Looking for a perfect Costa Rica itinerary? We’ve got two of them for you. A 10 day and a 3 week Costa Rica itinerary that we can totally vouch for.
Craving a tropical getaway? So are we. Costa Rica is the perfect vacation spot for this, as it offers both relaxation and adventure opportunities. As a bonus, it also comes with incredible views and exotic wildlife. If you’re looking to go to the “rich coast,” allow us to give you some ideas for Costa Rica itineraries.
We’ve got some inspiration for both a 10-day Costa Rica itinerary and a 3-week Costa Rica itinerary. No matter how long you want to immerse yourself in this incredible country, these will whet your appetite for adventure.
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Table of Contents
10 Days in Costa Rica: Itinerary
If you’re going to spend 10 days in Costa Rica, your days will probably be pretty packed. Costa Rica might be a small country, but there’s plenty to see and do. Hit the ground running and prioritize your highlights early on.
Days 1-2: San Jose
You’ll most likely be flying into San Jose. It’s the capital of Costa Rica and it’s pretty central, giving you easy access to whichever destinations your heart desires. Since you’re already there, you may want to stay a night or two in the city so you can explore. Just don’t overdo it: any more than that would be unnecessary.
San Jose is home to many cultural monuments, museums, and vibrant markets that showcase its personality. You may also want to go on a coffee tour, like GetYourGuide’s Cafe Britt tour, or take a day trip. One of the most popular is Tortuga Island.
Looking for hotels in San Jose? Check out Hotel Presidente, located right in the center.
Days 3-5: La Fortuna
Once you’re finished in San Jose, we recommend heading to La Fortuna. Most travelers opt to book a private transfer to La Fortuna. It’s about a 2.5-hour drive, so leave San Jose in the morning.
La Fortuna is known as the gateway to Arenal Volcano National Park. La Fortuna isn’t that big, but it has a lot of personality. Spend two or three nights in this area to be sure you have time to see it all. Spend a day exploring La Fortuna and make sure to try one of the many sodas, authentic local eateries. The food is delicious and fairly cheap, too.
When you’re done exploring the town itself, relax at one of the many thermal springs in the area. The springs are heated by the nearby volcano and there are dozens of them waiting to be discovered. There are even resorts with their own thermal springs, like the Hotel Los Lagos Spa & Resort
For day 2 in this area, head into Arenal Volcano National Park. You can hike one of the many trails, including the Arenal 1968 Volcano View and Lava Trails. You’ll see lava fields left by the 1968 eruption of the volcano and be left in awe at the view. This is one of the most popular hiking trails in the park. If you’re looking for a little extra adventure, you can take an ATV tour around the base of the volcano.
Check out GetYourGuide’s Arenal Volcano Raft and ATV Tour Adventure. You can also pay a visit to the nearby Sky Adventures Park. Here, you can take guided tours of the rainforest, zipline through the trees, and swing on ropes underneath the canopy.
For day 3, you can head back into the national park for even more adventure if you want! Or, you can head to some other attractions in the area, like the La Fortuna Waterfall. You should also visit Lake Arenal. One of the best things to do here is kayak across this massive lake. As a bonus, you’ll have an unrivaled view of the volcano from the water. If you’re looking for other water activities, you can also consider going white water rafting.
Days 6-7: Monteverde
Once you’ve exhausted the possibilities in La Fortuna, head to nearby Monteverde for a couple days. This is about a 3-hour drive, so be sure to leave in the morning again. Once you’re here, you’ll want to explore the town of Santa Elena. The main attraction in this area is the Monteverde Cloud Forest. You’ll find many adventures here: zip lines, suspension bridges over the valleys, and encounters with native wildlife.
If you’re looking to squeeze all the adventures into one day, check out GetYourGuide’s Mega Mix Adventure Tour. Needless to say, this destination is for the truly adventurous traveler. One of the most popular activities to do here is to take a guided nature walk at night. Many animals come out after dark to find food, so you’ll have a better chance of seeing them.
On day 2 in Monteverde, take a guided tour of the rainforest if you’d rather see it during the day. You can also visit Selvatura Park, which is home to a hummingbird garden.
For beautiful views from your hotel, check out the Rainbow Valley Lodge.
Days 8-10: Tamarindo
After you finish in Monteverde, the end of your trip will be closing in all too quickly. It’s time to relax a bit before you head home.
Head to the beach destination of Tamarindo on the Pacific coast and check into a hotel like The Coast Beachfront Hotel. This will again take about 3 hours to reach by car. Tamarindo is famous for popular surf beaches, so if you get tired of lying in the sand, book surfing lessons. Tamarindo is also home to the Marina Las Baulas National Park, where you can come encounter crocodiles and explore mangroves. And we must say, a Tamarindo sunset is pretty much unbeatable.
To catch one from the water, check out GetYourGuide’s Dream Chaser Catamaran Sunset Cruise. If this is the final destination you choose, you can then fly out of the Liberia airport. It’s much easier to reach from Tamarindo than San Jose.
And with that, your 10-day Costa Rica itinerary has come to an end. As they say, we’re here for a good time, not for a long one!
3 Weeks in Costa Rica: Itinerary
If you’re spending 3 weeks in Costa Rica, you’ll have time to get around and be able to relax more. Hitting the ground running isn’t as crucial here, although you still can if you want. You’ll also have more flexibility to alter your plans if you really fall in love with one of your destinations.
Days 1-3: San Jose
Again, you’ll probably be flying into San Jose. You can spend two or three days here. While San Jose is big, the main draw of Costa Rica is its nature, so don’t linger longer than necessary. Check into a hotel like the Taormina Hotel and Casino.
While you’re in town, visit some of the many museums, markets, and cultural monuments. You can even explore the city with GetYourGuide’s San Jose Food and Culture Small Group Night Tour. This will help you get a feel for the history and heritage of the “rich coast.” Since you’ve got time, you should also definitely consider a coffee tour or a day trip to Tortuga Island.
Days 4-7: La Fortuna
When you’re done in San Jose, head to La Fortuna. Since you’re not on as much of a time crunch, take your time exploring the attractions of this area. Spend three or four days here, doing as many hikes around the volcano as you wish. You can also spend extra time relaxing in the thermal springs. Take a tour of the rainforest, go zip lining at the Sky Adventures Park, and visit the La Fortuna Waterfall.
You’ll also have time to fit in more than one water activity. We’d recommend both kayaking across Lake Arenal and white water rafting. Or, check out GetYourGuide’s Canyoning and White Water Rafting Experience.
As for hotels in La Fortuna, check out a resort like the GreenLagoon Wellbeing Resort.
Days 8-10: Monteverde
After you’ve sufficiently explored the volcano and its surroundings, head over to Monteverde. You’ll also have some extra time here, so consider blocking out three days and staying at a place like Monteverde Lodge and Gardens. There are tons of outdoor adventure activities waiting for you. Visit the Monteverde Cloud Forest, where you can zipline through the jungle canopies and walk across breathtaking suspension bridges. Check out GetYourGuide’s Mega Mix Adventure Tour for a day full of activities. You might even come face-to-face with native wildlife, like the iconic sloth.
You’ll also want to take a night nature walk for a better chance of spotting the animals. This is ideal, especially since you can afford to sleep in a bit one day. You can also explore the town of Santa Elena and visit Selvatura Park’s hummingbird garden while you’re here. And finally, for all you environmental enthusiasts, check out the Monteverde Institute to learn about their reforestation projects.
Days 11-15: Tamarindo OR Santa Marta
After you’ve had your adrenaline pumping for about a week or so, it’s finally time to relax. Head to one of the many beach destinations Costa Rica has to offer. Tamarindo on the Pacific coast is a great choice for surfers. You can spend days lying on the beach, learning to surf at Playa Langosta, or jet skiing in the Pacific.
You’ll also have time to visit Marina Las Baulas National Park, explore the estuaries, and encounter crocodiles if you dare. Tamarindo is the perfect beach destination to spend four or five days relaxing. You’ll also have time to check out GetYourGuide’s Tamarindo Sunset Catamaran and Snorkeling Tour.
As for hotels, check out Hotel La Palapa.
If you’re dedicating five or six days for your beach portion of the trip, check out Santa Marta. This more remote location, further down the Pacific coast, is less well known and therefore less crowded with tourists. The beaches are beautiful, and it’s also home to some magnificent hiking trails. If you’re truly looking to disconnect and slow your pace, Santa Marta might be the perfect getaway for you mid-vacation.
Check out Villa Mango B&B for your stay here.
Days 16-18: Manuel Antonio
Once you’ve been rejuvenated, head to Quepos Town and Manuel Antonio National Park. Check into a hotel like the Parador Resort & Spa. Spend three days exploring the charming town, relaxing on the public beach, and visiting the national park. You’ll even have time to visit the coral reefs and maybe even take a catamaran out to sea.
You can also check out GetYourGuide’s Naranjo River Rafting tour.
Days 19-21: Jaco
Lastly, if you’ve got time left over, wind down at the end of your trip in Jaco. Located between Quepos and San Jose, it’s the perfect finale before you have to head back to the airport. With beautiful beaches (including a black sand beach), incredible dining and nightlife, and plenty of hiking, Jaco has it all. Check out GetYourGuide’s Explorer Waterfall Tour while you’re there. And finally, you’ll have a 1.5-hour drive back to San Jose to board your plane home.
For places to stay in Jaco, try the Oceano Boutique Hotel & Gallery.
This 3-week Costa Rica itinerary gives you a good mix of action and relaxation. Take advantage of it and tweak it as you wish.
There you have it: ideas for a fast-paced 10-day Costa Rica itinerary and a more relaxing 3-week Costa Rica itinerary. No matter what you decide to do there, it’s guaranteed that you’ll have a blast.