This 10 Days in Costa Rica Itinerary will help you discover everything Costa Rica has to offer. From cities to jungles and beaches to volcanoes, there are various activities, both relaxing and exhilarating, to make for an unforgettable Costa Rican vacation.
Costa Rica is a beautiful, lush country draped in different shades of green and decorated with hundreds of vivid colours. It is an ideal destination for both families and adventurers - or a family of adventurers. It is located just south of Nicaragua.
It is also one of the most bio-diverse countries on our planet. The government and its citizens are incredibly protective of Costa Rica's vital environment.
Costa Rica has been ranked as the second most environmentally-friendly and sustainable country on Earth. It uses nearly 99% renewable energy. Because of this, it is one of the leading countries in Ecotourism.
Costa Rica has over 500,000 species of wildlife, making up 5% of the entire animal kingdom worldwide. However, there are many species of lizards, snakes, frogs, birds, mice, plus more, that you can only find here. It is also home to several species of big cats, like the ocelot, puma and jaguar, although rare.
In addition to all the unique wildlife and vibrant flora and fauna, Costa Rica offers plenty of exciting activities dedicated to exploring in an environmentally-friendly, educational way.
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Using the map of Costa Rica, you can explore all the days and stops.
San Jose is the capital city of Costa Rica and is also the most populated with just over 5 million people living there. While the airport is not actually in the town of San Jose, it is your first stop after landing in this tropical paradise. Surprisingly, San Jose is actually located in the middle of a jungle.
Because of San Jose's location, it makes it the perfect place to start your adventure and spend your first 2 days in Costa Rica. Numerous spots in San Jose offer day trips and activities as well as car rental places to continue your exploration of Costa Rica.
Stay in the city for its rich history, or step outside and explore the surrounding jungle; either way, San Jose is where it all begins!
Coffee is one of Costa Rica's biggest exports and makes up a big part of the country's history. Finca Rosa Blanca is a highly-rated and respected coffee plantation located on the Poas and Barva Volcanoes.
Finca Rosa Blanca's coffee is grown in high altitude, shady soil, which makes for a really great-tasting coffee bean!
They offer daily guided tours that take you through the entire life cycle of coffee and ends with some taste-testing. Finca Rosa Blanca is also home to over 130 species of birds.
In addition to being one of the most well-known coffee plantations, it is also a lodge. Finca Rosa Blanca is one of the National Geographic 's Unique Lodges of the World. To qualify for this title, each place is handpicked and must meet the following criteria:
"Unparalleled experience, environment, authenticity, and sustainability."
There are only '60 unique lodges' in the world on this list, so visiting here is a rare opportunity.
The La Salle Natural Science Museum is an excellent introduction to all the wildlife that is indigenous to Costa Rica. They have 7 sections including: birds, entomology (study of insects), malacology (study of the Mollusca- snails, slugs, octopus, etc.), mammals, minerals and rocks, palaeontology (study of prehistoric species), as well as a section on fish and reptiles.
Not only does the museum teach you about the past, but it shows visitors the importance of what is going on in nature now and why it is crucial for the future.
There are over 65,000 exhibits in this museum, with 55,000 being permanent ones. It also has a garden filled with tropical plants and turtles!
Enjoy Costa Rican nightlife by spending your first evening tasting the local beer. San Jose Urban Adventures takes you around to the local microbreweries and also provides yummy tapas to go with your beer. You'll get to sample 10 (small) different beers.
Go dancing in the local pubs to enjoy the real, local nightlife where fun music and vibrant clothes meet, which is a fantastic introduction to the Costa Rican way of life. Wear comfortable shoes and bring extra cash for gratuity and souvenirs.
The beer tasting and tapas tour take about 4 hours, and you are with a bilingual guide the whole time and typically a group of 12 people.
There are many fun and exciting adventures to be had just outside of San Jose. A lot of the tour operators who offer day trips provide fully-planned experiences where pick up and drop off at your accommodation is included, so spending a couple of days in the city can be quite good!
Get a birds-eye view of the rainforest canopy by ziplining above the trees. Spend 2.5 hours flying from tree to tree on this thrilling day trip. You'll even get to go on a little hike through the jungle where you will see lovely flowers.
Ziplining in Costa Rica is exciting and beautiful.
Everything is included for you, even airport pick up and drop off. There is a guide with you at all times, and the equipment is sturdy, clean and safe. You can also get a mouth-watering, locally-prepared lunch.
Costa Rica has a pretty decent public transportation system, but renting a car always offers more freedom. Renting a car in Costa Rica is affordable and straightforward. It may be worth paying a bit extra for an SUV or something with four-wheel drive.
Always remember to follow the local driving laws and keep your car locked, and don't ever leave anything valuable in it, even if it seems like there is no one else around.
You should always keep paper copies or photocopies of important personal documents on your phone, such as your driver's license and passport.
The Caribbean side of Costa Rica tends to be less touristy, has a more laid back vibe and is filled with vibrant colours and flavour. It is home to numerous national parks and magical creatures, such as sea turtles, dolphins, fish and hundreds of birds and mammals.
It is also still inhabited by a handful of native tribes that have lived there for over 5,000 years. These tribes are dedicated to preserving their way of life and are fascinating to learn about.
The Caribbean side has a totally different style, culture and food than the Pacific side. This area is incredible and absolutely must be included in your vacation to Costa Rica!
Tortuguero National Park is only reachable by airplane or boat, but both are easy to take and run daily. This park has been protected since 1996 and has 11 different habitats ranging from rainforest to swamps. Its protected status has kept thousands of species of mammals, reptiles, fish and birds and their habitats safe.
There are many ways to explore the diversity of this beautiful park, and the best way to do so is by water, not land.
Explore the Caribbean side from the water by kayaking! Kayaking offers a whole new perspective of this side's unique landscape. Paddle through the mangroves and rivers with an experienced guide who can point out all the different wildlife, sea life and vegetation that thrive throughout the area.
A couple of tour options take you deep into the jungle to get up close and personal with Costa Rica.
Make sure to wear insect repellent, sunscreen and bring plenty of water and a life jacket, which will be provided for you.
Tortuguero Tours offers many different tour options, but the most popular is definitely the night tour to see the nesting sea turtles.
Tortuguero National Park is one of the most important places to keep safe because thousands of sea turtles come here to nest.
To better protect the turtles and not distract them, no videos or photos are allowed.
The northern part of Costa Rica is home to the majestic Tenorio Volcano National Park. Northern Costa Rica is dotted with volcanoes and is ideal for hiking and bird watching. There are incredible views to see, which makes for an unforgettable adventure.
The Tenorio Volcano National Park is named after the dominating volcano, Tenorio. Tenorio Volcano is made up of 4 peaks and two craters and shoots over 6,000 feet high into the sky. It is possible to hike the summit, but as always, be prepared with the proper gear, food and water.
There are waterfalls, lagoons and springs to see along the way, not to mention the various forms of wildlife and lots of flowers and colours that provide excellent opportunities for photography.
The hike takes about 9 hours. Guided hikes are highly recommended, and you should be mildly fit and dressed appropriately.
Santa Elena is a small town located near the popular and inspiring Monteverde Cloud Forest. Here, you can find incredible hiking, colourful butterflies, horseback riding and much more.
The town also has galleries filled with local artist's creations, which offers an excellent opportunity to find souvenirs to bring back home to remember your trip.
Horseback riding is a unique way to explore the Monteverde Cloud Forest. There are various tour options offering rides as short as 2.5 hours and even up to 8 days!
The horses are friendly, and the guide is skilled and experienced with a lot of knowledge and information about the areas you will be riding through. You will have an unforgettable experience discovering how full of life the lush jungle can be!
Don't forget the bug spray!
One of the most popular and scenic places to visit in Costa Rica, Monteverde, is something you cannot miss!
Monteverde rises over 4500 feet into the air and is usually misty and humid, with humidity ranging from 74% to 94% and averaging 118 inches of rain a year.
It is known as one of Costa Rica's Seven Natural Wonders. There are six main trails to hike, which are well kept and easily accessible.
Take a muddy tour through the jungle on ATVs. Get messy and have fun exploring the forest quickly and efficiently. You can cover more ground and bush on a quad, not to mention it's super fun! The tour takes two hours, and transportation can be provided if needed.
Keep in mind you must have a valid driver's license to drive one and wear clothes and shoes that you don't mind getting dirty.
This tour group also offers other fun adventures if getting dirty isn't your style.
A private nighttime tour is a once in a lifetime experience offered by local guides. Walking through the jungle after dark is an undeniably unique experience. The jungle comes to life differently at night, and this tour allows you to understand why.
Types of animals you can potentially see at night here include tree snakes, insects, birds, foxes and other mammals.
This 2-hour tour starts and ends in the same spot. You should be reasonably physically fit, and be aware that it could be cancelled due to weather. You start as a big group and then separate with different guides as you hike into the deep jungle.
Playa Negra is just south of the popular tourist town - Tamarindo. It is most famous for its surfing. Playa Negra has world-class waves, and surfers from all over the world come to ride them. However, there is way more to do here than just surf. You can go horseback riding, stand up paddleboarding, snorkelling, scuba diving and much more.
Playa Negra isn't just for experienced surfers. It is also a great place to learn how to surf. Snapper Surf School has dedicated teachers and experienced guides to help you with everything you need to know to be successful out in the ocean.
The surf school also offers different tours for experienced surfers, including boat tours.
Tamarindo is a great place to experience the vibrant and exciting nightlife of a Costa Rican beach town. There are numerous bars and clubs to go dancing in and tasty local food to munch on. It is also an excellent town to meet other travellers passing through Costa Rica. There are entertaining and popular beach and pool crawls, too.
Tamarindo is also great for shopping or stocking up on supplies that some smaller towns might not have.
The Nicoya Peninsula is located on the Pacific side of Costa Rica and is known as a Blue Zone. Blue Zones are random areas on Earth where people seem to live much longer than people in other places. There are four other blue zones in the world, which are located in Sardinia, Italy, Okinawa, Japan, Loma Linda, California, and Icaria in Greece.
It is thought that people in Blue Zones live longer because, according to some research, the local communities share five similar life rules, including putting family first, maintaining a mostly plant diet and staying active.
Ideal for surfing and yoga, this area in the very south of the Nicoya Peninsula is a haven for quiet beaches and fun waves. There are yoga studios and classes everywhere. This beautiful beach town also offers a peaceful, relaxing oasis in the jungle. You can wake up to monkeys howling and go to bed with the stars twinkling.
This area also has some fantastic fresh seafood that you can sometimes buy fresh off a boat.
Santa Teresa and Mal Pais are easily accessible on foot and is nice to walk around, explore and meet other people.
Stop by the Horizon Ocean View Hotel and Yoga Center for a revitalising yoga class. The centre offers different styles of yoga classes at different times, so there is something for everyone.
You can take group classes or arrange for private lessons - perfect for after a day of surfing!
The Yoga Center is also a hotel and offers fantastic food and even better views.
Montezuma is a beautiful area to visit -also in the Nicoya Peninsula region - and is home to a powerful and grand waterfall. Not far from Santa Teresa, you can rent an ATV to get there for a bit of an added adventure.
The Montezuma Waterfall is a popular destination for tourists and locals, and it is no surprise why. It is incredibly breathtaking and offers a refreshing cool off from the Costa Rican sun.
The hike to the waterfall can be long, hot and rocky, so make sure you wear proper sneakers and bring water and snacks.
There are several safe areas to jump from; however, it is not recommended to jump from the top, even if you see other people doing it.
We took quads from Santa Teresa to the waterfall, and it was quite the adventure crossing rivers and streams.
Manuel Antonio is home to a stunning national park and a lively restaurant. The local beach is surrounded by a lush jungle filled with animated animals hopping from tree to tree.
Manuel Antonio is also a great place to find authentic Costa Rican food and interesting handmade jewellery and other trinkets.
Manuel Antonio National Park is home to cheeky and cute rainforest animals, like monkeys and sloths, but also to beautiful sea creatures, such as fish and turtles. Spend the day relaxing on the beautiful beaches, take a walk collecting shells or go snorkelling in the clear water.
You can also find crocodiles, snakes, iguanas and birds here.
El Avion is a creative and fun dining experience. This restaurant was created out of an old airplane. With a friendly and dedicated staff, having lunch or dinner here will be a fantastic addition to your trip.
El Avion is an open-air restaurant that offers incredible views. If possible, grab a table here to watch the sunset. Watching the sunset over the Pacific Ocean is one of the most impressive things to watch, especially from above.
Costa Rica is a fun, beautiful country and one of the best places to visit in December. It offers rest and relaxation as well as adventure and exploration.
You could spend an endless amount of time here and still not see everything there is to see. From jungles to mangroves, rivers and oceans, Costa Rica is a magical, tropical paradise that everyone needs to put on their travel bucket list.
I hope this 10 Days in Costa Rica Itinerary has inspired you and given you some ideas for the things to see and do for your upcoming Costa Rica trip. And of course, have a great time - I know I sure did!
This article was edited by Loredana Elena and was first published on Nov 28, 2019 15:33 UTC.
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