Ultimate Costa Rica Itinerary Suggestions for Every Type of Traveler

Costa Rica is a relatively small country, but it is jammed packed with reasons it should be on your future holiday list. If you were to try and fully experience everything this amazing country has to offer, you’d be here for months! But, since that’s not a realistic option for everyone, we’ve compiled a few separate versions of a 2-week Costa Rica itinerary to cover any type of holiday you would want to take while visiting Costa Rica. 

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Before you decide on your ultimate Costa Rica itinerary, though, check out our guide to the best time to visit Costa Rica, it may make a difference to your Costa Rica Itinerary.

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Best Time to Visit Costa Rica

When you’re putting together your Costa Rica travel itinerary, the best time to visit depends on what you’re looking for and where you’re going. The northwest regions of Costa Rica, such as Guanacaste, tend to be drier, while it tends to be a bit cooler in the central regions and the southern regions tend to be more humid.

In broader terms, Costa Rica has two main seasons. From December to April, it’s the dry season and also the tourist season. If you’re looking to appreciate the partying and the nightlife in Costa Rica, then the dry season is the best time for you to visit.

From May to November is the rainy season or green season. If you aren’t looking forward to crowds or if you want to see Costa Rica at its most vibrant, then the green season is for you. However, the weather can be unpredictable, and driving can get a bit treacherous on unpaved roads.

Sun & Surf Costa Rica Itinerary

Beach bums looking for a relaxing 2 weeks in Costa Rica should focus their trip on the Guanacaste region.

During the dry season in Costa Rica, the temperatures are warmer, making it perfect for hopping from beach to beach or going for a hike. Even during the rainy season, most rain showers are brief, and the greenery blooms with a rainbow of colours.

Guanacaste, Costa Rica is also where you’ll find Tamarindo, one of the most popular beach towns in the province. With beautiful, pristine beaches of the Pacific coast, crystal clear waters, and tons to do in town, it has earned its reputation.

Its relatively dry climate, white sand beaches and incredible surf make Guanacaste a must-see for any beach lover out there. Here’s a sample of a surfer’s dream 2 week Costa Rica itinerary:

Playa Conchal – 2 days

This beach on Costa Rica’s Gold Coast is famous because it’s not composed of sand but crushed shells! Nestled in a bay, this is the perfect beach for laid-back fun. It’s not far from Tamarindo, and other beaches nearby include Playa Flamingo and Playa Brasilito.

One of the things Playa Conchal is most known for is its beauty. The crushed shells act as a natural water purifier, so it has some of the clearest water in the province. That sort of beauty does attract admirers, though, so don’t go on the weekend if you’re hoping to skip the crowds in Costa Rica.

The waves don’t get too crazy, which makes the waters perfect for swimming and snorkelling. It’s the perfect place to either start or end your holiday – you can grab a drink and a book and just relax!

Bonus: If you’d also like to go diving on your trip, pop over to the Papagayo Peninsula. Still relatively unspoiled, this gulf has some of the best diving opportunities in the country. You can do easy dives along the coastline or head out to Catalina’s Islands for more in-depth dives.

Playa Conchal, Guanacaste, Costa Rica
Playa Conchal, Guanacaste, Costa Rica
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Book the Best Car Rental in Costa Rica

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Playa Avellanas – 3 days

Though most people planning a beach getaway to Costa Rica are going to focus their trip around Tamarindo, we’d recommend staying at Playa Avellanas instead! 

It’s a good place to go to escape the city and the crowds in Costa Rica, it has a couple of the best hotels in the region, and it’s not as crowded as Tamarindo tends to be. It’s a good beach for strolling along the sand or going for a horseback ride, and if you’re there during the rainy season, you may get to see turtles coming ashore to lay their eggs.

It is hands down one of the most beautiful beaches in the country – and way less crowded than its neighbour, and that alone is enough of a reason to factor it into your Costa Rica 2 week itinerary. It’s easy to take a day trip to Tamarindo, but staying here for a few days allows you to relax, be surrounded by nature, and enjoy peaceful beaches.

Playa Avellanas is also a surfer’s dream in Costa Rica, with more than eight breaks along the shore. It’s not a surf spot for beginners, though, as the waves can get a bit too intense for a novice. 

If you’re a complete beginner, going to one of the nearby beaches to learn the ropes will be your safest bet. But if you have some experience and are looking to improve, or if you know what you’re doing and are just looking to sharpen your skills a bit, then a day with Avellanas Surf School is sure to be a blast.

Bonus: If you love to surf, we recommend taking on a few extra days in this area! Nearby Playa Negra is a surfing paradise. And you can easily take a day trip out to Witch’s Rock or Ollie’s Point for some serious swells.

What to do in Playa Avellanas: Playa Avellanas, Guanacaste, Costa Rica
Dry season in Playa Avellanas, Guanacaste, Costa Rica

READ NEXT:  Things to do in Playa Avellanas

Playa Samara/Carillo – 3 days

This area has so much to offer. With gentle currents and an amazing coral reef, not only is the beach beautiful and perfect for relaxing, suntanning, snorkelling and swimming – there are also a bunch of activities in the area that are worth checking out!

It’s not a great surfing beach in Costa Rica, as the waves tend to be mild, but sports like jet skiing, water skiing, kayaking, and sport fishing are all popular in the area. It’s also a great place to go if you’re just looking to see all that the Nicoya Peninsula truly has to offer. 

For snorkelling in particular, Book With Maria offers a dolphin-watching and snorkelling trip. You’ll take a boat ride out to Isla Chora National Wildlife Refuge to appreciate the view of the coast and the ocean. Once you’re there, you’ll be given snorkelling equipment and set loose in the water. As you explore the reef, you’ll get to see dolphins, sea turtles, manta rays, and possibly even whales from a distance most people can only dream of.

Whether you like beach yoga, fishing or horseback riding, Playa Samara’s got you covered.

Costa Rica itinerary: Playa Samara, Costa Rica
Playa Sámara
Playa Carillo great beach near Samara one of the top beach towns, costa rica
Playa Carillo, Sámara, Guanacaste

Santa Teresa – 3 days

This is another wonderful option for surfing enthusiasts – but don’t worry, Santa Teresa’s got so much more to offer than its waves!

It’s not the busiest area in Guanacaste, but it sees its fair share of surfers, backpackers, and tourists. It’s a little bit off of the beaten path, with plenty of beaches, shops, and places to eat. 

Just be careful if you’re more of a swimmer than a surfer. The water can get pretty rough. While that can make for some spectacular surfing, it doesn’t make for very safe swimming. Though, you will find a few hidden nooks where the water is calmer.

Yoga is popular for people hoping to relax, and Horizon Yoga Center & Tea House is one of the best ways to give yoga a try. The studio overlooks the ocean, giving you a spectacular view during the class. The food and service in the tea house are also phenomenal. So, you can have the added benefit of a good meal before or after your class.

There are a bunch of spas, yoga classes and relaxation opportunities in this town, too. It also boasts some of the best sunsets you’re ever going to see.

Guide to Ecotourism in Costa Rica
Surfer hitting the waves in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica
Costa Rica itinerary: Sunset views from Playa Cielo in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica
Sunset views from Playa Cielo in Santa Teresa

READ NEXT: Things To Do In Santa Teresa, Costa Rica

Nature & Wildlife Costa Rica Itinerary 

Costa Rica has so much more to offer the outdoor lover than just its beaches. Heading even slightly inland unlocks a whole new realm of beauty.

If you like to hike, camp, or visit a national park, this is the Costa Rica itinerary for you!

Monteverde – 3 days

Begin your two weeks in Costa Rica high up in the mountains in Monteverde, famous for its cloud forests. The most popular one is the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, but just a bit down the road is the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve. It provides you with exactly the same experience – the same unique flora and fauna – with half the crowds!

Some of the more unique ways to explore include night walks and horseback riding through the cloud forest. In either case, you’ll be able to make the most of the trip if you opt for a guided tour. The guide will be able to explain the unique flora and point out animals that are otherwise very well hidden. 

If you’re hoping to fill the entire day, Feather Hunters offers a guided day tour that includes a walk through the Monteverde Cloud Forest, bird watching in Curi-Cancha reserve, and a night hike through Monteverde Wildlife Refuge.

If you have kids with you, another option is the Cloud Forest Train. It’s not very fast and it only fills an hour. There’s a guide on the train and it’s a fun and cute way to appreciate the cloud forest that’s a lot more approachable for anyone too young for a full-day tour.

If you are on a tighter schedule, then you can easily make this a 1-2 day trip to fit your 7-day Costa Rica itinerary. Monteverde is about a 2-½ hour drive from San Jose, making it a great starting point for your trip.

Bonus: Monteverde is also home to the longest zip line in Latin America!

READ NEXT: The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Monteverde Costa Rica

Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, Costa Rica
Suspension bridge along the Puente Trail in Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

Manuel Antonio – 4 days

Manuel Antonio National Park has been recognized as one of the most beautiful national parks in the WORLD. It’s the real deal. It’s located along the coast, so not only can you soak in all of the unique flora and fauna, go on hikes and even camp – you can also chill on the beach!

The park covers 683 hectares, including rainforests, beaches, and coral reefs, with excellent snorkelling. Within Manuel Antonio National Park, you’ll see sloths, basilisks, toucans, frogs, hummingbirds, coatimundis, and many other animals, though you’ll have the best odds of spotting all of them if you have a guide who knows what to look for.

Need to do Costa Rica in one week? Manuel Antonio area could be the best option to see the beauty and biodiversity of Costa Rica.

BONUS: The Dominical region in Costa Rica is another great place for outdoor lovers. No matter if you are on a Costa Rica 10-day itinerary or have two weeks in Costa Rica, you can’t skip on a day trip to the Nauyaca Waterfalls. And if you’re interested in whale watching, make sure to check out the Ballena Marine Park!

Best Costa Rica Hiking Trails
Manuel Antonio National Park

READ NEXT: Top things to do in Manuel Antonio National Park

Uvita – 2 days

Uvita is a quieter, typically uncrowded, small beach town with golden sand meeting tropical rainforests. Kayaking, scuba diving, and snorkelling are all popular activities in Uvita, as there’s reasonably easy access to Cano Island. However, one of Uvita’s highlights is whale and dolphin watching.

The Marino Ballena National Park is home to many species. It is one of the best places to see dolphins and whales in Costa Rica. Most whale and dolphin tours, including this highly recommended one by Pacific Expeditions, pass through the park for that reason. Depending on the time of the year, you can see humpback whales, pilot whales, bottlenose dolphins, common dolphins, and spotted dolphins.

Corcovado, Osa Peninsula – 4 days 

Located at the very bottom of the Gold Coast in Costa Rica, the Osa Peninsula is a remote paradise. It is the country’s most biodiverse region – which is saying something considering how biodiverse the entire country is!

Over half of this peninsula is taken up by Corcovado National Park, and you definitely don’t want to miss an opportunity to spend a few days hiking around there. Plus, if you love birds, Osa Peninsula is the best place in the country for bird watching. There are more species of birds than you can count, and you can count on seeing plenty regardless of the time of year! Just to list a few, you’ll see owls, macaws, harpy eagles, and toucans.

The park covers over 160 square miles and includes a primary forest, cloud forest, mangrove swamp, beaches, waterfalls, and lowland tropical rainforest. You’ll be able to see wildcats, amphibians, reptiles, monkeys, peccaries, and some oddities like tapirs. 

If you decide to go diving, you can also see dolphins, sharks, manta rays, sea turtles, eels, and more. Whether you’re hiking, camping, diving, or a mix of everything, Corcovado will have something to impress you.

For the best experience, a guided tour is a must. Pacheco Tours offers a full-day tour, starting with an early morning boat ride to Sirena Station.

In Corcovado National Park, one of the most bio-diverse place in the world
In Corcovado National Park, one of the most bio-diverse places in the world
Nauyaca Waterfall, Dominical
Nauyaca Waterfall, Dominical

Active Costa Rica Itinerary

If you’re not only an outdoor lover but also want to keep your adrenaline flowing throughout your trip as you explore Costa Rica, these destinations are perfect for your two weeks in Costa Rica!

Monteverde – 2-3 days

Begin your Costa Rica itinerary with spectacular views and amazing wildlife experiences in the Monteverde Cloud Forest. If you’re staying in the town of Santa Elena, there are a few different reserves you can spend your days hiking around. You can also experience the longest zip line in Latin America in Monteverde!

The Original Canopy Tour includes zip lines, rappelling, rope swings, and more to appease the adrenaline junkie in any family without compromising on safety. It takes less than three hours, and hotel pick-up and drop-off are included.

Costa Rica Itinerary: Monteverde zipline
Ziplining briefing in Monteverde, Costa Rica

Arenal – 2-3 days

The Arenal Volcano National Park, near La Fortuna, has an array of hiking trails that cater to every level of fitness. You can also experience Rio Balsa’s class IV and V whitewater rapids here! (If you’re interested in rafting but aren’t experienced, there are plenty of class I-III options in the Arenal region as well).

Arenal Rafting offers a white water rafting class on the Balsa River, over class II and class III rapids. You’ll get to see the rainforest at high speeds before slowing down for a swim. All of the equipment you’ll need is included in the tour.

Another option is Mistico Park, full of suspension bridges strung through the forest canopy. You can appreciate the beauty Arenal has to offer from an impressive new angle as long as you aren’t worried about heights.

White water rafting, Arenal, Costa Rica

Mt. Chirripó – 3 days

If you’re interested in climbing Costa Rica’s highest peak, make sure to visit during the dry season (February – March). You can only undertake this Costa Rica adventure with a guide that helps you acquire a permit, which is necessary as only 60 climbers are allowed per day. Take your time climbing this mountain – the views from this trek are incredible!

While hiking, you’ll pass through cloud forests as well as ecosystems that you can only see at higher elevations in Costa Rica. However, it’s a long hike, and only the most experienced hikers can finish it in one day. For most, it will take two or three. The elevation also means it’s not as balmy as Costa Rica typically is, so bring a jacket.

To ensure the hike goes as smoothly as possible, it’s best to have a guide, such as those provided by Caminatas al Chirripo.

Costa Rica itinerary: Mt Chirripo
Mt. Chirripo. Photo by Amanda via Flickr CC

Osa Peninsula – 4 days

Round off your Costa Rica itinerary with a visit to the Osa Peninsula. More than half of the Osa Peninsula is taken up by the Corcovado National Park – a hiking destination you definitely don’t want to miss. But beyond the national park, Osa Peninsula has an array of awesome activities you can do! Make sure to check out the ocean kayaking and diving at Cano Island during your 2 weeks in Costa Rica.

If you want a chance to see the marine life up close in Costa Rica, then a snorkelling tour could be just what you’re looking for. Yemanya Expeditions offers a half-day snorkelling tour on Cano Island with equipment, transport, and training included. You’ll meet early in Drake Bay, and then later finish the tour with a good lunch.

Ocean kayaking in Osa Penninsula
Ocean kayaking in the Osa Peninsula

Relax & Unwind Costa Rica Itinerary 

While action-packed adventures can be fun, sometimes the ultimate Costa Rica itinerary is all about chilling out.Many of the places already mentioned in this article can easily double as places to kick back and get away from the chaos of your life!

Depending on how long your trip is, these ideas can easily be adapted to fit a Costa Rican 10 day itinerary. Or pick and choose, relax in Costa Rica for 1 week and then have a jam-packed 7-day Costa Rica itinerary. The best thing about Costa Rica is that it offers so many options for every type of traveller.

Here’s our sample easy-to-adapt Costa Rica itinerary for unwinding.

Costa Rica Arenal Hotel 4244

Arenal – 3 days

While it has come to be known as the adventure capital of the country, Arenal is also quite a serene place. Considering that pretty much everything you do boasts incredible views of the country’s largest volcano, it’s easy to see why people post up here and let time slip away from them. Make sure to visit the Tabacon hot springs – a sustainable, luxurious hot spring where you can easily spend an entire day.

The thermal experience at the Tabacon hot springs is a popular choice, though you will require a day pass. Few things are more relaxing than wading through the naturally-heated pools and waterfalls, with temperatures ranging between 72 and 105 degrees Fahrenheit. If you’re an overnight guest at the hotel, you’ll get complimentary access to the thermal river and pools.

How To Plan A Trip to Visit La Fortuna Waterfall Costa Rica
Lake Arenal, Costa Rica

Playa Avellanas – 3 days

As mentioned previously in this article, Avellanas is located pretty near to Tamarindo – the most popular (and crowded) beach town in Costa Rica. If you’re looking for the same vibes minus the crowd, Avellanas is the perfect place for you. You can soak up the sun, snorkel and swim without bumping elbows!

Playa Avellanas, Guanacaste, Costa Rica
Playa Avellanas, Guanacaste

Nosara – 3 days

If you’re looking for a great place to connect with nature, do some yoga and detox. Nosara’s a must for these kinds of activities. 

They’ve got plenty of healthy restaurants all over town that are affordable and delicious. And pretty much any resort that you choose to stay at is going to have yoga class/retreat options

There are even options for massages, such as at Spacio, Spa. Alone, as a couple, or in a group with friends, by the time you leave, you’ll likely be more relaxed and refreshed than at any other point of your trip to Costa Rica.

Locals at Playa Pelada. Nosara. Costa Rica
Sunset at Playa Pelada in Nosara

Santa Teresa – 3 days

If you’re looking for a luxurious (and sustainable) beachfront getaway in Costa Rica, stay at one of the eco-hotels in Santa Teresa. You can post up in one of the ocean-front hammocks and read all day, take a surf lesson, or have a delicious meal and beverage at their beachfront restaurant.

Selva Resort, for example, has a phenomenal reputation. With a garden and a fantastic ocean view, it has the highest sustainability rating that Booking.com can give. A stay here will keep you comfortable, leave you feeling refreshed, and let you feel good about it.

Oksana on the beach at Santa Teresa

The Highlights of Costa Rica Itinerary

If you still are finding it impossible to choose just one kind of Costa Rican holiday, how about a little taste of everything you can do in Costa Rica in 2 weeks? This is the ultimate Costa Rica itinerary!

Manuel Antonio – 4 days

This national park is located along the Pacific coast. So, you can experience the flora, fauna, and beaches all in one place! While planning out your Costa Rica itinerary, 4 days should give you plenty of time to appreciate it all.

Arenal – 3 days

You can spend one day wandering around the Arenal Volcano National Park, one-day white water rafting, and the last day relaxing in world-class hot springs.

Amazing views of Arenal Volcano

Playa Avellanas – 3 days

Escape the chaos of Tamarindo and get some quality relaxation in this beach town known for great surfing, easy living and an up-and-coming wellness community. 

Santa Teresa or Nosara – 2 days

If you’re looking to bask in some calmness during your 2 weeks in Costa Rica, either of these places is a great option. They’ve got spas about, there are yoga classes/retreats for everyone’s skill set, and they are surrounded by nature.

Bonus: If you have more time, add a trip to Nauyaca Waterfalls, Costa Ballena National Park, and a day trip to Tamarindo

Must-do activities: Horseback riding, surf lesson, a cooking class, and embracing the Pura Vida lifestyle!

Other tours and activities you can add to your Costa Rica itinerary

 

 

Guide to Ecotourism in Costa Rica
Surf lesson on the beach in Santa Teresa

Costa Rica truly has something for everyone. If you haven’t already, it’s time to move it to the top of your future holiday list and start planning your own Costa Rica 2 week itinerary!

What would be on your Costa Rica itinerary? Let us know in the comment section below!

4 thoughts on “Ultimate Costa Rica Itinerary Suggestions for Every Type of Traveler”

  1. Thanks for the great information. We are visiting Costa Rica for the first time. We want to spend some time in the Oso Peninsula and also the area around Dominical. What is the best way to get around from place to place? Do we need to rent a car or are there other options? Is it better to stay around Puerto Jimenez or Drake?

  2. Hi!
    We have never been to Costa Rica. Basically are interested in the Wildlife,People. Not interested in surfing or the beaches so much.
    Is the Hike above the clouds not to be missed? Just trying to figure out if we should do 3 nts in one area and 3 in another? Or just base at one hotel and day trip. Horse back riding and fishing would be of interest as well.
    Thanks for any and all recommendations.
    Lisa

    1. Hi Lisa, if you are not interested in surfing or beaches, we recommend focusing your trip on South Pacific. Wildlife is the best in the Osa Peninsula and while it’s a trek to get out there, the experience is worth it. Dont base yourself in a hotel in Guanacaste – it’s mostly all beaches here. Maybe Manuel Antonio and Osa Peninsula if you wanted to do 2 destinations. Not sure what you mean in terms of hike above the clouds – Monteverde Cloud Forest? Its a great stop and good for wildlife, but nothing beats Osa Peninsula!

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