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Great Costa Rica itineraries: How many days to spend?

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From sunning yourself on the alluring Caribbean and Pacific coasts, trekking through the central American jungle in search of exotic native wildlife, or paddling some of the best whitewater in the world, there’s a Costa Rica itinerary for everyone.

With such a long list of heavenly attractions, including national parks that take up a quarter of the country’s entire area, sapphire blue seas, gently smoking volcanoes, and tropical beaches, it’s little wonder that this area of central America was nicknamed the ‘rich coast’. Whether you’ve got just a few days or are lucky enough to have a couple of weeks, the best itinerary for Costa Rica will be sure to fit in the full gamut of experiences!

How long should you stay in Costa Rica?

We recommend spending 10 days to two weeks in Costa Rica, as this timeframe will give you enough time to cover all the major highlights while also including time for traveling from one destination to another. A two-week Costa Rica itinerary will guarantee you see everything the country has to offer.

However, if you just can't swing two weeks, remember that the country packs in a lot for its small size, meaning a Costa Rica travel itinerary of 3 to 5 days is plenty of time to get around and see all the main sights without feeling rushed or like you’re missing out. In a span of just a few days, you can combine up to two destinations in your travel itinerary. Since Costa Rica is a small country, you won’t spend a lot of time traveling as many popular destinations are only separated by 3–4 hours on the road. Extend your 5-day Costa Rica trip to a week and you can linger a little longer in a favorite destination.

Costa Rica in 5 Days or less

Visit Arenal on a Costa Rica itinerary
If you are spending just a few days in Costa Rica, make Arenal Volcano a must-visit site

Unbelievable though it may at first seem, a 5-day Costa Rica trip itinerary is enough time to head out to a couple of the country’s finest national parks where thrills, spills, and wildlife encounters are all an everyday occurrence. Even spending 5 days or less in Costa Rica will allow you to visit two major destinations and experience the must-do activities in that area. 

Head west, to the country’s Pacific coast, and you can board a luxury catamaran to the tropical hideaway that is Tortuga Island, boasting empty white sand beaches and almost endless opportunities to swim and snorkel amid the fish and sea turtles from which the island takes its name.

Swapping the underwater jungle for its land equivalent, you can trek through the foothills of Arenal Volcano, bathe in the hot springs and further discover the region by means of canopy walkways hanging high above the forest floor and rafting trips along the Sarapiqui River.

Alternatively, you could head into the misty mountain tops of Monteverde Cloud Forest where a phenomenal number of paths scour the jungle habitat or head east instead to Costa Rica’s Caribbean coastline to finish off your Costa Rica itinerary. In the far north, close to the border of Nicaragua and cut off from the rest of the country except by boat and plane, lies Tortuguero National Park. Intersected by languid waterways, turtles nest on its stretches of sand, while jaguars inhabit its forests and caiman its river banks.

Costa Rica in One Week

Tamarindo beach is a great stop for a 7-day itinerary in Costa Rica
Tamarindo is a popular resort beach town perfect for relaxing by the water.
Costa Rica itinerary from Tortuguero
Tortuguero National Park is a great place to visit on a 7-day itinerary.

 A one-week Costa Rica vacation itinerary lets you explore the country in even more detail. In addition to taking in the relaxed vibe at Tortuguero National Park, gazing on the wondrous landscapes of Arenal Volcano National Park, and taking in all this area has to offer, there’s the opportunity to get up close to one of the country’s only active volcanoes at Rincon de la Vieja National Park, which also boasts an extraordinary array of cooling waterfalls and natural hot springs.

Sticking to the Pacific coast, a one week Costa Rica itinerary leaves plenty of time to flop down on the sands of one of the country’s finest and most beautiful of beaches, Tamarindo. Part of Las Baulas National Park, Tamarindo is an eco-friendly resort where the calls of the howler monkey and exotic birds echo through the warm air, and leatherback turtles struggle up the beach to ancient nesting sites.

Turtles are also one of the draws for those visiting Tortuga Island. Sail to the island for a day of luxurious adventure. It is also possible to discover the surrounding area of the famed Nicoya Peninsula – where you can find not only beaches but stunning mangroves and coastal waterways too.

Costa Rica in 10 days

Costa Rica itinerary can include white water rafting
Pacuare River is awesome for whitewater rafting
Kids ziplining in Costa Rica
Ziplining is popular in Costa Rica
Costa Rica itinerary can include a horseback ride
Take a horseback riding tour in Monteverde
Hiking in Costa Rica's rainforests
Costa Rica has many destinations ideal for hiking

Absorb all that a Costa Rica itinerary has to offer with a 10-day stay. This is the perfect length of time to consider for a Costa Rica family itinerary and with 10 days in the country, you can tackle the country’s best adventures, head deep into its expansive range of national parks, and enjoy the finer things in life with five-star rainforest tours.

With a 10-day Costa Rica itinerary, you won’t just have time to visit Arenal Volcano, for instance, but really get to explore the area, with time to raft along the rapids of the Pacuare River – one of the best whitewater rivers in the world, should you choose.

Not only does 10 days give you time to ride through Monteverde Cloud Forest on the back of a horse, but also to zipline through the canopy on a truly memorable excursion or explore all that the reserve has to offer by jeep or boat trip. You would also have enough time to take in the best of the Osa Peninsula in the southwest, home to perfect Pacific beaches edged by quintessential Costa Rican jungle.

Explore Costa Rica in 2 weeks

A beach in Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica
Manuel Antonio is home to pristine beaches and dense rainforest, perfect for hiking.
Irazu Volcano is a good addition to a two week Costa Rica itinerary
Irazu Volcano is an impressive site to visit near San Jose.

Thanks to the country's small size, there’s really nothing you can’t do as part of a two-week Costa Rica itinerary. Two weeks enable you to easily span all four corners of the country, and explore all its varied landscapes. It even gives you enough time to take day trips from San Jose, Costa Rica's capital and visit coffee plantations and La Paz Waterfall Garden or delve into the deep jungles of the Orosi Valley. You can go trekking to the active Irazu Volcano and its otherworldly crater lake or undertake much longer and more challenging adventures involving hiking, mountain biking, and rafting.

Traveling coast to coast, from the beaches of the Pacific to those of the Caribbean, is also entirely possible with a two-week Costa Rica itinerary, with plenty of destination stops on route, ensuring you can still admire the amazing volcanic cone of Arenal, the cloud forest of Monteverde, and the wildlife of Manuel Antonio National Park, before finishing up back in the thriving ambience of the capital.

Planning a trip to Costa Rica?

Get in touch with one of our travel experts in Costa Rica for a customized trip. If you’d like to book a package trip or join a group, check out our tours in Costa Rica

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