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Kayaking the Central Pacific coast in Costa Rica

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Example 9 Day Tour
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Take part in this 9-day active Costa Rica trip designed for those who like to keep their blood pumping while on vacation. The trip includes a 2 day/1 night trek up Chirripo peak, zip lining, whitewater rafting, snorkeling, and kayaking! This is perfect for the traveler who is short on time, but big on adventure. You have the opportunity to explore rainforest and cloudforest, the Pacific coastal beaches and mangroves, as well as enjoy one of the best river trips in Costa Rica!

Day-by-Day Summary

Day 1 : Arrive in San Jose
Day 2 : Pacuare River Rafting
Day 3 : Chirripo Highlands
Day 4 : Chirripo National Park
Day 5 : Chirripo Summit
Day 6 : Los Cusingos Biological Reserve | Hacienda Baru and Zipline Tour
Day 7 : Mangrove Kayaking
Day 8 : Snorkel and Kayak Ballena National Park
Day 9 : Return Home


  • Raft the Class III rapids of the Pacuare River
  • Hike through the cloudforest in Chirripo National Park
  • Zip line through the rainforest canopy
  • Kayak and snorkel in Ballena National Park

Places Visited


Trip Type

  • Independent

Activity Level


Trip Snapshots

Kayaking the Central Pacific coast in Costa Rica Hiking on the Chirripo Costa Rica trip. The forest gets more sparse the higher we go. Kayaking at the Hatillo Mangroves The view from the top of Chirripo Peak! You can see for miles! Kayaking the Central Pacific coast in Costa Rica Experience the excitement of a zip line tour in Costa Rica! Pacuare River rafting Frog-finding in Costa Rica

Day 1 Arrive in San Jose

Arrive San Jose and overnight.

Day 2 Pacuare River Rafting

This morning you are picked up and head to the Class III-IV whitewater of the Pacuare River. One of Costa Rica’s most exciting whitewater trips, the Pacuare plunges through spectacular mountain gorges and passes through virgin rainforest filled with howler monkeys, toucans, sloths, ocelots, and more. For younger travelers or those looking for a slower pace, you can opt to raft a tamer river. After lunch make your way back to San Jose to complete your Costa Rica travels. Spend the evening enjoying one of San Jose's finer restaurants or just relax in your colonial style hotel.

Day 3 Chirripo Highlands

  • Hotel
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Dinner
This morning drive south following the Pan-American Highway through Cerro de la Muerte (Peak of Death, 11,000') and on to the Chirripó Highlands. Your local guide introduces you to Talamanca’s forest and the surrounding Páramo forest which is home to the elusive resplendent quetzal and other cloudforest wildlife. Arrive to your lodge in the quaint village of San Gerardo de Rivas at the base of the Chirripo Mountain. The rest of the afternoon is yours free to enjoy the area.

Day 4 Chirripo National Park

  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
You depart early morning to begin trekking into Chirripó National Park. Arrange for a private guide on the hike for an additional fee, or tackle the mountain on your own. The trail is clearly marked.

The uphill trail is steep and can take up to 12 hours in poor conditions for slow trekkers. Fit, experienced hikers can do it in 6 to 7 hours. After passing the sign "Trail to Chirripo", begin an uphill stretch called La Cuesta del Agua for about two hours. This climb crests at Monte Sin Fe ("Faithless Mountain"). Amongst the wildlife that you may encounter as you hike up and pass through dwarf cloud forests draped in "Old Man's Beard" mosses are monkeys, toucanets, trogons, and several other species of birds. Today’s trek finishes at the Chirripo Shelter and Base Camp at 6 km below the summit where you overnight.

Day 5 Chirripo Summit

  • Hotel
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Rise before dawn this morning to trek to the summit of Mt. Chirripó before the fog rolls in. Chirripó National Park protects 50,150 hectares of high elevation terrain and cloudforest above 8,250' elevation covers half the park. Along the way pass by numerous lakes making it clear why the Talamancan Indians called it Chirripo or "Place of Enchanted Waters." If hiking on a clear day, the view to the Pacific and Atlantic is stunning. It's about a 1-2 hour ascent before descending to Valle de Los Conejos (Rabbit Valley). Hike to Cerro Terbi and Los Crestones before you continue descending to Refuge Llano Bonito and the mountain base. From here you transfer back to the lodge for the evening.

Day 6 Los Cusingos Biological Reserve | Hacienda Baru and Zipline Tour

  • Hotel
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Wake up early this morning to head out on a guided hike to Los Cusingos Biological Reserve, a well-known area for birdwatchers and botanists. On your hike, you may see the turquoise cotinga, rudy woodcreeper, tanagers, violaceous trogon, mankins, and the pearl kite. Keep your eyes peeled as well for the commonly seen white-faced monkeys!

In the afternoon, drive to the Pacific coast and arrive at Hacienda Baru, a National Wildlife Refuge situated on the shores of the Pacific coast. The refuge protects a variety of habitats, including wetlands and secondary and primary forest. Seven kilometers of trails can be explored in the mapped-out trail system, as well as an enclosed butterfly sanctuary and orchid garden. You arrive in time for lunch at the reserve and spend an hour exploring the refuge before embarking on an adventurous canopy zip line tour through the rainforest. Zip across 8 cables and take in views of the canopy from 14 platforms. At the end of the tour head to your hotel located on the banks of the Baru River. You are just a 1/2 mile from the beach and surrounded by tropical forest!

Day 7 Mangrove Kayaking

  • Hotel
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Dinner
Today you head south to the Terraba Sierpe Mangrove Swamps near the Sierpe River. After a safety intro by the guide, put in and head out for a 3-hour paddle through the canals. Mangrove swamps are one of the richest natural environments in the world and are the only trees that thrive in salt water. Keep your eyes peeled for a variety of birds, capuchin monkeys, sloths, raccoons, coati, and even reptiles indigenous to the swamp such as green iguanas and boa constrictor! The rest of the day is free for you to relax on your own!

Day 8 Snorkel and Kayak Ballena National Park

This morning rise early to launch your kayaks at Playa Piñuelas. At the put-in, the bilingual guide tells you all about the park's history and teaches you important safety techniques.

An easy 1½ hour paddle brings you to Ballena Island where some fruit and cold drinks tropical style are provided. Then you have the opportuntity to snorkel around the island, observing the richest marine fauna in the area. Or, if you prefer, you may choose to simply relax on the island and explore the numerous caves. Mid-day paddle back to Playa Piñuelas and from here transfer back to San Jose this afternoon.

Day 9 Return Home

  • 1 Breakfast

Hotel Villas Rio Mar

Pelicano Mountain Lodge

San Jose - Hotels

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  • 2 Breakfasts, 1 Lunch, 3 Dinners
  • 6 Nights Accommodations
  • 1 Day Locally Hosted Guide Service
  • Accommodations as listed
  • Meals as listed
  • Ground transportation as listed
  • Professional, bilingual guide service as listed
  • Excursions and activities as listed
  • Gear Rental: All Camping Gear
  • Gear Rental: Sleeping Bag
  • Gear Rental: Kayaking Gear
  • Gear Rental: Snorkeling Gear


  • Gratuities
  • Travel Insurance
  • Personal Expenses
  • Flight costs (please request a quote)
  • Additional excursions during free time
  • Optional private guide service for Chirripo hike
Payment & Cancellation Policies
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Jane P

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Our guide and driver were very good with their knowledge and were very helpful with our questions. It was a very pleasant visit that would have been impossible to do on our own. Hotels and restaurants were fantastic. The special places we got to go to, like the kitchens, were great. Enjoyed the entire trip!
Meyer Smolen

When to Go

Good to ideal period to travel, and many people choose to visit at this time.
Chance for unpredictable weather but with fewer visitors.
Typically not offered during this period because of weather conditions.

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