign in hand
- Flights are booked with major airlines
- 24/7 support no matter what time zone you’re in
- One checked bag included on most flights
- Option to make changes to your trip up to 99 days before departure
Booking with a friend? Let us know and we’ll do our best to make sure you’re on the same flight. Still want to book your own flights? That’s cool, simply select ‘No flights included’ instead of your departure city in the ‘Flights from’ dropdown.
- Day 1: The Adventure Begins
Welcome to San José, Costa Rica, the cultural and political capital of this vibrant, thriving nation. Crack open a coconut and crank up the calypso music, you’re about to get tropical for the next 10 days.
- Meet a trip representative at the airport
- Transfer to your accommodation in San José via private coach
- Receive the latest schedule and trip updates from your Tour Director
- Greet other travelers as they arrive
- Day 2: Hike La Fortuna Waterfall + Kayak on Lake Arenal
The rainforest is filled with secrets and today you get to be its closest confidant as it spills the beans on all of its mysterious landforms, wildlife, and people. Keep an open ear and open eyes (but preferably not open-toed shoes) as you hike, swim, and kayak around the Arenal Region.
- Hike (don’t chase) the La Fortuna Waterfall, one of the most spectacular sights in Central America.
- Cool off with a swim in the waterfall’s plunge pool, then heat back up in the nearby hot springs.
- Consider purchasing volcano insurance on your future Costa Rican lake house as you kayak and swim the pristine waters of Lake Arenal and take in views of the surrounding (now-dormant) magma-makers.
- Catch sights of the can’t-miss national bird, the Quetzal. Seriously, you won’t miss these colors, even in the rainforest.
In the evening, it’s time for your Welcome Mixer. Enjoy appetizers and drinks with fellow travelers at an authentic local spot. Afterwards, you’re free to take the party elsewhere!
- Day 3: Free Day in Arenal + White Water Rafting Excursion
Wake up and smell the extremely high quality Costa Rican coffee. Once you’re nicely caffeinated (trust us, one whiff of this stuff is enough) take the day to swim, explore, and enjoy the beautiful volcano-lined skyline of inner-Costa Rica. Give your legs a break during an adrenaline-pumping Sarapiqui River white water rafting adventure.
- Take a wade on the wild side with an included white water rafting adventure—an excursion both suitable and thrilling no matter your experience-level.
- Enjoy the crazy-vibrant flora of the Arenal Region.
- Be prepared to find out why, exactly, they call it the rainforest. Hint: it’s right there in the name.
- Day 4: Travel to Monteverde + Night Hike
Monteverde is the jumping off point for Costa Rica’s surreal cloud forests. After a morning bus ride from Arenal, the day is yours to explore village life, but remember to stay limber for tomorrow’s ziplining. When the sun goes down follow your guide to see Monteverde after-dark, and listen up as they point out nocturnal critters like armadillos, silky anteaters, and even cute little kinkajous.
- Board your bus bound for the village of Monteverde—founded originally as a Quaker settlement (yes, the very same Quakers from your oats).
- Remember to pop some Lactaid—the Quakers of Monteverde make drool-inducing cheese that puts Wisconsin to shame.
- Take some free time in the village to explore its quaint amenities, including channeling your inner Bruce Wayne at the Bat Museum.
- Switch on your headlamp and bid good riddance to daytime with an optional night hike through the rainforest and surrounding area.
- Explore the rainforest at night with an included night hike.
- Day 5: Explore the Santa Elena Cloud Forest
Today, you’ll experience a whole different rainforest habitat: the Santa Elena Cloud Forest. High altitude and moisture (12 feet of rain per year) combine to make this a one-of-a-kind ecosystem—oh, and did we mention there’s ziplining?
- Find out what clouds are really made of as you walk through them—yes, through them— in the densely vegetated, misty trails of the Costa Rican rainforest.
- Yell “Geronimo!” as you soar high above the rainforest canopy, zooming from one platform to the next at speeds of up to 60 mph.
- Admire the nearly 500 breeds of orchid from afar, no matter how tempting it may be to salsa dance with one in your ear.
- Try an Imperial, the national beer of Costa Rica, back in Monteverde, as the town turns up for the night.
- Day 6: Beach Day in Puntarenas
Ever have a Costa Rican massage? No, it’s not a relaxing 60-minute session with Toucan-scented essential oils. It’s what visitors sometimes refer to a bumpy bus ride in rural areas as (don’t worry, it’s fun). Today you’ll knead those knots out on your trip from Monteverde to Puntarenas for a little beachside R&R.
- Board your bus from Monteverde to Puntarenas.
- Trade leafy greens for sandy scenes and relax on the beach at Playa Mantas.
- Take that Pura Vida attitude out to sea with some stand-up paddleboarding at the beach.
- Congratulate yourself for swimming in the Pacific Ocean—a feat that practically makes you Lewis & Clark.
- Day 7: Explore Manuel Antonio National Park + Beach Time
Some people need to be near mountains. Some people need to be near the beach. Some people are swamp people—but we won’t get into that now. Manuel Antonio National Park somehow has both (mountains and beaches, not swamps). See Costa Rica’s most-beautiful, most-visited national park today up close and personal.
- Trek through cliff-side rainforest in order to soak up the sun at the two main immaculate white-sand beaches of the park: Espadilla Sur Beach and Playa Manuel Antonio.
- Keep an ear out for howler monkeys, the only land animal louder than your 8am Calculus professor.
- Try and take a selfie with a wild two-toed or three-toed sloth. Don’t worry if it takes a minute to get the perfect shot, they don’t move very fast.
- Spot other amazing animals like capuchins, coati, dolphins, iguanas, and the common basilisk (feel free to look these in the eyes, Harry Potter fans).
- Day 8: Free Day in Quepos + Catamaran Cruise
Quepos may be small, but it makes up for it in spirit. Today is yours to explore the tiny town, consider grabbing a Gauro Sour (the national drink made from distilled sugar cane), or heading down to the docks to hear the fishermen swap sport fishing stories. You will cruise on a catamaran through the Pacific Ocean, kick back and admire the coastline, and try and spot manta rays, reef sharks, sea turtles, and even dolphins in the crystal clear waters.
- Practice your “laid-back” pose. Maybe move that elbow down a bit. Put those sunglasses on. Yeah that’s it. Now you’re relaxing in Quepos.
- Take your sea legs out of storage for an optional catamaran voyage around the Pacific coastline.
- Chow down at a soda—you heard that correctly. Costa Rican lunch cafés are called sodas, and they’re an absolutely delicious way to eat authentically and affordably.
- Sail away on an included catamaran cruise.
- Day 9: Travel to San José via Sarchi
On your way back to San José, stop in Sarchi for a guided tour of a coffee plantation. Toast your trip goodbye with your Farewell Dinner, then time for dancing, drinks, or creating a detailed scrapbook of your time in Costa Rica—however you see fit to wish your time in paradise goodbye.
- Stop off in Sarchi for a coffee plantation tour on your way back to San José.
- Watch as the little red berries become morning buzz brew right before your eyes.
- Salivate as the final product is roasted and brewed, then sample the freshest coffee of your life, and give in to the caffeine-induced feeling of invincibility.
- Swap phone numbers, Instagram follows, email addresses, AIM screen-names—whatever it takes to make your time with your Costa Rican travel BFFs feel like “see you soon,” not “goodbye forever.”
Share some last laughs (and maybe shed a few tears) at an included farewell dinner with the group.
- Day 10: Fly Home
Translation: Goodbye, friends. Your next destination awaits—home. Before you head to the airport, enjoy your last few moments together. Take one more group photo. Grab that final drink. (Fine, maybe a couple of drinks.) But this isn’t goodbye. It’s “See you later.” The only question is, where?
EXTEND YOUR TRIP 2 WAYS
1. Double the fun
A lot of our trips line up back to back! Give us a call—we can help you add another and save big while you're at it.
2. Go ahead or stay behind
Extending your trip is easy! During checkout, you'll have the option to fly to (or from) the gateway of your choice for an additional fee. We'll adjust your flights accordingly, but you'll be responsible to take care of your transportation, hotels, and other logistics outside of tour.
Note: Depending on your desired gateways, additional fees may apply.