Costa Rica: Your 2-Week Itinerary - Two Weeks in Costa Rica (2022)

Last Updated: June 16, 2020

If you have two weeks to spend in Costa Rica—congratulations! Two weeks is plenty of time to get a taste of what this small Central American country has to offer. To get the most out of your vacation, there are a couple of things to keep in mind when planning your itinerary. First, don’t be fooled by how close destinations appear on a map. Costa Rica may be only the size of West Virginia/Switzerland but getting from one place to the next can take a full day due to poor road conditions, traffic, and mountainous terrain. Second, expect to make a stop in San José when going from one place to another. San José is a major transportation hub and connections on the public bus and shuttles are often made here even if it’s out of the way. If you rent a car, you may still have to pass back through the Central Valley to avoid certain mountain ranges.

The two-week itinerary below aims to show the best of Costa Rica while keeping travel times to a minimum. We suggest three destinations in an order that will let you experience beautiful mountains, beaches, and lush jungle, without spending too much time on the road.

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Day 1: Arrive at San José International (SJO) airport. Stay overnight in the San José area.

Flights generally start arriving mid-day at SJO, so by the time you get through customs, immigration, and get your luggage (about one hour), it is already early afternoon. After a long day of travel, we recommend staying overnight in the San José area and getting an early start the next day.

Tip: Stay in Alajuela, which is actually closer to the international airport than San José. Hotel Buena Vista, in the surrounding hills, is a great option for those looking for a peaceful escape and panoramic views. Or, if you’d like something closer to the airport, tryHotel La Rosa de America, a charming hotel with typical Costa Rican decor and friendly staff.

For more lodging recommendations, read our post Best Hotels Near SJO Airport.

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Days 2-4: Retreat to the Highlands and visit Costa Rica’s famous Arenal Volcano.

The La Fortuna area is a great place to start your Costa Rica vacation. An unhurried downtown provides visitors with just enough convenience while surrounding plantations and mountain villages give a glimpse into the simple Tico lifestyle. A low rumble felt from the snoozing Arenal Volcano will be sure to wake your senses, but if you need more, try some of the many adrenaline-pumping activities available right outside town like zip lining, waterfall rappelling, or white-water rafting.

Getting There

Renting a car is a great option for this part of your trip. It’s less than a three-hour drive from San José and the rolling green mountains you maneuver will have you pulling over for plenty of amazing photo ops. Before getting behind the wheel though, know that driving in Costa Rica can be an adventure in itself. Roads and highways are steep and curvy, and the locals seem to forget their laid-back nature when driving.

If you decide to rent a car, check out this special discount for our readers to save 10-25%.

If you’d rather leave the driving to the pros, you could opt for a private or shared shuttle van service. These vans are very popular and also reliable. We describe how each type works and how to book one in our post Shuttles in Costa Rica.

Finally, if you’re looking to save some cash, take the direct bus from San José to La Fortuna (4-5 hours) for about $5.

Activities

Arenal Volcano National Park

Arenal is one of Costa Rica’s five active volcanoes. In its heyday, it spewed bright orange lava on a near daily basis. Although Arenal’s activity has slowed considerably since 2010, it is still a spectacular sight. At over 1,633 meters (5,358 feet) tall, this perfectly conical shaped volcano towers behind the town of La Fortuna. For the best view, hit the trails within Arenal Volcano National Park. For more information on planning your visit, read our poston hiking the park.

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La Fortuna Waterfall

Just outside town, you’ll find a stunning waterfall that plummets 70 meters (230 feet) into a deep pool, perfect for swimming. The falls are accessible via a 15-minute hike down a steep set of stairs or by horseback or ATV. Be sure to bring your swimsuit for a refreshing dip in the cool waters. Admission is $18.

Hot Springs

After a day of hiking, reward yourself with a relaxing soak in one of the area’s naturally occurring mineral hot springs. You can make a day of it by visiting a resort like Tabacon or EcoTermales, or ask a local where to find the free springs that flow in the area.

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For more information andhotel recommendations, read our post on what to expect inLa Fortuna.

Days 5-9: Head south to the beautiful beaches of Manuel Antonio.

Manuel Antonio has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world—and that’s not just our opinion. Playa Espadilla has been so named by countless publications and was most recently ranked the best beach in Central America by TripAdvisor. But this area offers travelers more than only a great beach. With a plethora of hotels, restaurants, and bars catering to all budgets, and nature at your doorstep, it’s no wonder Manuel Antonio is one of Costa Rica’s top tourism destinations.

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Getting There

This is one trip where we do not recommend taking the public bus. Because there is no direct bus from La Fortuna to Quepos/Manuel Antonio, you would have to go through San José first, turning a five-hour trip into a 10-hour trip. Instead, opt for a shuttle or rent a car. Note that a rental car would also come in handy for day trips around the Manuel Antonio area.

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Activities

Manuel Antonio National Park

Spend the morning exploring the many trails to see white-faced monkeys, sloths, and other jungle creatures in this picturesque park. For the afternoon, enjoy a picnic lunch at Playa Manuel Antonio, a beautiful cove off the main trail. This park is perfect for families because it has fairly flat terrain and easy-to-spot wildlife. For more specific information about the park, read our fullpost.

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Tours

Manuel Antonio is a great jumping off point for tours. There are a number of operators in the area where you can book all kinds of activities, including ATV, zip lining, white-water rafting, mangrove tours, kayaking, parasailing, jet skiing, sportfishing, catamaran cruises, and surfing. Check out our Manuel Antonio Activities Guide for more ideas.

Day Trip to the Wild Southern Zone

The Whale Marine Park, Marino Ballena

About an hour down the coast is the Costa Ballena region, where lush rainforest meets the sea. In the quiet town of Playa Uvita lies one of Costa Rica’s only marine national parks. Here, you’ll find another beautiful beach and the famous whale tail, a naturally occurring sandbar formed by converging ocean currents.

Nauyaca Waterfalls

Another stunning sight in this area is the Nauyaca Waterfalls. This two-tiered waterfall is one of the most beautiful cascades in all of Costa Rica. You can access it by hiking or on horseback. Read our full post for more details.

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For more information andhotel and restaurant recommendations, read our post on Manuel Antonio Trip Planning.

Days 10-12: End your trip with adventure and relaxation in Drake Bay.

By this point in your trip, Costa Rica’s pura vida attitude will have set in. You’ll feel more relaxed and be ready to experience Drake Bay in all of its glory. Located in the dense jungle of the Osa Peninsula, Drake Bay is a nature lover’s playground. Here you can find some of Costa Rica’s most rare species like Baird’s tapir, white-lipped peccaries, and if you’re lucky, even big cats.

Drake Bay is also the perfect retreat for those of you looking to unplug and unwind. The village consists of only a handful of hotels, lodges, and camps, and with very few restaurants in town, most accommodations provide everything you need, including meals.

Be sure to bring a flashlight as street lighting is novel in this village that only recently became electrified.

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Getting There

With few roads going in and out of Drake Bay, access is limited. While you can technically drive there during some parts of the year, it is not recommended due to multiple river crossings and rugged terrain. The good news is that you really don’t need a car in Drake Bay and there are much easier ways to get there.

An affordable and fun option is to take a boat taxi up the Sierpe River. If you book lodging in advance, your lodge will probably make the arrangements for you. The ride lasts about an hour and is a tour in itself through miles of mangrove. Grab it at Las Vegas or La Perla, two restaurants in the small riverside town of Sierpe.

Activities

Hiking in Corcovado National Park

Corcovado is the largest lowland rainforest remaining on the Pacific coast. Its climate can be best described as intensely hot and soupy. While hiking under such extreme conditions should not be taken lightly, there is no substitute to the park’s biological richness.

For the serious trekker, extend your vacation with a multi-day backpacking excursion, entering the park at San Pedrillo Ranger Station and exiting at La Leona Ranger Station (37 km/23 miles). Or if you’d rather skip the days of hiking and see the park in a single day, arrange a boat tour to Sirena Ranger Station, the area of the park with the most visible wildlife. Read our blogpostfor more information.

(Video) Two weeks in Costa Rica!

Snorkeling or Diving at Caño Island

Caño Island is one of the best places in Costa Rica for diving and snorkeling. Along the reefs around the island, you can see pufferfish, turtles, huge schools of jack fish, and even white-tip reef sharks. The waters around Caño are notably rich in marine life so be sure to keep your eyes peeled to and from the mainland for dolphins and even whales, which come to the area to breed.

Hike to Playa San Josecito

For a long day hike, check out San Josecito Beach. The trail from Drake Bay, which follows the coast, offers scenic vistas and a chance to see wildlife like Scarlet Macaws, toucans, and all four types of monkeys that live in Costa Rica. Be sure to bring your snorkel gear as this beach has some of the best onshore snorkeling we’ve seen in Costa Rica.

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For more information about visiting Drake Bay, including details on how to get there andhotel recommendations, read our post Drake Bay: Costa Rica Unplugged.

Day 13: Head back to San José.

To make your international flight out of Costa Rica, you’ll probably need to head back to the San José area the day before. You can take a boat taxi back to Sierpe, then catch either the public bus or a shuttle. The public bus for San José leaves from the nearby town of Palmar Norte.The ride from Palmar Norte is about six hours, giving you a total trip time of eight hours.

Shuttles are a faster option and are available for pick up right from the boat docks in Sierpe. Be sure to plan in advance because boat taxi service is limited.

Note that as of 2018, we no longer recommend domestic small planes in Costa Rica due to service and reliability problems.

Day 14: Head home.

Hopefully through this two-week itinerary you’ve enjoyed your stay in Costa Rica and have some fond memories to take back home. Two weeks is certainly enough time to get a sense of what Costa Rica is all about, but there’s plenty more to see if you’re already ready for another visit. We know what that’s like. After our first week-long trip in 2007, we were hooked, scoping out other areas of the country to explore on the plane ride home. Watch out Costa Rica lovers, because now, we live here!

Have questions about this itinerary? Leave us a comment below.

Last Updated: June 16, 2020

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Looking for more info to help plan your trip? Check out these posts:

  • Driving in Costa Rica: What to Know Before You Go – Aren’t sureif driving is right for you? It can seem scary at first, but renting a car isby far the best way to explore the country. These tips will help getyou ready to cruise on down the road.
  • Cost of Traveling in Costa RicaCosta Rica isa little more expensive thansome other Central American countries. This post will give you a general sense of how much things cost, including hotels, restaurants, transportation, and tours.
  • Best Hotels Near SJO Airport – If you are flying in and out of San Jose, you might need to stay the night. Check out our picks for the best places close to the airport.
  • Packing List – Your trip might be months away but bookmark this list of some things you don’t want to forget.
  • Custom Itinerary Trip Planning Service – Let us help create the perfect itinerary for your family/group. We work with you every step of the way and even take care of all the bookings for you.

FAQs

Is 2 weeks in Costa Rica enough? ›

Two weeks is the perfect amount of time to enjoy Costa Rica, home to epic national parks, great surfing, beautiful beaches, and exotic wildlife found around every corner. Life is vibrant in this wonderful country – ready to be enjoyed in this Costa Rica 2-week Itinerary!

How much does a 2 week trip to Costa Rica cost? ›

A week of vacation in Costa Rica costs between $850 and $1,450 for an average traveler in mid-priced hotels, lodges or rental houses and doing standard tours (assuming double occupancy). Beachfront accommodations and high dollar activities like deep sea fishing will quickly push the budget over $2,500.

What can you see in Costa Rica in 14 days? ›

On this exciting two-week trip around Costa Rica, you'll visit San José, Tortuguero National Park, the towering Arenal Volcano, Monteverde's cloud forest, and the remote beaches of Guanacaste.

How many days is enough for 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.

Is 2 weeks too long for a vacation? ›

How Long Is Too Long For A Vacation? Just over a week is the optimal duration for a vacation as the benefits associated with vacationing start tapering off after the eight-day. After two weeks, not only does the vacation become less enjoyable, and stress can accumulate. So, 2 weeks is too long for a vacation.

How much is $1 US in Costa Rica? ›

631.808 CRC

How much cash do I need for a week in Costa Rica? ›

For a one week Costa Rica trip, I recommend to bring a round $300 dollars in US dollars cash per person.

Is Costa Rica cheaper than Mexico? ›

Overall though, Mexico can be a cheaper holiday than Costa Rica if you're staying away from five star resorts and tourist regions. Although both countries have comparatively similar prices if you wish to stay in resorts in the popular tourist areas.

What is the best time of year to go to Costa Rica? ›

The best time to visit Costa Rica is between December and April, when the weather is at its driest and brightest. We'd also recommend traveling in the country's green season, from May to June or in November. This is when you catch the seasons in transition, and the national parks are quieter.

Is Costa Rica expensive? ›

If you're wondering “Is Costa Rica cheap to visit?”, the answer is yes and no. Compared to other Central American countries like Nicaragua or El Salvador, Costa Rica is generally more on the expensive side. It's pretty well-developed and has a thriving tourism industry, so things do cost more.

What is the cheapest month to fly to Costa Rica? ›

The cheapest months to book a flight to Costa Rica: August and July, followed by November. Booking a flight in August can result in an average 2% savings compared to the average yearly flight price.

How much cash should I take with me to Costa Rica? ›

We recommend that you bring around $50 to $100 US dollars in cash and a VISA or Master Card. There are other credit cards that are accepted, but VISA and Master Card are the most commonly accepted throughout Costa Rica. If needed, you can get a cash advance on a VISA card if you go to a large bank.

What are the rainiest months in Costa Rica? ›

The Pacific slope rainy season in Costa Rica is from May to mid-December with a dramatic peak in precipitation September into November. There's nearly no rainfall in the dry season between January and April.

Where can I spend the most time in Costa Rica? ›

Best Places to Stay in Costa Rica
  • Jaco Beach—Sportfishing Hotspot.
  • Nosara Beach—Surf & Yoga.
  • Tortuguero—A Wildlife Wonder.
  • Coco Beach—Beaches & Nightlife.
  • Puerto Viejo—Laid-Back Vibe.
  • Drake Bay—Most Biodiverse.
  • Rincon de la Vieja—Country Living.
  • San Jose—Shopping & Dining.

Is 3 weeks in Costa Rica too much? ›

Three weeks is the ideal time to absorb the Costa Rican way of life and enjoy all the top things to do. Use this Costa Rica 3-week itinerary to plan your route around the country's waterfalls, volcanoes, national reserves, and beautiful beaches. Get ready for the trip of a lifetime!

Is it safe to drive a rental car in Costa Rica? ›

If you're planning a trip to Costa Rica, you're in luck. It is considered safe to rent a car in Costa Rica. However, foreigners are sometimes intimidated by the aggressive driving of the locals and the overall lack of road signage. It's best to scout out your route ahead of time.

What is the perfect vacation length? ›

According to research published in the Journal of Happiness Studies, the ideal length of a vacation is exactly eight days. As the researchers noted, a vacationer will feel an increase of happiness over the first several days of vacation, with that feeling peaking on the eighth day, The Times-Picayune explained.

Is a two week vacation normal? ›

Two weeks of vacation time is pretty standard in the US. However, employers are not required to offer paid vacation time. Still, they often include it willingly as part of their benefits package to attract potential employees. Employees with one or two years of service usually get ten paid vacation days.

Is 2 weeks a 10 day vacation? ›

Under California law, earned vacation time is considered wages, and vacation time is earned, or vests, as labor is performed. For example, if an employee is entitled to two weeks (10 work days) of vacation per year, after six months of work he or she will have earned five days of vacation.

Is 3 weeks too long in Costa Rica? ›

Three weeks is the ideal time to absorb the Costa Rican way of life and enjoy all the top things to do. Use this Costa Rica 3-week itinerary to plan your route around the country's waterfalls, volcanoes, national reserves, and beautiful beaches.

Is Costa Rica expensive? ›

If you're wondering “Is Costa Rica cheap to visit?”, the answer is yes and no. Compared to other Central American countries like Nicaragua or El Salvador, Costa Rica is generally more on the expensive side. It's pretty well-developed and has a thriving tourism industry, so things do cost more.

Is 5 days enough in Costa Rica? ›

Although 5 days in Costa Rica may not sound like much time, the small size of this Central American country (equal to West Virginia or Denmark) means a 5-day tour to Costa Rica is still long enough to experience many of its most extraordinary sights.

Which side is better in Costa Rica? ›

Most travelers visiting Costa Rica think the Pacific side of the country is the better coast to visit. The remote Osa Peninsula, the monkey-filled area of Manuel Antonio, the surfing near Santa Theres, and the touristy Nicoya coast make it the superior choice.

How long can I stay in Costa Rica without a visa? ›

Do I need a visa to visit Costa Rica? For purposes of tourism, you may visit Costa Rica for up to 90 days without a visa.

How long can you get a visa for Costa Rica? ›

A Costa Rica tourist visa is valid for a maximum of 30 days but it may be issued for less. If you need to stay in the country for longer, you can request a visa extension at the Directorate General of Immigration in Costa Rica.

How many days a year can you stay in Costa Rica? ›

You can travel to Costa Rica as a tourist. You can stay in Costa Rica for 90 days without a visa but you must get a work/internship contract in order to stay longer than 90 days. After getting a work/internship contract, apply to the Immigration Authority in Costa Rica for one of the three temporary residence permits.

How much is $1 US in Costa Rica? ›

631.808 CRC

How much is a Coke in Costa Rica? ›

Prices in restaurants in Costa Rica.
Meal in a cheap restaurant4,500 CRC (3,000-10,000)
Imported Beer (0.33 liter bottle)2,400 CRC (1,500-3,500)
Coke/Pepsi (0.33 liter bottle)950 CRC (650-1,500)
Water (0.33 liter bottle)851 CRC (600-1,300)
Cappuccino (regular)1,600 CRC (900-2,600)
5 more rows

Should I take cash to Costa Rica? ›

Using US Cash

US dollars are widely accepted in Costa Rica. Bring smaller bills like $1, $5, $10 and $20 bills. The bills will need to be in good condition as they will not be accepted if they are ripped or torn. The larger the bill, the more perfect it needs to be.

What are the best months to go to Costa Rica? ›

The best time to visit Costa Rica is between December and April, when the weather is at its driest and brightest. We'd also recommend traveling in the country's green season, from May to June or in November. This is when you catch the seasons in transition, and the national parks are quieter.

How many days do you need in Guanacaste Costa Rica? ›

With five days you can experience the main highlights of Guanacaste on a quick itinerary. With a week, you can take your time and visit many beaches and villages along the Nicoya Peninsula. Of course, if you have two weeks you can see almost all of Guanacaste and even tack on other regions to your itinerary.

Is 4 days enough for Costa Rica? ›

You can spend just four days in Costa Rica and accomplish a lot. The weather is sultry – temperatures hover in the high 80s and 90s and the sun shines daily in the dry season. But even in the rainy season, it doesn't rain for hours, but for a short time each day.

Where is the safest place to vacation in Costa Rica? ›

Tamarindo, Puerto Viejo and Drake Bay are the safest areas in Costa Rica.

Is it better to stay on the Caribbean or Pacific side of Costa Rica? ›

If you go by what the locals say, the Caribbean coast wins. Well-traveled Costa Ricans love to visit the area south of Limon with its most famous beach towns of Cahuita, Puerto Viejo, and Manzanillo. It is less crowded, not as expensive, and known for a great food scene.

Videos

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