Top 5 day trips from San José

San José is the capital of Costa Rica and we always recommend spending the first and especially the last night here because, even though Costa Rica is a small country, the distances are longer than they appear to be and it is better to be close to the airport on the day you take the flight back home.

But another advantage of San José is, that it is right in the heart of Costa Rica, and there are many attractions around it, which is great for those who want to start or end their trip slowly. Today I will tell you about the top 5 day trips from San José.

La Paz Waterfall Gardens and Coffee Tour

La Paz C.Brandt

La Paz Waterfall Gardens

Driving towards the Poás Volcano in Alajuela, you will see how fast nature and vegetation in Costa Rica change. In just one hour from the capital San José, you can see green fields and get amazing views! La Paz Waterfall Gardens has 5 big waterfalls that flow down the mountain in succession. The park is nicely laid out and very clean. You can walk through an animal sanctuary where you can see animals that live in Costa Rica and this is your chance to see them close! They also offer a typical lunch and show you the ox with typical oxcarts, before you take down all the steps to see the stunning waterfalls! I really like this place because you can see so many sides of Costa Rica in just one place: Stunning nature, animals, typical food and a little bit of Costa Rican culture. It is definitively worth a visit!

Here you can read more about the La Paz Waterfall Gardens.

Coffee C.Brandt

Coffee plant

I recommend you to do this tour together with a coffee tour, which is very close to the La Paz Waterfall Gardens. Costa Rica´s coffee has a long history and is mostly cultivated in the Central Valley, in the provinces of Cartago, Heredia, and Alajuela, because the soil and temperature show the perfect condition to grow coffee. Since the 1840s, coffee is exported to Europe. At this time, England started to invest in the coffee production of Costa Rica and was one of the most important clients for the country, which helped the Costa Ricans to leave the poverty conditions they were living in, as well as financing the construction of the infrastructure. Today, Costa Rican coffee counts as one of the best and is famous in the whole world. During this coffee tour, you will learn about the ancient techniques and process of the cultivation, harvesting, and roasting of the coffee beans and why coffee has such a special flavour. And of course, you can also try the finished product. It is a very interesting experience, even for children and those who don’t like coffee.

Irazú Volcano, Orosí and Lankester Gardens

Vulkan Irazu C.Brandt

Crater of the Irazú Volcano

Another great tour you can do near San José is to visit the Irazú Volcano, Orosí and the Lankester Gardens. You will start your trip early in the morning and drive towards Cartago. The volcano is at 3´432 meters above sea level and on sunny days, you can see the Pacific AND the Caribbean coast! However, usually, it is quite windy so I recommend you take a warm jacket. The crater has a beautiful green-turquoise lake. When people see the pictures they usually think it is edited but no! This is the stunning nature of Costa Rica!

Basilica de los Angeles Cartago

Basilica de los Angeles, Cartago

Afterwards, you can visit the Basilica “Nuestra Señora de Los Ángeles”, a Roman Catholic Church and very important for the Ticos. Every year on August 2nd, the Virgen de Los Angeles holiday is celebrated because the Virgin was declared Costa Rica’s patron saint in 1824. Every year on this date, thousands of Costa Ricans walk through the whole country to this Basilica. Some of them even walk the last few hundred meters of the pilgrimage on their knees.

After admiring the church, you can continue your trip to the Lankester Gardens, a botanical garden that is known for the collection of orchids in different colours, as well as cactus, bromeliads, and heliconias. The botanical garden was named after the British biologist Charles H. Lankester who researched endemic plants and created a unique garden. After his death, the garden was donated to the University of Costa Rica in 1973 to make it a botanical garden. On the way back to San José, you can make a little stop at the oldest church of Costa Rica in Orosi and then, end the day with a lot of new knowledge and experiences!

Rainforest Adventure Aerial Tram

Tram 2

Aerial Tram Rainforest Adventure

If you want to see a little bit of nature, this tour is perfect for you! After you leave the capital San José, you drive towards the rainforest in the Braulio Carrillo National Park. The Aerial Tram moves about one and a half hours through the treetops and allows you to have a view of the lush rainforest from above. You will see many tropical plants and maybe some animals and birds. In each cabin is space for 5 people and a guide who will tell you a lot of interesting facts. Afterwards, you can hike about 40 minutes through the rainforest and admire the beautiful nature one more time from another perspective. They also offer a delicious lunch before you go back to San José. A great day trip for everyone who loves nature and wants to enjoy the rainforest of Costa Rica!

Sarchí, Arenal and Hot springs

carreta c.brandt 2

Carreta in Sarchí

This day trip also combines culture, sights, and nature. The first stop is in Sarchí, a small town in Alajuela, well-known for the traditional and colourful oxcarts that are handcrafted and painted here. In the 19th century, the “Carreta” was used for coffee transportation from the Central Valley to the harbour of Puntarenas on the Pacific coast and at times even for the transportation of people, which makes it an important part of history. In Sarchí, we also find the biggest oxcart in the world and you can find many different souvenirs to bring to your family, friends, or as a memory for yourself.

vulkan arenal

Arenal Volcano

Afterwards, you can visit the town of La Fortuna, eat a typical lunch there and visit the Arenal National Park. The Arenal Volcano is famous for its perfectly cone-shaped form and on a sunny day, you can see until the top. So after a delicious lunch with a view of the volcano, you could take a little hike and see the beautiful and lush nature around the volcano! There are a lot of activities you can do there, but if you are on a day trip from San José and back, I recommend you to visit one of the hot springs. The waters are heated naturally through the volcano and have many minerals. This has many health benefits, such as reducing stress, helping with circulation problems, reactivating the metabolism, relaxing the muscles and it also opens the pores, which allows the body to absorb the minerals of the volcanic rocks. I think it is a very special activity and something you shouldn’t miss when you are in Costa Rica.

San José City Tour

Teatro nacional C Brandt

National Theater in San José

If you don’t want to leave San José or you just have a couple of hours before you must go to the airport, I recommend you to do the City Tour of San José.

You could visit the Central Market first. There, you can find “sodas” which are small, typical restaurants that offer the traditional food of Costa Rica. There are also many locals selling their fruit and vegetables and handcrafted things that make a great souvenir! I think it is a great way to see a part of the daily life of the Ticos!

In San José, you find most of the museums in Costa Rica, I recommend the National Museum and the Precolumbian Gold Museum. It is a great way to learn about the culture and history of the Ticos.

Another important part is the National Theater! Its construction started in 1891 and was mostly financed by the coffee export of the country. The first presentation took place in October 1897. It has many marble statues and golden features and is, in my opinion, the most important site of the capital.

If you wish to book a City Tour that includes the entrance fees and a guide who will explain to you many interesting facts, just This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., we will be happy to help you!

If you ask me, I can’t even decide which is my favourite tour! They are all amazing and worth it. I recommend combined tours because you can see and learn about a lot of things in just one day. Also, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for private tours!

If you have any questions or need help with the booking, feel free to contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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  • Janaina & Dieter

    The trip was wonderful! Your help was invaluable and without your choices it would not have been so good! I am very very satisfied and very happy with the choices you made!

    Thank you very much for everything!

    Janaina & Dieter
  • Kathrin, Ines, Matthias & Ingo

    Hello dear Aline, many thanks to you for the great compilation and organization of the trip. We were able to spend eventful, interesting and wonderful days in Costa Rica and will keep them in good memory. A thank you also goes to the ARA Tours team, which was available 24/7 for problems and questions, which were solved and answered quickly and reliably. The punctuality of the transfers offered should also be emphasized. In summary, it was a wonderful holiday.

    Kind regards

    Kathrin, Ines, Matthias & Ingo
  • Carina und Thomas

    Hello dear Aline,
    Now we have arrived back at San Jose Airport after a great trip. Everything worked out great and the tour was just perfectly planned and organized. Thank you very much. We take a lot of positive memories with us.
    Best regards.

    Carina und Thomas
  • Yvonne Deiss

    The Costa Rica trip together with my family is already behind us - it was wonderful!!! Everything went smoothly from A to Z, we had a wonderful time, no incidents and wonderful experiences.
    We all enjoyed it very much; the nature is enormous, but also the warm-hearted people, the cleanliness, the food - we are very enthusiastic!
    At this point I would like to thank you very much for your support in the preparation, for all the bookings, clarifications and enquiries!!!
    We visited the waterfall in La Fortuna and had a great view of the Arenal. In Monteverde we did a Hanging Bridges and Zipline tour and in Nosara a surf course. In Finca Rosa Bianca we did the coffee tour, it was all great, fun and interesting 😊. All in all, we saw lots of animals, always ate well, enjoyed the beaches....even in rainy weather 😊. Often we were even glad that it was overcast, otherwise it would have been almost toouuu hot for us.
    So THANK YOU again so much for everything!!!!

    Yvonne Deiss
  • Christina

    Many thanks for the extensive support (before, during and after the trip) and the professional handling of our concerns. With your support we had a smooth and unforgettable vacation in Costa Rica! Our favorite hotels: Hotel Plaza Yara and the Poas Volcano Lodge - a dream!
    All the best

  • Steinebrunner

    Yay! I´m glad we are back on track. Thank you again for helping us with all these changes.
    I´m glad we choose ARA-you are amazing! Thanks for all your help! It made it a very memorable visit!

  • Janka

    Hi Eli & ARA Team,
    We have spoken to the guest and they are super enthusiastic about their Costa Rica roundtrip! Everything was well organized, nice hotels, nice mix of activities & beach and they have big compliments for you guys!!
    Many thanks for all the good work!! The guest highly appreciate it!!
    They had lunch nearby in Ara Ambigua Lodge, and they loved this place. Friendly staff and good food!
    Do you work with this accommodation? If so, we would love hear 😊
    Once again, heads off for this amazing trip!
    With warm regards

  • Thomas, Deborah, Eva & Paula

    Dear Priska
    Happily I write some words to you in English, so you can easily forward them also to Ara Tours, please. Thank you all, we spent a magic time in Costa Rica! Baumeler's and Ara Tours organisation and logistics were perfect, everything worked out even better than we expected. The tours were brilliant, we really enjoyed everything very very much!
    All the accomodation was absolutely wonderful... the setting, the quality, the food, with happy helpful friendly staff everywhere. It was a wonderful way to experience this beautiful country the way we did, on a private tour with personal guide and drivers. We saw and learnt sooo much - it would have been impossible to do so on our own.
    Especially we praise our brilliant guide Fernando Perez, we benefited so much from his truly wide knowledge and deep love for his Country which he passed on in lovely encouraging way. We even became friends and we will meet in Switzerland coming September! Also our driver Carlos Sandi was great, not only as a driver but also as a compagnion, animal spotter and photographer. Thank you!
    So.... now we just enjoy our last day...
    Sunny greetings, pura vida

    Thomas, Deborah, Eva & Paula
  • Yvonne & Andrea

    Hello all
    Unfortunately, our wonderful trip is already over and everyday life has caught up with us again. We would like to thank you very much for everything. The trip was planned exactly according to our wishes and we have seen so many beautiful places.
    Thank you Stefanie!
    We have felt completely comfortable and top cared for by you. Via Whats App we got immediate answers to our questions, with the car everything worked out great. In all locations we were treated very warmly and nicely. It was just so indescribably beautiful, we will dream of the beautiful experiences for a long time. In any case, we will warmly recommend you and hope for a next time. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
    Best regards.

    Yvonne & Andrea
  • Anita

    We have arrived safely in Switzerland and have already returned to work.
    It was a wonderful trip you put together for us.
    Your excellent service, as well as the 24 hour support service from ARA Tours, was truly outstanding.
    I have already recommended you several times and would book with you again and again. Thank you very much and keep me informed if there are any interesting offers.
    Best wishes.

  • Lukas & Isabelle

    Hello Pedro, our time in CR is coming to an end and we wanted to say "thank you very much for organizing a phenomenal week". Everything has been well organized and we have seen many beauties of nature. Thanks!

    Lukas & Isabelle
  • Reinout & Yvonne Woittiez

    Thanks Jenny for the clear answer. We will make an appointment via the link you gave us.
    Today we visited National Parc Cabo Blanco. What an amazing park, so quiet for tourists, so full of animals, really lovely and therefore together with Monte Verde, Cahuita and Corcovado the park today, Cabo Blanco, scores high in our ranking of most beautiful parks of CR.These parks give us reason, together with the Pura Vida in CR, to come back soon. We'll keep in contact.

    Reinout & Yvonne Woittiez
  • Dominik

    Good day Jennifer
    As we have already told Simone, the stay at Lapa Rios is extremely enriching, thanks to the well planned planting and the untouched environment we see a lot of animals. Contrary to the plans before the stay, we do not want to visit more animals in captivity at the end. We will have a look at the few hours before we leave.
    We thank you and your team very much for the excellent advice and the permanent support! We can only recommend Ara Tours.
    Best regards.

  • Daniel, Jana und Theo

    A big thank to you, you saved our vacation!
    Communication already worked very well in Germany. The help from you, especially through Aline, should be mentioned here. This was fantastic from the first WhatsApp message to the last. We already know Costa Rica, so we knew what we wanted and what not. Ara Tours was an important point of contact for us. We are very grateful to Aline precisely because our actual travel agent cancelled our trip 36 hours before departure. She immediately organized everything for us. Whether the hotel in beautiful Punta Leona, the tours to the national parks, even the shuttle service with the great driver Guillerno Ortega has to be mentioned here. We are very grateful to you, dear Aline, but also to the entire Ara Tours team. You too made our almost 3-week trip to Costa Rica unforgettable again. We would love to come back and of course we will book through Ara Tours again.

    Daniel, Jana und Theo
  • Wolf Family

    Thank you, everything really worked out great. Super organization and at any time quick info / help / support from you!
    We liked it very much. The conclusion in Quepos was crowning. We liked the beach in the National Park Manuel Antonio very much. We would have liked to stay longer, but we take home many wonderful, unforgettable impressions. PURA VIDA!
    Many thanks to you Aline! We will gladly recommend you to others.

    Wolf Family
  • Neumann

    - The route was super planned, first time to arrive at the beach and then from Monteverde with excursions inland etc. and at the end again beach - perfect!
    - Support from Ara Tours was VERY good!!! Through Whatsapp reachability the service was great, very quick answers / very flexible, good suggestions etc. Also with the doctor Ara Tours helped with translations by phone - that was very, very good!
    - The Home Stay day was absolute highlight - very authentic - so they got to know the locals REAL, the family was super friendly and very open and have talked about everything. Not at all touristy perceived, you were also allowed to look at the house there and Mrs. Neumann found it also a great experience for their children

  • Marine & Bruno Serra

    We would like to thank you personally for this beautiful trip that you organised for us and for the follow-up that you did throughout the stay. A big thank you also to Jennifer d'Ara tours! Thank you again and have a great week!

    Marine & Bruno Serra
  • Walter Eggenschwiler

    We really appreciated your (almost) daily updates from Costa Rica on Covid and related issues. That was a highlight compared to other incoming agents worldwide! We thank you for your effort and wish you that you manage the coming time well and stay healthy.

    Walter Eggenschwiler
  • Ronald Raadsheer

    Our great compliments for keeping us informed every day on the developments. We wish you all the best and keep yourself and families in good health and mood during this unprecedented period!

    Ronald Raadsheer
  • Kathrin Vonschiller

    You are really super! It is impressive how you manage the crisis with your super flow of information and the great reversal. Hats off!

    Kathrin Vonschiller
  • Michael White

    Hello, we were on a round trip in Costa Rica from 27.11., which was booked through BigXtra and organised by them. We would like to take this opportunity to thank you very much. The tour was simply amazing! The support by Carlos was just great. We have done many trips before, but this one was an unforgettable experience thanks to Carlos. Carlos speaks very good German and was able to sensitively introduce us to Costa Rica, its incomparable nature and its great, friendly inhabitants. Pura Vida became for us a term for the attitude towards life in Costa Rica. Please say hello to Carlos from us and once again a huge thank you to him in the name of the whole group of 8. We wish him only the best for his future.

    Michael White
  • Evelyne Thommen

    Wie just did a 4 week trip in Costa Rica which was organised from ARA tours and we really liked it - well done Ara Tours! We also had a guide - his name is Enrique. His German is really good and he knows a lot about Costa Rica and he showed us a lot of animals. We had a wonderful time with hime - thank you so much Enrique!

    Evelyne Thommen
  • Tanja Weber

    perfect tour perfect tour guide pablo, everything very well organised 👍👍👍👍🇨🇷🇨🇨🇷 were thrilled

    Tanja Weber
  • Ines Lechner

    Many thanks and great praise to our tour guide Mauricio and our bus driver Adrian! We felt very comfortable during the 2 weeks in Costa Rica. The wide-ranging knowledge of Mauricio and the super driving skills of Adrian were particularly admirable. Thanks to the eagle eyes of both of them, we had the opportunity to observe a variety of animals in Costa Rica. Thank you for everything!

    Ines Lechner
  • Sabine Schumacher

    I can only recommend ARA Tours. Thanks again to Nicole for the great planning of the tour and the support. Our tour guide Peter Käser was simply incredible (a walking encyclopaedia) and always had an answer to all my questions about the flora and fauna and the history of CR. Our driver Julio carried my father on his hands, for which I am very grateful. CR is also worth a trip for wheelchair users at any time (with ARA Tours, of course).

    Sabine Schumacher
  • Familie Thieme

    We would like to thank you once again for organizing our trip [...] through the beautiful country of Costa Rica. Our special thanks go to our tour guide Enrique, who with his extensive knowledge of flora and fauna about his country brought it very close to us and made us want to come even a second time. We were very glad and happy to travel with him, as he was also very committed to our problems on site, in addition to his competent function as a tour guide.

    Familie Thieme
  • Familie Stalder

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your sensational effort! I do not know such a competent tour guide as with you really from nowhere else... and we have already traveled a lot... 🙏🏻🍀

    Familie Stalder
  • Katja Stadelmann

    I wanted to thank you again for the great Costa Rica trip. We flew back home very happy and with many great impressions. A compliment for the super organisation. Everything worked out perfectly (except for the handover of the rental car, which was force majeure...). So thank you again and I have already recommended you to friends:-)!

    Katja Stadelmann
  • Conny Koch

    You and your team have organized a great trip and wonderful days for the guests in your beautiful country and I thank you very much for that!

    Conny Koch
  • Denise Steiger

    Thank you very much for your email and the tickets. We really appreciate how quickly and efficiently you deal with our requests each time!

    Denise Steiger
  • Philippe

    Hello Christine Thank you very much for this information. The support is super👍 many thanks Gruss

  • Marianne & Stefan Gräub

    Otherwise, the planned trip was a complete success. Everything went well and the visits you organised were all very interesting. The visits you organised were all very interesting and gave us a great insight into the respective topics. The fact that the Ticos are very friendly and always ready to help was fully confirmed.

    Marianne & Stefan Gräub

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