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5 Best Day Trips from San Jose, Costa Rica

Whether you are based in San Jose or have already been here for a while and have discovered the city, you will probably find yourself longing to explore the country a bit more. From our point of view in San Jose, a short drive and you can be in the beautiful mountains and volcanoes of Costa Rica. Luckily for us, we are close to some great tourist destinations, not to mention the famous Caribbean Sea.

Here are some recommendations of top things to do in Costa Rica if you are looking for adventure and relaxation!

Puerto Viejo

blue waters washing off the shores at Puerto Viejo
Viator / Viator

This small town is home to beaches, nature, jungle, and even opportunities for surfing. When you arrive you will be amazed by the beautiful view as well as the friendly people. The town itself is home to many great restaurants as well as various shops and activities. You can rent a car and drive there by yourself or take a bus or taxi. There are also plenty of accommodations to choose from including Airbnb, all at great prices.

La Fortuna

strong water falling from La Fortuna waterfalls
La Fortuna Waterfall Admission / Viator

This town is just outside of San Jose, 75 km away. Here you will find plenty of outdoor activities such as walking, hiking, kayaking, horse riding and volcano climbing. The town itself is very cool and has many bars and restaurants. If you are on a budget, there are usually plenty of great offers.

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lady in a kayak at the Tortuguero National Park
Kayak Tour / Viator

This national park is located 100 km southwest of San Jose. The park is ideal for bird watching as well as viewing the turtles which nest here from April to December. The main thing to do in the park is to take a boat tour to view the turtles. There are a number of different tours which start at different times, usually, after the morning tour, another one is in the afternoon.

See Related: Best Yosemite National Park Bus Tours

La Paz Waterfall Gardens

vistors taking photos at the San Jose La Paz Waterfall Gardens
Semi Private La Paz Waterfall Gardens & Safari in Sarapiqui River / Viator

This botanical garden consists of 7 different ecosystems, all of which are connected by waterfalls. In addition to tours, there is a restaurant, a souvenir shop, and a gift shop. In the summer they are open 24 hours so you can enjoy the night!

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This town is near the beach, only 35 km away. In the 60s and 70s, it was a popular hippie destination and still attracts a lot of tourists for its beauty. Montezuma also has a few beaches, one of which is Playa Montezuma. It has beautiful crystal clear water and is surrounded by some spectacular jungle.

Arenal Volcano

horse feeding off the grass just below the Arenal Volcano
Viator / Viator

The Arenal Volcano is located 25 km from La Fortuna. The volcano has several volcanic craters. You can walk up the volcano and into the craters. You can also enjoy rafting or kayaking down the Arenal River.

If you end up staying in San Jose for a while but want to explore Costa Rica then make sure you take the drive out of the city and see what you can find. If you have limited time, but still want to travel, then take a taxi or a bus. It will be cheaper and the drive from San Jose is not that long.

If you are visiting San Jose with your family, then you have to keep a few things in mind. Different from European and North American families, Spanish families tend to hold their children close and the older generation is of the mindset that it should be the youngest child who stays at home with their parents.

This doesn’t make it any easier for tourists with children! So to help you out, here’s a list of some of our favorite activities to do with the kids whilst in San Jose.

See Related: Best Day Trips from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Monkey Island

mother and child monkey hiding among leaves at Monkey Island
Panamá Canal Rainforest Monkey Island Tour / Viator

This is an ideal day trip for the whole family, especially if you’re staying in an apartment close to the bus station. Here you will drive about 40 minutes on a scenic route and arrive at Monkey Island, a huge park with impressive trails. The best thing about Monkey Island is that as you walk through the park, you will see many monkeys which are just milling around on the ground and jumping from tree to tree.

This is a great activity because whenever you see something cool like a monkey or a snake, there is always an accompanying scream. This is one of the few activities where we at Mountain4Rent highly recommend taking children.

Although, you do have to be super careful with children and monkeys don’t tend to be all that careful. Keep them close, make sure they don’t run too close to monkeys, and keep a safe distance. You can take a long nap in the car whilst you drive and there will be no annoying little monkeys running up on you!

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Chocolate Museum

man taking out cacao seed from fruit at the Chocolate museum
Chocolate Tour in the Rainforest & Hanging Bridge / Viator

If the kids are not already addicted to chocolate, a visit to the Chocolate Museum in Costa Rica will surely do the trick. Located in San Jose, the museum is home to a collection of artifacts and displays that explore the history and production of chocolate.

Visitors can learn about how cocoa beans are harvested and made into delicious products, view replicas of ancient pottery used for storing cocoa, and more.

There’s even a factory tour where visitors can watch chocolatiers at work creating unique treats from scratch! With its interactive exhibits, knowledgeable staff, and proximity to other attractions in San Jose, this museum makes an unforgettable experience for both children and adults alike.

At the end of your visit be sure to check out the gift shop where you can purchase some delectable souvenirs.

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