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Costa Rica Itinerary 10 days: The perfect road trip for your visit

Costa Rica itinerary 10 days

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10 days in Costa Rica itinerary: From beaches to waterfalls and the jungle

We traveled around Costa Rica for almost 2 months. While crossing the entire country, we gathered some amazing tips and experienced a lot. In this guide, we will give you our best 10-day Costa Rica itinerary.

Despite the fact that Costa Rica is not a big country, it is filled with thrilling experiences, amazing wildlife, and friendly people . We learned to surf, walked on deserted beaches, met sloths and parrots, went down a zipline, and so much more.

road trip costa rica 10 days

The best time to visit Costa Rica

Many people dream of visiting Costa Rica, with its lush rainforests and dramatic coastline. But when is the best time to go? The answer depends on what you hope to see or do while you’re there and the kind of weather you prefer.

Thanks to its unique location, the country experiences two distinct seasons: the dry season and the rainy season .

The dry season runs from December to April , and during this time the weather is warm and sunny with very little rainfall. Many of Costa Rica’s attractions are accessible and the weather is relatively stable. However, prices for accommodation and travel are at their highest.

The months of February and March can be quite hot, so if you’re looking to avoid the crowds and enjoy cooler temperatures, this may not be the best time for you to visit.

The rainy season runs from May to November , and during this time the weather is predictably wetter. However, rainfall typically occurs in short bursts throughout the day, so it’s still possible to enjoy plenty of sunshine.

It can be a more challenging time to visit, as some roads may be impassable and some activities may be canceled due to bad weather. You can often find great deals on travel and accommodation during this time.

And since Costa Rica is located near the equator, temperatures are fairly consistent year-round, so you don’t have to worry about extreme heat or cold.

Ultimately, the best time to visit Costa Rica depends on your budget and your preferences. However, no matter when you decide to visit Costa Rica, you’re sure to have an unforgettable experience.

Rent a car for your 10 days Costa Rica itinerary or go by bus?

Most of the time, we traveled by public transport to save on the costs. Although this is an incredibly cheap way to visit Costa Rica on a budget, it is very time-sensitive.

Although this itinerary is possible by bus, we advise you to rent a car if you only have a 10-day trip to Costa Rica. It will save you a lot of time and more options to visit some highlights.

On this route, there are some destinations that are difficult to reach. The roads can be in bad condition (especially during the rainy season). Therefore, we recommend you rent a 4×4, especially during the rainy season .

The best place to rent a car is in San Jose. Try to book as early as possible. Since the Covid crisis, cars have become scarcer and therefore more expensive.

road trip costa rica 10 days

How many days do you need to visit Costa Rica?

Costa Rica is a country that has a lot to offer its visitors. From the lush rainforests to the stunning beaches, there is something for everyone. The question of how many days you need to visit Costa Rica really depends on what you want to see and do. There is no easy answer.

However, with a little planning, it is possible to get a good sense of what the country has to offer in a relatively short amount of time. This is exactly why we wrote this Costa Rica 10 days itinerary for you.

In our opinion, a week or 10 days in Costa Rica is an absolute minimum if you really want to get a taste of Costa Rican culture and natural beauty. A week would be sufficient for a beach or surf vacation. For a real road trip, you’ll need 10 days.

If you want to experience all that the country has to offer, then two or definitely three weeks would be ideal . Those who have more time can explore Costa Rica in greater depth, spending time in the remote corners of the country (such as Corcovado).

This 10-day road trip itinerary in Costa Rica will take you along volcanoes, waterfalls, forests, and pristine beaches. Are you ready to dive in?

Read more: Cool places to stay in Costa Rica

Isla Chiquita Costa Rica itinerary 10 days

Day 1: San José – La Fortuna

Total driving distance: From San José center to the small town of La Fortuna is 134 km or 83 miles (2h 50).

Depending on the hour of your arrival you can go immediately to La Fortuna or book one night in San José and explore the center of the capital of Costa Rica. Check the last day of this itinerary for 10 days in Costa Rica on what to see in San José and where to stay.

How to plan your day

After you have picked up your 4×4 or regular rental car in San Jose, it’s about 3h driving to La Fortuna. If you want to go by bus, it’s a bit more of a hassle. Check the bus schedule as there are only 2 direct busses to La Fortuna from San José.

La Fortuna is located next to the famous Arenal volcano and is the eco-tourism capital of Costa Rica. If you’re too tired or jetlagged from your flight, we advise you to visit some hot springs.

The area is famous for it. Go to the Tabacon Resort or enjoy the hot springs in your own resort. We stayed at Nayara resorts and they, for example, have their own hot springs.

costa rica itinerary arenal volcano

If you have more time, have a look at day two of this 10 days Costa Rica itinerary. We have listed the best activities for La Fortuna there.

Where to stay in La Fortuna

  • Castillo del Arenal Hotel

This budget hotel has a direct view of the Arenal Volcano and Arenal Lake. It is located 6,5 km / 4 miles from the national park and a 25 min drive from the town of La Fortuna. This is the best budget option with a splendid view of the region.

  • Nayara Tented Camp

Nayara Tented Camp is located in Arenal National Park. The hotel is part of Nayara Gardens and was chosen as the number 1 hotel in Central America by Travel and Leisure magazine.

Yes, this is probably the best place to spend your night in Arenal. But that comes with a price so be prepared to pay some extra bucks for this once-in-a-lifetime experience!

Nayara Tented Camp La Fortuna Arenal

  • The Springs Resort & Spa

This luxury resort offers spectacular views of the Arenal volcano and valley. They have 28 hot spring pools, a spa, and a fitness center. They have no less than 5 restaurants, so you’re spoiled for choice. And it’s a fantastic place for families.

  • Selina La Fortuna

Selina is situated in Fortuna, 6 km / 4 miles from La Fortuna Waterfall. It is a 3-star hotel with a restaurant, free parking, and a bar. They have continental breakfast available. Selina is a great place for digital nomads!

Kalambu Hot Springs is 5 km / 3 miles from the accommodation, while the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park is 20 km / 12 miles from the property.

Day 2: La Fortuna (Arenal National Park)

Total driving distance: today you can either stay in the La Fortuna area or make a detour to Rio Celeste, a 60 km / 37 miles (1h) drive.

Today you have a full day to explore Arenal National Park. In the morning, there will be fewer visitors to the hot springs.

Optionally, you can also make a detour to Rio Celeste, north of the Arenal volcano. This river and waterfall are definitely worth a stop-over.

What to do in La Fortuna

  • Hike La Fortuna Waterfall, swim in the river

The La Fortuna Waterfall is one of the most visited waterfalls in Costa Rica. At the base of the waterfall, you can find a jade-colored pool.

But to observe this 70 meters or 200 feet high waterfall, you must pass a path of approximately 530 steps. The La Fortuna Waterfall entrance fee is $18 for adults and $5 for children. 

There is a big parking lot with bathrooms, a cafe, and a souvenir store. The parking is free.

It is not possible to swim in the waterfall because the current is too strong. But downstream you can find calmer pools with sandy bottoms.

La Fortuna waterfall Costa Rica itinerary 10 days

  • Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park

Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park is a Costa Rican rainforest with suspended bridges and zip lines that allow you to tour the jungle canopy.

With 16 different bridges, Mistico is one of the largest suspended bridge parks in the world. The length of the bridges varies from 50-600 meters, and they are all connected by trails that wind through the rainforest.

The park also has several lookout points where you can take in panoramic views of the Arenal Volcano and Lake Arenal. Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park is a great place to experience the Costa Rican jungle.

  • Hike Arenal 1968 Trail

This is one of the most popular trails in Costa Rica. The trail is named after the year when a devastating volcanic eruption destroyed the town of Arenal. Today, the trail offers breathtaking views of the surrounding jungle and volcanoes.

Hikers of all levels can enjoy the trail, as it can be completed in a few hours. The trailhead is located just outside the town of La Fortuna, making it easy to access.

  • Kalambu Hot Springs

Kalambu Hot Springs is one of the most popular tourist attractions in La Fortuna. The hot springs are located in the Arenal Volcano National Park, and they are fed by the waters of the Arenal River.

Visitors can enjoy a variety of different pools, as well as a relaxation area and a restaurant. The Kalambu Hot Springs is open year-round, and they offer a unique opportunity to relax and enjoy the beauty of the Arenal Volcano.

  • Rio Celeste Waterfall

The Rio Celeste River or Blue River is located in the Tenorio Volcano National Park and about 1 hour from La Fortuna. If you don’t want to drive yourself, you could also choose to go on a Rio Celeste tour, leaving from La Fortuna .

We recommend arriving at the park in the morning before 9 am. The Rio Celeste hike is 3.7 miles (6 km) in total and takes around 3 hours. The trails can get very muddy but it is possible to rent boots at the entrance.

The trail is a natural path and not handicap-friendly. Swimming is not allowed in the Rio Celeste River, but it is possible to take a dip by the bridge, 1km past the park entrance. It is called Rio Celeste Free Pool in Google Maps.

  • Sloth Sanctuary La Fortuna Tour

The sloth Rescue Center is run by Proyecto Asis. After more than 20 years of caring for wild animals and the opportunity of releasing back to nature many species (including sloths), they are now offering you an educational tour in this sloth sanctuary.

Duration: 1 hour 30 minutes approximately from Monday to Saturday at 8:30 am, 10:30 am & 1:00 pm. The price per person is $25 USD. Kids 5 to 9 years old are $15 USD.

Follow this link to book your ticket in advance.

  • Rainforest chocolate tour

When you want to learn more about chocolate and how to harvest, dry, and grind cacao, this rainforest chocolate tour might be something for you. The tour ends with making a traditional chocolate drink.

  • Evening Frog Safari

If you want to see the famous frogs of Costa Rica, it’s best to book an evening frog safari and go look for them in the dark with a guide. A fantastic experience!

Day 3: La Fortuna – Monteverde (Cloud Forest)

Total driving distance: today you have a challenging drive of 120 km or 74 miles with sharp turns and some potholes. Please drive during daylight, especially when it’s raining.

If you’re on public transport you can arrange a bus-boat – bus tour . The boat will take you across the lake, which is very scenic and also quicker than by car.

Monteverde is a small town in Costa Rica, up in the mountains, that is home to the world-famous Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve . In addition to this paradise, there are also several other reserves in the area that are worth exploring.

Besides wildlife spotting, the area is also known for zip-lining and hanging bridges.

Ideally, you visit the Monteverde Cloud Forest early in the morning, the best time for wildlife spotting. Therefore, we advise you to save your visit for the morning of day 4.

After you arrive in Monteverde from La Fortuna, you can explore the town, go ziplining, or visit one of the other parks.

In the evening you can plan a night walk in the Children’s Eternal Rainforest or book another night safari to spot frogs, snakes, and other insects.

What to do in Monteverde

  • Visit the Monteverde Cloud Forest and search for the mystical Quetzal

spotting the quetzal in during you costa rica roastrip in monteverde

The Monteverde Cloud Forest is world-famous for its stunning biodiversity, and visitors can expect to see an incredible variety of plant and animal life.

There are several ways to explore the reserve, including guided hikes, zip-lining, and horseback riding.

We booked a guided tour with Roy , a very knowledgeable and friendly guide. We were really hoping to see the mystical Quetzal. Without a guide, it’s very hard.

And thanks to Roy, we did! We can highly recommend him! He knew where to look, and how to recognize the songs of all the birds. Plus he gave us tons of information on all the fauna and flora.

Even when you book a guide, you usually still have to buy your tickets for entering the reserve, which is $25 per person. You can buy tickets at the entrance. But, as there is a quota of 200 people at the same time, we advise you to book your ticket online in advance.

You can combine the Monteverde Cloud Forest with a visit to Selvatura Park.

  • Selvatura Park

Selvatura Park is a nature and adventure ecological park located in Monteverde.

Selvatura Adventure Park has designed 8 packages for visitors to choose from. Ranging from a full day of adventure to hand-picked activities that best suit your “thrill for nature” level. You can book your package online .

They offer a canopy tour, suspension bridges, a butterfly garden, and even a reptile and amphibian exhibition.

  • Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve

The Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Costa Rica, after the Monteverde Cloud Forest. The reserve is home to over 200 species of birds, and a wide variety of plant and animal life, including many endangered species.

Visitors to the reserve can explore the forest on foot or by horseback, and there are also several zip lines and suspension bridges that offer panoramic views of the canopy.

The Santa Elena Reserve is a great place to enjoy the natural beauty of Costa Rica and learn about the importance of conservation.

Also, it’s often a bit less crowded than the Monteverde Cloud Forest, so could be a good alternative. Our favorite guide, Roy, also has a tour of the Santa Elena Cloud forest reserve .

  • Curi-Cancha Reserve

The Curi-Cancha Reserve is home to some of the rarest animals in Costa Rica and a fantastic alternative in the Monteverde area if you want to avoid the crowds.

With its 5 miles of trails, there is a lot to explore. Our guide Roy also has an amazing guided tour through this reserve.

  • Children’s Eternal Rainforest

The Bosque Eterno de Los Niños (BEN) was founded by donations from children in 44 countries and is run by a nonprofit conservation organization.

The unique sights and sounds of the tropical forest at night make a night walk at Bajo del Tigre a “must-do” for any visitor to Monteverde. You need to reserve your ticket.

road trip costa rica 10 days

Where to stay in Monteverde

Most hotels are located in Santa Elena, close to Monteverde.

  • Pension Santa Elena

This lovely pension is located in the center of Santa Elena. It’s a budget-friendly option, the rooms are small but nice. You have the possibility to use the kitchen and enjoy the welcoming atmosphere.

From here you can take the bus to the Cloud Forest. They can also arrange tours for you.

Monteverde, one of the most popular stops during your trip in Costa Rica

  • Camino Verde B&B Monteverde

This hotel is located only 15 min from the entrance of the park. It is inspired by a rustic “Tica house” design and is family-owned. Tours and packages can be arranged by the staff.

  • Jaguarundi Lodge

This one is a bit more expensive but the best option for adventurers and explorers that love nature and wish to live this experience in a small mountain lodge. They offer local traditional rustic cabins.

They are located inside the only forest in the heart of Santa Elena but still close to the center of town.

Day 4: Monteverde – Tamarindo (Playa Flamingo)

Total driving distance: it is about 168 km or 104 miles (3h15) drive to Tamarindo (Playa Flamingo). On the way, you pass the city of Liberia.

After your early morning visit to the Monteverde Cloud Forest, you can say goodbye to the rainforest! It is time to head to the coast en explore the beaches at the Pacific Coast.

First, we head to Playa Flamingo, which is one of the most beautiful beaches in the country. The best way to spend your day here is to relax on the beach.

If you’re looking for some activities you can do horseback riding or an ATV tour. Close to Playa Flamingo, you can find Conchal beach, another gorgeous beach consisting of white crushed seashells.

We spend the night in Tamarindo, a 30 min drive from Playa Flamingo. Tamarindo used to be a small fishing village but is now a popular beach destination in Costa Rica.

Although it can be very crowded, it’s still a lovely place to visit. And one of the best spots in Costa Rica to practice your surfing skills.

In the evening we suggest a sunset sailing tour.

What to do in Tamarindo

In the town of Tamarindo, there is a lot to see and do. Either stay at the beach or choose for a little more adventure.

You could go horseback riding . It is a great way to see the scenery and get some exercise while enjoying the fresh air. Make sure to choose a company that treats its animals well.

Surfing is another extremely popular activity in Tamarindo and the waves here are some of the best in Costa Rica. Both beginners and more experienced surfers can give it a go here. There are many surfing companies to choose from. Some even offer complete camps with accommodation.

If you’re really in for a thrill, you can go on an ATV tour along the beaches and inland.

Sunset sailing is another must-do while in Tamarindo as it is a beautiful way to see the coastline and watch the sunset.

  • Palo Verde National park (you can do this on your way to Tamarindo)

Palo Verde National Park is home to many different species of animals and plants and it is definitely worth a visit. It’s one of the best examples of a tropical dry forest.

The park is home to many birds. In the wet season (April – November), migrating birds visit the park. In the dry season (December – March/April), the Rio Tempisque river dries out and the trees lose their leaves. If you want to see wildlife then, you have a big chance around the water pools.

Where to stay in Tamarindo

As Tamarindo is so popular, accommodations can fill up quickly. If you want to find an affordable place or stay in one of the nicest hotels, book well in advance.

  • Villas Macondo

This budget-friendly property is 150m from Tamarindo beach and has a beautiful tropic garden with some cute bungalows. Every bungalow has its own patio with a hammock.

  • Hotel Elixir

This property is only a 6-minute walk from the beach. It is located in Tamarindo, 1.1 km (less than a mile) from Grande Beach. They provide accommodation with an outdoor swimming pool, free private parking, and a garden. Continental breakfast is included.

  • Margarittavilla Beach Resort

This oceanfront resort is located at Flamingo Beach (30 min from Tamarindo). You can relax by the sparkling outdoor pool and sip a cocktail at the swim-up pool bar.

Take in a spectacular sunset over the ocean while enjoying the international cuisine infused with Costa Rican flavors in one of their three restaurants.

It’s a good choice if you want some more luxury or want your kids to have an amazing time!

Day 5: Tamarindo – Montezuma

Total driving distance: the drive from Tamarindo to Montezuma is about 182 km or 113 miles and will take you about 3 hours.

Montezuma is a small beach town located in the south of the Nicoya Peninsula. This area of the country is very remote and the roads are rough but luckily improving. A 4×4 car could make things easier, especially in the rainy season.

On your way to Montezuma, you can visit the Diria National Park. In the park, there are three trails. This park is not spectacular but still worth a visit.

After arriving in Montezuma you can enjoy the beach or visit the gorgeous waterfall (20 min).

You’ll love this place because it is less crowded and more remote than the rest of the places we’ll visit during this 10 days in Costa Rica itinerary.

What to do in Montezuma

  • Montezuma Waterfall

This is probably the most popular activity in Montezuma. The waterfall is located just south of town. The waterfalls are a set of three cascades, the largest waterfall is almost 80 feet or 24 meters tall.

It is also possible to swim in the other two. Here you can find a nice article about how to visit the Montezuma waterfalls .

Montezuma Waterfall 10 days in Costa Rica Itinerary

  • Playa Montezuma

Expect an undeveloped coastline with a tropical jungle, kilometers long, and partially rocky beach. Look out for wildlife such as iguanas and capuchin monkeys. Protect your lunch!

  • Playa Grande

If you keep walking north at Playa Montezuma (45min) you will find Playa Grande. This is a beautiful beach and it is also perfect for surfing. Along the way, it is possible to see wildlife.

  • Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve

If you like hiking we suggest you visit the Reserva Natural Absoluta Cabo Blanco. There is a 2-mile long (3 km) trail that crosses a ridge and drops down to Playa Banco on the tip of the Nicoya Penisula.

The visitor’s entrance to Cabo Blanco is on the east side of the Peninsula near Cabuya, south of Montezuma.

  • Snorkeling at Tortuga Island

You can visit Isla Tortuga (Tortuga Island) by boat, it is only one hour away and a very popular tour from Montezuma. It has a white sand beach and is great for snorkeling. On your way to the island, it is possible to spot dolphins, turtles, or other marine life.

  • Isla de Cabuya

When it is low tide you can walk to this tiny island. It is located south of Montezuma. On Isla de Cabuya you can find a cemetery. Walk past the graveyards as this is a unique spiritual experience. Be sure to check the tides, you don’t want to get stuck on this mysterious island…

Where to stay in Montezuma

  • Montezuma Pacific Hotel :  this quiet friendly budget hotel is located in “downtown” Montezuma.
  • Amor de Mar is right next to the Montezuma River, a few miles from the Cabo Blanco National Park. They have 9 rooms and 2 villas. This is a more luxury option.
  • Casitas Sollevante and Casa Frangipani is set on the Montezuma Hills , 800 m from the town center. The Casitas Sollevante features an outdoor swimming pool and hot tub. They have accommodation with terraces and breathtaking Pacific Ocean views.

Day 6: Montezuma – Jaco

Total driving distance: 166 km or 103 miles, with the ferry from Paquera to Puntarenas (75 min) as an extra.

First, you need to drive about 1 hour to the ferry dock in Paquera . You can reserve your tickets online . From there you can take the boat to Puntarenas. The crossing takes about 75 minutes. Along the way, you will see pelicans, rays, and if you are lucky dolphins.

When you have arrived in Puntarenas, you drive south towards Jaco. Along the way, you will come across the famous Crocodile Bridge . There you can see the crocodiles on the bank of the Tarcoles River.

Along the way to Jaco, you drive past the Carara National Park , which is the northernmost Pacific coastal rain forest in Costa Rica. The park has some nice hiking trails.

After visiting the park you arrive in Jaco, one of the best places to learn surfing . You will find a lot of cafes and restaurants here. We had an excellent pizza in Rioasis Pizzeria on the main street. Time to go out and do a little dance. Be careful of your belongings though.

Jaco is a very touristy coastal city and some might find it too artificial. We have to admit, it doesn’t feel like an authentic Costa Rican experience. If you’re here for surfing or some nightlife, you’re in the right spot.

If you want a more authentic experience, you could skip Jaco , move Manuel Antonio up and go to Uvita on your last day.

Where to stay in Jaco

  • La Paloma Blanca Condominiums

The hotel is located close to the beach. Each unit has air conditioning with a fully equipped kitchen, and a patio overlooking the pool and the ocean. There is a surf school that sets up shop right in the area.

  • Surf Synergy Surf Camp

The bungalows are located a bit north of town but the view you get is unbelievable. You can use bikes to go to the beach or go surfing. Red macaws pass by regularly.

If you have some more days, you can take one of their surf camps. We dud and we can highly recommend it!

Go surfing in Jaco - Costa Rica

  • Selina Jaco

The Selina Jaco hotel is also beachfront, they have private rooms with wifi and shared workspaces. It is within walking distance of the town center and a great spot for digital nomads.

  • Hotel Club del Mar

This beachfront hotel is located on the very south of the beach. They have an onsite restaurant with good seafood. The rooms have either an oceanfront or rainforest view.

Day 7: Jaco

Total driving distance: today we stay in Jaco to refuel, surf, and enjoy the beach

You can spend all day long learning how to surf and relax on the beach . If you rather explore nature , you can head to the Carara National Park or even Manuel Antonio National Park (1h15).

Another great option is to go to Herradura Beach (only 15 min) to go SUP’ing or do a horseback ride at the Bijagual Waterfall.

If you want to watch the real boys catch some of the biggest waves in Costa Rica, head over to Playa Hermosa . If you like sportfishing you can go out to the sea to catch your own fish.

What to do in Jaco

  • Carara National Park (33 km or 20 miles north of Jaco)

The Carara National Park is first of all a birdwatcher’s paradise . In the Carara National Park, you can find two hiking trails . The Laguna Meandrica trail (4,5 km or 2.7 miles) parallels the Rio Grande de Tarcoles (Tarcoles River). The shorter Araceas trail (1 km or 0,6 miles) is a loop that starts and ends at the main ranger station (Quebrada Bonita).

You will find some local guides at the entrance who can show you the two-toed sloth, agouti, armadillo, and monkeys. Carara National park is also a favorite among bird watchers because the endangered scarlet macaw can be found here.

Watch out from August to October, the trails near the river may be impassable because of flooding.

The price of admission is $10 per person, the park has a ranger station with restrooms.

Jaco beach is a top surfing destination. The beach is 3 km or 1,5 miles long and has shoulder-to-head high waves. It is the perfect spot for beginners to learn how to surf as the waves are strong and consistent but not too powerful. The best time is from April to October.

We spent some days with Surf Synergy and absolutely loved it! They offer complete packages for beginners, intermediate or experienced surfers. You’ll be immersed in general surf knowledge, pool paddling & duck diving, breathing exercises, good nutrition, and dry land simulation. After each lesson in the ocean, you get a personalized video analysis.

You can check their website to see which package would fit you best. This is only possible when you have a little more time to spend in Jaco.

  • Bijagual Waterfall (Horseback Ride)

The Bijagual Waterfall is one of the main attractions in Jaco. It is very popular to experience the waterfall on a guided horseback riding tour. You can do a combo with ziplining.

  • Herradura Beach (SUP)

Herradura Beach is a 20-minute drive away. This is a beautiful beach with calm waters. It is ideal for swimming or paddling with the sup. One of the most popular resorts in the area is located here, Los Suenos Marriott . It is famous for its marina and golf course.

one of the highlights in your costa rica itirenary 10 days is herradura beach

  • Sportfishing

If you like sport fishing, Jaco is the place to look for the sailfish. You can find them all year round. The Marriott Marina is the launching point for a number of charter boats.

Day 8: Jaco – Quepos (Manuel Antonio)

Total driving distance: it’s about 1h30 driving from Jaco to Manuel Antonio National Park.

Quepos is known as the main gateway to the Manual Antonio National Park. It is located 20min from the entrance of the park. You can choose to stay in town or closer to the park. If you are traveling on a budget, we suggest Quepos.

After you leave Jaco, you’ll pass Playa Hermosa . This beach is famous for surfing, but for the experienced ones. Some of the biggest waves of Costa Rica can be found here.

You can stop and have a look at the professionals before heading south. After that, drive straight to Quepos , a harbor town close by the park. The town of Quepos is very tourist-friendly and has restaurants, banks, and a post office.

There are some stunning beaches in close proximity to Quepos. You could visit for example Playa Espadilla or go to Biesanz Bay which is considered one of the most beautiful ocean views on the Pacific Coast.

For the more adventurous there are two rivers near Quepos where you can go white water rafting .

We suggest that you visit the Manuel Antonio National Park early in the morning the next day to avoid the crowds and the heat.

What to do around Quepos – Manuel Antonio

  • Seeing the sunset on the Paseo del Mar, Quepos

If you’re staying in Quepos (as we did), enjoy your dinner in one of the many restaurants and walk over to the Paseo del Mar to enjoy the sunset between the locals.

Sunset in Quepos itinerary 10 days Costa Rica

  • Playa Espadilla

The beaches in Manual Antonio are beautiful, but you need to pay entrance to visit them. Playa Espedilla is a little further from Quepos but the most famous ‘free’ one in the area.

It has two parts. Playa Espadilla Norte is free but can be quite crowded during the day. The southern part (Playa Espadilla Sur) is located within the National Park and you need to pay admission to get there. It is wonderful and remains very quiet without many tourists.

Local life Playa Espadilla Costa Rica itinerary

  • Catamaran tour

The Quepos Marina opened in 2014 and can accommodate as many as 200 boats. Many fun catamaran trips depart from here. You can choose for example to book a sunset cruise or a one-day cruise.

  • White water rafting

There are two rivers in town. The Savegre River has Class II and III rapids. These are great as rafting introductions for families while you still can enjoy the scenery. Check out this Savegre White-water rafting Tour.

On the other hand, there is the Naranjo River which has III and IV rapids. These are more for advanced rafters.

Where to stay in Quepos – Manuel Antonio National Park

  • Serenity Boutique Hotel (Quepos) : this budget boutique hotel is located in the center of Quepos, only 200m from the bus stop to the Manuel Antonio National Park.

We stayed here and think it has great value for its money. They have 14 lovely rooms with air conditioning and a great swimming pool.

  • Santa Juana Lodge & Nature Reserve : this rural lodge is located 60 minutes from the park. The lodges are beautifully located and overlook the panoramic pacific coastline of Manuel Antonio.
  • Hotel Costa Verde : located 5km or 3 miles from Quepos, overlooking the Manuel Antonio National Park with 3 cliff-side pools, sundecks, … it is perfect for families, groups, or couples. They even have a wedding platform!
  • Gaia Hotel and Reserve (Manuel Antonio National Park) : this luxury boutique hotel is for adults only. It is located on Manuel Antonio beach. Extra is the luxury spa with 6 treatment rooms.

Day 9: Manuel Antonio

Total driving distance: It is quite easy to leave your car in Quepos and take the bus from the Quepos bus station. It is also possible to park your car close to the park.

Manuel Antonio is one of the most accessible and popular national parks in Costa Rica. This means you won’t be alone. Come early to avoid some of the crowds.

If you have more time in Costa Rica, you’ll find some of the other national parks (such as Cahuita NP or Corcovado NP) to be more authentic and easier to spot wildlife. However, we still believe you should stop at Manuel Antonio.

Keep in mind that the park is closed on Tuesdays ! Opening hours are from 7 am to 4 pm (the beaches close at 3 pm). You can buy your tickets online, they cost $18 for adults, and children 12 and up pay $6.

You can hire an officially certified tour guide who will accompany you through the park. They await you at the entrance of the park. Ask for their official license. Or you could book a tour online upfront.

The park is perfect to explore by yourself. All the trails are clearly signposted. However, as it is sometimes hard to spot animals, we booked a guide. They have a telescope so you can see the animals close and get photos through the telescope.

For optimal animal spotting, we advise you to come early in the morning . We booked the guide during the morning hours and spent the rest of the day exploring the park on our own.

How to visit the Manuel Antonio National Park

In the park, there are a lot of trails. They are all well marked so you certainly can’t get lost in the jungle. Our favorite was the loop you can make from Playa Manuel Antonio.

For many visitors, Manuel Antonio’s stunning beaches are the main attraction. After passing through the entrance and following a wide path you arrive at Playa Manuel Antonio .

If you want to escape the crowds, come here early or immediately after your guided tour. We spent some time at the beach and then explored the rest of the park. Don’t forget your towel and bathing suit !

In the middle of the park, you can find a cafeteria with sandwiches, drinks, and of course, souvenirs. A bit overpriced but knowing that this is the most popular park in Costa Rica, it sounds logical. Please don’t feed the animals .

Another tip is that you need to stay away from the Manchineel trees. The flowers, leaves, and bark are highly toxic , causing blisters and burns. They are marked with caution signs or a red flag.

Keep in mind that you’re not allowed to bring any type of food . Only sodas and water are permitted.

road trip costa rica 10 days

Day 10: Manuel Antonio – San José

Total driving distance: 174 km or 110 miles, about 2u30 of driving. Follow the route along Parrita, Jaco, and Orotina. Google could suggest you take the 301 which is shorter (108km or 67miles) but this road takes longer (3h) and is more challenging.

Depending on the time of your return flight, you may still be able to visit San José.

Some people say there is not much to see in San José, but we disagree. It is not the most beautiful town, but still worth a visit and a great opportunity to soak up some Costa Rican vibes.

What to do in San Jose

  • Explore the Jade Museum

This museum houses the most pre-Columbian Jade in the world. It holds a large collection of archeology, art, ethnography, and numismatics treasures. The Jade Museum is located in a building of post-modern design in the center of San José.

A visit takes about 2h and will cost $15 for adults, and $13 for kids under 12. Kids below 5 get free admission.

  • Explore the National Museum

The National Museum of Costa Rica used to be a fortress. It is here that former president Jose Figueres Ferres made an end to the national army. They have a small butterfly garden before you enter the museum. In the museum itself, you can learn more about the history of Costa Rica.

The museum is closed on Monday. The entrance fee is $11 and is free for minors under 12 years of age. More info about the museum can be found on their website.

National Museum San Jose Costa Rica Itinerary

  • Tour the National Theater

Take a tour to learn about the theater and admire the stunning architecture. The entrance fee is $10, and reservations are required. You can buy tickets for performances here.

  • Visit the San José Central Market

This is the place where you can go souvenir shopping and try traditional food. If you’re looking to buy coffee or other Costa Rican products this is the best spot. It’s cheaper than in the regular souvenir shops and you get a nice vibe as well.

There are many restaurants in the market. Soda Tapia is one of them and has been in the market for over 100 years!

road trip costa rica 10 days

Where to stay in San José

  • In the Wind Hostel and guesthouse : the hostel is located about 3 km (2 miles) outside the city center but is the best one of the best budget options in San Jose and also where we stayed. Every morning the Canadian manager cooks delicious pancakes for breakfast.
  • Hotel Casa Roland: our favorite place to stay overnight is in San Jose. The building is nicely decorated and the rooms and apartments are big . Every morning you get a delicious breakfast served in the lobby. Perfect for families.
  • Sheraton San Jose : if you’re looking for some luxury, this is your place to go. It is located outside the center of San Jose and close to the airport.
  • Holiday Inn Express Airport San Jose : located next to the airport and perfect if you have an early flight.

Extra day: Uvita – Marino Ballena National Park

Do you have an extra day to spare? Don’t want to visit Jaco? Or would you rather not go surfing? Then Uvita and the Marino Ballena National park are your way to go.

Uvita is a nice little town with a very friendly vibe. Bahia, even smaller, is a local village right next to the National Park. And it has one of the most beautiful beaches along the Pacific coast, in our opinion.

It is also the favorite place of humpback whales and dolphins (from July to October). Inside the park, you can visit the tómbolo (whale tail).

Things to do in Uvita – Marino Ballena National Park

  • Visit the Marino Ballena National Park (Whale Tail)

This park is the favorite place of humpback whales and several types of dolphins. Every year (July to October) they come here to carry out their reproductive cycle. The park has a rocky and sandy formation that resembles the tail of a whale.

Inside the Marino Ballena National Park, you can visit the whale tail (check the low tide) and enjoy the beaches. The sunset on the beach is fantastic. You can buy tickets in advance or at the entrance. Tickets cost $6 for adults, and children under 11y are free.

Uvita - Marino Ballena National Park - Costa Rica

  • El Pavon Waterfall

This unique waterfall is about 25 min drive from Uvita. It is surrounded by jungle and has natural swimming pools in front of the waterfall and down the river. You don’t need to hike as it is easily accessible. The entrance is free.

  • Surfing trip to Dominical

Dominical is only 15min away from Uvita. It is a hippie surfer town and a great place for surfing. The vibe is very laid back. It is possible to rent your own surfboard or take some lessons.

Where to stay in Uvita

You can stay in the main town center of Uvita or closer to the beach in Bahia. Keep in mind that you need to pay for entrance to the park if you want to spend some time on the beach.

  • Karandi Hostel (Bahia) : we stayed at this amazing hostel in Bahia. The national park is within walking distance. The place has a great garden, a common kitchen, and a lovely vibe.
  • Cabinas Bahía Uvita – Marino Ballena National Park Lodge : another great option in Bahia, only 4 minutes away from the beach.
  • Whale Tail Hotel : located in Uvita, this lovely place has a swimming pool and BBQ and is great for families too.
  • La Cusinga Lodge : the fantastic views over the ocean of this accommodation will blow you away and is reason enough to come here.

More tips about Uvita and the Marino National Ballena park can be found in our article “ Things to do in Uvita “

That’s a wrap! We hope you enjoyed our 10-day itinerary of Costa Rica. If you have any questions, suggestions, or remarks, please let us know in the comments.

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Greta's Travels

Costa Rica Itinerary – How To Spend 10 Days In Costa Rica

Posted on Last updated: June 10, 2023

Are you planning a Costa Rica itinerary, but don’t know where to start? You’ve come to the right place!

I recently came back from ten days in Costa Rica, and can confidently say it’s one of the most incredible places I have ever visited.

The country has a breathtakingly beautiful landscape and a wealth of unforgettable experiences on offer. When exploring such a diverse country, organisation is key.

A well-prepared Costa Rica itinerary will give you the freedom that you crave to explore the rugged rainforests of the country, without missing out on the main attractions.

If you want to tick off the main cities, explore the natural wonder, go on an adventure and push your comfort zone, then this 10-day Costa Rica itinerary is the perfect plan for you!

  • 1 Best time to visit Costa Rica
  • 2.2 Car rental
  • 2.3 Alternative transport methods
  • 3 Do you need travel insurance for 10 days in Costa Rica?
  • 4.1 Day 1: Arrive in San José
  • 4.2 Day 2: Explore Orosi Valley
  • 4.3 Day 3: Travel to Tortuguero
  • 4.4 Day 4: Early morning canoe in Tortuguero Rainforest
  • 4.5 Day 5: Travel to Sarapiqui
  • 4.6 Day 6: Rafting & Waterfall Chasing
  • 4.7 Day 7: Explore Arenal National Park
  • 4.8 Day 8: Travel to Santa Teresa
  • 4.9 Day 9: Surf in Santa Teresa
  • 4.10 Day 10: Back To San José
  • 5.1 What to pack

Overlooking Catarata del Toro waterfall in Costa Rica

Overlooking Catarata del Toro waterfall in Costa Rica

Best time to visit Costa Rica

Some travellers look to enjoy the ultimate Costa Rica backpacking route while others prefer to enjoy the luxury of tropical bliss. Either way, your experience will depend largely on the weather.

To make the most of your 10-day trip to Costa Rica , try to plan it during the dry season.

The dry season runs from mid-December to April. This is also the peak tourist season so expect plenty of sunshine and well-established hospitality.

The months of May and November, known as the “green season” will make your trip to Costa Rica more affordable, but you’ll have to prepare for a fair amount of rain.

With this being said, the weather in Costa Rica varies quite a bit depending on the region. The thick forests can get quite humid, while the coastal areas are less so.

Enjoying the clear water of Isla Tortuga

Enjoying the clear water of Isla Tortuga

Getting around Costa Rica

There are several ways to get around this tropical wonderland. If you’re planning a Costa Rica self-guided tour, then it’s best to be prepared by knowing your options.

The public bus is the most affordable way to get from one destination to another. Most routes leave from San José, which means that you’ll be spending at least a few moments in the capital city at some point.

It’s recommended that you book your ticket in advance – especially for mid- to long-distance routes.

Keep in mind that the bus schedule changes frequently (even if you’ve pre-booked) so keep checking the Costa Rica bus timetable before your trip.

For a more comfortable bus experience, you can also book a shuttle bus. These cost approximately five times more than the public bus, but makes up for it with comfort and air-conditioning.

Rainy canoe tours in Tortuguero National Park

Rainy canoe tours in Tortuguero National Park

Driving around Costa Rica makes for quite an experience. If you want to see the beautiful country at your own pace, then renting a car is your best bet. Most of the reputable car rental shops can be found in San José.

I’d definitely recommend that you pay a little bit extra for a 4×4. While the roads are not the worst, there are potholes scattered along various routes and your drive will be significantly more comfortable.

This is especially necessary if visiting during the rainy season, or if you plan to explore more remote areas.

Renting a car is a little bit more of an expensive option, but it gives you freedom and flexibility that money can’t buy.

I was travelling with four friends so renting a car made the most sense for us, both economically and logistically.

Click here to book your Costa Rica car rental!

Sunset surfing in Santa Teresa

Sunset surfing in Santa Teresa

Alternative transport methods

There are other ways of getting around Costa Rica. One of them is to travel by plane . This is the perfect option if you’re short on time and have a bit of budget.

While flying won’t get you to destinations off-the-beaten-track, it can get you close enough, in a shorter amount of time.

If you’re travelling in a large group, and you prefer private transport, then you may want to look into organising a taxi . There are plenty of taxis that are willing to do long-distance trips.

Finally, if you’ve got experience on a motorbike or scooter and hold a valid licence, then you can travel around on two wheels. Renting a motorbike in Costa Rica can be quite an epic adventure.


Top down drone shot of the main beach at Isla Tortuga

Top down drone shot of the main beach at Isla Tortuga

Do you need travel insurance for 10 days in Costa Rica?

After my personal experience spending two nights in a private hospital in Tenerife, and having to pay for it out of pocket (it wasn’t cheap), I always recommend getting travel insurance.

You might not end up needing it, but for a small fee you can travel without worries. Personally, I suggest getting your travel insurance with  Heymondo .

Heymondo offers tailor made travel insurance, providing the best value for money for your specific trip. You can also buy it once you’re already abroad and have forgotten about it before flying (which, if you’re anything like me, is quite likely).

Besides the usual cancellation, medical expenses, luggage coverage and general travel insurance services, Heymondo also has a 24/7 doctor chat and instant assistance through their app.

As a Greta’s Travels reader, you get 5% off your Heymondo travel insurance !

Click here to get your 5% off Heymondo travel insurance!

One of the viewpoints overlooking Catarata del Toro waterfall in Costa Rica

One of the viewpoints overlooking Catarata del Toro waterfall

How to spend 10 days in Costa Rica

With so much to discover, I’d recommend a minimum of 10 days in Costa Rica. This will allow you to tick off the main activities without rushing or running on empty.

This Costa Rica 10-day itinerary is based on my own trip, and it should give you some great ideas for your route.

Day 1: Arrive in San José

Chances are that you’ll land in San José, Costa Rica’s vibrant capital. It’s the perfect place to whet your appetite and make you crave more.

Spending time exploring the city after arriving will give you the cultural and historical context to enjoy the mountains, jungles and beach activities that follow.

San José city centre is full of fantastic museums and restaurants. It even introduces a trendy urban mood to the scene. With limited time in the city, there are a few must-do activities to tick off.

Looking into the crater of Irazu volcano

Looking into the crater of Irazu volcano

The top attractions in the city centre include Costa Rica National Theatre, Pre-Columbian Gold Museum and Costa Rica’s Jade Museum – all of which are located close to one another.

If you have a little bit more time, and energy, at your disposal, then there are several other things to do in San José.

Take the time to pop into a local cafe and try the coffee that has given Costa Rica such a fantastic name, relax in a park and visit one of the many markets.

San José shares great insight into the day-to-day life of urban Costa Rica. You could also join a food and sightseeing combo tour . This is a great way to introduce you to the flavours and attractions of San José.

There’s also a very popular San José City Tour by Night , which allows you to see all the main sights after the sun goes down, and the temperatures cool down a little.

Click here to book your tour to explore San José!

View over San Jose in Costa Rica by night

View over San Jose in Costa Rica by night

Where to stay in San José

During my 1o days in Costa Rica we stayed in two different hostels in San José (one at the start and one at the end of the trip). I have listed them below, together with some accommodation options for other budgets.

Budget: Fauna Hostel – Slightly further away from the city centre, Fauna Hostel is a comfortable and beautiful place to stay for your night in San José. It also has the perks of great views and friendly staff.

Click here to book your stay at Fauna Hostel!

Budget: Finca Escalante – If you prefer to be centrally located, with access to great restaurants and bars, then this is the spot to be. The old building conjures a nostalgic mood and makes for a great place to spend the night.

Check out prices and availability at Finca Escalante here!

Mid-range: Hotel Sura – This quaint boutique hotel is perfect if you want something nice, without breaking the bank.

Click here to book your stay at Hotel Sura in San José!

Luxury: Grand Hotel Costa Rica, Curio Collection by Hilton – With its sleek design and modern furnishing, this hotel is the perfect place to rest after a long travel day to Costa Rica.

Click here to see prices and availability at Grand Hotel Costa Rica!

The view from the rooftop of Fauna Hostel

The view from the rooftop of Fauna Hostel

Day 2: Explore Orosi Valley

Less than 50 kilometres from the hustle and bustle of San José is the tranquil Orosi Valley. Orosi is set along the Reventazón River, surrounded by rolling hills and lush vegetation.

As you drive from San Jose to Orosi you will drive past a sign that says “ Mirador de Orosi ”. Make sure to do a stop here, as the views are simply incredible!

It’s a free park with plenty of benches, picnic tables and water fountains. We were visiting on a cloudy day, but even then we could appreciate just how stunning the landscape in front of us was.

One of the best ways to experience the area is on horseback, of which you’ll find many opportunities. Especially if you book to stay at a “finca” (a farm stay). 

The view from Mirador de Orosi on a cloudy day

The view from Mirador de Orosi on a cloudy day

Another unforgettable activity to enjoy in Orosi Valley is to visit Hacienda Orosi hot springs. Treat yourself to the $45 USD that it costs to enter, and make sure to soak up the incredible views.

The service is also fantastic and you’ll leave feeling relaxed, with a smile on your face.

If you don’t want to sleep in Orosi and change hotels just for one night, and prefer to do a faster pace experience, then you can have a look at doing a combo tour from San José.

For example this Irazu Volcano, Cartago City & Orosi Valley Tour , which, besides Orosi Valley, will take you to explore also the lovely city of Cartago, and the unique crater of Irazu Volcano.

Click here to book your Irazu Volcano & Orosi Valley tour!

Relaxing in the hot thermal pools of Orosi

Relaxing in the hot thermal pools of Orosi

Horse riding in Orosi, Costa Rica

Horse riding in Orosi, Costa Rica

Where to stay in Orosi Valley

While you can explore Orosi on a day trip from San José, I definitely recommend staying overnight, as you can experience a true local “finca”.

We stayed at Finca Agropecuaria Queveri   and loved it. If you want to enjoy a truly local experience, then this is a fantastic choice. The road getting there is a bit of a rough ride, especially if you don’t have a 4×4.

But the building is beautiful, the views over the valley are incredible and the hosts are both hospitable and great cooks. The hosts even organised horse riding with them for $25 USD for a 2 – 3 hour tour.

Click here to book your stay at Finca Agropecuaria Queveri in Orosi!

One of the lounge areas of our finca, with view over the valley of Orosi

One of the lounge areas of our finca, with view over the valley of Orosi

Day 3: Travel to Tortuguero

Once you’ve enjoyed the lush beauty of Orosi Valley, you can hop on a ferry and venture off to Tortuguero. The one-hour ferry ride itself is quite an experience.

Expect to see lots of wildlife on the ride, and don’t be surprised if you come across a few iguanas and crocodiles languishing in the shallows.

I’d recommend booking an early morning ferry ride so that you can enjoy the whole afternoon in Tortuguero (that means setting off from Orosi super early, as it’s a 3 hour drive from Orosi to La Pavona harbour).

Prepare to have your mind blown after arriving in Tortuguero National Park. Depending on your interests, there are a wide variety of awesome tours to pick and choose from.


On the boat from La Pavona enroute to Tortuguero

On the boat from La Pavona enroute to Tortuguero

Views during the ferry enroute to Tortuguero National Park

Views during the ferry enroute to Tortuguero National Park

In Tortuguero National Park you can go zip-lining across the treetops , you can go on a night forest walking tour to spot unique animals, on a sunrise canoe safari and you can even see turtles!

Basically, as long as you like being outdoors and in nature, there’s something to do for everyone! We arrived around lunch time, and kicked off our first day in Tortuguero with a zipline and canopy tour .

Zipping amongst the treetops, looking at the lush nature and rainforest surrounding you, is a pretty unique experience. I’d been zip-lining before, but had never done anything like it.

You’re guaranteed an afternoon of fun, which will also allow you to see the incredible natural landscape of this tropical rainforest up close.

Click here to book your zip-line and canopy tour in Tortuguero National Park!

Zip-lining through the tree tops of Tortuguero National Park

Zip-lining through the tree tops of Tortuguero National Park

Blonde girl walking across a hanging bridge at the top of rainforest treetops in Tortuguero National Park

And then on to some hanging bridges!

After our zip-line experience we went back to our hotel, showered, enjoyed a local dinner in town, and got ready for a jungle night walk !

Many animals in the rainforest only come out at night, so this is the best time to spot them. I highly recommend booking a tour online beforehand , as it’s one of the most popular things to do in Tortuguero.

While the walk we did stayed relatively close to the town, it’s still not something I’d recommend doing alone.

Besides being safer, the local guides know where the animals usually hang out, you’re more likely to spot something with them than alone!

Click here to book your night wildlife spotting jungle walk in Tortuguero!

A chameleon that we saw during our night walking tour in Tortuguero National Park

A chameleon that we saw during our night walking tour in Tortuguero National Park

Where to stay in Tortuguero – independently vs organised tour?

Personally, we organised our own adventures in Tortuguero. We book the ferry, hotel, and then chose our excursions once we arrived there. But I can’t deny it was quite a bit of hassle.

If you want to save yourself the trouble of arranging it all, you can join this 3-day Tortuguero National Park Adventure , which includes accommodation, transfers, activities, and a local guide at all times.

It’s a very complete tour, which includes pretty much all the activities I have outlined in this itinerary. Once you book, you won’t have to worry about a thing!

Click here to see prices and availability for an organised Tortuguero 3-day adventure!

If spending three days in the tropical rainforest seems like a bit much, you can also visit on a day trip from San José . Including breakfast and lunch, it packs all the rainforest sights and activities in one day.

It works well if you don’t have long in Costa Rica, but I personally think you’d spend too much time travelling back and forth from San José, and your time in Tortuguero would feel rushed.

Considering you have ten days in Costa Rica, I think it’s better to spend a few nights in Tortuguero, whether you arrange it independently or with a tour, that’s up to you.

Click here to book your day trip to Tortuguero from San José!

If you choose to arrange your own trip to Tortuguero National Park, I have listed below some cool accommodation options for every budget.

Budget: Hospedaje Meryscar – This budget option is where we stayed during our Costa Rica itinerary. The amenities are rather basic, but the location is fantastic.

Check out prices and availability at Hospedaje Meryscar here!

Mid-range: Tortuguero Casa Pelican – If you want somewhere nice where you can relax at the end of the day, without breaking the bank, this mid-range guest house is the perfect place for you.

Click here to book your stay at Tortuguero Casa Pelican!

Luxury: Mawamba Lodge – If you want to treat yourself, this unique lodge is the place to do so. With its pool, stylish design and amazing outdoors chill out area, it’s the perfect place to relax after a long day in the rainforest.

Don’t miss out, book your stay at Mawamba Lodge in Tortuguero here!

Wandering along the main street of Tortuguero

Wandering along the main street of Tortuguero

Day 4: Early morning canoe in Tortuguero Rainforest

Tortuguero National Park is a beautiful, remote eco-tourism destination that brings you face-to-face with Costa Rica’s wildlife.

Perhaps the biggest selling point in visiting this unique area is that you can enjoy it in a variety of ways – including a canoe trip.

The best canoe tours normally start early in the morning so you can see more animals, much like going on a safari . We did a sunrise canoe tour, and it was well worth the early alarm.

If you visit in the right season, you can even do a turtle tour. This typically runs at different times for different species and you’ll be certain to see individual turtles throughout the year.

Click here to book your canoe tour in Tortuguero National Park!

A small crocodile we spotted during our rainforest canoe tour

A small crocodile we spotted during our rainforest canoe tour

After the early morning wake up for our canoe tour, we had a late brunch, went back to our hotel to chill for a bit, and then ventured out again in the afternoon for a forest walk.

There are several popular walks and viewpoints to choose from, such as the “jaguar trail”, which follows a forest route along the beach. We did part of it and loved the unique combination of forest and sea views.

If you prefer to have a local guide showing you the way and taking you to all the best spots, you can join a Tortuguero National Park day walk tour . That way you know you can’t go wrong!

Click here to book your Tortuguero National Park guided day walk!

Drone shot of Tortuguero National Park, taken from the

Drone shot of Tortuguero National Park, taken from the “jaguar trail”

Day 5: Travel to Sarapiqui

It will be tough to leave Tortuguero, but arriving in the lush, green inland region of Sarapiqui is worth it. The journey is a fairly long one, so I’d recommend setting off as early in the morning as possible.

Head straight to your accommodation once you arrive in Sarapiqui and settle down.

Pick your spot to stay carefully. Ideally, you’d want to be located in an area near the forest, so that you can enjoy a variety of hiking trails.

If you’re not so keen on hiking, accommodation in the forest is still ideal, as you’ll be surrounded by natural beauty. You can go on walks in the jungle, or simply admire it from your hotel room window.

Where to stay in Sarapiqui

Mirador Prendas – Costa Rica is a rugged haven, and Mirador Prendas is the epitome of top-notch accommodation in the Sarapiqui region.

Located in the middle of the forest, the building appears as a treehouse. It takes a bit of time to get there (estimate approximately 1 hour in a 4×4) but the stay is rather magical.

Drone shot of Mirador Prendas - in the middle of the jungle!

Drone shot of Mirador Prendas – in the middle of the jungle!

Day 6: Rafting & Waterfall Chasing

I hope you’re ready for day 6, because it’s going to be a pleasantly packed one! The abundant forests are not the only natural wonder that Sarapiqui is known for.

The area also boasts magnificent waterfalls and opportunities to go whitewater rafting .

You don’t have to be an adventure junkie to enjoy the thrill of a morning rafting experience in Sarapiqui (although it does help if you choose a challenging level).

There are routes available for all levels of difficulty, and all are very fun. We did a level two rafting route.

I was pretty terrified but the rafting company assured me that even little children do that route, and when I saw a group of 70+ year olds in the raft next to ours, I figured I could handle it.

In the moments when the river cruises slowly our rafting instructor pointed out birds, iguanas and other animals that live along the river. It was both a very thrilling and fun experience, which I’m glad I did.

Click here to book your rafting adventure in Sarapiqui!

Rafting with my friends in the Sarapiqui River

Rafting with my friends in the Sarapiqui River

One of the tougher parts of our rafting experience in Costa Rica

One of the tougher parts of our rafting experience in Costa Rica

After rafting it’s time to head to La Fortuna, but with a short detour to see some waterfalls first. Catarata del Toro is the biggest waterfall in Costa Rica, with the Blue Falls of Costa Rica nearby.

Search for “ Catarata del Toro waterfall ” on Google Maps, and head straight there as it’s the start point also to visit the Blue Falls.

They are separate waterfalls but managed by the same park authority. At the time when we visited we weren’t allowed to see the Blue Falls without a local guide.

We figured we might as well go for the combo tour to both waterfalls. There are options for a 2-hour, 4-hour or full-day waterfall tour.

We did the 4-hour combo tour to Catarata del Toro and the main swimming area of the Blue Falls. This cost us $25 USD each, and was worth a lot more.

Hiking to the base of the Catarata del Toro waterfall in Costa Rica

Hiking to the base of the Catarata del Toro waterfall in Costa Rica

All the advice I read online said to visit the waterfalls early in the morning before the crowds, so I was a bit wary of visiting in the afternoon.

However this turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as it meant we were the only people at both waterfalls.

We spent two hours swimming in the Blue Falls, and then hiked to Catarata del Toro where we could admire the falls without other tourists around. The waterfalls are very different, but both were incredibly beautiful.

Keep in mind that the waterfalls close at 17:00, so make sure that you plan accordingly.

For us it meant hitting the road as soon as rafting ended and having a quick lunch in the car. After your waterfall tours head to La Fortuna for the night.

Drone shot of the Blue Falls of Costa Rica

Drone shot of the Blue Falls of Costa Rica

Going for a dip in the Blue Falls of Costa Rica

Going for a dip in the Blue Falls of Costa Rica

Where to stay in La Fortuna

In La Fortuna we stayed at Arenal Hostel Resort . This modern and clean hostel has a lovely courtyard with hammocks, as well as a swim-up bar where you can have a few drinks and relax.

Click here to book your stay at Arenal Hostel Resort in La Fortuna!

If hostels aren’t your thing, I have listed below a couple more accommodation options for other budgets.

Mid-range: Casa Luna Hotel & Spa – This lovely hotel is perfect for people who want to treat themselves, without breaking the bank. With its spacious rooms, jungle vibes and pool with view, it has everything you need.

Check out prices and availability at Casa Luna Hotel & Spa here!

Luxury: Volcano Lodge – If budget isn’t an issue, this is the place for you. You have epic views of Arenal Volcano right from poolside, as well as unique and stylish rooms.

Click here to book your stay at Volcano Lodge, Hotel & Thermal Experience!

The courtyard area with hammocks of Arenal Hostel Resort

The courtyard area with hammocks of Arenal Hostel Resort

Day 7: Explore Arenal National Park

Continue your Costa Rica trip itinerary from La Fortuna and explore Arenal National Park. There are so many highlights to see in the area that the toughest part will be deciding how much you can fit in.

The best way to enjoy the northern highland region is to book the ultimate one-day tour , which crams in as many of the key attractions as possible without compromising energy levels.

The beauty of the region lies in the variety of natural spectacle. On one hand, you have volcanos, and on the other, you have majestic waterfalls nestled in lush forests.

This one-day full tour includes highlights such as the lava fields hike around Arenal Volcano, La Fortuna Waterfall, the suspension bridges and the hot springs.

At the hot springs, make sure you don’t put head under the water! It’s one of the Costa Rica travel tips I wish I’d known before visiting, as you can get bacteria in through your nose when underwater.

You couldn’t find a more breathtaking combination if you tried!

Click here to book your Arenal one-day ultimate tour!

Hiking around the base of Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica

Hiking around the base of Arenal Volcano

Day 8: Travel to Santa Teresa

Santa Teresa is a charming beach village on the Nicoya Peninsula. Life is simple in Santa Teresa. The locals and travellers enjoy the surf, agriculture and fishing in the area.

What is less simple is the drive there, which can take 5 to 6 hours – so better to leave early in the morning.

You’ll arrive by afternoon and can spend the rest of the day at one of Santa Teresa’s beautiful beaches. The beaches are known for their long stretches of white sand, warm blue water and palm trees that reach the sky.

Make sure you stay on the beach for sunset – the view as the sun paints the sky various shades of orange and pink is unparalleled.

I loved the vibe in Santa Teresa, and especially so at sunset. The beach wasn’t too busy at first, but everyone flocks down to the sea to watch the sunset, and it makes for an even more magical experience.

Surfing in Santa Teresa Beach at sunset, Costa Rica

Surfing in Santa Teresa Beach at sunset, Costa Rica

Where to stay in Santa Teresa

In Santa Teresa we stayed at Lost Boyz Hostel . This hostel mimics the same chilled, laid back social mood that perpetuates across Santa Teresa. They offer both dorms and private rooms to suit your preference.

If hostels aren’t your thing, here are a few accommodation options for other budgets.

Click here to book your stay at Lost Boyz Hostel!

Mid-range:  Lucero Surf Retreats  – Our friends who didn’t want to stay in a hostel were staying at  Lucero Surf Retreats  and they loved it.

Clean and spacious rooms, as well as a pool where you can relax if you don’t fancy swimming with ocean waves.

Click here to book your stay at Lucero Surf Retreats!

Luxury: SELVA RESORT Ocean View Luxury Villas  –  This resort has private villas with infinity pools that overlook the forest and sea. If you want to treat yourself, Selva Resort is the place to do so.

Click here to book your stay at SELVA RESORT!

Drone shot of Santa Teresa beach

Drone shot of Santa Teresa beach

Day 9: Surf in Santa Teresa

Costa Rica is known for its world-class surfing waves. I’ve been surfing in Fuerteventura , and other places in the world, and I can vouch that Costa Rica’s reputation is deserved.

Of all the places to surf in Costa Rica, Santa Teresa is one of the best. As a popular surfing village, it is well-supplied with lots of board rentals and lessons.

Renting a board for the small price of $10 USD a day is a great way to spend the day in Santa Teresa.


Surfing in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica

Surfing in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica

If the idea of surfing doesn’t appeal to you, then there are other fun water-based activities which will have you making the most of the beautiful Costa Rica coastline.

One great option is to go on a snorkelling trip to Isla Tortuga .

This is a full day trip to a beautiful paradise island. In Isla Tortuga you can expect to see plenty of fish, corals and spend some time relaxing on the beach.

The water is nicer in Isla Tortuga (no ocean surfing waves) but bear in mind there’s a 1 hour speed boat journey to get there.

Santa Teresa is a beautiful beach town and however you decide to spend your hours in the tropical paradise, I know you’ll enjoy every moment.

Isla Tortuga in Costa Rica seen from above

Isla Tortuga seen from above

Day 10: Back To San José

Your 10-day itinerary draws to a close with the journey back to San José. The journey is a long one and so it’s important to prepare accordingly. You can expect about 5 – 6 hours in the car, with a 1.5-hour ferry in between.

The good news is that the route is beautiful and if you have your own car then you can go at your own pace. Obviously, if you plan to fly home the same day, then you need to plan your timing very carefully.

Sunset from the ferry on the way back to San Jose

Sunset from the ferry on the way back to San Jose

Costa Rica travel tips

Roughly a quarter of the country is made up of protected jungle, and the Costa Rica climate can be quite unpredictable. I’ve put together some Costa Rica travel tips to make your trip planning smoother.

Here are a few details to keep in the front of your mind when organising your trip.

Getting around – The terrain can be quite rough in parts of Costa Rica. The best way to get from point A to point B is by car. If given the choice, a 4×4 is preferable.

The whale we spotted while sailing to Isla Tortuga from Montezuma

The whale we spotted while sailing to Isla Tortuga from Montezuma

Climate – The tropical climate in Costa Rica can change dramatically depending on where you are.

For example, you’ll experience a lot of rain in Tortuguero, feel the chill of the mountains in Orosi and bake in the heat on the beaches in Santa Teresa.

Make sure that you pack appropriately so that you’re comfortable at all times.

Prepare finances – The local currency in Costa Rica is the Costa Rican Colon (CRC). At the time I was visiting (February 2020) $1 USD equated to around 560 CRC.

While most places accept credit cards and USD, I’d suggest having a small amount of CRC on you for emergencies.

Surfing in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica

What to pack

Comfortable walking shoes  that you don’t mind getting wet or muddy. In rainforest destinations such as Tortuguero you will find shops that rent wellies (waterproof plastic boots) but we couldn’t find any in La Fortuna

Rain poncho  – for most excursions in Tortuguero they will offer you a rain poncho, but for every other moment of the day when you’re out and about on your own you will get very wet without one

International adapter – Costa Rica has the same plugs as the US. Depending on where you’re coming from you might need an adapter, I personally like my international one as I can use it everywhere I go, instead of needing one per destination

One piece swimsuit – for the ladies planning to surf, get yourself a one piece swimsuit! Trust me, you’ll be much more comfortable.

The sea in Costa Rica is warm enough that you don’t need a wetsuit, but that means with a two piece bikini you will probably lose parts of it at every wave

Horse riding in the valley of Orosi

Horse riding in the valley of Orosi

Final thoughts on my Costa Rica travel itinerary

There you have it, the ultimate Costa Rica 10-day itinerary! Costa Rica really is an incredible destination, one that has found a very special place in my heart.

From the long stretches of sandy beaches to the wild jungles and rugged mountains, the country has so much beauty to offer.

If you plan to explore Costa Rica in 10 days, then this itinerary should start you off in the right direction.

Costa Rica is the perfect destination for outdoors and adventure lovers, as well as people searching for a hot tropical holiday. Whatever it is you’re looking for, Costa Rica has something to offer to every type of traveller.

With this trip plan and the many travel resources available, you can look forward to an unforgettable escape in the rustic beauty of Costa Rica.

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Collage of Santa Teresa beach, Catarata del Toro waterfall, Isla Tortuga from above and two girls surfing on the beach at sunset with text overlay saying

Wanderlust Chloe

The Ultimate 10-Day Costa Rica Itinerary

Exploring the beaches in Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica

Get ready to zigzag your way from the Pacific to the Caribbean with this ultimate 10-Day Costa Rica itinerary.

Anyone who follows my blog will know that Costa Rica is one of my favourite countries on the planet. It’s a country that offers an adventurous experience-packed style of travel, with endless memories created along the way.

Scarlet macaw in Costa Rica

One day you’ll be white water rafting on ferocious rapids, the next you’ll be staying in a unique eco-lodge falling asleep to the sound of howler monkeys and tree frogs. It’s a destination where you can truly connect with nature and forget the stresses of daily life back home.

Venture out to the rainforests for incredible wildlife encounters, relax in bubbling hot springs and get stuck into simple, delicious BBQ’ed Costa Rican food on the Caribbean coast. I can’t guarantee you’ll see a sloth, but I can guarantee you’ll return home with some epic stories!

A sloth in Costa Rica

I’ve already written a detailed guide to spending two weeks in Costa Rica , but I know many of you are pressed for time on your vacations. Coming up is the perfect route to take you from Pacific Coast to the Caribbean Coast over 10 fun-packed days.

This 10-day Costa Rica itinerary is for those who want to cram in a lot to their trip. You won’t be able to squeeze in much downtime if you want to see and do as much as possible on your 10-day adventure, but you’ll make the most of every minute.

Enjoying the exciting landscapes in Costa Rica

From the wildlife in Corcovado and Puerto Viejo, to the beaches of the Pacific and Caribbean, and adventure activities including zip lining and white water rafting, this really is the best way to spend 10 days in Costa Rica!

Planning your trip to Costa Rica? Here are a few quick highlights:

List Image

The Ultimate 10-Day Costa Rica Itinerary 

If you’re planning a 10-day Costa Rica itinerary, and want to gain a good overview of everything the country offers, you’ve come to the right place.

This route will take you on a little zigzag tour from one side of the country to the other, stopping off at a few highlights in the middle too. When you factor in travel time, you might find you want a little longer in some of the places, or skip one.

Whether you’re planning a wildlife themed trip or are keen to try some activities, this travel guide will give you a good starting point.

READ MORE: Wondering what to pack for your trip? Find out in my handy Costa Rica packing guide  or learn more about the country before you get there with 34 fascinating facts about Costa Rica .

Incredible trees in Corcovado National Park

Day 1 + 2: Corcovado National Park

I’m kicking off this 10-day Costa Rica itinerary with a walk on the wild side over on the Pacific Coast. Assuming you’ve flown into the capital (San José) I’d recommend catching a flight straight over to Puerto Jimenez down in the Osa Peninsula. The views from the plane make it well worth the journey!

Views on the flight from Puerto Jimenez to San Jose, Costa Rica

Once there, make your way to an eco-lodge, get an early night and prepare for one of the best days of your life as you go trekking in Corcovado National Park.

This is on of the top places to spot wildlife in Costa Rica. From whales and turtles, to monkeys, snakes and frogs, there’s SO much to see. I’d recommend booking a rainforest trek via your hotel or a local provider. The guides in this part of Costa Rica know all there is to know about every creature in the rainforest and this isn’t somewhere to wander around solo!

Exploring Corcovado National Park

We woke up at 4am for our rainforest tour. It was well worth the early start! Even on the drive to the national park we spotted scarlet macaws and monkeys playing in the trees.

Exploring the beaches in Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica

Once inside Corcovado National Park, we spotted all four of Costa Rica’s varieties of monkey (squirrel, spider, howler and white-faced capuchin), coatis, agoutis, macaws, Halloween crabs, and learnt all about the park’s impressive trees, sea turtles and more. I loved it!

We trekked along deserted sandy beaches, hiked through thick jungle and enjoyed a packed lunch with an amazing view of the Pacific.

Walking on the beach in Corcovado National Park

Check availability and latest prices at Lapa Rios here

Day 3: Naranjo de Alajuela

So, you’ve kicked off your 10 days in Costa Rica with a flavour of what the country is all about, with some epic wild encounters in Corcovado. Now it’s time for a change of scene. After hopping on a flight back to San José, it’s time to drive an hour north to a pretty lodge up in the hills.

Sunrise from Chayote Lodge, Naranjo, Costa Rica

This is an area I fell in love with on my last trip. You’re unlikely to find on a lot of generic Costa Rica itineraries out there. Consider it a hidden gem, away from the tourists!

The accommodation at Chayote Lodge is stunning, designed around the old coffee receiving stations. You’ll notice this coffee theme continues through the interiors. The wall hangings are made from coffee sacks as are the backs of the seats in the restaurant. They serve a great cup of coffee at breakfast too!

Chayote Lodge in Naranjo, Costa Rica

For me though, it was the view that took my breath away. Looking out from my little wooden home, I could see three volcanoes, layers and layers of stunning morning mist and epic sunsets, along with lush gardens filled with more hydrangeas than I’ve ever seen in my life. I still remember exactly how I felt as I snapped these photos and WOW was it a special moment!

Check availability and latest prices at Chayote Lodge here

Espiritu Santo Coffee Tour, Naranjo

If you want to plan an activity or two for the day you’re in this region, I’d recommend visiting Espiritu Santo for a coffee tour, or taking a trip to see the impressive Catarata Del Toro waterfall.

On the coffee tour you’ll learn how the ripe red coffee cherries are turned into the satisfying caffeinated drink we start our days with. It’s always amazing to come face to face with the processes for things we take for granted! I picked up a few bags of coffee beans to take home too.

Espiritu Santo Coffee Tour, Naranjo

If you want to see lots of amazing scenery during your 10 days in Costa Rica, definitely plan a visit to the 90m tall Catarata Del Toro. This waterfall is one of the most impressive in the whole country. The route down to the falls is steep, but you’ll get incredible photos once you reach the base of the waterfall.

Catarata Del Toro, Costa Rica

READ MORE: Top Things To Do In Costa Rica 

Day 4 + 5: Monteverde

Around three hours northwest of Naranjo is one of the most famous areas in Costa Rica and somewhere you cannot miss, whether this is your first trip to the country or your tenth.

Skybridge in Monteverde Cloud Forest

Monteverde is the region famed for the country’s ‘cloud forests’. It’s a very special sight to see the lush forests submerged in low hanging mist and clouds.

There are plenty of great ways to see this unique scenery too. You could hop on board a sky tram (a gondola), walk along the sky walk (beautiful hanging suspension bridges) or even zoom through the trees on a zip line. Don’t miss a trip to Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve too.

Ziplining in Monteverde, Costa Rica

If you like a little bit of adrenaline, you’ll love the zip lining in Monteverde . It’s still some of the best I’ve ever done! There are lots of zip lines at 100% Aventura Extreme including the longest zip line in Central America and a heart rate inducing Mega Tarzan Swing!

If you’re looking for some of the best things to do in Monteverde, I’d recommend checking out these fun tours .

Day 6 + 7: La Fortuna 

I love how varied this 10-day Costa Rica itinerary is. One minute you’re hanging out with monkeys in the rainforest, the next you’re zooming through the cloud forests on a zip line, and now it’s time to come face to face with one of Costa Rica’s most amazing views.

Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica

Arenal Volcano is a highlight of any trip to Costa Rica. You’ll be mesmerised by views of the 1,670m peak as you drive around towards the small town of La Fortuna. Depending on what you fancy, you cold go on one of the many treks inside Arenal Volcano National Park, go cycling or even take in the scenery on horseback.

Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica

Other things to do in La Fortuna include visiting La Fortuna waterfall which is immersed in thick jungle, or chilling out in the region’s hot springs. It’s a beautiful area – even if you just go on a little road trip, you’ll love visiting this part of Costa Rica.

If you’re looking for some of the best things to do in La Fortuna, I’d recommend checking out these fun tours .

Day 8 – 10: Puerto Viejo de Talamanca

For the last few days we’re heading to the stunning white sands of the Caribbean. It’s a pretty long drive (around 5 hours) from La Fortuna, so I’ve factored in 3 days here as you might want to use one just for the journey.

If you want to travel in an adventurous way, there are a few tour companies who offer a day tour where you go white water rafting on the Pacuare River (one of the best places for this activity in the country) during the day, then they drop you to your location of choice after. Essentially, rather than sit on a bus for the day, you could get picked up from Arenal, spend the day out on the water and still end up in Puerto Viejo at the end of the day!

White Water Rafting in Orosi, Costa Rica

There’s a big difference from Caribbean coast to the Pacific, and it’s something you’ll feel as you arrive in this hippie town. Expect rasta vibes, the sounds of reggae and the scent of jerk chicken.

Daytimes are chilled with surf time, chill time, perhaps a bit of yoga or a trek through the rainforest. After dark it gets lively, especially as this a popular town for backpackers travelling through Central America. It’s also one of the best beach towns in Costa Rica .

Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

No doubt you’ll want to see some more of the country’s wildlife before you round off your 10 days in Costa Rica, and there are two amazing spots near this funky Caribbean town.

Toucan in Costa Rica

Cahuita National Park ’s rainforest sits right on the beach close to Puerto Viejo and is a prime place to see all sorts of creatures including toucans, monkeys, lizards, snakes, giant crickets, leaf cutter ants and even Costa Rica’s most famed animal – the sloth.

Snake in Cahuita, Costa Rica

To guarantee seeing some amazing creatures before you fly home, take a trip to the  Jaguar Rescue Centre – a refuge for sick, unwanted or underdeveloped wild animals.

I love the backstory of this place. It was set up by a couple of biomedical scientists from Europe who moved to Costa Rica for a change of pace. Little did they know, as soon as they moved to the area, locals heard they could help animals and turned up on the doorstep with sick monkeys, owls with broken wings, and blind crocodiles! They decided to set up the rescue centre and it’s been expanding ever since.

Sloth in Costa Rica

When I visited a few years ago I was invited to sit inside one of the monkey enclosures while spider and squirrel monkeys played around. It was also amazing to see sloths so close.

Useful Info For Planning A Trip To Costa Rica

Currency: While colones are the local currency in Costa Rica, lots of places will accept US dollars too. If you pay in dollars, you’re likely to receive colones as change. On my recent trip I noticed a lot more places accepted credit cards and contactless payments.

Packing advice: With so many climates and landscapes, you’ll want to plan your packing carefully. I’d recommend reading my Costa Rica packing guide before you go. Lots of extras you might not have thought about.

‘Pura Vida’ is a way of life in Costa Rica! I heard it used as hello / goodbye / thank you. Translating literally as the pure life, but the meaning is more about a good life, a relaxed life and a happy/content life. Slip it into conversation and you’ll certainly impress the locals!

Do you need to speak Spanish to travel around Costa Rica? No, but it will certainly help in more remote areas. As tourism is a huge part of Costa Rica’s economy, lots of guides, drivers and shopkeepers speak English. I’m sure after two weeks in Costa Rica you’ll have a few key Spanish phrases at your fingertips too.

Is Costa Rica safe? I think it’s very safe. Compared to its neighbours, Costa Rica is an extremely peaceful country. It doesn’t even have an army! People are warm, friendly and helpful, plus there’s a huge passion for the country’s nature and landscapes – the Costa Ricans really want to preserve their country, as they know more than anyone else, that it’s a very special place.

Travel: While Costa Rica isn’t a big country to drive around, some of the roads are windy, rugged and bumpy, so what looks like a 2-hour drive, could end up taking 4. If you’re short on time, take a look at internal flights to speed journeys up.

I hope these suggestions help with planning your 10 days in Costa Rica. If you’re visiting for longer, take a look at where else I recommend in my guide to spending two weeks in Costa Rica .

I’ve featured a few other great spots in my guide to the best beach towns in Costa Rica , including Manuel Antonio National Park, Nosara, Santa Teresa, Tamarindo and Tortuguero National Park. They’re on my list for a future trip!

Pura Vida, Costa Rica

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my 10-day Costa Rica itinerary and it helps you plan your holiday! Have an amazing time, and feel free to comment below if you have any questions!

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10 day Costa Rica itinerary

Chloe Gunning

With a passion for food, fun and adventure, Chloe is the content creator behind one of the UK's top travel blogs Wanderlust Chloe. From volcano boarding in Nicaragua, to sailing around Sicily and eating her way around Japan, her travels have taken her to some of the coolest spots on the planet. Named Travel Influencer of the Year in 2022, Chloe regularly works with a number of tourism boards, producing inspirational travel content across multiple platforms. Find out more about Chloe here.

6 thoughts on “The Ultimate 10-Day Costa Rica Itinerary”

Thank you for the excellent blog. We are planning to have similar 10 day trip, including the Osa Peninsula. Will you please provide some suggestion, which airlines to use to fly in to Puerto Jimenez, from San Jose, how many days you stayed there. Thanks.

Hi there! Amazing – it was such a great trip! I flew with Sansa airlines. I was in Corcovado for 3 days roughly, but would love to stay longer! Hope that helps. Have a great time!

Thanks for this. We’re looking at Osa Peninsula. What was it like flying there? I’m nervous about small planes.

Hi Melissa, I really enjoyed the flight on the small plane as you could see so many amazing views from the window! It felt like being on an exclusive private jet! If you’re a nervy flier you might not like it, but I think most people would enjoy the experience.

Me and my partner are heading to CR in December for 10 days and loved reading your pages!

We’re from the UK and we drive, but I’m always apprehensive about hiring cars abroad and was wondering whether your itinerary is doable with public transport/busses/shuttles?

What would you suggest?

Kind regards,

Priten & Heena

Hi Priten, How exciting! You’re going to love it. To be honest, I think visiting Costa Rica is much better with your own set of wheels. You can get public transport between key places but it’s not great for getting off the beaten track to some of the less touristy spots. I think you’d miss out on some pretty special experiences. I’d also say it’s a bit cheaper as you might end up on expensive tour after expensive tour if you try to plan an alternative way of seeing key spots. Driving is pretty easy in CR. Most roads are decent and while some are a bit bumpy at times, they’re better than most countries I’ve visited! I hope that helps.

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The Best 10 Day Costa Rica Itinerary: A Detailed 10 days in Costa Rica

10 day costa rica itinerary

Looking for the perfect 10 day Costa Rica itinerary?

These 10 days in Costa Rica will have you hiking volcanoes , exploring waterfalls , melting into Costa Rica hot springs , spotting exotic wildlife (including sloths!), relaxing on golden beaches and surfing some of the best breaks in the world.

This 10 days Costa Rica itinerary highlights Costa Rica hot spots like the adventure-packed La Fortuna and the biological reserve of Monteverde , plus up-and-coming beach destinations like the digital nomad-laden town of Santa Teresa , and the boujee surfing paradise of Nosara , Costa Rica.

costa rica itinerary 10 days

* This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see my  full disclosure  for further information.

Every itinerary for Costa Rica in 10 days should follow a logical loop to make transportation and accommodation easy to plan. This Costa Rica 10 days itinerary has you landing in San Jose , the capital of the country. From there you will quickly make your way to La Fortuna , your first destination, whether by renting a car in Costa Rica or a plane, shuttle or bus.

I’ve also included a 7 days Costa Rica itinerary and 2 week Costa Rica itinerary options if that’s more suitable to your timeline.

In this best Costa Rica itinerary 10 days, you will find a destination breakdown – such as things to do , where to stay and the best hotels , plus the best way to get around Costa Rica . If you plan to take a Costa Rica road trip and driving in Costa Rica by car , I have you covered there, too.

10 Days in Costa Rica Itinerary: Essentials

BEST TRAVEL INSURANCE Check Prices of HeyMondo Insurance *I used the single-trip policy in Costa Rica

SHARED & PRIVATE SHUTTLE TICKETS Check Shuttle Prices on BookAway

COSTA RICA CAR RENTAL Check Prices of Costa Rica Rental Cars *Best way to explore Costa Rica

CHEAP FLIGHTS TO COSTA RICA Check Flight Prices on Skyscanner

10 Day Costa Rica Itinerary: Overview

Day 0: San Jose – Land at San Jose Airport (SJO) Day 1: La Fortuna – Waterfalls, Volcano Hike & Hanging Bridges Day 2 : La Fortuna – Sloths, Chocolate & Hot Springs Day 3: La Fortuna – Rio Celeste & Travel to Monteverde  Day 4: Monteverde – Selvatura Adventure Park & Rainforest Night Walk Day 5: Monteverde – Monteverde Cloud Forest Hike & Coffee Tour Day 6: Santa Teresa – Travel to Santa Teresa & Beach Day Day 7: Santa Teresa – Day Trip to Montezuma Town, Waterfall & Beach Day 8: Santa Teresa – Day Trip to Tortuga Island & Bioluminescence Tour Day 9: Santa Teresa – Surfing & Sunset Horseback Riding Day 10: San Jose – Travel to San Jose, Fly Home

10 Days Costa Rica Itinerary: Route Map

This Costa Rica route map of my suggested 10 day itinerary Costa Rica gives you a general idea of the destinations and the distances travelled over 10 days in Costa Rica, whether you plan to rent a car and enjoy an epic Costa Rica road trip, or follow this Costa Rica travel route via shuttle or bus.

Want a general lay of the land first? Find out where is Costa Rica located on the map first.

10 days costa rica

Costa Rica in 10 Days Itinerary: Philosophy

Costa Rica is a relatively small country, but surprisingly, the hidden gems and even the hot spots are at least a 3-hour journey apart . This leaves your 10 days in Costa Rica wracked with long hours in the car or shuttle, lugging your bags around from one spot to the next. That’s definitely not my idea of the perfect travel costa Rica itinerary.

My philosophy for this 10 Days Costa Rica itinerary, is to select three destinations . I highly recommend the adventure-packed La Fortuna as your first stop along any Costa Rica 10 day itinerary, from there you can make your way to the Nicoya Peninsula on the Pacific Ocean via Monteverde, a mountainous hiking area with beautiful views of the gulf.

After an adventure-packed 5 days, it’s time to head to the coast and spend time along the epic beaches of Costa Rica in either Santa Teresa or Nosara . I’ll explain who each is suited for, too.

Also keep in mind, with a few minor tweets this could be a romantic honeymoon in Costa Rica itinerary, a Costa Rica family itinerary , or a Costa Rica backpacking itinerary . I’ll give you all the details you need to make an informed decision before embarking on your fun-filled 10 days in Costa Rica.

10 days in costa rica

Best Way to Get Around 10 Days in Costa Rica

Renting a car in costa rica.

If you are searching for the best way to get around on your 10 day trip to Costa Rica, I highly advise renting a car in Costa Rica .

I personally use and recommend Discover Cars . It’s perfect for destinations like Costa Rica because it makes things simple by doing the work for you. Discover Cars compares local and international car rental companies to give you the best value based on your needs. Plus, they give you  full insurance coverage for only $7USD  a day (30% lower than booking directly with the local company). 

costa rica 10 days

Driving in Costa Rica

Roads in costa rica.

Generally speaking, driving in Costa Rica is safe. The roads to most of the main tourist towns are well maintained and you do not require a 4×4 car rental in Costa Rica. But, I can definitely recommend renting a car in Costa Rica with high clearance  and AWD.

Places like Santa Teresa, Nosara and even Monteverde, all located in the Guanacaste and Puntarenas Provinces, may require a hefty vehicle at some points on the road. Each of these destinations has sections of pothole-ridden dirt roads to navigate.

Driving in Costa Rica at Night

Driving in Costa Rica at night  is not something I recommend unless you are very used to driving in the country. Street lighting is intermittent and not guaranteed, and during the rainy season of April-October, you can expect the roads to be slick and a bit dangerous.

That’s why in this Costa Rica trip itinerary I have you travelling between destinations in the morning or afternoon. The sun sets consistently in Costa Rica between 5:30-6PM, so keep that in mind when planning the minutia of your trip.

costa rica in 10 days

10 Day Costa Rica Itinerary: Day 0

Day 0: land in san jose costa rica.

You’ve arrived in the capital city of Costa Rica – San Jose. Now, I’ve made the educated decision to exclude a day in San Jose to really maximize your experience here in Costa Rica.

How to Get from San Jose to La Fortuna

I’ve also made the assumption that you will be landing in San Jose at midday in order to make it to your first destination of La Fortuna by the time night falls – a 2.5 hour drive by rental car . If you do end up arriving in San Jose late, I recommend spending the night at one of the hotels near San Jose Costa Rica Airport and making your way to La Fortuna bright and early.

If you are looking for alternatives to renting a car in Costa Rica you can check out my guide on how to get from San Jose to La Fortuna for the best choices.

Picking Up your Costa Rica Rental Car

If you plan to follow this Costa Rica travel itinerary 10 days, for convenience’s sake, I suggest picking up your rental car at the San Jose Costa Rica Airport (SJO) .

There are a couple of important things to note when considering car rentals in Costa Rica:

First, even if your reservation has San Jose International Airport Costa Rica as your pick-up destination, all Costa Rica rental car companies are located away from the airport  property. This means you will be required to either take a shuttle (sometimes provided by your car rental company – make sure to check!) or grab a taxi.

Second, because you are technically picking your car up at the airport, you will be charged an  airport tax of 13%  on the total of your Costa Rica car rental duration, so don’t be surprised when this shows up on your bill.

10 Day Costa Rica Itinerary: Days 1, 2 + 3

Destination: La Fortuna Day 1-3 Emphasis:  Adventure, Food & Relaxation

10 Days in Costa Rica La Fortuna

About La Fortuna Costa Rica

La Fortuna Costa Rica offers an immense amount of outdoor activities and highlights what Costa Rica is really all about – nature and wildlife .

While, of course, Costa Rica can probably take a decently high placement on any ‘countries with epic beaches’ list, the nature and wildlife are really what attracted me over other beach destinations like Bali, Mexico or Sri Lanka. La Fortuna is the epicentre for the country’s nature excursions .

Thundering waterfalls, epic jungle treks, looming volcanoes and steamy natural hot springs are just the tip of the iceberg for La Fortuna’s natural attractions in Costa Rica.

You will spend the first 3 days diving deep into the Costa Rican rainforest.

Best La Fortuna Hotels

Luxury |  Tabacon Thermal Resort & Spa Mid-range |   Volcano Lodge Apartment |  Condo’s Vista Al Volcan Hostel | Selina La Fortuna

Best La Fortuna Tours

Waterfall, Volcano + Hanging Bridges Tour   Canyoning + Waterfall Repelling Tour Sloths + Wildlife Tour Rainforest Chocolate Tour

Want more information on where to stay in La Fortuna? Here is my detailed guide on the best areas and hotels in La Fortuna, Costa Rica for every budget.

Day 1: La Fortuna Waterfall, Arenal Volcano & Hanging Bridges

Today you will start your Costa Rica itinerary off with a bang. La Fortuna Waterfall, an Arenal Volcano hike and the Mistico hanging bridges park are the top things to do in La Fortuna, if not Costa Rica.

The easiest way to see all of these top La Fortuna attractions is by taking this highly rated, organized La Fortuna Waterfall, Arenal Volcano & Hanging Bridges tour . You can also choose to visit these sites on your own with a rental car which gives you the added flexibility of choosing whatever order you want to experience them in and at what time.

La Fortuna Waterfall

10 day itinerary costa rica

La Fortuna Waterfall Costa Rica  (also known as Catarata La Fortuna) is located a 10-minute drive outside of La Fortuna town. The La Fortuna waterfall hike consists of 530 paved steps down to the falls, with a butterfly garden, orchid garden and  on-site restaurant  (opens at 9AM). 

La Fortuna Waterfall Complete Guide

Arenal Volcano Hike

costa rica 10 day itinerary

A dominant feature in the Arenal region and an epic backdrop to the town of La Fortuna, the Arenal Volcano has a couple of beautiful hikes. There are two different regions that are hikeable around Arenal Volcano Costa Rica – the main sector of the Arenal Volcano National Park and the Peninsula .

The main sector has the famous Arenal 1968 Trail , a medium-difficulty 4.7km (3 miles) hike up to a scenic viewpoint, and the Sendero Las Coladas trail, a shorter path of easier difficulty.

The Peninsula section is not as popular yet still incredibly scenic, with views of Arenal Lake and a multitude of wildlife viewing opportunities. If you can, try out both in one day! That’s what I did.

Mistico Hanging Bridges

10 days in costa rica itinerary

The park at Mistico Costa Rica is nestled into the Arenal jungle with  breathtaking views of Arenal Volcano  from its starting point. Make your way through  several hanging bridges  (6 suspended and 10 stationary) and keep an eye out for the plethora of wildlife, flora and fauna . The main trail is 3.2km (2 miles) with a few options to shorten it, as well as visit a small waterfall.

Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park is located a 30-minute drive west of La Fortuna town and is amongst the top things to do in La Fortuna, especially combined with the aforementioned Arenal Volcano hike and /or La Fortuna waterfall. 

Ultimate Visitors Guide to Mistico Hanging Bridges

Where to Eat in La Fortuna

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I have left the evenings open in this 10 day Costa Rica itinerary for flexibility and because everyone has different priorities. Of course, you’ve got to eat! So here is my guide to the best restaurants in La Fortuna to consult for the three nights in town.

Day 2: La Fortuna Hot Springs, Sloths & Chocolate

Sloth tour (morning).

costa rica travel itinerary 10 days

Generally speaking, wildlife in Costa Rica is the most active in the morning time. That’s why I recommend a La Fortuna Sloth Tour starting at 6AM. I know, it’s early – but you only live once, right?! And witnessing these little fur balls hanging in the trees is such a delight. The tour runs approximately 3-4 hours.

Rainforest Chocolate Tour (Midday)

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Costa Rica isn’t only known for fabulous coffee, the chocolate scene here is phenomenal . Visit a chocolate farm just outside of La Fortuna, tour the grounds and find out how they traditionally made chocolate back thousands of years ago.

The most popular tour in this region is the Rainforest Chocolate Tour , which I highly enjoyed and recommend. The tour runs for 1.5 hours and I suggest taking the 1PM tour to fit perfectly into this day 2 schedule on 10 days in Costa Rica. Plus, it’s great for those who get a bit of a sweet tooth after lunch.

Alternatively, you can opt to take this adrenaline-rushing Canyoning & Waterfall Rappelling Tour that starts at 12PM and runs for 4 hours.

Arenal Hot Springs (Evening)

itinerary costa rica

Steaming mineral water spills out in rivers coming from deep under Arenal Volcano. Thermal water is incredibly relaxing and healthy for your body to boot. It’s one of my must-dos when it comes to what to do in La Fortuna – you cannot miss it!

The Tabacon Thermal Resort & Spa is my favourite La Fortuna hot springs. This picturesque property includes the only hot springs set around a naturally flowing thermal river . The hotel offers day passes for people not staying on-site and the restaurant available is of great quality – a nice way to spend the evening here in La Fortuna.

The day pass to Tabacon hot springs comes in at $80USD. If this is out of budget, you can also opt to visit the more economical and family-friendly Eco Termales Hot Springs – which I also thoroughly enjoyed!

A Guide to the Tabacon Hot Springs Day Pass A Guide to Eco Termales Hot Springs

Day 3: Day Trip to Rio Celeste from La Fortuna

If you have access to a rental car for your journey along this Costa Rica itinerary, you can make your way to Rio Celeste before moving onward to your next destination of Monteverde. Yes, you will have your stuff with you in the car when you are parked at the Rio Celeste Visitor’s Centre, but do note that the parking lot is patrolled throughout the day for safety.

If you are travelling around on a shuttle or bus, you can opt to take a Rio Celeste Day Tour , return back to La Fortuna town and then take a shuttle to Monteverde from there.

Rio Celeste Waterfall & National Park

travel costa rica itinerary

Rio Celeste (meaning ‘ light blue river’ in Spanish), is apart of Tenorio Volcano National Park, a 1.5 hour drive northwest of La Fortuna Costa Rica.

This picturesque river runs through the park resulting in an incredible waterfall, bright blue lagoon , and bubbling thermal waters . No, you cannot swim here, but you can hike along its beautiful path. Should take upwards of 4 hours if you move slowly. There’s a lot to explore and see here!

I absolutely loved my time spend in the park around Rio Celeste waterfall and highly suggest trying to fit it into your itinerary Costa Rica.

Rio Celeste Costa Rica Visitor Guide

How to get from La Fortuna to Monteverde 

If you have a rental car, stop for lunch at Restaurante Metamorphosis for a delicious local lunch before taking Route 6, Route 1 and Route 606 into Monteverde – a 3 hour drive by rental car.

For more detail on travelling by car, shuttle or bus, check out my guide on how to get from La Fortuna to Monteverde .

10 Day Costa Rica Itinerary: Days 4 + 5

Destination: Monteverde Day 4 + 5 Emphasis:  Nature, Hiking & Wildlife

costa rica travel itinerary

About Monteverde Costa Rica

Monteverde is a hilltop region in northwest of Costa Rica. Literally translated to ‘ green mountain ‘ and famous for its Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve , Monteverde makes a great second destination along your Costa Rica itinerary 10 days.

Monteverde offers something a bit different than La Fortuna. Less touristy, a bit cheaper and amazing rainforest adventures like ziplining and hanging bridges, hiking and birdwatching . All with a bit more of a mountain-lodge feel .

Read this Complete Monteverde Travel Guide

Best Monteverde Hotels

Luxury |  Hotel Belmar Unique |  Chira Glamping Midrange |  Valle Escondido Hotel Economy |  Eddy’s Place Hostel | Selina Monteverde

Best Monteverde Tours

Monteverde Cloud Forest Tour Selvatura Adventure Park Ziplining Tour Monteverde Rainforest Night Walk Don Juan Coffee Tour El Tigre Waterfalls Tour

Want more information on where to stay in Monteverde? Here is my detailed guide on the best areas and Monteverde hotels for every budget.

Day 4: Selvatura Adventure Park & Monteverde Night Walk

Ziplining at selvatura adventure park (all day).

costa rica trip itinerary

The Monteverde zipline course at Selvatura Park takes you through the scenic Monteverde Cloud Forest canopy, where you can enjoy views of the lush rainforest.  Zip across 8 lines , try out the tarzan swing and maybe even take a crack at flying superman-style !

My recommendation is to get the full-day Selvatura Adventure Park package which includes ziplining, hanging bridges, a butterfly garden, a sloth sanctuary, and a reptile exhibit. This is the package I did, with no regrets! I also suggest getting an early start this day (around 7AM) because the line ups at each zipline platform will get longer as the day goes on.

Read this ultimate Selvatura Adventure Park Visitor Guide

Rainforest Night Walk (Evening)

best costa rica itinerary

Taking a Monteverde night tour is a top experience here where you can walk through the rainforest at night with an experienced guide and spot amazing wildlife. 80% of Monteverde’s wildlife is nocturnal, so this is really the best way to see them.

Check out this detailed guide on my recommended Monteverde Night Tour and what you can expect to see in the rainforest.

You will likely be in the Selvatura Adventure Park until around 4PM, just in time to get home, fresh up and head into Santa Elena town for a quick dinner at Taco Taco or Belmar Craft Brewery . Your night walk will begin around 5:30PM and run for roughly 2 hours. You can also choose to have a slower dinner after your hike.

Day 5: Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Preserve & Coffee Tour

Monteverde cloud forest hike (morning).

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Rise and shine sleepy head! It’s time to explore the beautifully serene Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve.

The term ‘ cloud forest ’ derives from a layer of ground-level clouds that create a misty fog that blankets the lush Monteverde rainforest. This is an paid-entry park full of hiking, wildlife , a plethora of flora and fauna , and an epic viewing platform.

For all you birders, you may even spot the elusive Resplendent Quetzal . The park is home to over a 100 species of mammals, 160 reptile and amphibian species and thousands of insects over thousands of hectares – you are bound to see something!

There are a variety of hiking trails of varying lengths and difficulty levels – something for everyone. For more details on the entrance fees, tours, and trails, check out my Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve Visitor Guide .

Monteverde Coffee Tour (Afternoon)

road trip costa rica 10 days

As one of Costa Rica’s premium coffee-growing regions , a Monteverde Coffee Tour will be a highlight of your trip. Learn about the growth and production of the this heavenly gem – the coffee bean, and even taste test different roasts.

For Dinner afterwards, book something special at San Lucas Treetop Dining Experience , especially if you are on a Costa Rica honeymoon itinerary. For something more casual but still high quality, opt for a sunset dinner at Celajes Restaurant , one of the top organic Monteverde restaurants.

Skipping La Fortuna? Find out how to get from San Jose to Monteverde directly.

10 Day Costa Rica Itinerary: Days 6, 7, 8 + 9

Destination: Santa Teresa Day 6-9 Emphasis:  Beach Adventures & Relaxation

costa rica vacation itinerary

About Santa Teresa Costa Rica

The last destination along this best Costa Rica itinerary 10 days is the trendy beach town of Santa Teresa. Located. on the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula on the Pacific Ocean, the town borders a singular road running parallel to 10kms (6.2miles) of white sand beaches .

Exploding in popularity over recent years attracting an international crowd of digital nomads and young backpacker-type travellers, Santa Teresa can only be described as lively and hip . I’ve made sure to leave plenty of time on this Costa Rica trip itinerary to enjoy some relaxation time on the beach here, and maybe take a surf lesson .

Santa Teresa also has so many amazing things to do beyond its own shores.

Santa Teresa makes a great base for your adventures around the south of Nicoya Peninsula, including some really special day trips to the bohemian Montezuma town, beach and waterfall, plus the paradisical Tortuga Island .

These day trips are made super easy by access to a rental car. Even if you don’t have a car, and a Santa Teresa ATV rental is out of the budget, these Costa Rica hotspots can be reached via organized day tour, too.

Read the Ultimate Santa Teresa, Costa Rica Travel Guide

Santa Teresa Hotels

Luxury |  Hotel Nantipa Mid-range |  Somos Economy |  Hotel Santa Teresa Hostel |  Selina South

Santa Teresa Tours

Playa Hermosa Surf Lesson Tortuga Island Day Trip Bioluminescence Kayak Tour Curu National Wildlife Refuge Tour

Here’s a detailed guide on the best areas and hotels in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica .

Day 6: Travel to Santa Teresa & Santa Teresa Beach Day

This morning it’s time to get a headstart on your journey from Monteverde to Santa Teresa. The sooner you get to Santa Teresa and drop your bags the sooner you will be relaxing on the beach. This makes a perfect intermission along this action-packed 10 days Costa Rica itinerary.

How to Get from Monteverde to Santa Teresa (Morning)

How to get from Monteverde to Santa Teresa is pretty straightforward . By rental car, make your way out of town heading west along Route 606. Turn left onto Route 145, right onto Route 1 and then a left onto Route 18. Once you make it over the La Amistad Bridge spanning the River Tempisque, head south along Route 21 following the interior coastline.

The journey from Monteverde to Santa Teresa should take 4.5 hours not including stops. Do note, that the last hour or so of this drive is quite curvy, so make sure any possible motion sickness before embarking.

Alternatively , if you don’t have a rental car, no problem – just grab a shared or private shuttle via Book Away . Easy peasy.

Santa Teresa Beach Day (Afternoon)

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Depending on where you choose to stay (check out my Santa Teresa hotel guide), you will have a few choices when it comes to Santa Teresa beaches to hang out at. The most lively is Santa Teresa Beach , the most relaxed is Banana Beach (get a hammock at Hotel Tropico Latino!), the best surfing is at Playa Carmen and the most secluded is up the coast at Playa Hermosa .

Banana Beach is my choice!

Where to Eat in Santa Teresa (Evenings)

ultimate costa rica itinerary

Gosh, you definitely won’t be limited when it comes to restaurants in Santa Teresa . From amazing local cuisine, sushi , and healthy bowls , to vegan comfort food and indulgent pasta and burgers , there’s something for everyone. Honestly, cafe hopping was one of my favourite things to do in Santa Teresa.

Check out my guide on the Best Santa Teresa Restaurants

Day 7: Day Trip to Montezuma Waterfall & Beach

Cabuya island cemetery (morning).

road trip costa rica 10 days

Montezuma, a small bohemian haven located at the tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, a 1 hour drive from Santa Teresa is your Day 7 destination along your trip to Costa Rica. But, I do suggest making a stop along the way at the Cabuya Island Cemetery . It’s very unique among Santa Teresa things to do and I loved it!

The little island cemetery is located off the coast of Cabuya and depending on the tide, you can reach the island on foot . Make sure to check the timing of the tide before your visit! Wander around the island for a bit, taking in the scenery and the epic views of the Costa Rica coastline before making your way to Montezuma.

If you don’t have a rental car, grab a Santa Teresa ATV rental from Tico Tours along the main strip. A high clearance rental car or ATV is necessary because the roads between Santa Teresa and Montezuma are dirt and gravel with plenty of potholes.

Montezuma Waterfall, Town + Beach (Afternoon)

costa rica itinerary 10 days with family

Montezuma, Costa Rica is a backpacker hotspot for its chill hippie vibe, beautiful beaches and Montezuma waterfall . Undoubtedly, you should make a day trip to Montezuma from Santa Teresa, even for it’s for the waterfall alone.

Park your car or ATV at the Montezuma Waterfall parking lot , pay the small cash fee to the attendant and make the short hike into the falls. Do be aware that the walk does have exposed tree roots, hops over the river via rocks and a short embankment rope walk, so this hike isn’t really accessible for all , unfortunately.

The beautiful lagoon under the thundering Montezuma Waterfall makes it absolutely worth it! Spend an hour lazing in the waters or cliff jumping from the rocks to the side.

Have a seafood lunch at the Tico-owned Soda Tipica Las Palmeras outside of Montezuma, or at the Restaurante Montezuma Latino Beach Food in Montezuma’s quaint town centre.

Spend the afternoon relaxing on Montezuma Beach before heading back to Santa Teresa for dinner.

Read my detailed guide on Visiting Montezuma Costa Rica

Day 8: Day Trip to Tortuga Island & Bioluminescence Tour

Tortuga island day trip (all day).

best costa rica itinerary 10 days

Talk about a little piece of paradise . Day 8 of your 10 day itinerary Costa Rica will have you spending time on Tortuga Island. Today will require either use of your rental car, or a Santa Teresa ATV rental. Simply drive to Organos Beach near Paquera (1.5 hour drive) and take a Tortuga Island day trip from there.

Honestly, Tortuga Island has something for everyone. Swimming in the incredibly clear tropical waters , relaxing in a lounger on the white sand beach (beverage in hand, of course), or taking a wilderness hike up to the top of the island for incredible views of the bay, are just a few amazing things to do on Tortuga Island.

For the more adventurous folks, there are water sports galore to enjoy – including kayaking, SUPing, and jet ski. But without a doubt, my favourite activity was snorkelling !

Read my full guide on Visiting Tortuga Island on a Isla Tortuga Tour

Bioluminescence Tour (Evening)

road trip costa rica 10 days

Arrive back on Organos Beach, drive into Paquera for a quick dinner (Macho’s is a popular choice) and back to Organos Beach for your evening kayaking in the cove. This Bioluminescence Kayak Tour is something special.

Watch the water come to life while you paddle through the waters at night. Glowing with every touch of your paddle on water – it’s absolutely beautiful! The tour runs from 6PM to 7PM, roughly an hour.

Drive back to Santa Teresa.

Day 9: Santa Teresa Surfing & Sunset Horseback Riding

Santa teresa surfing (morning).

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It’s your last full day in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica and along your road trip in this stunning country. You can’t leave Santa Teresa without taking advantage of some really great surf breaks .

If you are a newbie, I recommend taking a surf lesson on Hermosa Beach (a 10-minute drive north of Santa Teresa). Or simply find yourself an ad-hoc lesson along Santa Teresa Beach – I can recommend a board rental from Pacifica Surf School a couple of minutes’ walk from the waves.

For more intermediate to advanced Santa Teresa surfing, head to the south end of Playa Carmen where the waves are a bit punchier.

Surfing in Santa Teresa is one of the top things to do!

Santa Teresa Beach Time (Afternoon)

It’s time to lay out on the beach, frolic in the waves and reminiscence about your time spend in Costa Rica. 10 days in Costa Rica full of adventures, nature, wildlife, beaches and waterfalls. Ahh, what an amazing country.

Sunset Horseback Riding (Evening)

costa rica family itinerary

For your final activity in Santa Teresa, I recommend driving out to Playa Manzanillo – a secluded untouched piece of Costa Rica’s coastline. Here you will be introduced to your horse and take a serene ride along the beach , into the jungle and across a river . Grab a beer at a local watering hole and head back to the beach for an unforgettable Costa Rica sunset .

Do note, that the roads leading along the coast toward Playa Manzanillo are rough and require a rental car with high clearance or ATV. The tour starts around 3PM and ends just after sunset.

Spend your last dinner somewhere special like Angelina for great Italian cuisine or Katana for tasty Asian. For something younger and lively-feeling, hit up Somos Cafe.

10 Day Costa Rica Itinerary: Alternative Day 8 + 9

This alternative ending to your trip in Costa Rica is for people with access to a rental car.

Switch day 8 and 9 activities and instead of heading back to Santa Teresa after your day trip to Tortuga Island, take the ferry across the Gulf of Nicoya from Paquera and spend your last night in Jaco .

On the morning of day 10 of your itinerary for Costa Rica, head to the San Jose airport to fly home.

10 Day Costa Rica Itinerary: Day 10

Day 10: travel to san jose airport & leave costa rica, how to get from santa teresa to san jose airport (morning).

costa rica backpacking itinerary

It’s time to make your way to the airport in San Jose from Santa Teresa. The journey does take upwards of 6 hours so it’s recommended to get an early start depending on your flight time. Head out of Santa Teresa towards the Paquera Ferry Port (about 1.5 hour’s drive).

From here, take the car ferry to Puntarenas Port on the mainland of Costa Rica which takes approximately 1.25 hours. A beautiful ferry ride! Remember to check the ferry schedule .

From the Puntarenas Port make your way to the San Jose Costa Rica International Airport (SJO) using Route 1 or Route 27 (both taking roughly 1.5-2 hours).

Don’t have a rental car? Check out my guide on how to get from Santa Teresa to San Jose using a plane and shuttle.

Alternative Day 6-9 Itinerary Costa Rica Destination: Nosara

costa rica trip

Nosara, a top-notch surf haven about a 4-hour distance north of Santa Teresa makes a great alternative destination along this 10 day Costa Rica itinerary. Nosara, an American ex-pat community, attracts health-conscious families, older digital nomads and avid surfers and has a great mix of boujee and hippie.

Things to do in Nosara include visiting wildlife sanctuaries including the nesting ground of the incredible Olive Ridley sea turtles at Playa Ostional , farmers markets , day trips to idyllic secluded beaches and of course, the main reason people visit Nosara – the surfing ! One of the most consistent surf breaks in the world.

Find out where to stay and the best hotels in Nosara

Nosara vs Santa Teresa

Can’t decide between Nosara or Santa Teresa? Here are the differences when it comes to Santa Teresa vs Nosara:

road trip costa rica 10 days

Santa Teresa

  • Livelier Vibe
  • Some decent Nightlife
  • Younger International Crowd
  • More Mixed with Locals
  • More Backpackers
  • Broad Selection of Hotels & Hostels
  • Boujee + Hippie Vibe
  • American Ex-pat Community
  • Yoga-centric
  • Boutique-style Hotels

Brief 3-Days in Nosara on 10 Days Costa Rica Itinerary

There’s definitely more than enough to fill 3 full days on your road trip Costa Rica-style and my top recommendation if you are looking for more of a Costa Rica surf trip than anything else.

Day 1 in Nosara:

  • Surfing Lesson at Playa Guiones
  • Beach Time at Playa Guiones
  • Shopping Playa Guiones

Day 2 in Nosara:

  • Hike in Nosara Biological Reserve
  • Sibu Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Beach day at Playa Pelada
  • Sunset Horseback Riding  or La Luna for cocktails

Day 3 in Nosara:

  • Ostional National Wildlife Refuge
  • Day trip to San Juanillo Beach or Perozah Beach Club at Playa Garza

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7 Day Costa Rica Itinerary Option

Only have 7 days in Costa Rica? I recommend spending your time in two destinations on your 1 week Costa Rica itinerary. Want adventure and beaches? Visit La Fortuna and Santa Teresa or Nosara. Hiking and nature? Go for inland destinations like La Fortuna and Monteverde only.

If you really want to jam-pack your schedule and experience as much as humanly possible in 7 days, you can take out the 2 slower beach days in Santa Teresa and the Rio Celeste day trip from La Fortuna and keep the rest!

A Fast-Paced 7 Days Costa Rica Itinerary

Day 0: San Jose – Land at San Jose Airport (SJO) Day 1: La Fortuna – Waterfalls, Volcano Hike & Hanging Bridges Day 2 : La Fortuna – Sloths, Chocolate, Hot Springs & Travel to Monteverde Day 4: Monteverde – Selvatura Adventure Park & Rainforest Night Walk Day 5: Monteverde – Monteverde Cloud Forest Hike & Travel to Santa Teresa Day 6: Santa Teresa – Surfing & Day Trip to Montezuma Day 7: Santa Teresa – Day Trip to Tortuga Island, Travel to San Jose & Fly Home

road trip costa rica

2 Week Costa Rica Itinerary Option

Is 2 weeks in Costa Rica too long? A resounding no. You can fill a Costa Rica 2 weeks itinerary very easily.

In this case, I suggest visiting both Nosara and Santa Teresa , or following my 10 days Costa Rica itinerary (choosing between Santa Teresa and Nosara) and then spending 2 nights in Jaco and 2 nights in Manuel Antonio National Park along the Pacific coastline before flying out from San Jose Airport.

Best Time to Visit: 10 Day Costa Rica Itinerary

The Pacific coast of Costa Rica has  two distinct seasons , the dry season (November to April) and the wet season (May to October).

During the wet season, you can  expect daily showers which often last an hour or two  in the late afternoon. The upside of visiting during this time is fewer crowds, lower hotel prices and lusher rainforest in coastal beach towns like Nosara and Santa Teresa. Plus, you won’t get the dusty conditions from the roads during this time, albeit maybe a little mud.

costa rica road trip

The  dry season is the best time to visit Costa Rica for most travellers , which runs from December to April. 

What is the weather like in Costa Rica? The weather is sunny and dry with very little rain. The exception lies with destinations like La Fortuna and Monteverde that experience unpredictable weather all year round That is a part of the charm, though as it’s a living, breathing rainforest after all. With a high of 27°C (80°F) during the day and a low of a comfortable 20°C (68°F) at night, you can pack light.

The downside of the dry season in Costa Rica is the  dusty conditions along the dryer coastlines, like Santa Teresa and Nosara. Expect most vegetation to be coated with a layer of dust.

What is the best month to go to Costa Rica? Shoulder season months of April or November

What is the cheapest month to go to Costa Rica? May, June, September and October

10 Days Costa Rica Travel Budget

You are planning a Costa Rica trip, so how much does a trip to Costa Rica cost? Of course, this really depends on what type of traveller you are.

Love luxury villas? That will be drastically different than people moving along a Costa Rica backpackers itinerary staying in hostels. Your choice of accommodation will is the biggest variable on your Costa Rica trip cost and whether it will be affordable for you or not.

costa rica route

Is Travelling in Costa Rica Expensive?

Generally speaking, yes and there are several reasons. With a relatively stable government (rare for Central America), Costa Rica enjoys higher-quality labour laws, a better national health system, biodiversity preservation and generally speaking, higher quality of life. 

It’s important to note, that tourism is Costa Rica’s top-earning economy , and the majority of that tourism comes from the USA. Given that, the government decided to price tourism-related amenities closer to American prices. 

You most definitely can do Costa Rica on a budget by staying in hostels and travelling by bus, just make sure to build extra time into your Costa Rica itinerary to deal with multiple bus transfers (can be upwards of 12 hours to get from place to place).

Costa Rica uses both the  Costa Rican Colones (CRC)  and the American Dollar (USD).

Daily Budget for Costa Rica (for 2 people)

*excludes international flights

  • Costa Rica Hotel:  ~$125USD Nightly (on average)
  • Costa Rica Car Rental or Shuttle:  ~75 USD Daily Car Rental or per Shuttle Ride
  • Costa Rica Meal:  $15-25 USD average per meal per person
  • Costa Rica Attractions & Entrances:  ~$200-$300 USD per Person per 10 Day Trip

roadtrip costa rica

10 Days in Costa Rica Packing List

Generally speaking, the dress code in Costa Rica is comfortable and casual. This Costa Rica 10 Day Itinerary takes you through the wet rainforests of La Fortuna and Monteverde , but also the drier areas like Santa Teresa , Tortuga Island , Montezuma and Nosara . I would recommend clothing that is quick-dry or moisture-wicking to cover your bases.

I lived in athletic shorts, a cotton tank top and a light linen cover-up for most of my trip in Costa Rica. I also wore my trusty ball cap to keep the sun off my head – even when it’s cloudy, you can still be affected by UV.

A packing list for Costa Rica also always includes mosquito repellent and sunscreen.

TIP |  A  grippy pair of watershoes  can come in handy when climbing over rocks to check out La Fortuna Waterfall, Montezuma Waterfall or the Mal Pais tidal pools.

VIFUUR Water Sports Unisex Shoes Black - 12.5-13 W US/ 11-11.5 M US (44-45)

WATER SHOES | I used my water shoes to climb around waterfalls, and natural hot springs. They are particularly grippy and come in so many sizes and colours. Good for the whole fam!

Teva Women's Tirra Sandal,Black/Grey,9 M US

HIKING SANDALS | I lived in a solid pair of hiking sandals for the entirety of my trip in Costa Rica. These sandals have great grip and strap you in so your foot doesn’t move around. Plus, they look cute, in my opinion.

Columbia Women's Switchback III Jacket, Black, Medium

RAIN JACKET | Because Costa Rica is covered in rainforest, that means the weather can be pretty unpredictable. Make sure to bring a hooded rain jacket with you that can pack up small in your day bag just in case. I definitely used mine.

ZOMAKE Lightweight Hiking Backpack Water Resistant,20L Packable Daypack Foldable Small Backpack for Travel

WATER RESISTANT DAYPACK | Costa Rica is a wealth of adventure and with that comes multiple day trips or days spent in and out of your rental car. Make sure to have a water resistant daypack that can carry your water bottle, snacks, mosquito repellent and sunscreen.

LARQ Bottle Movement PureVis - Lightweight Self-Cleaning and Non-Insulated Stainless Steel Water Bottle with UV Water Sanitizer, 32oz, White/Pebble

PURIFYING REUSABLE WATER BOTTLE | I travel full time, so I’ve seen the devastation single-use plastic can have on our environment. Once I purchased this purifying reusable water bottle , I never looked back. It’s super stylish and you can recharge it through USB!

Rainleaf Microfiber Towel,Blue,24 X 48 Inches

MICROFIBRE TOWEL | Costa Rica is humid, so a normal cotton towel will take forever to dry. Let’s try to avoid that moldy towel smell. For those day trips to waterfalls, hot springs, rivers and beach, make sure to carry along a microfibre quick-drying towel .

JOTO Waterproof Case Universal Phone Holder Pouch, Underwater Cellphone Dry Bag Compatible with iPhone 13 Pro 12 11 Pro Max XS XR X 8 7 6S, Galaxy S21 S20 S10 Note Pixel Up to 7.0" -2 Pack,Black

WATERPROOF PHONE CASE | Plan on repelling or canyoning down a waterfall? Snapping pics in the hot springs? You will need a good waterproof phone case .

Thinksport SPF 50+ Mineral Sunscreen – Safe, Natural Sunblock for Sports & Active Use - Water Resistant Sun Cream –UVA/UVB Sun Protection – Vegan, Reef Friendly Sun Lotion, 6oz

SUNSCREEN | Y’all, the sun is HOT in Costa Rica as the country is located close to the equator. Make sure to throw on some sunscreen even if it’s cloudy out. That’s what it gets you. There are some great reef-safe sunscreens out there nowadays, so let’s protect our ocean life!

Natrapel 12-Hour Insect Repellent, 6 oz. Eco-Spray Picaridin Bug Spray – Family Insect Repellent for Mosquitoes, Ticks, & More, Black (0006-6878)

MOSQUITO REPELLENT | Yup, there are mosquitos in the rainforest, who would have thunk. I like to use a more natural mosquito repellent .

Is Costa Rica Safe?

Costa Rica is a very secure tourist destination with some of the warmest people in the world . As one of Central America’s countries with the lowest crime rate , you can rest assured that your trip will be an enjoyable one.

But as expected when visiting Latin American nations, there may be occasional issues concerning drug trafficking and poverty – although these problems are rare and should not deter you from visiting this beautiful country!

To ensure a safe experience while exploring Costa Rica, always keep your belongings within view and practice caution .

Travel Insurance Costa Rica

Costa Rica is known for adrenaline-packed adventures, and with that, comes the risk of fall, injury or accident. Don’t be left with huge hospital bills and protect yourself with the right travel insurance.

Travel insurance is one of those things I hope you never have to use. But in case you do, you’ll want reliable insurance on your side. Plus, it’s such a small cost for peace of mind. Please, don’t leave home without it!

I used HeyMondo insurance on my trip to Costa Rica and can recommend it.

What’s great about HeyMondo:

  • No out-of-pocket fees
  • 24/7 doctors available through their handy app to answer all of your questions
  • Covers travellers from any country in the world
  • Offers short-term, long-term and multi-trip annual plans (I recommend single-trip insurance for Costa Rica)
  • Covers trip cancellation – very useful these days!

>>> Find the perfect travel insurance for you. (and get an exclusive 5% discount for being my reader!)

Costa Rica in 10 Days Conclusion

So there you have it, my ideal Costa Rica itinerary 10 days! Explore the inland hot spots of La Fortuna , and Monteverde with plenty of nature, wildlife and hot springs and spend the last 4 days along your Costa Rica 10 days itinerary in Nosara or Santa Teresa . Idyllic Costa Rica beaches, amazing surf breaks and trendy cafes are at your fingertips.

More Costa Rica Travel Guides

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Haley is the founder of the global travel blog, Haley Blackall Travel. She has travelled to 40+ countries across 5 continents over the last 15 years and is considered an expert in her field.

She loves to share honest first hand experience from her travels. Her goal is to help readers planning their next trip by providing in-depth travel guides and recommendations for her favourite boutique hotels, things to do and travel itineraries.

Haley focuses her expertise on countries such as Greece, Turkey, Italy, Costa Rica, Australia, Sri Lanka and Indonesia.

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On the Road Diary

Costa Rica 10 Day Itinerary : Epic & Realistic Road Trip

Costa Rica 10 Day Itinerary : hanging bridge at Tenorio Volcano National Park

Costa Rica is the land of rainforests, insane wildlife, blue waterfalls and tropical beaches. So, how to see it all with limited time? Here’s a complete 10 day itinerary to Costa Rica for first-timers who wish to see the most wonderful spots, according to locals.

This Costa Rica 10 day itinerary is suitable for all types of travelers, whether you are solo female traveling in Costa Rica or visiting with a group, by car or by bus, with a small or large budget.

We will explain all your best options for you to make the best possible choice, starting with how to get around.

Costa Rica 10 Day Itinerary : girl looking at the summit of Arenal Volcano

Costa Rica stands as one of the most visited countries in Central America . And for good reason: it’s home to some of the most wonderful wildlife and biodiversity in the world.

You can do scuba diving in Costa Rica , but also spot exotic animals like sloths, toucans, jaguars, coatis, tapirs, monkeys, turtles, red-eyed tree frogs…

You can explore its natural wonders as well, among the 6 active volcanoes, 800 miles of coastlines and half the country being made up of rainforests.

Here’s a 10 day itinerary for Costa Rica , followed by all the things I wish I Knew before going to Costa Rica . This is the most complete and up-to-date itinerary and guide that you can find on the web. We know because we’ve read them all before our trip!

Costa Rica 10 Day Itinerary : blue lagoon in the middle of the green lush jungle

Why visit Costa Rica?

Well, it’s not hard: Costa Rica has it all. You can visit the country if you’re a nature explorer, hike enthusiastic, beach seeker or animal lover.

You can either relax and sunbathe on one of the many tropical beaches of the Pacific or Caribbean coast, or go on an adrenaline-fueled zipline roller coaster among the trees.

This Latin America country is very suitable for hikes of all levels. Among the volcanoes, jungles, and waterfalls, you will be simply amazed. Aside from hiking, you can also sleep in one of Costa Rica’s treehouse hotels !

Costa Rica is also one of the favourite destinations of surfers. Spots like Tamarindo or Santa Teresa are world famous for their powerful waves. And who says laid-back atmosphere, says yoga and meditation of all kinds! So, you’re in, right?!

How to get to Costa Rica?

Flight to costa rica.

Flying to Costa Rica is the best option if you don’t come from a nearby country. There are two international airports in Costa Rica : San Jose Airport, also called Juan Santamaria International Airport or SJO, and the Liberia Airport, called the Daniel Oduber International Airport or LIR.

This article is a 10 day itinerary Costa Rica from Liberia and San Jose , the arrival city won’t impact the trip. To find the best deals, you should book on the flight comparator Skyscanner .

Costa Rica 10 Day Itinerary : sunrise view on the plane

Bus to Costa Rica

If you’re travelling on a budget to Costa Rica from a nearby country, an international bus might be your best option. For instance, you can take a bus from Managua in Nicaragua to San Jose in Costa Rica very easily.

The Managua to San Jose journey takes 8 hours and costs around $30 USD. From the other border country, Panama, there are buses running every day from Panama City to San Jose . The journey takes about 15 hours and costs between $20 to $50 USD.

Ferry to Costa Rica

Yes, there are ferries running between the USA and Costa Rica. But it’s more a cruise with stops in the country than an average ferry. If you want to travel by boat in Costa Rica , you should do it inside the country instead!

How to get around in Costa Rica?

Getting from one city to another in Costa Rica can get a bit tricky because of the mountainous landscapes. Here are the best transport options for travelling around the country!

✔️ Here are ALL the simplest ways to go from San Jose to Monteverde or from La Fortuna to Monteverde , depending on your means and time.

Car Rental in Costa Rica

When planning a trip to Costa Rica , you could first think it’s as a relatively small country on the map. But you’d be surprised by the distances between each place! If you feel comfortable driving in Costa Rica , your best option to not lose any time during your trip is to rent a car.

Costa Rica 10 Day Itinerary : road in La Fortuna with Arenal Volcano in the background

Getting a car rental will offer you the freedom to go anywhere at any time and visit more areas. However, you must be at least 18 years old and hold a valid driving license for at least one year. It costs approximately $25 USD a day.

Public buses in Costa Rica

However, if you don’t have your driving license or just don’t feel like driving on your own if you’re solo travelling to Costa Rica , you can get around with the Costa Rica bus system . This is the most affordable way to travel around the country, but also the longest one.

Buses typically range from $1 USD to $20 USD maximum, but most long-distance buses take big detours to go through San José. For instance, most buses from La Fortuna to Santa Teresa will go through San José, which doubles the journey time and wastes a lot of time.

This is also difficult to know which buses to take from one point to another because there’s no website listing all the routes of the various bus companies across the country. Rome2rio definitely helps to plan a trip but it’s not always up to date or reliable.

Your best bet is to always double check with the locals or at the reception of your hotel. They’ll tell you what your best option is, the new bus schedules, where to go… Yes, if you like to plan everything in advance, it’s a bit stressful. But always ask for all your options and if the bus journey is too difficult, keep some money for the shuttle!

Costa Rica 10 Day Itinerary : yellow student bus on the road of Santa Teresa

Shuttles in Costa Rica

Your last option to get around Costa Rica without a car is to use the shuttle transfers all around the country. These are vans with drivers that will get you from A to B, door-to-door, like taxis. Pretty good, innit?

Obviously, it has a cost, but it can be worth it in some situations that we will get more into throughout the article. You can either take a shared shuttle, where the price is per passenger, or a private shuttle, where the price is per van. It can be great if you’re travelling with a group!

Uber in Costa Rica

For shorter distances in relatively touristic areas, you can order an uber drive. It costs less money than the regular red or orange cabs. For instance, a ride from San Jose downtown to San Jose airport will cost $10 USD with an uber and $30 USD with a regular taxi.

Best 10 day itinerary Costa Rica

Even if the country doesn’t look this big on the map, the points of interest are a bit scattered around. The roads are not the fastest ones either. For instance, La Fortuna and Monteverde look very close on the map, right? It’s still a 3-hour drive!

That’s why we recommend only choosing 3 different locations in addition to the airport city (San Jose or Liberia) if you have ten days. So, how to see the rainforests, waterfalls, and beaches at the same time? Here’s the best itinerary you can follow to see all the local spots that make Costa Rica so wonderful to explore.

Costa Rica 10 Day Itinerary : Arenal Volcano reflecting on on the lake

Day 1: San Jose to La Fortuna

As always when arriving in a new country, the first day will not be the funniest: you will have to get out of the airport, go to the first place of the route

, buy what you need and get used to this new country. Here are your different options depending on your arrival time and ability to drive.

Sim card in Costa Rica

When travelling to Costa Rica , you should get a local SIM card in order not to ruin yourself with your home operator roaming abroad. There are 3 phone operators in Costa Rica: Kolbi, Claro and Movistar. The one that has the best coverage is Kolbi as it’s the government’s operator.

But if you arrive in San Jose Airport and need data right away, the more convenient to get is Claro. The Claro shop is located next to baggage claim 5 and is open from 6 AM to 11 PM. It has a plan at 12,500 CRC ($20 USD or 13.8€) that includes 5 GB, unlimited WhatsApp and 700 MB of social media (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Waze and Pinterest).

Costa Rica 10 Day Itinerary : sim card and black iphone

Getting a Klaro sim card at the airport will take the stress out of not being able to communicate at your arrival. However, you won’t have data in rural areas with Klaro. If you can wait a bit, we highly recommend getting a Kolbi sim card for the powerful coverage capacities. You can also buy a prepaid SIM card at any phone or computer shops, and even in supermarkets.

San Jose to La Fortuna

Then, you can head from La Fortuna , the first stop of our 10 day itinerary Costa Rica from San Jose . Getting there is quite difficult when you don’t know the country and we have gathered all the possible options to help you. So, here are your four options.

Rent a car at San Jose Airport

As we told you before, the best way to get around Costa Rica is by getting a car. For this particular journey, it really is your best option as travelling between those two cities can get quite tricky depending on your arrival time. Driving from San Jose to La Fortuna will take you around 2 hours and a half.

Costa Rica 10 Day Itinerary : road in La Fortuna with Arenal Volcano in the background

Take public buses

There is only one direct bus per day between San Jose Airport and La Fortuna. If you arrive before its departure time at 8:30am, oh lucky you! It will cost around $5 USD.

However, if like most of us you arrive later in the day and don’t want to rent a car, you have two options. If you’re brave enough or really on a tight budget, you can take 3 to 4 different buses to arrive at La Fortuna, your final destination. You’ll need to change buses in cities like Alajuela , Zarcero or Ciudad Quesada .

San Jose to La Fortuna Shuttle

If you’re not too hyped by the previous option, this is where you can bring out your shuttle joker. As they leave from the airport where most tourists are, they cost around $57 USD but it’s worth your money.

Ask your hotel if they have an airport shuttle or just book one online! The shuttles leave and arrive upstairs near the parking lot when getting out of the airport.

Costa Rica 10 Day Itinerary : shared shuttles on the road

If you can’t find a shuttle and don’t feel like taking the buses on your first day, you can get a taxi at the airport. They offer deals between $100 and $200 USD. If you’re interested, you can contact Roy Briams at +506 8312-5894. Lastly, you can also try Uber, which is usually cheaper!

2 options depending on your arrival time

Mistico hanging bridges.

You still have some energy left and are dying to start your Costa Rican adventures? You can dive straight into it by driving to the Mistico Arenal hanging bridges site. As you can tell by its name, these are mythic hanging bridges over the rainforest. You’ll be walking between the tops of the trees and might spot some cool animals!

The last entrance is at 3.30 PM and the site closes at 4.30 PM. The full trail is 2 miles (3.2 km) long and lasts around 2 hours and a half. There’s a shorter version of 1.1 mile (1.9 km). To do the full tour, it’s ideal to arrive before 2 PM.

The entrance fee of a self-guided tour is $26 USD for adults, $21 USD for 65 and older, $16 USD for teens between 11 and 18 and free for children. It’s very accessible and a perfect activity to add to your Costa Rica itinerary 10 days with family .

La Fortuna Town

You finally made it to the incredible area of the Arenal Volcano! Settle in, explore, get used to the area and discover your hotel. After a long day of travelling, you might want to chill in the swimming pool of your hotel or have a refreshing cocktail.

If you arrive before sunset, you can also explore La Fortuna. There are many restaurants, but also nice shops. If you haven’t booked any tour yet, you might want to do it when arriving at the reception of your hotel as all the tours we did were full.

Where to stay in La Fortuna?

You’ll be staying in La Fortuna for 3 nights, so here are two nice options depending on your budget and way of travelling. If you’re solo travelling or on a budget, there’s a hostel option to make friends. The second option is a bit more expensive, but it might be nice for a family or couple.

Selina La Fortuna

💯 There’s a good chance you’ll stay in a Selina hostel at some point during your trip. There’s one in almost every tourist city in Costa Rica. Selina La Fortuna represents everything we love about hostels: hippie vibes, amazing decoration and amenities, worldwide travellers, and activities!

Costa Rica 10 Day Itinerary : swimming pool, palm trees and vintage care decoration at an hostel

Located in the heart of La Fortuna, it’s perfect for backpackers on a budget wishing to meet other travelers at the welcoming drink, movie night or yoga lesson. Selina also has a restaurant and bar on site, which serves delicious food, and an explore desk where you can book tours and shuttles. A bed in an 8-bed dorm is about $15 USD per night.

San Bosco Inn

💯 Also located in the heart of La Fortuna, San Bosco Inn offers nice private rooms suitable for up to 3 people for $45 USD. They have a double bed and single bed, a bathroom, and a desk area.

The hotel has a swimming pool and gives you free access to the hot springs complex of the Volcano Lodge Hotel, which we’ll talk more about on day 2.

Costa Rica 10 Day Itinerary : view on Arenal Volcano

Day 2: La Fortuna Waterfall, Arenal Volcano Hike and Hot Springs

Ready for your first full day in Costa Rica? Today, we have a lot in store for you because you’ll explore one of the most famous areas in the country. Put your hiking shoes, swimming suit and clothes on and let’s start!

If you have a car, you can do it all on your own and pay the entrance fees with the different spots. If you don’t, we’re not sure you can easily find uber drives between all the destinations so we would recommend visiting it all with a tour.

✔️ We personally chose this full day Arenal tour , which costs $80 USD per person and includes guided visits to the three spots, lunch, and transportation. Here’s the itinerary we followed.

La Fortuna Waterfall

The first spot you should stop at is La Fortuna waterfall, or Catarata Río Fortuna in Spanish. This waterfall in the middle of the jungle is an absolute must do in Arenal. After parking your car, you’ll go through an office where you can pay the entrance fee, $18 USD. You can use the bathroom and changing rooms to put your swimming suit on.

Costa Rica 10 Day Itinerary : tall waterfall in the middle of the jungle seen from far

Then, you will go down the 500 steps on a paved and easy trail. All along the way, there are good spots to take pictures, and a viewpoint right in front of the waterfall downstairs.

You can swim under the waterfall but it’s quite busy, noisy, and slippery. If you want to swim in a quieter place, just take the stairs on the left when you arrive and there’s a nice river coming from the waterfall.

The water is insanely clear and there are lots of pisces called the Machaca. We were told they are from the same family of the Piranha, but vegetarian 😉

Arenal Volcano Hike

After a good swim in the refreshing water of La Fortuna waterfall, you’ll head to the parking lot of the Arenal Volcano trail . This active volcano is the pride of the region and you cannot leave Costa Rica without having seen it.

Costa Rica 10 Day Itinerary : Arenal Volcano Hike Map

Here’s a map of the different trails you can follow. The Arenal Volcano entrance fee is $15 USD per adult and $5 USD per child. It opens every day from 8AM to 4PM.

The one we did with Jungle Tours was the Sendero Perezoso (blue one) and it lasted around 1 hour and 15 minutes. Keep in mind that you won’t be able to walk until the summit of the Arenal Volcano.

However, you’ll get to an awesome spot with an unreal view of the volcano. If you’re lucky with the weather, the Arenal Volcano summit won’t be too shy, and you’ll be able to see it without clouds!

Costa Rica 10 Day Itinerary : Arenal Volcano Summit without clouds

Swim in the green lake in front of Arenal Volcano

On your way back to the parking lot, you can take the small trail called the Peninsula Tarzan Swing . It leads to a human made liana to jump in the water of the lake. It’s a very cool jungle experience that we highly recommend!

If you’re visiting with Jungle Tours , you’ll eat right after this on the picnic tables. If not, you should try to find a restaurant before or after your Arenal Volcano hike to have lunch.

Hot Springs Arenal

Volcano lodge & springs.

Volcano Lodge is a real thermal experience in itself. They built wonderful hot spring pools and waterfalls surrounded by lush tropical gardens. Dive in it to relax and heal from all the hikes you’ve done already. You can even have a drink at the bar in one of the pool and jacuzzi areas, while staying in the hot water.

You can have access to those for free if you stay at San Bosco Inn . If not, those hot springs are not accessible to everyone. If you’re not staying in San Bosco Inn and wish to access the hot springs, a one night stay at Volcano Lodge is around $120 USD.

Free Hot Springs La Fortuna

Last but not least, you must finish your day with a relaxing moment in one of the many Arenal hot springs. The one that most people on a budget go to is the free hot springs of La Fortuna. This natural river with an insanely hot river ranging from 80° to 105°F (28° to 40°C) is part of the Tabacón complex.

Costa Rica 10 Day Itinerary : river with hot water rolling down in the middle of the jungle

That’s where you’ll go with Jungle Tours. When you’re on a tour, your time is limited to one hour but otherwise, you can easily spend hours in the hot and relaxing water.

Just don’t bring any important belongings there because there are lots of tourists who leave their stuff without any surveillance and don’t find them anymore when they come back.

Ecotermales Hot Springs

Eco Termales Spa is another hot spring site that you can access for $44 USD. Its speciality is that these are natural hot springs, compared to others which are human built.

You’ll relax in the 8 intimate pools, ranging from 90° to 106°F (32° to 41°C). There’s also a fresh waterfall and pool if you’re too hot.

Baldi Hot Springs

Baldi Hot Springs claim to be the largest hot springs in the world. Yes, you read that correctly! So, if you have some time off, why not treat yourself with an entrance to such a unique place?

It’s $36 USD per adult and $18 USD for children from 6 to 10 years old. You’ll enjoy not less than 25 thermal pools amidst the tropical rainforest and filled by crystalline waterfalls.

What’s more relaxing than a natural bath in the middle of nature with exotic birds singing all around?

Tabacon Hot Springs Costa Rica

We’re finishing this list of the best hot springs in La Fortuna with the one that you’ve seen all over Instagram: Tabacón Thermal Resort & Spa . This large site of natural hot springs will heal your muscles and soul for sure. Discover the wonderful waterfalls and spend time in nature.

Tabacón Hot Springs entrance fee depends on how long you’re staying and if you wish to have lunch, dinner, or both. The cheapest option is the early morning pass with lunch, which costs $70 USD.

One thing is for sure; this experience will improve your well-being and reduce your stress levels.

Day 3: Rio Celeste Waterfall & Tenorio Volcano National Park

Now that you’ve seen most of the Arenal Volcano region, you should take a day trip to Tenorio Volcano National Park to admire the wonderfully blue waterfall and explore a new national park.

We highly suggest that you read our article about Rio Celeste waterfall before going in order to be 100% prepared for this expedition. In a few words, you can either do it on your own or with a tour company, like Seven Tours for $65 USD. Here’s the itinerary we followed with the tour company.

Rio Celeste Waterfall

Rio Celeste Waterfall is an iconic spot in Costa Rica because of its never-seen-before blue water. It’s a 2-hour drive from La Fortuna, you can check out our complete guide for the road directions.

Costa Rica 10 Day Itinerary : blue waterfall in the middle of the jungle forest

Rio Celeste is located inside the Tenorio Volcano National Park. You can access it with a 30-minute walk from the parking lot. You will walk in the middle of a lush green forest until the famous stairs of Rio Celeste.

You’ll need to pay an entrance fee of $12 USD per adult and $5 USD per child from 2 to 12 years old. Yes, it’s very worth your money and you can’t skip this one. Make sure to wear a raincoat and junkie shoes though.

Tenorio Volcano National Park

There are many other wonderful natural spots to visit when exploring Tenorio National Park . After marvelling at Rio Celeste, you should go back to the main platform right after the stairs and continue the hike.

First, you will stop at Laguna Azul , a turquoise blue lagoon in the middle of the rainforest. Then, witness the volcano fumaroles in the water of Borbollones and the insane change of colour at the meeting point of two rivers, called the Teñideros.

Costa Rica 10 Day Itinerary : two rivers meeting creating an insane color change

Bugai Rio Celeste Restaurant & Swim

I bet this hike whetted your appetite? Good news, the next stop of the tour we did was a nice nature restaurant with typical food. It’s called Bugai Rio Celeste Nature & Food and is a bit outside of the touristic paths as it’s a 20-minute drive from the waterfall.

The place is not only worth the drive for the food, but also for the heavenly swimming spot located just next to it. After your lunch, follow the path at the right of the restaurant and have a well-deserved swim in the refreshing river.

After this day of exploration, you’ll drive back to La Fortuna and relax at your hotel. Depending on the hour, you could also relax in one of your favourite hot springs, before heading to another location on the next day.

Day 4: La Fortuna to Monteverde & Wildlife Night Tour

After spending the 3 first days of your 10 day itinerary in Costa Rica in La Fortuna, it’s time to head for new adventures to Monteverde, another wonderful rainforest. The foggy and mystic atmosphere of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve will conquer your heart right away.

La Fortuna to Monteverde Shuttle

The most common way to go from La Fortuna to Monteverde is to take a shuttle. As the lake Arenal is located on the middle of the journey, all the shuttles are actually a “ jeep boat jeep ” combination. You can book it at the desk of your hotel, or directly with the company Aventuras El Lago for $30 USD.

Costa Rica 10 Day Itinerary : boat on a lake with a volcano in the background

Settle in your accommodation

After arriving in Monteverde, either with a shuttle or your own car, we highly suggest that you go check out your accommodation first. The reason behind it is that most Monteverde hotels are something else. It’s a place where you can sleep in a treehouse or just have a wonderful view of the foggy forest.

Tree House Restaurant

Even if you can’t afford to sleep in a treehouse, no worries. Here’s your chance to visit one! The Tree House Restaurante is in the city centre of Santa Elena, the town near the Monteverde Cloud Forest.

It’s a very untypical restaurant that you absolutely must try. It’s not every day that you can eat surrounded by trees! Their food is delicious as well and the staff is very welcoming and helpful. You should go there quite early as the day is not over just yet…

Monteverde Night Walk

Yes, here’s your first night activity! Monteverde is known to be home to some of the best wildlife of Costa Rica. However, the animals can be difficult to spot during the day. By doing a night tour, you’re almost 100% sure to spot some cool wildlife!

Costa Rica 10 Day Itinerary : flashy green snake in the forest by night

Kinkajou Night Walk offers tours for $28 USD where you can spot all the famous animals that make Costa Rica wildlife so special. Among them, we saw a toucan, sloth, frog, flashy green snake, and many others.

Those tours usually last around 2 hours and they pick you up at your hotel or hostel at 5:40PM, 6:45PM or 8:15PM. You can eat before or after the tour, and they will drop you off at your place after the tour as well. It truly is a once-in-a-lifetime experience!

Where to sleep in Monteverde?

Cabinas eddy b&b.

Cabinas Eddy B&B was one of our top accommodations of the trip. All bedrooms have large windows overlooking the forest. With its large bed of red sheets, its wooden walls and its breathtaking view of the green forest, the atmosphere of this place is truly mystical.

The manager of the place is super nice and helpful. He will try to answer absolutely all your questions and give the best information about the tours you can do in the area. A private room for two people is around $31 USD, including a homemade breakfast (fruits, banana pancake, eggs…).

Costa Rica 10 Day Itinerary : red bed sheets with two big windows on the green foggy forest

Hostel La Suerte

If you’re travelling on a budget, you can also stay at Hostel La Suerte . It’s well located and has a wonderful view on the forest. A bed in an 8-bed dorm costs $20 USD per person, with a delicious typical costa rican breakfast included.

Day 5: Monteverde Hanging Bridges & Ziplining

Do you like thrills or breathtaking landscapes? This second day in Monteverde is made for you! Have a big breakfast, take your raincoat, mosquito repellent, camera and let the adventure begin.

Monteverde Hanging Bridges

If you didn’t have enough time to do the hanging bridges of La Fortuna, now is your chance! Sky Adventures Monteverde Park , part of the Selvatura Park , is $50 USD per adult, $33 USD per student and $28 USD per child. If you want to book in advance, you can secure your spot here .

It’s more expensive than the hanging bridges at La Fortuna, but Monteverde has the longest suspension bridge in all of Costa Rica. A walk on it offers scenic landscapes and great opportunities to meet animals in the trees.

Costa Rica 10 Day Itinerary : monkey meeting in Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

However, if this is too expensive for you, you can simply wander in Monteverde town . Your last option would be to choose a less expensive option by visiting Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve for $21 USD. We were told you can see both the Pacific and Caribbean coasts from the top when it’s not too cloudy.

Monteverde Zip Line

Another famous activity that you can do in Monteverde is ziplining among the trees. Several parks offer this activity, but the less touristy and best one is Canopy Extremo . It costs $50 USD per person and includes a pickup and drop off to your hotel.

After eating a typical lunch at Restaurante Cafeteria Reposteria , start your ziplining adventure at Canopy Extremo Park . You will get to zip 10 lines and try out the famous Tarzan Swing. We recommend to book in advance on their Viator page as it can get pretty busy.

You’ll also do a rappel to get down a tree and climb back up to the top, passing inside a hollow tree. Don’t worry, if you’re too scared to do the swing and rappel, you can skip those parts.

Costa Rica 10 Day Itinerary : girl smiling while ziplining in the forest

Don’t forget to put lots of mosquito repellent on before starting the ziplining tour. Wear long sleeves, pants and try to hide every part of your body, especially your ankles. Mosquitos are absolutely crazy there!

Monteverde Souvenirs Shopping

You can end this adrenaline-filled day by wandering in the streets of Santa Elena. It is the perfect place to buy souvenirs or gifts for your loved ones. If you ever need to withdraw money there, go to the banco nacional. The other ones don’t seem to work very well.

Day 6: Monteverde to Santa Teresa

You’ve already explored two rainforests, now it’s time to get to the coast for some sea, sun & relaxation time! Your legs might be hurting a bit from all the hikes you’ve done in the past five days, but don’t worry; Santa Teresa has everything you need to refuel the batteries and relax.

Costa Rica 10 Day Itinerary : Santa Teresa beach and palm trees

How to go from Monteverde to Santa Teresa?

Monteverde to santa teresa shuttle.

Tropical Tours Shuttles offer daily shuttles departing at 8 AM from Monteverde for $62 USD per person. As for every shuttle in Costa Rica, you’ll need to book it early and it won’t leave if it doesn’t have a minimum of four people.

Monteverde to Santa Teresa by bus

If you don’t want to take a shuttle between every destination, we recommend that you save money for this journey and take the public buses. Many travellers take this road so you won’t be alone, and you can definitely share the journey with new friends. Here’s how to do it.

First, you’ll need to take a bus from Santa Elena to Puntarenas in the early morning. You should go to TransMonteverde, the bus stop, one day before the check the hours as they change frequently. It lasts between 2 and 3 hours depending on the traffic and the ticket costs $2.5 USD (1570 CRC).

Go until the last stop of the bus. From there, you will have to walk 30 minutes to the ferry station or take a cab for $2.4 USD (1500 CRC) that you can share with other backpackers.

Costa Rica 10 Day Itinerary : pink sunrise on the road on the green mountains

Then, buy a ferry ticket from Puntarenas to Paquera for $1.3 USD (810 CRC). It lasts between 1h10 and 1h30. In September 2021, the departures were at 7AM, 10AM, 12:30PM, 3PM and 6PM.

When you arrive, a bus will be waiting at the exit of the ferry to drive you from Paquera to Cobano . It lasts 1h30 and costs $2.4 USD (1500 CRC). Lastly, you’ll take one last bus from Cobano to Santa Teresa for 45 minutes and $1.6 USD (1000 CRC).

It might look like a difficult journey with lots of changes, but it really isn’t that bad. It’s really well indicated, full of other travellers and very safe. This whole journey costs $8 USD and you save a lot of money!

Santa Teresa sunset

After surviving this long journey and dropping your bags at your hostel, you should head straight to the beach in time for sunset. Take a cocktail at Nantipa Beach Bar and witness a sunset of a lifetime on the beach in your hammock.

Costa Rica 10 Day Itinerary : sunset on the beach and ocean

Where to stay in Santa Teresa?

Santa Teresa really is all about hostel life and it’s difficult to find a private room for a decent price. However, those three hostels really deliver wonderful amenities and atmospheres.

Salty Enthusiastics

Salty Enthusiastics is the homiest hostel you can find in Santa Teresa. The cute typical houses only have one big female dorm with 7 double beds. Yes, you read that right, you could have a whole double bed to yourself in a hostel!

Costa Rica 10 Day Itinerary : cool hostel with hammocks, chairs, palm trees

Your bed area is also big enough for you to put your big backpack and other stuff in here and there are curtains all around it for more intimacy. The vibe is very chill and there are shared areas to chill and to cook with other guests.

Lost Boiz is quite famous in the area because many worldwide travellers stay there. It has a nice bar, restaurant, and small pool. If you’d like to party or just to meet people, this is ideal.

Selina Santa Teresa North

Here we go again! After Selina La Fortuna, let us introduce you to Selina Santa Teresa North . This pink building is perfectly located, near cool restaurants, shops and bars. It has a nice pool and garden, as well as all the things we already liked about Selina: a bar, restaurant, many activities…

Costa Rica 10 Day Itinerary : pink hostel with a blue swimming pool

Day 7: Santa Teresa beaches or surf

Now that you’re in Santa Teresa, know that this is the perfect town to chill, do nothing and have no plans! However, if you’re bored, here are some activity ideas and nice restaurants.

Santa Teresa surf

Santa Teresa has perfect waves all year long. It’s ideal for intermediate surfers, but it can be a great playground for beginners and confirmed surfers as well. Furthermore, it’s a pretty hidden spot for now so you will be away from the crowds.

You can surf at Playa Hermosa, Playa Santa Teresa or Playa Carmen. If you’re an intermediate or confirmed surfer, you can rent a board for $10/15 USD per day. For beginners, we advise that you take a surf lesson as the waves can get pretty dangerous when we don’t know them. The standard lesson in a group is $49 USD.

The Bakery Santa Teresa

After a good surf session, head to the Bakery at the very beginning of Santa Teresa (from where you arrived). This place serves really good local food and has awesome decoration. If you need cash, take the opportunity to withdraw some because the only two ATMs of Santa Teresa are located there.

Go to the Beach

We warmed you, Santa Teresa is all about chilling on the beach! Enjoy the sun on Playa Santa Teresa or Playa Hermosa. We heard Playa Hermosa is the best for sunsets. If your hostel is too far from it, you could for instance rent a bike to get there.

Day 8: Santa Teresa relaxation

Here we go, a second day of doing nothing and just relaxing in Santa Teresa. This time, you can do a yoga session of your choice and improve your tan and write postcards to your loved ones.

Santa Teresa Yoga

You can find yoga lessons multiple times a day in lots of hostels, like Don Jons or Casa Zen. Usually, these are at around 9AM or 6PM, last one hour and cost $10 USD. Just go to any hostel and ask if they have yoga lessons. Santa Teresa is also a great place to do yoga, or even acro yoga on the beach!

Costa Rica 10 Day Itinerary : acro yoga on the beach in Santa Teresa

Enjoy the Beach

Put your swimming suit on, take a beach towel, sunscreen, and a good book. Now you have the perfect kit to lizard on the beach all afternoon. Don’t forget to hydrate yourself a lot and put sunscreen on because Santa Teresa’s sun can be cruel with the clouds.

End the day off with one of the best places to eat in Santa Teresa : Eat Street. It is a place where 3 or 4 food trucks are gathered with tables in the middle to offer all types of cuisine and satisfy everyone. Many travellers gather here in the evening to have a joyous feast.

Day 9: Day Trip to Montezuma

After 3 days in Santa Teresa, you might’ve heard of its neighbour, Montezuma. On this 9 th day of your Costa Rica 10 day itinerary, you wouldn’t say no to a new waterfall chasing adventure, right?

How to get from Santa Teresa to Montezuma?

Only 16 km away, Montezuma is approximately a 30-minute drive from Santa Teresa. If you have your own rental car, you can easily drive there for a day or even half day trip. If you don’t have your own car, you can either take a cab for $20 USD or take the direct bus which leaves 4 times a day.

Montezuma Waterfall

The Montezuma waterfalls are actually a set of 3 waterfalls from different sizes that you can only access by riverside hiking trails. All along the way, you’ll have plunge pools and scenic views.

Montezuma Top Waterfall

The Top Waterfall is the smallest of the three and is about 5 meters tall. However, this is the best one to swim in because of how deep the natural pool is. If you dare, you can also jump in it from the rock or with the rope swing. We love a good Tarzan style jump!

Montezuma Middle Waterfall

To see the Middle Waterfall, you will have to swim in the pool of the Top Waterfall. Then, a 12 meters waterfall drop will magically appear. This one is already stunning from below so there’s no real need to walk on the incredibly slippery steps to see it from below. Please also note that it’s very dangerous to jump from the top of it!

Montezuma Lower Waterfall

Last but not least, the Lower Waterfall is the biggest one with a 25-meter drop. You can have a refreshing swim in this incredible place, but again, this is not recommended to jump from this one.

After this cool waterfall adventure, head back to Santa Teresa for a last night of partying, eating good food or just chilling with friends.

Day 10: Head back to San Jose or Liberia

Time passed by and the 10 th day of your Costa Rica road trip has already arrived. It’s time to head back to San Jose or Liberia, where your return flight departures from. However, it’s not over just yet!

Costa Rica 10 Day Itinerary : city view with palm trees and a moutain in the background

If you still have one day left because you want to head back to the capital in advance to make sure you catch your flight, or just did the itinerary differently, we have a few surprises for you.

How to get from Santa Teresa to San Jose?

If you don’t have a car, this journey ain’t the easiest one. There’s no direct bus from Santa Teresa to San Jose and it’s very difficult to find accurate information about the different buses and ferries to take.

We were told you have to go in the main street of Santa Teresa (the only one) at 6 AM and wave to the bus for it to take you to Cobano. From there, you’d catch another bus to Paquera to take the Paquera – Puntarenas ferry.

As of September 2021, the departures are at 6 AM, 10 AM, 12:30 PM, 3 PM and 5PM.Then, ask if there’s a direct bus to San Jose or what is the most rapid way to get there.

If you don’t feel like trying the public transport once again, Tropical Tours Shuttles have daily shuttles leaving at 7:30 AM for $41 USD. Try to book it directly on their website a few days before instead of asking your hotel to do it for you not to pay the commission (around $10 USD).

Day trips from San Jose

Here are 3 day trips that you can take by yourself or with a tour from San Jose to have one last costa rican adventure. Those three are very different to fit all kinds of profiles!

Irazu Volcano

Irazu Volcano is an active volcano located in the countryside of the capital, near Cartago and the Orosi Valley. The trail is around 1.3 mile (2 km) and leads you to an impressive volcano crater. However, be aware that the green lake dried up.

Irazu Volcano National Park is open every day and the entrance fee is $15 USD per adult and $5 USD per child from 2 to 12 years old. To get there, you’ll need to drive 1h10 to 1h30 depending on the traffic, or take the daily direct bus from San Jose which costs $4 USD.

🌋 If you don’t have a car, here’s a half day Irazú Volcano National Park tour that includes private transportation from San Jose, an hike to the crater and a visit to the most important church of Costa Rica. It costs $99 USD but is so worth it.

Termales Hacienda Orosi

Hacienda Orosi is one of the best hot springs in Costa Rica . It is a complex of hot water pools built with small rocks, in the middle of a beautiful green valley.

It truly is the perfect place to relax and disconnect from the world one last time in a wonderful nature setting.

You can get there within two hours by two different buses that won’t cost you more than $8 USD. The entrance of the Termales Hacienda Orosi is $35 USD, and the site is open from 9 AM to 5 PM.

Ujarras Ruins

Costa Rica ancient ruins are usually not included in the majority of the tourist circuits. And that’s a shame! Among many other ruins, Ujarras Ruins is one of the oldest archaeological sites of the country. Located in the Orosi Valley, they are reachable by a one hour and a half ride from San José.

Rio Blanco Waterfall

If you didn’t see enough waterfalls yet, here’s your chance to spot a spectacular one. Rio Blanco is located in Guapiles and is not a very touristy site, due to the river crossing to get there.

The hike itself is doable if you don’t mind getting wet and stay careful. The length of the trail is 5 miles (9 km), which will take you between 4 and 6 hours. But as we say, the journey is sometimes as pleasant as the destination.

When you get there, you’ll not only see a majestic waterfall but also a huge cave next to it. This place is a real playground for photographers and nature lovers, even if it is difficult to reach without getting wet.

You must go with a local guide as the trail is quite long and having a good knowledge of the area is important. It’s a one hour and forty minutes drive from San Jose.

San Jose downtown to San Jose Airport

To get to the airport from San Jose downtown, the regular taxis charge around $25 USD while uber drivers only take $10 USD. If you’re not in a hurry, you can also take a bus to Alajuela and then another bus to Juan Santamaria International airport.

Costa Rica Travel Tips

Are 10 days in costa rica enough.

You won’t be able to see all the interesting spots of Costa Rica in 10 days , but you’ll still get a very good glimpse of it. During your Costa Rica 10 day itinerary, you’ll be able to visit at least 3 spots. You can choose between volcanoes, rainforests, waterfalls, beaches… Or choose locations with all those wonderful natural things.

If you’re a hike lover, you can head to one of the volcano/rainforest areas, such as La Fortuna, Monteverde or Rincón de la Vieja National Park . This last one is less known, and you’ll be able to see small active volcano fumaroles with your own eyes!

Lastly, if your goal is to see cool wildlife, the best place to go is Manuel Antonio National Park. If you’re lucky, you can spot wild howler monkeys, scarlet macaws, geckos…

Costa Rica 10 Day Itinerary : white sand Santa Teresa beach

If you’re a beach lover, you can visit Tamarindo, Samara, Santa Teresa, or Jaco on the Pacific Coast, or Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean coast. The beaches on the Caribbean coast have clear water while the ones on the Pacific coast are better to surf.

Best Time to Visit Costa Rica

Costa Rica has two seasons: the dry season and rain season. The best time to visit Costa Rica is during the dry season, from December to April. You can also visit during the green season, from May to June. It is the transitional phase between the two seasons, when the rains make the forest bloom.

Lots of people travel to Costa Rica in July or August, as it’s a holiday period for many. It’s during the rainy season but it’s doable. It’s all down to luck! Note that the rainiest months are September and October.

Costa Rica 10 Day Itinerary : foggy view on the forest from a big window with red curtains

Is Costa Rica expensive?

Yes, Costa Rica is an expensive country to visit. Most people don’t expect to spend this much money in Costa Rica as it doesn’t match the standards of other central american countries.

The most expensive thing in Costa Rica are tours, because if you don’t have a car, you must visit everything with a tour.

But of course, you can still visit Costa Rica on a budget , with a backpacking style. You can always stay in hostels, which cost around $10 to $20 USD per night in high season. Then, eat at the local restaurants like SODA for the cheapest food, and take the local buses all the time.

10 days in Costa Rica Budget

This Costa Rica 10 day itinerary cost $900 USD per person, mixing hostels and hotels, tours and self-guided visits, as well as shuttles and local buses. To break it down a bit more, $217 on transportation, $230 on tours and activities, $285 on accommodation booked at the last minute and $164 USD on food.

Costa Rica 10 Day Itinerary : powerful waterfall

Travel Insurance Costa Rica

If you’re travelling in times of COVID 19, you’ll need to buy travel insurance for the duration of your stay. In August 2021, it had to include a coverage for medical expenses for covid-19 infection of at least $50000, as well as a minimum coverage of $2000 for accommodation costs in the event of covid-19 infection, trip cancellation and quarantine.

So yes, it’s not easy to find! You should call a well-known travel insurance company in your country and ask them. In France, Assur Travel offers deals that include all the Costa Rica criteria. For a trip to Costa Rica for 13 days, it costs $56 USD. If you ever need to use it, be aware that you should call them before getting into any medical assistance.

Outlets in Costa Rica

Costa Rican power sockets provide a voltage of 110 to 120V and a standard frequency of 60Hz. This is the same voltage as in the United States. However, if you come from Europe for instance, you’ll need an adaptor. It costs around $10 USD.

Money in Costa Rica

That’s always a big question when travelling… Should you pay by card or cash abroad? Well, it all depends on your bank rates! Ask them the rate when withdrawing money or paying in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica 10 Day Itinerary : bank notes from many different countries. Photo @ Jason Leung.

In addition to that, we recommend always having cash on you in case you need to take a taxi or pay in a place where they don’t accept the card. The official money in Costa Rica is Colón. They also accept dollars pretty much everywhere.

However, if you don’t come from the United-States, you should withdraw only colones to make sure you can pay everywhere. Do that unless the exchange rate between your money and dollars is much more advantageous than with the colones of course.

Costa Rica packing list

Costa Rica packing list obviously depends on the season when you’re travelling, but here are the most important items that you should bring at all times in case.

  • Passport, PCR test or vaccine certificate, Salud Pass
  • Electronic devices and chargers
  • Summer clothes + raincoat (no, you CAN’T pass this one, especially during rainy season), pullover, big socks, one jean, legging, sport outfit, sneakers and shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty
  • Swimming suit, beach towel and flip flops
  • Toilet bag, shower towel, medicines (including bandages and disinfectant because you will be doing a lot of hiking) and mosquito repellent
  • Snacks and chewing gums for when you won’t get back to your hotel to brush your teeth

Can you drink tap water in Costa Rica?

Yes, it is safe to drink tap water in Costa Rica in the majority of the country. However, ordering a LARQ reusable water bottle could be a great idea while traveling to Costa Rica to drink 100% clean water at all times.

LARQ uses a UV-C light technology that purify water every 30 minutes. It guarantees a clean bottle and access to water at all times, which is a must when visiting a new country.

How to plan a trip to Costa Rica for 10 days: the Wrap Up

As this article is quite long, we summed up the essentials that you must do in this order before leaving for your trip. Here are all the things to do before your Costa Rica trip:

  • Select your favourite Costa Rica spots (because unless you’re staying at least one month, you won’t be able to do it all)
  • Prepare your Costa Rica itinerary
  • Book your flights and accommodation
  • Buy a travel insurance
  • Check if the electrical outlets are the same as those in your country
  • Pack and withdraw a bit of money
  • Buy a local SIM card and a mosquito repellent
  • Board on the plane and have the time of your life

If you’ve made it this far in this Costa Rica 10 day itinerary and guide, it means you’re 100% ready to go! Whether you’re travelling in a group or solo travelling, you’ll have the trip of a lifetime on the land of rainforests. If you’re not sure you can afford the trip yet, check out the 34 ways to travel the world with no money .

Further Reading...

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Nusa Penida Tour: A Complete Guide

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New York to Maine Road Trip: 14 Dreamy Stops

Copenhagen Travel Guide : Autoproclaimed independant neighborhood of Freetown Christiania in Copenhagen

Alternative Art : Freetown Christiania & 59 Rivoli

How to spend 10 days In Costa Rica - 5 itineraries

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Our trip has been amazing. This is our third time in Sri Lanka and possibly my favourite trip. I am already planning my next one.

Discover Costa Rica, a paradise of unspoiled beauty and limitless opportunities for exploration. Immerse yourself in our selection of thoughtfully designed five Costa Rica itinerary for 10 days that will turn your stay in Costa Rica into a journey filled with rich experiences. Each day becomes a new chapter woven into the fabric of this Central American gem, where natural wonders and endless discoveries await your arrival.

Tailor-made travel itineraries for Costa Rica, created by local experts

Costa Rica: Coast to Coast

12 days  / from 2980 USD

Costa Rica: Coast to Coast

From paradise beaches, scenic narrow waterways and magical rainforests, Costa Rica has much to offer. Head east and discover the tranquil Caribbean Sea, head west for the tumultuous Pacific Ocean and surfer’s paradise.

Discover Northern Costa Rica

10 days  / from 1825 USD

Discover Northern Costa Rica

This self drive itinerary allows you to explore the Central and Northern highlights of Costa Rica: from the active volcano Arenal to the cloud forest of Monteverde and the beaches of Guanacaste with plenty of surf & yoga - discover why they call it the land of Pura Vida - pure life!

A self drive Caribbean adventure

10 days  / from 1440 USD

A self drive Caribbean adventure

It's time to discover Costa Rica's Caribbean coast in your own rental car: From Boca Pacuare, where the turtles come to lay their eggs, to the unique culture of Cahuita and the beaches of Puerto Viejo! Your trip will finish in Turrialba, home of the main archaeological monument in our country.

Itinerary #1: Costa Rica Express - Animals & Beaches

Start at Arenal Volcano with its waterfalls, hot springs, and suspension bridges, before crossing the lake to Monteverde. The unique cloud forest invites adventure and nature lovers for canopy and ziplining activities, as well as wildlife spotting. End this mesmerizing 10-day journey on the beach at Manuel Antonio.

On the first day , a friendly driver will meet you at SJO International Airport and take you to your first Costa Rican residence.

Day two is the start of your journey to La Fortuna, where the Arenal Volcano awaits you. In the afternoon, soak in Arenal Volcano's famous hot springs filled with natural energy.

Day three immerses you in the realm of La Fortuna Waterfall and Arenal Volcano National Park. Explore the volcanic terrain and its rainforest inhabitants.

On the fourth day , you will travel across Lake Arenal to Monteverde. The next day 's program includes exploring the charms of Monteverde.

On day six , as dusk descends, see the nocturnal wonders of the Monteverde Reserve on a night visit. The next day , transfer to Manuel Antonio, where you can see pristine beaches and wildlife.

Days eight and nine are dedicated to exploring the vibrant Manuel Antonio National Park. A naturalist guide accompanies you on a walk, introducing you to the diverse wildlife of the Central Pacific coastline. After lunch, a catamaran ride offers sunset views and marine life encounters.

On the tenth day , you will say goodbye to Costa Rica with a transfer to San Jose International Airport. Read more .

Arenal volcano in Costa Rica ©Shutterstock

Arenal volcano, Costa Rica © Simon Dannhauer/Shutterstock

monteverde -costa-rica-shutterstock_1164189547

Monteverde , Costa Rica @ Shutterstock

Itinerary overview

  • Arrival in San Jose and Transfer to La Fortuna.
  • Overnight in La Fortuna.
  • La Fortuna Waterfall and Arenal Volcano National Park.
  • Hanging Bridges and Hot Springs.
  • From La Fortuna to Monteverde Boat Transfer.
  • Overnight in Monteverde.
  • Adventure Day in Monteverde - canopy, coffee and cocoa.
  • Monteverde Cloud Forest Night Tour.
  • From Monteverde to Manuel Antonio.
  • Overnight in Manuel Antonio.
  • Nature Walk in Manuel Antonio.
  • Afternoon Catamaran Trip.
  • Transfer from Manuel Antonio to San Jose Airport.

Interested? Don't miss the opportunity to book this trip now .

Costa Rica Sunset at Manuel Antonio Antonio National Park  © thefilmpoets/Shutterstock

Sunset at Manuel Antonio Antonio National Park © thefilmpoets/Shutterstock

Halloween Crab (Gecarcinus quadratus) in defensive posture on beach, Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica

Halloween Crab, Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica @ Shutterstock


La Fortuna Waterfall, Costa-Rica @ Shutterstock

Itinerary #2: From the Cloud Forest to the Beaches

On this amazing tailor-made trip , you will explore the Cloud Forest and rural life of Dota, including a community visit to get to know the real Tico life before heading to the incredible Drake Bay and Corcovado National Park, and then the amazing beaches of Manuel Antonio.

Upon arrival in San José, your driver will transfer you to your hotel and set the tone for your Pura Vida adventure.

Day two is a free exploration of San José, day three is a visit to the Irazú Volcanoes National Park and the charming colonial capital before traveling to San Gerardo de Dota for bird watching.

Day four is an introduction to the local people in Providencia. You will visit families, learn about traditional sugar production, explore the Salitre waterfall, and participate in a cooking class.

On day five , see a variety of ecosystems during a transfer to Drake's Bay, located on the Pacific coast. Day six is to explore the marine splendor of Caño Island while snorkeling, where archaeological treasures can also be discovered.

On the seventh day , a day trip is planned to Corcovado National Park, located on the Osa Peninsula and characterized by rich biodiversity. On the eighth day , the itinerary continues with a transfer to Manuel Antonio.

Day nine offers rest or optional excursions, and day ten of this Costa Rica itinerary for 10 days will be the conclusion of your Pura Vida odyssey. A transfer will take you to the San Jose airport. Read more .

Puerto Escondido bay, Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica © Shutterstock

Puerto Escondido Bay, Manuel Antonio National Park © Shutterstock

National monument of Costa Rica is a sculptural group located in the National Park of San Jose © Shutterstock

The national monument of Costa Rica in the National Park of San Jose © Shutterstock

  • Arrival in San Jose.
  • Overnight in San Jose.
  • Free Day in San Jose.
  • San Gerardo de Dota visiting Irazu Volcano National Park.
  • Overnight in San Gerardo de Dota.
  • Day Tour to Providencia for an authentic community experience.
  • From San Gerardo de Dota to Drake Bay.
  • Overnight in Corcovado.
  • Day Trip to Cano Island with snorkeling.
  • Day Trip to Corcovado National Park.
  • From Drake Bay to Manuel Antonio.
  • Day at Leisure.

Inspired? Don't waste any time and book this trip now .

Scarlet macaw (Ara macao) in flight with nut in its beak, Corcovado National Park, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica, Central America, Costa Rica

Scarlet macaw in Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica @ Shutterstock

Suspension bridge across the Rio Agujitas © Shutterstock

Suspension bridge across the Rio Agujitas © Shutterstock

A large coastal wave crashes on the reef. Pacific Ocean, Costa Rica, Drake Bay © Shutterstock

Pacific Ocean, Costa Rica, Drake Bay © Shutterstock

Itinerary #3: A self-drive Caribbean Adventure

If you are looking for Costa Rica itinerary for 10 days with a rental car, this is it. From Boca Pacuare to the unique culture of Cahuita and the beaches of Puerto Viejo! Your self-guided 10-day journey will end in Turrialba.

On the first day , after renting a car, you will travel to Sarapiqui, known for its lush landscapes, agricultural activities, and nature reserves.

Day two is an introduction to the canals of Boca Pacuare, reminiscent of the Costa Rican Amazon. You will immerse yourself in the complex ecosystem and cruise through canals similar to those of Tortuguero National Park.

Day three offers the opportunity to experience a variety of wildlife as you cruise the floating canals and visit a sea turtle conservation project. On day four , you'll travel to the tranquil shores of the southern Caribbean Sea, a sanctuary for turtles, iguanas, and indigenous culture

On day five , you'll hike the Gandoca-Manzanillo Reserve in search of dolphins, and on day six , you'll visit the inspiring Jaguar Rescue Center, where injured animals are cared for.

The seventh day takes you to Turrialba, a historic agricultural center, where we recommend seeing the Guayabo National Monument. The eighth day is a journey through the Marta Reserve.

On the ninth day , you will return to San José, where you will be invited to visit the summit of the Irazu Volcano. Finally, on the tenth day , you will return the rental car to the airport and bid farewell to the enchanting realm of Costa Rica. Read more .

Eco lodge rainforest, Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, Costa Rica © Shutterstock

Eco Lodge in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, Costa Rica @ Shutterstock

jaguar, costa, rica

Jaguar,, Costa Rica @ Shutterstock

  • Arrival and Drive to Horquetas.
  • Overnight in Horquetas.
  • Boat Trip on the Costa Rican Amazonia.
  • Overnight in Barra De Pacuare.
  • Exploring Barra De Pacuare.
  • Heading down South to Puerto Viejo.
  • Overnight in Puerto Viejo De Talamanca.
  • Hiking and Dolphin Watching.
  • The Jaguar Rescue Center.
  • On the way to Turrialba.
  • Overnight in Turrialba.
  • The Wild Refuge The Marta.
  • To San Jose.
  • Drop off your rental car at the San Jose airport.

Looking for a new experience? Book your trip now .

Costa Rica Travel Tips Manzanillo-Caribbean-Coast

Costa Rica, Manzanillo, Caribbean Coast @ Shutterstock

A river through the Sarapiqui Rainforest, Costa Rica © Shutterstock

A river through the Sarapiqui Rainforest, Costa Rica © Shutterstock

Panthera onca in Costa Rica © Pedro Helder Pinheiro/Shutterstock

Panthera onca in Costa Rica © Pedro Helder Pinheiro/Shutterstock

Itinerary #4: Discover Northern Costa Rica

This self-drive itinerary allows you to explore the Central and Northern highlights of Costa Rica: from the active volcano Arenal to the cloud forest of Monteverde and the beaches of Guanacaste with plenty of surf & yoga.

On the first day , rent a car and head to La Fortuna, a fascinating starting point.

Day two will discover the delights of Arenal Volcano, combining a visit to La Fortuna Waterfall. Lunch at the Rodriguez Family Restaurant will immerse you in tradition, while a visit to Arenal Volcano National Park allows for a scenic walk amongst eruption history and rainforest thickets.

On day three , you'll travel to Monterrey, where you'll experience village life before moving on to Rio Celeste. On the fourth day , you'll head to Tenorio Volcanoes National Park, passing through primary clouds and rainforests, and see the mesmerizing blue waters of the Rio Celeste. On the fifth and sixth days , continue your journey to Nosara, where surfing, yoga, and beach relaxation await.

On the seventh day , you'll travel to Monteverde, where you'll explore the local attractions in the afternoon. A charming night walk through the Valle Escondido Reserve will reveal the nightlife of the forest. Day eight is dedicated to the charm of Santa Elena, from craft shops to cloud forest walks and canopy tours.

Day nine is a return to Alajuela with a possible stop in Sarchi for souvenir shopping. Finally, on the tenth day of this Costa Rica itinerary for 10 days, we bid you farewell, leaving the rental car at the airport. Read more .

Waterfall and natural pool with turquoise water of Rio Celeste, Costa Rica © Shutterstock

Rio Celeste, Costa Rica © Shutterstock


Nosara, Costa Rica @ Shutterstock

  • Pick up your rental car and drive to La Fortuna.
  • Drive from La Fortuna to Rio Celeste and visit a local village.
  • Overnight in Celeste.
  • Visit Tenorio Volcano National Park and drive to Nosara.
  • Overnight in Nosara.
  • Free Day in Nosara.
  • Drive from Nosara to Monteverde.
  • Adventure Day in Monteverde.
  • Drive from Monteverde to Alajuela.
  • Overnight in Alajuela.

Playa Ocotal Beach in Guanacaste, Costa Rica © Shutterstock

Playa Ocotal Beach in Guanacaste, Costa Rica © Shutterstock

Iguana in Cahuita National Park, Costa Rica © Shutterstock

Iguana, Costa Rica © Shutterstock

La Agonía Church in Alajuela, Costa Rica © Shutterstock

La Agonía Church in Alajuela, Costa Rica © Shutterstock

Itinerary #5: Eco Adventures in Costa Rica

People come to Costa Rica for its compact jungles, tropical beaches, forests, wildlife, and national parks. The country may be small, but it's strikingly diverse and provides the perfect backdrop for this 10 days in Costa Rica true eco-adventure .

The first day begins in San Jose, and on day two you will take a domestic flight to Puerto Jimenez, from where you will be transferred to the Lapa Rios Ecolodge. Day three offers a choice of three daily excursions included in the price.

On day four , you will immerse yourself in the cultural world of Los Bajos, exploring local orchids, schools, churches, and community life. Day five is bird watching and horseback riding through the beautiful landscapes of Bajos del Toro.

Day six - transfer to Manuel Antonio National Park, known for its biodiversity. Day seven - kayaking and snorkeling, watching seabirds and natural wonders.

Day eight - catamaran sailing along the coast of Manuel Antonio, where you can see stunning views and observe wildlife. On the ninth day , it's a return transfer to San Jose, concluding the trip.

Your Costa Rica vacation will end on the tenth day with a departure from San Jose, leaving behind unforgettable memories of nature, culture, and adventure. Read more .

Catarata del Toro waterfall in Bajos del Toto, Costa Rica © Shutterstock

Catarata del Toro waterfall in Bajos del Toto, Costa Rica © Shutterstock

Tourists on horseback in Costa Rican cloud forest © Shutterstock

Tourists on horseback in Costa Rican cloud forest © Shutterstock

  • Flight to Puerto Jimenez.
  • Overnight in Lapa Rios Ecolodge.
  • Lapa Rios Lodge Excursions.
  • Los Bajos Cultural Experience.
  • Overnight in Bajos Del Toro.
  • Daybreak Bird Watching and Horseback Riding.
  • Transfer to Manuel Antonio and Manuel Antonio National Park Tour.
  • Ocean Kayaking and Snorkelling.
  • Catamaran Adventure Tour.
  • Drive Back To San Jose.
  • Departure from San Jose.

Feeling curious? Take a step forward and book this trip now .

Hummingbird, Rara Avis Reserve, Costa Rica

Hummingbird, Costa Rica @ Shutterstock

Tree House Lodge, Costa Rica

Tree House Lodge, Costa Rica @ Shutterstock

Walking through Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica

Costa Rican jungle, Costa Rica @ Shutterstock

For even more inspiration, check out The Rough Guide to Costa Rica . You can also browse our customized Costa Rica itineraries or chat with our local Costa Rica experts .

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  • Travel Tips Costa Rica for planning and on the go
  • Best time to visit Costa Rica
  • Papagayo, Costa Rica
  • Tortuga island, Costa Rica
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  • Costa Rica Weather in March
  • Costa Rica Weather in April
  • Costa Rica Weather in May
  • Weather in Costa Rica in August
  • Weather in Costa Rica in June
  • Costa Rica Weather in November
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Ties Lagraauw

written by Ties Lagraauw

updated 22.08.2023


Ties is a true world explorer - whether it be for work or leisure! As Content Manager at RoughGuides, and the owner of Dutch travel platform , Ties is constantly on the move, always looking for new destinations to discover.

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The Smooth Escape

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10 day Costa Rica itinerary: Lush rainforests & pristine beaches

road trip costa rica 10 days

Costa Rica is a country blessed with truly spectacular nature. Its tropical rainforests are brimming with wildlife and will make you feel like you’ve woken up in a National Geographic documentary. The beauty of its waterfalls and volcanoes will leave you speechless, and the endless palm tree-lined beaches will make you want to pack your bags and move there permanently.

I spent six weeks in this wonderful country, exploring its incredible nature and wildlife, and it ended up being one of my most memorable trips ever. Therefore, I decided to put together a 10 day Costa Rica itinerary that would give you exactly the right balance of hiking in jungles, relaxing on beaches and driving through scenic landscapes. If you’re a nature lover like me, this itinerary will be perfect for you!

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links from which I may make a commission at no additional cost to you if you make a purchase.

A woman looking at the view of the large conical Arenal Volcano

Transportation for 10 days in Costa Rica

Be aware that this 10-day itinerary for Costa Rica includes some remote destinations where the roads can be in a very poor condition, especially if you’re traveling during the rainy season as we did. Therefore, I recommend renting a 4×4 car as some of the places would otherwise simply be inaccessible for you or would require huge detours. 

We rented our 4×4 from Nomad America . Not only did we get to drive the most epic retro-style SUV but also camp in the middle of the stunning Costa Rican nature since the car came with a rooftop tent and all the camping equipment we needed. 

I’ve written a detailed post about renting a 4×4 in Costa Rica , where I share tips on safe driving and camping in Costa Rica, explain when it is necessary to rent a 4×4 car and provide a detailed review of Nomad America. 

And if camping is not your thing, I’ve also included hotel recommendations for each of the destinations in this itinerary.

Without further ado, let’s dive into our Costa Rica travel itinerary!

10-day Costa Rica itinerary:

Day 1: la fortuna – mistico hanging bridges park.

The starting point of our Costa Rica trip itinerary is San Jose airport since most international flights arrive here. As soon as you’ve landed, rent a car and get ready for an epic Costa Rica road trip! If you decide to go with Nomad America, they will pick you up from the airport and drive you to their office for free, where a nice 4×4 will be waiting for you.

Since this Costa Rica travel itinerary is meant for nature lovers, we’re not gonna spend any time in San Jose and will head straight for the good stuff. And by that I mean La Fortuna.

Located at the foothills of Arenal Volcano, about 2.5-hour drive from San Jose Airport, La Fortuna is the eco-tourism capital of Costa Rica. The area offers a ton of fun activities so I recommend staying here for the next two nights. 

A view over forest-covered landscapes and the conically-shaped Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica

Once you’ve arrived in La Fortuna, head to Mistico Hanging Bridges Park. Although it may sound like a place for wild adventures, it’s actually a rainforest sanctuary where you can take a leisurely walk along paved trails and six hanging bridges.

The park boasts some of the best views of Arenal Volcano, a lovely waterfall and exotic flora and fauna. The entrance fee to the park is 31 USD for adults and the trail is 3.2km (2 mi) long.

A woman standing on a hanging bridge surrounded by tropical vegetation at Mistico Hanging Bridges Park in Costa Rica

During our visit, we spotted beautiful hummingbirds, huge blue morpho butterflies and a large group of coatis just a few meters from us! While you might see some wildlife on your own, you will definitely find a lot more animals if you take a guided tour, such as this 4-hour tour with a naturalist guide .

Throughout our stay in Costa Rica, we took several guided tours in different nature reserves and it was mind-blowing how well the guides were able to spot animals hiding in the thick rainforest canopy!

You can also take a guided horseback riding tour in Mistico Park, which will take you through the tropical forest and pastures with fantastic views of Arenal Volcano.

Tip: In case you’re too tired/jet-lagged or short on time to visit Mistico on day 1, you might be able to squeeze it into day 2 or the morning of day 3.

red cone-shaped flowers in Mistico Park


Selina La Fortuna : Selina is an amazing hospitality brand with locations all over Central and South America. From cozy tepee tents and shared dorms to deluxe private rooms with Selina’s signature boho decor, they offer a variety of options for different budgets. There’s also a pool, an on-site restaurant and daily yoga classes.

Day 2: La Fortuna – Hot springs & Arenal Volcano National Park

Kick off your second day in Costa Rica with a visit to hot springs. After the Arenal Volcano eruption back in 1968, many hot springs were formed in the La Fortuna area. Most of them now belong to expensive spa resorts.

There is one spot though, where you can access the hot springs for free. You’ll find it right across the road from Tabacon Resort. 

At a first glance, the place might not look like anything special. It’s just a river running through a forest after all. But once you lie down in the hot mineral-rich water, you’ll get what all the fuss is about. I still remember the feeling of relaxing in this crystal clear steaming river surrounded by lush greenery and the sounds of nature – it was an incredible experience.

a woman sitting in the free natural hot springs of La Fortuna, one of the best places to include in your 10 day Costa Rica itinerary

Since these hot springs are free, they are also very popular. We went there as early as 8am and had the place to ourselves so if you want to avoid the crowds I recommend doing the same. 

Once you’re done soaking in the hot springs, head to the Arenal Volcano National Park. It’s just a 5km (3 mi) drive and the entrance fee is around 22 USD.

Arenal Volcano is one of the most famous natural landmarks of Costa Rica . It last erupted in 2010 and is now in a resting phase. Nevertheless, it’s prohibited to climb to the top of it due to safety reasons. Instead, you can hike on old lava fields and through the rainforest at the base of the volcano. 

There are several trails to choose from, where you can enjoy the views of the volcano and Lake Arenal, admire a 400-year-old ceiba tree and other cool plants. If you’re lucky, you might even see some wildlife like monkeys, coatis, parrots and other species.

The trails are all pretty easy and mostly along flat terrain but it can get a little muddy in the rainforest so bring appropriate shoes.

a man standing between the massive roots of a 400-year-old ceiba tree in Arenal Volcano National Park

If you’d like to squeeze more activities into your day or you’re looking for alternative options, there are lots of fun experiences to choose from in the La Fortuna area, such as the ones below:

  • A sloth watching tour , where you might also spot toucans and exotic frogs
  • An evening frog safari , where you’ll visit a natural sanctuary home to frogs and other nocturnal species
  • A rainforest chocolate tour , where you’ll learn about the cacao harvesting and production process and get to eat all the chocolate you want
  • A twilight wildlife safari , where you’ll take a boat tour to observe nocturnal animals

a large blue 4x4 Toyota with a backdrop of Arenal Volcano

Spend another night at Selina La Fortuna .

Day 3: Rio Celeste

It’s time to head north and drive to Tenorio Volcano National Park to see the magical Rio Celeste waterfall. It is often considered one of the best waterfalls in Costa Rica and it’s easy to see why!

The drive there takes 1.5-2 hours depending on whether you take the highway or the more scenic (but bumpy) countryside route along the coast of Lake Arenal. The entrance fee to the park is 12 USD.

At the park, there’s a 6km (3.7 mi) hiking trail through a lush rainforest which leads you to the stunning Rio Celeste waterfall and several other viewpoints. This bright blue waterfall is truly breathtaking and definitely one of the highlights of this 10 day Costa Rica itinerary. Photos simply don’t do justice to this place! 

The stunning Rio Celeste waterfall and bright blue pool of water surrounded by rainforest, one of the highlights of this 10 day Costa Rica itinerary

We didn’t see any animals in this national park except for small lizards but I’ve read that people have spotted sloths, monkeys, toucans and snakes there. If you want to increase your chances of seeing wildlife, take a guided tour .

Bright blue Rio Celeste river and a large moss-covered tree leaning above the river

It might be tempting to jump into these bright blue waters but swimming in Tenorio National Park is prohibited. Thankfully, there’s a spot outside the national park borders (just a kilometer south along the road from the entrance), where you can swim in that same river. The color of the water is not quite as intense but it’s a lovely place nevertheless and it’s completely free.  

You can either spend the night in a hotel near the national park or start driving towards Monteverde – the area you’re going to explore the following day. It’s about a 2.5-hour drive so if you’d like to split it up, you can spend the night in Tilaran.  

Finca Amistad Cacao Lodge : Located just a few kilometers from Rio Celeste waterfall, this eco-lodge is set on a 60-hectare cocoa farm and features rustic bungalows, a restaurant and a sun terrace with rainforest views. They also offer authentic cacao and chocolate-making tours. P.S. You need to have a 4×4 car to get to this lodge.

Day 4: Monteverde – Santa Elena Cloud Forest

Monteverde is a mountainous rural area known for its picturesque landscapes and humid misty cloud forests. There are several forest reserves in the area such as Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve, Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve and Children’s Eternal Rainforest.

Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve is by far the most popular one and tends to get overcrowded. Therefore, we chose to visit the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve (‘La Reserva Bosque Nuboso Santa Elena’ in Google Maps), which receives fewer visitors, is higher in elevation and tends to have more mist. 

a panoramic view over an abundant rainforest and Arenal Volcano in Santa Elena Cloud Forest reserve

Like most roads in the Monteverde area, the road leading up to Santa Elena Cloud Forest is pretty rough and full of potholes so you’ll be glad to have a 4×4. The entrance fee is 16 USD per person and there are multiple hiking trails with varying lengths – from 0.5km (0.3 mi) to 5km (3 mi). 

Due to the high elevation, the temperature in Santa Elena Cloud Forest is much cooler, the air is fresh, the vegetation is bright green and trees are covered with a thick layer of moss. There’s also an observation tower offering awesome views over the forest-covered landscapes, Arenal Volcano and Lake Arenal.

a pathway leading through the lush cloud forest of Santa Elena

Spend the night in the Monteverde area. The biggest town here is Santa Elena where you’ll find most of the accommodation options and restaurants.

Camino Verde B&B Monteverde : Surrounded by mountains and cloud forest, this B&B is located in the heart of Santa Elena town, near all the shops, restaurants and tour operators. Their rooms are simple but tastefully decorated and a delicious breakfast is included in the nightly rate.

Day 5: Playa Flamingo & Playa Conchal

Since you’ve seen a good amount of rainforests now, it’s time to head to the coast and explore some of the gorgeous beaches. Hit the road early because you need to drive 3 hours to get to Playa Flamingo, a small beach town on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. 

Due to its fine white sand and pristine water, Playa Flamingo is considered one of the most beautiful beaches in the country, so including it in this 10 day Costa Rica travel itinerary was a no-brainer! 

Clear skies, fine sand and a lonely tree on Playa Flamingo, a beach you shouldn't miss if you have 10 days in Costa Rica

The best way to spend your day here is to simply relax on this beautiful crescent-shaped beach, sip some fresh coconuts and enjoy the scenery around you. There are plenty of trees offering shade and if you get hungry, you can grab a meal from one of the restaurants right by the beach. We had a ceviche in Coco Loco and really enjoyed it!

I also recommend that you check out Playa Conchal just a 10-minute drive from Playa Flamingo. The beach consists of white crushed seashells, which gives it a really unique look.

The access to Playa Conchal can be a little confusing since the main road leading to the beach belongs to a resort and unless you’re staying there, you can not use the road. Instead, you can park your car near Brasilito Beach and walk 15 minutes south along the beach until you reach Playa Conchal.

Besides relaxing on the beach, there are plenty of other activities to do near Playa Flamingo and Playa Conchal, such as horseback riding , zip-lining and ATV tours .

Playa Conchal in Costa Rica, a beach consisting entirely of white crushed seashells

Spend the night in Playa Flamingo, Brasilito or Potrero.

Bahia del Sol : This is a beautiful boutique hotel located in front of Potrero Beach. There’s a large swimming pool and immaculate gardens with sunset view. Guest can also enjoy yoga classes and the services of an on-site spa.

a big bright green lizard standing on a rock in Playa Flamingo, Costa Rica

Day 6: Tamarindo

Continue your 10 day Costa Rica itinerary by driving to the next beach town – Tamarindo. It’s just a 30-minute drive so you’ll have the full day to explore this lively town. Tamarindo used to be a small fishing village but has now become one of the most popular beach destinations in Costa Rica.

Empty Tamarindo beach on a sunny day, a popular tourist destination you shouldn't miss on your 10 day Costa Rica itinerary

Tamarindo Beach is considered one of the best beaches in Central America . It boasts a wide strip of soft sand, beach clubs, cool bars and restaurants, and beginner-friendly surfing conditions.

Whether you want to discover the local culinary scene, take a yoga class on the beach, go shopping, learn to surf or just chill on the beach, Tamarindo offers something for every type of traveler. If you’ve never surfed before but want to give it a try, I highly recommend taking at least one class instead of trying to figure it out on your own.

The beach is also known for its spectacular sunsets so make sure to be there at the right time (between 5 and 6 pm depending on the season). Or you can take this sunset sailing tour on a catamaran, which includes an open bar, a meal and a snorkeling stop.

a woman standing on the wide sandy strip of Tamarindo beach with tall palm trees in the background

Hotel Pasatiempo : This small boutique hotel is just a short walk from Tamarindo Beach and features a tranquil tropical garden and a pool surrounded by lush vegetation. The rooms are bright, air-conditioned and have a private patio.

Day 7: Samara

On day 7, you’re going to explore yet another Costa Rican beach town. This time, however, a much smaller, quieter and more authentic one called Samara, about a 2-hour drive from Tamarindo.

The main reason for visiting Samara is its gorgeous beach with soft tan sand, rows of palm trees, calm waters and laid-back beach lounges. Sadly, when we were there, it was pouring rain all day long so we didn’t get to properly enjoy it. We did go for a little stroll along the sand and even on a grey and gloomy day the beach looked beautiful! I can only imagine how amazing it must be on a sunny day.

a turquoise fishermen boat on the grey sand of Samara beach on a cloudy day

There are several restaurants and bars right on the beach where you can bury your toes in the soft sand and watch the sun go down while sipping a tropical cocktail. If you’re looking for a romantic ambience, head to Locanda restaurant when it’s dark and have dinner under palm trees surrounded by hundreds of fairy lights.

Besides relaxing on the beach, you can also take this dolphin-watching tour , which includes a snorkeling stop at a coral reef or this turtle nesting tour , where you can watch wild sea turtles lay their eggs on a nearby beach.

In case you want to get off the beaten path, head to Belen waterfall where you’ll find multiple rock pools to swim in and a small cascade. We didn’t visit it because it was raining that day but I’ve heard it’s a fun non-touristy place where you can easily spend a couple of hours.

Good Life Lodge : This small boutique hotel is just 200 meters from Samara Beach and offers spacious, modern and squeaky-clean rooms, each with a large balcony. There’s also a relaxing garden that looks like a tropical oasis with exotic plants, fountains and a hot tub.

Day 8: Santa Teresa

The next stop in this Costa Rica trip itinerary is Santa Teresa, a paradise for surfers, yoga enthusiasts , backpackers and beach bums. It’s a 3-4 hour drive from Samara and you can either take the highway or choose the more rough and adventurous countryside road with multiple river crossings (only possible if you have a 4×4).

Since Santa Teresa is considered one of the best surfing destinations in the country, take a surfing class or rent a board from one of the dozens of surf shops lining the main street and join the surfers riding the waves. The boards are usually rented out for a full day and the price is around 10 USD.

If you’re not into surfing, find your zen by taking a yoga class in one of the many studios or hotels with outdoor yoga decks. We took a class in Casa Zen Yoga Centre and loved it! 

a yoga instructor giving an outdoor yoga class in Santa Teresa, a fun activity to include in your 10 day Costa Rica itinerary

Santa Teresa has an awesome cafe and restaurant scene offering some of the most diverse cuisine in the country. From dirt-cheap local eateries and authentic cevicherias to cool beach restaurants and trendy vegan cafes serving acai bowls, there are endless options for all budgets and tastes.

Also, don’t miss out on the magnificent sunsets in Santa Teresa. Every evening people gather at the beach to have a few beers and admire the spectacular show of colors as the sun dips behind the horizon.

Purple clouds and pink sky during sunset at Santa Teresa beach in Costa Rica

Canaima Chill House : If you’re dreaming of a peaceful retreat in the jungle where you’re surrounded by howler monkeys and exotic birds, then Canaima Chill House offers exactly that. With their tropical-style suites, an incredible pool, massage services and an outdoor hot tub, this place is like paradise.

Day 9: Montezuma

For your last day of exploring, head to Montezuma! It’s a small town with a bohemian and artsy vibe, just 20km (12 mi) from Santa Teresa.

Montezuma is known for its gorgeous waterfall which is one of the biggest attractions in this part of Costa Rica. The access to the waterfall is free but it requires a 20-minute hike along the river bank and through the forest.

This might be dependent on the season and the water levels but we needed to walk through the river which meant that our shoes got completely soaked! So be prepared for that and choose your footwear accordingly. Many locals just hiked barefoot.

A girl looking at Montezuma waterfall, a place that has to be included in your 10 day Costa Rica travel itinerary

The beach in Montezuma is also pretty amazing and one of my favorite ones in this 10 day Costa Rica itinerary! It’s a fairly undeveloped coastline with a tropical jungle hugging the wild, kilometers long and partially rocky beach.

It’s a great place to spot wildlife as well. We saw a couple of iguanas and curious capuchin monkeys that walked straight up to us hoping to get a piece of our lunch.

Big rocks on Montezuma beach in Costa Rica on a sunny day, one of the best places in this Costa Rica itinerary

We also took a mountain biking tour along the coast which was a great way to do something active and get off the beaten path. Some of the highlights were biking to a ‘cemetery island’, taking a dip in a crystal clear river and seeing a huge strangler fig.

Spend another night at Canaima Chill House in Santa Teresa.

Day 10: Drive back to San Jose

Finish your 10 days in Costa Rica by driving back to San Jose – a journey that will take roughly 5 hours. 

First, you need to get to Paquera, a small town on the coast, and then take the ferry to Puntarenas. From there, it’s a 2-hour drive to San Jose Airport.

You can book your ferry tickets in advance here . Apparently, if the website shows that there are no tickets left, this usually doesn’t mean that the ferry is sold out and you’ll most likely still be able to buy tickets at the ferry dock. That’s what the locals told us.

Costa Rica itinerary map

On the interactive map below, I’ve marked the approximate driving route of this itinerary for Costa Rica as well as the points of interest mentioned in this post. Click on the top left corner of the map for more details.

10 day Costa Rica itinerary: Final thoughts

Costa Rica really is a special place and those incredible rainforests, beaches and wildlife encounters will stay in my memories forever. I hope that this itinerary gave you some ideas for planning your 10 days in Costa Rica and that you’ll have an amazing time discovering all the natural beauty this country has to offer!

If you have any questions about this itinerary (or other places in Costa Rica) let me know in the comments.

Planning to explore other countries in Central America as well? Then check out my posts on Guatemala and Panama:

  • An unforgettable 10-day Guatemala itinerary
  • Things to do in Bocas del Toro
  • Things to do in Panama City

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10 day Costa Rica itinerary: Lush rainforests & pristine beaches


I love that you can cover so much of the country in such a short period of time. Road trips are my favourite – I’ve never considered driving in Central America but Costa Rica looks like a great place to do it 🙂

I’m also a huge fan of road trips 🙂 . It’s definitely the best way to travel around Costa Rica since a lot of the beautiful places are quite remote and it would be difficult or even impossible to reach them by public transport.

This looks like such an amazing itinerary! I‘ve been thinking about traveling Costa Rica next year (hopefully) and I‘ll definitely save this post for that! 😊

That’s so cool! Keeping my fingers crossed that you can make this trip happen. You won’t regret it, that’s for sure! 🙂

I traveled in Costa Rica in 2018 and I loved it! This country is such a gem for flora and fauna! I didn’t have the time to go to the fantastic beaches you shared in the North but I went south to Jaco (great for surfing) and the Parc Manuel Antonio. I also recommend to visit those places!

I agree, Jaco and Manuel Antonio are also lovely places to visit 🙂 . We visited them at the end of our trip, after we had returned our rental car, that’s why I didn’t squeeze them into this 10-day road trip itinerary.

Costa Rica looks absolutely stunning to visit and your 10 day itinerary is a great mixture of different things to see and do.

Thanks Krista! 🙂 My favorite itineraries are the ones that combine a lot of different experiences!

What a great itinerary! I’ve visited Costa Rica but only stayed in one spot near Peninsula Papagayo. It was beautiful but I felt like I didn’t really get to explore the country. Saving this in case I ever make it back!

Oh I didn’t get a chance to visit Papagayo Peninsula but I’ve heard it’s beautiful! Hoping you can return one day to see more of Costa Rica 🙂

What an awesome itinerary and so many great tips! I’ve always wanted to visit Costa Rica and more so now! I would love hiking in the rain forests and seeing all the flora, animals and waterfalls. I’m a scuba diver but I’d like to do a little surfing at these gorgeous beaches!

I’m sure you’d love it! Hiking through jungles and seeing all the animals was my favorite part of my Costa Rica trip 🙂 . If I remember correctly, there are some great scuba diving options on the Pacific coast as well!

People always talk about how beautiful Costa Rica is, but I don’t know that I have ever grasped it before! It’s amazing you were able to spend six weeks here – thank you for paring that down into an adventure-filled journey for us!!

You are welcome MacKenzie! It’s a true paradise for adventure junkies and nature lovers 🙂

I LOVED my time in Costa Rica. I visited many of the places you have here, but I didn’t end up visiting any beaches. Your itinerary really makes me want to plan a trip back!

P.S. love the design of your blog!

Thanks a lot Devin! I just recently changed the design and still getting used to it 🙂 .

Thank you so much for the awesome advice! Wondering if you have any thoughts on traveling this route in early November. Okay w/ a little rain and hoping to avoid the crowds!

You’re welcome! 🙂 I did this route in October and I’m guessing November would be quite similar. You’ll definitely see some rain but in my opinion it wasn’t bad at all. Keep in mind that due to the rain, some roads (especially on Nicoya peninsula) can become very muddy/bumpy and you’ll probably have to do some river crossings but that’s all part of the adventure. 🙂 I hope you’ll have an awesome trip!

Love the camping idea. How did you deal with bathroom facilities? Were there any? Or did you go true camping in the bush?

We didn’t do any wild camping and only stayed at campsites, which all had a toilet/bathroom facilities. Don’t expect anything luxurious though! 😀 I’ve written more about our camping experience in Costa Rica here:×4-rental/

Thank you for this! Wondering why you left Manuel Antonio out. Is it too touristy?

You’re welcome Rachel! We did visit Manuel Antonio as well during our 6 weeks in Costa Rica and it was lovely. 🙂 But squeezing it into this 10-day itinerary would be a bit tricky, that’s why I left it out. You could definitely also adjust this itinerary and leave e.g. Playa Flamingo and Tamarindo out and instead add Manuel Antonio to the end of the itinerary before returning to San Jose 🙂

Hi, Love the blog. Would this travel itinerary work for September?

Hi Sara. Glad to hear you love the blog! 🙂 This itinerary definitely works for September – we did it at the end of September. Just be prepared to see some rain since it will be almost the peak of the rainy season. But based on our experience the rain wasn’t too bad. And all the nature will be super lush and green 🙂

So glad I found your blog! We have an 11 day trip planned to Costa Rica in February and I’m in the process of planning our route. Any thoughts on the Caribbean Coast? I was definitely thinking of volcano area and Nicoya but that side also sounded interesting. Stick to Volcanoes and Pacific side or try for eastern side of the country & Caribbean? We have our own wheels and we’re not afraid to use them…Thanks for your thoughts!

Hi Gina. That’s exciting! I did visit the Caribbean side as well and loved it. 🙂 There are some amazing beaches and national parks there, like Cahuita and Tortuguero. However, with only 10 days (or 11 in your case), I’d recommend visiting one coast only. Otherwise you’ll spend a lot of your time in the car. That’s also the reason I didn’t include the Caribbean side in this itinerary.

Wow! You did really enjoy your trip to my lovely country Costa Rica, your photos at the Rio Celeste River are amazing, this is one of my favorite destinations of them all.

Thank you Adriana! I really loved exploring Costa Rica 🙂 . And Rio Celeste is also one of my favorite places in CR!

What an adventurous and immersive 10-day itinerary for exploring Costa Rica! Your article is like a treasure map guiding travelers through a diverse landscape of lush rainforests, stunning beaches, and vibrant cities. It’s truly impressive how you’ve crafted a well-rounded experience that balances relaxation and adventure. From soaking in hot springs to spotting wildlife in national parks, every day seems like a unique adventure waiting to unfold. Your insights and recommendations will surely inspire anyone planning a Costa Rican getaway. Here’s to embracing the “pura vida” spirit and making unforgettable memories in this captivating destination!

Thank you so much for your kind words! 🙂

We did similar itinerary and we visited the Caribbean sea as well in Cahuita and Puerto Viejo, it was an amazing trip to Costa Rica. Hopefully I can visit again!

We also visited the Caribbean side and really enjoyed it. 🙂 But for those who only have 10 days, I think it’s too much to include both of the coasts in the itinerary. That’s the reason I left it out of this one.

My fiance and I are looking into traveling and have only 10 days and this looks amazing. Did you ever feel like you were rushed at all or didn’t feel like you got to see enough of one thing ?

I’m glad to hear you like the itinerary! 🙂 Regarding whether you’d feel rushed, I think it depends on your travel style and what you prefer. We like to be quite active and not stay in one place for too long so for us it was perfect.

Hey, So glad to have read your blog and recommendations. I am planning my 2nd honeymoon – we are in our 50s now! Any suggestions for visiting Costa Rica in early February?

Hey Vijaya, that sounds exciting! 🙂 February is dry season in the central part and the Pacific side of Costa Rica so the weather should be excellent!

Hi Did you visit Osa. Do you think it’s worth it? We’re looking at 2 to 2.5 weeks in Costa Rica. Thank you.

Hi Chris! Unfortunately I haven’t been to Osa but based on what I’ve heard, it’s amazing! If you have 2-2.5 weeks, you could also visit the Caribbean coast and Tortuguero area. I really loved those areas!

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Wander With Jo

10 Days DIY Costa Rica Road Trip Itinerary

Costa Rica has been on my bucket list forever and I really want to do a adventure trip to this beautiful country. So much so, that I designed a full 10 days DIY Costa Rica road trip itinerary for myself – In hopes that I will make it there someday (Hey, you never know – its a small world after all!)

Quick Book Guide to Costa Rica

Need to head to Costa Rica on an unplanned impromptu trip? Well then here’s a quick guide to the must-do’s and best stays to book on short notice.

Must Try Tours in Costa Rica

Manuel Antonio Park Nature Guided Tour Arenal Volcano Full-Day Combo Tour with Meals Tortuga Island Tour with Costa Cat

Unique & Experiential Hotels in Costa Rica

Los Lagos Spa & Thermal Resort Experience Maquenque Ecolodge Sueños del Bosque Lodge

Edit – Hell yeah I DID make it there just before the pandemic. It is SO cool to look back and see how much you have achieved and how far you have come with regard to your travel goals. 

group tour manuel antonio

Costa Rica is the perfect getaway for naturalists and outdoor enthusiasts.  It is blessed with beaches , islands, mountains, meadows. rainforests and even mesmerizing cloud forests.

The best way to explore is by hiring a 4×4 vehicle in Costa Rica and designing your own custom itinerary. Just pick the spots you would want to visit the most, check routes and embark on your Costa Rica road trip 10 days. Stop where you want, explore what you desire, stay where you like and steer yourself in whatever direction you want.

Complete Costa Rica Itinerary 10 Days

Are you looking for the best 10 days Costa Rica itinerary? Then follow this perfect DIY trip plan.

Costa rica road trip itinerary

Day 1- Arenal and La Fortuna

Day 1 of your 10 day Costa Rica itinerary starts in La Fortuna.

Start the day with a trip to Arenal, the live erupting volcano and view the magnificent wonder and its soothing mineral waters pools. Once you have relaxed in the naturally heated hot springs and Jacuzzis close to the volcano, explore the picturesque town of La Fortuna that is just about 4 miles from the Arenal Volcano.

Watch the majestic volcano looming over this peaceful town. These are one of the most famous areas in Costa Rica and guaranteed to give an unforgettable experience.

Plus if you are into birding then definitely opt for a guided bird watching walk in Bogarin trail . This should be a part of your Costa Rica travel itinerary 10 days and will have to be pre-planned accordingly. 

Day 2: Hike in Arenal National Park

Drive to the Arenal National Park that covers about 30,000 acres but has easy-to-navigate trails through the forest and lava fields. The families with children enjoy the flat trails especially .

You can take the Los Heliconias trail to get fabulous views of the volcano. Depending on how far you would like to go, you can easily spend the whole day here. There is a wealth of geologic and biological diversity and complexity in the area because of the active and incredible Arenal Volcano.

arenal volcano costa rica

Day 3 – Hanging bridges and hot springs

There are 16 hanging bridges in Arenal of varying lengths, and they take you higher in the rainforest canopy, and you can enjoy a spectacular view of the wildlife and bird watching.

Edit – I was lucky enough to visit the Mistico Arenal hanging bridges park and it was a spendid adventure. Click here to read all about it . 

After your walks, relax in the famous Arenal hot springs. Get ready for a very relaxing and enjoyable afternoon as you walk on those bridges and enjoy breathtaking views.

Take your 4X4 anywhere

Day 4 – Tenorio Volcano National Park

Make an early start today in your Costa Rica self drive itinerary, and reach Tenorio Volcano National Park to enjoy breathtaking views of the bright blue Rio Celeste river.

Hike up to indulge in one of the most magical experiences of the 60 ft waterfall roaring and crashing into clear turquoise waters. Rio Celeste is surely the highlight of visiting Tenorio, however, you can even go to Lago Danta, pay a visit to the volcano and check out the hanging bridges.

Day 5 – Head for the Best of the Pacific along Costa Rica

Drive through the old Spanish route of 1606 towards the Pacific Coast and it will take you 10 hours. You can start early and reach there in time to enjoy the jungle boat tour on the Tarcoles River.

Enjoy the experience of watching different species of birds and enter the world of crocodiles. You will have plenty of time to enjoy the Punta Leona Beach with the deep blue waters of the Pacific along the pristine white sand beaches.

Day 6 – Quepos

Head for Quepos in your car and get ready to enjoy once in a lifetime experience in Manuel Antonio National Park . Quepos is a nice city and offers a wide array of services. Explore marlin fishing, during the months of December to April.

There are many other activities accessible such as the tours through the Damas Estuary and Butterfly Botanical Gardens.

Manuel Antonio

Day 7 – Manuel Antonio National Park

Next day,  head to Manuel Antonio, which is known for its rich forests and is home to several endangered species of Costa Rica. Don’t be deceived by its small size as it is regarded as one of the best parks for its variety of flora and fauna. It boasts of four of the best beaches in the country – Manuel Antonio, Escondito, Espadilla Sur and Playita .

The Manual Antonio beach made it to my list of favorite beach destinations in the world .

Manuel Antonio

Day 8 – Uvita

On the seventh day, you can move to Uvita, which is more peaceful and a lovely beach destination . Top attractions include Uvita waterfall and the beach.

It is a perfect spot for adrenaline junkies with plenty of options from kayaking, rappelling, kitesurfing, canoeing and the likes.

Day 9 – Monteverde Cloud forest

Today is the time to make your way towards the warmer Pacific coast in your private 4×4 vehicle and hit the Pan American Highway along the Northern Pacific Coast. This forest is part of all the best road trips in Costa Rica. 

It will be a long drive so brace yourself for the 250 km ride. It is an amazing experience to see those thick clouds hovering around the upper canopy of the forest.

The moisture from the clouds helps to thrive the great diversity of forests that is home to lichens, orchids and bromeliads as well as a large number of endemic species.

You can take long hikes through the reserves and the interior of jungles to spot the abundance of animals and birds that have made these forests their adobe.

Drive through the jungles in your extreme wheels

Day 10 – Back to San Jose

San Jose is a great place to start and end your Costa Rica roadtrip. 

This was just a ball park itinerary for my future visit to Costa Rica but be sure to design your itinerary well so as to make the most out of your trip.

Jam pack your trip with the top places on your list and experience the wonderful sights and the extraordinary environment of Costa Rica. Your 10 days in Costa Rica will surely motivate you to plan another trip to this amazing destination .

Costa Rica Car Rental Advice

 Costa Rica 4x4

Renting a jeep in Costa Rica is super easy as it is a big destination for adrenaline junkies . There are plenty of advantages of having your own wheels. You can easily explore the lesser-visited places and enjoy the freedom to make any changes to your plans or itinerary. Plus prior booking will ensure your roadtrip Costa Rica will be hassle free. 

Booking your 4×4 rental in Costa Rica is simple as all you need to do is enter your pick up/drop off dates, times and locations along with the vehicle type. 

Be sure to read the various car rental Costa Rica reviews before choosing which provider/site to go with for your road trip Costa Rica. I would suggest that you opt for a trusted provider like – Nomad America for your 4×4 rentals in Costa Rica.

Depending on your trip and route, you can choose the kind of car you want. Consider renting a four-wheel drive vehicle if planning to explore rural roads, coastal areas or if driving in the mountains. You can see Costa Rica on map to gauge terrain and driving routes and lengths to make an informed decision.

There are options of both compact and full-size SUV available with the car rental companies.

Nomad America cars come fully equipped with camps, rooftop showers, WiFi and even cooking equipment, which can make your road trip the ultimate camping adventure.

Volcano Camping


How many days in costa rica is enough.

Well personally I could've spent a month in Costa Rica but realistically speaking 7 to 15 days is a bare minimum.

Do I need a 4x4 to drive in Costa Rica?

Not necessarily but also depends on your route and terrain (As per itinerary).

Which are the best Months to Visit Costa Rica?

Dec to April are generally dry months but I visited in November which is best for national parks since they are quieter and greener.

Do you Need a Car in Costa Rica?

Well its ideal and comfortable if you want to avoid long bus rides. However, it is not necessary.

costa rica road trip guide

Disclaimer – This post is written in collaboration with Nomad America. The Costa Rica road trip planning and destination ideas are, however, my own. Full disclosure policy here . 

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7 thoughts on “10 days diy costa rica road trip itinerary”.

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Awesome article Jo. This has been on my bucketlist for awhile. 🙂

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We did almost exactly the same route a few years back. I hope the road to Monteverde has improved, it was torture back in the day!

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This all sounds great. I’m hoping to go to Costa Rica some time soon, so am pinning this for future reference. I would love to visit Monteverde Cloud forest.

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This sounds like a great itinerary. I was just there a couple of weeks ago – in La Fortuna and San Jose. We rented a car from San Jose to drive out to La Fortuna as it would have been a lot more difficult to go by bus (although not impossible). La Fortuna was great with the views of the volcano and jungles.

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That’s quite the itinerary! I would definitely be into hiking in Arenal National Park.

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I’ve been wanting to visit Costa Rica and this seems like fun itinerary especially the Monteverde Cloud Forest trip!

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would have been amazing to know how long the drive time was to each place!

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10 Days in Costa Rica, a Great Itinerary

road trip costa rica 10 days

Costa Rica should be at the top of any travelers list. Situated in the heart of Central America, this small country boasts an assortment of stunning natural beauty, with biodiversity hotspots and areas of cultural wonders scattered throughout.

Although a popular destination year-round, Costa Rica is split into two distinct seasons: the rainy season (April – November) and the dry season (December- May). Both offer an array of spectacular activities, so a road trip around the country is a worthwhile experience, no matter what time of year.

Below is a proposed itinerary for a 10/11 day trip around some of the very best destinations in Costa Rica.

Planning to spend 10 days in Costa Rica? Find here a detailed 10 day Costa Rica itinerary with the best places to visit and more

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. This means that should you click on certain links, and then subsequently purchase a product, I will receive a small commission.

Table of Contents

How to Travel Around Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a popular tourist destination, attracting near 2 million tourists per year. To cope with this demand, roads and essential travel around the country is well maintained. The majority of roads are paved, forming an extensive road system throughout the country.

Keep in mind, the weather of Costa Rica can get wet, wet, wet. Deep potholes can be sighted, so be wary of these if you choose to drive. Some locations off the tourist trail are no more than dirt tracks. You may even find yourself having to cross a river or two in rare cases.

So, whilst the majority of the county has good, paved roads, watch out for areas that are not as well maintained.

I recommend using the worldwide car service company, Enterprise if renting a car in Costa Rica. You can book online and pick up your chosen car from San Jose Juan Santamaria International Airport. It is also advised to hire a 4×4, especially during the rainy season.

Another top tip, especially if hiring a rental car, is to always carry small change with you. Many of the bigger highways throughout Costa Rica, contain multiple toll stations. You must pay with cash to be allowed to continue your journey.

Another response to the growing tourist industry is the public transport system. Many places are easily assessable through a bus scheme that connects the country. Normally, buses are regular and timely. You can get a bus from multiple large cities in Costa Rica, however, San Jose is the central hub of bus routes.

From here, you can get a bus to many destinations within the country. A few bus changes may be needed here and there, but on the whole, it is an easy process. Of course, this cannot be guaranteed with every stop in this itinerary.

A Detailed 10 Costa Rica Itinerary

Day 1: san jose.

Flying into Juan Santamaria, the country’s main airport, your first call of action is to head to the capital city of San Jose. The largest city in Costa Rica, San Jose is the central economic and cultural hub of Costa Rica. San Jose typically isn’t at the top of the list for tourists, but this doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty to see. Spend the afternoon exploring the cultural scene.

Highlights of San Jose

road trip costa rica 10 days

National Museum of Costa Rica

One of the best places to discover Costa Rica’s cultural identity, as well as natural history, the National Museum exhibits the historical highlights of Costa Rica – from archaeology, anthropology, and natural history. The entrance is $8.

Jade Museum

Home to numerous jade artifacts, the Jade Museum is the largest collection of pre-Columbian jade in the world. Discover artifacts spanning thousands of years in a uniquely designed building.

National Theater of Costa Rica

Ornately decorated and filled with highly decretive furnishes, the National Theater is one of Costa Rica’s most impressive buildings. Marvel at the architectural masterpieces or catch a musical performance. The entrance is $10.

Central Market

The market of all markets in Costa Rica, the Central Market is filled with food and souvenir stalls. Try unique and local flavors, such as jugo de cas or chan. Alternatively, simply shop for locally produced and traditional artifacts.

Transportation from the airport to San Jose

Driving: Hiring a rental car, the trip into downtown San Jose from Juan Santamaria airport takes approximately 25 minutes, depending on traffic. Head down the Pan-American highway, following signs for San Jose. One of the most popular navigational apps used by locals is called Waze .

Public Transport: There is a bus departing from the airport every 15 minutes. The bus service is called TUASA Bus San Jose and takes you directly into the city center, lasting approximately 35 minutes. This is a very cheap way of travel. You can also book shared shuttles or taxis.

Where to stay in San Jose

San Jose houses a variety of accommodation types, from cheap backpacking hostels to luxury hotel complexes. It is recommended to stay just one night in San Jose, so unless you’re looking for a luxurious break, I suggest not splurging the cash here. Selina San Jose : Selina is a chain of hostels. They offer friendly, budget-friendly dorm rooms or private shared accommodation. This is a great way to meet backpackers and like-minded travelers. Radisson San Jose : The Radisson is a contemporary hotel, featuring onsite pools and restaurants. It is clean, spacious, and comfortable. Perfect for those wanting to chill and acclimatize to the new area.

Day 2: Poas, Sarchí and the Doka Estate

Things to do in Costa Rica - Poas Volcano

After a well-needed acclimatization period in the city, today you can hit the roads early and head into the country to discover your first true taste of Costa Rica, as you journey just outside the city.

Your first stop is the mighty Poas Volcano . An active volcano, you will witness the incredible geology firsthand. Poas is a cloud forest National Park and the largest open volcano in the world, reaching a staggering mile in diameter and depths of 320 meters. Due to the volatile nature of the volcano, you will be limited to just 20 minutes at the crater viewpoint. You must wear a hard hat at all times, but these will be provided for you.

road trip costa rica 10 days

After navigating the windy mountainous roads, you will journey from Poas Volcano to The Doka Estate, a family-run coffee plantation that offers world-class coffee tours. Here, you can learn everything regarding the step-by-step process of coffee making, from cultivation to processing. At the end of your visit, indulge in a tasting experience and discover why the world is coffee mad.

After your caffeine fix, you will then journey further West to the town of Sarchí . This small town has put itself on the map with its colorful and ornately decorated oxcarts. Also a National Symbol of Costa Rica, the oxcarts are handcrafted in Sarchí and transported across the country.

Sarchi, Costa Rica

Within the town, discover local life and craft markets. Walk around the vibrant streets and marvel at the equally vibrant cathedral.


Driving: Driving to Poas Volcano from San Jose is beautiful. About 45km from the city, it will take approximately 1.5 hours to reach Poas by car. Head Northwest, going through the city of Alajuela, and continue along Route 130. Merge onto Route 146 and take a left at the junction. Follow signs to Parque Nacional Volcan Poas. The road up to Poas allows you to take in the magical views of the entire Central Valley.

From Poas, head South back down Route 146 and Route 712 towards the town of Cerrillal. Continue past Iglesia de San Isidro and follow the road round towards The Doka Estate. The signage is good.

After Doka, you will be heading West towards Sarchí, along Route 107. You will pass the towns of San Pedro de Poas and Santa Gertrudis Sur, and finally Grecia. Grecia is a large town and from here, signs to Sarchí are clear. Follow Route 118 out of Grecia and towards Sarchí. When in doubt, use the app Waze.

Public Transport: You will need to change the bus here. First, head to Alajuela on the TUASA bus. Buses to Alajuela are some of the most frequent in Costa Rica, leaving every 5-10 minutes. From Alajuela, take the bus directly to Sarchí with the TUAN bus company. Travel time will be close to an hour from Alajuela.

There is a public bus that leaves, Tuasa, that departs from San Jose Avenida 2 at 8:30 am to Poas Volcano. The roads are in good condition, but the topography of the area makes for one winding road. Travel time takes approximately 2 hours and costs $3. This is great if you want to do a day trip from San Jose, however, public transport from Poas to elsewhere is extremely limited.  

Alternatively, you can take a guided trip from San Jose: Poás Volcano, Coffee Plantation & La Paz Waterfall Gardens

Where to stay

If you are not renting your own vehicle it is preferable to stay the night in San Jose. Bosque de Paz : This rustic-style property offers traditional lodgings, with wooden furnishings and beautiful natural scenery. Rooms are spacious and comfortable and offer spectacular views of the surrounding jungle scenery. Located near the town of Sarchí, this is a great place for you to recuperate, ready for your onward journey through Costa Rica.

You might be interested in: The best day trips from San Jose .

Day 3-4: Manuel Antonio

Things to do in Costa Rica - Manuel Antonio beaches

Another early rise, today you will leave the Central Valley of Costa Rica and head towards the Pacific coastline of Manuel Antonio.

Although the smallest National Park in Costa Rica, Manuel Antonio is a must-see. Encompassing rugged jungles, white sandy beaches and coral reefs, the sheer abundance of life here is outstanding. With approximately 200 species of birds and mammals, this is your first chance to indulge in the true Costa Rican wilderness. Lose yourself in the jungle trails, lounge on the tropical beaches, or try a spot of watersports.

You will spend 2 days and 1 night in Manuel Antonio. Be sure to discover the National Park, as well as the neighboring town of Quepos, where a plethora of shops and restaurants can be found.

Driving: Manuel Antonio is one of the most popular destinations in Costa Rica. The roads are well paved and well signposted. From Sarchí, the drive is easy and takes roughly 3 hours. Take the Pan-American highway West, following Route 1 to San Ramon. From here, it is a direct road Atenas, where you will take the exit to Orotina. Your next stop will be the coastal town of Jaco. From Jaco, it is a direct road through a range of landscapes.

Public Transport: The easiest place to take a bus to Manuel Antonio is from San Jose, where the Tracopa express bus leaves thrice daily, with no reservation required. Buses are cheap, costing $10 for a return trip to Manuel Antonio. However, another option is to fly from the domestic terminal at Juan Santamaria Airport

Highlights of Manuel Antonio

Explore the National Park

Named as one of the most beautiful parks in the world by Forbes in 2011, Manuel Antonio National Park has a rich biodiversity. Hike the many trails that can be found, but don’t forget to keep your head peeled up to the canopy. You may find sloths, monkeys, and scarlet macaws!

Some trails venture off the beaten track and offer awe-inspiring views of the surrounding jungle and ocean. This National Park is a gem of Costa Rica.

Beaches of Manuel Antonio

Costa Rica is famed for its tropical beaches, and Manuel Antonio is no exception. Within the park itself, a few different beaches can be found. Some, such as Playa Escondido are remote and deep in the National Park. Others, such as Manuel Antonio Beach is at the end of the main trail. This beach has been voted as one of the best beaches in the world by Lonely Planet.

The beaches around Manuel Antonio are a haven for activities. Simply relax and soak up the rays, or snorkel offshore to discover some of the amazing marine life on offer.

Manuel Antonio Town

After a day of exploring the National Park, a trip into town is the perfect way to finish. Beachside restaurants can be found near the entrance of the National Park, offering beers and cocktails, as well as tasty food. Try ceviche, a citrus-cured fresh fish dish.

Where to stay in Manuel Antonio

There are plenty of accommodation types throughout Manuel Antonio to cater to any budget. Tabulia Tree : Set at the top of a hill and surrounded by jungle, Tabulia Tree is a great place to escape the crowds. Rustic accommodation with comfortable rooms and a pool on site. Incredible for wildlife, with sightings of squirrel monkeys and scarlet macaws nearby. Hotel Villabosque : Located just meters from the beach and the entrance of the National Park, this hotel is ideally situated in the thick of the action. Rooms are basic, yet comfortable. Hotel Playa Espadilla : Another hotel located close to the beach. However, off the main road and surrounded by jungle, this location is less hectic than other beachside locations. The property is clean, but on the more expensive side, with rooms starting at $229 per night.

Day 5-6: Monteverde

road trip costa rica 10 days

After a day of immersing yourself within the coastal community of Costa Rica, today you will be heading inland to explore other unique ecosystems. Welcome to the magical lands of Monteverde Cloud Forest.

Globally, cloud forests cover just 1% of forest systems. Found in tropical and subtropical environments, a constant layer of cloud swamps the landscape. This moist and mystical world is home to strange and wonderful creatures, from elusive birds to endemic amphibians.

The trees themselves are smaller than their rainforest counterparts. Twisted in an array of unique shapes, Monteverde is like no other place on Earth. Thick coverings of moss and lichens steal the scene and epiphytes, such as orchids and bromeliads, drape through the air. Discover the endless trails and species that can be found here.

Transportation to Monteverde

Driving: Located 190km from Manuel Antonio, it will take you approximately 3.5 hours to reach Monteverde via rental car. A very easy drive, follow Route 34 towards Puntarenas. From Puntarenas, the road drastically changes into smaller, (sometimes) dirt tracks. Be careful. You will meander through the beautiful landscapes, passing small communities. Follow Route 606 to Monteverde. The signage is good.

Public Transport: From Manuel Antonio, your best bet is to get a bus once again into San Jose and then an onward journey to Monteverde. You will have to change bus companies and terminals, look out for Transmonterverde Terminal 7 in San Jose Downtown. From San Jose, the journey time is approximately 4.5 hours.

road trip costa rica 10 days

Highlights of Monteverde

Monteverde National Park

Monteverde is more than 1500 meters in elevation. Coming from Manuel Antonio, it may feel like you have ventured to a completely different county. Everything has changed; from the vegetation, the climate, and even the people.

There are over 8 miles of hiking trails within the Park, home to the elusive Resplendent Quetzal. This colorful bird stands out like a sore thumb in this gloomy environment. However, they are hard to spot and it is recommended to book a tour guide to help you spot this incredible and rare bird.

Monteverde is in fact a bird-watchers haven. Within this system, you can find three-wattled bellbirds, toucans, umbrella birds, and many more.

Monteverde Cloud Forest costa rica

This is one for the adrenaline junkies out there. A unique way of experiencing the cloud forest, soar through the air and feel the rush of wind in your hair. With thick clouds rolling in, and the sounds of mysterious creatures all around, this is certainly one for the bucket list.

There are many companies that offer this experience in Monteverde. Some of the most popular companies in the area are Selvatura Park and Sky Adventures Monteverde Park. An additional bonus is the opportunity to either bungee jump or experience the superman position. A great day out for couples and families alike.

Hanging Bridges

A vastly popular attraction of Monteverde, the hanging bridges offer a unique perspective of the jungle below. Suspended over deep valleys, you will see the cloud forest in a completely different light. Look out for arboreal animals, such as tree snakes and sloths.

Check out: The best things to do in Monteverde.

Where to stay in Monteverde

Hotel Poco a Poco : Close to the reserve, Poco a Poco is a mix of modern architecture and traditional furnishings. After a day of hiking the forest, relax in the heated swimming pools and listen to the chorus of nature. Hotel Fonda Vela : Just mere minutes from the entrance of Monteverde National Park, this hotel is ideally suited for anyone with an interest in all things nature. The accommodation is in keeping with the natural scenery and comfortable.

Day 7-8: Arenal

Arenal Volcano - What to see in Arenal Costa Rica

Perhaps the most popular tourist destination in Costa Rica, Arenal boasts areas of outstanding natural beauty.

Leaving Monteverde, you will journey Northeast towards the town of La Fortuna. This small-town borders the Arenal Volcano National Park, which in turn is home to the mighty Arenal Volcano. Once the most active volcano in the country, now lays dormant. Rising 1700 meters, this volcano dominates the landscape and shapes the entire region.

There are a wealth of activities on offer for you to see and discover, from learning about all things chocolate to wildlife hikes in search of sloths! The region is home to lowland rainforests that support huge biodiversity.

Transportation to Arenal

Driving: Roads are well paved and maintained (apart from a section near Monteverde). However, a National Park and lake make for natural obstacles. Because of this, the 66-mile journey takes upwards of 4 hours by car. There are options to book a ferry service across Lake Arenal, which will cut time considerably.

From Monteverde, follow Route 145 to Tilaran. From here, pick up Route 142 which will take you around Lake Arenal and the old town of Nuevo Arenal. This is a great place to stop for breakfast or lunch, with picturesque views of the lake. Continue to follow Route 142 all the way into La Fortuna.

Public Transport: From Monteverde, public transport is incredibly long and inefficient, taking upwards of 8 hours. It may be better to hire a shared shuttle service, that could cost between $70- $120 and take 4 hours.

road trip costa rica 10 days

Highlights of Arenal

Arenal Volcano National Park

Access to the slopes of the volcano is forbidden, however, discover the amazing views of the volcano close-up from the Arenal Volcano National Park. Wander the many trails and pass through a variety of habitat types. Look out for monkeys and sloths!

Lake Arenal

The biggest freshwater lake in Costa Rica, Lake Arenal is great for those who love watersports. Try kayaking around the lake in search of aquatic creatures, or have a go at a spot of fishing. Around the lake, get your lungs pumping with a brisk walk or cycle ride to appreciate the stunning landscape.

Hot Springs - what to do in Arenal Costa Rica

Hot Springs

This is an absolute must of Arenal. After an exhausting journey of traveling and hiking, relax in the natural, geothermal waters of Arenal Volcano. Heated water bubbles up to the surface, forming pools in which you can indulge. A great activity to do at night when the surrounding jungle comes to life. There are multiple facilities to choose from, catering to any budget.

Arenal Waterfall

Set amid 210 acres of premontane tropical wet forest, a 70-meter-high waterfall cascades down. The path to the falls is paved, however, you will face around 500 steps along the way! Perfect on a hot day, where you can bask in the refreshingly cool waterfall pools after.

Check out: Things to do in Arenal.

Lake Arenal - Things to do in Arenal

Where to stay in Arenal

Hotel Magic Mountain : World-class hospitality, with exquisite views to match. With an on-site spa, you will be able to relax, all the while surrounded by stunning scenery. Tifakara Lodge : Tucked in a secluded spot in the foothills of Arenal Volcano, Tifakara boasts individual cabin-style lodgings. Nature is at the forefront of design here. Enjoy the hot tubs, whilst watching the tree frogs hop around.

Day 9-10: Tortuguero

River Tours in Tortuguero Costa Rica

Often referred to as “The Amazon of Costa Rica”, Tortuguero is one of the most biologically rich places on Earth. Set in the Caribbean side of Costa Rica, in the Northern province of Limon, Tortuguero receives as much as 6ft of rain per year.

This exceedingly high rainfall, coupled with the tropical humidity, has allowed many species to thrive. The main town of Tortuguero is isolated and relies on the network of waterways to import goods, and visitors, into this small fishing village.

Tortuguero National Park, Costa Rica

One of the best spectacles of Tortuguero is the turtles that come to lay their eggs on Tortuguero Beach. Nearly hunted to extinction, dedicated conservation and research have stabilized the population of green, olive ridley, and leatherback turtles here. The best time to visit to see the turtles is between the months of July – October.

You will spend your final two days in this haven of life.

Transportation to Tortuguero

Driving: Unlike other places in Costa Rica, Tortuguero is cut off from the outside world. Only accessible via boat or air, you will find no cars in Tortuguero. There is however a car park in the small portside town of La Pavona, where you can pay per day to keep your car in a guarded area.

From Arenal, follow Route 4 to Guapiles. Then, head North following Route 247 towards La Pavona.

Public Transport: Public transport is not recommended from La Fortuna to Tortuguero. Whilst it is possible, it will take near an entire day of bus changes and boat rides. Not ideal for those on a tight itinerary. Instead, opt for a private shuttle directly from La Fortuna.

road trip costa rica 10 days

Highlights of Tortuguero

Tortuguero National Park

Covering an area larger than 46,000 acres, Tortuguero National Park encompasses a variety of ecosystems including lowland tropical rainforest, mangrove, freshwater, and coastal. You can hire local guides to help identify wildlife along the trails.

River Tours

Possibly one of the few places in Costa Rica where walking isn’t the best way to see wildlife, Tortuguero plays host to a labyrinth of rivers and tributaries. Discover kayaking or canoe rentals, that allow you to penetrate the deep rainforest to learn about the inhabitants that reside here.

road trip costa rica 10 days

Night Tours

Many species around the area of Tortuguero can only be found during nighttime hours. These are nocturnal animals. The best way to observe these creatures is to book a Tortuguero Night Tour. With an experienced guide, hike down open trails and the Tortuguero wilderness to find sloths, snakes, frogs, raccoons, and more.

Check out: Things to do in Tortuguero.

Where to stay in Tortuguero

Pachira Lodge : A large eco-lodge, Pachira is set amid 34 acres of exotic flora and fauna. Just 5 minutes to the entrance of the national parka and a few minutes from town, this is an ideally situated lodge for the best of both worlds. Mawamba Lodge : A touch of luxury in the jungles of Tortuguero, Mawamba uses locally sourced materials to keep traditions alive, and its carbon footprint low. On one side of the lodge, you are treated to the Caribbean Sea. On the other side, is the spectacular Tortuguero canal, where an array of wildlife can be spotted.

Day 11: San Jose

Leaving the tropical paradise that is Tortuguero, you will then make your way back to the city of San Jose, where you will depart back home.

Pura Vida and safe travels.

You might also be interested in: Things to do in Costa Rica

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road trip costa rica 10 days

We spent a total of ten days in Costa Rica, and I can guarantee this won’t be our last time. Costa Rica is relatively a small country encompassing 51,100 square kilometers. It can roughly be compared to the state of West Virginia in the US or Denmark in Europe. In our Costa Rica 10 day itinerary, were we able to focus on some of our favorite places the country has to offer. Our 10-day Costa Rica Itinerary allowed us to explore the country’s treasures, focusing on top destinations for fellow adventure enthusiasts. From marveling at Arenal Volcano and unwinding in Tabacon hot springs to traversing Mistico’s hanging bridges in the lush rainforest and swimming in La Fortuna Waterfall , every moment was a thrill. Costa Rica caters to all travelers, whether it’s witnessing the turquoise waters of Rio Celeste at Tenorio Volcano National Park or catching a wave at Nosara’s renowned beaches. This visit marked our second journey to Costa Rica, where we explored La Fortuna, Bijagua, Rio Celeste, Nosara, and Monteverde. In addition to the meticulous planning advice we’ve put together, we have included our personal recommendations for activities, accommodations, tours, and stops for each day of the trip. You can choose to follow it precisely or utilize it as a foundation to customize and adjust your own road trip itinerary!

road trip costa rica 10 days


Duration | 7-10 Days Start | San Jose would be best, but arrival in Liberia is also an option Rental Car | Opt for nothing less than a 4×4 SIM Card | Purchase an international SIM card before your trip


DAY 01 | Arrive in San Jose – Stay at Villa Blanca Cloud Forest Hotel & Nature Reserve. DAY 02 | Drive to La Fortuna & Explore Volcan Arenal – Stay at Arenal Observatory Lodge & Trails. DAY 03 | Visit Mistico Hanging Bridges & Hot Springs – Stay at Arenal Observatory Lodge & Trails. DAY 04 | Explore Fortuna Waterfall – Drive to Rio Celeste – Stay at Rio Celeste Hideaway Hotel. DAY 05 | Visit Volcan Tenorio National Park – Stay again at Rio Celeste DAY 06 | Drive to Nosara – Stay at Tierra Magnifica Boutique Hotel DAY 07 | Enjoy a Beach Day & Rent an ATV – Stay at The Nomadic Hotel DAY 08 | Drive to Monteverde & Hike La Tigre Waterfall – Stay at Monteverde Lodge & Gardens by Boena DAY 09 | Drive to San Jose – Stay at Grano de Oro Hotel DAY 10 | Drop off Car – Fly Home

road trip costa rica 10 days


Our Costa Rica itinerary is meant to help you design every detail to your perfect vacation for your next adventure. This is a curated guide that explores the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, if you are looking for a Caribbean adventure we also have a 7 day travel guide for that coast of Costa Rica as well, including Volcan Poas, Sarapiqui River, Tortuguero and Limon.


For this particular itinerary we’ve carefully planned around the convenience of having a rental car at your disposal.  Given that some of the roads are unpaved, having a sturdy vehicle becomes crucial. We strongly suggest a 4×4 rental for exploring Costa Rica by road. However, if your short on time in Costa Rica and are looking to use only public transportation this is also an option. Public transportation in Costa Rica is not very reliable outside of the main city of San Jose, so we recommend private vans or a private driver for a trustworthy ride. Read | Renting A Car In Costa Rica, Essential Things You Need to Know | coming soon


There are two main airports in Costa Rica. The more popular one is situated in the capital, San Jose, which like us, most of you will arrive here. The second airport is located on the Nicoya Peninsula in Liberia. Both are great options, but we prefer Juan Santamaria International Airport in San Jose. Depending on what route or destinations in Costa Rica you are most interested in can be a deciding factor on what airport would suit your itinerary best.

road trip costa rica 10 days


Day 01 – fly in to san jose.

We recommend aiming for an early flight to reach San Jose before noon to avoid rush hour traffic when driving to your first destination. Driving during daylight is much easier on the winding roads. You can pick the car up from the airport, although most car rental companies will take you to their main office via van service close by where you will pick the car up. Our go to is Alamo. They are always so helpful, and there has never been any hidden fees or extras once we arrive. Our arrival being early in the morning, we like to get a head start on our road trip and head towards our first destination. However, if you are arriving later in the afternoon anywhere after 3PM we would recommend spending the night in San Jose and starting first thing in the morning the next day. Once stepping foot in our first hotel Villa Blanca Cloud Forest Hotel & Resort we spent the rest of the day exploring the property, both options have amazing little pathways where you can sight colibris or even rainforest frogs. They both also offer guided night tours which are pretty cool. You get to see all the nocturnal animals including tree frogs, armadillos, anteaters, three and two toed sloths and so much more.

Drive | Pick up rental car at Juan Santamaria International Airport in San Jose drive 74KM | 1 hour 57 minutes to Villa Blanca Cloud Forest Hotel & Retreat. Eat | Villa Blanca Cloud Forest Hotel & Resort has an amazing Jungle Q BBQ which is a Costa Rican twist on Texan BBQ and is a must try! They also have El Sendero Restaurant which has wonderful vegan options, we had the squash cream with coconut milk and it was delicious. Stay | If you are starting your road trip the same day like us, located an hour and half out of San Jose is the luxury stay at Villa Blanca Cloud Forest Hotel & Retreat or for budget travelers La Tigra Rainforest Lodge is amazing. However, if you are not starting until the next day our favorite options in San Jose are Grano de Oro or Hilton San Jose Sabana. These both have great access to La Sabana Park and Museum of Costa Rican Art and a bunch of restaurants. Tip | We would recommend bringing an extra layer, or light sweater or jacket. The cloud forests tend to get pretty chilly early in the morning and in the evening.

road trip costa rica 10 days


Waking up in the middle of the cloud forest in a wood cabin, as we explore the property and feed the new baby calf’s breakfast was the perfect way to jump start the day to our adventure. After a light buffet breakfast which is included in the stay at Villa Blanca we we’re off to our next destination La Fortuna, or better known as El Arenal. Since La Fortuna can be up to five hours from San Jose depending on traffic, we recommend the first night at Villa Blanca Cloud Forest Hotel & Retreat or La Tigra , which are located pretty much at the half way point. Having good nights rest to start our adventure is key. La Fortuna, home to the Arenal Volcano is honestly one of our favorite places in Costa Rica and every time we are in Costa Rica it is a must see for us. It never seizes to amaze, time and time again. The weather, no matter rain (expect a lot of rain, rainy season or not) or shine there is always something to do and its just magical being in the lush green rainforest, surrounded by animals and local wildlife. It is important to note, that depending on the weather and season you are traveling, the Arenal Volcano might not be visible. This happened our first time in Costa Rica, and although disappointing, there is still so much to do here. Once checking in to Arenal Observatory Lodge & Trails we noticed that the Volcano was visible and decided to go straight to our room, which was a Volcano room view. After enjoying the sights of the impressive Arenal Volcano, since still visible we decided to run off to the Arenal Volcano National Park. After starting our morning off with a tranquil hike and views at the Arenal Volcano National Park, we went in to town to get some well deserved lunch. We we’re so giddy from finally being able to see the volcano, that even the rain fall in the afternoon was enjoyable. Drive | Villa Blanca Cloud Forest to Arenal Observatory Lodge & Trails will take 2 1/2 hours – 94.1KM drive. Eat | Have lunch in La Fortuna center at Organico Fortuna or Rufino’s. We have eaten at both and highly recommend either. Also if you need a pick me up coffee we had the best coffee at Vita Cafe which carries only local brands of coffee from all over Costa Rica. Stay | This is our second time staying at The Arenal Observatory Lodge & Trails , although it isn’t the most luxurious it definitely has the best view of the Arenal Volcano and was actually once where the scientists of the Smithsonian Institute were lodged while studying the volcano. If you are looking for more luxurious options the Tabacon Thermal Resort or Nayara Springs should do the trick. Read | 9 Best Things to Do in La Fortuna

road trip costa rica 10 days


Waking up early is a must if you want to explore without the crowds while in La Fortuna. Staying at a hotel that has breakfast included is ideal, definitely when you are waking up so early in the morning. The breakfast at The Observatory Lodge & Trails is à la carte, and are pretty substantial portions. Mistico Park is something you just can not miss, there is something so magical about this park. We always get our entrances before hand online. And would definitely recommend getting in the park before 9AM when the tours and crowds start to arrive.

road trip costa rica 10 days

After wandering in the magical Mistico Park , it’s time to take a dip in the hot springs. We absolutely love the Hot Springs at Tabacon . They have a day pass for people who aren’t staying at the hotel. We also highly recommend you purchase these in advance on their website. It is a great way to spend your afternoon after your early morning hike. Tabacon can include lunch or dinner, at an extra cost. Both times we opted for the lunch and it was delicious and filling. The day pass starts at 10AM, just around the time you will be finishing up with Mistico and closes at 10PM. It’s also good to note that if you keep your bracelet on you can come and go as you please through out the day. Which is perfect if you decided not to include lunch at Tabacon.

road trip costa rica 10 days

Drive | Its a 30 minute – 14.2KM drive from the hotel to Mistico Park | From Mistico to Tabacon it will only be around 15 minutes away – 8.9KM drive and then a 20 minute | 11.5KM drive back to the hotel. Eat | As we mentioned above Tabacon includes a lunch for an extra fee. But if you are interested in eating somewhere in La Fortuna, we can highly recommend grabbing lunch at Organico Fortuna or Don Ruffino. They are both located 15 minutes from Tabacon . Stay | Enjoy a second night at The Arenal Observatory Lodge & Trails. Tip | If you decide not to indulge in a Tabacon day pass, there is a public entrance to natural hot springs a couple of meters from Tabacon . The entrance is kind of hidden off the road, but anyone around can guide you. Read | Everything you need to know Mistico Park & A Short Guide to Tabacon Hot Springs | coming soon

road trip costa rica 10 days


A cold dip in the La Fortuna waterfall first thing in the morning sure is one way to wake up. This 75M waterfall is definitely a sight to see. Our visit to El Arenal, wouldn’t be complete without exploring it. La Fortuna Waterfall is so refreshing, the water is cold but swimming is allowed so definitely bring your swim suit. It is nestled in the rainforest, and the hike took around 2 hours total. Getting there first thing in the morning allowed us to beat the crowds. We had the waterfall to ourselves for a good 20 minutes. If you don’t buy your tickets in advance on the official website, you can expect to wait on a pretty long line. So we recommend buying them here – La Fortuna Waterfall tickets. To reach La Fortuna Waterfall be prepared for a good leg day as for the waterfall is at the bottom of little over 500 steps.

road trip costa rica 10 days

After our morning dip, we headed off to Rio Celeste Hideaway Hotel . Once we arrived it wasn’t time to check in, but we dropped our bags off with reception and explored the grounds, and got lunch at the hotel restaurant Kantala. With 80 acres of rainforest reserve at our fingertips including private trails, exclusive swimming areas, and hanging bridges there was never a dull moment.

Drive | Arenal Observatory Hotel to La Fortuna Waterfall is 24.3KM | 30 minutes total so leaving early is a must | After you will find yourself an hour and a half from the Hideaway Hotel in Rio Celeste or Bijagua or 73.1KM. Eat | After enjoying a light breakfast at the hotel, we recommend if you can to get lunch at the Rio Celeste Hideaway Hotel restaurant. The quesadilla on the lunch menu was to die for, and definitely hit the spot after 1000 steps up and down. Stay | There is an array of accommodations at Rio Celeste, but for those luxury travelers we’d recommend Rio Celeste Hideaway Hotel especially if it’s only for one night, the grounds themselves are incredible. For travelers on a budget try Sueño Río Celeste Boutique B&B or Finca La Amistad Cacao Lodge.

Read | The Ultimate Guide on How to Visit La Fortuna Waterfall | coming soon

road trip costa rica 10 days


Breakfast is included at the Hideaway Hotel and was from 7AM-11AM, so we decided to get breakfast before visiting Rio Celeste. The Parque Nacional Volcan Tenorio opens at 8AM and you guessed it, getting there early is key if you want to beat the crowds. We purchased our tickets online on the official governments website for the National Park, and selected the earliest entry time. It is important to note that there is no parking at Parque Nacional Volcan Tenorio , but there were designated parking lots steps from the park with tour guides who charge you for a spot. For $4USD or $2000 Colones this was the only place anywhere near the Volcan Tenorio to park, so remember to bring cash. Located in the Guanacaste Volcanic Mountain Range, Parque Nacional Volcan Tenorio is best known for Celeste Waterfall. This waterfall has enchanting blue colored water, however does not allow any swimming. The whole hike lasted around 2 to 3 hours for us to explore the whole National Park. Again be ready for another leg day, this time with 250 stairs down to the Celeste Waterfall and 250 back up it was definitely a work out. The Tenorio Volcano National Park had everything from hanging bridges, natural hot springs and wildlife while hiking. Rio Celeste is definitely worth a visit on your Costa Rica itinerary.

road trip costa rica 10 days

Once we were all wrapped up with the National Park, we booked a tubing adventure in Rio Celeste. They offered a 1PM or 3PM tour which was perfect for that afternoon heat. We had a blast, and the water is so refreshing and crazy blue. Another option would be to visit the Tapir Valley Nature Reserve , which is open until 5PM. Eat | While breakfast is included at the hotel, we decided on having lunch pool side before our tubing adventure in Rio Celeste. For dinner out try Restaurante La Amistad or Restaurante Tapirus Paradise. Stay | Relax and enjoy one more night at the beautiful Rio Celeste Hideaway Hotel. Read | Visiting Tenorio Volcano National Park, A Complete Guide | coming soon

road trip costa rica 10 days


Our last morning in Rio Celeste Hideaway Hotel , and it’s bittersweet. We woke up early feeling extremely relaxed and had breakfast with the birds and coati’s. Then we ventured on to our next destination. From here we traveled the longest distance on the road trip itinerary, from Bijagua to Nosara .

road trip costa rica 10 days

Away from the rainforest now over to the sunny beaches. We left at 9AM, but leaving anytime around or before 12PM will be optimal to arrive just in time to enjoy the sunset. We do recommend leaving as early as possible though, taking in to mind that the main road from Liberia Airport until Nosara is pretty adventurous to say the least. You can expect decent roads for about a quarter of the ride, and the rest is a bumpy ride on dirt roads with winding curves. Once arriving in Nosara , we chose to try out two different hotels for our two nights here. Our first hotel being Tierra Magnifica which covers stunning valley and ocean views. This hotel also offers access for guests to the Guilded Iguana’s Surf Club, located in Playa Guiones. Where we were given access to lockers and changing areas, you also will be able to rent surf boards or take a class. They also have a juice bar for a post-surf refreshment. Drive | Hideaway Hotel in Rio Celeste or Bijagua make a pit stop for lunch at La Choza de Laurel 94.8KM | half way to Tierra Magnifica Hotel in Nosara 114KM | 4 hours and 22 minutes. Eat | If you are hungry you can make a pit stop at La Choza de Laurel or Little Lucha for tacos near Liberia airport. Arriving Nosara , we decided to have dinner at Las Huacas restaurant at the hotel, but Il Basilico is another great alternative. Stay | For views stay at Tierra Magnifica Boutique Hotel , but if you are looking to be in the center of it all you can’t go wrong with The Nomadic Hotel or The Gilded Iguana. Read | Best Nosara Travel Guide & Our Top Nosara Restaurants, A Short Guide on Where to Eat & Drink

road trip costa rica 10 days


A well deserved relaxing beach day is what’s on the menu today, and we couldn’t be more excited. Taking a dip in the Pacific ocean, cooling off and sun bathing is always an essential part of any vacation. After our delicious breakfast at Las Huacas, we switched over to The Nomadic Hotel for our second night in Nosara . Which is walking distance to the beach and in the center of it all. Having the ATV today will make all the sense in the world. The beaches are all accessed by unpaved and pretty bumpy roads. Get ready to get dirty, even if it’s not raining dirt will be flying everywhere. But it’s definitely all part of the Nosara laid back lifestyle.

road trip costa rica 10 days

We headed downtown, and arrived at The Nomadic Hotel where our room was ready early which made it easy for us to store the luggage. Sadly we didn’t have time to make it to San Juanillo Beach this time, but we have heard that this is the best swimming beach near Nosara . If you have the time, it is around 45 minutes each way but everyone says it is worth it. We happily ended up walking the NCA paths, stopping in local shops and ended up getting a pick me up juice at Go Juice which was so refreshing we went again the next day. Organico grocery store was top notch, we got pre made food here for our picnic at the beach. They also have a bakery right across the street with coffee and daily baked pastries. All the beaches are still very much virgin, so no palapas or beach loungers were in sight. Be prepared as the sun was blazing hot, as well as the sand and there definitely were no clouds or shade close by. We also decided to stop by Perozah which is a cute little beach restaurant on Garza Beach. They have a full tapas menu which are great to share, they were all delicious.

road trip costa rica 10 days

Guiones Beach has a secret access we found out about by one of the locals. As you drive from Nosara towards Garza, you will see a big sign that says “Tico Massage” with a sandy road. You will access the road and at you will end up at another side of Guiones Beach . This end is much less crowded, we had the beach pretty much to ourselves.

For a perfect end to the day, we ran off to La Luna for a sunset dinner. We had made a reservation in advance for 5:30PM. Timing was perfect, we got there a little early and were seated right away. La Luna restaurant is located right on Playa Pelada , so we headed down to the beach and soaked in the last bit of sunlight of the day. Sitting back and enjoying a beautiful sunset over the ocean with a cocktail in hand, what better way to end the day. Whatever you do try their pizzas, it was probably one of the best pizzas we’ve had in a while. The beef carpaccio was also delicious!

road trip costa rica 10 days

Drive | Tierra Magnifica Hotel 9KM to The Nomadic Hotel | 10 min walking to Guiones beach | 7.4KM ATV to Perozah for lunch | 14 min by ATV | After you will find yourself going back to 7.2KM to The Nomadic Hotel to get ready for dinner | 8 min by ATV to La Luna restaurant | Playa Pelada . Eat | Eggs benedict for breakfast at Tierra Magnifica’s restaurant Las Huacas with a view. For lunch we stopped at Organico for a pre-made meal to pic nic on the beach of our choice or try Perozah at Garza Beach . Top it off with a sunset dinner at La Luna at Playa Pelada. Stay | Our second night we stayed at The Nomadic Hotel but The Gilded Iguana is also a wonderful option. Read | The Best Beaches In Nosara, Costa Rica | Coming soon

road trip costa rica 10 days


Starting our way this morning heading towards San Jose, our last stop on this Costa Rica itinerary is Monteverde Cloud Forest. Getting to Monteverde included turns and winds up mountains with mist and fog making the ride even more adventurous. We arrived at 10AM to Monteverde Lodge & Gardens by Böëna and checked in to the hotel early so we could drop our luggage off and be on our way to our last hike of the trip. El Tigre Waterfall is a moderate to advanced hike and was around four to five hours total, taking our time and taking dips in the water as we went. After a tiring but definitely enjoyable hike we had lunch at their panoramic view restaurant. El Tigre was definitely the most difficult and strenuous hike we did in Costa Rica. If you are not up for it, zip lining at Sky Adventures Monteverde is a great alternative, where you will get to enjoy the rain forest from a different perspective. A romantic dinner to wrap up our trip while watching the sunset is always best done at San Lucas Treetop Dining Experience. It’s a nine course tasting menu which took us on a journey of food from all over Costa Rica, and they use only local ingredients. We also saw sloths up in the trees here while dinning, which was a cherry on top.

road trip costa rica 10 days

Drive | The Nomadic Hotel to Monteverde Lodge & Gardens by Böëna is 154KM | around three hours and 21 minutes ride through the winding mountains. Eat | For lunch try Stella’s Monteverde or if hiking El Tigre Waterfall their panoramic restaurant is a great option. Have a romantic dinner & culinary experience at San Lucas Treetop Dining Experience or if tired after the hike El Jardin restaurant at Monteverde Lodge & Gardens by Böëna is perfection. Stay | You can’t go wrong with the toucanet suite at Monteverde Lodge & Gardens by Böëna. We were lucky enough to have toucans visit right outside our window in the morning. The restaurant is also really good, but a little on the pricey side.

road trip costa rica 10 days


We opted to stay the night in San Jose since we had an early flight the next day, however you can decide to stay one more night in Monteverde and drive from to San Jose the same day of your departure depending on your flight time. Once arriving San Jose, we definitely felt the transition in to the hustle and bustle of the city with traffic and honking horns. Although back in the city, San Jose still has so much to offer. Venturing off to the Jade Museum or the Pre-Colombian Gold Museum, while enjoying a stroll in the city brought us back to reality. It’s like it was all a dream. Last but not least a stop by the local artisans market for local and authentique gifts for loved ones back home. Drive | Check out at Monteverde Lodge & Gardens by Böëna and head towards San Jose for about 139KM | two hours and 45 minutes which is best to leave early to beat the afternoon rush hours. Arrive at Grano de Oro hotel for you last stay. Eat | For dinner El Novillo Alegre Sabana is a great option. Some other great options in the area are Restaurante Machu Picchu, Le Bistrot de Paris & Soda Tapia San José. Stay | Grano de Oro or Hilton San Jose Sabana both are conveniently located 20 minutes from the airport give or take depending on traffic. They are both located in a safe neighborhood of San Jose, near La Sabana Park and the National Stadium of Costa Rica.

road trip costa rica 10 days


Renting A Car In Costa Rica, Essential Things You Need to Know 9 Best Things to Do in La Fortuna Everything you need to know Mistico Park The Ultimate Guide on How to Visit La Fortuna Waterfall Best Nosara Travel Guide


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The Ultimate 10 Day Costa Rica Itinerary

Costa Rica Itinerary 10 Day

While Costa Rica may be a small country, it’s packed with things to do. This country is filled with pristine beaches, moody cloud forests, towering volcanoes, thundering waterfalls, and amazing wildlife. An outdoor lover’s dream! Luckily, it’s possible to see all these highlights during one, 10-day road trip! I put together this Costa Rica road trip itinerary exactly as I did it, so you can enjoy the best of this beautiful country too.

Ready to hit the road? Here’s my ultimate 10-day Costa Rica itinerary! 

Day 1: Arrive in San Jose

Start your holiday by flying into Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO, not to be confused with California’s San Jose airport!). This airport is located on the western side of Costa Rica’s capital city, San Jose, and is the perfect starting point for your 10-day itinerary.

Our flight arrived late in the evening, so we stayed at an inexpensive hotel near the airport and then started our trip early the following morning.

Swimming at Nayara tented camp

While driving in Costa Rica might not be as relaxing as this, it is definitely doable!

Renting a car

While there are many tour companies that can take you sightseeing around the country, for the ultimate freedom to come and go as you please, I recommend renting a car . We used Adobe , a popular local agency who will conveniently drop off your rental car at the hotel. However, be sure to call and confirm this arrangement with them – we booked our car online and there was some confusion as to the dropoff time, which ended up delaying our departure from San Jose by a few hours.

Don’t be intimidated by driving in Costa Rica – while there are many winding, steep roads in the mountains, it is very manageable . To make your drive as easy as possible, I recommend getting a four-wheel drive car or SUV for navigating these mountain roads, especially around the Monteverde area. While we rented a small front wheel drive Hyundai and managed it, I would’ve been a lot less anxious on the road with a bigger car! 

If you’re prone to motion sickness, consider bringing some medication to take before getting in the car. While doable, the roads are filled with tight turns that will get you dizzy in no time!

Finally, always keep your belongings either hidden in your trunk or with you and never visible within your car as petty crime is not uncommon. Many tourist attractions and restaurants have parking attendants who will watch your car in exchange for a small tip. Two dollars or 3000 colones is generally a reasonable tip.

Once you’ve got your rental car, it’s time to hit the road and head to our first stop: Arenal.

Days 2-3: Arenal Region

One of the most famous places in Costa Rica is Arenal Volcano, a perfectly shaped volcano that until 2010 was one of the most active in the world . This area is filled with amazing outdoor activities from hiking to hot springs!

road trip costa rica 10 days

Swimming at the river on the side of the waterfall!

Hike La Fortuna Waterfall

Our first stop was at the gorgeous 200-foot La Fortuna Waterfall . This waterfall has become synonymous with Costa Rica travel and no itinerary would be complete without it! A local nonprofit  manages the area around La Fortuna to prevent overtourism, and an $18 ticket will give you access to hike down to the base of the waterfall (down and back up all 530+ steps), swim in the river, and visit a butterfly garden. Plan to spend about two hours here to enjoy all the area has to offer.

Being such a beautiful destination, La Fortuna does get quite packed with tourists. To get the best experience, arrive as early as possible to avoid the crowds . When we arrived at 10:00 AM, there were enough people there to make it feel crowded – we had to wait in line for a picture without people, which really diluted the experience. 

road trip costa rica 10 days

Soooo many stairs.

I would recommend either driving to the waterfall or taking a bus or taxi as opposed to walking from the town. While it may not look far on a map, it is quite a hilly area and you still need to get down and up 500 stairs! 

Stop for lunch at a traditional soda

Next, it’s time to refuel and head to your next adventure! Stop for a traditional Costa Rican lunch at a soda , or local mom-and-pop style restaurant. Be sure to try casado, a typical Costa Rican lunch dish that includes rice, beans, cooked veggies, and a protein, alongside a salad and roasted plantains. It’s inexpensive and delicious!

road trip costa rica 10 days

I became obsessed with hanging bridges on this trip. Such an amazing way to see the rainforest!

Walk in the clouds at Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park

Your next stop is Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park in the mountains of La Fortuna, approximately 30 minutes from La Fortuna Waterfall. This nature preserve allows visitors to hike sustainably through the forest and experience Costa Rica’s biodiversity up close. Most spectacularly, the two-mile trail around the park includes 20 hanging bridges that wind you through the forest’s canopy for a truly bird’s-eye view of this beautiful region!

lesbian couple talking in bed at Nayara tented camp

This tented camp was one of the most epic places I’ve ever stayed!

After a long day of stairs and bridges, it’s time to rest up! There are a ton of hotels, hostels, and Airbnbs in this area. We splurged on a luxury hotel here, Nayara Tented Camp (it was one of the best places we’ve ever stayed, I cannot recommend it enough!), but there is something for everyone’s price range.

road trip costa rica 10 days

After a long day of hiking, this is exactly what you need!

Soak in the Hot Springs

Start the next day with an early trip to the hot springs. These naturally-occurring hot springs were formed after some major volcanic eruptions at Arenal in the 1960s and are perfect for soaking sore muscles. 

Many hotels in the area have hot springs on their properties that you can use, or you can visit the one free hot spring in La Fortuna – the Tabacon River! To find it, you can park on the road near the Tabacon building and walk across the road and down about 100 meters. Definitely arrive early in the day to beat the crowds (and find a parking spot along the road).

View of Arenal volcano from 1968 hiking trail

Arenal Volcano is back there in the distance! Sadly, the clouds never cleared while we were there (but apparently did the day after we left…bad luck).

Hike Arenal 1968 Trail

You can’t leave La Fortuna without getting up close and personal with Arenal Volcano! As this is technically still an active volcano, access to the top is restricted, but you can hike near the base. The best places to do this are Arenal National Park and the Arenal 1968 park . Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to visit both, so we chose to go to the Arenal 1968 park , which has trails that weave through the lava fields left by the 1968 eruption. 

While the hike was over some challenging terrain, a little over halfway through the trail, we rounded a corner and climbed a final steep set of rocks and were rewarded with beautiful vistas that made the climb completely worth it. From here we could see Arenal Volcano towering in front of us, Arenal Lake across the landscape, and lava fields and forest sprawling out below . Even on a cloudy day, it was gorgeous.

Optional Detour: Hike Rio Celeste Waterfall

At this point in your Costa Rica itinerary, you have an optional detour. If time allows, I would highly recommend driving north to Rio Celeste waterfall. This lesser known waterfall within Tenorio Volcano National Park has naturally-occurring turquoise waters that are unbelievably beautiful . Before you go, be sure to check the day’s forecast from the Tenorio Volcano National Park Facebook page , as cloudy or rainy weather conditions can dilute the color of the water.

This detour adds about an hour to your drive, plus hiking time of about two to three hours. While the entrance to the waterfall is only 30 minutes from the trailhead, there are additional trails past the waterfall that you can hike as well.

Want to know more about visiting Arenal? Check out my post on the Top Things to Do in Arenal, Costa Rica !

Sunset on drive to Monteverde

The gorgeous sunset we saw on our drive to Monteverde!

Days 4-5: Monteverde Region

Next up is Monteverde, home of some of Costa Rica’s most famous cloud forests! A cloud forest is essentially a rainforest at a high altitude, which means you’re driving into the mountains!

To be honest, the 3+ hour drive from La Fortuna to Monteverde was extremely challenging and the only time during the trip that I had second thoughts about driving (although as I mentioned above, I would’ve felt better in an SUV or four-wheel drive car). The drive was filled with many sharp turns and hills, and road conditions varied but often included potholes and mud. I would strongly recommend driving this in the daytime, as at night it will get very challenging to see, especially if it is raining.

road trip costa rica 10 days

Lunch and a view!

Stop at Cafe Macadamia 

Break up the drive to Monteverde with a stop at Cafe Macadamia, a roadside restaurant serving up delicious eats and juices (including traditional Costa Rican food) . Their patio in the back looks over Arenal Lake and the surrounding mountains. It was the perfect rest stop!

Spend the night in an Airbnb or one of the many local hotels that are tucked between the trees of the cloud forest. 

Climbing ficus tree

So cool! I’ve never seen anything like this before.

Climb the Ficus Tree (El Arbor Hueco)

Our first adventure in Monteverde was to a slightly off the beaten path attraction: a large ficus tree! These trees are quite common in this area, although can be damaging to the rest of the forest. Essentially, they grow around an existing tree and sap its resources, until the original tree dies and rots away. When that happens, all that’s left is the shell of the ficus tree, just like this one!

This tree was about 75 feet tall, and the inside of the tree offers a unique view of the intricate web of branches climbing towards the sky. I’ve never seen anything like it!

Walking on hanging bridges

More hanging bridges! This one was amazing, it was so long!

Explore Selvatura Park

Selvatura Park is the perfect stop if you have limited time in Monteverde, because it has a little bit of everything! You can walk the hanging bridges through the top of the cloud forest, get an adrenaline rush ziplining over the trees, and see lots of animals in the hummingbird garden, butterfly garden and reptile exhibition, and sloth sanctuary. 

A word of warning: the drive to Selvatura Park was challenging . While short, it was almost entirely dirt and gravel once we left the main city of Monteverde. The unpaved road plus numerous potholes definitely kept me on my toes, but by driving slowly, we made it in our little sedan with no issues or flat tires. Just be mentally prepared before you go (or rent an SUV or 4×4)!

road trip costa rica 10 days

Breakfast at Choco Cafe Restaurant and Coffee Shop

Start your next day on the right foot with breakfast at the Choco Cafe Restaurant and Coffee Shop. This cute little cafe is right downtown and has a large menu full of delicious Costa Rican breakfasts and coffees . I got the La Torre (fried egg, rice and beans, cheese, and ranchero sauce), which was heavenly. 

Monteverde elfin cloudforest

This hike seriously felt like a fairy tale.

Hike Through Monteverde Cloud Forest

Next, head over to this region’s namesake – Monteverde Cloud Forest . This reserve was established by Quakers in the 1970s to protect the rich biodiversity in the area. Here, you can hike trails of varying difficulties through the cloud forest. The elevation is so high that moss and plants cover almost every surface, and you’re often hiking into the clouds. It’s otherworldly.

Want to know more about visiting Monteverde? Check out my post on the Top Things to Do in Monteverde, Costa Rica !

Days 6-8: Manuel Antonio Region

The next stop on your Costa Rica itinerary is one of the country’s most famed regions: Manuel Antonio! The warm weather and sunny skies will be a welcome break from the chill and mist of the cloud forests. 

There are plenty of beach view resorts and local hotels that you can stay at across a variety of price points. We drove from Monteverde to Manuel Antonio in the afternoon and then went straight to our hotel to rest up before starting the next day bright and early. 

Manuel Antonio National Park Whale Tail from above

Manuel Antonio’s famous ‘whale tail’ and beaches.

Manuel Antonio National Park and Beach

As one of Costa Rica’s top destinations, Manuel Antonio National Park can get quite busy. For this reason, the biggest piece of advice I can give you is to arrive early! We woke up before sunset to get to the park when it opened and were the second people inside. It was a magical feeling to wander around and feel completely alone – especially on such pristine beaches! 

Once inside the park, there are several wonderful trails you can explore, along with two beaches . There is a ton of wildlife in the park, but the animals and birds often are in the canopy of the trees, so hiring a guide may be beneficial. 

We left the park before it could get too crowded. As you leave, quench your thirst with a fresh coconut from the stand right outside the entrance . Trust me, you won’t regret it!

Costa Rica beach from above

I don’t think a caption is really necessary here :)

Manuel Antonio Public Beach

If you want a traditional day at the beach filled with music, food, and drinks , then the public Manuel Antonio beach is for you. This stretch of sand outside of the national park is full of lounge chairs and umbrellas you can rent. 

Sail boat at Biesanz beach

Doesn’t the water look so inviting?!

Get out on the Water

I’m a firm believer that one of the best ways to experience any coastal destination is to get out on the water! You get a whole new perspective on the area, and often a good chance to see aquatic wildlife.

There are several good options for trips out on the water. We went with Ocean King Catamaran Adventures , which took us on an afternoon sailing trip along the coast of Manuel Antonio National Park , stopped for snorkeling, and provided dinner and drinks during sunset on the way back to the marina. Depending on the time of year, you will likely see whales and dolphins on the way as well! 

gelato at Manuel Antonio marina

There’s not much better than gelato on a hot day.

Explore the Local City of Quepos

The local town of Quepos (the town near Manuel Antonio National Park) is filled with little shops and restaurants you can explore. Their waterfront is also worth a visit, with restaurant views of the marina and the ocean. Stop by Runaway Grill for lunch and then top it off with gelato from Gelateria Amorosi for a perfect afternoon treat!

monkey sliding down pole in Costa Rica

These monkeys might have been one of the highlights of my trip, they were just too cute!

Watch the Sunset at El Avion

Okay, hear me out on this one. I know it’s a tourist trap. I know it’s filled with Americans. But I honestly loved it here. The entire restaurant has gorgeous views of the Pacific , which are made even better if you visit for sunset. Plus, we were entertained by these goofy monkeys (which were more than we saw in the entirety of the national park)! 

The food isn’t anything to write home about, but the drinks were great – and who doesn’t love a delicious tropical drink while watching the sunset over the ocean? Paradise. 

Want to know more about visiting Manuel Antonio? Check out my post on the Top Things to Do in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica !

Days 9-10: Back to San Jose

Finally, onto the last leg of your trip: back to San Jose! This time, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to explore the city a little more. 

road trip costa rica 10 days

Coffee beans!

Espiritu Santo Coffee Tour

On your way into the city, I recommend stopping at Espiritu Santo for a tour of their coffee planation ! Costa Rica is synonymous with coffee, and this is the perfect place to get a taste of that culture. 

Espiritu Santo is in the hills outside of a small city to the southwest of San Jose. The rolling hills filled with coffee fruit seemed to stretch on forever. And the city was full of locals – the opposite of some of the other touristy areas of the country, which was so refreshing. 

Several tours are offered throughout the day in both English and Spanish. They can fill up quickly, though, so make sure you book in advance ! We stopped by without tickets and unfortunately the tour we wanted to do was sold out. However, the staff kindly offered us some sample coffees and sat with us for a half an hour as we drank them. We talked about the coffee making process and left feeling like we’d learned so much! It was definitely one of my favorite experiences in the country. Don’t forget to stop by the gift shop and pick up some fresh coffee beans to take home!

Burgers and beer at Costa Rican restaurant

I can’t leave a destination without trying a little craft beer.

Lunch at El Patio Food Garden

Near the airport is this gem of a restaurant (or rather, collection of restaurants). The El Patio Food Garden is made up of several small, al fresco dining establishments. Each one looked delicious in its own right, but we chose to eat at La Calle – made up of burgers inspired by different regions around the world, it immediately had our mouths watering. Pair this with a local beer and you’ve got an amazing meal coming your way!

Downtown San Jose

If you have time, there are some great things to see in San Jose! Unfortunately, we ran out of time on our trip and didn’t get to explore this area as much as we’d like. Next time we visit, we have this city on our list for sure. 

lesbian couple holding hands on porch swings

We felt so comfortable being a girl couple in Costa Rica!

LGBTQ+ Considerations

As a queer traveler, it was great to know that Costa Rica is one of the most queer friendly destinations in Central America! This was the main reason we chose to visit. While I’m all for breaking barriers and reducing stigma through travel, sometimes you just need a relaxing getaway where you can be yourself. That’s how we felt on this trip. No one questioned our choice of single bed or gave us weird looks as we held hands walking around the beach. While we did visit more tourist-heavy areas, which likely contributed to our experience, it was nice to not have to worry about being a lesbian couple while on vacation. As an added bonus, Costa Rica passed marriage equality in mid-2020! We felt good supporting a country that was making progressive and inclusive political decisions. 

Read more:   Top Safety Tips for Queer Travelers

Packed with outdoor activities, there’s no shortage of ways to fill your time in Costa Rica. Hopefully, this itinerary helps you make the best of your trip!

What other stops would you add to a 10-day Costa Rica itinerary? Let me know in the comments!

Read more:  Costa Rica Travel Guide

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One comment.

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I’d have skipped Quepos and headed instead for northwest Pacific coast .. Flamingo, Potrero, Tamarindo.

And .. just FYI .. tip parking folks ~1000 or 2000 colones, which is ~ $2-$4 .. you said $2 or 3000 colones but 3000.colones (~$7) is way too much.

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10-Day Costa Rica Itinerary: From Hot Springs to Cloud Forests

Catarata Río Celeste Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a beautiful country with lush rainforests, cloud forests, stratovolcanoes, and dreamy beaches. Ten days in Costa Rica is a good amount of time to see the highlights of the country. This 10-Day Costa Rica Itinerary will take you on an incredible road trip to La Fortuna, Arenal Volcano, Monteverde, Manuel Antonio National Park and Corcovado National Park. Continue reading for more information on when to visit Costa Rica, how to get around Costa Rica, and more tips to plan your Costa Rica getaway.

10-Day Costa Rica Itinerary

When to visit costa rica.

The best time to visit Costa Rica is during the dry season which runs from December through April. If you are looking to travel when it is less busy and you are okay with some rain, May and June would also be a good time to go. I don’t recommend visiting Costa Rica between September and November as this is height of the rainy season which will make it harder to do activities and make it difficult to spot wildlife.

How to Get to Costa Rica

There are two main international airports in Costa Rica: Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO) near San Jose and Liberia International Airport (LIR) in Guanacaste. You can find flights to Costa Rica by searching across dates and airlines on Skyscanner .

Travel Hack: Sign up for Going to get cheap flight alerts and find an amazing flight deal to Costa Rica. We bought a nonstop round trip flight from LAX to Costa Rica for $260 that we found through a Going flight alert.

How to Get Around Costa Rica

By rental car.

Driving in Costa Rica

Renting a car in Costa Rica can be expensive but it is worth it if you want to make the most of your 10 days in Costa Rica. For this 10-day Costa Rica itinerary you will need to rent a car to reach hidden gems around the country. Make sure to book your rental car as early as possible, as prices get more expensive last minute. 

Book a rental car on Discover Cars  where you can compare rates to find the best fit for this incredible Costa Rica road trip. Keep in mind rental car companies in Costa Rica will add personal liability coverage fees and other taxes, so expect a higher rate than what you are seeing while booking.

Many people rent a 4×4 in Costa Rica. While a high clearance vehicle can be helpful on certain dirt roads, a 4×4 car is not necessary. You could do this 10-Day Costa Rica Itinerary in a sedan, but it may take you longer since you’ll have to drive slower. We rented a manual Suzuki Jimny and never ended up using the 4×4 capabilities.

Read More: How to Visit the Galapagos Islands on a Budget

By Public Transportation

Costa Rica has busses that connect most of the country. The busses are operated by private companies and there is not one general bus station. This is an option if you are looking to save money, but it will be helpful to know Spanish if you choose this option. To make sure you have the most up to date bus times and destinations, make sure to check with your hotel. 

If you are not quite ready to take on the public busses in Costa Rica but don’t want to spend money on a rental car, consider booking shuttles with  Bookaway . Search  Bookaway  for shuttles routes throughout Costa Rica at reasonable prices.

Click on the map below to view the interactive map on Google My Maps .

10 Day Costa Rica Itinerary Map

Day 1: Arrive in San Jose and Drive to La Fortuna

If you have extra time you could spend a day visiting museums in San Jose and exploring the downtown, but otherwise I recommend driving straight to La Fortuna.

The drive from Juan Santamaria International Airport to La Fortuna is about 2.5 hours. When you arrive to La Fortuna you can eat at one of the many restaurants in the town.

Where to Stay in La Fortuna

Arenal Volcano La Fortuna

La Fortuna has a range of accommodations you can choose from, ranging from hostels to luxury hotels. Search for accommodations with a view of Mount Arenal on and sort by price to find the best deal. A majority of hotels and guesthouses in La Fortuna have breakfast included in the rate, which is helpful as there aren’t many breakfast options in the town.

The below list features the top places to stay in La Fortuna by budget. Where will you stay?

SAVE: Cabañas Del Lago  – With a review rating of fabulous (8.8), this is a great budget accommodation and you even get to stay in your own bungalow. Hotel Lavas Tacotal   – You might not have a view of Arenal Volcano from your room, but you will get an unbelievable view from the hotel’s pool.

JUST RIGHT:  La Finca Lodge  –  You will definitely need a car to stay here, but the place has a 9.5/10 rating for a reason. Each unit features a balcony with mountain views. An exceptional breakfast is included.  Loma Real Hot Springs Bed & Breakfast   – Breakfast, a pool, and views of Arenal Volcano. This B&B is 4 km outside of the town center making it conveniently located but still feels remote. Hotel Heliconias Nature Inn & Hot Springs   – Stay in a rustic bungalow in the rainforest. The picturesque pool on the property is perfect for relaxing. Miradas Arenal Hotel & Hotsprings – Stay in a cute private bungalow with views of Arenal Volcano and a hot springs pool with a bar.

SPLURGE: Tabacón Thermal Resort & Spa – Staying at Tabacón gives you access to their thermal river and pools throughout your stay. Hotel guests also receive exclusive access to an adults-only part called Shangri-LA Gardens. If you were already planning to go to the Tabacón Hot Springs it may be worth it to stay here for at least a night. Lost Iguana Resort and Spa : Every room has a view of Mount Arenal and in the morning you can enjoy the breakfast buffet that is included. Guests can’t stop raving about the pool. Arenal Manoa Resort & Hot Springs : Eat a delicious breakfast with a breathtaking view of Arenal. The luxury pool features a wet bar and views of Arenal.

EXTRA SPECIAL SPLURGE:  The Springs Resort & Spa at Arenal – This is the hotel that the Kardashians stayed at when they visited La Fortuna. It was also featured on the Bachelor a few years ago and on the Golden Bachelor recently. It looks like dream, perfect for a honeymoon?

Day 2: Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges and Mirador El Silencio

Mistico arenal hanging bridges.

Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges

On your second day in Costa Rica, eat breakfast Red Frog Coffee Roasters on the way to Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges. Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges has a 3.2 km trail where you can take a nice walk through the rainforest and see views of Arenal (on a clear day). You can pay for the entrance fee and explore the park on your own, or you can reserve a guided tour   to see more animals. We decided to explore the park on our own and still got to see howler monkeys and many colorful birds.

Mirador El Silencio (Hike near Arenal)

Mirador El Silencio La Fortuna

Next drive to Mirador El Silencio   which is a nature reserve with beautiful hiking trails through the rainforest. The trail takes you to the 1968 lava flows and rewards you with incredible views of Arenal Volcano. One of our favorite activities during our 10 days in Costa Rica was hiking this trail as we got to enjoy the views to ourselves and be able to see animals. The trail is a 3-mile loop, and you will most likely only see people near the lava flows since there are tourist busses that take people directly there.

Day 3: Catarata Río Fortuna and Parque Nacional Volcán Tenorio

Catarata río fortuna.

Catarata Rio Fortuna

Start the day visiting the breathtaking 70 meter high Fortuna Waterfall, the biggest waterfall that you will see on this 10-day Costa Rica itinerary. Make sure to purchase your admission ticket in advance for La Fortuna Waterfall on Viator so you don’t have to wait in line. To get to the waterfall you will walk down about 530 steps in the beautiful rainforest. If conditions allow, you have the option to swim in the pool the waterfall drops into or in the Fortuna River, so don’t forget your bathing suit. Take in views of the rainforest and the native plants as you make your way back up the 530 steps. Make sure to bring comfortable shoes and water! 

Read More: How to Find Cheap Flights

Parque Nacional Volcán Tenorio

Catarata Río Celeste

One of the best things to do in Costa Rica is to visit Catarata Río Celeste. Drive about 1.5 hours from La Fortuna to Parque Nacional Volcán Tenorio. The park is open until 2 pm and is best to visit in the afternoon after the morning tours have left. Around noon the park gets significantly quieter, which is why I recommended to go to La Fortuna Waterfall first.

At this park you will follow a trail through the rainforest to a bright blue waterfall, lagoon, and river. On the hike you may be able to see animals such as toucans, woodpeckers, coatis, and many different kinds of birds.  You will see a beautiful blue lagoon on your way, surrounded by lush plants and then have a nice walk along the bright blue river which will eventually take you to the mixing point (Teñidero). The beautiful blue color is created when Rio Buenavista and Quebrada Agria mix. 

On the way back, go down about 200 steps to Catarata Río Celeste, the bright blue waterfall that this park is most known for. You cannot swim in this water but you can enjoy the waterfall as you make your way down the stairs and onto the designated platform.

If you didn’t rent a car you can visit Parque Nacional Volcán Tenorio with a group tour that provides transportation to and from your hotel. You can find and book tours to see Catarata Río Celeste on Viator .

Reminder: Medical Insurance for Costa Rica

SafetyWing Travel Insurance

Don’t forget to buy a travel insurance policy for your trip! SafetyWing offers affordable, flexible, and reliable travel medical insurance that can be purchased ahead of your travels or while you are already traveling.

Day 4: Hot Springs in La Fortuna then Drive to Monteverde

Hot springs.

Tabacon Hot Springs Costa Rica

One of the best things to do in Costa Rica is visit the hot springs in La Fortuna. There are many different options for enjoying the hot springs including a free location where you can float in the natural springs, cheaper maintained pools, and luxury resort-style hot springs and amenities. The hot springs offer a great break on your Costa Rica 10-day itinerary.

While on the more expensive side, we decided to spend our time at Tabacón Hot Springs which is one of the nicer resort-style hot springs. Tabacón Hot Springs has several cascading pools with temperatures ranging from 72 to 105 degrees as you make your way up to the higher pools. The water is true thermal water that is naturally heated by the volcano.

If You Have Time: Thrilling Experiences in La Fortuna

If you already had a chance to soak in hot springs or you have more time in Costa Rica, consider doing one of these thrilling experiences in La Fortuna.

Canyoning and Waterfall Rappelling : This unique experience in La Fortuna takes you on a 4×4 ride into the forest where you will get to rappel down waterfalls and a canyon rock wall. While canyoning and waterfall rappelling you may get to see exotic wildlife such as toucans, sloths, and monkeys. After the thrilling experience, you will have an organic Costa Rican lunch. The tour includes transportation to and from hotels in La Fortuna so you don’t have to worry about getting there if you’re not renting a car. Book the Pure Trek Canyoning and Waterfall Rappelling Tour in La Fortuna ahead of time to secure your spot!

White Water Rafting : If you have never been on a white water rafting adventure now is your chance. If you have already experienced the thrill of white water rafting you know how incredible it is, and you can’t miss the opportunity to do it in La Fortuna. Make sure to book the Upper Balsa River White Water Rafting in advance so that you don’t miss out.

Along the white water rafting adventure down the Balsa River you will get to take a break, swim, and snack on Costa Rican fruit. After the rafting trip, you will get a traditional Costa Rican lunch at a local restaurant. The tour also includes transportation to local La Fortuna hotels, all equipment needed, and towels.

Drive to Monteverde

Lake Arenal

The drive from La Fortuna to Monteverde takes about three hours. The beginning of the drive borders Lake Arenal and there are certain viewpoints where you can stop and see Lake Arenal with Arenal Volcano in the distance. Make sure to drive when there is still light out as the roads closer to Monteverde are not paved and it will be more difficult to drive on them in the dark. When you get to Monteverde you can select from a range of options for dinner such as Morphos Restaurant, Restaurante Thomas & Thiago, Tarmonti and more.

Where to Stay in Monteverde

Airbnb Monteverde

There are many unique guesthouses and Airbnbs in Monteverde with incredible views. It’s best to stay right outside of the town where it is more quiet but you can still get to restaurants within a 10-minute drive. We had a wonderful stay at this Airbnb with beautiful views which was a few minutes drive from the town.

Day 5: Canopy Tour (Zip Lining), Treetop Walkway, and La Reserva Bosque Nuboso Santa Elena (Cloud Forest)

Selvatura adventure park: canopy tour and treetop walkway.

Selvatura Hanging Bridge Monteverde

Start your 5th day in Costa Rica with breakfast at Orchid Coffee where you can get your order to-go if you are short on time. One of the highlights of this 10-day Costa Rica itinerary is zip lining in Monteverde at Selvatura Adventure Park. After breakfast drive to Selvatura Adventure Park for a canopy tour (zip lining) and a beautiful rainforest walk on hanging bridges.

You must have a reservation in advance to experience the canopy tour and hanging bridges at Selvatura Adventure Park. You can reserve the Selvatura Park Combo Tour  if you want to do the canopy tour, hanging bridges walk, and visit a butterfly garden. If you only want to do the canopy tour you can book the Selvatura Park Canopy Tour Here .

The Canopy Tour at Selvatura Adventure Park has 13 zip-line cables that guide you above the cloud forest. If you are up for it you will get to do the Tarzan Swing, a 45-degree jump off an edge connected to a rope, which is sure to get your heart pumping. A canopy tour is a must-do on your 10-day Costa Rica Itinerary and is one of the best ways to experience the Monteverde Cloud Forest.

If you choose to do the combo tour, after the Canopy Tour you will walk over to the Treetop Walkway which is a beautiful 1.9-mile trail through the cloud forest. The trail has 8 bridges that range from 170 ft to 560 ft in length. Experiencing the cloud forest from the suspension bridges allows you to enjoy it more slowly from a higher view.

Another popular zip line adventure in Monteverde is this  zipline tour at 100% Adventure Park , which has the longest zip line in Costa Rica at 5,220 ft. This 3-hour tour includes a 10-cable zip line, rope bridge, and an ATV ride.

Reserva Bosque Nuboso Santa Elena

Santa Elena Cloud Forest

Make the quick drive from Selvatura Adventure park to Reserva Bosque Nuboso Santa Elena for a magical cloud forest hike. Santa Elena is less busy than Monteverde Cloud Forest and you can enjoy it almost all to yourself. There are several trails you can take with varying lengths and views where you can see unique birds.

Read More: 15 Best Things to Do on Kauai for the Ultimate Getaway

Day 6: Monteverde Cloud Forest, Coffee and Chocolate Tour

Monteverde cloud forest.

Monteverde Cloud Forest Hike

Start the day with breakfast at Stella’s Monteverde where you can watch wildlife while enjoying your breakfast. We saw a Capuchin monkey, Toucan, and many colorful birds here.

One of the best things to do in Costa Rica is to visit Monteverde Cloud Forest. To explore  Monteverde Cloud Forest and see unique birds, you can either go on your own or book a guided tour on Viator . The are several trail options at Monteverde Cloud Forest that you can follow and have the opportunity to see animals. 

I recommend starting with Quebrada Cuecha trail to the waterfall and then looping back with Sendero Tosi. You can then continue a bigger loop by combining multiple trails through the cloud forest. We saw several different birds and lots of beautiful plants. After your visit go across the street to Cafe Colibri where you can enjoy a snack while watching hummingbirds.

Don Juan Coffee and Chocolate Tour

Don Juan Chocolate Tour

Don Juan Coffee and Chocolate Tour is an interesting tour that walks you through the process of growing and making chocolate and coffee. During the tour you will also get to taste coffee and chocolate as you learn about the process. The tour is very interactive and a must-do on your 10-day Costa Rica itinerary. Make sure to book the tour in advance so you don’t miss out!

Day 7: Quepos, Espadilla Sur Beach, and Manuel Antonio Beach

Manuel Antonio Beach

Drive 3.5 hours from Monteverde to Quepos . The beginning of the drive is very interesting and you get to see views of the cloud forest from afar. Quepos is the town you will stay in when visiting Manuel Antonio National Park. On the way to Quepos make sure to stop at the crocodile bridge, located above the river Tarcoles. 

When you arrive at Manuel Antonio National Park you can relax at Espadilla Sur Beach and Manuel Antonio Beach . If you have time and want to see more animals, you can book a mangrove tour of Isla Damas .

Day 8: Manuel Antonio National Park, Drive to Sierpe, Boat to Drake Bay

Manuel antonio national park.

Manuel Antonio National Park

Manual Antonio National Park  is one of the most popular places to visit in Costa Rica. I recommend reserving a guided tour for the morning in Manuel Antonio National Park in order to see the most animals. The guide is very helpful in spotting animals and you will get to learn more about the plants and animals in the park. In Manuel Antonio National Park you can find Capuchin Monkeys, Howler Monkeys, Squirrel Monkeys, Toucans, Iguanas, Sloths, and more. 

Drive to Sierpe and Boat to Drake Bay

View From Drake Bay Hotel

If you are interested in seeing a very remote part of Costa Rica where you can see more animals in their natural habitat, you should visit the Osa Peninsula . The best place to stay in order to visit Serena Station at Corcovado National Park is Drake Bay. 

To get to Drake Bay you will need to drive 2 hours from Manuel Antonio National Park to Sierpe. In Sierpe you will be able to park your car for a fee overnight and take a boat to Drake Bay. There are two boats a day to Drake Bay, one at 11:30 AM ($15 per person) and the second at 4:00 PM ($20 per person). I recommend arriving at least 20 minutes early in order to have time to park and load the boat with your belongings. Make sure you have enough cash to pay for the boat both ways. Check with your accommodation in Drake Bay ahead of time regarding the latest boat times and prices.

The boat leaves from La Perla Del Sur and guides you through the Sierpe River to the Pacific Ocean and to Drake Bay. If you are staying at a hotel further away from Drake Bay you can let the captain know before boarding the boat and they will drop you off closer to your hotel, with an extra fee. Drake Bay is very small so from the beach you should be able to walk to your hotel within 10 minutes on the dirt roads. There are several restaurants in the town and a few small convenience stores but they don’t have much inventory so make sure you have everything you need for the next couple of days before heading to Drake Bay.

If you are spending more time exploring this area, you could book a diving tour or snorkeling tour in Caño Island from Drake Bay.

Day 9: Corcovado National Park

Spider Monkey Costa Rica

One of the most amazing things we did during our 10 days in Costa Rica is visit Corcovado National Park. You can book a day tour to Corcovado National Park ahead of time on Viator or through your accommodation. If you want to book through your hotel, make sure to contact them before reserving a room to ensure they have spots available on a day tour to Corcovado National Park. 

The tour starts around 6 am with an hour boat ride to Corcovado, Serena Station. You will spend about 5 hours in the park and then take the boat back to Drake Bay where you will eat lunch. The tour finishes around 2, so you will have plenty of time after the park to relax on the beach. At Corcovado National Park you will have the chance to see Tapirs, Squirrel Monkeys, Spider Monkeys, and more. Sirena Station area has many animals close by so you won’t have to walk far to spot animals. 

If you want to spend more time at Corcovado National Park there are 2-day guided tours which you can book ahead of time or enquire about through your hotel. These overnight tours give you the opportunity to see more animals as you spend more time in the park.

Day 10: Return to San Jose to fly home

Boat to Drake Bay

On your last day take the morning boat ride back from Drake Bay to Sierpe. The drive to San Jose from Sierpe is about 5 hours if you go the more scenic route through the mountains between Parque Nacional Tapantí and Parque Nacional Los Quetzales. This route has incredible views and is worth the extra 20-30 minutes. Make sure you are comfortable driving on windy roads if you choose this route. 

Airbnb Escazu

If you need to stay near the airport before your flight consider staying in Escazú. This area is nice and only 20-30 minutes away from the airport. The photo above is the view from the hotel we stayed at.

If you have more than 10 days in Costa Rica

If you have more time to spend in Costa Rica there are many more beautiful sights you can see. The list below are more things to do in Costa Rica in addition to this 10-day itinerary.

  • If you have time on the way back to San Jose from Sierpe you could stop at Nauyaca waterfalls. The waterfalls can be reached by hiking 2 miles each way or paying an extra fee to be taken to the waterfall by a truck. At the end you’ll reach a 45 meter high fall and a 20 meter high fall with a pool at the bottom where you could swim.
  • Spend a day in San Jose where you can visit the National Museum of Costa Rica, the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum, and the Jade museum.
  • Learn to surf in Tamarindo or Santa Teresa.
  • Explore Parque Nacional Tortuguero where you can find green and leatherback turtles.
  • Visit a range of national parks close to San Jose such as Parque Nacional Volcán Poás, Braulio Carillo National Park, and Parque Nacional Juan Castro Blanco.
  • Hike through Parque Nacional Tapantí and enjoy mountain views.
  • Look for Quetzals at Parque Nacional Los Quetzales.

Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links for products and services I recommend. At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you make a purchase. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


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Your Perfect 10-Day Costa Rica Itinerary

From the lush jungles of thriving greenery to the whisper of waves crashing on pristine beaches, Costa Rica is a slice of heaven for outdoor enthusiasts. Whether you’re hunting for adventure or looking for a serene escape from your everyday responsibilities, this country has everything you need hiding in its folds.

This 10-day Costa Rica itinerary will have you enthralled from start to finish, even if it’s just a stop on your Caribbean cruise . However, if you wish to experience this country to the fullest, a prolonged visit is crucial to understanding its captivating complexities. 

costa rica volcano

While it might be intimidating to navigate these diverse environments, a 10-day itinerary is a perfect way to fit in all the crowning glories of Costa Rica in your trip. 

Unsure what amazing areas to experience on your trip through this picturesque region? We’ll highlight the top sights and attractions to include on your 10-day trip to Costa Rica to ensure you embark on the journey of a lifetime.

Table of Contents

Costa Rica Itinerary – When to Visit

waterfall view in Costa Rica

The process of choosing the best time to complete Costa Rica itineraries is all about what is most important to your traveling needs. If you’re looking for the sunniest weather, December to April during the dry season is your best bet, but this tends to be the busiest time to visit, with higher prices coming along with it.

If you would rather focus on a thinner stream of tourists, you can try going from late April to November, when rainfalls are more common. While soaking afternoons are on the menu, the mornings are generally dry to go on marvelous missions.

Tip: Costa Rica is known to host a variety of religious and cultural events throughout the year, so be sure to check ahead and plan accordingly.

Costa Rica Itinerary – 10 Days in Paradise

bridge in the jungle in Costa Rica

Trekking through the terrific terrains of Costa Rica is a magical experience, from the long scenic rides to the adrenaline-fuelled activities. Take a look at the best Costa Rica itinerary to stoke the fires of your wanderlust and prepare you for what you can expect from one of the most beautiful spaces in the world.

Day 1-2: Arrive & Explore San José

San Jose Costa Rica

To kick off your Costa Rica vacation with a bang, we recommend taking the time to arrive and get to know the capital city to ensure you don’t start your trip with more travel.

By exploring the nooks and crannies of San José, you’ll get a sample of what Costa Rica’s vibrant central city life is all about before traveling to its more nature-focused settings.

With the main attractions centered in downtown San José, you’ll have no problem pounding the pavement to get to where you’re heading. Otherwise, you can rent a car or take a taxi to get around.

Whether you’re looking for a cultural outing or trying to experience an authentic city adventure, San José has got you covered.

panoramic view of San Jose scenery

One of the top sites to see is the Teatro Nacional, which is a top contender for the most iconic historical building in the city with glorious, intricate trimmings. This extraordinary sight finished construction in 1897 and has an abundance of interior decor to marvel at. From the pretty in pink marbled floor lobby to the cherub-dotted ceiling of the auditorium, you’re in for a treat.

For travelers looking for a taste of the exotic flair of Costa Rica, various markets in the city are available to partake in a sublime sampling of this city’s top commodities. From freshly cut flowers to traditional sodas (small food stalls), these busy spaces will have you spoilt for choice, such as the buzzing burrow of the Mercado Central .

Day 3-4: Monteverde


A rainforest retreat that will transport you to the simple pleasures of nature’s beauty, Monteverde is an absolute must to experience Costa Rica’s rugged charm. Monteverde is the ultimate space for nature lovers to get lost in this country’s unique biodiversity and ecotourism adventures.

The fastest way to get there from San José is by renting a car, which takes around 2 hours and 40 minutes. If you’re looking for a cheaper option, some buses travel to this specific destination, but it will take significantly longer.

From the hanging haven of the Bat Jungle to the flower-dotted space of the Monteverde Orchid Garden, the fauna and flora of this setting steal the show.

misty day in Cloud Forest

No best itinerary for Costa Rica will be complete without mentioning the awe-inspiring Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Preserve . By hiking through the wall of mist, you’ll encounter an array of wildlife to discover and explore, from prominent pipers to the booming bellows of howler monkeys .

If you wish to encounter the majesty of this terrain from above, you can zipline or stroll on the elevated walkways the Sky Walk offers to get a bird’s-eye view of this otherworldly place.

Other interesting animal encounter facilities include the rainbow-filled wonders of the Monteverde Butterfly Garden and the ribbiting Frog Pond of Monteverde.

Day 5-6: Arenal & La Fortuna de San Carlos

La Fortuna waterfall view in Costa Rica

From Monteverde, the easiest way to get to La Fortuna is through two shuttle transfers with the Arenal Lake Crossing in between.

This transportation method has options to pick you up from your hotel in Monteverde, cruise on Lake Arenal, and drop you off at your chosen hotel in Arenal/La Fortuna. This scenic trip usually takes around three hours to complete.

Once in the charming town of La Fortuna, you can make your way to the Parque Nacional Volcán Arenal for a wildlife retreat.

With an emerald green space that has the most active volcano in Costa Rica as its main attraction, you’ll definitely fall in love with this place. From the thermal splendors of the Tabacón Hot Springs to epic ziplining views, this hot spot is the place to be.

Arenal volcano

If you have a hankering for adventure hiking, the La Fortuna Waterfall is situated in the Parque Nacional Volcán Arenal and is a walk to remember.

With over 500 steps to get to the cascading wonders of the falls, you’ll be able to work those delicious carb-infused Costa Rican dishes off in no time. Just be sure to wear a comfortable pair of insoles in your shoes to start your journey off on the right foot.

Other popular attractions include the Arenal Theme Park for aerial tram rides with panoramic views of the forest-bespeckled mountain slopes and Lake Arenal. There are various accommodation options, usually including the luxurious draw of a hot spring feature, to choose from in this area to stay a night or two.

Day 7: Parque Nacional Volcán Poás

Poas Volcano blue lake in Costa Rica

On Day 7, bird watchers will rejoice over this national park excursion peppered with all sorts of feathered friends native to this country. A lush space encapsulating the stoic statue of the Poás Volcano, this adventure is the ultimate mix of fun with a dangerous edge.

Visitors can view the famous caldera (a large opening created by a collapsed volcanic crater) that contains a luminous blue acidic lake in its center. Within this dense tree-laden space, you’ll most likely hear the beckoning calls of a wide variety of birds, such as whizzing hummingbirds and swooping wood wrens.

butterfly in La Paz Waterfall Gardens

If you have time, situated approximately 40 minutes away, you can visit the aquatic features of the La Paz Waterfall Gardens to drink in its picturesque plunging waters.

With viewing platforms that showcase five waterfalls with a forest-filled backdrop, this stunning scenery is the ultimate photo op to take the perfect vacation portrait. Drive back to San José (which will take around an hour and a half) to get ready for the next adventure in store.

Day 8-10: Tortuguero


A quick 35-minute flight will take you to the Caribbean coastal village of Tortuguero with an abundance of sandy activities to embark on. While a car trip to these crystal clear waters is possible, air travel is the way to go if you wish to squeeze every drop out of experiencing this tropical space.

The Parque Nacional Tortuguero is the perfect place to experience Costa Rican wildlife at its finest. A three-day guided tour is recommended to have helpful insight and ensure a convenient experience that alleviates any Costa Rica travel itinerary planning stress.


From hiking excursions to basking in the sun-drenched beach of Tortuguero, this experience has something for every type of traveler.

With travel back to San José, you’ll end your Costa Rica trip itinerary by sitting on a shuttle and taking in the last burning embers of this country’s beautiful setting.

Tip: If you find yourself in Tortuguero during late July and October, be sure to book a night trip to watch various turtle species while the nesting season is in full bloom.

Final Thoughts on 10 Days in Costa Rica

smoke from volcano in Costa Rica

From heart-racing activities to the relaxing hum of the forest alive with wildlife, a 10-day Costa Rica itinerary is a playground for the senses.

Whether you’re staring into the eye of a volcano or tasting the oozing pleasures of a tasty empanada, every adventure (big or small) will leave an eternal lasting impression.

Be Prepared For Travel Planning is the most important part of any successful trip. Do it the easy way:

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  • Find and book the best hotel (our favorite booking site is Expedia)
  • Research flight options (our favorite tool is Skyscanner )
  • Book a tour (we always use Viator to find the best tours)
  • Rent a car through Discover Cars (they search the best deals for you!)


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Laura Lynch, creator and writer of Savored Journeys, is an avid world traveler, certified wine expert, and international food specialist. She has written about travel and food for over 20 years and has visited over 75 countries. Her work has been published in numerous guidebooks, websites, and magazines.

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10 Days in Costa Rica – Epic Road Trip

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For a tiny country, Costa Rica’s beauty is vast and diverse. From the surfing haven on the Pacific coast to white-sand beaches on the Caribbean coast, from the lush rainforests in the north to vibrant city life in San Jose there is an infinite number of things to do in this Central American country. With all this beauty it is very hard to decide which places to see and things to do in Costa Rica.

This ultimate 10-Day Road Trip through Costa Rica focuses on spending time on the West Coast (Southern Pacific) close to Manuel Antonio and Whale Tale Beach, Monteverde where the beautiful cloud forests are, La Fortuna to visit Arenal Volcano and La Fortuna Waterfalls and flying in and out of San Jose.

Places to visit in Costa Rica

To better understand different regions of Costa Rica and what they have to offer please read our post Where to Visit in Costa Rica .

Things To Know About Cost Rica Before You Travel

Getting to costa rica.

San Jose and Liberia are two major airports in the country. We flew into San Jose since there is a direct flight from Orlando.

How to Get Around

Once in Costa Rica, the best way to get around is by renting a car, preferably a 4×4. For more about driving in Costa Rica check out our post where we spill the beans.

An entry visa is not required from the US, UK, EU, Australia and Canada at this time, but double-check during your planning stages since it can take up to 90 days to receive a visa if needed.

Currency in Costa Rica is the Colón. You will be able to find exchange places in the US to exchange the money before your travels, but if you are having issues you can always have Western Union money to yourself and pick it up at your destination in the local currency or use an ATM. You can US credit cards, both Visa and Master Card, without any issues. Many places also accept US dollars (and even list their prices in dollars).

110V, same as the USA

Even though December to April is considered the dry season, one thing for sure about Costa Rican weather is that it is unpredictable. Chances are that it will rain at some point during your travel and temperatures will be somewhere between 60- and 80 degrees F.

Costa Rica is a safe place to visit. We had a lot of locals remind us not to keep any valuables in the car or anywhere out of our sight, but we did not experience any issues. A lot of parking lots will have a parking attendant making sure your stuff is safe so be kind and tip the parking attendants.


Day 1 – arrive in san jose and drive to uvita.

Arrive in San Jose, rent a car and head out to South Pacific Region. Stay in Uvita , a beach town in the middle between Corcovado National Park and Manuel Antonio National Park . It is also the home of Marino Ballena National Park where the Whale Tail Beach is located (a beach in the shape of a whale’s tail that can be seen during low tide). It is a 3.5-to-4-hour drive from San Jose airport to Uvita depending on which way you decide to drive.

Marino Ballena National Park

Two options are either going northwest and getting to Highway 34 and driving down the Pacific coast or taking Highway 2 and driving southeast through the mountains between Tapanati National Park and Los Quetzales National Park . We chose HWY 2 and the drive was our first true experience of Costa Rica driving. The elevation and temperature change are drastic, some parts of the highway are at over 10,000 ft elevation and temperature swings from 48°F to 80°F, which also gives you the first glimpse of driving through the Costa Rican clouds as they roll in and out.

Unbeknownst to us at the time HWY 2 is where Cerro de la Muerte (Mountain of Death). Appropriately named for the number of deaths that happen on this road every year. Still, the drive was unbelievably scenic.

Upon your arrival in Uvita check into your hotel, catch a sunset on a clear day, grab dinner in town and prepare for the next few adventurous days.

Costa Rica Sunsets

WHERE DID WE STAY: Golden Pineapple Resort – Adults Only Resort – beautiful but very pricy resort with an amazing view of Whale Tail beach . It is mandatory to have 4×4 vehicle to get to the resort as the road is windy, unpaved, and unbelievably steep.

WHERE DID WE EAT: Sabor Español – great Spanish food.

DAY 2 – 4 – Uvita

Uvita is a small beach town with so many amazing things to do around it.

THINGS TO DO in uvita:

  • Day trip to Manuel Antonio National Park – Manual Antonio is about an hour’s drive north, along the coast, from Uvita. It is a beautiful national park, with nice hiking paths, beaches and amazing wildlife.
  • Visit waterfalls in and around the area – Uvita Waterfalls , Nauyaca Waterfalls , and Ojochal Waterfalls . Some waterfalls allow swimming, but some do not.
  • Visit Marino Ballena National Park – Marino Ballena is located in Uvita and includes the famous “whale tail” beach.
  • Go Whale Watching – the best time for this is in August and September.
  • Visit Playa Ventanas – during low tide, you can go exploring in the caves known as “windows”
  • Visit Corcovado National Park – visiting this park requires a little more planning, as the only way to get in is by boat from Drake Bay or by hiking for many hours. You also need a certified hiking guide to be able to enter this national park. However, the wildlife and its beauty are worth a visit.
  • Go Snorkeling, Kayaking or Surfing .

Nauyaca Catarata

WHERE DID WE EAT: El Hornitos – excellent empanadas, Kinsu Restaurant – nice outside seating with refreshing drinks, Los Laureles Bar Y Restaurant – great margaritas, patacones, and tacos.

DAY 5 & 6 – Monteverde

Wildlife Refuge Monteverde

A visit to Costa Rica would not be complete without visiting the capital of the Cloud Forests . For naturalists, birdwatchers and wildlife lovers this is the place to be. It is higher in elevation, misty, humid, windy, and a little bit cooler than the Pacific side or Central Valley.

Monteverde is almost a 4hr drive from Uvita, mostly along the Pacific coast. We recommend stopping in Jaco for lunch or maybe even at the Tarcoles River to see the crocodiles from the bridge or take a boat tour to get closer to them. Once on Highway 606, the elevation starts to increase, clouds start rolling in and the views of the valleys below become breathtaking.


Santa Elena is the main little town in the region with a mountain town vibe and cool bars and restaurants that were mostly closed for us, because of COVID.

THINGS TO DO in Monteverde:

  • A nighttime tour of the cloud forest . It is an amazing way to explore the wild, as most birds and animals are trying to quiet down for the night. We highly recommend booking a nighttime tour with Nasua Tours . Oscar, the guide, is excellent, nice, courteous and a walking encyclopedia.
  • Visit Cloud Forests, any or all! The most popular one is the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve , but there are many others: Wildlife Refuge, Selvatura Adventure Park, Curi Cancha Reserve, Aguti Wildlife Reserve, etc. One thing they all have in common is an amazing landscape, biodiversity, unexpected wildlife, and possibly hanging bridges. All of it is worth a visit.
  • Take a coffee tour – coffee plantations are everywhere in Monteverde.
  • Extreme Ziplining at Selvatura Adventure Park or Sky Adventures Monteverde Park

Monteverde Cloud Forest

WHERE DID WE STAY: Koora Hotel – nice, clean and very friendly hotel

WHERE DID WE EAT: Because of the restrictions most places close at 8 pm other than hotels and resorts, so we mainly dined in the hotel. However, there are a lot of cool places to hang out in the area when COVID restrictions are not in place.

DAYS 7 – 9 – La Fortuna/Arenal

The drive from Monteverde to La Fortuna around Lake Arenal is stunning. We stopped at Café & Macadamia for a traditional Costa Rican lunch and an amazing view of the lake.

Lake Arenal Costa Rica

La Fortuna is one of the most popular tourist locations in Costa Rica so it has all the amenities that you may need, but with COVID not as many tourists which gave us a great opportunity to explore and enjoy the area.

La Fortuna Volcano

THINGS TO DO in la fortuna:

  • White Water Rafting – as everyone kept telling us “You have not been to Costa Rica, unless you’ve been white water rafting.”
  • Visit one of many Hot Springs
  • Hike the base of the Volcano, or hike down to the base of the La Fortuna Waterfalls (~ 500 stairs), or hike the Arenal Hanging Bridges – a total of 16 bridges for 16 to 328 ft long.
  • Take a day trip to Tenorio Volcano National Park – Rio Celeste
  • Take a day trip to Catarata del Toro , the same property offers hikes to Blue Falls of Costa Rica . Waterfall Hidden Treasure (Catarata Tesoro Escondido) is only a couple of miles away from it.
  • On a clear day take a day trip to Poas Volcano

Waterfall del Toro

WHERE DID WE STAY: Amor Arenal – Adults Only Resort – we had a casita with a view of the volcano, it was just a wonderful place.

WHERE DID WE EAT: Don Rufino or the hotel

DAY 10 – San Jose

Drive back to San Jose and fly out.

We arrived a night early and spent the night in the suburbs of San Jose with an amazing view of the city. With restrictions in place starting at 8pm, we grabbed a quick dinner and enjoyed the view from our balcony.

San Jose Costa Rica

THINGS TO DO in San Jose:

  • Take a walking tour of San Jose
  • Explore Street Art
  • Visit the Central Market and try to mingle with the locals
  • Explore the craft beer scene

WHERE DID WE STAY: Alta Hotel with a stunning view of San Jose.

WHERE DID WE EAT: Restaurant Pescatore – Peruvian Restaurant

Whether you are an adventure seeker or just looking for a place to relax and soak up some sun, Costa Rica has it all. With the COVID restrictions it cuts down the available hours to explore the country, but it is still worth a visit. To dive into more detailed hikes and adventures check out our other posts about Costa Rica.

Other helpful posts… Renting a Car and Driving in Costa Rica Tenorio Volcano National Park – Rio Celeste Trail Crocodile Adventure on the Tarcoles River Manuel Antonio National Park Trails Where to Visit in Costa Rica Adventure Day in Rincon de la Vieja National Park

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Costa Rica Travel Information

Costa Rica itinerary 10 days: Caribbean, Central Valley and Beach

March 6, 2022 By Sammi 14 Comments

If you have 10 days in Costa Rica, then this post is for you.

Here is a sample 10 day Costa Rica itinerary that takes you the capital city and both the Caribbean and Pacific coast: San Jose , Puerto Viejo and Manuel Antonio . Each of these destinations are very different in terms of landscapes and activities and have beach, wildlife and rain forest. Find out how to spend 10 days in Costa Rica in this sample itinerary.

What to Know About This Costa Rica Itinerary 10 days

You can rent a car, book shuttles or take the bus.

Since you are only visiting 3 touristic destinations, you can get around by public bus , shuttles or renting a car in Costa Rica. Renting a car gives more freedom but is not necessarily not the most wallet friendly option. Save on your car rental with our car rental discount here.

Then if you’re on a budget, you can take the bus. Just make sure to check the schedule, especially for the day you land since the last bus from San Jose to Puerto Viejo is at 4 PM and this ride takes around 5 hours. You can also take private and shared shuttles.

To make the most of your time in Costa Rica, we recommend to drive or book private shuttles. You will spend a bit more but you’ll save time, especially as these are long travel times to each destination with limited public bus and shared shuttle options.

Pack appropriately for San Jose and Puerto Viejo

Because the Caribbean side tends to rain more (June and November are rainiest months, October is the driest), bring a rain jacket/waterproof backpack. Even if you’re visiting in the normal dry season months (December to end of April), I highly recommend bringing some rain gear just in case for Puerto Viejo.

For San Jose, it is recommended to bring a jacket or sweater, long pants and closed toed shoes because it is the city. At Manuel Antonio, bring your typical beach wear as it’s hot and humid on the coast all year round.

Day 1: Land in San Jose in the morning, travel to Puerto Viejo

You need to fly into San Jose International Airport (SJO Airport code) for this itinerary. If possible, we recommend booking a flight that lands in San Jose International Airport before noon as the drive from San Jose to Puerto Viejo is around 5 hours. You don’t need a 4×4 or 4wd for this route as it is completely paved.

We do not recommend to drive to Puerto Viejo if your flight arrives in late afternoon or evening, especially in the rainy season. Remember, it gets dark in Costa Rica by 6 PM everyday.

In case your arrival is late afternoon/evening, you can stay a night in San Jose and leave early the next day to Puerto Viejo. On the way to Puerto Viejo, you can stop by Rainforest Adventures to ride the aerial tram through the rainforest.

**Travel recommendation* If you get a pre-paid Costa Rica SIM card or have an international data plan, use Waze for your GPS. Just make sure to open it when you have strong Wi-Fi so it can download all the prompts. It’ll help you navigate through San Jose and avoid the traffic.

Other transportation methods:

  • Bus: There is a bus from San Jose to Puerto Viejo at 6, 10, 2 PM and 4 PM every day that takes 5 hours. It costs ~5500 CRC (~$11 USD) and the bus station is at the Terminal San Carlos Avenida 9. I recommend getting there as early as possible to buy your tickets beforehand because this is a very popular route and gets full quick.
  • Shared Shuttle: Shared shuttles from San Jose to Puerto Viejo are around $57 USD per person per route. They normally have one in the morning, one in the afternoon. For shared shuttles, check Ride CR, Easy Ride, Caribe Shuttle, Tropical Tours, or Interbus.
  • Private shuttle: You can also book a private shuttle which will pick you up whenever you land and drop you off at your hotel. This costs around $250 USD for 1-5 people.
  • Air: There is a local airport at Limon. From the airport, you can book a shuttle or take a taxi to Puerto Viejo which is around $20 USD and takes 1 hour.

If you are not driving and you land in San Jose in the late afternoon, you can book a private shuttle so you don’t have to drive to Puerto Viejo.

Day 2,3 and 4: Puerto Viejo

Spend the next days exploring Puerto Viejo , the gem of the Caribbean. Take in the funky Caribbean-Costa Rican culture, dance the night away or explore the lush jungle. There is so much to do in this area and is best for beach bumming, wildlife watching and relaxing.

Costa Rica itinerary 10 days - Puerto Viejo

Where to stay in Puerto Viejo

If you don’t have a car, it is best to stay in Puerto Viejo town. If you have a car, you can stay at the many beaches like Playa Negra , Playa Cocles , Chiquita or Punta Uva . Puerto Viejo is a party town though, so keep that in mind.

  • Hotel Banana Azul : Oceanfront, adult only hotel on Playa Negra with a restaurant and a pool. There isn’t much at Negra but this hotel is really nice for those who want to stay somewhere quiet further away from town.
  • Villas del Caribe : Great option for big groups as their rooms are spacious and have an ocean view. It’s on Playa Chiquita so it’s about a 5 minute drive to town.
  • Selina Puerto Viejo : One of the many Selina hostels in Costa Rica geared towards backpackers and digital nomads.

You can also check out Airbnb or VRBO for vacation rentals.

To get around Puerto Viejo without a car: you can rent a bike, motorcycle or scooter. Biking is the most popular form of transportation in this area.

What to do in Puerto Viejo

  • Jaguar Rescue Center : If you want to see sloths up close, the Jaguar Rescue Center is the best place to learn about the rescue and rehabilitation of sloths. The center is by Playa Cocles, about 4 miles from Puerto Viejo.
  • BriBri Chocolate Tour : The Limon area is home to indigenous communities so if you’re interested in learning their culture, you must take a tour to meet the BriBri people. They offer chocolate and medicinal tours so you can learn how they make cacao and how they use the various plants and trees they grow on their land.
  • Cahuita National Park : Have a beach all to yourself at Cahuita National Park! This gorgeous park is free and you can see monkeys, toucans and sloths roaming free.
  • Beach hopping: Spend a day exploring the gorgeous beaches in Puerto Viejo such as Punta Uva , Playa Chiquita and Playa Cocles .
  • Surf: Cocles is a great surfing beach for lessons.

You can read about other things to do in Puerto Viejo here.

For places to eat, we love Soda Lidia’s Place. For the best Caribbean-Costa Rican food, that’s the place to go. Some dishes to try are rice and beans and rondon soup. Bread & Chocolate is also delicious and they have great breakfast.

Safety tips for Puerto Viejo: Don’t walk by yourself at night, don’t go to the beach at sunrise/after dark and don’t leave your belongings on the beach.

Day 5: Travel back to San Jose

After a few days enjoying the Caribbean, it’s time to head back to San Jose and explore the Central Valley. If you’re taking the bus, the bus from Puerto Viejo to San Jose is at 9, 11 and 4 PM.

If you aren’t renting a car, you can book a Pacuare River white water rafting day excursion that will pick you up in Puerto Viejo and drop you off in San Jose. Get $5 USD off the Rafting tour with our discount!

Where to Stay in San Jose

  • Gran Hotel: This hotel is right in downtown San Jose so you’re close to museums, restaurants and shops and you can walk everywhere.
  • Park Inn Radisson: Close to downtown and in a quiet area of San Jose, a very comfortable hotel. Includes hot breakfast.
  • Barcelo San Jose Palacio : Big hotel that also offers free airport shuttle. Must taxi or Uber to get to attractions. Has restaurants, a gym, pool and comfortable rooms.
  • Hotel Grano de Oro: Upscale boutique hotel near downtown and La Sabana park. Beautiful property and room designs with hints of old Costa Rican charm.

Day 6: The Central Valley

For day 6 of your 10 days in Costa Rica, you will get to know San Jose. This capital city is quite small so you really only need one day to experience it.

What to Do in San Jose in One Day

Here are some things to do in San Jose like museums, local markets and more. You can also take a city tour to learn more.

A sample itinerary is to head to downtown and walk down the main avenue to see the busiest area of the city. Visit the Jade Museum or National Theater to check out some cultural landmarks. Do some souvenir shopping at the Central Market and have lunch at one of the local restaurants there.

Then head back to your hotel to freshen up and Uber to Barrio Escalante for dinner. This up and coming neighborhood is like the foodie neighborhood of San Jose with lots of unique fusion restaurants with interesting decor. Some favorites are Apotecario, Cafe Franco, Gambas and Costa Rica Beer Factor.

Day 7: Travel to Manuel Antonio

After spending a the day in the city, it’s time to hit the beach again for the last part of your 10 days in Costa Rica! This time you’ll head to the Central Pacific coast to the popular Manuel Antonio . It’s a 3.5 drive or you can take a bus from San Jose to Manuel Antonio/Quepos (Calle 5, Ave 4, Terminales Transportes Tracopa. 7, 10, 2 PM, 4 PM and 5 PM). There are also shared shuttles in the morning and afternoon.

Since Manuel Antonio is very touristic, there are a ton of hotel options. If you want to splurge and stay at a luxury hotel, this is the place to do it!

Itinerary recommendation: if you don’t want to go to another beach town, consider La Fortuna for rainforest, wildlife, adventure and Arenal Volcano. It is around a 4 hour drive from Puerto Viejo. For somewhere a less touristic with similar activities, check out Sarapiqui (3 hour drive).

Hotels in Manuel Antonio

  • Hotel La Mariposa : This high end hotel has a gorgeous view of the park and has several infinity pools. They have modern and rustic rooms.
  • Tico Tico Villas: Spacious studio-apartments with a beautiful tropical garden.
  • Jungle Beach Hotel : Clean and spacious rooms, close to the beach.
  • Selina Hostel : Great hostel in Manuel Antonio for backpackers.
  • Tulemar : This is a luxury home vacation rental property with luxury houses and one bedroom bungalows, perfect for families, big groups or couples.. It has amenities like 24/7 hour concierge, their own beach and an exclusive sloth walk.

Day 8 & 9: Manuel Antonio

Spend your last couple days in Costa Rica taking in as much lush jungle and beautiful beaches as you can. Manuel Antonio is not a big destination but there are many things to do whether you want to hike, see wildlife or simply relax.

Costa Rica itinerary 10 days - Manuel Antonio

What to do in Manuel Antonio

We have a post about things to do in Manuel Antonio but a must do is to visit the national park. Take a guided walk in Manuel Antonio National Park or relax at the beach. Add some more adventure and go ziplining, parasailing, horseback riding or kayak through the Damas Mangroves.

We recommend to spend one day at the national park. The other day, you can just relax, enjoy the beach, shop, sleep in, etc. Or if you want to do something, you can go ziplining, kayaking, horseback riding, sunset cruise , and much more.

If you want to do tours, get our Manuel Antonio tours discount to save $$!

Day 10: San Jose

It’s time to head back to San Jose and say goodbye to Costa Rica. This Costa Rica itinerary 10 days should give you an amazing time in Costa Rica discovering the Caribbean, exploring the Central Valley and relaxing at the Central Pacific coasts. You get to experience mountain, wildlife, nature, beach and rain forest as well as see some Costa Rica wildlife!

Remember, it is about a 3 hour drive from Manuel Antonio to San Jose and you need to be at the airport 2 hours before your flight. If timing doesn’t work out to leave on Day 10, you may need to go back to San Jose on Day 9 and stay the night before your flight.

Another option is to take a local flight from Quepos to SJO Airport (~25 minutes flight). Make sure to check schedules to time it correctly.

Costa Rica itinerary 10 Days Map

Estimated Costa Rica Itinerary 10 Days Cost

If you’re staying at hotels that are around $100 USD a night, spending about $50 USD a day for food and doing a few tours, your estimated budget for this 10 day itinerary will be around $1500 USD per person (no flights or transportation included).

Check out more Costa Rica itineraries here!

2 week Costa Rica itinerary : Arenal, Monteverde, Santa Teresa, Playas del Coco

1 week Costa Rica itinerary: Jaco, Manuel Antonio, Uvita

5 day Guanacaste itinerary

5 day San Jose itinerary

Two weeks itinerary : Tortuguero, Arenal, Monteverde, Guanacaste

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Road sign of La Fortuna

Costa Rica Itinerary – 10 Days in Costa Rica

Are you looking for adventures? Costa Rica is the perfect destination for anyone who loves adventure travel, rainforests, beaches and wildlife.

The country has so much to offer that it can be challenging to decide where to go. That’s why we’ve put together this itinerary for Costa Rica for 10 days. We’ll show you how to visit the highlights of the country. You’ll spend time swimming in waterfalls, watching sloths, relaxing on beaches and kayaking through the jungle.

At the same time, you’ll go on an amazing road trip through Costa Rica. When travelling through the country, expect to see stunning landscapes along the way.

Here is the best Costa Rica 10-day itinerary:

Table of Contents

Day 1 – La Fortuna

Jungle and El Arenal volcano in Costa Rica

Most international flights arrive in San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica. We recommend that you don’t stay here, but instead, rent a car at the airport and drive straight to La Fortuna.

Make sure to reserve your rental car in advance. We like using to compare different options and ensure that we get the cheapest offer.

The drive takes around two and a half hours. Depending on when your plane lands, you might still have a few hours to explore La Fortuna.

La Fortuna has so much to offer that we recommend staying here for two nights. It’s one of the most popular destinations for adventure vacations in Costa Rica, but it’s also a great place to see an active volcano or spot wildlife.

For today, stay close to the city before exploring Arenal on a day trip the next day.

Highlights of La Fortuna for your first day

City centre of La Fortuna

  • Explore La Fortuna town : Even though most people visit the area for adventure activities, La Fortuna is such a cute town that it’s worth wandering around for a bit. You can find excellent restaurants here, which gives you a chance to sample Costa Rican food . If you have a sweet tooth, make sure to check out Chocolate Fusion to buy their handcrafted Costa Rican chocolate.
  • Arenal Hot Springs : After a long day of travel, you should relax. What better way to do so than to soak in the Arenal Hot Springs? You can find free pools along the road up from the Tabacon hotel. Another alternative is to either book a hotel with hot springs or buy a day pass to one.
  • Hike the Bogarin Trail : Do you want to see a sloth? Then you should head to the Bogarin Trail, which you can find close to La Fortuna. This trail is said to be very good for spotting sloths, but be warned. Even though the animals move slowly and won’t run away from you, they are masters at disguising themselves. Look carefully, or you will walk right past them. The best way to ensure that you successfully spot animals is to go with a guide.

Where to stay in La Fortuna

Road sign of La Fortuna

The accommodation in Costa Rica ranges from basic to luxurious. No matter your budget, you will likely find an option that suits you.

In La Fortuna, you have the choice between staying in or close to town and choosing a lodge outside in the jungle. Both options have their advantages and disadvantages, so make sure to look at a few hotels before booking one.

Here are some hotels that consistently receive good reviews and that you should check out:

Mid-Range : Do you want to see active volcanoes in Costa Rica? Then you should check out Hotel Bijagua. From here, you have a direct view of El Arenal, the volcano that towers above La Fortuna. The hotel also offers a pool, and it’s only a 20-minutes walk to get to the centre of La Fortuna. Click here to check out reviews and availability!

A bit more comfort : The Lost Iguana Resort and Spa offers beautifully decorated rooms in the middle of the jungle. The setting is simply stunning, and you have a perfect view of the Arenal Volcano from here. If you want to relax, you can jump into the pool or enjoy the food at the onsite restaurant. As a bonus, all rates include breakfast. Click here to see prices and availability for your stay!

Budget : If you’re travelling on a budget, you should check out Sleeping Mountain Arenal. This basic hotel is located in La Fortuna, so you’re close to bars and restaurants. The owners are very kind and friendly, and there’s free parking available at the property. Make sure to check it out !

Day 2 – El Arenal

View of the volcano El Arenal

You have many options for the second day of this Costa Rica travel itinerary. We highly recommend checking out the Arenal volcano and the surrounding national park. The area is great for spotting wildlife, but you can also do lots of other fun activities.

Here are some suggestions:

Highlights of El Arenal for your second day

Red Eyed Frog on a branch

  • Hike around Arenal Volcano : The Arenal volcano last erupted in 1968. These days, you can hike across the lava fields around the volcano. Along the way, you will get great views, and you also have the chance of seeing animals. We recommend booking a guided tour , so you don’t get lost, and your guide can show you the local flora and fauna.
  • Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges : If you want to walk along the jungle treetops, you should head to the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges. This area is also great for spotting wildlife, and you might see sloths, butterflies, monkeys, frogs and lots of birds. Once again, to increase your chances of seeing animals, get a guide who can spot those sloths for you.
  • La Fortuna Waterfall : This waterfall is 75 metres high, and even though the entrance fee is not cheap, it is worth a visit. If you bring your swimwear, you can take a dip in the pool at the bottom of the fall. The water is cold, but it’s lots of fun as long as you watch out for the currents.
  • Go on an adventure : We have mentioned several times already that La Fortuna is great if you want to experience any adventure activities in Costa Rica. How about rafting on Rio Balsa , for example? Or do you prefer extreme canyoning ? You can find a zipline nearby if you want to fly above the top of the jungle. La Fortuna and El Arenal have lots of great options available.

Day 3 – Monteverde

Hanging bridge in Monteverde

On day 3 of your 10-days-in-Costa-Rica itinerary, head to Monteverde.

If you look at a map of Costa Rica, you’ll notice that La Fortuna and Monteverde are very close to each other. Unfortunately, you cannot cross the jungle between them and need to take a considerable detour. Don’t underestimate these roads, and don’t be surprised if it takes three hours for you to arrive.

The highlight of Monteverde is the cloud forest, where you can hike through the jungle, take perfect photos on hanging bridges and see lots of animals.

You can also fly along zip lines or taste local coffee or chocolate on a tour.

Highlights of Monteverde

Tree in the Costa Rican jungle

  • Monteverde Cloud Forest : Some of the most famous pictures of hanging bridges come from the Monteverde Cloud Forest. Walking through the treetops is a unique experience you shouldn’t miss. If you want to learn more about the region and increase your chances of spotting animals, make sure to hire a guide at the entrance of the park.
  • Zipline through the jungle : You can find multiple tour operators in Monteverde that can take you on zipline tours. While you soar above the jungle, you can enjoy fantastic views of the jungle. Click here if you want to see a tour that also includes multiple other adventure activities!
  • Coffee and chocolate tour : Did you ever want to know how chocolate and cocoa are grown and processed? Then you should join a coffee or chocolate tour (or one that combines both). You can find an example of such a tour here . Usually, they include some samples you can taste, plus lots of information on the process of producing coffee and chocolate.

Where to stay in Monteverde

Trees next to a path in the Cloud forest of Costa Rica

You can find lots of great accommodation options in the area and nearby Santa Elena. Here are some suggestions for you:

Mid-Range : The tropical gardens at Monteverde Country Lodge are a good reason to pick this hotel. The free breakfast that’s included with your stay is another. Plus, you have access to an indoor pool, a gym and a hot tub at the nearby Hotel Poco a Poco. Click here to see photos and learn more!

A bit more comfort : The Monteverde Lodge and Gardens is beautifully located in the middle of the cloud forest. As a guest, you can visit the hotel’s butterfly garden or check out the orchid conservatory. Plus, there’s a pool and helpful staff who can arrange tours and activities for you. Check out prices and availability now!

Budget: The Montefresco B&B Monteverde offers affordable accommodation with a shared kitchen and a garden where you can relax. The staff is exceptionally welcoming, and all rates include breakfast. Take a look now and book your stay!

Day 4 – 5 – Manuel Antonio

Sign with the name of Manuel Antonio National Park

How do you like exploring Costa Rica so far?

After many jungle adventures, it’s time to head to the beach. Costa Rica has two coasts, the Pacific and the Caribbean coast, and during your 10-day trip to Costa Rica, you have the chance to see both.

Stay here for two nights so you can really benefit from the area.

Highlights of Manuel Antonio

View of a beach in Manuel Antonio National Park

  • Manuel Antonio National Park : If you haven’t seen a sloth yet, this is your chance. We saw multiple in this national park, plus many monkeys and many other animals. The guides here carry a telescope, which helps spot even the smallest animals. Remember to bring your swimwear as you can find some beautiful beaches in the park.
  • Relax on the beach: You can find two beautiful beaches near Manuel Antonio National Park. The biggest one is Espadilla Beach. It’s a long stretch of sand and also a great location if you want to book some surfing lessons. As an alternative, you can head to Playa Biesanz. The entrance can be a bit tricky to find, but the waves are small and calm, so this is a wonderful beach if you’re travelling with children.
  • Mangrove Kayaking : I have gone mangrove kayaking in many locations around the world, and it has always been fun. Damas Island, near Manuel Antonio, features some great mangrove forests that you can explore in a kayak. You can book your tour either in Quepos or reserve it online ahead of time .

Where to stay in Manuel Antonio

Monkey standing on a sign in Manuel Antonio National Park

The closest town to Manuel Antonio National Park is Quepos. You will find lots of hotels here, and it’s only a short drive to the national park or any other attractions in the area.

Here are some suggestions for where to stay:

Mid-Range : Bongo is a collection of bungalows sitting on a hillside in the jungle. All rooms come with a terrace, where you can sit and relax after a day of exploring. There’s also a pool available, or you can walk to the closest beach in 20 minutes. Click here to find out more!

A bit more comfort : In this luxury resort, you can rent your own villa with a view of the ocean. The resort features a pool as well as a private beach, and if you’re lucky, you might even see a toucan or monkey from your bedroom window. See availability and rates here!

Budget : The Pura Vida Guesthouse is perfect if you’re travelling on a budget, and it consistently receives great reviews. The host, Jorge, is welcoming and can help you with everything you need. Plus, the guesthouse features common areas where you can meet other travellers. Click here to read reviews and book your stay!

Day 6-7 – Tortuguero

Costa Rican Basilisk

The next stop on this 10-day Costa Rica itinerary is at the other end of the country.

Leave early this morning to drive to Tortuguero. The drive is around 6 hours, but it’s well worth it. Tortuguero is located on a peninsula, and you need to take a boat to get here. Leave your car at the parking in La Pavona, and take one of the shuttle boats that bring you to Tortuguero.

Tortuguero is named after the turtles that nest here, but it is also a great place to see other wildlife. We especially loved the car-free town for its atmosphere, with sandy paths and colourful houses.

Highlights of Tortuguero

Interior of the Turtle conservation centre of Tortuguero

  • Canoe tour : Joining a canoe tour is a must while staying in Tortuguero. The Tortuguero National Park is mostly accessible by water, and from the water, you get a very different perspective of the jungle. You have the choice between going with a guide or renting kayaks and leaving by yourself, so decide for yourself which option you prefer.
  • Enjoy the beach : Are you visiting between July and October? Then you should join a night tour to watch the nesting or hatching of the turtles. At any other time of the year, you can still enjoy the beach by relaxing on it. The currents make it dangerous to swim far from the shore, but it’s a great place to enjoy the sun for a few hours.
  • Turtle Conservation Centre : The Turtle Conservation Centre is the perfect place to learn about the green turtles that gave their name to Tortuguero. The centre is involved in active research on turtles, and it also organises conservation activities to help preserve their numbers.

Where to stay in Tortuguero

Butterfly next to a flower

Mid-Range: If you stay at the Hotel Sunset Rooms, make sure to book one of the rooms facing the river. That way, you can enjoy the sunset from your balcony! The staff is very helpful and can assist you in arranging tours and activities, and the beach is only a short walk away. Click here for more information and availability!

A bit more comfort: If there is one hotel worth splurging on during your 10-day Costa Rica tour, it’s Mawamba Lodge. The lodge is beautifully set in a tropical garden, and you can find both a butterfly and a frog house on its grounds. We got the chance to visit both, and we spent hours taking pictures of the beautiful animals. Click here to see photos and book your stay!

Budget: La Casona de Tortuguero is amongst the best budget accommodation you can find in Tortuguero. The rooms are clean and comfortable, there’s a swimming pool, and you can get cocktails at the bar. What else do you need? Check out rates and availability now!

Day 8-9 – Puerto Viejo de Talamanca

Beach in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca Costa Rica

On the morning of day 8, take the boat back to La Pavona and drive south to Puerto Viejo de Talamanca.

Puerto Viejo is famous for its laid-back atmosphere, beach, and nearby Jaguar Rescue Centre. It’s a great place to visit if you want to relax for two days, but you can also find lots of activities in case you get bored.

Here are some of our favourite things that we did in Puerto Viejo:

Highlights of Puerto Viejo de Talamanca

Sloth in the Jaguar Rescue Centre, Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

  • Jaguar Rescue Centre : Do you want to see baby sloths from close up as they learn to climb? Are you curious to learn more about the animals you’ve seen on your trip so far? Then you should head to the Jaguar Rescue Centre. The rangers here rescue animals and nurse them back to health. The main purpose is to release the animals back into the wild, although this is not always possible. During your tour, you can see a lot of wildlife and learn more about the mission of the rescue centre. As this place was one of our highlights of Costa Rica, we highly recommend you visit!
  • Relax on a beach: Did you already have enough adventure in Costa Rica? Then we suggest you spend a day relaxing on the beach. You can find a beach in Puerto Viejo itself or travel north towards the Playa Negra with its black sand. Or you can go south-east and head towards Playa Cocles, one of the most popular beaches in the area.
  • Cahuita National Park: If you want to explore another national park, you should head to Cahuita. The park is great for hiking, but it also features some beaches where you can relax. If the weather is right, you can even go snorkelling and explore the nearby coral reef.

Where to stay in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca

Beach in Puerto Viejo Costa Rica

Mid-Range: In the Cariblue Beach and Jungle Resort, you will stay in a jungle hut with a thatched roof. There’s a pool where you can relax, or you can just cross the street to get to the beach. In addition, the rates include breakfast, so make sure to check it out!

A bit more comfort: The rooms in Le Cameleon Boutique Hotel are perfectly white and spotlessly clean. You have access to both a pool and a beach club, and there’s a spa onsite where you can relax. The staff can also arrange lots of different activities for you, from turtle watching to cocoa tours. Click here to see rates and availability!

Budget: Do you want to stay in a hostel with great vibes? Then check out the Kalunai Hostel. You can hang out in hammocks in the shared area, where you can get to meet other travellers. The staff is very friendly and helpful, and you can rent bikes for only a small fee. Click here to see available rooms and book your stay!

Day 10 – San Jose

Post office at the centre of San Jose

Your time in Costa Rica has almost come to an end. Today, drive to San Jose, where you’ll spend your last night.

Like many Central American capitals, San Jose is not a very attractive city. It has, however, a few attractions that you should check out while you’re here.

Highlights of San Jose

Facade of the National Threatre in San Jose

  • Pre-Colombian Gold Museum: Gold played an important role in pre-Colombian cultures, and the Gold Museum is home to more than 1,500 golden objects. It’s the perfect place to learn more about the history of Costa Rica and find out who the people were who once lived here. You can find it in the middle of the city, under the Plaza de la Cultura.
  • Central Market: The Central Market is a fun place to check out. You can buy a cheap but delicious lunch here or shop for souvenirs. Shops line up along narrow aisles, and you can easily spend an hour or two walking around.
  • Teatro Nacional: The National Theatre is one of Costa Rica’s most beautiful buildings. You can go inside and admire the architecture and lavish decorations by joining a guided tour. Or you can enjoy a performance on your last evening in Costa Rica. If you speak Spanish, you can check out the schedule online .

Where to stay in San Jose

Interior of a church in San Jose

Since you only have one day in San Jose, we suggest staying in a central location. That way, you can quickly reach all interesting museums and tourist attractions.

Mid-Range: The Urban Green Hotel & Suites offers large rooms in the centre of San Jose. For a little bit extra, you can include an excellent breakfast. The staff is very friendly and helpful, so make sure to contact them if you have any questions. Click here to see rates and reviews!

A bit more comfort: The Grano de Oro Hotel feels like a small palace in the centre of San Jose. All rooms are beautifully and exclusively decorated.  There are lots of antiques, small fountains and charming garden areas around, and you can quickly reach all the interesting tourist attractions. Click here to see photos and book your stay!

Budget: If you’re travelling on a budget, you should check out the Hotel Trianon. This colourful hotel has an excellent location only 400 metres away from the National Theatre. It offers great value for money, and you can buy smoothies and natural fruit juices at the cafeteria. Check out more information now!

We hope you found this 10-days Costa Rica itinerary helpful. If you have less time, you can easily adjust it by skipping one or two of the places. Which ones? Well, drop the one that sounds the least exciting to you.

Or focus on visiting just one half of the country. If you only have one week in Costa Rica, you could skip Tortuguero and Puerto Viejo and spend a bit more time in the other places instead.

View of the Costa Rican landscape

You will also need to adapt this itinerary if you don’t want to rent a car. In general, getting around Costa Rica by public transport is possible. It takes time, though, so you will likely have to skip one or two places. Make sure to check out our guide on how to get from Puerto Viejo de Talamanca to Tortuguero to get an idea of how to get around.

Also, make sure to check out our other posts about Costa Rica, which will help plan your trip:

  • Guide to Costa Rican food
  • Learn about Monteverde in our interview with nature guide Ricardo
  • These are the best things to do in Tortuguero

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Ilona is a world traveller passionate about sharing her experiences and giving advice to fellow travellers. Having visited over 70 countries, she is always excited about her next trip.

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Read this article and would like to read more. Planning a trip in future to this country with possibility of staying. Would like to provide service to support myself and tourism at some point.

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My compliments for the itinerary and how you describe and provide options. It has been very useful and I look forward for my trip to CostaRica!

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Paradise Catchers

Costa Rica 10 Day Itinerary (From Liberia): The Best Highlights

White clouds float over green mountains. Hanging bridges sway deep inside mist covered tropical forests. Ocean waves crash on pristine beaches. White waterfalls plunge into turquoise pools. There is never a dull scenery in Costa Rica! The abundance of natural resources in the country and a conscious effort of conversation also make it home to several species of birds and animals. It comes as no surprise that this Central American country is a bucket list travel destination for many people around the world. If you are among them, we have got you covered for your trip planning. We created this Costa Rica 10 day itinerary covering the best highlights of the country.

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Watch our YouTube video below about the essence of Costa Rica and get inspired to book that ticket!

Table of Contents

Costa Rica 10 Day Itinerary

To help you plan how to best spend your 10 days in Costa Rica, we shortlisted an assortment of destinations that will give you a glimpse of different diverse ecosystems. The itinerary has been optimized in such a way that you get a taste of beaches, cloud forests, waterfalls, hot springs, volcanoes, wildlife, but without much hassle of long distance travels.

This itinerary is perfect for you if you plan to enter and exit via Liberia airport, one of the two international airports in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica Trip Planning Resources :

Check out Costa Rica Activities to plan your Costa Rica trip. If you have a shorter vacation in mind, consider these 5-day itinerary options.

You can check this Costa Rica itinerary for 2-weeks, if San Jose airport works better for you as points of arrival and departure .

The most convenient way of getting around in Costa Rica is to  rent a car .

Must-have things on your Costa Rica packing list:  Reef Safe Sunscreen ,  Insect Repellent , and  Rain Poncho . You can read our full packing guide and download the free packing checklist for the Costa Rica trip.

Day 1: Fly in to Liberia – Rio Negro Hot Springs and Waterfalls

After flying in to Liberia airport during the first half of the day, reserve your afternoon for some relaxation and rejuvenation, typical Costa Rica style! Go on a lazy nature walk to explore the Rio Negro series of waterfalls in the jungle. Then pamper yourself by soaking in the Rio Negro hot springs by the river. The setting is therapeutic. During your time at the hot springs, you can also try a volcanic mud bath, which is fun and healing at the same time.

For the first couple of days, you can base yourself in the Rincon de la Vieja area, about 30 minutes drive from the Liberia airport. Hotel Hacienda Guachipelin is a good accommodation option because it is located near the Rincon de la Vieja National Park. Also, the stay here includes free access to all the waterfalls of the area as well as the Rio Negro hot springs, which otherwise you would need to purchase a pass for.

If you arrive in Costa Rica during the second half of the day, treat it as your Day 0. Relax with a nice dinner and a good night’s sleep before you begin your travel adventures the next day.

A couple with volcanic mud on their skin, posing for a selfie at Rio Negro Hot Springs in Costa Rica.

Day 2: Rincon de la Vieja National Park and Oropendola Waterfall

Start early on Day 2 of your Costa Rica trip to visit the Rincon de la Vieja National Park. The park has two main sectors, Santa Maria and Las Pailas. The latter is the one next to the Hacienda Guachipelin property and thus the one you can visit easily on this day. Las Pailas sector has a few trails – the crater trail of Rincon de la Vieja volcano, trails to couple of waterfalls and a trail by the same name as the sector, Las Pailas.

However, if you have 10 days in Costa Rica, you may not want to spend multiple days hiking on different trails of the same national park. So, you need to choose a trail or two for your hikes.

If you are looking for a nice and easy hike, choose the Las Pailas sector for your hike in the Rincon de la Vieja National Park . It is a circular trail of 3.2 km (2 miles) going through tropical rain forests and tropical dry forests. While walking on the well paved trail admiring the interesting vegetation, look out for birds and animals, particularly howler monkeys and spider monkeys, hanging out discreetly around you. But the most interesting part of this Las Pailas trail is the variety of secondary volcano activities like volcanic mud pots, water pots, fumarolic lagoon and more. It is fascinating to watch how amusing our planet is.

A zoomed in view of volcanic mud pots, secondary volcanic activities at Rincon de la Vieja National Park in Costa Rica.

Difficult Hikes

If you want a tougher hike, consider one of the waterfall trails or the volcano crater trail. If you decide to do the waterfall hike but are spoilt for choice between the two waterfalls, Catarata La Cangreja and Catarata Escondido, we would suggest La Cangreja waterfall . The gorgeous white waterfall tumbling into a turquoise natural pool is totally worth the effort of the 10 km (6.2 miles) hike.

A long exposure shot of La Cangreja waterfall, a great inclusion in Costa Rica 10 day itinerary.

Oropendola Waterfall

On your way out from Rincon de la Vieja National Park, take a quick trip to the Oropendola waterfall located just outside the boundaries of the national park. From the parking lot, you can access the waterfall by an easy walk, including few shaky minutes on a constantly swaying hanging bridge.

Enjoy the views of this wildly beautiful waterfall from the viewing deck. Or take the iron stairs to go down into the emerald pool for a swim and for enjoying the splash of the waterfall.

Oropendola waterfall tumbling into a turquoise pool in a scenic jungle setting.

If you prefer organized guided tours, you can also check the following tour options that offer guide, lunch and transportation including free pick and drop from hotels in the Tamarindo, Conchal, Flamingo areas and/or the resorts in the Gulf of Papagayo.

If you prefer a private tour, here is an option –

There are ziplining and river tubing options in the area apart from the hot springs. So you can check this to ur for these experiences.

Day 3: Liberia to Monteverde – Monteverde Night Walk

On Day 3, check out from your hotel in Rincon de la Vieja and start your journey towards Monteverde, the cloud forest haven of Costa Rica . The trip should take between 2 and 2.5 hours, without any stop.

Apart from its cloud forests, this mountain town is also known for several exciting activities and attractions, and hence your next couple of days in Monteverde are going to be packed. So you might as well take the first day easy.

Afternoon Relaxation and Sunset

After arriving in town, treat yourself to a filling lunch at one of the many nice restaurants of Monteverde . Post lunch, spend a cozy relaxing afternoon in your hotel room or at a coffee shop, sipping a cuppa and reading a book, while enjoying the cool climate and lush mountain views. This afternoon in Monteverde can be the epitome of your much needed tranquility.

As the afternoon progresses, head towards one of the vantage sunset points in Monteverde to see the perfect orange sun setting over the Gulf of Nicoya with the backdrop of the mountain landscape.

Perfect round sun and a fiery red sky during sunset in Monteverde, Costa Rica.

Monteverde Night Walk

If you are re-energized after all the day’s rest, you can still fit in a Monteverde activity on this Day 3 of your Costa Rica 10 day itinerary. With various ongoing conservation efforts, Monteverde has retained its natural biodiversity and thus is home to several species of flora and fauna. So, you are never far from the elements of nature in Monteverde.

But, as the sun goes down, a layer of mystery seems to engulf the forests of Monteverde which come alive with all kinds of sounds in the darkness of the night. This is when you get the chance to spot several nocturnal birds, mammals, arthropods, amphibians and reptiles. The best way to experience this night time forest of Monteverde is by going on a guided night tour. Check this out for all the details on how you can plan your Monteverde night walk.

Rufous-eyed Brook Frog sitting on a green leaf.

Day 4: Monteverde – Zip-lining and Hanging Bridges

This day of your Costa Rica 10 day trip is bound to give you the ultimate adrenaline rush.

Go on a zip-lining and hanging bridges combo tour. Experience the cloud forests of Monteverde from close quarters and get transported to a different world of solitude and serenity, while still experiencing an adrenaline boost.

Based on your preferences, you can also choose to go for either the hanging bridges walk or the zip-lining tour, if not both. Most adventure parks in Monteverde offer both the tours, individually and as combo, which you can also pair with some other lighter activities, based on the package you purchase. Sky Adventures and Selvatura Park are the most prominent among all the adventure parks in Monteverde.

Monteverde Hanging Bridges

Walking on the hanging bridges is a hiking activity of about 2 to 2.5 hours. You follow the well marked nature trail which also takes you through a series of high and long suspension bridges. As the bridges are constructed near the canopy level, you can enjoy unique perspectives of the forests, including eye level sightings of several birds and monkeys at the forest canopy.

Typical of cloud forests, the forests often wear blankets of passing clouds. So, when you walk on the hanging bridges, some of which are as high as 164 feet, you get the feeling of walking over the clouds!

You can go for a self-guided tour or a guided tour. While you can definitely enjoy the hanging bridges on a self-guided walk, on a guided tour, the naturalist guide can help you with better wildlife sightings. And you also get to learn more about the natural biodiversity of the area.

For comparisons of different hanging bridges tours of Monteverde, and details on how to book the tour, what to expect and how to prepare for the tour, read this post on hanging bridges of Monteverde .

A man wearing grey t-shirt, sunglasses and red cap, and a woman wearing navy blue t-shirt, sunglasses and beige cap, posing for a selfie on a hanging bridge of Monteverde.

Monteverde Zip-lining

If walking over the clouds on the hanging bridges gives you a high, how about taking the experience one notch higher? On the zip-lining tour in Monteverde, you get the feeling of flying over the cloud forest!

The zip-lining tour also takes about 2 to 2.5 hours. Staying attached to the zip-line through a harness, you zip across from one platform to another. As you glide in air, enjoy the views of the vast expanse of the cloud forests. Some tours include an optional Superman zip-line at an extra fee. If you opt for this, you get to experience a bird’s eye view of the forest as you slide along the zip-line in a Superman like position.

Zip-lining in Monteverde is a guided activity (of course!). The group of zip-lining tour customers is always accompanied by a professional crew. They will guide you about safety features, assist you with the gear, and help you with take-off and landing on every line.

For comparisons of different zip-lining tour providers of Monteverde, and details on how to book the tour and what to expect, read this post on zip-lining in Monteverde .

Here are some snaps from our zip-lining adventures at Sky Adventures and Selvatura Park in Monteverde.

A woman zip-lining in Monteverde, Costa Rica.

For organized guided tours, check out these options here and here . Also, you can check the tours on Viator below –

Day 5: Monteverde – Bird-watching and Cloud Forest Hiking

The next day in Monteverde is also filled with activities, but they are more calming than thrilling, like birding and hiking. But you will be burning a lot of calories as the day involves quite a few hours of walking.

The previous day you walked over the clouds of the cloud forest and zip-lined high above the cloud forest canopy. Today, it is time to keep your feet on the ground (pun intended) . Explore the cloud forests of Monteverde from inside. Go for hiking in the cloud forest reserves, after going for (an optional) birding tour in the morning.

Curi Cancha Reserve

Around 400 species of birds have been recorded in Monteverde. Many of these birds, with their brilliant colors and amusing behavior, are a delight to watch. One such bird is the elusive Resplendent Quetzal. Monteverde is one of the very few places in Costa Rica where you can spot this majestic looking bird. Otherwise, you can spot Quetzals in San Gerardo de Dota or Los Quetzales National Park , which are not part of this Costa Rica 10 day itinerary.

The best way to enjoy the birds of Costa Rica is by going on a bird-watching tour. Curi Cancha Reserve in Monteverde is a great birding destination as it has several nature trails including some along open landscaped spaces, which make bird sighting easier.

Go for an early morning tour for better chances of birding and also to fit in other activities for later in the day. You can go for self-guided tour from 7:00 am onward, whereas the guided tour starts at 6:30 am. Read this post for details on the trails and viewpoints of Curi Cancha reserve and how to book the tour .

This guided bird-watching tour with a local guide includes entry tickets. If you have transport and bought the entrance tickets, here is another excellent option .

If you are not a birding enthusiast, you can skip Curi Cancha and instead start the next activity earlier.

A hummingbird at Curi Cancha Reserve. Birding at Curi Cancha is must include activity in the Costa Rica itinerary for birding enthusiasts.

Hiking in the Cloud Forest Reserve

There are 3 major reserves in Monteverde, each special in its own way. You can include any one of these 3 reserves in your Costa Rica 10 day itinerary. None will disappoint the nature lover in you.

Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve

Established by the Quakers, the pioneers of the Monteverde community settlement, this reserve has 8 trails of lengths varying between 0.2 km (01. mile) and 2 km (1.12 miles), with some intersections/ connections among them. Apart from the cloud forests, Monteverde Reserve has several other attractions like diverse vegetation, wildlife sightings, river trail and waterfall. But the major highlights of this reserve are a hanging bridge and a viewpoint of the Continental Divide.

Elfin forest near the Continental Divide at Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve - a unique perspective during Costa Rica 10 day trip.

Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve

Situated at a higher elevation, Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve gives you an immersive cloud forest experience. The reserve has 5 different trails covering a distance of 12.5 km (7.8 miles) in total. One of the highlights of the Santa Elena Reserve is the observation tower. From the tower, you can see 4 volcanoes, including the Arenal Volcano on a clear day. For more details, read our complete guide to Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve .

Black Guan, at Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve in Monteverde, Costa Rica.

Bajo del Tigre Reserve, Children’s Eternal Rainforest

Bajo del Tigre is a small sector of the largest reserve in Costa Rica, Children’s Eternal Rainforest. The reserve has 3.7 km (2.3 miles) of trails which are mostly flat and easy to walk on. There are also benches in some parts for resting. This reserve is perfect for families with kids and elderly people. Bajo del Tigre reserve is positioned in a transition zone of wet to seasonal moist. Thus, you also get to enjoy the rain forest experience here. For planning your trip to this reserve, read our complete guide to Bajo del Tigre Reserve .

The trail at Bajo del Tigre Reserve of Children's Eternal Rainforest in Monteverde.

Day 6: Monteverde Coffee Tour – Monteverde to Playa Avellanas

On your last morning in Monteverde, spend some time learning about the other thing Monteverde is famous for. Its coffee. Sign up for a coffee farm tour which lasts for about 2 to 2.5 hours. On this tour, you will get to learn more about coffee farming, processing and roasting. El Trapiche and Don Juan Monteverde offer 3-in-1 combo tour of coffee, cocoa and sugarcane, while Cafe Monteverde gives a more in-depth coffee experience mapping it against social and economic context.

After wrapping up the coffee tour by afternoon, it is time to say good bye to Monteverde and proceed to your next destination, Playa Avellanas. It is a less developed beach in a village of the Guanacaste province of Costa Rica. The drive from Monteverde to Avellanas takes around 3 hours. So, you may reach town just in time to catch a beach sunset at Playa Avellanas.

The entrance of Monteverde Coffee Center. Coffee tour is an interesting activity to include in the Costa Rica itinerary for in-depth insights about coffee harvesting and roasting.

Alternative Destination Recommendation for Monteverde: Days 4 to 6

You can swap Monteverde with La Fortuna . It is an equally exciting destination, and takes around the same amount of time to reach from Liberia as Monteverde.Monteverde is great for cloud forests, cool mountain climate, wildlife sighting opportunities, hanging bridges and zip-lining. Lying in the northern plains region, La Fortuna is known for the famous Arenal Volcano National Park , Arenal Lake, rain forests, hanging bridges , zip-lining, bird-watching and sloth-sighting opportunities , La Fortuna waterfall and volcanic hot springs among others. From La Fortuna, you can also take a side trip to the magical Rio Celeste waterfall .

La Fortuna activities and tours: You can check the tours that pack multiple activities in a day. This tour has the La Fortuna hi ghlights or this one that includes the volcanic hot springs as well, in case your stay does not have a hotspring. Also, the coffee tour , sloth-watching tours , and night tour are other interesting activities in La Fortuna and Arenal.

If you are up for some adventure activities, below are some options.

Watch our YouTube video below about La Fortuna waterfall.

Day 7: Playa Avellanas – Beach Hopping

Avellanas beach.

Although Playa Avellanas is a favorite beach among the locals of Costa Rica, organized tourism is yet to catch up here. And that is what we like the most about Playa Avellanas. You get to enjoy a long stretch of soft sand beach, without the intervention of many beach side constructions. Take a stroll on the beach and watch a perfect beach sunset. Also, walk on the Insta-famous Avellanas Bridge . This wooden bridge is great for photo ops and to see the mangrove marshlands up close.

A man wearing red t-shirt, sunglasses and red cap, and a woman wearing a denim dress and sunglasses, posing for a selfie at Playa Avellanas in Guanacaste, Costa Rica.

Beach Hopping around Avellanas

Since this is effectively your first beach day in Costa Rica, you may consider scouting the area for other nice beaches that you can return to later. If you keep driving southwards from Playa Avellanas, you will come across a few other beaches within a distance of 10 km (6.2 miles), each having its own character.

At around 2 km (1.2 miles), Playa Lagartillo is the closest to Avellanas. With no souls in sight at this secluded beach, it turned out to be our favorite.

Playa Negra is located around 4.6 km (2.8 miles) south of Avellanas. There is a hotel property by the same name, Hotel Playa Nagra right on the beach, which makes activity at Playa Negra a little more prominent.

Located about 6.7 km (4.2 miles) from Playa Avellanas, Playa Blanca is a beautiful white sand beach. Due to the positioning of the adjacent small cliffs, you can enjoy the clifftop views of the beach. Some luxury residential project development in the area makes the facilities at Playa Blanca a little more organized, like guarded parking.

Playa Junquillal is a 4 km (2.5 miles) stretch of tan sand beach, the main beach of the town of Junquillal. There are quite a few hotels, guesthouses and eateries near this beach. But it still retains a raw beach town flavor.

A man wearing blue and white floral shirt and red cap, and a woman wearing a red spaghetti top and brown hat, posing for a selfie at Playa Lagartillo in Guanacaste, Costa Rica.

Day 8: Playa Avellanas – Swimming and Surfing

Spend Day 8 of your Costa Rica trip enjoying the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean.

Surfing is one of the best things to do at Playa Avellanas . So, if you are a seasoned surfer, just rent a surfboard and start taking on the waves. If you are a newbie or a beginner, you can sign up for surfing lessons from one of the surf schools. Or just sit on the beach, watching the surfers hone their skills.

Swim in the ocean or laze around under the shades of the trees. When you are hungry or thirsty, grab a bite and a drink at the iconic Lola’s restaurant on the beach.

There is not much of a nightlife at Avellanas. So you can conclude the day with a dinner at a nice restaurant. Kon-Tiki near Playa Negra has great wood-fired pizza which you can pair with a glass of wine.

A drone shot of surfers waiting for the wave at Avellanas beach. Surfing is a great activity to include in the Costa Rica itinerary for surfing beginners as well as surfing pros.

Read about other surfing beaches of Costa Rica:

Playa Carmen , Playa Hermosa , Playa Dominicalito , Malpais , Santa Teresa .

Day 9: Playa Avellanas / Tamarindo

To get the feel of a busier beach town, head to Tamarindo for your last night in Costa Rica. Tamarindo also has great surf breaks, a nice beach, several other great beaches within an hour’s driving distance and great sunsets. But Tamarindo is always bustling. There are scores of hotels, restaurants, stores, souvenir shops, all packed in the town center, and spread out in the vicinity as well. That is why the nighttime is also quite active in Tamarindo.

Tamarindo is around 40 minutes drive from Avellanas. So, if you check out before noon from Avellanas, you can grab lunch at Tamarindo, surf and swim in the afternoon, watch sunset from a rooftop bar and then end the day with fine dining at one of Tamarindo’s finest restauarants.

But if you enjoy the slow pace at Playa Avellanas, you can skip Tamarindo. Stay back at Avellanas for another day of surf, swim and sunset.

Two empty beach chairs under the shade of trees. They are facing the blue ocean, where many yachts are anchored. This is a typical sight at Tamarindo on quieter mornings. Tamarindo is a popular beach destination on Costa Rica itineraries.

Check out a couple of interesting tour options from Tamarindo. This sunset and snorke l tour gives you a break from the beach on a catamaran cruise in the Pacific. If you want to have a full-day tour of the neighboring Nicaragua , you can consider the tour below.

Alternative Destination Recommendation for Avellanas Beach: Days 7 to 9

If you prefer bustling beach towns over quieter ones, replace your Avellanas days with Tamarindo. If you prefer something in between, like not too touristy, neither lacking development, consider Nosara. Choose between Playa Guiones and Playa Pelada in Nosara. Another great beach town in Guanacaste is Samara.

Day 10: Fly out from Liberia

Keep the agenda wide open for the last day of your Costa Rica 10 day itinerary. You need not schedule any activities in advance. But depending on the time of your flight, you may be able to sneak in one last ocean swim or one last nature walk.

The duration for transfer to Liberia airport will depend on your last destination. It can take between 1:15 hours and 1:30 hours from Playa Avellanas or Tamarindo, around 2 hours from Samara and 2:15 hours from Nosara. So, plan your airport transfer accordingly.

As you conclude this Costa Rica itinerary, reflect on the experiences you have gathered from this land of Pura Vida. It is time to say goodbye for this time and start preparing for the next trip to Costa Rica!

The view of a plane flying in the sky near Liberia airport.

Hotel Recommendations for 10 Days in Costa Rica

In Costa Rica, you can find hotels, hostels and guesthouses of various budget ranges. But almost everywhere, you can expect decent service, clean premises and friendly staff. Here are some of our accommodation recommendations for your Costa Rica 10 day itinerary.

Rincon de la Vieja Hotels

  • Hotel Hacienda Guachipelin: It is located in a big property right next to the Las Pailas sector of the Rincon de la Vieja National Park. The hotel offers dozens of rooms, with varying accommodation types such as Standard Room, Superior Room, Family Superior Room, Legacy Suite and Suite. The rooms are nothing too fancy, but work fine with comfortable bed and hot shower. The hotel has a swimming pool, a restaurant and offers secure free parking and free WiFi. But the best part about the stay at Hacienda Guachipelin is that the price of the stay includes free access to the Rio Negro Hot Springs and all other waterfalls of the region. Book your stay here.

Monteverde Hotels

  • El Establo Mountain Hotel: It is a high-end hotel with incredible views, two onsite restaurants, a spa and a swimming pool. You can choose from four different accommodation options, Deluxe Double Room, Junior Suite, Suite and Honeymoon Suite. Book your stay here.
  • Rainbow Valley Mountain Lodge: It is a mid-range option located on the highway few miles ahead of Monteverde. The accommodation options are Chalet, Budget Double Room, Double Room with Mountain View or Balcony, Suite with Mountain View, Family Room with Mountain View and Suite with Hot Tub. Each accommodation is an independent unit with kitchenette. Book your stay here.
  • Cabañas Hoja Verde: It is a private cabin in the woods, great for isolated stays. The cabin features a living room, bedroom, balcony, fully equipped kitchen and a secure parking. Book your stay here.
  • Greemount Hotel: It is a family-run budget hotel offering basic no frills accommodation. But you will find everything that you need for a comfortable stay. Comfortable bed, hot water, homemade breakfast, parking, WiFi, a common area with reading nooks and games. The room options are Double Room, Quadruple Room and Family Room. Book your stay here.

For more hotel recommendations, check out this “Where To Stay” section of our Monteverde travel guide.

Playa Avellanas Hotels

  • Drift Away Eco Lodge: (This hotel is now the Blue Zone Resort) It is an eco-conscious property, around 1.6 km from Avellanas beach. This sustainable eco-lodge offers King Room, Queen Room, Twin Room and Two Bedroom Villa, each carefully appointed with rustic furniture, sustainably made bed and bath linens and toiletries. The property has beautiful landscaped gardens, a yoga center, a recreation room and a swimming pool surrounded by sculpted statues and fountains. Fair warning, Drift Away Eco Lodge may become the highlight of your days at Playa Avellanas. Book your stay here.

Swimming pool at Drift Away Eco Lodge near Playa Avellanas.

Tamarindo Hotels

  • Tamarindo Diria Beach Resort: It is a beachfront property offering more than 200 rooms with ocean or pool views. The resort has 4 onsite restaurants, 1 gelateria, 1 lounge bar and 2 wet bars. There are several pools too, 1 beachfront pool, 1 children’s pool, 1 adults-only quiet pool, 1 scenic pool and 1 hydrotherapy pool. Diria Reosrt also has a casino! Book your stay here.
  • Ten North Tamarindo Beach Hotel: It is a mid-range hotel located in the heart of Tamarindo. For your stay, you can choose from room and apartment options, some with pool view or balcony. Book your stay here.
  • Jardin del Eden el Boutique Hotel: It is an adults-only boutique hotel, with carefully curated rooms, gardens and pools. This is a great romantic accommodation option, with some rooms offering private spa tubs. The nightly tariff includes breakfast and dinner for all room types. Book your stay here.
  • Cala Luna Boutique Hotel & Villas: Located closer to Langosta Beach, it is a boutique hotel with secluded deluxe rooms, private villas with pools for families and luxury adults-only suites. With various well-being offerings like spa treatments, yoga sessions and farm-to-table dinners, you are likely to have an intimate connection with nature at Cala Luna. Book your stay here.

You can search for more Tamarindo hotels here.

What to Pack for 10 Days in Costa Rica?

Check out our comprehensive packing guide for Costa Rica , with a FREE checklist included that should help you at the time of packing your bags.

How to Get Around in Costa Rica?

The most convenient way of getting around in Costa Rica is to rent a car . It gives you the flexibility of timing, routes, and scenic stops. Due to the road conditions in some parts of the country, driving here can turn out to be adventurous. However, for the destinations we covered in this Costa Rica 10 day itinerary, you do not really need a 4X4. A car with high ground clearance should suffice. Compare the prices before you book the rental car, and remember to check the insurance coverage.

We have a Costa Rica Car Rental Deal for you

Our Car Rental Partner: Adobe Rent A Car, 100% Costa Rican company and a trusted name, with transparent pricing.

Click here to make your reservation, with the discount automatically applied. For the details of the deal, read this article .

Car Rental Deal Highlights: ~10% discount on base rate (varies by dates and demand) , free extra drivers, booster seats and baby seats at no extra cost, free door-step delivery of rental car to houses, condos and hotels near Adobe Rent A Car offices.

If you are not comfortable driving in a foreign country, you can ask your hotels to arrange for airport transfers and pick-up and drop-off between destinations. Alternatively, you can opt for public buses for traveling between destinations. For different tours, check with the tour providers if they can include hotel pick-up and drop-off.

Unpaved road lined by trees, a common sight in the rural areas. Expect to drive on such roads.

Final Thoughts on Costa Rica 10 Day Itinerary

Costa Rica is a great destination for nature seekers. It offers exciting activities and attractions for all kinds of travelers, families, couples or solo travelers. Ranging from tropical dry forests to tropical rain forests and cloud forests, from mountains to beaches, volcanoes to waterfalls, we explored various landscapes in this Costa Rica 10 day itinerary. Yet there is so much more to discover in this beautiful country in Central America. So, this could be the first of your many trips to Costa Rica. Or, who knows, this trip might as well turn out to be your temptation for moving to Costa Rica !

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Costa Rica 10 day itinerary covering the country's best highlights of cloudforests, beaches, volcanoes, hot springs and exotic wildlife.

Travel Planning Logistics

  • Accommodation: For several years now, has been our platform of choice for booking accommodation while traveling. You can apply all the desired filters and shortlist the ones that meet your criteria. On continued use, you will keep unlocking their Genius benefits. For long term stays, we use Airbnb . Of late, we have also started browsing Hostelworld for finding hostels.
  • Tours: When traveling to new destinations, you can plan ahead and book your activities. Check for highly rated tours on Viator and Get Your Guide .
  • Packing: From swimwear to sunscreen, hiking pants to insect repellents, buy your vacation packing essentials on Amazon .
  • Flights: We always start our flight searches with Skyscanner and Momondo . They are aggregators that display flight options, compiling information across airlines and combinations. What we like the best about these flight aggregators is that you can put “Anywhere” as your destination, so that you find the best flight deals from your city of departure.

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We are Pubali and Indranil, an Indian couple living in Costa Rica and slow traveling Latin America and Caribbean.

21 Best Places to Visit in Colombia

Cerro tortuguero: hiking an inactive volcano, 8 thoughts on “costa rica 10 day itinerary (from liberia): the best highlights”.

Excellent description. Quite precise itinerary. Nice photographs. The presentation must force people to take a trip to Costa Rica.

Thank you 🙂

This is fantastic. We are tempted to follow this almost entirely!

If we are looking to squeeze in La Fortuna, should we swap out Monteverde or Rincon de la Vieja?

Thanks Nitin. You can choose to replace Rincon de la Vieja with La Fortuna, as thematically, both have volcano, hot springs and waterfalls, whereas Monteverde is more of a cloud forest, hiking and adventure kind of destination. Hope this helps 🙂

how much for 10day ecxscursion im in liberia

Hi Russ. Welcome to Costa Rica. How much you spend during10 days in Costa Rica will depend on your accommodation type, transfer/commute modes and chosen activities. Please note, we are not a tour company – so, we do not offer any excursions ourselves but will be happy to share recommendations of noted local tour operators in Costa Rica. Please feel free to send us an email. Thank you.

we are planning a trip for this January and I wonder if you have this itinerary mapped out so I could see it on a map? Thanks – would weather be Ok in early – mid January? Assume we’d need to be prepared for rain regardless since it is a rainforest~. Thanks appreciate your response.

Hi Laurie, we haven’t created a map for this itinerary yet, but good idea – we’ll put it on our things to do for enhancing this itinerary article. Thanks to you! 🙂 Meanwhile, if you need one sooner, please feel free to send us an email with the map request and we’ll respond.

January weather should be fine. Beaches will be hot and humid, but overall lesser chances of rain all over the country. And you are right, pack a raincoat in any case and you will be fine. Enjoy your Costa Rica trip! 🙂

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5 different 7-day Costa Rica itineraries – one-week road trips

Costa Rica road trip with Costa Rider

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In this article, we’ll give you 5 different one-week Costa Rica itineraries you can follow to create the ultimate road trip experience. We’ll let you know all the things you can do in Costa Rica in 7 days while exploring various parts of the country. From beaches to volcanos to national parks and so much more, our 7-day road trip itineraries will take you to the best spots in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica is a beautiful country with so many amazing places to explore. What makes this country even more special is that you can visit such diverse places in such a short time – even in a short 7 days in Costa Rica.

From stunning beaches to active volcanos, the most biodiverse national park and protected marine parks , epic waterfalls and more, Costa Rica has something for everyone, regardless of your budget or preference.

In this article, we’ll give you a few ways you can plan for how to spend 7 days in Costa Rica. Each itinerary has something unique to offer, allowing you to discover the best parts of the country in a short time frame.

One week road trip in Costa Rica. Camping on the beach

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Table of Contents

Living the Pura Vida in Costa Rica

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of this article, let’s quickly situate Costa Rica on a map and tell you a bit about this beautiful country.

Costa Rica is a small country in Central America. It shares a border with Nicaragua in the north and Panama in the south. It has the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Caribbean Sea to the east. This means you can go diving in 2 different oceans during your stay!

The landscape of Costa Rica is quite diverse – with mountains, rainforests, cloud forests, beaches, volcanos, islands, rivers, waterfalls and lakes. With this diverse landscape, the country is home to a huge variety of plants and animals. In fact, Corcovado, the most biodiverse national park in the world, is home to 3% of the world’s animals. From monkeys to jaguars, sloths, toucans, tapirs and more, there is so much wildlife to discover in Costa Rica.

And with its two coastlines, Costa Rica is a great place for underwater life as well. Whales use the waters here as a channel to migrate north and south. You can find many varieties of sharks, turtles, crocodiles and tons of fish. As avid scuba divers, we loved our experience scuba diving in Costa Rica. But more on this later.

Driving in Costa Rica – a few simple notes

Before getting into the different itineraries, we want to share some quick details and tips about driving in Costa Rica. This information will help you make the best of your road trip in Costa Rica and help save you time and stress.

Campervan in Costa Rica

Renting a 4×4 in Costa Rica

The best way to road trip is to rent a 4×4 in Costa Rica. We highly recommend going with Costa Rider Campervan . Not only do they have a variety of campervans that have 4×4 capabilities, but they have amazing service and offer no-nonsense rentals. This means all your necessities are included in the rental fee. No need to pay extra for bedding or cooking utensils, it’s all included in the price.

Included in all their rentals are compulsory insurance, additional drivers, 24/7 assistance, free airport pick-up and drop-off and unlimited mileage. On top of that, they give you a free local SIM card with a bit of data to help you get started. They also provide a guide with all the best places to sleep.

Basically, it’s the easiest way to get around the country and to road trip across Costa Rica with the peace of mind that you won’t get stuck or stranded.

We rented the Adventure Campervan and it was the best way to explore the country, hands down! More to come on our rental soon.

7 day road trip in Costa Rica. Beach views

Important information about driving in Costa Rica

Here are some things you need to know about driving in Costa Rica. This is everything you need to know to make sure you can drive in the country.

  • Like in all of the countries in America, we drive on the right side of the road in Costa Rica.
  • Although most of the country (90%) has paved roads, however reaching some parts of the country will require a 4×4. There are places you need to cross rivers or the unpaved roads are bumpy and steep. This is why we were so happy to have our Costa Rider Adventure campervan .
  • When paying with a credit card, certain rental companies will require you to have a personalized letter from your credit card company that states that you have car insurance coverage on your card. Costa Rider Campervan did not require this of us, but we did pay cash for our rental.
  • Traveling on weekends might be a better option to get places faster. During the week, many of the roads we took in Costa Rica were under construction. This added a good one to two hours to our journey. On weekends, since there was no construction, it was much easier and faster to get around. However, on weekends, locals tend to travel more, so attractions are busier.
  • Make sure your physical license is valid. During our time in Costa Rica, Derek’s driver’s license expired. Even if the Quebec government issued a formal letter saying his license was still valid, we were told he could not drive in the country.
  • To navigate around Costa Rica, we recommend you use Waze instead of Google Maps. It’s more accurate and has more recently updated information.
  • Drive distances are short in Costa Rica, but drive times are long. You may only need to drive 40 km, but the trip could take you over 1.5 hours. The roads are winding, going up and down, sometimes unpaved and often 1-lane wide. So if you get stuck behind a truck, you might go slower than anticipated.
  • You will only need an International driver’s license if your license is in a different alphabet than the one used for English/Spanish.
  • It is recommended to always have your passport on you when you are driving.

Camping in Costa Rica

One of the best things about renting a campervan and going on a road trip in Costa Rica is that the whole country can be your playground! You can travel as loosely as you’d like, having the flexibility to stay or to leave when you’d like.

This sense of freedom is what we loved the most about renting a 4×4 campervan in Costa Rica with Costa Rider Campervan . We could roam around and explore so many parts of the country that are lesser known to most travelers.

Wild camping in Costa Rica

The great thing about camping in Costa Rica is that wild camping is legal in the country. This means you can camp in most public places for free – Yes, that includes the beautiful beaches that have public access. The main rule you need to follow when camping on the beach is that you have to stay behind or under the line of palm trees. That means you can’t park on the beach itself – which is a good thing! You don’t want to get stuck or ruin it for others.

Camping on the beach in Costa Rica

Paid campgrounds in Costa Rica

What is also great about camping in Costa Rica is that you have a variety of paid campgrounds you can use. They are all over the country – from Drake Bay to Bajos del Toro and Uvita.

Although the quality of amenities varies, most campsites will offer shared washrooms and showers, at the bare minimum. Some places offer communal kitchens and lounge areas. Some have wifi, some don’t. Some have hot water, others don’t. It all depends on where you are and what you paid to gain access to the facilities.

Finding where to camp in Costa Rica

One of the best apps we used when campervanning in Costa Rica was the iOverlander app . If you’ve ever campervanned anywhere in the world, then you know what a precious tool iOverlander is.

This app allows you to see where you can camp, what you’ll likely pay, what amenities are included, and what to expect as an experience at the campsite. This goes for paid and wild campsites.

When road-tripping in Costa Rica, this app is a must. And best of all, it works without data or a wifi connection!

Sunset at Ocotal Beach - Road trip in Costa Rica

5 different one-week road trips in Costa Rica

Even if you only have 7 days in Costa Rica, you can explore so much of the country! Luckily, Costa Rica is a small country so exploring it in a short time frame is very possible.

In fact, with one week in Costa Rica, you’re still able to cram in some of the best things to do in the country. So don’t worry about trying to see it all, or feeling like you’re missing out. Costa Rica is one of those countries that you can keep coming back to and exploring different parts without ever running out of things to see!

In the options below, we’ll share 5 different 7-day itineraries for Costa Rica. We’ll take you to different parts of the country, so you can see the highlights in each area. As always, these are a baseline for your final itinerary, so feel free to make them your own – add or remove days in certain places depending on how you feel about them.

We know your time is precious, so we’ll keep the driving to a minimum. This way, you can explore more of what the country has to offer, and not spend the majority of your time in the car. The roads in Costa Rica are fairly well-maintained and paved, so driving here is actually pretty easy.

Pinterest 7 day Costa Rica itinerary

1. 7 days in Costa Rica visiting Manuel Antonio & the Pacific Coast – The most popular highlights of Costa Rica

If you only have 1 week in Costa Rica, these are the highlights you can see within a quick driving radius. This is probably the most popular route, but there’s a reason why. These sites are close together and they are some of the most beautiful places to explore in the country.

Here is what the Costa Rica Highlights 7-day road trip looks like:

  • Arrive at: Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO)
  • Depart from: Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO)
  • Number of kilometers to & from Costa Rider Campervan: About 475 km
  • Total time driving: About 8 hours

Your one-week Costa Rica itinerary:

  • Day 1: Arrive in San Jose. Drive to Quepos (about 2.5 hours)
  • Day 2: Spend the day at Manuel Antonio National Park
  • Day 3: Drive to Dominical (about 45 minutes) . Beach at Dominical or Dominicalito in the afternoon
  • Day 4: Visit Nauyaca waterfalls in the morning. Lunch in town. Drive to Uvita in the afternoon (about 45 minutes)
  • Day 5: Visit Uvita National Park for the day (beaches, snorkeling or scuba diving)
  • Day 6: Visit the Uvita waterfalls – Morning at Catarata Uvita and the afternoon in the hidden waterfall.
  • Day 7: Drive to San Jose (about 4 hours)

This 7-day road trip around Costa Rica will take you to the country’s most popular national park : Manuel Antonio. Although Manuel Antonio is the smallest national park in Costa Rica, you can still see so much here. Its short distance from San Jose, its biodiversity and its beauty are what attract so many people here.

While you’re here, expect to see capuchin, howler and squirrel monkeys, as well as sloths, iguanas, agoutis, and tons of birds. Manuel Antonio is also home to some of the most beautiful beaches in Costa Rica, and even some of the best beaches in Central America . You can easily spend a full day here, hiking the trails, searching for animals and enjoying your first full day in Costa Rica.

Recently, the Costa Rica government has tried to curb visitor influence on the park’s ecological balance – this means there’s a limit on the number of daily visitors to the park, which is around 1200 people per day. The only way to visit the park is to reserve tickets online in advance . We recommend you buy the earliest entry possible at 7 am (best) or 8 am (latest). By 10 am, the park felt really full and the main beach was starting to get crowded.

Manuel Antonio national park

After spending time in Quepos, you can head to Dominical, a beautiful but small beach town south of Quepos. Right next to Dominical is the smaller Dominicalito. We recommend checking out both beaches and towns and seeing which of the two you prefer. We enjoyed Dominicalito more. It was quiet and a lot more low-key than Dominical. The latter felt too developed and busy for our liking but to each their own!

You can pitch your tent or set up your camper on either beach. Just be careful not to park underneath palm trees with coconuts, and check where the tide comes in as it can get quite high. Also, make sure you check the iOverlander app to find the best spot.

The next morning, get up as early as you can and make your way to Nauyaca Waterfall. These are one of the most popular but beautiful falls in Costa Rica . They tend to get quite busy, but if you get there at opening, 7 am, and hike down, you’ll have the falls to yourself for a good hour or so before the crowds start coming in at 9-9:30. You can either hike to the falls or take a ride on their 4×4.

road trip costa rica 10 days

After the falls, drive 10 minutes into town and have lunch at Amor Mediterraneo . This Middle-Eastern-influenced restaurant serves some amazing wraps, fries (the best in Costa Rica) and coffee. If you’re looking for anything other than rice and beans, this is the place for you.

Once you’re done, head back to the coast and go to Uvita, about 45 minutes away. You can spend the afternoon exploring the town or driving to other beaches on the coast (Arcos beach, La Ventana and Playa Hermosa are all great options).

The next morning, head to Uvita national park . This park is known for its whale tail shoreline, one of the most unique in Central America . It’s also a popular national park as you watch humpback whales that migrate here every year, from July to October. If your budget allows it, you can go on a snorkeling tour (either to Caño Island or to local sites) in the morning or the afternoon, depending on where you want to go. Although we didn’t dive with them, we heard great things about Costa Rica Dive and Surf .

Uvita National Park

Although you can’t camp on the beaches in Uvita since they are part of the national park, we recommend staying at Casa Viva campsite. The owner is super sweet, the amenities are super clean and the grounds are quiet and beautiful.

The next morning, head to Uvita waterfall. Try to get there early, as crowds start rolling in around 9:30 am. This waterfall is unique because you can slide down it, like a natural rock toboggan. You can also jump from its platform and swim in the rock pools further down. You can easily spend a good 2-3 hours chilling here.

After lunch, you can make your way to the hidden waterfall . We won’t geotag this place because we want to keep it as nice and clean as possible. You can either ask locals about it or send us an email at [email protected], agreeing to join our newsletter. We’ll send you the direction on how to get to these waterfalls.

Uvita waterfall 2

If not, you can hang out on the beach or make your way back up north, stopping in a town along the way, depending on when your flight leaves the next day.

We hope this trip allowed you to see so many of the highlights in Costa Rica in 7 days!

Costa Rica Road trip itinerary - Manuel Antonio & Pacific Coast

2. Costa Rica in 7 days – exploring Guanacaste & the Nicoya Peninsula

For this one-week road trip in Costa Rica, we’ll take you to Guanacaste and the Nicoya Peninsula. These regions are growing in popularity because of the beautiful beaches, the great scuba diving and the bustling nightlife.

Exploring this part of the country will show you a different side of Costa Rica. This itinerary is best for those who love to spend time on the beach, who love to scuba dive or snorkel, and those who love to party.

Here is what the Costa Rica 7-day road trip around Guanacaste & the Nicoya Peninsula looks like:

  • Arrive at: Liberia Airport (LIR) preferably, or Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO)
  • Depart from: Liberia Airport (LIR) preferably, or Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO)
  • Number of kilometers to & from Costa Rider Campervan: About 435 km if you arrive in Liberia. Approximately 600 km from San Jose.
  • Total time driving: About 8.5 hours from Liberian but closer to 12 hours from San Jose
For a $150 fee, Costa Rider Campervan will deliver the car to Liberia Airport. If you want to spend less time driving, and more time enjoying your one week trip to Costa Rica, this may be a good option for you.

One week Costa Rica itinerary exploring Guanacaste & the Nicoya Peninsula :

  • Day 1: Arrive in Liberia, the gateway to the Guanacaste region. Drive to the next location, or stay the night if you arrive later. The drive to Playa del Cocos will take about 1 hour.
  • Day 2: Drive to Playa del Cocos (about 1 hour) . Enjoy the afternoon at the beach. If you arrived yesterday, explore Cocos all-day
  • Day 3: Scuba dive in Playa Cocos. Relax in the afternoon. Party at night
  • Day 4: Drive to Flamingo or Potrero (about 45 minutes) . Afternoon at the beach.
  • Day 5: Ziplining in the morning. Drive to Montezuma in the afternoon (around 3.5 hours) .
  • Day 6: Spend a day in Montezuma.
  • Day 7: Drive to San Jose or Liberia (SJO is 4.5 hours away, including a ferry ride. LIR is 3.5 hours away)

Playa Coco. Costa Rica itinerary

This 7-day Costa Rica road trip has a bit more driving to it, but it’s well worth it. Once you arrive in Liberia, you have a few choices. If your flight arrives early enough, you can leave and drive directly to Playa Del Cocos, around 1 hour away.

If you don’t want to spend so much time on the road after your flight, you have a few other choices. You can visit the Rincón de la Vieja Volcano National Park , about 1 hour 15 minutes away from the airport. Here, you can visit an active volcano.

You can also explore the old town of Liberia, including the Parque Mario Cañas Ruiz, where you’ll find street vendors, food stalls and its iconic church. Other options include checking out the La Leona or La Vieja waterfalls nearby, or going to the Poza Los Coyotes, only 20 minutes away from town. You can also just relax that afternoon – you have plenty of adventure coming your way!

Liberia - Costa rica itinerary

The next day, head to Playa del Cocos. Spend the afternoon chilling on the beach, and go sign up for your scuba dive trip tomorrow.

For those who love to scuba dive, Playa del Cocos is one of the best places in Costa Rica to explore the underwater world. We had the pleasure of spending over 6 weeks in Playa del Cocos and dove the many dive sites over 55 times.

We highly recommend going with Rich Coast Diving . They’re the most professional dive shop, their equipment is great, and the team is absolutely amazing. Tell them Carine & Derek from We Did It Our Way sent you! On your third day in Costa Rica, you’ll visit some beautiful dive sites. Our favorites were Tortuga, Playpen, Sorpresa and Argentina.

Scuba Diving in Coco

After your dive day, you can relax on the beach at Cocos, head to the beach at Ocotal (the next town over) or just hang out around town. At night, you can enjoy the party scene in Cocos. Some of the best places to party are Tortuga Bar, Zi Sports Bar or anywhere on the main strip. Most nights, you’ll find open mic nights, live music and more.

The next day, head out to Potrero or Flamingo, these are 2 small towns where you can relax some more. If you want to keep the party going, Tamarindo, Nosara and Samara are bigger towns you can enjoy. Either way, all have things to do and great beaches.

You can spend your next day on a zipline adventure. When we stayed in Potrero, we visited the El Roble zipline . A family-run business, we had such a great morning zipping around. Their team was sweet and professional and we had such a great time. You can also go on an ATV tour here to get your adrenaline going. You can spend your afternoon chilling on one of the many beaches in the area.

Zipline in Potrero. one week in Costa Rica

The next day, head out to Montezuma, about 3.5 hours away. This hidden gem town has some beautiful things to do. You can chill on one of the best beaches in Central America , check out the stunning waterfalls , walk to Cabuya Island during low tide, or just take it easy. Montezuma is known for being a laid-back bohemian town, so just enjoy the Pura Vida.

If Montezuma is too far for you, you can choose to stay in one of the other towns. These towns are more developed and home to American and Canadian immigrants who have come to settle here.

  • Santa Teresa is known for being a great surf town, but it’s very touristy and expensive. There are some great beaches in the area, as well as the famous Mal Pais tide pools. You can also go hike at one of Costa Rica’s first conservation areas, the Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve.
  • Tamarindo is famous for its beautiful beaches with strong surf. You can also check out the nesting site for huge leatherback turtles, part of Las Baulas National Marine Park. Or visit the mangrove-lined estuary of Tamarindo Wildlife Refuge.
  • Nosara is known as a yoga center and a surf town. It’s also one of the rare Blue Zones in the world. You can go to the SIBU Sanctuary where they rescue and rehabilitate animals like coatimundi and white-faced monkeys. Or check out the Ostional Wildlife Refuge, a nesting site for olive ridley turtles.
  • Sámara ‘s main beach, of the same name, is a postcard-perfect palm-lined beach. Sámara is also one of the nicest places to dive in the Nicoya peninsula (after Cocos). The wildlife reserve on Chora Island boasts pink sand and serves as a sanctuary for marine birds. Playa Buena Vista, in the north, is a sea turtle nesting site.

Depending on where you choose to stay, you can enjoy your last full day in Costa Rica. On your final day, you can drive back up to Liberia or San Jose.

The trip from Liberia should be about 3.5 hours, while the trip to San Jose will be around 4.5 hours and will require a ferry crossing. You need to buy your tickets ahead of time and make sure you check the schedule so you don’t miss your flight.

We hope this trip made you enjoy the best of the party and scuba diving in Costa Rica.

1 week Costa Rica Itinerary - Guanacaste & Nicoya Peninsula

3. One-week itinerary in Costa Rica, visiting the iconic Corcovado national park & Uvita

If you’re looking to visit the most iconic place in Costa Rica, this itinerary is for you. Corcovado national park is the most biodiverse national park in the world, with around 3% of the world’s animals found here. If you love seeing rare animals, this is the itinerary for you.

If you have a few more days, like 10 days total, this is an even better trip as you can really enjoy the trip. But it’s also doable in Costa Rica in 7 days. You’ll just be on the move a little longer.

Here is what the Costa Rica 7-day road trip around Drake and Uvita looks like:

  • Number of kilometers to & from Costa Rider Campervan: About 720 km
  • Total time driving: About 12.5 hours
  • Special notes: For this 7-day Costa Rican itinerary, you will need to make some plans ahead of time. You’ll need to book your snorkel or dive tour for Caño Island, and you’ll need to book your visit to Corcovado National Park. During the busy season (November to April), you’ll need to book these tickets a few months ahead of time.

This is what your one week in Costa Rica itinerary will be:

  • Day 1: Arrive in San Jose. Drive to Dominical (about 3 hours) or spend the rest of your day in San Jose.
  • Day 2: Visit Nauyaca waterfalls at opening (7 am). Drive to Drake in the afternoon (about 3 hours) . If you stayed in San Jose upon arrival, drive directly to Drake (about 7-8 hours).
  • Day 3: Day trip to Corcovado National Park. Afternoon on the beach
  • Day 4: Day trip to Cano Island for snorkeling or scuba diving. Drive back to Uvita in the afternoon (About 3.5 hours)
  • Day 5: Spend the day at Marina Ballena National Park
  • Day 6: Visit the waterfalls in Uvita
  • Day 7: Drive to San Jose

During this week in Costa Rica, you’ll experience some of the best wildlife accessible, almost anywhere in the world! That’s right! We’ve included a stop in one of the most biodiverse places in the world. So let’s get started.

After arriving in San Jose, you can either spend the day here, or you can make your way down to Dominical. Dominical (and Dominicalito) have beautiful beaches where you can lounge for the rest of the day.

In the morning, head to Nauyaca Waterfall. These are some of the most impressive and beautiful falls in Costa Rica. Doors open at 7 and you can either hike down or take a 4×4, which leaves every hour. You’ll need about 2 hours at the falls (not including the time to get to them), and then, after grabbing lunch in town, you can make your way to Drake.

The ride to Drake is a long and bumpy one, but well worth it. We recommend driving, especially if you have a car, as the scenery is beautiful, and it will give you a chance to explore more of the town. If not, you can park your car at Sierpe, and take a ferry from there. Just know that accommodations in Drake are a little more expensive, so having a Costa Rider Campervan is great. We found wild camping spots for free and a campground with amenities where we parked for $20.

Since you’re spending 7 days in Costa Rica, why not head to one of the most unique and biodiverse places in the world. Corcovado National Park is a gem, as well as nearby Caño Island! And these activities needs to be booked way ahead of time. We booked our 2 next outings with Drake Divers , and they gave us a little discount since we did 2+ activities with them. You can also ask for this discount.

Corcovado National Park - 7 day road trip in Costa Rica

Your first day in Drake starts quite early, meeting at the main beach at 6 am. You’ll be taken to the Corcovado National Park by boat, about 1 hour away. We chose to go to Sirena Station, where you’re most likely to see larger animals like Tapir, Pecari and more. If you’d rather have a shorter boat ride, San Pedillo Station is about 30-45 minutes away by boat and includes more birds and insects, as well as a waterfall.

For the 4 hours spent in Corcovado Park, we were able to see so many animals. The tours have to be done with guides, which is great because they know how to spot the coolest animals and give you all sorts of fun facts about them. We saw the rare King Vulture, a Gladiator Frog, tons of Spider Monkeys, Tapir, Coati, Pecari and so much more!

Sloth - Costa Rica Itinerary

We left the Park around 12:30 and we were so tired but so grateful for everything we saw. We had lunch at Jungla, the restaurant associated with Drake Divers. For the rest of the afternoon, you can either relax on the beach or chill out at your accommodations. For the beaches, we don’t recommend the main one. Instead, you can walk to Cocolitos Beach, about 30-45 minutes away, or drive to Playa La Gitana, a 15-minute drive out of town.

The next day, you have another early wake-up call to head to Caño Island. You can either choose to go scuba diving if you are certified, or you can go snorkeling. The boat ride to the island will take about 45 minutes and the whole trip lasts about 4-5 hours from pick-up to drop-off.

Turtles at Cano Island

We chose to go with Drake Divers and were quite happy with the service. The cost of the trip included all rental gear, transport, a guide, snacks on the boat, and lunch. You’ll need to reserve this activity ahead of time and pay a deposit online. You’ll also need to visit their shop before your dive day to get fitted for the gear.

You can choose to stay in Drake for the afternoon or head back to Uvita after your dive day. Since you return to Drake early enough, you can totally make the drive back if you’d like.

The next day, if you have a full day in Uvita, you can spend it at the Marina Ballena National Park , exploring the town, or going beach-hopping between Dominical and La Ventana.

For your final day in Costa Rica, before heading back to San Jose, we recommend checking out the different waterfalls in Uvita . There’s the famous Uvita waterfall, where crowds start rolling in around 9:30 am. If you want to enjoy it for yourself, arrive early.

This waterfall is unique because you can slide down it, like a natural rock toboggan. You can also jump from its platform and swim in the rock pools further down. You can easily spend a good 2-3 hours chilling here.

Uvita Waterfall

After lunch, you can make your way to the hidden waterfall. We won’t geotag this place because we want to keep it as nice and clean as possible. You can either ask locals about it or send us an email at [email protected], agreeing to join our newsletter. We’ll send you the directions on how to get to these waterfalls.

Depending on when your flight is the next day, you can either head back to San Jose on your final day or drive up in the afternoon. Regardless, we’re confident you’ll have had a wonderful time in Costa Rica, enjoying the best it has to offer in terms of wildlife, natural landscapes and all its beauty!

7 day Costa Rica Itinerary - Corcovado & Uvita

4. One week Costa Rica itinerary exploring the hidden gem of Bajos del Toro & the popular La Fortuna town

This one-week itinerary in Costa Rica will take you to two very different locations. The first part will be in Bajos del Toro , a hidden gem of a destination where you will find lush rainforests, tons of waterfalls , volcanos and more. For the second part, you’ll be going to La Fortuna, one of the most popular areas in Costa Rica… with good reason!

This Costa Rica itinerary is perfect for those looking for adventure and to explore the natural beauty of Costa Rica. It will be a physically demanding trip (you need to work hard to see waterfalls) but it will be well worth the effort!

Here’s some basic info for planning this 7-day Costa Rica itinerary:

  • Number of kilometers to & from Costa Rider Campervan: About 650 km
  • Total time driving: About 6.5 hours

This is what your one week in Costa Rica will look like:

  • Day 1: Arrive in San Jose. Drive to Bajos del Toro (about 2 hours)
  • Day 2: Visit waterfalls all day long
  • Day 3: Visit waterfalls or Poas volcano
  • Day 4: Drive to La Fortuna (about 1.5 hours)
  • Day 5: Visit La Fortuna Waterfall then relax at the hot springs
  • Day 6: Go white water rafting
  • Day 7: Drive to San Jose (about 2.5 hours)

As always, if you arrive in Costa Rica early enough, you can make the short 2-hour drive to the Bajos del Toro region. This hidden gem is one of our favorite places in Costa Rica. It has lush rainforest, almost year-round. It’s also full of waterfalls, volcanos and rolling hills that take your breath away.

If your flight gets into San Jose later, you can stay in town and make the trek to Bajos del Toro the next day, but be ready to hit the ground running, as there are so many beautiful places to explore in the area.

During your time in Bajos del Toro , we recommend visiting its many waterfalls. There are so many to choose from. So depending on your physical abilities, the time you have available and what you feel like doing, here are your options. Mix and match these as you wish!

Vuelta Del Canon - Bajos del Toro waterfalls - One week in Costa Rica

  • This is a combo ticket we recommend purchasing to visit the 7 falls on this property
  • Total cost: $25 USD, or you can show them this coupon for 15% off
  • Time required: The Catarata del Toro will require 45-60 minutes. The Blue Falls will require closer to 4-5 hours
  • What you’ll see: 1 very tall waterfall (Catarata del Toro) and 6 other falls & natural pools
  • Physical activity: You can choose to stay put and check out the closest falls, or do all of them. If you do all the falls, you will need to be in fairly good shape.
  • Special notes: During the rainy season, some of the waterfalls may not be accessible because of flash flooding. Closed on Sundays.
  • This is a family-owned property with a few falls to explore
  • Total cost: $10 USD per person
  • Time required: About 1.5-2 hours depending on how much time you spend at the natural pool
  • What you’ll see: 6 waterfalls (depending on the season) and 1 natural pool
  • Physical activity: You’ll need to go down a steep staircase and walk a few hundred stairs (up and down) in the forest. We recommend being in good health
  • Another family-owned farm with a big waterfall on the property
  • Total cost: $15 USD per person
  • Time required: About 1.5-2 hours depending on how much time you spend at the natural pool & at the waterfall
  • What you’ll see: 1 tall waterfall, a lookout and several natural rock pools
  • Physical activity: This is a fairly easy waterfall to access, but you still need to be able to walk through the forest and on rocky terrain
  • Total cost: $16 USD per person
  • Time required: About 4-5 hours depending on how much time you spend at the waterfall
  • What you’ll see: 1 tall waterfall
  • Physical activity: You must be in good physical health – you will need to cross the river about a dozen times and walk through it to get to the waterfall.
  • Special notes: You can’t do this hike if it’s raining as the river risks flooding

There are plenty of other waterfalls in Bajos del Toro. You can also visit the many rock pools ( pozas ) and spend the day relaxing, although the water will be very cold!

If you want to do something other than check out waterfalls, you can also explore the Poas Volcano National Park and hike the many trails there.

Arenal Volcano in La Fortuna

After your time in Bajos del Toro, you can make your way to La Fortuna, for some more adventures. The drive there should take about 1.5 hours.

If you’re planning on seeing Arenal Volcano, your best bet is to go in the dry season. During the wet season, chances of seeing the volcano are slim, unless you go early before the rain starts.

While you’re in La Fortuna, there are plenty of things to do. You can choose what best suits your desire:

  • Visit Arenal Volcano National Park and hike the trails there
  • Spend a day at the natural hot springs. There are many resorts all around town with varying entrance fees and amenities. You can also go to the free natural springs at the Tabacon River.
  • Check out the Salto Rope Swing and chill out with locals
  • Go white water rafting on the river
  • Check out the local wildlife on a sloth tour or a night tour
  • Hang out at the Mistico hanging bridges
  • Go on a road trip to Rio Celeste waterfall (if you haven’t had enough yet)

Depending on your budget and what you’re in the mood for, there is plenty to do in La Fortuna.

Since we were at the end of our 3-month trip in Costa Rica, we chose to stay a little more quiet when in La Fortuna. Plus, the poor weather made it that we couldn’t even see Arenal volcano. But that’s ok – just another reason to come back.

We did however choose to go on a night walk and it was absolutely amazing! We saw so many different animals on this guided night walk. It was one of the highlights of our trip. We went to do a frog night tour at Arenal Oasis Eco-Lodge – they have many other tours available too, and their guides speak many different languages. Overall, it was a great experience and we highly recommend splurging on it.

Red eye tree frog

After you’re done here, you can make your way back to San Jose. We know this trip will have been full of adventure, lots of treks and more natural beauty than you could ever imagine in such a short radius!

Costa Rica Road trip itinerary - Bajos del Toro & La Fortuna

5. 7-day itinerary in Costa Rica – The best of the Caribbean coast

For the final 7-day itinerary in Costa Rica, we recommend visiting the Caribbean coast. This coast is a lot less touristy and its vibe is quite different from the rest of the country. Whether it’s the food, the culture, the vibes, you will definitely feel the difference.

This itinerary is also for nature lovers who want to see different types of wildlife. Each destination on this 7-day itinerary will show you a different side of Costa Rica.

Here is the basic information you need for this itinerary:

  • Number of kilometers to & from Costa Rider Campervan: About 600 km
  • Total time driving: About 12 hours
  • Special notes: This itinerary will take some planning as you’ll need to catch a ferry from La Pavona in the Limon province, to get to Tortuguero. Make sure you coordinate ferry times to and from Tortuguero.

Here is how to spend your full week in Costa Rica:

  • Day 1: Arrive in San Jose. Drive to La Pavona (about 3 hours)
  • Day 2: Day in Tortuguero
  • Day 3: Day in Tortuguero
  • Day 4: Ferry back to La Pavona. Drive to Cahuita
  • Day 5: Spend the day at Cahuita National Park
  • Day 6: Day trip driving from Puerto Viejo down the coast to Manzanillo (about 2 hours)
  • Day 7: Drive to San Jose (about 4-5 hours)

Before you arrive in Costa Rica, make sure you check the ferry times to and from La Pavona to ensure you’re getting to Tortuguero on time. If you arrive with ample time, you can make the drive to La Pavona after picking up your Costa Rider Campervan.

If not, you can spend the afternoon in San Jose, or even drive closer to La Pavona to make sure you’re ready to take the ferry bright and early the next day. Although La Pavona doesn’t have much to offer, you can check on iOverlander to see where there are the most amenities to hang out.

Tortuguero national park

The ferry will be about 45-60 minutes each way. This is the only way to get to Tortuguero (well, you can also fly, but we don’t recommend it for the environmental impact, as well as recent safety concerns with the local flight providers). You will need to keep your car parked here as the only way to get around Tortuguero is by boat or on foot.

Once in Tortuguero, you can do a few things here. Of course, as always, these are some suggestions, feel free to make this itinerary your own.

Visit the Tortuguero National Park . It is the main attraction in the area. Here you can kayak, canoe or boat around the park to explore the wildlife. This experience is very different from the other national parks in Costa Rica . You may need to book your entrance ahead of time, so make sure you check before going.

See the turtles. Of course, with a name like Tortuguero, you can expect to see turtles here. There are 4 main types of turtles that call this area home. The best time to go is during the nesting and release period which is from early March to mid-October. The Green Turtle, the most common of the four species is famous for its massive annual nesting from June to the middle of October. You can arrange a turtle nesting night tour with a licensed guide from your lodge. The tours are about 2 hours long.

Chill on the beach of Playa Tortuguero. This black sand beach is where most turtles come to nest, so you do have to be careful. Also, the waters of this beach are not the safest for swimming. In fact, the beach is home to the powerful currents and there is a high risk of shark attacks. This is why we say it’s best to chill on the beach! You can still observe the local wildlife from the shores.

Explore the town of Tortuguero. Located on a remote sandbar, the town of Tortuguero is a cute place to explore. You can check out the local life and find out more about the nature and conservation efforts they have in place. The town is small but colorful, with shops and restaurants to discover.

Tortuguero boat rides in Costa Rica

Once you’re done in Tortuguero, you can head back to La Pavona to pick your car back up and drive to Cahuita. Cahuita is the first town on the strip that heads to Manzanillo. These two towns are fairly close in distance, separated only by about 30 kilometers, but they each have a national park to explore and many cute towns and beautiful beaches between them.

During your week on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, there are a few things you can do between Cahuita and Manzanillo. You can absolutely use your campervan to get around, or you can opt for a bike to stroll around the towns.

Toucan_Costa Rica

Cahuita is home to an amazing national park. The entrance is donation-based (if you enter from Cahuita, not Punta Vargas), and its huge territory, as well as the beautiful beaches it’s home to are a great way to spend a day. You can walk from one end of the park to the next (about 5.2 miles) will take around 2 hours without stops. However, there are so many beautiful beaches along the way, and it gets so hot, that you will want to spend some time cooling off. Playa Blanca is the closest beach to the Cahuita entrance and it’s absolutely beautiful. Punta Cahuita, about halfway from both entrances, is also amazing.

Manzanillo is a smaller town with its own national park. It’s also a great place to explore, as well as chill out in. You can spot so many animals in both parks, from monkeys to sloths, raccoons, lizards, snakes and so much more.

Between those two towns, there are so many others to explore depending on what you’re looking to do.

  • Punta Uva is a small laid-back town with beautiful beaches and a few great restaurants. It’s great to spend a morning or afternoon here just relaxing.
  • Puerto Viejo has become a hub for immigrants looking for that pura vida lifestyle. It’s probably the largest of the towns in the area and it’s home to plenty of restaurants, bars, clubs, as well as wellness & healing centers. It also boasts a few great beaches you can lounge on.
  • Punta Cocles is another beach town. It’s small, but its strong currents and waves make it a great place to learn how to surf.

Dolphins in Manzanillo - Costa Rica one week itinerary

You can spend your time on the Caribbean coast between the national parks and the beaches. Taking in the natural beauty and discovering its wildlife as well as exploring the different towns, laying on beaches, or heading to the many waterfalls in the area.

In terms of waterfalls, here are the ones you find within a short distance from Cahuita, Puerto Viejo or Manzanillo:

  • Volio Waterfall is a beautiful 15-meter-high waterfall located within the Bribri Indian Reservation. It’s hidden in the rainforest and the best way to check it out is with a local guide. Although the hike to get to Volio is not long, there have been many reports of robberies, which is why a local guide helps. The trail is also not marked well, with a few river crossings, so having a local helps. We were a group of 7 people and paid $20 (total) for our guide. We spent about 1.5 hours hiking and chilling at the waterfall
  • Two waters waterfall is located at Finca Las Brisas. On Google Maps, it is marked as ‘BriBri Hidden waterfalls’, there are signs along the main road pointing towards the entrance of this small waterfall. It’s not very impressive to see, but can still be worth exploring if you love waterfalls as much as we do!
  • Bri Bri Sparkling waterfalls or Catarata Ma-Cu are much bigger compared to the other falls in the area. The names for this fall are used interchangeably, so don’t worry about seeing signs with different names. This waterfall is easy to get to and is quite beautiful.

With so many amazing things to do on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica, we’re sure you’ll enjoy your one-week itinerary exploring this part of the country.

Costa Rica Road trip itinerary - Caribbean Coast

What to do in Costa Rica in 7 days

There you have it! 5 different one-week itineraries for Costa Rica. Through these various options, you’ll be able to explore the best of what the country has to offer. As we mentioned before, renting a campervan from Costa Rider Campervan will make any of these trips and itineraries much more enjoyable and easy. It truly is the best way to get around the country.

As a reminder, here are your different 7-day road trip itineraries for Costa Rica:

  • The highlights of Costa Rica: Manuel Antonio & the Pacific Coast
  • Exploring Guanacaste & the Nicoya Peninsula
  • Discover the fantastic wildlife at Corcovado, Drake Bay & Uvita
  • Check out the hidden gem of Bajos del Toro & the popular La Fortuna town
  • Caribbean Coast: Cahuita, Puerto Viejo & Manzanillo

We had such a great time exploring Costa Rica. We spent close to 3 months there and had the chance to discover so much of what the country has to offer. We had a chance to wander through pretty much all the different locations we have listed out here.

Let us know in the comments what you think of these options. Which itinerary are you most interested in doing? Are there other routes you have done that would be worth including?

Thank you so much for reading the article all the way through!

We put a lot of time and effort into the content we create. Please like, comment and share – every action on your part helps us out tremendously and is very appreciated.

You can also help us by pinning this article for others to find.

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We’re Carine and Derek, two Canadians in love with each other, the environment and this world. We left our old routines behind to discover all the wonders our planet has to offer. We want to inspire everyone to chase their dreams and leave a positive impact on Earth.

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