The 5 Best Day Trips From San Jose Costa Rica

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Costa Rica is a fantastic country to visit. It’s full of beautiful landscapes, unique animals and friendly people. The capital city of San Jose is also the country’s largest.

While this city might not be on your Costa Rica bucket list, it’s a great spot to base yourself to see this part of the country — especially if you don’t have 3 weeks to take your time and explore the whole country!

Here are the 5 best day trips from San Jose Costa Rica that can easily fit into a week’s vacation. Plus I’ll share some great San Jose hotels too.

The Best Day Trips From San Jose Costa Rica | Costa Rica tours From San Jose |
Head to La Paz Waterfall Gardens to see some gorgeous toucans.

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The Best Day Trips From San Jose Costa Rica

The city of San Jose, Costa Rica is located in the San Jose Province in the central part of the country. While it’s not on the top of tourist attraction lists and isn’t located near a beach, it’s a great spot to base yourself from to do some great day trips.

San Jose Costa Rica Map
San Jose is located in central Costa Rica.

1. La Paz Waterfall Gardens

Distance from San Jose: 1 hour 10 minutes

Cost: Adults – $28 plus tax, Children ages 3 to 12 – $19 plus tax

Tours with transportation included:

Everyone told me to not miss the waterfalls in Costa Rica, and they were right. I loved our visit to La Paz Waterfall Gardens which is a privately owned nature park and animal sanctuary.

In addition to 5 gorgeous waterfalls, you can visit the animal sanctuary which is home to lots of animals including toucans, jungle cats, butterflies, monkeys, and frogs.

La Paz Waterfall Gardens Tips:

Since this is in the rain forest and the word “waterfall” is in the name, expect to get a little wet. It’s usually raining (sometimes a mist and sometimes more), so it’s a good idea to wear a light rain jacket or bring a travel ponchoWool socks would be a great idea too to help keep your feet as dry as possible.

San Jose Costa Rica Day Trips
You will get a little wet when visiting La Paz…be prepared with a rain jacket or poncho.


2. Tabacon Hot Springs

Distance from San Jose: 2 hours 55 minutes

Cost: Day Pass including lunch – $85 per person

Tours with transportation included:

If you are looking for ultimate luxury in a lush Costa Rica jungle, this is it! It’s a long day trip from San Jose, but it’s totally worth it. If I ever get back to Costa Rica, Tabacon Hot Springs is on the top of my list of places to go!

The hot springs at Tabacon are naturally heated by the underground magma from the Arenal volcano. Water temperatures range from about 98° F to 102° F.  These thermal pools are all connected by a series of waterfalls — it’s total heaven.

Read More: A Day of Luxury at Tabacon Hot Springs

Day Trips from San Jose Costa Rica | Tabacon Thermal Resort
Tabacon Hot Springs is a wonderful place to spend a day in Costa Rica.

3. Toucan Rescue Ranch

Distance from San Jose: 25 minutes

Cost: Adults and kids ages 11 and up – $37, Kids ages 6 to 10 – $19, Kids 5 and under are free

Tours with transportation included:

Looking for sloths, toucans, monkeys, birds, and other exotic animals? The Toucan Rescue Ranch has them all!  This non-profit organization is dedicated to the care, rehabilitation, and release of these animals.

Animals come to the Ranch because of illness, injury, or as a result of being held as an illegal pet. They receive medical treatment and rehabilitation with the goal of eventual release back into the wild. The animals that can’t be released stay at the Ranch full time.

This is a great opportunity to see animals like sloths and toucans up close and personal.

Half Day Trips From San Jose Costa Rica | Toucan Rescue Ranch
A visit to the Toucan Rescue Ranch makes a great easy day trip from San Jose Costa Rica.

4. Coffee Plantation Tour

Distance from San Jose:

      • Doka Coffee Plantation – 40 minutes
      • Britt Coffee Estate – 25 minutes

Cost: varies

Tours with transportation included:

Costa Rica knows coffee! Did you know that Costa Rica is the only country where it’s actually illegal to produce anything other than 100% Arabica? Yep, it’s actually illegal to produce bad coffee in Costa Rica!

The country has 8 distant coffee-growing regions that each produce their own unique blends. Costa Rican coffee growers take their craft seriously, handpicking their beans to ensure the best quality.

Day tours from San Jose Costa Rica - Doka Coffee
Costa Ricans take pride in their coffee, many picking the beans by hand. Image Credit: Doka Coffee

Both Doka Coffee Plantation and Britt Coffee are near San Jose and make great day or half-day trips. Coffee also makes a great Costa Rica souvenir to bring home!

If you can’t make it to Costa Rica or just want to try some Costa Rican coffee at home, you can order online.


5. Braulio Carrillo National Park

Distance from San Jose: 1.5 hours

Cost: $7 entrance fee; activity costs vary

Tours with transportation included:

Braulio Carrillo National Park is located in Costa Rica’s central valley and makes a great day trip from San Jose. The park was established in 1979 and includes everything from volcanoes and rainforests to lakes and rivers.

Braulio Carrillo is home to over 130 species of animals, over 500 species of birds, and 6,000 species of plants and trees. Activities you can find at the park include hiking, zip-lining, aerial tram rides, nature walks, and more.

One of the more interesting things I saw on my tour was a bullet ant. Our guide informed us that they have the most painful sting of any insect in the world…then he proceeded to coax one out of its nest onto a stick so we could get a closer look! (If you are really curious, go check out YouTube for some crazy videos of people getting bitten by these things…on purpose!!)

This park also has one of the better zip line courses I have done — including the “Adrena-Line” which is about a half-mile long and takes a full minute to complete.

Day Trips From San Jose Costa Rica | Adrena Line Zip Line
The Adrena-line zipline is over a half-mile long and takes a full minute to complete!

Where to Stay in San Jose, Costa Rica

Now, let’s talk about the best places to stay in San Jose, Costa Rica.

I stayed at the Costa Rica Marriott Hotel Hacienda Belen and it was fantastic, so of course, it’s my top recommendation. The grounds were beautiful, the staff was wonderful, and it’s centrally located making it a great base for all of your day tours. Plus it’s only a 10-minute drive from the airport.

You can even use Marriott Bonvoy points to pay for your stay so you have more money to spend on activities!

San Jose Costa Rica day trips | San Jose hotels
The grounds at the Costa Rica Marriott are lush and beautiful!

Here are some other hotels in the San Jose, Costa Rica area:

Read More: If you’re looking for Costa Rica luxury on the beach, check out the Andaz Peninsula Papagayo on the country’s west coast.

Things to do in San Jose, Costa Rica

If you’re looking for some things to do in San Jose between day trips, here are a few ideas:

Final Thoughts

There are so many great day trips from San Jose Costa Rica!  San Jose is a great city to base yourself out of if you want to check out central Costa Rica. You’ll get to experience waterfalls, volcanoes, hot springs, and sloths — there is so much to do and see in Costa Rica. Pura Vida!

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San Jose Costa Rica Day Trips | These 5 day trips from San Jose Costa Rica will give you a taste of Pura Vida! All tours have options to include transportaton from your San Jose hotel.

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. annita zamora

    are these in usd or costa rican money? for your five days do those activities take all day and if not what else did you do with your rest of your day?

    1. Katie @ ZenLifeandTravel

      Hi Annita,
      All of these prices are in USD. Not all of these took the whole day. If we had extra time we relaxed by the pool at our hotel (The Marriott Costa Rica San Jose…it was fantastic!).

  2. Elena

    A few years back, we spent entire summer in San Jose. I just couldn’t help browsing through your post bringing back some sweet memories. Tapir, by the way, looks awesome. Cheers!

    1. Katie @ ZenLifeandTravel

      There is a lot to do in the area, isn’t there!

  3. prabhu

    i admire this place, even planning to go there once in this summer vacation. Thanks for sharing good trip experience.

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