Here are some trips we have enjoyed (in no particular order). Let us know if we can help set up any of these trips for you or just point you to them in your rent-a-car. NOTE: some of these trips don't make sense touring direct from the Pura Vida. Some of them are better departing from our friends here located in most parts of the country. We are currently making a map of all the likely places you may visit on this page (click here) - this is a work in progress

You can do these

  • by private driver/guide (ask us if you'd like an English speaking guide/driver)
  • by renting a car (some - OK most - need 4WD due to ground clearance)

May we show you the road less traveled?

  1. A DAY TOUR TO LA FORTUNA/ARENAL (plus a day on horseback when you get there)
  2. TO POAS VOLCANO (just one hour from the Pura Vida)
  3. LA PAZ WATERFALLS AND DOKA COFFEE (day trip from the Pura Vida)
  4. A COSTA RICAN HISTORY DAY TRIP (fast disappearing)
  5. VOLCANO IRAZU/OROSI VALLEY (from the Pura Vida)
  6. A DAY TOUR TO MANUEL ANTONIO WITH A CROCODILE DIGRESSION (and 2 places to stay that are not MA)
  7. A DAY TOUR TO SAN JOSE & MUSEUMS (from the Pura Vida)
  11. TRAVELS ON THE WAY TO WILSON GARDENS AND SAN VITO (long day from the Pura Vida)
  12. A DAY TOUR OF CANO NEGRO (from Arenal area)
  13. A DAY DRIVE TO MONTEZUMA OR MALPAIS (from the Pura Vida)
  16. A TRIP TO TORTUGUERO (not so much by car or van)
  17. A DAY TOUR TO CAHUITA/PUERTO VIEJO AREA (and on to the Bribri village of Yorkin by dug out)


Many of our guests start their adventure in Costa Rica heading towards La Fortuna/Arenal area.  This is a one way day tour to the Arenal region not returning to the Pura Vida.  This is a short photographic journey of places we like to stop along the way. This particular route takes you:

  • from the Pura Vida Hotel (A)
  • down to SJO and along Route 1 to the Naranjo exit (B)
  • here you can digress to the woodworking town of Sarchi (C) and possibly the most excellent and entirely unvisited Elsie Kintzler Gardens
  • then north to Zarcero (home of the topiary (D))
  • continue north to Ciudad Quesada (E) and then a digression to the iguanas (F) of Muelle (stop for lunch at the excellent restaurant in front of the bridge) and
  • then to your hotel in the La Fortuna area - in this case our favorite Leaves & Lizards Retreat (G)

To the side you will find an interactive google map you can pop up to look at the routes.

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Make your first or last day in Costa Rica a trip to Poas Volcano an hour from the Pura Vida Hotel. This particular route takes you:

  • from the Pura Vida Hotel (A) starting no later than 8am if possible - leave earlier if you like and we'll bag you a breakfast
  • up the hill past Doka Coffee (E) - remember where it is for when you come back down later
  • past Chubascos or Freddy Fresas restaurants - both would make great lunch spots later on
  • past the junction (B) for Poasito and Vara Blanca - remember where this is if you want to go to La Paz Waterfall gardens later (D)
  • and on into the Poas Volcano (C), the first of the national parks of Costa Rica and one of the very few places on the planet where you can peer into an active crater and this one is huge - about 1 1/2 km across

You really only need a 1/2 day up here so many people also add La Paz and/or Doka Coffee on their way down.

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If you want a longer day than just Poas, add one of these two to the day

  • from the Pura Vida Hotel (A) head up the side of Poas Volcano
  • up the hill past Doka Coffee signs (E) - remember where it is for when you come back down later
  • past Chubascos or Freddy Fresas restaurants - both would make great lunch spots later on
  • at the junction for Poasito and Vara Blanca turn right
  • if you'd like to visit the local primary school, we have some involvement supporting the Poasito Escuela - let us know ahead of your trip and the director will show you around
  • continue on to Varablanca, first go past La Paz (D) to the main waterfall you can see from the road then go back to La Paz - you can easily spend a day here alone
  • hopefully you remembered where you turned for the way down (there are no signs)
  • follow the road downhill to Alajuela turn right at San Isidro
  • on the way back you can visit Doka Coffee (E) - they have public tours every hour or so - you won't have to wait long. Hours are shorter during the "green season"and Sundays

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There are a number of places you could visit to get an idea of what Costa Rica once was - but our idea is something we think of as disappearing and evolving Costa Rica. For this trip we don't worry about museums so much as looking at old Costa Rica the way it was.

  • from the Pura Vida Hotel (G) head over to Grecia (B) and Sarchi (C)
  • even today Sarchi, though famous for it's woodwork, is no longer quite what it was but see it before it changes more
  • then over to Gabriel's El Toledo Coffee (E) - not a public tour so we need to schedule you. A very unique coffee experience
  • perhaps down to Morazon for lunch at the Trapicheria (a sugar processing facility from 100 years ago)- about the only real one left that you can visit (again not public but if we know when you want to go we may be able to get them to fire up the old Trapiche
  • just down the road is Meco the Yugo maker (the ox yoke not the joke for a car) but he has evolved too and mostly retired
  • you could drop by the only train museum in Costa Rica at Atenas and later see why so many gringos move to the Atenas area

This is not a formal organized tour and we do have to do some work ahead of your trip to make things work - these are people's businesses or "callings" so don't expect it to work like Disney eh :-)) We are happy to help organize this for you.

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This is probably my favorite day trip from the Pura Vida Hotel. You need to be out early - by 7am if possible. Check the weather on wifi before you start out and you can plan the day - here's the best check - this is a live cam looking at the active Turialba Volcano - if this cam shows clear weather Irazu Volcano is looking good for the day.

  • from the Pura Vida Hotel (A) head over around the bottom of San Jose on the circunvalacion (ring road)
  • just before Cartago (B) head up to the top of Irazu Volcano (C) - there are 5 craters on top and an easy walk from the parking lot to the biggest
  • then down the side of Irazu to the Ruins of Ujarras church (D) - very pretty area
  • time for lunch - stop at La Casona on Lake Cachi (E)
  • you may not have time left for a hike in the deserted Tapanti (F) national park
  • try and make time for Lankester Gardens (G) - in the spring their orchids are excellent

Digressions for this day trip might include the excellent CATIE university - quite a drive but amazing collections of flora you wont see anywhere else in Costa Rica. Also the Guayabo national monument - our only pre-Colombian ruins. NOTE: it is impossible to do all of these in 1 day - so choose carefully but try for Irazu as your first stop.

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Around 70% of our guests like to go to the Arenal area and the next largest number is the Manuel Antonio area. NOTE: you cannot do all of these items on one trip - ask us what we'd recommend for your family or group

  • from the Pura Vida Hotel (A) you may want to do a digression at Sarchi (B) to visit the rocking chair factory or shop for wood crafts, we also really enjoy the Else Kintzler gardens in Sarchi behind the big church about 2km - visited by nobody
  • starting from the Pura Vida head on out using the Pura Vida Hotel map in the room called "Finding Highway 27" (we bought the highway from the Spaniards but we didn't but any signs to it :-))
  • exit the highway near Coyolar (C)- signs to Jaco/Tarcoles after the toll booth
  • follow route 34 - stop at Tarcoles bridge to see crocs or continue on to village of Tarcoles (E) if you want to do Jose's Crocodile River Tour - make sure if you are leaving baggage in the car you are in a secure parking area (Jose will park you right in front of their office) - drive nearly 2km through the village of Tarcoles and only stop at the big sign for Jose's - personally I'm not sure this trip is strictly by the wild life book but the kids and crocs love it and Jose is a riot
  • if you have left early enough - and I mean EARLY, stop by Carara National Park (D) - if you get there mid day or later skip it - can be very hot, great location for Scarlet Macaws - rent a guide at the entrance, you will see a lot more
  • many people then head for Manuel Antonio but I have a better idea - instead stop before the hustle and bustle of MA and stay here Encantada Ocean Cottages (G) - peaceful little seaside village and an easy drive to MA and the park
  • alternately for those up to it head on into the Manuel Antonio/Quepos (H) area

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Let's start by saying San Jose is not one of the most attractive capitals on the planet. That would be the nicest way to put it. Also the traffic is no fun if you have not fully acclimatized yourself to Latin driving behaviour. You will survive but you will need to be bold. For this day trip I would highly advise taking one of our English speaking driver/guides - will save you a lot of time and aggravation if you have back seat drivers. You can also take quick/easy/cheap local buses.

  • from the Pura Vida Hotel (A), take the highway to San Jose and start at the National Museum (B)
  • there are plenty of "parqueos" - always use these small off street guarded lots for parking in San Jose - do the rest of the tour on foot
  • you could walk up north a bit to our favorite indigenous crafts shop/gallery called Gallery Namu (C) - authentic stuff collected by good people - highly recommended
  • some people will want to digress to the Mercado Central to get a flavor of what shopping used to be and still is for a large segment of the population - it is a bit of a walk and parking is difficult and the area a bit sketchy for the faint of heart
  • on the way you will likely wander into our walking street Paseo Colon
  • then back down to the world class Pre-Columbian Gold Museum (D)
  • across to (E) the National Theatre (a very short visit) and back to your car and home

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For this trip we provide an experienced English speaking driver/guide. You and we need to discuss your needs, political affiliations, ideas and wishes before you arrive in Costa Rica. Just email Berni ahead of your trip with a wish list. We will find a guide most suited to those items and one with a lot of local knowledge who speaks perfect English. You may be years away from a decision and wanting to see "the lay of the land" or you could be months away and wanting some very practical advice so you can parachute in ahead of whatever may be at work on the planet now that the electorate of an important country just lost it's collective mind. Here are some of the categories you may be looking at:

    • central valley (cooler temperate climates) vs beaches vs mountains
    • west, north, east or south of San Jose - each one would take a day trip
    • are you retiring - specific needs for retirees
    • introduction to residency options vs 90 day perpetual tourist
    • do you want an added income - possible investments in businesses
    • we have a 1/2 day seminar we do for those interested in buying a B&B
    • introduction to important resources - legal, healthcare, municipal, banking
    • options to not living like a gringo
    • transportation including car purchase & running costs, the bus service
    • public caja vs private system
    • costs & requirements
    • no pre existing conditions, age issues
    • rent vs buy
    • the registry, property rights
    • no comps, no escrow, no listings
    • taxes, zoning
    • national banks vs others
    • opening an account 
    • online banking
    • credit (not)
    • employer/employee issues to be aware of, labor code etc (even an issue if you are not in business e.g. domestic help)
    • the issues, pitfalls and joys of running a business in an advanced bureaucracy
    • we have a seperate seminar on joys and pratfalls of owning and operating an Inn in Costa Rica
    • why you need a damn good lawyer (and case studies of those who did not believe it)
    • common problems for the unsuspecting
    • the people
    • education system
    • art & science
    • legal system
    • politics
    • why we don't need an army etc etc and other culturally unusual things about Costa Rica
    • comparisons with alternate retirement options such as Kansas City, Mexico, Panama, Nicaragua, Syria, Russia, North Korea

These topics will be looked at as you drive through the areas you are most interested in and then filled in later at the hotel on your return. This can obviously only be an introduction so you can focus on areas that spiked your interest perhaps on your next trip to Costa Rica. You cannot do all of this in one day.  For those wanting to explore this idea further you might want to listen to some of these podcasts from people who did the move.

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This is a day on a jungle river and one of our best wildlife viewing days ever and we have traveled in Costa Rica for many years. You do need car for this trip 4WD too.
  • start out from the Pura Vida (A) or better and way more practical start from Uvita (G) by taking a nice drive down the "costanera" (the local name for the road heading south along the Pacific beaches)
  • you will have booked yourself into Shelter from the Storm in Uvita (G) - this is a nice day trip from the Pura Vida Hotel
  • ask Daryl or Donna at Shelter to call Jorge and book you a guide and kayaks for the next day
  • drive to Sierpe (D) and round the corner till you see a big restaurant on the rivers edge and a sign Perla Del Sur
  • Jorge will sort out some kayaks and then take you up river to do the launch
  • the trip will end up at the same Perla Del Sur where you will have left your rentacar
  • after this you might take a drive on the way back to Shelter and visit the mysterious stone balls at Finca 6 (E) made more mysterious by the lack of signage and local knowledge but be persistent! It is a nice digression.
  • head on back to Shelter or stop off at one of the excellent eateries in Ojochal (F) - our favorite eatery anywhere in the Zona Sur is Exotica (5 stars on Tripadvisor and well worth all of them - so good I might drive hours for the food, ambience and host alone)

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You need to be somewhere in the south of Costa Rica known locally as the Zona Sur for this trip to work. If it is the green/rainy season do the trip in the morning - you do need a 4WD for this and me I prefer a 4Runner or Prado with a real 4WD low.

  • you might start out from a local hotel such as Shelter from the Storm (E) or perhaps coming from the south at Casa Botania (F)
  • from Palma Norte intersection coming south on the Costanera highway from Uvita, turn right towards Boruca (C)
  • count 20km on your car odometer and look closely for a sign for Boruca facing the wrong way (you need your passenger to do this or you may fall into the Terraba river) - the exit is a little tricky (there was a sign but a tree fell on it recently)
  • at around km 21 turn up to Boruca on a windy bumpy dirt road that is not advisable in the rain but perfect fun in the dry with a 4WD
  • drive into the Boruca village after 8km
  • there are a number of workshops around the village so wander around and just drop in if you see a mask or a sign such as "taller" (workshop in Spanish)
  • if you are not familiar with the village start at the museum in the middle of the village about 50 meters up from the main meeting hall
  • inside the museum look at the mask samples and see who made the ones you like and ask if you can be directed to "Marinas' house" or "Janets' House" or "Pablos' House"
  • if your passenger didn't enjoy the trip up the hill take the back way out via Terraba (D) - it is a lot longer and you will get lost but you will at least have listened to your passenger for once and can blame them 'cause they chose not to go back the short route

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This trip is really something you should take at least a week to do or better 10 days . . . south on the Cerro de Muerte through San Isidro and straight down to San Vito then back along the Pacific via perhaps Boruca and Uvita - a great way to see a lot of Costa Rica

  • drive to San Jose from the Pura Vida Hotel, take the ring road around to Cartago (B)
  • take the Cerro de la Muerte south (on your map it is Route 2 but you probably won't see that number anywhere on your trip)
  • drop off at Copey if you like for some Quetzal sightings and stay the night with Gary & Edna at El Toucanet (C) & next morning let Gary seek out the resplendent Quetzal for you
  • continue on south to San Isidro & check out the market if it is market day - you may want to hike Chirripo, the largest mountain in Costa Rica if so we'd recommend you look up Frank & Ori at the Rio Chirripo Lodge (D) - hilarious people :-))
  • continue south to San Vito and the excellent Kathleen & Pepe at Casa Botania (E) and remember to have booked dinner ahead as the food here is not to be missed
  • the next day or days let Pepe show you the area - we went for Wilson Gardens but there is so much more when you have locals helping you see the real rural Costa Rica
  • for the return trip head down the wiggliest road in Costa Rica towards Ciudad Neily (F) and perhaps take a stop at Boruca (G) if you have a 4WD on the way back
  • head on up the Pacific coast perhaps stopping at our friends at Shelter from the Storm (H) and home to the Pura Vida :-)) (I)

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You need to be based in the La Fortuna area for this excellent wildlife day and we recommend going as a small group - ask your hotel if they have a trip going tomorrow. Not a bus load but maybe 10 people in a van - it really helps to have a few extra spotters on your boat

  • find your way to La Fortuna area and stay at Leaves and Lizards (C)- you will need a 4WD to get to this delightful hotel with a great view to Arenal run by Steve & Debbie - part farm, part horse ranch, part retreat and see if you can book a trip
  • alternately you can drive to Los Chiles (D) and if you have some Spanish find a pontoon boat to commandeer for the day
  • you will spend the next few hours on a boat meandering along rivers with some of the best wildlife spotting in Costa Rica - this is a must do trip
  • on your way back from Los Chiles see if your driver will stop off at the Maleku indigenous area (E)for a little visiting and perhaps shopping

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This is definitely a lovely day trip - of course like everything in Costa Rica - it will take a day to get there.

  • we have 2 destinations possible that we both like a lot Ylang Ylang Beach Resort in Montezuma or Casa Marbella in Santa Teresa - if you want the ultimate private beach hotel in Costa Rica head straight for Ylang Ylang. If you want to learn to surf or catch some great waves head for Santa Teresa. They are not far apart. You don't really need a 4WD to get to these places BUT you will most certainly be thankful you did the moment you are tempted on a bumpy trail on your journeys.
  • Head out from the Pura Vida (A) having taken our hotel directions to Highway 27.
  • Continue on to the Puntarenas Ferry (B) - go along Puntarenas peninsular to the end. Car ferries are every couple of hours. Be careful going out on Friday and Saturday or coming back Sunday evening - there can be very long lines and you will miss a ferry in high season.
  • The Ferry info is here Puntarenas Ferry Schedule
  • A 90 minute boat trip drops you on the Nicoya peninsular (C) and then there is pretty much just one scenic road around the bottom of the peninsular to Montezuma (D) and then on to Mal Pais and Santa Teresa (E).

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This is an unbelievably rare opportunity to get up close and personal with a very active volcano.  The road is dificult and we do advise a guide with 4WD.

  • from the Pura Vida Hotel (F)
  • down to SJO and head east around the circunvalacion to Cartago
  • straight through Cartago and look for signs to Irazu Volcano
  • at the Pacayas intersection follow it NOT Irazu
  • look for signs for Guayabo (they are sketchy at times) (B) and right before Guayabo (home of a very nice unvisited pre-Colombian national monument) - you may want to visit it first - you will see a sign to your left for Turialba Volcano
  • ignore everyone who says this road goes nowhere or passengers in your car who have examined the end of this road on Google maps(C)
  • continue forever on this set of relentless switchbacks and eventually you will pass more and more majestic views of this spectacular volcano(C)
  • you will reach a closed road and a wonky sign saying this is the entrance to the park. It is not as it is closed due to ash etc.
  • when you are done here you can take either the road back from whence you came or continue on the alternate evacuation route heading west. You will eventually after various scary drop offs find a track up to Irazu volcano - and then home.(E)

To the side you will find an interactive google map you can pop up to look at the routes.  This route lately has fared rather well going the reverse - from Irazu first (from which you can see Turialba if the weather is clear enough).  Confused? - ask us we know the area.

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#15. YES THERE ARE 2 WAYS TO DRIVE TO THE OSA - I have a thing about little bridges

Until this year this route has been close to impossible in the rainy season and just plain "very interesting" in the dry season.

  • from the Pura Vida Hotel (A)
  • down to SJO and head west hooking up as soon as you can with Highway 27 
  • remember you need some colones as there are a few pay/toll booths costing around 600 colones each
  • exit towards Jaco/Tarcoles stopping at the Tarcoles river to view the huge crocs below (remember to leave your youngest in the car as thieves do not steal from cars with kids in them)
  • this trip is best done in 2 days so we advise stopping with our friends at Encantada (B) or Shelter from the Storm (C) or better take a week and stay at both places
  • just remember if you do talk to our friends about this trip it is better not to say "I'm driving to Drake" and if you do let it slip please don't mention the Pura Vida as being complicit in the adventure in some way
  • continue south to Palmar Sur (D) and then south further on Highway 2 taking the right turn at Chacarita to Route 245 near Bar Rincon El Puente 
  • look for a rustic Drake Bay sign and turn into the jungle.  It is 4WD all the way from here though there are some fast parts so do not engage 4WD till you need it
  • from here on in GPS is near useless so a compass is always an amusing artifact to have with you to demonstrate how things worked before GPS - we also advise a paper map to orient yourself even though this road does not show on the map
  • you will pass over some fairly wonky bridges where your mate or your most annoying back seat driver or youngest child is required to walk ahead of the car to make sure it is good.

To the side you will find an interactive google map you can pop up to look at the route.  Right now there is some confusion about new bridges. There is a new Rio Drake bridge which passes over a river that until recently required a scary river crossing not passable in the rainy season.  We still probably do not advise this entire route in May/June or September/October./November but we will be sending guests to try it out and will report back from those who make it.    There is one more interesting new bridge in the area for those into deeper adventures - it is described HERE really well. Confused? - ask us - we are happy to help.


So yes you can drive to the Osa and access the marvelous Corcovado national park at any time of the year. The paved road goes to Puerto Jimenmez and there is a decent dirt road for some kilometers beyond. Remember in October/November or in any big rains the "road" past El REmanso can be impassable.

  • from the Pura Vida Hotel (A)
  • down to SJO and head west hooking up as soon as you can with Highway 27 
  • remember you need some colones as there are a few pay/toll booths costing around 600 colones each
  • exit towards Jaco/Tarcoles stopping at the Tarcoles river to view the huge crocs below (remember to leave your youngest in the car as thieves do not steal from cars with kids in them)
  • this trip is best done in 2 days so we advise stopping with our friends at Encantada (B) or Shelter from the Storm (C) or better take a week and stay at both places
  • continue south to Palmar Sur (D) and then south further on Highway 2 taking the right turn at Chacarita onto Route 245
  • continue on to Puerto Jimenez and the Osa peninsular and right on in to the excellent El Remanso Lodge (E) deep in the jungle yet a walk to the beach.
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