I took a few short day trips from San Jose, Costa Rica and had a great time at each of them!
Today is my second full day in Costa Rica (also my last full day in San Jose) and I had a wonderful day!
In San Jose proper, there is not much to do. There are a few small things you can visit, such as the artists’ market downtown and the National Theater, but other than that, most activities involve jaunts outside San Jose.
In fact, one of the most popular trips outside San Jose is to the Arenal Volcano, where I’m headed tomorrow. For that reason, I didn’t want to take a day trip to Arenal and instead looked for a few others that would be a shorter drive (Arenal is about three hours away).
My hostel, like many of the hostels in this area, knows the tourism companies very well, and had several day and half-day long tours listed on a board in the main area. One of these was a day-long trip to three main tourist attractions about forty minutes outside San Jose: the Doka Coffee Estate, the Poas Volcano and the La Paz waterfall and gardens.
I loved each of them and wanted to tell you about my wonderful day – because I recommend doing all of these things if you find yourself in San Jose for longer than a day!
The day at started around 5:30 AM, at which point I got up and got dressed to go downstairs and meet the shuttle that was picking me up at 6. That’s one of the best things about tours in San Jose – they come straight to your door, whether you are staying at a hotel or hostel. I hopped in the car and was taken to pick up two other tourists who were along for the same tour.
First, we drove about 40 minutes to Doka Coffee Estate. This is a huge coffee plantation and huge tourist attraction – at Doka, you can see the entire coffee making process from planted bean to fully processed. When we arrived, we had buffet-style breakfast with traditional foods like rice and beans (with fruit for me, the vegan) and we had open access to sample several different coffees – it was basically coffee junkie heaven. After breakfast, we walked through the tour with our guide, learning about coffee along the way, and getting to touch and smell the beans.
Doka also has a butterfly garden on premises, so we visited that and got up close with several gorgeous butterflies.
After Doka, we drove about 20 minutes to visit Poas Volcano. This was one of the cooler sites of the day – at the top of Poas is a beautiful crater and a short hike above that is an acidic lake (that used to be a crater). The views were awesome!!
After the Poas hike, we got back in the car bound for La Paz. Before that though, we stopped at a little strawberry and coffee shop along the way, where we sampled fresh strawberries, pineapple, coffee and wine. We then got back in the car and headed up to La Paz. La Paz is a combination of four main waterfalls, as well as a wildlife refuge where you can see several exotic animals up close – none of the animals were taken from their natural habitat. Conversely, many of them were taken from homes of residents in Costa Rica illegally keeping exotic animals. The refuge takes them in and keeps the ones that can’t be released back into the wild for one reason or another.
We walked around the entire property, visiting birds, snakes, jaguars, frogs and so many more animals. We then had another fantastic lunch with beans and rice and salad and fruit and more coffee.
That wasn’t the best part of the day though: the best part was starting up the hike to the three waterfalls that were visible on foot and completing it with a short drive to the one that wasn’t. They were all breathtaking! The trail allowed us to get tremendously close to each one (my camera even got wet!).
After that, we got back in the car for a (now-tired) drive back to my hostel.
The tour wasn’t cheap ($130) but between breakfast, lunch, the transportation, and seeing all three awesome sites – it was 100% worth it. I would do it again and I would recommend it to anyone else seeking easy day trips from San Jose!
PS – If you’re thinking of taking a trip, check out my resources page here to find everything you could need to help you plan!