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:
Costa Rica Itinerary – 10 Days in Costa Rica
Day 1 – La Fortuna
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 rentalcars.com 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
- 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
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
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
- 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
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
- 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
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
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
- 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
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
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
- 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
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
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
- 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
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
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
- 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
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.
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: