Suggested itineraries in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a revered destination for its sprawling natural beauty and rich cultural heritage. Blessed with over 800 miles of coastline, 121 volcanic formations (with seven actively simmering), and a mind-boggling array of biodiversity packed into its borders, Costa Rica offers an eco-friendly escape like no other. It's one of the most popular countries in Central America and a great place for adrenaline junkies, outdoor lovers and surfers. Planning a holiday to Costa Rica? Make sure to check out the best Costa Rica itineraries.

Suggested itineraries in Costa Rica

If you are planning your travel to Costa Rica by yourself, check out these itineraries created by our travel writers as a starting point for inspiration.

See our itineraries below, or get inspired by duration: 5-days - 7-days - 10 days - 14 days - 3 weeks


The importance of planning a Costa Rica itinerary

Planning an itinerary for your Costa Rica adventure is crucial in making the most of everything this fascinating country has to offer. A well-thought-out itinerary ensures you don't miss out on key attractions, helps you manage your time and budget effectively, and helps you reconcile between relaxation periods and adventurous activities. 

Plus, with an abundance of natural splendors spanning from cloud forests and volcanoes to beaches and wildlife reserves, knowing where you want to go beforehand enables you to prepare for the diverse climates and terrain Costa Rica boasts. Whether you plan to witness the spectacle of nesting turtles, engage in thrilling water sports, or simply soak up the sun on some of the world's most stunning beaches, the journey you chart should align with your travel preferences and priorities, and that’s where a robust itinerary comes into play.

The Peninsula Papagayo in Guanacaste, Costa Rica © Shutterstock

Guanacaste, Costa Rica © Shutterstock

5 day Costa Rica itinerary

If you're limited on time, a 5-day Costa Rica itinerary allows you to experience a taste of the country's abundant natural beauty and diverse cultures.

Day 1: San Jose

Begin your journey in San José, the vibrant capital city of Costa Rica. Spend the day exploring the museums, markets, and colonial architecture. Don't miss the National Theatre, known for its exquisite interior. Explore the Jade Museum, Pre-Columbian Gold Museum, and take leisurely strolls around Central Park.

Days 2 and 3: La Fortuna and Arenal Volcano

Head towards La Fortuna next, home to the stunning Arenal Volcano. Dedicate day two to hiking the volcano and exploring the rainforest. Day three can be a tranquil day; rejuvenate your senses at the Tabacón Hot Springs.

Days 4 & 5: Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

On the fourth day, venture off to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. The reserve boasts an incredible biodiversity of flora and fauna that includes more than 400 species of birds and 100 species of mammals. Walk among the clouds on the hanging bridge, and for the adventurous soul, a thrilling canopy tour is a must.

Journey back to San Jose on day five, with your heart full of unforgettable memories and plenty of stories to bring back home.

Arenal volcano in Costa Rica ©Shutterstock

Arenal volcano in Costa Rica ©Shutterstock

7 day Costa Rica itinerary

With a week to spare, embrace a comprehensive experience of Costa Rica's extravagance with this 7-day itinerary.

Day 1: San Jose

Arrive in San José and dedicate your day exploring its energy-filled streets. Visit the Museo Nacional or the artisan market at Mercado Nacional de Artesania.

Day 2 and 3: La Fortuna and Arenal Volcano

Head towards La Fortuna. Spend the second day trekking Arenal Volcano and relishing the panoramic vistas. Spend the next day soaking yourself in the restorative Thermal Hot Springs.

Days 4 and 5: Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

Witness the riotous biodiversity nestled in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. Zipline through canopies, cross the hanging bridge, or hike serene trails.

Days 6 and 7: Manuel Antonio National Park

The last leg takes you to the exquisite beaches of Manuel Antonio National Park. Dive into water activities like snorkeling, stand-up paddleboarding, lounge under the sun or simply book separate tours. Traditional Costa Rican effectively concludes your journey, rejuvenated and inspired. Return to San José for your homeward journey, holding a treasure trove of Costa Rican memories.

espadilla beach and Coastline near the Manuel Antonio national park, Costa Rica © Shutterstock

Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica © Shutterstock

10 day Costa Rica itinerary

With 10 days in Costa Rica, you can explore the country's pristine beaches, verdant jungles, towering volcanoes, and thundering waterfalls.

Days 1-2: San Jose

Begin your trip exploring the cultural hub that is San Jose. Visit the local markets, walk through charming colonial neighborhoods, and relish authentic Costa Rican food.

Days 3-4: Tortuguero National Park

Depart for Tortuguero National Park. Navigate through lagoons and canals bustling with wildlife, and grab the chance to witness sea turtle nesting (July-October).

Days 5-6: La Fortuna

Next, head towards Arenal Volcano in La Fortuna. Spend one day hiking the Arenal and the next easing your muscles in the hot springs enveloped by luscious greenery.

Days 7-8: Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

Travel to Monteverde, home to the mesmerizing Cloud Forest Reserve. Enjoy canopy walks, discover exotic fauna, and observe the marvelous hummingbird gallery.

Days 9-10: Manuel Antonio National Park

Conclude in Manuel Antonio National Park; enjoy sandy beaches, turquoise waters, and diverse wildlife. From beach activities to forest walks, these two days will be filled with sun and fun.

This 10-day Costa Rica itinerary ensures a delightful mix of adventure and relaxation; you're back to your Lujo with a taste of everything quintessentially Costa Rican.

best places to go with kids Bridge in Rainforest - Costa Rica - Monteverde

The famous bridge in Monteverde Cloud Forest © Shutterstock

14 day Costa Rica itinerary

With two week Costa Rica itinerary, you can enjoy a leisurely tour of Costa Rica, seeing and experiencing the best it has to offer, including some off-the-beaten-path gems.

Day 1-2: San Jose

Taste the urban life of Costa Rica in San Jose. Explore its architecture, immerse in its vibrant culture, and sample local cuisines.

Day 3-4: Tortuguero National Park

Travel to Tortuguero National Park, a heaven for wildlife enthusiasts. Experience the rich biodiversity of the region from a canoe.

Day 5-6: Puerto Viejo de Talamanca

Head to Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, known for its Afro-Caribbean charm, plentiful surfing spots, and beautiful beaches.

Day 7-8: Cahuita National Park

Spend two days in Cahuita National Park. Enjoy snorkeling or diving amidst the coral reefs and casually stroll in its lush coastal rainforest.

Day 9-10: La Fortuna and Arenal Volcano

Dedicate the next two days to La Fortuna fame. Hike Arenal Volcano, rejuvenate in hot springs, and experience the lush landscapes of this region.

Day 11-12: Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve waits with its rich biodiversity. Enjoy bird watching, canopy tours, and zip-lining for an adventurous twist.

Day 13-14: Manuel Antonio National Park

Wrap up your 14-day Costa Rica Itinerary at the Manuel Antonio National Park. Enjoy the picturesque beaches, explore the dense verdant forests, and observe the fascinating local wildlife.

After a fortnight of enriching Costa Rican exploration, head back to San Jose, ready to bring home a piece of the Pura Vida spirit.

Playa Negra - black beach at Cahuita, Limon - Costa Rica © Shutterstock

Playa Negra at Cahuita, Costa Rica © Shutterstock

21 day ( 3 week) Costa Rica itinerary

With three weeks at your disposal, you can delve deeper into Costa Rica's vibrant ecosystems and cultures. This extensive itinerary paves the way for a more relaxed, thorough exploration of the country's diverse landscapes and fascinating wildlife.

Day 1-2: San Jose

Acquaint yourself with Costa Rica's capital, San Jose, a blend of modern cityscape and rich cultural heritage.

Day 3-4: Tortuguero National Park

Venture into the wilderness of Tortuguero National Park, a wetland teeming with wildlife, including migratory birds and nesting turtles.

Day 5-6: Puerto Viejo de Talamanca

Enjoy sunny beaches, Carribeaban vibes, and pristine rainforests in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca.

Day 7-8: Cahuita National Park

Unpack your snorkelling gear in Cahuita National Park, famous for its coral reef and coastal rainforests.

Day 9-10: La Fortuna and Arenal Volcano

Hike the majestic Arenal Volcano, soak in hot springs, and enjoy a nocturnal wildlife tour in La Fortuna.

Day 11-13: Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

Relish three days in the otherworldly Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, one of the country's most exciting biodiversity hotspots.

Day 14-15: Rincon De La Vieja

Embrace the heat of active volcanoes and enjoy horseback riding or mud baths in Rincon De La Vieja, a geothermal wonderland.

Day 16-18: Nosara

Head southwest to the bohemian beach town of Nosara. Surf pristine waves, enjoy yoga workshops, and savor organic dining experiences.

Day 19-21: Manuel Antonio National Park

End your epic three-week journey in the stunning Manuel Antonio National Park. Swimming, snorkeling, or simply lounging on the beach are ideal ways to wind down.

With the conclusion of three weeks in Costa Rica, return to San Jose, reflecting on the countless cherished memories of the journey through the land of 'Pura Vida'.


Nosara Beach ©Shutterstock

Different types of Itineraries

From the thrill-seeker looking to surf the waves of the Pacific, to the nature enthusiast eager to trace the paths of the cloud forests, Costa Rica's multitude of tailored travel experiences promises something unique for everyone. For those seeking a fully arranged trip or desiring the insights of a private guide, our local experts are at your service to curate a journey that's as enchanting as it is unforgettable. 

Start your adventure today by filling out our enquiry form and telling us how we can craft your perfect Costa Rican escape.

Adventure-Focused Itinerary

For adrenaline enthusiasts, Costa Rica is indeed an adventure playground. Here's a sample adventure-focused itinerary:

Day 1: San José 

San José, the capital city, is where your adventurous journey in Costa Rica begins. Enjoy downtown's happening nightlife.

Day 2-3: White Water Rafting in Pacuare River 

Start the morning with a white-water rafting trip down the exhilarating, class III-IV rapids of the Pacuare River for two days.

Day 4-5: Arenal Volcano and Hot Springs 

Onwards to La Fortuna, home to the Arenal Volcano. Zipline through the rainforest, rappel down waterfalls, and then relax in the thermal hot springs.

Day 6-7: Canyoning in Lost Canyon 

Go canyoning in Lost Canyon and enjoy a mix of hiking, climbing, and rappelling through a river canyon.

Day 8-9: Surfing in Tamarindo 

Head to Guanacaste and hit the surf in Tamarindo, known for its fantastic waves and golden beaches.

Day 10: Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve 

Swing like Tarzan through the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. Walk on suspension bridges and ride a high-speed zip-line.

Dive into this adventure-focused Costa Rican itinerary, guaranteed to raise your heartbeat, flex your muscles, and show you the wilder side of the richly diverse country.


Playa Tamarindo, Costa Rica © Shutterstock

Relaxation based itinerary

If relaxation and rejuvenation are on top of your list, Costa Rica, with its pristine beaches, luxurious resorts, and calming hot springs, can offer a perfectly serene vacation. Here is a relaxation-focused itinerary:

Day 1: San Jose 

Start off gently in San Jose by exploring museums, markets, and cafes at a leisurely pace.

Day 2-3: Tortuguero National Park 

Relax on a boat tour through the serene canals of Tortuguero National Park, observing wildlife and immersing in nature's calm.

Day 4-5: La Fortuna

 In La Fortuna, unwind in one of the many natural hot springs heated by the powerful Arenal Volcano.

Day 6-7: Montezuma 

Head to the bohemian town of Montezuma on the Nicoya Peninsula. Pamper yourself with yoga classes on the beach and therapeutic massages.

Day 8-9: Santa Teresa 

Continue on to Santa Teresa, famous for stylish accommodations and wellness retreats. Take part in a rejuvenating yoga or meditation class or indulge in a spa treatment.

Day 10: Manuel Antonio National Park 

Head to the beautiful beaches of Manuel Antonio National Park for a final day of idyllic relaxation before returning to San Jose.

This itinerary ensures a restful and revitalizing vacation, allowing you to soak in Costa Rica's peaceful ambiance while restoring your sense of inner balance. Feel free to ask our travel experts to customize this trip.

Nature enthusiast's itinerary

Famed for its diverse and pristine ecosystems, Costa Rica is a haven for nature lovers. Here's a nature-focused itinerary for an immersive natural exploration:

Day 1: San Jose 

Kickstart your Costa Rican adventure in the bustling capital city, San Jose. Explore the beautiful parks within the city itself.

Day 2-3: Tortuguero National Park 

Travel to Tortuguero National Park, a unique network of coastal lagoons and rainforest waterways, rich in biodiversity.

Day 4-5: La Fortuna and Arenal Volcano

Next, head towards La Fortuna. Explore Arenal Volcano National Park's tropical rainforest. Sight sloths, monkeys, and tropical birds.

Day 6-7: Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve 

Head over to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. Revel in the diverse collection of flora and fauna with guided nature walks or bird-watching tours.

Day 8-9: Gulf of Nicoya 

Spend two days at the Gulf of Nicoya, known for its diverse mangrove swamps. Take an eco-tour through the region's watery ecosystems.

Day 10: Manuel Antonio National Park 

Conclude your nature-filled journey in Manuel Antonio National Park. Sink into the beautiful beaches or engage in a sunset sail around the park's coastline.


Sunset at Arenal Volcano © Shutterstock

Best time for a Costa Rica holiday

The best time to visit Costa Rica varies depending on what you're looking for in your travel experience.

Mid-December to April - Dry Season

This is the peak tourist season in Costa Rica due to the abundant sunshine and little to no rain. The weather is warm, skies are clear, and the landscape is lush and green. However, it's also the most popular and expensive time to visit.

May to November - Rainy Season

If you don't mind getting a little wet, the low season offers its own charm, lower prices, and fewer crowds. During June and July, the rain showers pause briefly, and Costa Rica's forests burst with green foliage.

Temperature Variations by Region

Keep in mind that the weather varies by region. In the thick forests of the Caribbean Sea coast and northern regions, expect high humidity and temperatures ranging between the 70s and high 80s year-round.

Shoulder Seasons

You can also try the shoulder seasons (early to mid-November and mid to late April) to score great deals for accommodation.

Remember that visiting during the peak season (January-March) will most likely coincide with crowded tourist spots due to the comfortable climatic conditions.

Sun rising over the Playa Blanca beach in Peninsula Papagayo in Guanacaste, Costa Rica © Shutterstock

Sun rising over the Playa Blanca beach in Peninsula Papagayo © Shutterstock

Getting around during your Costa Rica trip

There are tons of option to get around in Costa Rica, a rental car being the easiest, but most expensive option. For a more detailed view of how to get from A to B, make sure to read our tips on getting around in Costa Rica.


The public bus is Costa Rica's most affordable mode of transportation and provides an authentic glimpse into local life. Most routes depart from San José, meaning you'll spend time in the capital city.

Pre-booking your ticket is recommended, especially for mid- to long-distance routes.

Bear in mind that bus schedules can change frequently, so it's ideal to check the Costa Rica bus timetable ahead of your intended departure, even if you've pre-booked.

If you're after comfort during your journey, consider booking a shuttle bus. Though roughly five times the price of public buses, shuttle buses come with amenities like air-conditioning.

Despite their affordability, the public buses' less predictable scheduling means that they won't necessarily be suitable if you're adhering to a strict itinerary. However, they offer the most budget-friendly option for traversing the breathtaking landscapes that Costa Rica has to offer!

Car rental

Renting a car in Costa Rica offers you the freedom to explore the country at your own pace. It's an excellent choice if you plan to visit several regions and want the flexibility to make spontaneous stops along the way.

Some important considerations when renting a car in Costa Rica include:

Road Conditions

While major routes are paved, you'll encounter many unpaved roads, particularly in more remote areas. We recommend renting a 4WD car for comfort and safety, especially if you plan to venture off the beaten path.

Police Checks

While driving in Costa Rica, be aware of speed limits as there are frequent police controls and hefty fines for speeding.

Andy Turner

written by Andy Turner

updated 24.11.2023

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