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10 Days in Costa Rica: Itinerary Ideas

Costa Rica is a small enough country to be explored in less than two weeks. Sure, you can spend months here, but for a first time visitor, 10 days are enough to get the feeling of the country and see the major sights.

Costa Rica offers plenty of things to do: from resorts catering to those who just want to relax , to great beached for the surfer and an array of outdoor experiences for those who don’t like to stand still. The present itinerary offers both outdoor activities and the chance to spend time on the beach.

>>read about the Free Things to do in Costa Rica

Itinerary assumptions

  • Fly into and out of San Jose
  • Use the buses to get between cities although renting a car can be a good choice, too.
  • Stay in hostels or budget hotels.
  • The itinerary allows for some splurges (zipling , spa).

Day 1-2 San Jose

Like it or not here’s where you’ll land. San Jose is the main transportation hub in Costa Rica so if you have to pass through it , why not stay couple of days, too?

If you like precious stones, then visit the Jade Museum. If you are more into gold, then the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum should be on your list. Spend some time in the Central Flea Market and look for bargains. Maybe you need a t-shirt or you forgot to pack a book for those traveling hours when you get bored.

Better yet, pick some food at the market and go to Parque National for a picnic. You can also take some time to plan the next days.

>>read more about the Things to do in San Jose

Day 3-5 La Fortuna / Arenal Volcano National Park

Book a hostel in Arenal or maybe a hotel in La Fortuna and be prepared for some exciting days . The national park is home to two volcanoes: Arenal had its latest major eruption in 1968 and Chato, which is the dormant one with a lonely lake in its crater.

You can easily spend your time hiking, watching the animals in their natural habitat or just spending time close to the nature. If you want to windsurf, Lake Arenal is a good choice. You can also hike to La Fortuna Waterfall and continue further on the trail to get to a natural pool where you can swim.

>>read more about Getting from San Jose to Arenal

Day 6-10 Manuel Antonio

Travel from Arenal south to Quepos, via San Jose. It should take about 3 ½ h by car, not considering the stops along the way. Choose a hotel for your stay and plan your activities for the next days.

The area is a heaven for those who like outdoor activities. But make sure to plan a day at the beach, too. Playa Manuel Antonio is the best within the park, with gentle waves.

Then, you should plan to hike in the jungle. There are trails for everyone. If you want to try the harder routes, it’s best to hire a local guide. And while you are at it, you’ll be able to spot the Capuchine Monkeys- which , by the way, are really fast – and maybe even some iguanas.

Splurge a little and choose to zipline in the forest. If extreme sports aren’t your think, you can take a horse ride on the beach…or on the mountain.

While the guys might want to try their luck at sport fishing, ladies can spend a day at the spa. It’s the least you can do after so many days in the wild, right? You can also snorkel or try rafting.

>>read more about the Things to do in Quepos and Things to do in Manuel Antonio

Just in case you plan to drive in the country, here’s a map of the itinerary:

View Larger Map

Photo credits: San Jose , Arenal , Manuel Antonio