Are you looking for the best day trips from San Jose, Costa Rica? If you’re using the city as a home base for your trip, San Jose’s favorable location makes it easy for travelers to experience the highlights of Costa Rica.
Below are our recommended best San Jose, Costa Rica day trips. We also offer small discounts for excursions listed below, click here to get our San Jose day tours discount!
Best San Jose, Costa Rica day trips
To see all the places listed below in a visual manner, check out our San Jose day trips map.
For these day trips, you can do these one your own if you rented a car or you can book tours with transportation. For those booking tours with transportation, don’t forget to get our San Jose day tours discount!
Poas Volcano National Park is the most popular park in Costa Rica because of its easy accessibility and incredible views of one of the largest geyser volcano craters in the world. On a clear day, you can see the bright blue color of the crater lake!
Poas Volcano is only about a 1 hour drive from San Jose, making it one of the best day trips from San Jose. If you visit independently, make sure you purchase park tickets beforehand on the SINAC website as they do not allow purchase of tickets upon arrival.
Visit Irazu Volcano National Park to see the tallest volcano in Costa Rica! This national park in Cartago is about 2 hours from San Jose and has spectacular views along the way. You can visit other places along the way such as Finca Sanatorio Duran, the most haunted building in Costa Rica!
Since the trail from the park entrance to the volcano crater is about a 20 minute walk on a flat path, it’s a very easy day trip from San Jose. For those without a car, you can book an Irazu Volcano day tour. It goes to Irazu, Cartago and/or Hacienda Orosi.
Pacuare River White Water Rafting
In the mood for adventure? Go white water rafting at Rio Pacuare, one of the best rafting rivers in the world! Paddle through Class 3, 4 and 4+ rapids surrounded by lush jungle on this awesome outdoor adventure.
It’s a full day of fun with breakfast, One of the best adventure day trips from San Jose, Costa Rica!
You can also use this rafting trip as an interconnection. If your next destination is La Fortuna or Puerto Viejo. Get $5 USD off the tour!
Coffee Tour (One of Our Favorite San Jose, Costa Rica Day Trips)
The Central Valley grows some of the best coffee in Costa Rica due to its favorable climate and elevation. Costa Rica doesn’t produce the biggest quantity of coffee, but they do produce high quality coffee that has won awards around the world. If you love coffee, you have to take a coffee plantation tour to learn more about this amazing tree.
One of the best coffee tours from San Jose is the Doka Estate Coffee tour, just 1.5 hours outside the city. However, there are several others such as Britt and Alsacia (owned by Starbucks).
If you want to see the whole coffee procedure, the best months are September – January as that is when coffee picking season is. You can drive yourself to the coffee plantations to do the tour or book a tour with a company (most tour companies go to Doka since they have a very nice property and excellent facilities for tours).
One bonus to going on a coffee tour is that you can buy coffee at the factory which is fresher and cheaper than the supermarket. Great Costa Rican souvenir!
Rainforest Adventures Aerial Tram and Zipline
Rainforest Adventures is an eco-adventure park near Brauilio Carrillo National Park with a variety of activities such as hiking, bird watching, ziplining and an aerial tram. Since it’s towards the Caribbean side, this area has incredibly lush jungle and abundant wildlife.
If you go ziplining, their canopy tour gives you fantastic views of the jungle as you fly over the trees! The Rainforest Adventures aerial tram is the first in Costa Rica, taking visitors right through the heart of the rainforest.
We offer a 10% discount for their passes, click here to book your Rainforest Adventures tour and get our discount!
Tortuga Island Day Cruise
Take a relaxing cruise to Tortuga Island, a gorgeous island with a white sand beach in the Gulf of Nicoya. You’ll cruise for about 1.5 hours to the island where you have 5 hours to relax and enjoy. Tortuga Island is definitely one of the best San Jose day tours and best beach trips from San Jose!
We have a special $10 discount for the Tortuga Island Day Tour. For anyone who loves the beach, this is one of the best San Jose, Costa Rica day trips!
La Paz Waterfall Gardens
The La Paz waterfall gardens is a beautiful nature park with an animal sanctuary and 5 waterfalls up in the Vara Blanca Cloud Forest. As it’s just a 1.5 hour drive from San Jose, the La Paz Waterfall Gardens Nature Park is one of the best day trips from San Jose to see cloud forest, waterfalls and nature.
Visitors can purchase tickets to the park and add buffet lunch to it if they want. We have a small discount for park tickets which you can get here: La Paz waterfall gardens discount!
You can drive to the park on your own or if you don’t have your own transportation, many tour companies offer excursions to La Paz. We highly recommend the combination tour which is La Paz waterfall gardens, coffee tour and Poas Volcano. This is one of the day tours offered with our partner that we have a discount for.
If you want to experience Costa Rican small town life, the best places are Sarchi, Grecia and Zarcero. Each of these towns have their own special characteristics and offer a wonderful glimpse into local in Costa Rica.
Zarcero is famous for their church and topiary gardens, Grecia has a red metal church and Sarchi has the biggest oxcart and sells fine furniture. Sarchi is an excellent place to buy Costa Rican souvenirs as they are well known for their woodwork.
These towns are about a 1-1.5 hour drive from San Jose and the views along the way are fantastic.
Arenal Volcano and Hot Springs
Take an Arenal Volcano one day tour from San Jose to see the majestic volcano and relax in the hot springs. Day tours usually consist of breakfast, lunch, viewpoint and a visit to the Arenal hot springs (Baldi, the Springs or Tabacon).
The Arenal day tour is one of the most popular and best day trips from San Jose to experience rainforest and volcano. It’s a must if you are not able to stay overnight in La Fortuna.
Manuel Antonio National Park Hike and Beach
Manuel Antonio National Park is another highly recommended popular day tour from San Jose. This day excursion will take you to the national park where you can choose to swim, relax or hike the trails.
For anyone who wants to see a beautiful beach and wildlife, Manuel Antonio is one of the best beach trips from San Jose, Costa Rica.
San Jose, Costa Rica Tour Companies
As you can see, staying in San Jose doesn’t mean it’s just city sightseeing. In fact, you’re in one of the best locations since the city is right in the middle of the country! You can easily discover many gems of Costa Rica during the day and come back to the comforts of city conveniences at night. If you want to use San Jose as your home base in Costa Rica and do day trips, it is possible and you can see many different parts of the country.
For those who want to take a day trip from San Jose, Costa Rica, we have a partnership with a tour operator to give small discounts. Please click to get your San Jose day tours discount!
San Jose Articles
Want ideas for things to do in San Jose? Check out our travel guide to San Jose Costa Rica sightseeing tours or our 5 day San Jose itinerary.
Not sure if you should visit the Central Valley? Read 10 reasons why you should!
Looking for an hotel by SJO Airport? Check our list of best hotels near San Jose Airport.