For many travelers in the world, Costa Rica is a tropical dream coming true. Many people dream about getting to know a very special bird in a determinate season, some others visit us to taste a good coffee, to get close to nature, for a yoga retreat and others only want to visit our beaches for a few days.
Whatever your dream is, you must organize your trip according to your holidays' duration, your budget, and your needs… and there’s where your dream touches land and lets you wonder “how can I plan my trip without any expert guidance?”.
DON’T WORRY! I’m here with 3 different itineraries that you could use to start planning your trip!
7 DAYS - IN A CARIBBEAN WAY
I prepared this itinerary for those who want to visit our Caribbean coast and don’t have too many days off from work.
This is perfect for travelers who are looking for and nature and to relax, beaches (without many tourists) and yoga beginner classes or surfing.
So here is the plan:
Day 1. San Jose arrival – City Hotel.
I recommend you to look for a hotel in San José instead of Alajuela or Heredia because, for the next destination, it is better to be lodged near San José. Also, in San José, you have many restaurant options, free city tours, or even take a walk to know downtown without complications.
Day 2. Pick up in your hotel – Tortuguero
Most of the hotels in Tortuguero works in an "all-inclusive package". That means that what you are paying for includes: transfer from your city hotel to Guapiles, breakfast, transfer to the dock, boat tour along the Tortuguero Channels until you reach your hotel. It ALSO, includes all meals, lodging, and 1 or 2 tours depending on you ... plus the transfers back to Guapiles or San José.
TIP: It's important to stay at least 2 nights in Tortuguero to really enjoy your trip. Please do not consider only 1 night because it would be very exhausting and all the time spent in transfers will not be worth it for only 1 night.
Day 3. Tortuguero
Enjoy a morning/ afternoon canal tour, a visit to the Tortuguero village, a night tour to see baby turtles or adults' oviposition (if you’re in the season), and relax! Many hotels have on-site amenities like: pools, decks, butterfly gardens, trails, among others.
Day 4. Tortuguero – Guapiles – Puerto Viejo de Limón
Coming back from Tortuguero you can be dropped off at Guapiles to continue driving to Puerto Viejo. This beautiful place has its own vibe. Friendly people, stunning beaches, good food, cultural richness, and jungle will make you wish to stay here forever.
Day 5. Puerto Viejo
Yoga? Surf? Yoga-surf? Nature? Take a ride on your bicycle and visit every beach from Playa Negra to Punta Uva! You won't regret it!
Day 6. Puerto Viejo de Limon – Turrialba
Turrialba is an authentic place where you can find a lot of things to do. For the adventurous, rafting is around here. For birdwatchers, this is a hot spot. For cultural seekers, Guayabo National Park and some other cultural tours are close by. Horseback riders, canyoning, rivers and much more are waiting for you.
Day 7. Turrialba – Alajuela
Depending on the departure time of your flight you can go straight from Turrialba to the airport. If your flight departs early in the morning, I’ll recommend you to stay the night before in San José or Alajuela to avoid any stress after all.
14 DAYS - CR COAST TO COAST
This itinerary is perfect for people with more vacation days and wants to spend more time visiting both coasts. Also, the program visits almost all the highlights of this country, so this is what a Costa Rica lover is looking for.
Day 1,2 and 3. It starts as in the itinerary 1.
Day 4. Tortuguero – Guapiles – Selva Bananito
Deep in the jungle, there’s a lodge called Selva Bananito. This unique lodge is an amazing experience that everyone traveling in Costa Rica should visit if it’s possible.
This jungle lodge offers a close look to nature, a vacation escape to recharge energies.
There is a complete meal plan included so don’t worry, you’ll have everything organized by the lodge.
Day 5. Selva Bananito
All the conservation efforts from this lodge are visible in these 850 hectares of forest.
On-site tours with an expert local guide are available so don’t miss them up!
Day 6. Selva Bananito – Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui.
This place is perfect for those who want to live a real local experience. Do a pineapple tour, La Selva OTS, Chocolate tour, bird or bat tours, among others!
TIP: The weather here is not like at the coast or the Caribbean jungle but it’s hot… So be prepared.
Day 7. Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui – La Fortuna
The famous Arenal Volcano is here. This volcanic giant is almost visible from everywhere at La Fortuna so bring your camera with you and at the moment all the clouds disappear… SNAP! Take that photo as your souvenir.
Day 8. La Fortuna
The lodging options here are huuuuge, but I really recommend to stay at a hotel with thermal water springs to use them whenever you want.
Keep this day to visit the volcano or to do any of the tours offered in the zone.
Day 9. La Fortuna – Monteverde
Do you know you can reach Monteverde with a lake crossing boat tour? Visit the Arenal Lake and use this tour as a transfer straight to the cloudy Monteverde
TIP: The info above is THE plan if you are without a rental car. Don’t be afraid to use it instead of a land transfer!
By the night take a tour in one of the reserves findable in Monteverde.
Day 10. Monteverde – Manuel Antonio
Guess what? Now we are on the Pacific Coast!
Manuel Antonio has one of the most visited national parks in Costa Rica. Let’s go and find out why this place is so visited. Many animals are not shy here.
Day 11. Manuel Antonio
One night is not enough to do all the things possible at Manuel Antonio. Visit the beaches nearby, or do one of the tours they offer here. This is a place for everyone: birdwatchers, adventurous people, calm boaters, hikers and beachers.
Day 12. Manuel Antonio – Dominical
This coast place is known for the dolphin and whales tour. Don’t miss it out!
The lodging offer is for everyone and the stunning views are a great memory too.
Day 13. Dominical or San Gerardo de Dota
You can stay one more night at Dominical or, you can visit San Gerardo de Dota… the land of the Quetzal.
A Quetzal-Tour is a must here so don’t go to bed too late and wake up very early in the morning to meet him!
Day 14. Dominical or San Gerardo de Dota – Alajuela
Depending on your departure flight you can go straight from Turrialba to the airport. If your flight departs early in the morning, I’ll recommend you to stay the night before at San José or Alajuela to avoid any stress after all.
Ufff! What do you think about these itineraries? Do they fit with you?
Even when these are good routes remember they’re only some ideas who can be redesigned or adjusted to you and your needs. All these routes are fittable for all the budgets and preferences.
If you are looking for a longer stay…. Don’t miss Part 2 of this blog, which is for those Costa Rica's lovers who want a complete trip in 21 days! If you need more ideas, you can download our free E-book about suggested itineraries here!
If you are looking for help with your itinerary or if you need recommendations for tours, hotels (from 1* to 5*) and transportation methods please leave your messages here! I will give you more tips to design your best-trip-ever!
Pura Vida, Judy