best day trips from san jose costa rica

The Best Day Trips from San Jose, Costa Rica

The rich culture of Costa Rica is prominently displayed in its capital city, San Jose. The capital city boasts the country’s rich history through its magnificent architecture and several art galleries and museums and is also considered as the country’s hub and an ideal tourist destination. But since the city of San Jose is placed right in the middle of Costa Rica it is bordered by the provinces of Alajuela, Cartago, Heredia, Limon, and Puntarenas, it is also a perfect base spot for day trips to its different neighboring provinces.  To enjoy the wonderful culture of Costa Rica and its rich history, here are the best day trips from San Jose.


Before traveling to Costa Rica, get yourself acquainted with the basics to assure an easy experience. Costa Rica uses Colón as currency (1CRC = 0.080PHP); while the country does accept U.S. Dollars, having the local currency will make things easier for you. The country also uses the Spanish language as its everyday language. The country also sports a mild climate which is ideal for tourists who wish to visit the different attractions of Costa Rica.

Where to Stay in San Jose

The capital city of San Jose is an excellent place to base yourself. And here in Costa Rica the roads and transport links are great, which makes for easy day trips. So pick yourself a great place in San Jose as a base and head out on some amazing San Jose Day Trips.

Spurge on luxury at the Grano de Oro Hotel Perfect location with a rooftop garden, it’s a great place to acclimatize to Costa Rica.  There’s free wifi in all areas and air conditioning in all rooms.  Each room features a flat-screen TV, a private bathroom and you can also opt for a balcony or terrace. >  Get a price and reserve a room now.

Incredible reviews at the Capital Hostel de Ciudad Seriously clean with a fabulous breakfast.  There are barbecue facilities, a garden, and a terrace.  Each room has a kettle and you’ll find some with a kitchenette, a microwave, a toaster, and a fridge.  It gets justifiably rave reviews for the superb free wifi. > Check availability and book now!

Small, friendly, practice your Spanish at the Hotel Trianon A superb location very close to the San Jose Main Square, the owner here speaks English but is happy to let you practice your Spanish with her.  There’s wifi throughout the property and private bathrooms are available.  Breakfast, which is included, is a fabulous introduction to Costa Rican cuisine. > Book your room now.

The Best Day Trips from San Jose, Costa Rica

If you have a rental car in Costa Rica, you can use it to get to many of these places.

If you need to rent a car in Costa Rica we recommend Discover Cars for car hire.  You can search, compare and save up to 70%, with no hidden fees and free cancellation, it’s the perfect option! Get a price for a rental car in Costa Rica here.

Meet the wildlife and bury your feet in white sand at Manuel Antonio National Park

A place of abundant diverse wildlife, you’re in for a treat when you visit Manuel Antonio National Park. (Our guide to visiting Manuel Antonio is here) Established in 1972, the park served as the preservation of the beautiful and bio-diverse areas in Costa Rica, for future generations. While it is the smallest national park in the country it houses a mix of rainforest, beaches, and coral reefs. You’ll get a chance to meet sloths, iguanas, rare squirrel monkeys, white-faced monkeys, and millions of colorful little crabs that live in the rainforest.

Manuel Antonio National Park day trips from San Jose Costa Rica

Through the park’s two most popular beaches, Playa Espadilla Sur and Playa Manuel Antonio, you will be able to enjoy snorkeling activities and explore the coral reefs; these two beaches are connected by the Cathedral Point, the land bridge that was once an island. The park also houses Playa Manuel Antonio’s white-sand beach which has green foliage and a secluded cove.

Manuel Antonio National Park is only around 3 hours away from San Jose! You can book the best day trip to Manuel Antonio National Park from San Jose here. The park, however, reminds its visitors that it is open throughout the week except for Tuesday, from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Bringing food is prohibited along with bringing pets and using drones, but bringing beverages is allowed.

Want to spend longer in Manuel Antonio? Take a bus or a shuttle from San Jose to Manuel Antonio – here are the options of how to get to Manuel Antonio from San Jose.

Get to touch the clouds with a day trip to Monteverde Cloud Forest

Experience the beauty of nature and hear the call of rare birds when you visit the Monteverde Cloud Forest. This rare forest can only survive in tropical or subtropical mountainous environments, and houses lichens, orchids, and bromeliads. Within Monteverde Cloud Forest, you can get a chance to explore Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve; established in 1972, this reserve covers over 35,000 acres and houses 100 species of mammals, 400 species of birds, and 1,200 species of amphibians and reptiles. Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve, which covers 765 acres, on the other hand, allows you to meet spider monkeys.

Monteverde Cloud Forest hiking day trips from San Jose Costa Rica

Lastly, you can also visit the Bosque Eterno de Los Ninos, a cloud forest started by Swedish school children who raised funds to purchase and protect the parcels of threatened wildlife. Apart from hiking through these reserves, Monteverde Cloud Forest also has a hanging bridge and aerial tram tours and with a zip-line, which will pass through the reserves, you will be brought back down.

Check out this day trip to Monteverde Cloud Forest from San Jose and allow yourself to unwind from the bustling life of the city!

Want to spend longer in Monteverde (our guide is here) Take a bus or a shuttle from San Jose to Manuel Antonio – here are the options of how to get to Monteverde from San Jose.

Stand yourself face-to-face a geothermal force with a day trip to Poas Volcano National Park

One of the major attractions of Costa Rica, the Poas Volcano, is located in the Poas National Park. While the volcano is still active, it has not seen any violent activity since 1954. But it did erupt some gas, ash, and rocks which damaged some of the surrounding buildings and trails in 2017.

Poas Volcano day trips from San Jose Costa Rica

Many different hiking and walking trails are open for you to enjoy: there is the paved, leveled, 0.5km trail that overlooks the crater; there is also the Botos trail which spans 1.4 km where you can view the lake; the 1km Escalonia cloud forest trail allows you to see the many birds, the endemic Poas squirrels and escallonia trees that live in the forest.

Get a chance to view the magnificent Poas Volcano with this day trip tour to the park from San Jose!

Witness Costa Rica’s best-known volcano at Arenal Volcano National Park

Seeing the symmetrical Arenal Volcano of Costa Rica will satisfy your sightseer side, while the activities you can do around it will satisfy your thirst for adventure. Arenal will offer you various activities like horseback rides, walking along a hanging bridge, and underground cave explorations. There are also canopy tours, waterfall rappelling, mountain bike rides, and rafting trips. You can also unwind and enjoy dips into one of their hot springs. If you want to spend more time in Arenal, then our guide on things to do there is here.

Arenal Volcano day trips from San Jose Costa Rica

Arenal Volcano is Costa Rica’s most active volcano up until 2010, constantly spewing a large amount of lava, gas, and ash. It went into an indeterminate resting phase in October 2010.

Want to check out Arenal’s cuisine as well? This tour will allow you to explore both the volcano and its hot springs, and the cuisine, check it out!

Want to spend longer in Arenal? – our guide to Arenal is here. Take a bus or a shuttle from San Jose to Arenal – here are the options of how to get to Arenal from San Jose.

Check out two volcanoes with this day trip to Irazú and Turrialba Volcano National Parks

Irazú Volcano and Turrialba Volcano’s systems are in conjunction with each other! This allows you to visit one after the other. At Irazú Volcano National Park, you will be able to set your eyes inside the highest volcano of Costa Rica by entering its crater. Turrialba Volcano National Park, on the other hand, houses Turrialba Volcano, where at its foot, you can visit the Central Town.

Irazu Volcano day trips from San Jose Costa Rica

Visiting Irazú and Turrialba Volcano National Parks may take you about an hour and a half by car, make sure to check out this day trip to maximize your visit!

Get to hike or lounge around here at Tortuga Island

Tortuga Island is one of the popular day trips for tourists, with its white sand beach and exquisite view. You can either lounge around freely by renting one of the lounge chairs and huge umbrella and bask in the sun or explore the waters and the island by trying out activities such as snorkeling, hiking, and zip-lining.

Tortuga Island day trips from San Jose Costa Rica

You can also explore the three shipwrecks found off the shore of the island.

Check out this tour from San Jose to Tortuga Island and experience more of what Tortuga Island can offer!

Experience one of Costa Rica’s main tourist icons —Tortuguero National Park

Tortuguero National Park is not called an icon for nothing; located northeast of Costa Rica, the park is known for its green turtles which its beach protects! But apart from watching the green sea turtles, you can also go through the El Jaguar terrestrial trail that runs for 2.5km. If you have longer to spend in Costa Rica, then our guide to Tortuguero is here.

Transport in Tortuguero National Park day trips from San Jose Costa Rica

There are also aquatic trails you can try out such as the Caño Chiquero- Mora Trail (2.3 km), Río Tortuguero Trail (4.3 km), Caño Harold Trail (3.5 km), and Caño Palma Trail (5.1 km).

Experience the iconic island, meet sea turtles, and maximize your island experience by booking this tour!

Want to spend longer in Tortuguero? Take a bus or a shuttle from San Jose to Tortuguero – here are the options of how to get to Tortuguero from San Jose.

Popular Routes Around Costa Rica

Here are our guides to some of the popular routes around Costa Rica.

Travel Tips for Exploring Costa Rica

Final Words on the Best Day Trips from San Jose, Costa Rica

The best day trips are the ones where you can lounge around and have a glorious adventure at the same time. These day trips can give you just that! Having these amazing places in close proximity to San Jose, you can experience colorful Costa Rica without spending the night outside the capital city!

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