Costa Rica: Your 2-Week Itinerary

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.

2 Week Itinerary for Costa Rica | Two Weeks in Costa Rica

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, try Hotel 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.

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.


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 post on hiking the park.

Arenal Volcano, La Fortuna | 2 Week Itinerary for Costa Rica

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.

For more information and hotel recommendations, read our post on what to expect in La 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.

The gorgeous Manuel Antonio Beach | 2 Week Itinerary for Costa Rica

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.

Top 10 Costa Rica Itineraries Book


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 full post.

White-faced Monkeys in Manuel Antonio | 2 Week Itinerary for Costa Rica


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.

For more information and hotel 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.

A Two Week Itinerary for Costa Rica - Drake Bay

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. 


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 blog post for more information.

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.

Chestnut-mandibled Toucan | 2 Week Itinerary for Costa Rica

For more information about visiting Drake Bay, including details on how to get there and hotel 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

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 sure if driving is right for you? It can seem scary at first, but renting a car is by far the best way to explore the country. These tips will help get you ready to cruise on down the road.  
  • Cost of Traveling in Costa Rica Costa Rica is a little more expensive than some 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. 

Related Posts

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2 Costa Rica Itineraries That Limit Driving
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Family Itinerary for Costa Rica: Rainforest, Beach, and Volcano
Off-the-Beaten-Path Destinations in Costa Rica
9 Off-the-Beaten-Path Destinations in Costa Rica
Costa Rica Honeymoon Itinerary | Two Weeks in Costa Rica
Costa Rica Honeymoon Itinerary


  1. First of all, thank you for all your insightful posts! Great blog 🙂 I noticed you guys hardly mention the Nicoyo Penisula. My fiance and I wanted to drive over to the west side beaches (by Tamarindo), down through Samara Bay, and last to Montezuma. But then we read about how bad the roads can be to get there and realized it’s probably better to plan a day trip to the peninsula. Plus we only have a week to work with. Is that what you guys have found to be true? Thanks! 🙂

    1. Emily, glad you are enjoying our posts. We have spent most of our time on the Central Pacific coast so that’s why our blog is geared towards that area. But, we’re heading to Playa Grande in March so there will be more posts about the Nicoya in the near future!
      Your reluctance about driving to the southern Nicoya is right on. The roads are definitely rougher and it takes longer to get around. With only a week, you’d be better off spending your time on the northern Nicoya, exploring the Tamarindo area and checking out all the small towns in between there and Samara. Hope you enjoy CR!

    2. Is it necessary to make reservations for the Water Taxi from Sierpe to Drake Bay? I can’t find a website to do that!

      Are there buses from Domincal to Drake Bay?

      1. Hi Peggy, Usually your hotel in Drake will tell you which boat to get on so coordinate with them before your trip. In general, though, you don’t need reservations, just show up at one of the restaurants where boats leave from a little in advance and get tickets then. There’s more info on boat times, etc. in our post Drake Bay: Costa Rica Unplugged.

        There are buses from Dominical to Drake but you need to do a couple of transfers. You go to Palmar Norte first and then grab another bus from there to Sierpe (there’s no bus direct to Drake), or you can take an inexpensive cab ride the rest of the way from Palmar to Sierpe. Here’s a good website for figuring it out:

        1. Hello, my boyfriend and I have been following your itinerary, thanks for the very useful information, we are loving it! One question though…we have rented a car to drive from La Fortuna down to Manuel Antonio, and we plan to drive from Manuel Antonio along the coast to eventually pick up the boat from Sierpe to Drake, however, the furthest we can drop off our rental car is Uvita, do you have any suggestions on how we can get from Uvita to Sierpe? Thanks so much, Claire

          1. Hi Claire, Check with the rental company to see if they will pick up the car from you in Sierpe. Some do, including the company that we work with, Adobe. That would be the easiest. Otherwise you could take a shuttle and we would be happy to help you organize that with a reputable company that makes this trip. Just reply to this thread if you’re interested and we will send you an email.

          2. Hi, doing something similar, is there a place to park our car while we go from sierpe to drake, and then pick it up on our way back to the airport?

    3. Hi, do you sort out itineraries for people? We are going to Costs Rica and trying to arrange bespoke tour but the prices are high.

      Think we need some help organising

      1. Hi Ross, Yes, we offer a couple of different kinds of vacation planning services. If you already have a good idea of where you would like to visit, we have an itinerary review service where we review your existing itinerary to make sure it makes sense (order of destinations, destinations selected, time in each place, etc.). If you aren’t sure where you should go, we have a more in-depth customized itinerary service. In this one, we help you pick destinations based on your interests, recommend hotels, activities, and restaurants, and also help with transportation. It is a la carte in that we give you a bunch of different options based on your budget and then you make the bookings you want, which makes it a lot easier to stay on a budget. We charge a flat fee for our services. There’s more info on our Itinerary Help page. Let us know if you’re interested.

    4. Hello! Thanks a lot for this very helpful site and all your advices!
      I am going to Costa Rica for 2 weeks (13 full days actually) at the end of August. My boyfriend and I would like to explore the most we can, and I was thinking to start with 3 days in Arenal area to see the volcano, waterfall and ziplining. Then, go to the west coast for 4/5 days at the beach while heading south to finally reach the Corcovado park (we know this one requires at least 3 days). Do you think this is a reasonable plan? I have a couple of questions if you guys can help:
      – Do you think is doable and reasonable to go to nicoya peninsula from arenal and then to uvita/dominical and drake bay? (in 5 days)
      – we were thinking of staying in La Fortuna the first 3 nights, how easy is from there visit monteverde park?
      Thank you very much!

      1. Hi Eleonora, That itinerary will have you driving quite a bit but it isn’t too bad since you have stops built in. For your time on the Nicoya, you might want to pick a beach town that is relatively easy to access like Samara or the Tamarindo area to lessen the time in the car (Samara will get you closer to Uvita/Dominical). 5 days is reasonable if you don’t mind being on the go, as it’ll give you 2 nights in each place.

        Monteverde can’t be done on a day trip from La Fortuna because the roads getting there are pretty bad. It’s about 3-4 hrs each way so best done if you have at least a couple of nights. We have a post about driving to Monteverde if you want more info. All in all, though, nice itinerary. Hope you have a good trip!

        1. Hey Jen and Matt,

          I was reading your blog and am interested in your opinion about flying into LIR airport? We are spending 4 nights in tamarindo and 3 nights in Arenal. LIR is much closer than SJO, but just wanted to get some advice. TIA

          1. Hi Jackie, Yes, LIR Airport would be a better option for you since you’re traveling to Tamarindo. LIR is much closer than SJO for destinations in Guanacaste. It’s a nice airport too and smaller so sometimes faster.

  2. This 2-week itinerary is SO helpful and a great starting point! Thanks so much for putting this together. For such a small island, it is surprisingly hard to decide where to spend your time. If you could replace Drake’s Bay with one other destination, what would it be for a 2 week trip? We’re going the first week of June.

    1. Hi Angela,
      Thanks for your comment. Costa Rica is a small country but as we say, it’s hard to explore the whole thing in just two weeks. For your alternative destination, it really depends on what activities you’re looking for. Sometimes just within a short drive, you can almost feel like you’re in a different world. If you’d like more help with your itinerary, just use our contact form and we’ll give you a quote. Thanks a lot!
      -Matt & Jenn

  3. Hello,
    thank you for your helpful posts and comments.
    I was wondering if you made it to to the Nicoya Peninsula yet…I’m debating to come down form Monte Verde to Nicoya and stay in the Curu Reserve and visit Tortuga Island as i hear great things about it. Heading to CR Mid April. Will Semana Santa week be extremely busy for travel and accommodations?
    Also have you heard if the volcano /Arenal Park is partially closed? A friend said they know someone who was there last month and said it’s been partially closed and wondering if should skip this part of our itinerary out.
    thanks again for your wonderful website!

    1. Hi Carla, we’re on the Nicoya now and have been doing a lot of exploring so we can definitely help. I think it’ll be easiest to answer your specific questions by email so check your mail. – Jenn

  4. Thanks for the great insight! Do you think it is reasonable to do a two-week trip (with car rental) that includes both the Caribbean and Pacific coasts (Guanacaste area)? Based on the map and driving distances it seems reasonable but is hard to know forsure without understanding the road conditions and topography! Thanks!

    1. Hi Jennifer, it’s totally possible to do both the Caribbean and the Pacific in two weeks. The ride from the Caribbean to San Jose is mountainous but all highway (highway 32). Just make sure to plan your route or get GPS because it’s very easy to get lost in San Jose. Sometimes they close the main highway near San Jose to the Pacific coast in one direction for construction on weekends (usually around 2pm) so keep that in mind too. We had to go a very roundabout way home once.
      Then from San Jose, you’ll take highway 27 (nicely paved and fast) to the Interamericana, which is also paved but they are doing construction between Canas and Liberia which can slow things down so keep that in mind. It’ll be a long day of driving but you could always stop somewhere in between to overnight. Have a great trip!

  5. This itinerary was very helpful. We just got back from our vacation of two weeks and had a slight variation. We went from La Fortuna to Puteranus. Then took a ferry to Montezuma. We loved it here and stayed a few days exploring. We even got scuba diving certified with Padi with a wonderful trainer named Maria. We also rented an ATV one day and explored the Nicoya Peninsula. It is fun to cross rivers with the right vehicle, especially after watching how the locals do it! After 5 days in the Nicoya Peninsula, we took a ferry from Montezuma to Jaco and made our way to Manuel Antonio. We didn’t have time to do Drake Bay or make it over to the Caribbean side of the country. Next time!

    1. Christy, that sounds like a great itinerary. Taking the ferry is a good time saver and the ride across the Gulf is really pretty. We love Montezuma too, such a fun little town with so many great restaurants. Cool that you got your scuba certification. That’s been on our list for a while. We’re planning on spending a few days in the S. Nicoya in a couple months- maybe we’ll find Maria then! Definitely come back to check out the Osa & Caribbean. There’s nowhere like the Osa to see wildlife, and the Caribbean has a totally different feel from the Pacific side. Thanks for sharing!

    2. Hi Christy, I think I’m going to do a very similar itinerary to you. Did you book your scuba diving course with Maria in advance? I’ve searched online but can’t seem to find anywhere in Montezuma offering PADI courses (although it sounds like the sort out of town where you book stuff spontaneously when you’re there!). Thanks in advance

  6. Hi,
    This is so helpful! We are an older couple planning our honeymoon (second marriages) for April 2015. Has anyone calculated the average expense for the above two-week itinerary at a mid-range lodging level, with car rentals? We just need an estimate to know whether this idea is realistic.

    1. Hi Suzanne, there are a lot of factors to consider like time of year, what type of car etc. For a mid-range hotel (Avg $100/night) and a typical small 4×4 SUV (I did a quick 14 day quote with our special discount from Adobe for $715 give or take with mandatory insurance), you could probably calculate $2115 for just lodging and car. This of course doesn’t factor in meals or activities as those will be very personalized to each traveler. Hope this helps you get started, congratulations on your wedding!

  7. Thanks so much for your great blog! We are doing an impromptu trip in December 2014- so really excited. We will be there for 2 weeks (13 full days and 1/2 day for travel). We want to surely do Arenal and areas close by there and Manuel Antonio. We want to have some good beach time, is Tamarindo area better for beaches than Drake Bay?
    Also, we were thinking of first getting in beach time- since we will be frozen coming in from North of America, so we want to start at Manuel Antonio, then head to Arenal National Park and then Tamarindo area and see all the little towns and beaches there.
    Is that doable?
    Thanks much!

    1. Hi Priya, that sounds like a good itinerary for what you want to do. You can definitely start in Manuel Antonio and then go to La Fortuna and Tamarindo from there. Tamarindo is better for beaches than Drake Bay. Drake Bay does have some gorgeous beaches but you go there more for the nature/wildlife. Tamarindo sounds more like what you’re looking for and there are tons of great beaches up and down the coast. If you’re still looking for hotels, we have destination guides that have some recommendations: Manuel Antonio, Tamarindo, and La Fortuna. Let us know if you have any more questions as you plan. We can help with rental cars too if you need one.

      1. Hi Jenn, Matt,

        I would like to asked you, how safe is it for a senior, to travel alone in Costa Rica. I would like to travel probably next year. Please, can you give me some advise, plus I would like to stay 2 weeks and where it would be the safest for me. Thank you. Hope to see you one day.

        1. Hi Gigi, Costa Rica is very safe in general. You have to use the usual precautions like you would anywhere in the world but it’s great destination for older solo travelers. We have a friend in her late 60s who solo traveled here for several months and really enjoyed it. You might be interested in her blog: As for where to go, all the places we include in this post are good options, as are Monteverde (more info here) if you’d like to see the cloud forest and Tortuguero (more info here), which is a great place to see wildlife. These towns are all popular tourist destinations so there will be plenty of people around, which might be nice since you’ll be traveling solo.

  8. I am curious why you do not mention Montenegro in your 2 week itinerary. Nearby Santa Elena Park has also been recommended by some. Thanks,
    Also from Boston area escaping winter

    1. Hi Carolyn, the cloud forests of Monteverde and Santa Elena are great places to visit, but we don’t include them here so that people aren’t bouncing around between places too much and have time to relax. If you wanted to spend more time in the mountains and see the cloud forest, you could easily add it for a more active vacation or swap it out for one of the other destinations.

  9. Hi Jenn & Matt, I’m very happy to have found your blog – great info! Planning a trip to Costa Rica is more daunting than I anticipated! I love your 2 week itinerary and want to visit most of what you suggest but I have a few questions: 1)would it be ill advised to do it in reverse, starting in Manuel Antonio and heading up to Arenal & Monteverde; and 2) is a car necessary to get around La Fortuna, Monteverde (to visit waterfall, volcano, etc and to go to restaurants) – we are staying at Nayara Springs – if we choose not to get a car, will getting around be an issue (ease, cost, etc.)? We were thinking: renting a car from and to San Jose to head south to MA and flying (from San Jose) to Fortuna – Thanks!

    1. Hi Sonia, it definitely makes sense to do the itinerary in reverse too and start in Manuel Antonio. A car would be nice to have for La Fortuna and Monteverde as things are more spread out (and Nayara Springs is outside town), but you could rely on taxis to get around as well depending on what you want to do. The cost and ease will really depend on the specific activities and if you want to explore on your own or through organized tours. If you decide to get a car, we can help and probably save you some money through our discount. We’ll message you with more info about the last part of your question.

  10. Hi. We are a family of 4 (with two middle school kids) planning a trip for December 2015 over Christmas/New Years; between 10-12 days in Costa Rica including traveling to and from days. I really want to explore the best of Costa Rica. We are a “beach family” but feel Costa Rica has so much more to offer so we can sacrifice somewhat on beaches. I dont want to spend to much time traveling from one end of CR to the other. What would be a decent itinerary for our stay? thanks!

    1. Hi Ally, aside from this itinerary, honestly, the best resource is our new itinerary book, Top 10 Costa Rica Itineraries. If you guys are a beach family but want to do some exploring to see what Costa Rica has to offer, you could check out: (1) the Best of Costa Rica chapter, which is similar to the itinerary we provide in this post but adds on a visit to the cloud forest; and (2) the Family chapter, which goes to a chill beach town in central Guanacaste with lots of activities and another cool beach town on the Central Pacific Coast, but also includes some time to see the mountains and volcanoes. We designed the Family itinerary specifically so that you wouldn’t be spending too much time in the car. The e-book is $3.99 on Amazon– not a bad price for all the info it has! Best of luck planning and let us know if you have any more questions.

  11. Hi, Thank you so much for your website and your book which we purchased and are pouring over. This is our first time visiting Costa Rica and we will have about 2 weeks to travel after Christmas 2015. We are starting our trip in Cahuita for 5 nights but have so many other things that we would like to see including Monteverde and the Arenal volcano. From Cahuita, where would you suggest that we go? We were thinking of landing in San Jose and spending our first and last nights there. Thanks!

    1. Hi Wendy, That sounds like a great itinerary. It probably makes the most sense to go from Cahuita to Arenal first because it’s closer, and Arenal and Monteverde are about the same distance from San Jose for your return. There are some nice nature reserves on the drive from Cahuita to Arenal in Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui too that you might want to check out if you need a break from being in the car. Tirimbina Biological Reserve has some nice walking trails and a really long hanging bridge over the river. It’s a nice place to stop for a couple of hours.

  12. Hi there,
    Came across your website and wonder if you can comment on my 11day/10nights itinerary, arriving to SJO and spend the night around the airport, shuttle to Arenal for 3 nights for the volcano and the parks…cross the Arenal lake to Monteverde for 3 nights for some canopy, zip-lining fun, and enjoying some relaxing time towards the end of the trip at nice beaches and learning to surf in Tamarindo for 3 nights, flying out of Liberia…nothing booked yet but the trip will be late April…much appreciated…
    P.S. I had Manuel Antonio on the itinerary before but decided to leave it…or should I squeeze that back in?? Much appreciated!!

    1. Hi Godfrey, that sounds like a very reasonable itinerary. You’ll see a good mix of the country and won’t be running around too much. Three destinations for 11 days is ideal- I wouldn’t try to fit in any more. Manuel Antonio would be a good addition for wildlife, but if you’re set on Tamarindo, MA is too out of the way. There’s lots of wildlife to see in the Arenal area (and in Monteverde too if you know where to look) so you can get it in there.

  13. Hello everyone: I agree with some of the postings here, no mention the North Pacific coast, Guanacaste, but I understand why, at diference to Manuel Antonio or other beaches in that area there is nothing to do in Guanacaste more than stay in a expensive hotel, sometimes they offer a bananna boat or lancha tour, but nothing besides laying on the beach. Food is almost in every place international things, nothing particular costarican, white sand beaches you can find them in Mexico or other countries and islands, also long long drive. The nicest part of Guanacaste actually is Rincon de la Vieja volcano, a national park, adventure trips and tours and thermal waters, something really diferent from what we see always.
    This is a really good blog, in other itineraries I have seen as a must see for sure Monteverde, Manuel Antonio and Tortuguero but not recomended for many days, since you see all in three days mazimum, Corcovado is nice but hard to reach and you must stay few days there to make the trip worth it.

  14. Oh my goodness! Thank you! Your itinerary and suggestions for transportation are so helpful! My fiance and I will be traveling to Costa Rica for a 2 week long honeymoon in Aug. 2015. We are a little concerned about it being the rainy season. We have heard we should avoid Drake Bay during that time, do you agree? Right now we are hoping to do 4 locations: Tortuguero, Arenal, Monteverde and Uvita. Does that seem manageable? We are concerned about transportation to and from Tortuguero, but it sounds like an incredible place for viewing wildlife. We are hoping to have a mix of nature, wildlife, relaxing, adventures and beach time. We are also hoping to stay in a variety of types of lodging, some more rustic (tree house or ranch) and at least one place with a honeymoon suite and a view. Not sure which locations lend themselves more to each type of lodging. I am heading to Amazon right now to check out your books. THANK YOU SO MUCH! 🙂

    1. Hi Nicole,
      Congrats on your marriage and upcoming honeymoon! August can be a bit rainy in Costa Rica, but you will definitely have some nice days as well. Everything is nice and green and as long as you’re flexible with your plans, it’s a great time to visit. We do recommend avoiding Drake Bay during that time of year though because it is usually the rainiest.

      Those four locations should be very manageable in two weeks, and they all offer a variety of lodging. A great treehouse lodge that you might want to check out is Hidden Canopy Treehouses in Monteverde. Accommodations in Monteverde tend to be more rustic but Hidden Canopy has some really nice treehouses. Uvita has a nice selection of higher end lodging- definitely get something in the mountains so you have a nice ocean view. A few ideas are Kura Design Villas, Tiki Villas, Terrazas de Ballena, and Oxygen Jungle Villas.

      You’ll probably want a car at least for your time in Uvita- be sure to take a look at our rental car discount if you haven’t already. Arranging transportation to Tortuguero isn’t too difficult so don’t worry. We just got back from a trip there and will have a blog post coming out about it so stay tuned. If you Subscribe to our website, you’ll get a notification by email. Good luck planning!

  15. We are looking at doing 14 days in November- and I’m considering the following itinerary with a rental car. Day 1-3: Treehouse Hotel and Rafting, Days 3-5: Sky Adventures in Arenal, ATV riding, La Fortuna Waterfall and Hot Springs (I’ve done days 1-5 before and loved every minute of it, but here is where I need help-) Day 5-13- do you think that the ferry from Puntarenas would be a good way to get in some scuba diving? Tortuga Island? Maybe stay a night or two in Jaco and have time to make it to the Carribbean side (which I’ve never been to) or is that a bit ambitious?

    1. Hi Ren,

      Tortuga Island is supposed to have some good diving. If you wanted to save time, you could go straight from La Fortuna to Jaco and skip the ferry from Puntarenas to S. Nicoya- day trips go to Tortuga Isl. from Jaco. Cano Island to the south also has really good diving. You can visit from Uvita/Dominical on the Costa Ballena or from Drake Bay a little farther south. Heading south might make more sense for the rest of your trip rather than going to the Caribbean side, which is quite far from Jaco. If you did really want to see the Caribbean, we’d recommend heading there first then going to La Fortuna and Jaco.

  16. Your blog and book was very helpful in getting me started on my CR trip. I just got back from a 2 week solo trip and a few of your points were spot on. I stayed in Alajuela (Maleku Hostel) just 5 minutes from the airport. I met a backpacker at the airport who didn’t have a room and had planned to “just go into San Jose and try to find one” at 9 at night and all of his stuff on his back. I was able to talk him out of that with the advice you had about staying in Alajuela.

    The next morning, Adobe delivered a Suzuki Jimny to the hostel. When I left Alajuela, I took advantage of the fact that Poas Volcano was roughly on the way to La Fortuna. I also had read about Rio Celeste somewhere in your posts or book and the directions you had worked very well. What a great find and hike. I was worried about hiking alone initially but it was not a problem at all. One note regarding your directions and the GPS – after the bridge where you make that left onto the non paved road, my GPS was trying to get me to turn back around and go back out to the main road (the longer way?). I just kept following your directions and it was fine but the GPS was telling me to turn around around the entire way up to and even upon arrival at Rio Celeste parking.

    In the end, I switched the itinerary up from your book a little bit and ended up doing La Fortuna > Monteverde > Tamarindo > Santa Teresa > Manuel Antonio. Not sure if you guys covered this anywhere but knowing that the ferry was available in Paquera to take cars across the gulf of Nicoya really opened up a lot of options since I didn’t have to drive the whole way up and around the gulf.

    Thanks so much for the blog and all. It was really helpful in getting my trip planned and I enjoyed myself quite a bit there. Although the 4×4 rental was expensive, I can’t think of a better way to do it. I will likely be back!

    1. Hi Jon,
      Great to hear that our resources here on the website and our Top 10 CR Itineraries book helped you plan. Also awesome that you were able to help out another traveler at the airport with some of our tips. Your itinerary sounds really fun, those are all great places and the way you put them together makes a lot of sense. 4×4 is definitely the way to go for those locations. The ferry is a beautiful and smart way to get across the Gulf of Nicoya and we cover how in our book’s transportation guide (surfing chapter), maybe that is where you saw it. Anyway glad that everything worked out and that you’ll be back for another adventure sometime in the future. Pura Vida!

  17. Hey! Your blog is amazing- so firstly thank you! I wonder if you can help, I’m planning a 2 week trip to CR End August to Mid Sept. I’m a complete wildlife lover, but also a beach bum… but I’m severely arachnophobic and am slightly wary of this trip.

    I was originally planning on following your itinerary pretty much to the word, but by posts above it seems Drake Bay may be one to avoid? Any other recommendations on awesome beaches but also chance to see wildlife?

    Also- how bad will the spiders be? I struggle because I travel a lot, and I love nature and wildlife, I love the idea of camping out in the jungle in a little treehouse, but then I remember the spiders and get nervous at even the thought of it. Any places to avoid? Or am I over hyping it in my head? Thanks again guys- so helpful!

    1. Hi Hannah,

      Yikes! Drake Bay probably isn’t the best place for an arachnophobe since it’s in the middle of the jungle, but don’t worry, there are lots of other (safer) places to visit:) You could swap out Drake for Montezuma on the S. Nicoya Peninsula or just go farther down the coast to Uvita/Dominical after your time in Manuel Antonio. Montezuma is a super chill beach town with miles of sand and lots of wildlife and Uvita/Dominical is a little more jungly and also has tons of opportunity for hiking and wildlife and secluded beaches. We have a post on Uvita/Dominical The Costa Ballena: Uvita, Dominical, and Ojochal. We’d recommend maybe skipping the treehouse style lodging and going with something more airtight (with AC) everywhere you go because of the bugs. Spiders aren’t too terribly bad here but we do see them. Try not to worry too much though- we have a friend who is super scared of spiders and she lives here so you’ll be fine for a couple of weeks. Have a great trip!

  18. Hi Matt and Jen,
    Thanks a lot for this super useful itinerary!

    My boyfriend and I are going to Costa Rica in two weeks; we are staying one night by the airport in San Jose, then a week in Arenal and a week in Manuel Antonio. We are thinking of getting the Interbus to Arenal and to Manuel Antonio, and possibly the plane back from Manuel Antonio to San Jose.

    How far in advance should we book this transport? Our concern is that the weather forecast at the moment looks really stormy, so we’re wary of booking the small plane and then it being cancelled due to bad weather. At this time of year would it be safer for us to get the bus instead of the plane from MA to San Jose?


    1. Hi Isabelle, If you book a flight for early in the day, you should be fine. This time of year we’re still early on in the rainy season. We have mostly sunny mornings and if it rains, it’s usually in the afternoon. Weather forecasts are seldom right here so don’t worry about what it says! So you could go ahead and book now if you want to guarantee your seats. You could also wait until you arrive but it’s still a fairly busy time of year in Manuel Antonio so the flights could sell out. Have a great trip!

  19. Thank you so much for this brilliant blog! My boyfriend and I are thinking of travelling to CR for the last two weeks of August. I was hoping to do something similar to your itinerary. I’m thinking of heading to La Fortuna and then Monteverde and ending on a beach somewhere, but there is just so much choice. 🙂 I was wondering if you could tell me what the weather might be like at the end of August? I’m aware it’s rainy season but don’t know much more than that or what impact that my have on choice of locations. We’d like to end somewhere to relax but we are both adventure types so looking for somewhere we can soak up a some CR culture and do some water based activities (snorkeling, beginner surf, kayaking, dolphin spotting?) neither of us are particularly fantastic off land so we are seeking calm water rather than brilliant surf. I’m currently torn between somewhere on the Nicoya Peninsula or Manuel Antonio. Then again I’m also drawn by the hot springs, mud baths and waterfalls near Playa Hermosa in the north. You can maybe tell I’m a person who needs to take your advice of limiting what I want to do within two weeks! What would your thoughts be given the time of year? Thank you in advance for your wisdom. Ann-Marie

    1. Hi Ann-Marie,
      The weather in August can be hard to predict but generally you will have nice sunny days in the morning and rain in the afternoon and evening. You’ll also probably have some days with little to no rain and others with rain most of the day so it’s good to be flexible with your plans. In general, Guanacaste and the Nicoya Peninsula are drier compared to other areas of the country. Since you’re interested in water activities, you might like Tamarindo (see our article here) or Playa Avellanas just to the south, which is less touristy. Samara would be another good choice because the water is calmer and it’s a smaller town. Playa Hermosa is nice for water sport too but know that the hot springs, mud baths, and waterfalls are quite far inland and actually about the same distance from Tamarindo. If you want help picking out your third destination, we do offer itinerary services and could figure out a place with the activities you want to do and some culture, and also not too far from your other destinations and the airport. There’s more info on our Itinerary Help page.

  20. Hi, My name is Arturo. I live in Houston. I read your Itinerary and it sounds excellent. I am planning to take 2 weeks in 2016 and explore Costa Rica. Do you still recommend the same Itinerary or do you have any other suggestions? One more questions when is the best time to travel to Costa Rica? thanks a lot..
    Enjoy Life,

    1. Hi Arturo,
      Yes, we definitely still recommend this itinerary. For other options you might want to check out our book, Top 10 Costa Rica Itineraries. As for when to come, many people travel here during the dry season, which coincides with the North American winter. This is when it is the hottest and when we have the least rain. But if you don’t mind getting a little wet once and a while, the months of May-August are really nice too since everything is nice and green. September-November is generally the most rainy so if it is your first time, you may want to avoid those months. Hope this helps!

  21. Hi Jenn and Matt,
    Thanks for the great info. My wife and I would like to do this or something very like it, end of March’16 start of April. Would you have any idea what the small plane costs would be and would a guide/driver be useful at each base (if so, how much?). We are late 50’s and my wife gets car sick so no very long drives and no buses. Thanks again.

    1. Hi Gary, For the destinations included in this itinerary, small plane flights range from $50-$150 per person depending how far you book in advance. NatureAir has some low cost fares (their Locos fare) if you can get them. Private drivers are expensive in Costa Rica so your best bet for getting around locally once you get to a destination is probably to rent a car or take cabs/arrange tours where transportation is included. Renting a car would be our pick because it’s nice to have the freedom to go on your own schedule. Plus some places, like La Fortuna, are more spread out so it’s harder to get around without a car. There are more nuisances (like how you don’t need any transportation once you get to Drake Bay) and it’s a little complicated to answer your question without going into a lot of detail. We do cover all the different options for getting around for this itinerary in our Top 10 Costa Rica Itineraries book so you can find more info in there. We also have separate posts on each of these destinations: La Fortuna, Manuel Antonio, and Drake Bay. Finally, if you want more customized assistance, we could design an itinerary for the whole trip that will cover hotels, transportation, and activities. There’s more info on our Itinerary Services page. Let us know if you’re interested.

  22. I love your blog! Thanks a lot!
    My brother and I are planning a CR two week venture Nov 2015. Although we actually have only 10 days in CR since we’d like to get to Bocas Del Toros for the remaining 3 or 4 days, we’d like to make the most of the activities and beaches in CR. We’re thinking of renting a car in the airport, going to Arenal, Monte Verde cloud forest, going down the beaches to Manuel Antonio, and then ( the tricky part), we’d like to return the car either in MA or back in the airport and to take a local flight to Bocas Del Toros, Panama for 3 days. My question is, can we return the car in MA and take a flight from there to Bocas or should we pass with the car on the ferry to cross towards San Jose to return the car there and take the flight from there? What’s the best option? Also, do you think squeezing Tortuegro in the beginning of the trip is way too much?
    Thanks a lot!!!!

    1. Hi Gilat, First off, we wouldn’t recommend trying to add Tortuguero to the beginning of the trip if you only have 10 days. Better to stick with Arenal, Monteverde, and Manuel Antonio so that you have a few days in each place. Plus, since it’ll be the rainy season, it’s good to build in some flexibility in case roads are slower and some of your activities get washed out because of rain. For what to do with the car, you’ll have to go back to San Jose anyway because that’s where small plane flights for the Bocas leave from so it’s probably better to drive. Manuel Antonio is only about 2.5 hours from the airport anyway so not bad (the ferry goes to a different place- it connects the Nicoya Peninsula to Puntarenas, not where you’re going). The other option is to take 2 separate flights, one from Quepos to San Jose and another from San Jose to Bocas, but this will cost a lot more, plus you’ll have to pay a fee for dropping the car off at a different location than you picked up. Hope that helps. One other thing- We get a discount through one of the rental car companies here, Adobe. They’re having great deals for Nov. so if you haven’t checked it out yet, here’s a link with more info:

  23. This is a great post. A girlfriend and I are planning a 10-day trip in January. We are hoping to see a volcano and visit waterfalls, but also want to spend the majority of our time on the beach (pacific side) – soaking up sun, learning to surf, and enjoying some nightlife (we are in our mid-twenties). We are thinking of flying into Liberia and home from San Jose – would this be ideal? Places we’re looking at include Tamarindo, Malpais, Montezuma and Manuel Antonio. Any guidance would be appreciated!

    1. Hi Elle, If you can find flights that aren’t too expensive that have you flying into SJO and out of LIR, that would definitely make sense given your itinerary. Liberia is only an hour from Tamarindo and then you could head south from there to Mal Pais and Montezuma, before taking the ferry and going to Manuel Antonio (which is only about 2.5 hours from SJO airport- much closer than Liberia). Your itinerary sounds good given what you want to do; we think you’ll really like those destinations. The only thing is that trying to fit 4 places in is a bit aggressive since travel time between some towns is substantial (e.g. Tama to Mal Pais). Any chance you can add a couple days so that you have 3 days in each? That would make for a much more enjoyable trip. Have a great time!

  24. Thank you for all of your recommendations! Your blog has been beyond helpful for the planning of our (honeymoon) trip next month (Nov 2015). We will be arriving around the new moon, and were considering Ostional Beach for an arribadas. Would you have any recommendations about this area? We will be there for 2 weeks and are considering Ostional Beach, La Fortuna, and Manuel for our stay. We are very outdoorsy (Colorado hiking and camping type) so we are looking for some adventure and nature. I would greatly appreciate your input on Ostional Beach area (if any). Thank you in advance as well for what we have taken from this blog.

    1. Hi Brittney, Congrats on your marriage! Your itinerary sounds good for a two-week trip. La Fortuna and Manuel Antonio are good for adventure and nature, and shouldn’t be too busy in November either. As for Ostional, it’s a very small town- there’s not much there really except the beach so unless you’re looking for some quiet, we’d recommend staying in Nosara. Nosara is just to the south and has a lot of choices for restaurants and things to do. Then you can visit Ostional on a day trip to (hopefully) see an arribada. Here’s a link to a blog post we wrote about Nosara with lots of details on the area, hotel and restaurant recommendations, etc. Hope you have a great honeymoon!

      1. Thank you so much for taking the time to get back to me! I will read this over today. Do you think Tortugero (rather than Nosara and Ostional) would be a better fit for turtle watching?

        1. Since you’re visiting in November, Ostional is a much better choice because arribadas keep going there until December. Prime green turtle watching season will already be over in Tortuguero.

  25. Hi Jenn & Matt,

    Love your blog! Myself and my boyfriend are off to Costa Rica in a matter of days! We’re planning to keep to your two week itinerary. I was just wondering if you would suggest any changes/ other recommendations to the itinerary due to the thunder storm weather forecast for our time there.

    Thanks so much!


    1. Our plans are pretty flexible so open to change. Do you think drake bay should be missed if the weather is this rainy?

      1. Hi Camilla, We’re coming out of the rainy season now but Drake Bay is one of the wettest areas of the country so if you wanted to be safe you could skip it. You could always check out the Dominical/Uvita area instead, which has a lot of rainforest/wildlife like Drake Bay but isn’t quite as rainy. It’s about 45 min. south of Manuel Antonio so you could easily add it on to the end of your trip. We have a couple blog posts with more info: The Costa Ballena: Uvita, Dominical, and Ojochal and 7 Things to Do in Dominical

  26. Hi,
    Thank you so much for the itinerary. It is unbelievably helpful. I’m thinking about going to costa rica this winter. It’s a peak season but this is our only chance. We’re thinking on taking the public transport all the way from San Jose-La Fortuna-Puerto Limon-Drake Bay. Do you think it possible? Is there any bus that are scheduled during the night so we can save some time on the journey?

    1. Hi Amira, taking the bus is definitely possible but you will find that a lot of them don’t run too much at night. There are afternoon buses between some of the larger destinations, which arrive later at night but honestly we wouldn’t recommend doing that. Riding the bus is generally very safe but some bus stations can be a little sketchy after dark. Better to get on first thing in the morning and arrive at your next destination later in the day. As for putting together the whole itinerary, those destinations are very spread out and would be best for at least a two week trip. Additionally, Puerto Limon doesn’t have a lot to offer tourists and you would be better heading south to Cahuita/ Puerto Viejo or north to Tortuguero if visiting the Caribbean. Hope this starts you in the right direction.

  27. Hello Jenn and Matt, Thank you so much for publishing this fantastic blog! My tour was canceled last minute … I leave in five days. I cried, borrowed a lonely planet guide, then cried some more. Normally LP is a backpackers best friend, however it was not especially helpful and made the notion of traveling solo seem very overwhelming. I found your blog this morning and 6 hours later I have a two week itinerary reserved complete with hotels and shuttle tickets. I purchased your book on Amazon and will use it to make the most of each location. THANK YOU for providing honest, useful, and relevant information. Also, your hotel recommendations are spot on! You saved my trip! Thank you, Jen

    1. Wow, that sounds super stressful about your tour being canceled last minute. Glad our website could help. Didn’t realize Lonely Planet was so down on solo travel here. It is definitely possible and people do it all the time. You’ll have a great time!

  28. Hi Matt&Jenn!

    I just wanted to say a big THANK YOU for the car rental discount. We used it yesterday towards our trip on Jan 26th thru Feb 9th – two whole weeks in Costa Rica! Everytime I book a trip, I try to find a way to pay cheaper than the average bear. I got a hell of a deal on flights, used Airbnb on some accomadations, used Orbitz with Ebates on others, and now your coupon for the car rental! I only have accomadations booked for the first 4 nights, and I am working off of your 2-week Costa Rica itinerary, so thanks for that as well! You guys are really helping me out! Can’t wait to see what Costa Rica has to offer!

  29. Hi Jenn and Matt,
    I agree with everyone here that your site is super informative and useful and easy to use. Nice work!

    My boyfriend and I are heading to CR in a month. We fly into Liberia, though, and plan to rent a car. We’ve gotten some advice from those who live and have been there and our plans are sort of defined but still also up in the air.

    We are flying in at midday Sunday, renting a 4X4, and staying at a hotel at the base of Rincon de la Vieja (Hotel Borninquen). We will relax there and maybe venture out that afternoon for a bit of sightseeing / food, etc.

    The park is closed Mondays, so Monday will be a day of relaxation on the beaches, such as Playa Hermosa or maybe Tamarindo.

    Tuesday we will head to Rincon de la Vieja.

    Wednesday we plan to drive down to the Mal Pais/Santa Teresa area and spend our time there until Saturday morning, at which point we will drive back closer to Liberia, spend our last night in that area and fly home the next day.

    Our hopes are to be on the beach, get some serious physical activity in like hiking, horseback riding, maybe zipline or kayak, etc., and we hope to do some running. He is marathon-training!

    Does this sound doable? Do you have any recommendations on great beaches as we make our way down to Mal Pais, or great beaches for our first full day?

    Thank you so much!

    1. Hi Cheryl, Your itinerary sounds good. The only thing to think about is the distance from Rincon to the beach. It’s about 1.5 to 2 hours to Tamarindo, Playa Hermosa, and some of the other beaches so you’ll want to make sure to leave enough time to get there and back before dark (we don’t recommend driving long distances after dark). As for which beach to visit from Rincon, Tamarindo is a good surfing beach and has a lot to do withing walking distance (great restaurants, souvenir shops, etc.). We have a whole post about it here. Another option for somewhere quieter but still fun is Playa Avellanas just south of Tamarindo. That’s another surfing beach and it has a great beach bar right on the sand (more info here). On the drive down to Mal Pais, there won’t be any beaches to stop at because you should take the inland route (the coastal route via Nosara, Samara, etc. takes much longer- if you haven’t seen it yet, look at our post on Mal Pais for directions) but you could visit Montezuma beach on the way or on a day trip from Mal Pais. It’s a chill little beach town with some awesome waterfalls, horseback riding, etc.

  30. I can’t begin to thank you enough for providing such a helpful website. No nonsense, just great info. Much appreciated! Also how you provide links to the products, which answers so many questions! Well done!!

  31. This article is very helpful to give an idea where to start. We are planning a 2 weeks in beginning of February; We want to rent a car for all the 2 weeks; is there a problem to drive to Drake Bay?
    We are looking for hotels with a budget of up to $100; should we do advanced reservations or look for when we get there.
    Thank you

    1. Hi Henry, You can drive to Drake Bay but it’s not recommended because the terrain is really rough and there are some river crossings. Your best bet is to leave the car in Sierpe and take the boat taxi or fly on a small plane. There is secure parking in Sierpe (town where the boat taxi leaves) if you decide to do that. There are also a couple of companies that will pick up the car in Sierpe but none have offices there. Toyota Rent a Car is one of them. We’ve found, though, when looking for clients that it’s often cheaper to keep the car the whole time and leave it parked if you use our rental car discount through Adobe Rent a Car than to go with one of the other companies that does pick ups in Sierpe. We have more info on getting to Drake Bay (about boat shuttle, cost to park, etc.) in our post Drake Bay: Costa Rica Unplugged.

      As for booking hotels, we highly recommend booking in advance if you want to stay somewhere nice. You can always find something last minute but it might not be that great and it could take a while to find something. February is the high season so the major tourist destinations will be very busy. At a minimum, make sure to do advanced reservations for Drake Bay because lodging there is very limited.

  32. Thanks for your book and website. Both are very helpful. We are going to follow your 2-week Best of Costa Rica itinerary from the book almost exactly when we visit in February. I do have a few questions. You suggest taking the Water Taxi to Drake Bay and then flying back to SJO. So we are renting a car…where do we drop off a car? If we drop off in Manuel Antonio, what is the best way to get to Sierpe?

    1. Hi Peggy, Thanks for checking out our book! There are a couple of rental companies that will let you drop off in Sierpe (Toyota Rent a Car; National), but we’ve found these companies to generally be more expensive so make sure to compare the price with the one you would get through Adobe if you use our rental car discount. If you end up going with Adobe and drop off in Manuel Antonio/Quepos (they don’t do drop offs in Sierpe), you can take a cab/private driver to Sierpe (there isn’t a reliable shuttle that does this route that we know of). We know a guy that does it for around $140 and can help with those arrangements if you want, just let us know.

  33. Hey guys…. fair play to you for running a blog like this for the benefit of other travellers; it’s very kind. Me and my partner are travelling in Nov this year. I’ve scared myself off Drake bay due to it being the rainy season… my biggest question is would MA be ok in Nov?

    Also can you drive between la fortuna and monteverde? Google is taking me right round the lake?

    Overall I’m thinking (option without a rental car) monteverde, then montezuma by shuttle/ferry, then speed boat to Jaco and shuttle to MA? Is that too ambitious and would we be stupid for not going to la fortuna?


    1. Hi Jeremy, Manuel Antonio in November shouldn’t be too bad. It’s the end of the rainy season and is actually one of the best times of year to visit there since it’s not that busy. If you want more info about what the weather is like during different times of year, check out our Weather post.

      The way Google is taking you from La Fortuna to Monteverde is right- you go right around Lake Arenal. It’s a windy but flat, paved road until after you get around the lake in Tilaran where it soon turns to rough dirt (4×4 required).

      That’s a good itinerary if you’re not renting a car and the order makes sense. Not sure how long you’re going for, but it’s reasonable to do those 4 locations in 2 weeks considering travel time. Adding La Fortuna as a 5th destination would probably be too much unless you have more time and is best saved for another trip. The places you’re going are a good mix of mountains/cloud forest and beach time, but if you wanted more mountain time, you could swap out Jaco or MA for La Fortuna. All depends on the type of experience you’re looking for. If you want more info on La Fortuna, we have a whole separate post about it here.

  34. Hi Jenn & Matt. My husband and I are visiting CR for 2 weeks at the end of April/beginning of May. We have provisionally planned 1 night Alajuela, 2 nights Tortuguera, 3 nights La Fortuna, 3 nights Manuel Antonio, 3 nights Drake Bay, 2 nights San Gerardo de Dota. Do you think this will be too much travelling. I am also now worried about a previous comment I read regarding the spiders at Drake Bay. I am not very keen on either spiders or snakes. do you think it would be best to go somewhere else? Thanks in advance for your help and advice.

    1. Hi Pat and Chris, That sounds like a reasonable itinerary. You’ll be moving around a lot, but shouldn’t be too rushed. The one suggestion we might make is to add a night in Drake Bay. Most people say that even 3 nights isn’t enough time there because they loved it so much. I wouldn’t worry too much about spiders, unless you have a serious phobia, as it sounded with the previous commenter. You’ll see spiders once in a while in Drake, especially in the rainforest, but if you pick accommodations that are more closed off, you should be fine. Avoid cabin-style lodging without A/C because it’s easier for the bugs to sneak in.

  35. Thank you for this great blog! It has been really helpful when planning our upcoming trip. We will be following your 2 week itinerary for our family trip to Costa Rica in June. It will be the first trip of this kind with our kids in tow (ages 7 and 9). I would love some advice about getting to Sierpe from Quepos though. I noticed the boat leaves Sierpe at 11:00 am for Drake. Should we plan on staying in Sierpe the night before to assure we make the boat on time or can we reasonably get there from Quepos on the same day? If we stay in Sierpe, do you have any suggestions for accommodations?

    1. Hi Alison, You don’t need to stay overnight as long as you leave fairly early. It takes about 2 hours from Quepos to Sierpe, but it’s a good idea to allow a little extra time. We usually recommend leaving 3 hours before the boat leaves. You can just sit at one of the small restaurants on the river in Sierpe if you get there early- gorgeous view!

  36. Hi Jenn and Matt. We’re planning on 2 weeks in CR starting in Liberia (end of June). We have a rental car and are looking for suggestions on where to go and what to see without doing too much backtracking. Volcan Arenal is one of the places we’d like to see and parts of the coast are high on the list ( even though we’re not huge beach people). Thanks for your thoughts and advice.

    1. Hi Glen, We’re working on a sample itinerary starting from Liberia so that will be coming out soon on our website. In the meantime, here are some ideas: With two weeks, aim to visit 3-4 destinations so that you’re not driving around too much. If La Fortuna/Arenal is on your list, you could easily head to the Rio Celeste after (awesome waterfall, charming rural area), then Monteverde (cloud forest), and then end the trip with 4-5 days in Guanacaste at the beach- either in Northern Guanacaste (Tamarindo, Playa Flamingo, Playa Hermosa)–this area is more developed–or Central Guanacaste/S. Nicoya Peninsula (Nosara, Samara, Montezuma or Mal Pais). Hope that gives you some ideas to start. We have a couple of itineraries from Liberia in our Top 10 Itineraries book and you can learn more about the different destinations in there too.

  37. Thanks so much for this! I was just wondering your thoughts on fitting in a visit to the Sloth Sanctuary in Limon. We will definitely be going there (a life long dream!), but I’ve noticed that a lot of the places mentioned are on the other side from Limon. Any suggestions for a 11-14 day trip?

    1. Hi Natalie, In this itinerary, we focus on the Pacific coast and northern highlands/mountains, but the Caribbean definitely has a lot to offer too. In our Itineraries book, we have a wildlife itinerary that you might like. It has some overlap with this itinerary. It goes to Puerto Viejo near the Sloth Sanctuary (really fun destination), Tortuguero also on the Caribbean, and a couple of destinations on the Pacific side (Manuel Antonio and Drake Bay). In 14 days, it’s definitely doable; with 11, you might have to cut one destination. Another idea is to do the Caribbean side and then to spend some time near Poas Volcano so that you’re not too far from San Jose. We suggest this in our Itineraries book too, along with a visit to the Bocas islands in Panama if you have 2 weeks. You can find our book on Amazon or we have lots of info on our website about these different places on the Destinations page.

      1. Thanks so much for the tips! I was also just wondering if these would be decent places to go given that we’ll be going in June and it’s the rainy season. This is where we’re most stuck! We’d like some beach time but understand it’s on the opposite side from Limon.

        1. Don’t worry too much about the weather for a June trip. June is still early in the rainy season on the Pacific side, so anywhere on that coast will be nice. Expect sunny mornings and scattered rain/storms in the afternoon and evening. The Caribbean has completely different weather patterns. It gets rain fairly consistently year round, and June usually sees a moderate amount of rain but it’s still pleasant (Remember that it’s the tropics so it’s a nice warm rain that’s keeping the rainforest green). You might also be interested in our Weather post, which has detailed info on the weather in different regions and what to expect during the rainy season.

  38. Hi!
    I was wondering if you could give me any information on Tinamaste. I am a Vegan naturalist into organic/sustainable living and have been told that Tinamaste is the right place for me!
    I am 51 and retired looking to relocate from a hectic life in Los Angeles to reconnect with Mother Nature and enjoy healthy air! I would really appreciate any input you might have.
    BTW, I have never been to Costa Rica but it has been my lifelong dream!!! Thank you!

    1. Hi Sara, Tinamaste sure does sound like the right place for you. It’s a small community in the mountains, about a half hour from the beach town of Dominical. A lot of the locals are Costa Rican but there’s a big expat community too, many who are into sustainable living. There are several permaculture farms in the area, yoga studios, acupuncture events, and there’s a fantastic organic farmers market on Tuesday mornings where you can get produce and lots of other homemade products (a lot of vegan stuff, teas, etc.). You should definitely come visit if you’re thinking about moving. Not sure how far along you are in your research, but we have a lot of basic info in our FAQs About Moving to Costa Rica post.

  39. Hi,
    I’m planning a two weeks trip to costa rica ( mostly by myself for now) . I wanted to know what to do, where to go, is it safe to be there alone? Your itinerary is very helpful but I would need help to organize all of this since I do not know the region at all. I really want to see the tropical forests, water falls, do a bit of hiking, sight seeing and mostly see the wilderness in the jungles.
    Hope you can help!!!!

    1. Hi Sonia, We can definitely help you figure out the logistics of your trip. We offer a couple of different itinerary services and can build you a custom itinerary that will give you all the info you need to book accommodations and activities. We also help with transportation and give restaurant recommendations and any local tips that are helpful based on where you’ll be visiting. There’s more info on our Itinerary Help page. Let us know if you’re interested.

  40. Hi, I am planning a last minute trip, and definitely need help. It’s a mother-daughter trip, daughter is 16.
    We like adventure, jungle, beach, some time off the beaten track, and some time with wi-fi – for the daughter!! A couple days in a place that offers yoga and paddle boarding.
    Zip lining, waterfalls, maybe rafting, a tree house, good food, a day of scuba.
    Dates would be June 15th-25th.
    I would love suggestions, and then someone to pull it all together for us. Domestic air travel is fine, and I don’t mind some driving, whatever works best logistically.
    Thank you!!

  41. Hi,
    Thanks for the info here! I am planning a trip for end of July/ beginning August. Just under 2 weeks, planning to see Poas volcano, then head to Arenal and Monteverde/Elena.

    For final week, I am torn between heading toward Cahuita or exploring around Manuel Antonio. We would really like some easy snorkeling- traveling with a 5 y.o.
    Do you have thoughts on that? Would like to check out Cahuita as it seems cheaper, a bit less developed- but concerned visibility may not be good late July/early August.

    Also would love to fit in Rincon de la Vieja but that may be too much…

    Also, should we generally expect to pay for a 5 yo (for hotel room occupancy, ect?)

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Lynn, Early August is typically pretty rainy on the Caribbean side so snorkeling in Cahuita will be hit or miss. You never know though, if you have a day or two without rain, it would be fine. Cahuita has that nice reef and there’s also pretty easy snorkeling right offshore at Playa Punta Uva just to the south in Puerto Viejo. We really like Cahuita and it is cheaper and a lot less developed than Manuel Antonio. We have an article about our visit here if you haven’t seen it. Manuel Antonio is great too, but a lot different. If snorkeling is one of your main objectives it might not be the best place because visibility is usually just okay. There are catamaran tours that include snorkeling, though; it’s just not the focus of the tour. Some of the boats have a slide too, which your 5 year old might like.

      We wouldn’t try to fit Rincon since it’s so far away from your other destinations.

      From what we’ve seen helping our itinerary clients, whether hotels charge for young kids really depends. Some start charging around age 5 or 6 and some do not. If they do charge, it’ll be something like $10-20 a day. If you use for your reservations, you can see if a hotel charges very easily. There’s info about it in the Good to Know section towards the bottom when you’re looking at a hotel. That’s what we always use to book hotels when traveling here.

  42. Hi Jenn and Matt
    I got your books and am getting excited about our 2 week trip at the end of this month! I have a couple questions about transportation. Since we are traveling from San Jose to Arenal, Monteverde and Manuel Antonio would it be cheaper to rent a car or do the shuttle? We are traveling with a 6 and 9 yr old. Also, we are spending 3 full days in Arenal area and were planning on going to Monteverde for a couple days for a total of 7 days with travel. Do you think we should scratch Monteverde bc it is more of the same? My family loves to go to the beach and I am afraid we are staying too long inland. Thanks for your help!

    1. Hi Ann-Maree, For a family of four, renting a car usually works out to be about the same price as taking a shuttle. Since it is low season, you’ll get lower rates on a rental but shuttle costs stay the same year-round. Shared shuttles between those destinations are around $50-60pp or $800+ for the 4 legs of your trip. A 4×4 rental in the low season, which you’ll need for the drive to Monteverde, is around $850 for a mid-size SUV. I did a quick search for dates towards the end of the month and Adobe, the company we get a discount through, has a lot of its 4×4 SUVs reserved already. If you still need something, check out our rental car discount page, and if there isn’t a car available, we might be able to help you figure something out.

      As for if you should scratch Monteverde, it is a really unique destination. It’s the cloud forest so a lot different than Arenal and a great place for younger kids with lots of kid-friendly activities.

  43. Hi guys,
    I just wanted to say all of you posts have been super helpful. Thank you! I thought I’ d run my tentative plans by you and get your feedback. We arrive in Liberia at 5 AM and plan to rent a car and drive to La Fortuna stopping by Rio Celeste on the way. We’ ll then stay two nights in La Fortuna and want to do the hanging bridges, La Fortuna waterfall, hike in Arenal and the chocolate tour. Then will head to Marino Bellena with a stop by Poas and the waterfall you mention in your post. We were only going to stay that night in Marino Bellena to check out the whale tail beach and drive to Sierpe the next morning to catch the boat to Drakes bay. We’ll have six nights in Drakes bay before we fly to San Jose to catch our flight home. Solid car rental has agreed to let us drop our car off in Sierpe. My concern is will we have enough time that third day to get from La Fortuna to Marina Bellena in time to spend a couple of hours at the beach before dark if we stop at the Poas waterfall? We do plan to start our days early, around 6 AM to make the most of each day. Also one last question, we are traveling March 24 through April 3, do you know of any place near where we will be that we can see sea turtles nesting or hatching?
    Thanks Again,

    1. Hi Amy, That is a pretty ambitious itinerary (especially the first part). It is probably technically possible to do many of those things, but you will be rushing and may not have much, if any, time to spend at each attraction. On your question about Poas, we would suggest either an overnight in that area or cutting Poas and the waterfall (I think you’re talking about Catarata del Toro?) and heading straight to the Costa Ballena. If you’re thinking of going up over the mountain to get from Poas to the coast via Highway 2, keep in mind that you don’t want to drive that after dark because it’s really mountainous, windy, and often has poor visibility because it gets clouded in. Even if you went the coastal route via Highway 34, you still wouldn’t have time to do all that and spend a couple of hours enjoying the beach, unfortunately. Can’t think of anywhere with turtle watching near these areas – it is usually better during rainy season. If you’re interested, we could help you figure out realistic drive times so that you can fit in as much as possible and know you’ll have time to do everything you want through our Itinerary Review service. Contact us through our Itinerary page if you’re interested. Otherwise, good luck with the planning!

  44. thank you so much for this itinerary it has been a lot of help for planning our trip. Is there any places you would recommend for young people to go? I am going to Costa Rica in November with three buddies and we are looking to use your itinerary as a reference for our two weeks in Costa.

    1. Hi Ryan, Jaco and Tamarindo both have a lot going on, lots of things to do, good nightlife, etc. Santa Teresa and Montezuma on the S Nicoya are smaller and more remote but have a cool scene and draw a lot of young people. Click through to the links to learn more about the different places or you could read our Destinations Summary Guide to figure out the best fit. That boils everything down and links to our full articles on each place once you find somewhere you are interested in. November will be slower in CR so go with more popular places so it isn’t dead.

  45. Hi There! My boyfriend and I are going to CR in a month, and still have a few things to book. We are there for 2 weeks. We are going to Tamarindo for the first 3 days, then La Fortuna for the next 3 days. We have to book accomodation and our itinerary for the rest of the time. We would like to see Santa Teresa, Manuel Antonio, Monteverde for Ziplining, Punteneras , Jaco too but I am stuck on where we should book hotel for the remaining week? I also want to find this infamous Maria for massages in Play Hermosa! Is this a bit too ambitious? We have a rental car for the 2 weeks but we also don’t want to be driving everyday all day. Is there anything that we can skip? We have surfing booked, Tabacon hot springs, I want to see Rio Celeste and have some amazing food! Any recommendations would be much appreciated.

    1. Hi Kristen, All of those places are good options and won’t be too busy in a month. We would recommend adding 2 or max 3 to Tamarindo and La Fortuna if you don’t want to drive too much. Monteverde is a really unique destination because of the cloud forest and has good food options too. It also fits well within your existing itinerary. We have several posts on Monteverde: Monteverde Destination Guide; Driving to Monteverde; Monteverde Hotel Guide.

      If you’re flying out of Liberia, Santa Teresa is easier for your next destination. Jaco and Manuel Antonio are farther away but good options if you fly out of San Jose (Jaco has great restaurants too). Hope that helps. Wish we had more time before your trip to help you through an itinerary review!

      1. Hi Jenn and Matt, thanks so much for the reply. Great information on your blog, it’s really helping me plan smarter. I see you mention mosquitoe borne illnesses; something I didn’t really research before booking our flights! I’m paranoid about getting sick but how much do I need to worry about dengue or catching anything else ? Should I be using bug spray 24/7? I likely will panic when I see a single mosquitoe bite. How is the health care there ? I was told to only go to “Seima” hospitals if necessary.

        1. Hi Kristen, Try not to worry and just enjoy your trip. It will still be rainy season so you should definitely wear repellent when you’re outside and follow the precautions in our Mosquitoes post (long pants when hiking; no open air accommodations, etc.), but you are unlikely to get anything during a short trip, especially if you’re careful.

          Health care is decent here. It varies depending where you are in the country, but your hotel will be able to help you find an urgent care clinic in the unlikely event that you need one. The local clinics are fine for routine issues, but for anything serious we prefer going private (CIMA, Clinica Bíblica, etc.). You might want to get travel insurance for peace of mind, but really, try not to worry too much 🙂 You’re going to have a great time!

    1. Hi MaryAlice, The best diving in Costa Rica is at Cocos Island, but few people go there because it’s really far off the coast and thousands of dollars to dive/get there by boat. Cano Island near Drake Bay on the Southern Pacific Coast is a good alternative, though. This is a protected island far offshore (so visibility is usually really good) with several different dive sites and a huge diversity of marine life, including white-tip reef sharks, sting rays, manta rays, turtles, dolphins, etc. The Catalina and Bat Islands up off the Northern Pacific Coast near the Papagayo Peninsula and Playa Hermosa are supposed to be great too for seeing bull sharks, manta rays, etc. Hope that gives you some ideas.

  46. Hi Jenn and Matt!

    My boyfriend and I booked a last minute trip to Costa Rica from October 16-27. I LOVE this itinerary, and would love to follow it but little did we know that October is the rainy season. Do you think this itinerary is still achievable at this time of year? If not, do you have any alternative suggestions? Are the beaches on the Caribbean side worth seeing? We don’t mind rain, but don’t want to be stuck inside all day. If we do visit the Pacific what beach area is best for this time of year?

    As you can see we are really struggling with where to go (Pacific and Monteverde vs Caribbean). We are afraid we will miss out on what Costa Rica has to offer (jungle, volcanoes, ect), unless we can get all of that on the dry side and avoid the rain.

    We are flying into San Jose and will have a rental car. We are also completely flexible with our destinations. Any suggestion you have will be greatly appreciated!

    1. Hi Carissa, This itinerary is totally doable for October, but maybe skip Drake Bay because it will likely be very rainy there. La Fortuna and Manuel Antonio will have some rain but shouldn’t be too bad. The Caribbean side does have some gorgeous beaches and it’s actually a great time of year to visit that area of the country since October is one of the driest months. We love the Southern Caribbean, either Cahuita (charming small town with a really nice national park with a lot of wildlife) and Puerto Viejo (a little bigger with great restaurants and activities like the Jaguar Rescue Center, chocolate tours, etc.). Puerto Viejo also has one of our favorite beaches in Costa Rica, Playa Punta Uva. Follow the links for more info.

      So maybe replace Drake with the Caribbean side and then pick two more destinations, MA and La Fortuna would be good ones like we said, or you could do MA and Monteverde. Monteverde is a really unique destination because of the cloud forest, but it will be rainy. La Fortuna generally has better weather this time of year. Hope that helps give you some ideas!

  47. Hi Jenn and Matt,
    This blog is so great and full of information. We have done a fair bit of travelling (on our own or with just one child) but this trip we’re bringing 3! This blog is like Lonely Planet + Google + Trip Advisor combined, from people who clearly care about other travellers, so thank you. We are travelling after Christmas this year with 3 kids, one is 10 and two will be 6 when we go. We are doing 3 nights near Playa Grande, 3 in Monteverde and 5 in Dominical. It seems our long travel day is right in the middle of our trip so it’s perfect and we can take our time. I especially appreciate your video of the roads to Monteverde. Thanks for all the information – your website has great graphics too so it’s really easy to navigate.

    1. Hi Claire, That is so kind of you to say, thank you. Your itinerary sounds great and I think your family is going to have a lot of fun. Those areas are all really beautiful and each has a unique feel so you’ll be able to see how different the country is. There’s also a lot to do with kids, especially in Monteverde. Hope you have a wonderful trip!

  48. Hi, I just stumbled upon your site and I like it! I have done a fair amount of research and yet have questions/concerns, probably because I like it all to be perfect 🙂 We are doing a 12 day trip from 12/17 -12/29.

    12/17: Arriving in SJO and staying the night at Marriott in Alajuela.
    12/18: Poa Volcano/coffee tour/la paz and staying again in Marriott.
    12/19: Shuttle to Arenal and staying the night
    12/20: Arenal Volcano history tour (can you suggest other options please?)
    12/21: Taxi boat to Monte Verde and stay the night
    12/22: Selvatura Bridges, butterfly and humming bird gardens
    12/23: Guide tour to curi-cancha reserve
    12/24: Shuttle to Manuel Antonio and stay the night (not sure if it’s worth for just one day?)
    12/25: Manuel Antonio to Drake Bay via Siepre and stay in Casa Drake lodge for 3 nights.
    12/26: Day hike to Corcovado (how to book a night stay in Sirena station?) We have a tour booked from Casa Drake Lodge. How can we be sure the guide is good? They said they use Drake bay tours company that I know nothing about. Also, we want to enter the park from Sirena as that’s the best route I am told.
    12/27: Do you recommend another hike or do Cano Island? We have snorkeled etc. in many carribean destinations. Is CR good for this or should we stick to another hike? If so, where please?
    12/28: Return to SJ via shuttle….

    Please let us know if any of this makes sense or is it repititive? All suggestions are welcome and thanks again in advance! You are indeed living a dream life!

    1. Hi Rupa, You have a lot of good ideas in there. I think you have more questions than we can help with here though. Something that might really benefit you is our itinerary review service. We could look at your whole itinerary and see if it makes sense, answer your questions, etc. Here’s a link to our page with more info. There are some parts of the draft that you might want to rethink, like staying only one night in places and also how busy certain towns will be because of the holidays – those are the types of thing we could help with.

      We could also just help you with tours offline if you like once you have finalized the itinerary. We know of a great guide who does tours to Sirena and can help you figure out something different for La Fortuna if you decide to go there and also with a possible Cano Island tour (which is totally worth it). Just send us an email at bookings(at)twoweeksincostarica(dot)com and we can get started.

  49. Hi Jenn & Matt,

    I am totally in love with your blog! It’s so informative and helpful during our preparation to see CR in mid November so thank you very much!
    We have 2 weeks and a bit and we are planning to go to La Fortuna for 3-4 days, Monteverde 2-3 days, potentially Montezuma and finish off at MA as you mentioned that this is a great place for more sightseeing. We love nature, beautiful landscapes and off beaten tracks (I am currently reading your blog about the off beated track near M|A) so if you think we should add another location(s) in to our flexible itinerary, please advise. We would truly appreciate your knowledge.
    Also, we are trying to give ourselves some space for change, if necessary, so we don’t want to book accommodation for the whole duration of our trip. Is it a good idea? Can we find wifi or internet shop ion CR very easily? Would you recommend home stay in CR? Thank you in advance for all your help 😉

    1. Hi Kasia, Those places sound great for what you’re interested in and they shouldn’t be too busy in November either. The one suggestion I have is to take a look at the Uvita/Dominical area. It’s great for nature lovers and is very off the beaten path.

      Most hotels have Wifi but a lot of times it’s not in the room and you have to go to a common area. And home stays are great and a fun way to get to know the culture. The locals are super nice!

      You should be fine not booking all your accommodation since that time of year is less busy. You just might want to reserve something for the time around Thanksgiving in the US if you’re here for that. Otherwise you might not get your first choice for hotels but something will be available (we used to travel the same way here before we had a baby).

  50. Hi There! My boyfriend and I have ten days in Costa Rica mid-to-late December and want to focus on Manuel Antonio and Corcovado, so basically your itinerary minus Arenal. Do you have transportation recommendations regarding how to do that loop? We were going to rent a car and go to Manuel Antonio first, then to Drake and back to San Jose but it sounds like driving that loop may be difficult. Thoughts on how to do both those things while minimizing travel days? We have the means to fly as well, if need be.


    1. Hi Molly, If you want to minimize travel time, your best option is to rent a car for the San Jose to Manuel Antonio portion, then drive the car to Sierpe, drop it off, and take the boat taxi to Drake Bay. We don’t recommend driving to Drake because of river crossings, plus you won’t need a car when you get there. Then you can take a small plane flight from the airstrip in Drake to San Jose after. A couple of the rental car companies, including the one we work with, Adobe, will meet you in Sierpe to pick up the car for a small fee. They come from their Uvita office. Here’s the link to our rental car page with more info on our discount through Adobe and how to book. For more info on taking the boat to Sierpe, check out our Drake Bay post. Hope that helps with your question and you and your boyfriend have a great trip!

  51. Wow, this is awesome. I just stumbled upon your site and came across my itinerary…LOL. Except for the end of the trip we’re heading into Baru to stay at the Waterfall Villas. My better half is quite excited for the yoga in Manuel and Baru. We are both really excited for the whale watching and turtle night tours if there are any in this area. Any suggestions?

    1. Hi Justin, From your earlier comment, I gather that you’re visiting sometime in January. There are some turtles that nest along the beaches south of Manuel Antonio (near Baru and at Playa Tortuga), but nesting season will have passed by then. I’ve seen news of recent hatchlings but I’m not sure there will be any more this year. Rainy season is better for seeing turtles. This area of the country doesn’t have much for turtle watching tours anyway; they are more common up the coast (Playa Ostional and Playa Grande) and in Tortuguero on the Caribbean side. Something to save for another trip!

  52. hey there,

    i was hoping for some advice on my potential activity plan for my 12 day Costa trip. I will be going in February.

    Day 1 – Fly into San Jose and stay the night.

    Day 2 – Early start to Arenal. not sure what the best thing to do this day is. i was thinking an early afternoon ATV ride and then a possible rainforest night walk. need to pick a company.

    Day 3 – Mistico Hanging Bridges walk right around opening. later in the afternoon do the Sky-River Drift Tour (tubing a river). or vice versa whatever is easier for scheduling.

    Day 4 – Rio Celeste full day tour.

    Day 5 – La Fortuna waterfall right at opening to avoid crowds. Hike trails in the National Park. thinking of doing the trails at the observatory lodge. I also want to check out the free hot springs one day. I am staying at a hotel with their own.

    Day 6 – boat/van transfer to Monteverde early. visit Selvatura Adventure Park. walk hanging bridges and see butterfly gardens. maybe zip line, deciding when we are there. then later, do a night walk with the guide from the hotel.

    Day 7 – Guided hike in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve early. Find ficus tree you can climb inside? later on in the afternoon do a coffee tour. i also want to explore around hotel grounds and maybe see the cheese place.

    Day 8 – Head to Manuel Antonio (private transfer) thinking of just hanging at a beach when i arrive. i think that would best. we are staying at hotel coste verde. can i surf this day?? i am having trouble picking and deciding when to do activities at this location.

    Day 9 – Manuel Antonio National park hiking, probably no guide. surfing later on?

    Day 10 – Damas Island Kayaking in the AM. or surf this day.

    Day 11 – Rainmaker park. guided hike worth it? lunch. or spend my entire last day seeing nauyaca falls? not sure if its worth using my last day.

    Day 12 – Begin heading home.

    1. Hi Caitlin, You are on the right track with your itinerary. You have a lot of specific questions, though, so I think they are better suited for our itinerary service. If you’re interested in that, we could help with all your questions and concerns and recommend which tour operators and transportation companies to use. We can also make all the arrangements for you without charging an extra fee. Here’s a link to our itinerary help page with more info.

      A couple of tips for now that might help you out: 1) Maybe consider a different destination if you’re interested in surfing because conditions aren’t great in Manuel Antonio. You can surf on the northern end of the main beach but there are much better choices to the south. 2) I’m fairly sure there’s no ficus tree you can climb in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve itself, but in our Monteverde post, we give directions for one we know of. Hope that gives you some direction. Let us know if you would like any more help!

  53. I love the idea of seeing three different kinds of scenery. We are thinking of seeing Monteverde, San Jose area and not sure on what beach to see on our 14 day stay in CR. We would love your ideas on the beach scene as well as things to do at each location and lodging. We are a family of 6.

    1. Hi Kathy, There are a lot of different options for beach towns in Costa Rica so it really depends on what you’re looking for. You could start by reading our Destinations Summary Guide, which gives a quick overview of all the places in the country that we cover on our website. That post also links to our full articles on each town, where we give detailed recommendations for hotels and things to do.

      If you would prefer more customized help, we also offer itinerary services. Through this service, we could help you figure out your third destination and make sure the other two areas you have in mind are a good fit. We also help with transportation and activities, and recommended some good restaurants. There’s more info on our Itinerary Help page.

  54. Hi there! I bought your itineraries e-book because this blog was so helpful. We are planning on traveling to Costa Rica next Christmas with our 2 kids who will be 7 and 5. For the 2 week family itinerary I read you recommend Nosara and Manuel Antonio beaches. I see that MA is clearly a highlight in Costa Rica but I’m concerned about how crowded it would be at Christmastime. Do you think it’s worth it to head over there then, or to stay around Nosara for longer instead? Thanks!

    1. Hi Michelle, Thanks for buying our book! Both Manuel Antonio and Nosara will be busy over the holidays. If you stay outside of Playa Guiones, you might not feel it quite as much but it will still feel crowded at the beach, at restaurants, etc. Most of the beach towns in CR get this way over the holidays because a lot of tourists come for vacation and the locals get time off. Families from San Jose come and set up shop for the week in tents or at hotels. There are some smaller beach towns that don’t see as much traffic, though, and the mountains aren’t as busy. You’re smart to start planning now so that you’ll have your picks for places to stay. Good luck with the planning!

  55. Thanks for the reply! I’ve been reading a lot of good things about Samara for kids. Do you think that is likely to be just as crowded as Nosara during Christmas break?

    1. Samara is another good spot for kids, but I do think it will be as crowded. The beach there is long though and there are other beaches nearby that might be less busy.

  56. Your itinerary has been extremely helpful. Thank you so much!

    We are travelling to Costa rica from 16 Feb to 4 March.

    16 we are driving to poas volcano are and staying there for 1 night.

    17-19 at arenal volcano

    19-20 in rio celeste

    20-23 in monteverde

    23 – 26 in Manuel Antonio

    We then intend to travel to drake bay however I was wondering if there are any other nice beaches we can travel to after Manuel Antonio and before drake bay.

    Is there anything else you would recommend that we have missed ?

    Thank you

    1. Hi Sapna, That looks like a well thought out itinerary. I wouldn’t change much. The pace will be fast at the beginning with only one night in Poas then two in Arenal and one in Rio Celeste, but that is doable given drive times. Arenal does have a lot of things to do so maybe consider adding a night there.

      For a great beach town between Manuel Antonio and Drake, you could look at the Costa Ballena area of Dominical and Uvita. This is a beautiful area of the country with lush green mountains and secluded beaches. A lot of the hotels are located in the hills and have great views and a lot of wildlife. Here is a link to our article about it. That would be a good option too because it is just south of MA and will get you closer to the boat in Sierpe.

  57. Hi there-I really appreciate all the information you have written about CR, it a great resource! But after all my research, I am still struggling with an itinerary. I am hoping you provide some direction. We are traveling to CR for the first time and are non touristy, off the beaten path type from Idaho. We will be flying in to San Jose in March/April and renting a car. We really enjoy beaches and snorkeling. I would like to visit Puerto Viejo on the caribbean side for part of the trip if the weather conditions are favorable. Can you please recommend an area to stay on the pacific side that has good snorkeling opportunities and nice beaches/hiking? Thank you in advance for your help!

    1. Hi Brenda, The Pacific Coast isn’t known for snorkeling as visibility isn’t always the best and many of the beaches have bigger waves. There are a few good spots, though. Isla Tortuga near Montezuma has pretty good snorkeling and there is a good hike near Montezuma too. You can read our Montezuma Destination Guide for more info. The best snorkeling on the Pacific side is at Cano Island near Drake Bay. This is really far south and remotely located but it is also possible to take a day trip there from Uvita on the Costa Ballena. The Costa Ballena also has really good hiking through thick lush jungle with a lot of wildlife. Hope that helps to narrow your search!

  58. We are a family of 6 (kids 9, 11, 15, 18) traveling to Costa Rica end of May beginning of June for 13 nights. We fly into Liberia. Our current plan is 8 nights in Samara, 4 nights in Arenal, and then the last night in San Jose before flying out. My sister just returned from Manuel Antonio and loved it. Are we missing out if we don’t try to include it?

    Maybe 6 nights in Samara, 3-4 nights in Arenal, 3-4 nights in Manuel Antonio? Our flight home is in the late afternoon, so it looks like it would be no problem getting from Manuel Antonio to the airport on the same day. My only concern with this is whether or not it has us driving too much? Thank you!

    1. Hi Melissa, Manuel Antonio does have a different feel from Samara so it would be worth the effort to go if you would like to see it. It is tropical rainforest as opposed to tropical dry forest so is a lot more lush and green. It’s also a lot easier to see wildlife in MA. I don’t think that adding it would be too much driving either. Your draft schedule has quite a bit of time in each place snd none of the driving distances are crazy. End of May is also a great time to visit MA because it is less busy.

  59. Hi

    Thank you for your reply.

    We have decided to spend one night in Uvita. Is three full days in Drake Bay enough time ? We want to go to Corcovado- is a day trip (or two day trips) enough to see everything? We also plan to go to cano islands for snorkeling. Can we stay one night in the rainforest or is that not necessary as we can take day trips?

    Thank you.

    1. Yes, three nights is enough time to see all the highlights in Drake Bay. Most people do one day trip to Corcovado, to Sirena Ranger Station. If you want to spend more time there you could do an overnight but we wouldn’t recommend both unless you go to San Pedrillo Station (less common) for the day trip because overnights are st Sirena. Overnighting is a nice experience because you get to enjoy the park when there are fewer people there and during prime wildlife watching times like early morning and dusk.

  60. Is there any cheap area inbetween Arenal and Montevideo to stay from which I can drive to rio celeste area within 30 minutes or less ? Thanks

    1. Hi Suzzie, There really isn’t anywhere unfortunately. If you stayed near Nuevo Arenal, which looks like a good option, the road you would need to take to the Rio Celeste is really bad and slow. You’re better off driving the good road from La Fortuna to Rio Celeste (Route 4) staying overnight, and then continuing on to Monteverde.

  61. This is such a great and informative site! I’ve been looking everywhere and love the way you have put this all together. Thank you!

    My husband and I are planning to fly into San Jose on March 19th. Stay at La Rosa – looks great and then we love your ideas in this post about La Fortuna area then heading to Manuel Antonio area. With 5 kids (leaving them home but three in post-secondary:) we are trying to do this ‘on the cheap’ by flying on points, renting a car (yes, we will check out your discount) and then going the airbnb or other route for most of our stay.

    Thinking on the 20th of heading to La Fortuna area to take in one site (hot springs?) then 2 more sites (volcano/ waterfall?) the next day then heading out on Wednesday the 22nd to head to our rental (yet to be found) and lay on a beach for a week – or sleep – with small outings when in the mood.

    Question – I’ve check your recommended budget hotels for the nights of 20 and 21 in La Fortuna and they are booked. Do you have other suggestions? Also does this itinerary (first part anyways) sound doable?

    Thanks so much for your knowledgeable advice!

    1. Hi Judy, Glad our website has been helpful with your planning! Your itinerary sounds very manageable. Your time in La Fortuna is a little short but fine if you only have a few things there you want to do.

      For hotels, we just finished up a couple of itineraries for people going to La Fortuna in March and found accommodations to be already very booked up so I’m not surprised those two aren’t unavailable. Here are some more options for budget – hope one of them works well for you!

      Selvita Lodge: Great option for cabins on road to La Fortuna Waterfall. This is a quieter area but still not far from restaurants/town. The rooms are simple but comfortable with AC and hot water. Owners are locals and are super friendly and helpful.

      Arenal Green: Another option for cabins on road to the waterfall. Family run with cute and rustic wooden bungalows.

      Hotel Bijagua: Just outside downtown and close to several restaurants, a grocery store, etc. Simple but clean, comfortable rooms surrounded by gardens. Has a kitchen that guests can use and a nice pool area.

  62. Hi,
    We are a family of 4 (2 adults and 2 kids aged 12 and 15). We are going to be in CR for 10 full days. We will be flying in and out of San Jose. Right now the plan is go directly to Arenal when we land (because we get in very early) and stay in Arenal for 3 days. Then we would go to Tamarindo. Here is where I am not sure what to do. Would it be reasonable to to Tamarindo for 3 days, then go to Manuel Antonio for 3 days? Or is that too ambitious? Alernativley, we were also playing with the idea of Nicoya for 2 nights after Tamarindo for 4 nights and not going to MA. I am not sure what Nicoya has to offer though. The last night we will be staying in a hotel near there airport. (We are planning on renting a car). Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    1. Hi Alka, The Arenal-Tamarindo-Manuel Antonio itinerary makes sense. MA is a long drive from Tamarindo, but doable, and going there will get you closer to San Jose for your flight out. MA also has a different feel and would show you another part of the country. It is also a good destination with kids that age as there is a lot to do. The Nicoya Peninsula (towns of Montezuma and Mal País) offers off the beaten path beach towns. They are more remote and it is quite a long drive to get there and then get back to San Jose after, though you could take a ferry for part of the trip to SJ. Without knowing more about your interests, we would probably recommend option 1 because it is easier.

      Be sure to check out our rental car discount as you are shopping around.

  63. Hello,
    I will be in Costa Rica for 2 weeks in July and renting a 4×4. I am thinking 4 nights around Arenal (with a day trip to Tenorio) or vice versa. Which version is better?
    Then, a week at Playa Samara and 3 nights in Monteverde and 1 in San Jose so we can catch an early morning flight back home. Does this plan sound feasible and not too much driving? I would really like to go to the Southern tip of Nicoya, too, but I don’t think that will be reasonable this time around. Thank you!

    1. Hi Lila, 4 nights in La Fortuna with a day trip to Tenorio makes sense because there is a lot to do in La Fortuna. Tenorio is a great spot too though, especially if you would like to experience some of Costa Rica’s smaller, more authentic towns. An overnight there might be nice before heading to Samara.

      The rest of the itinerary sounds good and I don’t think you will be in the car too much. Adding the S. Nicoya would probably be too much, though, unless you cut a few nights off Samara and then take the ferry back to San Jose to save time.

  64. Thanks for all of your super helpful info! We will be in CR for a month this April/may with two kids ages 3 and 5. Our plan is to land in San Jose, rent a car, spend the first 5 nights in Puerto Viejo, Manuel Antonio for about 4 nights, la fortuna 4 nights, Monteverde 3 nights, Tamarindo 3 nights, Samara 7 nights, San jose 2 nights and fly home. Anything you recommend we add or subtract given that we will be on a leisurely pace but traveling with very young children?

    1. Hi Sarah, That itinerary sounds really good overall if you are traveling with young children. The only change I would make is adding a stop somewhere in between Puerto Viejo and Manuel Antonio because that is a very long drive. It’s always longer than whatever it says on Google because of traffic around San Jose and on the highway to the Caribbean coast. You could do an overnight somewhere near San Jose to break up the drive. Atenas is nice and conveniently located right off the highway. It is really scenic, with rolling mountains and coffee fields. Atenas also has a wildlife center nearby that your kids would love. Our Atenas post has more info about that. Otherwise, looks great!

  65. We are travelling to CR end of June this year and have planned the following itinerary. Do you think it’s going to be ok at that time of the year? We have a driver booked but worried about the roads/weather etc. San Jose for 2 nights – Tortuguero for 2 nigthts – La Fortuna for 5 nights – Four Seasons Papagayo Penninsula for 5 nights then driving back to San Jose for flight back. What are your thoughts? Your site is super helpful by the way and I particularly like the packing list!

    1. Hi Dawn, End of June is still fairly early in the rainy season so the weather shouldn’t be too bad. You can read our Weather post for more detailed info. Because rain could interfere with your plans on some days, we usually recommend that people spend a little extra time in each place, but it looks like you have already built that into the itinerary, which is great. Roads should be fine too – unless there is an unlikely extreme weather event, you don’t have to worry about the roads washing out, etc. until much later in the rainy season. Have a great trip!

  66. Hi there. Thank you for a great start on what we should be thinking about. We will be in CR for exactly 2 weeks but in and out of Liberia. What would you recommend starting out from that airport? We arrive at 6am (yikes)!

    1. Hi Eileen, La Fortuna and Monteverde are popular inland destinations not too far from Liberia. For the beach, Guanacaste (Tamarindo, Flamingo, Playa Hermosa, and Nosara and Samara to the south) are the closest options. If you wanted to go more off the beaten path, Bijagua/Rio Celeste is beautiful and we will be coming out with a destination guide to this area soon. For all the other places, you can read our Destinations Summary Guide to figure out where might be a good fit for your group.

      1. Thanks so much for the reply! You guys really do provide excellent information and a lot of it. We are referencing the website a lot and will probably sign up for DIY also. With landing in Liberia early morning (6am), would it be easy to get a shuttle/taxi/bus to the playa flamingo/tamarinds area? Would you say a visit to San Jose is a “must do”? We are trying to get a bit of everything on our trip – culture, rainforest, volcano, beach – without too few days in too many stops…

        1. It will not be hard to get a shuttle, but you should arrange one in advance. If you would like a private shuttle, we know of a reliable company. The cost is around $90. I think there are shared shuttles too that are cheaper, but not sure how early they run.

          San Jose is a great place to experience the culture since that is where the majority of the population lives and there are a lot of great museums, theaters, etc. But, if you are flying in and out of Liberia, it really isn’t practical. For cultural stops around Guanacaste, there’s Guatil pottery. You could also walk around the city of Liberia (downtown near the park), which has a very local feel, historic distric, and lots of local restaurants. If you do go to Monteverde, a small coffee tour is another way to experience the culture, or there are some smaller chocolate tours in La Fortuna/Arenal. We have a whole chapter in our Itineraries book (available on Amazon) that suggests where to go for an authentic experience in Costa Rica. It is more for travel based out of San Jose airport, but does cover Liberia, and may give you more ideas for your trip. It also has a chapter that covers Guanacaste Beaches.

  67. Hi! We (2 couples- I am 58 the rest are early 60s) are travelling to Costa Rica for the very first time in two weeks! I found your website which helped us realize that we couldn’t do everything in 10 full days! Our friends are veteran travelers and we are tagging along.
    We arrive in San Jose on Feb23 and have booked a hotel near the airport. We will have a vehicle for the entire trip. We have also booked all accommodation except for 2 nights. From San Jose:
    Feb24-26 (check in-check out) Quepos

    Feb26-27 ?????

    Feb28-Mar2 Monteverde

    Mar2-Mar5 La Fortuna

    Mar5 San Jose

    Mar6 Fly home

    So, between Quepos and Monteverde, we were thinking about doing day trip(s) to some islands in the peninsula or to the peninsula. If we stay in the Punta Arenas area, do you have any recommendations? Isla San Lucas piqued our interest as well as Tortuga Islands. Are we able to visit these two places on our own and do we have to book a tour? Or would you suggest visiting Montezuma instead? Or should we stay in Jaco and do the trips from there? Night life is not an issue, lol!
    Of your list of popular activities in San Jose, which would you recommend for our last day there?

    1. Also, do you recommend we book something from home for those 2 nights or will we be able to find something when we arrive?

      Thanks again!

      1. You don’t have to book something in advance, but if you don’t, there will be a lot less to choose from and it will be more of a scramble. February is high season when most hotels, especially the good ones, fill up.

    2. Hi May, I think I would just stay in Jaco and do day trips from there. Montezuma is probably too far for only two nights, since you will be going to Monteverde after. You could stay outside the main area of town in Jaco, where it is quieter and more scenic. Hotel Pumilio comes to mind and our Jaco post has some more ideas for lodging. We don’t know much about visiting Isla San Lucas, but yes, you would need a tour. Same for Isla Tortuga (you can take a catamaran cruise there out of Jaco). Puntarenas is more of a port city, not really a tourist destination.

      Our post How to Spend 1 or 2 Days in San Jose gives our top things to do. All the museums we listed are great and it really depends on your specific interests, but my personal favorite is probably the Gold Museum. We also recently visited the Central Market and loved it.

  68. Love your website. It is very helpful. Our family of six, 2 adults and 4 children ages 8-12, are traveling to Costa Rica for 2 weeks in June. We are planning on spending a few nights in La Fortuna at the beginning of our trip, and ending our trip in San Jose in a tree house for a few nights. Would you recommend spending the six nights in the middle of the trip at Tamarindo or MA? We love being outside, exploring nature and swimming at the beach.

    1. Hi Abby, If you are ending your trip near San Jose, Manuel Antonio makes more sense because Tamarindo is a much longer drive. Manuel Antonio also sounds like it would work well for the types of things your family is interested in. It has beautiful nature, rainforest, wildlife, and beaches. The main beach has waves so you would have to watch the kids, but there are also calmer coves nearby. We actually included Manuel Antonio (and La Fortuna) as a recommended destination for our Family itinerary in our book Top 10 Costa Rica Itineraries
      so you could look there for ideas.

  69. Hi – we are a couple with a 14 year old daughter. We are planning to reach San Jose on Mar 5 around 1 pm, pick a car from airport and drive to Arenal area where we have booked Royal Corin hotel. As of now we have booked it for full period of stay- till March 9 when we plan to leave and stay overnight in San Jose before leaving early morning of Mar 10. I am now wondering if we can better utilize our short stay by either visiting sthg apart from Arenal area on March 8/9 – or taking day trips from there. We do not want to drive too much either- but at the same time not rue later on that we did not utilize our Costa Rica trip well. As of now the plan is to cover Proyecto Asis, La Fortuna Waterfall, Hanging bridges and do one day trip to
    Tropical Paradise Black Cano. Me and my wife are less athletic – but my daughter is more adventurous – so she may do some activities. I will appreciate any suggestions you can provide us on better planning our trip.

    1. Hi Amitabh, Since you only have three full days in La Fortuna due to overnights near the airport, we would recommend going with your initial plan and staying in Fortuna the whole time. There is plenty to do in that area and adding anywhere else would result in too much driving. If you did want to see another area, you could take a day trip to the Rio Celeste Waterfall. This is within driving distance from your hotel and would show you another part of the country. Keep in mind, though, that it is a couple of hours away so would be a full day excursion.

  70. Hey! Wow this blog, and the comments/responses on this post are so informative!
    My husband and myself are coming on our honeymoon the last week of May-Jun 4th for 10 days – we are so excited!
    We’re flying into San Jose and were thinking of starting out with some adventure/hiking/touring in Arenal Area, possibly a day trip to Monteverde, and then ending somewhere beachy/relaxing. Would love to get a coffee and/or chocolate tour somewhere in there as well 🙂
    My question is – we want to see as much as possible in our 10 days. Do you have a recommendation for another destination between these 2?
    Secondly, I was planning on going to Manuel Antonio to end off our trip, as the beach there looks incredible, as well as the National Park, but I’m worried that it’ll be wetter than, say, Tamarindo. Would you recommend staying further up north for our beach portion, because it’s May/the beginning of June? We’d love to sunbathe, dive, and do some water sports – this whole “rainy season” has got me a bit nervous.

    1. Hi Kayla, We don’t recommend Monteverde as a day trip from La Fortuna because it’s really far away due to bad roads. There’s also a lot to do there so we would recommend a couple of nights. You can read our Monteverde post here. With 10 days, I wouldn’t do more than 3 destinations even if you want to be busy and see a lot. If you wanted to check out somewhere other than Monteverde, Bijagua and the Rio Celeste Waterfall are amazing.

      Tamarindo is typically drier than Manuel Antonio, but MA still shouldn’t be that bad end of May. That’s very early in the rainy season so go wherever you think is a better fit. MA is also much closer to San Jose airport than Tamarindo. Good luck with the rest of your planning and hope you have an amazing honeymoon!

      1. Thanks for the response! Ok, we won’t attempt a day trip to Monteverde, and I’ll check out those other 2 locations! I think we’ll do Manuel Antonio over Tamarindo – it looks beautiful and closer to the airport is a plus.
        We were thinking of doing Isla Tortuga, or maybe the Uvita area as our third destination. Do you have an opinion on which is more worth seeing/will have better weather? Uvita looks like a fun town/beautiful waterfalls, and Isla Tortuga looks gorgeous and with great diving/snorkeling, so we’re torn.

        1. We’re partial to Uvita. The waterfalls and beaches there are gorgeous. You can also do diving out of Uvita. It’s longer trip by boat, but Cano Island is totally doable on a day trip and has some of the best diving in the country. We know of a good tour operator out of Uvita and can help organize that for you if/when you get to that point. Isla Tortuga is nice too. You would stay in either Montezuma or the Jaco area to access it. Jaco is closer to the airport but it’s a lot more developed so depends on the experience you’re looking for. Montezuma is a fun town, but more remote and doesn’t work quite as well for your loop if you do La Fortuna and Manuel Antonio.

          1. Thank you! I will ask my partner what he thinks 🙂 If we decide to stay in Uvita, how do we contact you about the tour operator?
            Lastly, would it be totally crazy to go to Puerto Viejo for 3 days/2 nights?
            We ruled it out initially because of the weather, but the more I look into it, the more incredible it looks – would love to be able to see another part of the Costa Rican culture.
            Thanks again for all the helpful information!

          2. You can email us at bookings(at)twoweeksincostarica(dot)com.

            Puerto Viejo is an awesome spot. It depends on what you pick for your other places how doable it is. It would work with La Fortuna and Manuel Antonio, but would be too out of the way if you wanted to go to Uvita.

          3. Thank you! I looked into it a bit and I think we’ll go!
            Thanks for all the advice!!! Will definitely recommend your website to anyone looking into CR!
            We can’t wait!

  71. What a great help reading this blog has been! We have just over 3 weeks in Costa Rica booked for August and are struggling to figure out what order to visit the places we are interested in. We’d love to see a mix of the Caribbean and Pacific in our time (hopefully 3 weeks is enough…)- would you recommend a particular order first ? Some key stops we would like to squeeze in include Tortuguero(hopefully to see some turtles), Pacuare River, Cahiuti, Drakes Bay, Manuel Antonio and Arenal Volcano. Although having read this post have noticed Drakes Bay may not be so good during August…although we don’t mind a little(lot) rain!

    1. Hi Hannah, 3 weeks is plenty of time to see both coasts. We would recommend starting in Tortuguero because it’s easiest to visit from San Jose, then going to Cahuita, doing the Pacuare, and then hitting Arenal, Manuel Antonio, and Drake Bay. You could fly back to San Jose after to save time.
      Personally I’d rather end my trip in Drake, but if you reversed it, a fun way to get from Arenal to the Caribbean side is a rafting trip on the Pacuare. They pick you up in Arenal, you raft, and then they drop you off on the Caribbean coast (most tours go to Puerto Viejo but I’m sure Cahuita can be arranged as well).

  72. So glad to discover your blog with helpful hints. Months ago we booked approximately 10 days in Playa Hermosa, Guanacaste for early May (just a few weeks away). We have a rental car and would like to drive down to Manuel Antonio, spend a night there, and then visit the park early the next morning, and drive back that evening. It’s such a long drive. Is there somewhere mid way you’d recommend for making a visit during the day on the way down? We enjoy light hiking and seeing wildlife. Or a different beach view than what we’ll be seeing in Guanacaste would be nice, too. We’re not coffee or beer drinkers so no interest in those tours. Is there somewhere else that would be nice for a later pit stop on the way back after hiking Manuel Antonio? Or would you recommend spending two nights in that area or one night a little further back up the coast?

    1. Hi Diana, That is a really far drive so we would recommend spending two nights in Manuel Antonio to make it worthwhile. Even though it’s far, it will be nice for you to see a different area of the country. Manuel Antonio will be a lot greener than Guanacaste that time of year. As for stops, you will have to be careful since you will have your bags with you. But a couple of ideas are a riverboat tour on the Tarcoles River to see crocodiles or stopping in Jaco for lunch. There isn’t much located more centrally between Hermosa and Manuel Antonio, unfortunately. For the way back, there’s also Las Pumas Rescue Center and Llanos de Cortes Waterfall.

  73. Hi Matt and Jenn,
    I am a friend of some of the folks you house sat for years ago and she led me to your books (just purchased) and website! Awesome info! Thank you so much! My husband 4 year old son and I are planning a trip to Costa Rica next Feb for approximately 2 months. My husband traveled along the Pacific side years ago and we are definitely interested in staying along the coast especially the Caribbean side. My husband is currently looking at buying a westfalia camper van for sale in Jaco but we are feeling torn over having a home to stay in vs the convenience of a camper van. And obviously the 4 year old factors in to this decision 🙂 we had initially looked at renting a home in Tamarindo for 2 months but I am concerned that we have never been and what if we like another area better? What do you think? Also we do not speak great Spanish but are up for an adventure! What are your thoughts? Thank you so much for your time and I look forward to reading your books!!!!
    Take care,
    Carrie 🙂

    1. Hi Carrie, That’s so cool that you know someone who we house sat for. Small world! Great that your family is coming to CR for an extended visit. Personally, I wouldn’t want to live in a camper here, mostly because of the heat, but I can see why the convenience would be appealing. One thing I would be somewhat concerned about is safety since all of your belongings will be inside, making you a target. If you decide to go for it, make sure the vehicle has CR license plates. Vehicles that don’t are only allowed in the country for 90 days before you have to pay registration and import duties, which are extremely expensive and can double the price.

      As for a location, I would say that it’s a risk to rent in one place for the whole two months if you’ve never been there. Tamarindo will be very hot and dry that time of year and this surprises a lot of people. Maybe find a few different places and get your traveling in that way? If you weren’t coming in February when it’s busy, I’d say to wait to book most of your lodging until you get here, but that’s a risk since places could be full. For what it’s worth, if it were me, I would probably arrange some of our stays and leave some open. Hope that helps with your questions!

  74. Hi, We love the itinerary, but would love to visit Nicaragua at the same time. Is this possible to drive? We have two young kids.

    1. Hi MJ, It is possible, but you would need to cut some of the destinations if you have only two weeks. Drake Bay/the Osa is very far away. Maybe if you took a small plane flight, it would be possible. You can fly into Nicaragua too, which would save time, but if you wanted to drive, you would want a different itinerary that took you in the northern part of the country (Guanacaste, etc.).

  75. Hi there,

    What a great blog, really helpful!!

    My boyfriend and I are coming to Costa Rica for the first time this August – so excited! We are planning to hire a car for the first section of the holiday.

    Our initial thoughts were:

    Arrive in San Jose
    La Fortuna – 2 nights
    Montezuma – 3 nights
    Manual Antonio – 2 nights
    Drake Bay – 2 nights
    San Jose – 1 night (to drop off car)
    Tortuguero – 2 nights
    Puerto Viejo – 1 night (for pick up to Bocas del Toro)
    Bocas del Toro – 5 nights

    Does this sound reasonable or should we think about changing anything?

    Any comments would be greatly appreciated!!

    Thanks in advance,


    1. Hi Caitlin, We don’t do this type of detailed review through comments, it’s more of something we would do through our Itinerary Service. Taking a quick look, it seems like you’re trying to fit in too many places. 8 destinations in 18 days is a lot because it often takes a long time to get between destinations due to mountainous terrain. Taking small planes would help to save time for some destinations, but you should try to cut things down. Our Itineraries book has ten different itineraries that we put together based on travel time between destinations so that you’re still seeing a lot but not running around too much. We even have one that goes to the Bocas, so maybe take a look at that.

  76. Hello!

    My boyfriend and I are planning a trip to Costa Rica for 3 weeks in July! We will be landing in San Jose and will be travelling to La Fortuna for 3 days after that. From there we are hoping to travel down the west coast (we already have a place booked in Santa Teresa for four nights in the middle of our trip). We would love to go to places with some great surfing, beaches, hiking and rainforests/jungle. We have heard wonderful things about so many places but do not want to spread ourselves too thin. One place we would love to go to however is Utiva. Do you have any suggestions on places to stay over the span of 3 weeks (La Fortuna, Santa Teresa and Utiva-hopefully would be included), best ways to travel, and any spots to stop along the way to break up travels as we do not want to have to go from one place directly to the other?
    Thanks so much!!

    1. Hi Kailey, There are so many choices for places to go, your best bet is probably to start with our guidebook, Top 10 Costa Rica Itineraries. We have a whole chapter on surfing, and from what you have said, you will probably find the Best of Costa Rica itinerary and Eco-Trekking itineraries to be appealing. Uvita is in the Eco-Trekking chapter and we highly recommend this area for rainforest, wildlife, and beautiful beaches. Three weeks is a great amount of time to spend – you will be able to piece together an itinerary from the book and it has some good tips on getting around, etc.

  77. Hi! Thank you so much for your blog, it is amazing!
    My husband and I are planning our honeymoon in Costa Rica for September, and I understand that September is the rainy season on the pacific side of CR, and that it is more rainy in the south pacific than in the north pacific.

    Do you recommend traveling northwest like you mentioned in your honeymoon blog to Guanacaste (because of the rain)? Or is this itinerary ok for that time of year? We want to see a lot of rain forests (maybe even sleep in a cool hotel that is in one if it is possible?) and also spend a few days relaxing on the beach in a resort.

    Thank you so much for you help!!

    1. Hi Lily, This itinerary is one of the better options for September with the exception of Drake Bay. Drake is best avoided during the rainiest times of year. La Fortuna and Manuel Antonio are both good options though. Guanacaste is fine too if you’re looking at one of the resorts there. Although it is generally drier the farther NW you go, I’m not sure this is true for September. If you look at the data (see charts in our Weather post), Guanacaste actually receives slightly more rain than Puntarenas Province so if you like the sound of this itinerary (minus Drake Bay), then go for that. Just know that it will be a little rainy wherever you go – unless you’re interested in the Caribbean coast (Cahuita or Puerto Viejo), where September is one of its least rainy times. Hope that helps!

  78. Hi we have max 2 weeks to come to CR, including flying from UK and want to also visit the Panama Canal. Prime reason for trip is to experience the jungle and hope to see jaguar /panthers and hummingbirds. We love coffee so looking for any visits in the Central Valley and how best to get there from San Jose. I hear wildlife spotting is good in Corcovado NP? Are all the cloud forests north of San Jose? Does Osa Peninsula have white sandy beaches /coves, instead of us needing to go to Manuel Antonio? We also like long walks, canoe/kayaking/rafting and snorkeling. Will also spend a day or so doing culture in San Jose. Phew! That’s a lot of info. Oh yes, we can travel late June into mid July, or late August to early September and November into early December. Any thoughts greatly appreciated.

    1. Hi Karen, That’s a great list of wants for your trip, but a lot to cover in a comment. If you would like help planning the Costa Rica portion of your trip, we could assist with everything through our itinerary service. To give you some guidance, either the June/July or November/December dates would be best since rainy season peaks in September. The Osa is excellent for wildlife (see our Drake Bay post), but know that spotting a jaguar or other big cat in the wild is extremely rare. The cloud forests are in Monteverde or the lesser known town of San Gerardo de Dota. You can see lots of hummingbirds in both of these places too. Good luck with the planning and let us know if you would like more help.

  79. Hi,

    As said a hundred times before – great site, loads of useful info for the first-timer.

    We are landing in CR in two weeks time from the UK with our two daughters (10 and 13). Just wanted to check in that my planned itinerary isn’t crazy and going the wrong way around. We’re coming for two weeks, hiring a 4×4 for the entire time.

    First night booked local to SJ following your advice and hotel recommendation (thanks). Current plan is a 2/3 nights either Arenal or Miravalles for hot springs, a bit of exploring and maybe zip lines. We then need to head over to Cahuita as we are going to the Sloth Sanctuary over near Limon for a night halfway through our trip. Is it possible to make it in a day driving to the east coast? Any good waterfalls or places if interest on the way, or best to do a one night layover somewhere midway?

    After a few nights around Cahuita, snorkelling, beaches, national parks, we were then keen to head over to Manuel Antonio for most of the rest of the trip. Again, probably need a one-night stop on the way back over.

    So ……….. does that sound about okay, or are we going to be on the road too much? Other option is straight to east coast, then head back over a bit earlier and do Volcano on way to MA.

    Any advice much appreciated on which sounds the least crazy way to do this, and anywhere good between SJ and East coast to stop at. Can’t wait to come and explore”



    1. Hi Toby, That’s a reasonable itinerary. You will be driving quite a bit but it’s not too much for two weeks. It will allow you to see a lot of the country. You can drive from La Fortuna to the Caribbean side in one day. We have done it and I think it took us about 5.5-6 hours. It is longer from Miravalles because you would have to go through San Jose and sit in traffic. You would need an overnight for that. The Braulio Carrillo area is a good option- look at Casa Rio Blanco B&B.

      The drive from Cahuita to Manuel Antonio after will be long, again due to traffic around San Jose. Somewhere like Atenas or Grecia would make sense for a stopover.

  80. Hi,
    I love your itinerary, it sounds just like the sort of thing we want to do. I just want to check if it’ll be appropriate for a holiday in September? We love the outdoors and will definitely include Arsenal Volcano. We really hope to see lots of animals and birds too though and I know it’s rainy season for most of Costa Rica.
    It’s our honeymoon so we want it to be a special holiday.
    Any advice will be very gratefully received!

    1. Hi Laura, The itinerary is practical for September except for the portion in Drake Bay. It may be quite rainy there in September so we would recommend swapping that out for somewhere else. September is said to be one of the best times of year to see Arenal Volcano so keep La Fortuna, and Manuel Antonio will be a good option as well. It will rain in MA but usually it isn’t too bad. If you can get over to the Caribbean side (Puerto Viejo or Cahuita), this region typically has the driest weather in September so that would be your best bet for a third destination. It is possible in two weeks as well, with La Fortuna and MA as your other destinations.

      1. Thank you so much. I really appreciate the advice. One last question, my husband would like to know if you’d recommend Michael Antonio over Tortuego?
        Thanks again!

        1. Hi Laura, Tortuguero is a lot different than Manuel Antonio. It’s a very small village that doesn’t have a lot going on, but it’s a great destination for wildlife and is good for turtle watching in September. It does take more time to get to (unless you fly), though, so that is a consideration. We would recommend reading our Tortuguero post for more information.

  81. hi there! first of all, your website is absolutely great and so much helpful!
    I’m planning on going to cr on the end of September for two weeks by myself. i was wondering either to book the hotels in advance or book them along the way… any recommendations?

    1. Hi Liel, It won’t be busy in September so you could definitely wait to book things when you get here. We used to travel like that when we visited, but now that we have a child, we like a little more order and to have things planned out 🙂 But, for you, as a solo traveler in September, it would be totally fine to wait if you would rather do that.

  82. Hello – thank you, in advance, for the gift of a reply.

    My partner is doing a YTT at Anamaya outside Montezuma until 9/16 (am). I am flying into SJO on the 15th, & we are planning to meet up for 12 days. We’d like to spend some time in San Jose, visit Arenal area & the rest of our time on beaches on the Nicoya Peninsula. Our question: do you think it’s better for him to meet me in SJO or for me to fly to Tambor & meet him there? He needs to be back in Montezuma by 10/1, so one of us needs to find the other on one leg of the trip.

    1. Hi DJ, You could do it a few different ways, but if you want to spend some time in San Jose, you could have him meet you there first. Then you could do San Jose, go to Arenal after, and end with beach time on the Nicoya Peninsula, before he goes back to Montezuma. It’s harder to get from the Montezuma area to La Fortuna so that probably makes the most sense.

  83. Hey! This was awesome help! My girlfriend and I followed this itinerary to the best of our ability and it did not disappoint. Feel free to check out my youtube channel to see our travel video! Thanks Jenn and Matt!

  84. Hi there!
    WOW- I love this blog and how detailed and helpful it is. Thank you for putting this all together.
    My boyfriend and I are planning on visiting Costa Rica for a short 3-4 night trip during the last week of October. We’re flying into San Jose and planning on renting a car (with your discount- thanks!). After reading your guide and trying to plan a pretty short trip out of it, it seems maybe just heading towards Manuel Antonio may be our best bet to experience a variety of beaches, jungles, and wildlife. Is this what you would do if you only had 3-4 nights? Beaches, jungles, and wildlife would be our priority, so Manuel Antonio sounds pretty great. BUT if you have a better idea for a short, wide-variety trip, that’d be wonderful.

    Thanks again for the incredible blog! I highly appreciate it.

    1. Hi Leah, Manuel Antonio would be a good option with 3-4 nights or you could look at Jaco, which is a little closer to San Jose. Jaco can be busier but October is low season so it will be slower. The forest there will also be very nice and green this time of year so you would get your beach-jungle experience. The wildlife is better in Manuel Antonio, but there is decent wildlife around Jaco too. You can see Scarlet Macaws anywhere and other wildlife like monkeys if you stay outside town (one idea that comes to mind is Hotel Pumilio. Both MA and Jaco have excellent dining options.

  85. Hey Jenn and Matt…..

    I know this is so last minute, But thats who I am and what I like to do. And sometimes the best adventures are made in last minute fashion.

    Well my name is Ruben and today is Sept 18th. Im literally thinking about flying out to Costa Rica – TONIGHT!

    But the only thing stopping me is that I am being told that it is the rainy season out there right now. And while the rain won’t stop me from having a great time, what will is the fact that things will be closed and I won’t get to see much? I mean if my goal is to find waterfalls to swim in, find some beaches to lay out on, and meet people at hostels! Are there many things to do during rainy season as well? are there parts that aren’t rainy?

    So do you recommend I jump on a flight or just stay home? LOL I don’t know what to do. Help! LOL

    I know I know, last minute…..

    Thanks in advanced.

  86. Hi Jen and Matt,
    I just found your blog and your 2 week itinerary suggestion and I am so excited!! I planned it so close to your suggestions. I wanted to ask a question about our plan.
    1) should we do a rafting trip near Arenal or Manuel Antonio in December? We have more time in Manuel Antonio so I was thinking the 3/4 day or full day Savergre. Have you done this trip on the Savegre?

    1. Hi Nicole, You could go rafting out of either place and have a great experience, but if you have more time in MA, just do it there. The Savegre is a really fun river- it’s Class II-III so the rapids aren’t too crazy but it’s still thrilling at times. The Savegre trips usually include a visit to a waterfall too. The one caveat is that at the end of the dry season (March/April), water levels can be pretty low so it’s not as much of an adventure. Other than that though, it’s an awesome tour!

  87. Hi Guys,
    We are heading to Costa Rica this Christmas for our honeymoon. We are spending the first few days at the Secrets Resort Papaguyo. Then we need to get to Santa Thersa beach. It is my understanding that these locations are about 4 hours apart. Do you have any recommendations as to how to safely and cost-effectively travel from the resort to the Airbnb? We then need to get to the Liberia airport from Santa Theresa beach at the end of the trip. We are considering renting an SUV, but I know my husband is reluctant to drive as he is afraid he will get us lost. Do you think we will wish we had a car at Santa Theresa beach area (banana beach)? Are there any sights near papagayo or Santa Thersa that we should check out?

    1. Hi Rachel, Plan on a little more time than that because the roads on the Southern Nicoya Peninsula are rough dirt and slow at times. If you’re uncomfortable driving, you could take a shuttle van. You don’t really need a car for where you’ll be in Santa Teresa as there is a lot within walking distance. If you do decide you want wheels, you could rent a quad, which is a much better way to get around the bumpy roads there.

      As for sights, there isn’t much in the immediate vicinity of Secrets, but you could take a day trip to Playa Hermosa, Tamarindo, or Playa Conchal (one of the most beautiful beaches in the area). For activities near Santa Teresa, check out our Mal País post.

  88. hi Jenn and Matt

    I am mother to 3 girls aged 19,18 and12 and we are looking to go on a self drive 2 week trip to costa rica next August. Would the above 2 week itinerary be our best option? We love wildlife, nature, activities, and experiencing local culture and getting off the beaten track. Also do you get involved in helping with booking etc? Not sure how I came across you but looking for some help and guidance thank you 🙂

    1. Hi Annabel, This itinerary would work, but keep in mind that driving to Drake Bay is not recommended. Most people take a boat taxi from Sierpe (it is possible to drop off a rental car here, though) or fly on a small plane. Drake Bay is an excellent destination for wildlife/nature/local culture, but it is a rainier area, especially the closer you get to September. You could look at our book, Top 10 Costa Rica Itineraries, for other ideas. That has 10 two-week itineraries to choose from. We do offer a booking service for our itinerary clients and would be happy to help you come up with the perfect customized itinerary for you and your girls. Here is the page on our website with more information and how to contact us.

  89. Hi love your blog very interesting. I have a question we are going on the 15 of January for 14 days like to know how much does it cost to aren’t a car thanks

  90. How are the crowds at the end of February (after presidents holiday) This will be my first solo trip. I’d like to come and explore and not be bound by reservations for specific dates in certain cities/towns. Would I have a hard time finding a place to stay without them? I’m pretty flexible but my Spanish is very limited. I wanted to do something new and exciting for my 50th birthday. Thanks for your info. I’m just starting to plan my trip and it’s all been so helpful. Ready to get out of the USA for a bit. I need nature. Lol.

    1. Hi Michele, Late February is high season but you should still be able to find decent places to stay if you want some flexibility. When we used to backpack around Costa Rica, we almost always didn’t make reservations. Sometimes we would have to go to several hotels before finding one with vacancy but we always found something. The most popular places will be full but it sounds like you’re flexible and up for some adventure so will probably be fine. A couple of places where I wouldn’t go without advanced reservations are Drake Bay and Tortuguero because they are more difficult to access. Hope you have a great trip!

  91. Hello Jenn and Matt!
    Thank you for all your wealth of information on Costa Rica!
    We are arriving at the SJO airport about 1:30 on Saturday Feb 24th. Do you think we would be ok driving right to Monteverde? We have 2 nights to explore the area before we head south. I’ve read that it could take up to 4 hours to get to Monteverde and we’re trying to avoid driving at night!!
    Thank you so much! I love your website and books!!
    Debbie Creekmore

    1. Hi Debbie, It usually takes about 1.5-2 hrs to get through the airport and pick up a rental car so it will be close. The drive to Monteverde is about 3 hrs from SJO Airport so that has you arriving around 6 or 6:30 pm. It gets dark in Costa Rica at 5:45. The last part of the drive on Route 606 is the worst (see our Driving to Monteverde post) so your safest option would be to stay overnight near the airport or somewhere on the way like Atenas and get an early start the next day.

  92. Hi Jenn & Matt,
    What a wealth of information you both have been able to put together to share with everyone. My wife and I have just booked our flights to Liberia, Feb 4th thru 17th (flight times were better than San Jose for us) and have begun the process of determining our itinerary. So far, we have booked a few days in the Arenal Volcano area (per your suggestion to begin our trip). We are going to stay at the Observatory Lodge and Spa, it looks like a decent place and being inside the park looks like it may have some advantages. I understand it is a distance from town but I’m thinking that we can immerse ourselves in the park for a couple days and then head into town for some other activities.
    I’m wrestling with where we should head from there for days 4 thru 6, maybe Monteverde (would that be too similar to Arenal area)? Ultimately, we’re thinking of spending the last 5 days in the Samara area and then head back up to Libera for flight home. Any thoughts on where to go & do on days 4 thru 6 somewhere between Arenal and Samara?
    Also, any recommendations on where to stay first night in Liberia, something clean and comfortable? We get in at 2:30 and had thought about driving to Arenal area that afternoon but not sure how long it will take to get rental vehicle (which are planning to have for entire trip) and didn’t want to be driving after dark. It will also be Super Bowl Sunday so we wouldn’t mind watching some of that, any good pubs around Liberia that would have game on?
    We are already getting excited about our trip, it is a little overwhelming but your site has been a huge help.

    thanks for any suggestions.

    1. Hi Steve, Monteverde would be a very good option for nights 4-6. It’s a good destination for 2 nights and isn’t too similar to La Fortuna to be redundant. Monteverde is famous for its cloud forest so the climate will be cooler there, which is very unique for Costa Rica. Another option is Bijagua, which is near the beautiful Rio Celeste Waterfall. That’s a charming town that is also a good place to spend a couple of nights.

      The Hilton Garden Inn is a good option for your overnight near the airport. They will probably have the game on or you could head the city of Liberia. That’s a locals’ town but there is probably an expat hangout that would have it on. We agree that it’s best not to try to drive to La Fortuna your first day. You would most likely be driving in the dark and we don’t recommend that, especially for the stretch around Lake Arenal.

      It seems like your planning is coming along. Best of luck finishing it up and hope you have a great trip!

  93. Hi Matt
    In 2 weeks me and wife arriving in CR,runing away from Canadian Winter.Landing in Liberia,destination Playa Hermosa.Relatively close from airport Liberia.But our departure back home ,month later will be from SJO and that a big difference in distance
    from Playa Hermosa.The question is ,what wii be best way to get to SJ airport,How many options we will have there.renting car inPlaya Hermosa and leaving inSJ is possible? Somehow when Travel Agent get us a tickets ,we overlook that.Too late to change,This time we do not have plans to explore the contry ,stay in one place and enjoy the weather and exploring posibilities spending whole winter next time if health permits

    1. Hi Joe, Not sure if you are still needing help with this, but yes, picking up a rental car near Liberia and dropping it off near SJO Airport is an option. Most companies just charge a fee for a different pick up and drop off location. We get a discount through Adobe Rent a Car if you want to take a look at that. That will be the fastest option. Otherwise, you could take a shuttle (shared or private vans are available) or see if one of the small plane companies has a flight from Tamarindo or Liberia to SJO that would work for you.

  94. Hi! My husband and I have been planning our honeymoon and will be in Costa Rica the end of January for 11 days (January 23rd-Febuarary 2nd). So far we are staying in La Fortuna for 3 nights and then Tamarindo for 3 nights. Curious if you have a suggestion of where to go after Tamarindo. We’d ideally like to experience two more places. We’re flying out of Liberia, so somewhere we could fly from back to Liberia for relatively inexpensively or drive back to in a decent amount of time would be awesome. We don’t fly out until the evening of the 11th day so we’ll still have that whole day.

    Your site has been SO, SO helpful in planning our honeymoon! Thank you so much!

    1. Hi Heather, With your last 6 nights, one destination could be Playa Samara. This is a smaller beachtown so has a different feel from Tamarindo. It has a cute downtown area with lots of restaurants, adjacent to the beach. It is back tracking a bit but Bijagua (for the Rio Celeste Waterfall) is also a great choice and a reasonable drive to Liberia. The Miravalles Volcano area is also nearby – it’s very off-the-beaten path but has a nice resort there.

  95. Hi! Myself and my boyfriend are travelling to Costa Rica in April and couldn’t be more excited – your itinerary has been really useful and we are pretty much following most of it. We plan to head to Arenal for a couple of nights, head to Manuel Antonio for 3 or 4 days, complete a 3 day hike in Corcovado and finish with some relaxing in Drake Bay before heading back to San Jose.

    We really want to fit in some surfing, we are both beginners and really enjoy it – are we able to do this in Manuel Antonio? Also is it best to stay in Manuel Antonio or one of the towns nearby? We are looking for that relaxing town with a few bars and restaurants in order to chill before our big hike in Corcovado



    1. Hi Louise, That sounds like a fantastic plan for your trip. You can surf out of Manuel Antonio. The northern end of the beach is a good place for beginners, and there are companies that offer lessons. We recommend staying right in Manuel Antonio so that you’re close to all the restaurants and shops along the main road. Quepos is the alternative. It’s a small locals’ city next door but isn’t as scenic (it’s good to go for the cultural aspects but is mostly a place to do errands if you live here). Keep in mind that some hotels and vacation rentals say that they are in Quepos, but they are really in Manuel Antonio geographically.

  96. Wow! What a fantastic resource for planning a trip to Costa Rica. My husband and I are looking at planning a two week trip in May. We would be bringing our 18 month old daughter so we would like to stick to two main destinations that would give us a chance to enjoy the beach and the rain forests/wildlife. Would you have recommendations for this? I also really enjoy snorkeling and scuba diving so I’m not sure if this would change your suggestions at all?

    1. Hi Stephanie, We have a Family chapter in our book, Top 10 Costa Rica Itineraries, so have a look at that. For snorkeling and diving, that is tougher because the best place for this in Costa Rica–Drake Bay–is hard to get to (only accessible by boat or plane) and not recommended with a baby. One good option for this, though, is Puerto Viejo de Talamanca. It has one of the only places with decent snorkeling right offshore (if conditions are right), and has some beaches with calmer water for your daughter (Playa Cocles has a great spot with tidepools, in particular). This would give you the beach/rainforest experience as well. Hope that gives you some direction!

  97. is there a time of year to avoid mosquitoes? is there much difference in mosquitoes in different seasons? is in between christmas and new years too busy to enjoy the sites? thank you

    1. Hi Danny, Rainy season (May to November) is generally worse for mosquitoes. You should read our post all about this topic here. Christmas and New Years is the busiest time of year, but if you plan your trip strategically to avoid the most popular destinations/activities, you can still have a great time. Recently we heard from several people who were here over the 2017 holidays and they talked about how the crowds didn’t bother them.

  98. Hi! My fiancé and I used your trip itinerary for our vacation here, so first of all thank you for the information as it has made our planning much easier. We are currently in our last night at La Fortuna and then driving to Manuel Antonio for 5 nights and then to Drake Bay to close things out. Question for you in regards to the current weather…it has been somewhat nonstop rain in La Fortuna, and from what we can see in the outlook on The Weather Channel Manuel Antonio and Drake Bay seem like we may be in for more of the same? We weren’t sure if the outlook is accurate, or if it is likely to be a stray rain in between a lot of sun. Since it sounds like you reside in the South Pacific thought you may be able to provide some more context on what we can expect. We will make the most of it either way, but would ideally like to have some sun time in the next part of the trip. Thanks!

    1. Hi Taylor, Not sure if you are still here or not, but generally, the forecasts for Costa Rica are completely wrong because of the methods they use, which monitor cloud cover more than precipitation. That said, it has been very rainy this year compared to normal Januarys. We have heard that it is because of a weather pattern called La Nina. Not sure about the truth of that but it has been a lot harder to dry our clothes outside lately! We live near Dominical but the weather varies a lot even a half-hour away so hopefully you’ve had some good days in Manuel Antonio and Drake Bay.

  99. Thanks for the reply! We actually just got back into the US late last night and had great weather overall while in Manuel Antonio and Drake. A little on/off rain in the evenings, but always Sunny in the mornings and early afternoons. I was figuring your sentiment on not being able to trust the forecasts down there, but was just a little disheartening to be in down pours in La Fortuna and see only rain in the forecast everywhere else we were going. Overall we loved your itinerary and had a wonderful time. Can’t wait to come back!

  100. Hi, thank you so much for this helpful webpage! Me and my boyfriend are planning our trip at the beginning of April. We will have 11 full days plus 2 for flying in and out. We want to visit Arenal area and the Caribbean side. Do you think it would be too much if we included Manuel Antonio to our trip? Do you think that Manuel Antonio is a better place to visit than Puerto Viejo area? Thank you!

    1. Hi Jana, It’s hard to compare if Puerto Viejo or Manuel Antonio would be better for you and your boyfriend without knowing more about your interests. We recommend reading through our destination articles on the specific towns (links above). But, either way, you could do all three towns with 11 days without being too rushed. We would recommend the order of Puerto Viejo –> Arenal –> Manuel Antonio.

  101. Hi Jen and Matt, first of all thanks a lot for this great website, such wonderful informations! I’m super excited as we’re going to CR for 2weeks with my partner and our 1year old son Thisbe February, yeah! We have an idea of where we want to go and see but need to know if it’s all possible in terms of timing.
    We will be arriving in the evening on a Friday in SAN Jose so planning on staying 2 nights with visiting the city on day1 and have a feel of the country.
    Would like to leave early morning on Sunday to head to La Fortuna, spend the night there and go to Monteverde/Santa Elena on the Monday for 2nights. We’re not sure yet if we will be renting from SAN Jose which seems to be the best option to don’t waste any time. How long would it take to drive from SJ to La Fortuna and then to Monteverde and back?
    We then will head south to the OSA Peninsula where we have an accommodation booked from the Wednesday TIL Sunday. We will probably rent a car to get down there and have some free movement on the remote Peninsula.
    Sunday heading back to SJ I guess and we would like to try to make it to the Caribbean coast but not sure what would be easiest to do in2days?
    We’re flying back on the Friday morning from SJ so have to be there on Thursday night.
    Do you think our itinerary makes sense or would that be too much rushing? Also should we really consider driving ourselves? We usually like budget travelling and take local buses but now with our little one it’s different and we don’t want to miss out on great things if buses take too long.
    Thanks for your insights!

    1. Hi Pauline, That’s probably too many places to try to fit into 2 weeks, espacially with a 1 year old. Drives times between some of those places is quite long. If you want to do La Fortuna, we would recommend more than one night there. If you’re thinking it’s on the way to Monteverde like many people do, it’s really not so either do more time in LF or skip it and go straight to Monteverde. For a sense of drive times, you can read our Road Conditions post. For the Osa, that is a beautiful area, but you can’t drive everywhere there so it depends on where you’re going if you should rent a car. If you’re going to Drake Bay, we don’t recommend a car, but it is fine for Puerto Jimenez. After Osa, somewhere on the way back to San Jose would make more sense than trying to go all the way to the Caribbean side. One idea is San Gerardo de Dota. Hope that helps you narrow things! You should definitely read our post about traveling with a baby in CR if you haven’t already.

  102. I am going to be doing a 2 week trip next month and am trying to figure out what would be the best itinerary without renting a car at all or at least not for the whole trip. I was hoping to maybe see the Arenal Volcano and then do some beach time maybe in Montezuma but am open to other suggestions. Are there a couple of spots that you’d recommend that are easy to get to (i.e. without a car) or should I really just plan on a renting a car the whole time?

    1. Hi Brittany, You can do the Arenal area without a car if you stay in the downtown. One good option is Hotel Monte Real, which is walking distance to town but in a quiet location. Activities are farther out but you can take the bus or a taxi, or even rent a car locally once you arrive. Montezuma is a great option for a beach town without a car. You could also look at our post Best Beach Towns Without a Car for more ideas. If you wanted to see the cloud forest, Monteverde is a good option if you stay near downtown Santa Elena.

  103. Hi Jenn and Matt: We’ve been combing your website for ideas and guidance and finding it so useful—thanks so much for this amazing insider info! We are planning a 16-day trip to Costa Rica for the first half of July traveling on a dream trip with our 16-year-old and 18-year-old. Tickets are booked: Arriving in SJ in the evening and leaving from Liberia early in the morning. We’ve discovered from your site that we’re going to be there during the rainy season. Knowing this in advance, we will pack accordingly. However, our goal is to experience a variety of destinations and landscapes together while minimizing the odds that our entire vacation (our first in 5 years…) will be a washout! For that reason, we’d initially planned on visiting the Osa Peninsula as suggested in your 2-week itinerary, but it seems like rainfall is highest in that region during the month we’ll be there. Instead, we’re now considering 3 nights in La Fortuna, 3 in Monteverde, 3 in Manuel Antonio and we would like to visit a final destination that’s not quite as touristy but still offers things that would interest teens—maybe Santa Teresa. Would truly appreciate your input: is that going to give us a wide variety of things to see and do with our teens (interested in hiking, snorkelling, surf lessons, ziplines, kayaking, etc.)? Is 4 destinations too ambitious in 16 days? Will Santa Teresa add a different experience to the trip than the others we’d be having in the 3 other locations? If we’d be better off switching locations due to time of year/length of trip/age of our kids, would love to hear your thoughts on that. Thanks so much!

    1. Hi Trish, If you really want to go to the Osa Peninsula, you should. While the Southern Pacific is the rainiest region of the country, July is still early on in the rainy season. Not sure if you have heard this before but the country typically experiences a mini summer in early July where the rain lets up and the sun comes out more. The locals have their vacation that time of year to take advantage. Adding Osa would really round out your itinerary too, in terms of seeing a variety of landscapes and doing different activities. Some of the best snorkeling in Costa Rica is at Cano Islsnd near Drake Bay. Drake also has hiking, kayaking, tons of wildlife, and gorgeous beaches. Santa Teresa is nice too and would show you the tropical dry forest but to us it doesn’t compare to the Osa. Hope that helps!

  104. Jenn and Matt: Thanks so much for the great descriptions and advice on your website. I’ve spent alot of time reading alot of your tips. I want to go to CR for 3 months to “see it all!”, but unforunately, I think we will only have 7-9 days. I’ve been attempting to plan our 1st ever CR trip (myself, wife, and 11-year old son). We’re adventurous and wanted mountain/rainforest/hiking, wildlife, low-key and remote “eco-lodge” experiences, possibly an overnight raft-in/raft-out trip, ziplines, and a day on the beach somewhere towards the end — without breaking the bank. I think to be mobile, we’re going to have to rent a car. I don’t speak spanish (french and italian but no spanish) so I hope that’s OK. We’re flying our of either Boston or Hartford (we live in Vermont) into SJO (nothing booked yet) around Apr. 17/18, departing Apr. 26 and I’m trying to figure out how to make the most of our short time for our 1st ever trip there. I don’t want the watered-down touristy experience of Costa Rica. I want to see the real country, eat real CR food, culture etc. We’re pretty well-traveled, and usually I do all the planning myself.

    Just wondering what your thoughts are on the feasibility (and order) of some of the things I’ve hit upon that look interesting, and what order they should be done, and whether you have any other alternative suggestions

    – Rara Avis Eco-Lodge – the horse-back in and remoteness seems to be very much what I was looking for in experiencing CR, plus the food apparently they prepare is authentic (not like in a touristy resort restaurants)
    – overnight cave hike at Casa de Piedra – Diamante Falls
    – Rio Tropicale overnight rafting trip
    – Arenal Observatory or Arenal Resort & Spa (uncertain yet)
    – somewhere on the coast

    Somewhere along the way, we want to do some ziplining, night time jungle walks. We’d like a chance to see howlers and other monkeys, sloths, toucans, etc. So possibly a stop at Manuel Antonia.

    But, if you have ANY other ideas as replacements, and what’s close, or what’s a tourist trap, any advice would be appreciated!

    The Osa and Drake Bay and Sierpe areas looks SO awesome too, but we just don’t have the time (or money) to make that happen yet. We’re trying to keep this relatively affordable as well. There’s a ton of tour operators I’ve found (like PWT) that offer to book everything including tranfers, all hotels etc., but I’ve never gone through an operator like that before, and the prices look a bit higher than maybe what I can plan myself.

    Thank you!

  105. Hi Jenn and Matt,

    My husband and I have rented a house in Tamarindo for 2 weeks in February 2019. We are flying into Liberia and renting a car to take us to our rental property. We are active retirees in our 60’s and our daughter will be joining us for the last week. Could you give us some ideas about which places are within an easy drive of Tamarindo that we should see? I know that my daughter really wants to try ziplining. Any other pointers or suggestions for us would be greatly appreciated. I have just begun my research and was excited to find your website. Thanks so much!!

    1. Hi Kathie, You should definitely check out Playa Conchal, just north of Tamarindo. That’s a gorgeous beach with sand made of tiny crushed shells. It’s nice for swimming. Zip lining is available at a few different places in the area so you won’t have a problem with that. Sunset catamaran cruises are another nice tour. Some good day trips are Llanos de Cortez Waterfall and Rincon de la Vieja for hiking and volcanic features. You can get some more ideas using our Map. Have a great trip!

  106. Hi Jenn and Matt –

    This website is full of incredibly helpful information – thank you! We are a family of five (kids will be 13, 10, and 4) planning to travel to Costa Rica in August. Our vision right now is to fly into San Jose and head to La Fortuna for 5-6 nights and then head to Manuel Antonia for a few nights before flying back out of San Jose (We’d stay in a hotel near the airport the night before we fly out.). Our kids tend to do well on road trips, but because of the road conditions there, I’d like to get your opinion on this itinerary and how best to get around. Is there another stop we should add so we don’t miss anything special? Do you think we should we rent a car or just use shuttles? I’m mainly wondering what the road and drive is like from La Fortuna to MA. Thanks in advance for your help!

    1. Hi Rachel, If you’re comfortable driving, we usually recommend that for families since it gives you more freedom to go at your own pace. If you’re spending a lot of time in just a couple of destinations, it’s good too because you can go places easily on day trips. La Fortuna is more spread out so having a car is nice, and there are some great day trips to the south of Manuel Antonio that you need a car for. You can read more specific details about the routes you’ll take in our Road Conditions post, but those are not bad drives as long as you do them in the day time- really beautiful scenery too! Be sure to check out our Rental Car Discount if you do rent a car.

  107. Thanks for all the great info. If we plan to use a rental car to get to Manuel Antonio what would be our next best route to get to Drake Bay? I see we could drop off the rental in Uvita but not sure how to get from Uvita to Sierpe?

    1. Hi Sam, Through the company that we work with and get a discount through (Adobe Rent a Car), you can drop off the car in Sierpe. They will come from their nearest office (Uvita) to collect the car and do the paperwork. When you make the reservation, select Uvita for drop off and write in the notes that you would like the drop off to be the Sierpe docks. There is a charge for having different pick up and drop off locations (around $40). Depending on how long you’ll be in Drake, it might be worth it to keep the car parked in Sierpe so that you have it for after (unless you are planning on flying). Shuttles from Sierpe to San Jose are expensive (around $350).

  108. You mentioned that getting to Quepos area from Arenal is a bit long and suggested opting for “a shuttle, rent a car, or take a small plane.” My trip itinerary actually has me going from Quepos to Arenal. Any specific suggestions for shuttles, one way car rentals, small planes would be appreciated.

    1. Hi Amelia, Nice to hear from you again. Yes, it’s about 4.5 hours from Quepos to La Fortuna. We are not recommending small planes for this trip right now for a number of reasons, including that the airstrip in Quepos is currently closed for expansion so flights are being cancelled a lot. Your best options are renting a car (see our discount through Adobe Rent a Car or taking a shuttle). There is a fee for one-way rentals, but a car is nice to have because it gives you the freedom to stop and go as you please. It’s also nice to have a car in La Fortuna, which is more spread out. For shuttles, you have two options- shared, which are cheaper, run on set schedules, and take longer because they make stops for other passengers, or private shuttles. Private shuttles will pick you up at whatever time you choose, are for only your group, and include some time to stop along the way to see a quick attraction (e.g. Tarcoles River Bridge), get a snack, etc. Shared shuttles are around $45 per adult for this trip and private is around $290 for up to 5 people. If you would like help reserving transportation, just reply to this thread and we can send you an email. Thanks!

  109. So glad that we ran across your blog. Unfortunately I found it after securing our lodging in two areas. We are flying into Liberia and then heading south to Tamarindo area for a few days. We then plan to head back north and go north of Liberia to Rincón de la Vieja Volcano National Park area. Any info you can give us on road conditions in those areas, must eat at places, safety in those areas, etc… would be helpful. I saw your link for renting a car and plan to use your link to rent a car for the week that we will be there. We will be traveling with our 16 month old grandson also so any helpful tips in that area would be awesome also.

    1. Hi Cecelia, Those are also good spots to visit. For recommendations for Tamarindo, you can read our post about the town here. In Rincon, you should check out the national park. Many of the resorts there have fun onsite activities like horseback riding, zip lining, hot springs, and mud baths. If you have time, Llanos de Cortez Waterfall is also in the area and gorgeous. For safety, Tamarindo does have some petty theft. You can read our Safety post for tips on how to start safe.

      Finally, we have a whole article about traveling with a baby, now that we have a child of our own, so be sure to check that out. Thanks for renting your car through our site. You will want a car with higher clearance (4×4 is best) for Rincon. Car seats are free when you book through us too. Hope your family has a great trip!

  110. Great blog, Jenn and Matt! Super helpful. Question : I’m planning a 2-week trip to CR arriving on July 7th (SJO) with my wife and two active boys (10,12). I bought your book and got some ideas for an itinerary that seems to make sense below. Do I need to make any adjustments due to the weather/time of year? or add or subtract days at a particular location?

    Taking red-eye and arriving early to SJO (July 7)…head to La Fortuna straight away for 3 nights
    On day 4 head to Monteverde for 3 nights
    Then off to Manuel Antonio for 4 nights, then 3 nights in Drake Bay, Last night in Alajuela, back to US on noon flight from SJO (July 21)

    Thanks in advance!

    1. Hi Peter, Thanks for getting our book! That looks like a great itinerary. Those destinations offer a lot for kids your age. The breakdown of days makes sense too.

      July is rainy season but the country normally experiences a “mini summer” in early to mid July where the rains lessen quite a bit. So your trip could very well fall during that time. You still could have some rain in Drake Bay but we wouldn’t swap it for another destination if you want to go there. It’s still beautiful and you can do a lot even if it rains. Hope your family has a great trip! Let us know if you need any help making arrangements for tours. We know of some great activities for active kids in those towns and would be happy to help you with the bookings. Just email us at bookings(at)twoweeksincostarica(dot)com for more information.

  111. Hi Jenn and Matt,
    We booked a trip with our little one to Costa Rica this coming July, she will be just over 9 months old. My husband and I were very excited as we travelled to Costa Rica a few years back and have been just waiting on a chance to return. However we have become a bit doubtful that we are doing the right thing as the more we read, the more we realize that with rainy season the mosquito count is greater and therefore a greater chance of our baby contracting a disease. We also had a consultation with a doctor regarding immunization and she made us feel a bit guilty to bring her at this time. As you live in Costa Rica I think you are my best chance at understanding what I can expect during rainy season with a baby and would love if you can tell me how it really is? Also how do you protect your baby, are you constantly having to use a mosquito net and other methods even during the day/at the beach. Right now I am worrying and overthinking it, we are considering not going, but we do know that kids live in Costa Rica so must be manageable. Also apart from scheduled immunization would you consider other vaccines, early measles vaccine and Hep A have been recommended by the doctor. Sorry for the long message but would appreciate your thoughts.

    1. Hi Maria, The odds of anyone in your family contracting a mosquito-borne disease while you are here for a short trip is very low, especially if you take precautions to avoid bites. I think to know that already, though. Like you said, kids live here, women get pregnant, etc. and they are fine 99% of the time. The best defense to avoiding bites is to stay in a hotel/vacation rental that is completely sealed so that bugs can’t get inside (no open air rooms, look for good screens or AC). When you’re outside, put your baby in lightweight long pants and use repellent on exposed skin if you think you need to. That’s what we do with our son in rainy season. Pants are good because they keep the bugs off without having to lather up in repellent. If you can find something with tightly woven fabric, that’s the best for preventing bites. If you haven’t already seen them, check out our posts on Mosquitoes in Costa Rica, Clothing to Prevent Mosquito Bites, and Traveling with a Baby In Costa Rica. I’m sorry your doctor made you feel that way but try not to worry!

  112. Hi Jenn and Matt!
    First of, thanks for your great website, tips and information! I’ll definitely book the car through you, and follow lots of recommendations, so thank you!!!
    I’ll be traveling to CR from the 22 of July with my boyfriend and my 5 year old son.
    We live in the south of chile, so we have volcanoes, lots of green and forests, but a looong winter, really cold and rainy… It is my son’s first travel out of Chile, so I want him to experience different stuff, and specially, things we dont have around here… so I’d like to focus on beaches (here the water is freezing even in the summer) and wildlife. My boyfriend loves outdoor activities, and I want to see it all, but dont want to be so many hours in the car, so my itinerary has come down to basically montezuma (3) and santa teresa (3)…
    Until yesterday, my plan was:
    Arrive to San José and start driving south towards Uvita, by the mountains… spend the night on the road in the middle of the way… next morning arrive to Uvita and stay there for a night or 2. Then drive up north through the coast, spend 2 night in Manuel Antonio. After that take the ferry and spend 3 nights in Montezuma or Santa Teresa and then head back… If we spare an extra night would like to go to Monteverde, but I was reading is hard to get there to go for just a night…
    That was it until yesterday…
    Then I read some awful comments on Manuel Antonio being packed with turists and compared to Disneyland or Luna Park :/ So kind of took that out (but Im not sure coz I also read amazing comments! Its weird!)
    Then Uvita was kind of far, without Manuel Antonio in between, and also more rainy in the season I’ll be there… so took I read Montezuma and Sta Teresa, though they are close, the vibe is different and they both offer lots of things to do, so maybe I was thinking just spending more days over there, that way we save long roadtrips (boring for my kid), and can move around there…
    If I’d to this… would you recommend me to take the ferry both times? (I mean to get there and get back?) Or I was thinking maybe less days in the peninsula and give manuel antonio a chance, and then take the ferry in jacó to montezuma (is it possible? or just water taxi from there? because our idea is to rent a car)
    The more I read, the more confused I am :O
    Best regards,

    1. Hi Maria, If you want to limit the amount of driving, we’d probably skip Uvita since it’s farther from San Jose and the other places you want to visit. Manuel Antonio can be busy during certain times of year like Christmas, New Years, and early on in high season (Jan/Feb), but late July usually isn’t too bad. There will be other tourists around of course, but it doesn’t feel congested then and definitely not like Disneyland 🙂 Manuel Antonio has a lot to do, nice beaches, and a lot of wildlife that your son will really like. It’s easy to see monkeys, sloths, etc. right around town and you can see even more in the national park.

      If you’ll have a car, you’ll need to take the Puntarenas Ferry to get to the Nicoya Peninsula because you can’t take a car on the boat taxi that leaves form Jaco (it’s just a small boat). The drive to Puntarenas isn’t bad, though. Then you can hit Montezuma and Santa Teresa, which we think you will really like based on what you’ve said you’re looking for. Be sure to check out our Rental Car Discount for the car. We get 10% off, a free second driver, and free booster seats if your son needs one. Hope your family has a great trip!

  113. Hi! My husband and I just book flights to Costa Rica in July for 15 days. Your 2 week itinerary sounds perfect for what we are looking at getting out of the trip.
    The one place we want to visit that wasn’t mentioned is the Monteverde Cloud Forest reserve. Just wondering where in the itinerary would be the best place to add it in to help keep travel times to a minimum, and the best mode of transportation for that duration of the trip. Thanks!

  114. Hi Jenn and Matt,

    First, thanks for all the great info – so helpful! We (wife and three kids 18-24) are planning a trip June 18th for 7-10 days for Drake Bay and looking at taking boat ride up Rio Sorrow to get there. What would be the best jump off point on Rio to do that? Does rain season cause complications for this approach? Final question, would you recommend flying into San Jose and driving to jump off point for boat?



    1. Hi Brian, Our Drake Bay post covers how to get to Drake on the boat taxi from Sierpe so be sure to check that out. Your best option in the rainy season is to take the 11:30 am boat since rain is more likely in the afternoon. Yes, San Jose is the closest airport. It will be hard to make it in time for the 11:30 boat so most people stay for a night or two somewhere along the way like Manuel Antonio. Then get an early start the next morning. You can rent a car and leave it parked in Sierpe while you’re in Drake inexpensively. Be sure to check out our rental car discount if you do rent a vehicle.

  115. Hi Jenn and Matt!
    We will be traveling to CR on July 22nd to august 4th, with 2 kids ( 5 and 9); as we don’t have driving license, would you recommend to stay 3-4 days first on Cahuita and then move to Monteverde in the same day? We’d like to take part of this itinerary you mention, maybe avoiding the southest Corcovado.
    Kids are very confortable by buses.
    Thank you

    1. Hi Sara, With 12 nights and younger kids, we would recommend doing 3 destinations max. Then you’ll have about 4 nights in each place or slightly less depending on your flight times and if you need airport stays. Cahuita to Monteverde in one day is probably too ambitious. It’s a 7+ hour drive (in a car) because you’re going from one side of the country to the other and the drive to Monteverde is slow due to rough roads. Shuttles would be a similar duration and the public bus would be much longer. You could do Cahuita to La Fortuna much easier in a day. Then from there, Manuel Antonio would make a good loop. Yes, we’d avoid Drake Bay so that you’re not driving around too much.

  116. This is so helpful. Thank you. We just decided last night to spend 14 days in Costa Rica next March, having changed our minds from Colombia. I may hit you up with one or two questions as we start to plan our trip proper, if you don’t mind. But as a starting point this is great. Thanks so much.

  117. Hi,
    My husband and I are thinking of going to Costa Rica for the Christmas holiday, for two weeks. We are empty nesters, ages 58 and 67.
    My question is, considering we are seniors, what is the best way to see Costa Rica, inexpensively? Where should we start our trip and end our trip, to get the most out of seeing the area in two week period? My husband can’t really do any hiking. Can you give us a suggested itinerary of where to stay, what activities to do, whether to rent a car or not, tours and tour guides to take us around; all on a budget?
    Thank you,
    Rose and Bill Greenman

    1. Hi Rose, The best resource for you is our book, Top 10 Costa Rica Itineraries. That has ten different itineraries that you can choose from. A lot of it will depend on if you want to drive or not. Affordable shared shuttles connect major destinations but not some smaller ones. Here’s the link to our book on Amazon. Otherwise, we could help you in a more personalized way through our Customized Itinerary Service.

  118. Hi Jenn and Matt,

    Thanks so much for all the great info about Costa Rica! We bought your book “Top 10 Costa Rica Itineraries” and it’s been really helpful in planning our trip this December with our two children, 11 and 13. We’re arriving in San Jose on the Dec. 19th and, right now, have a flight back from Guanacaste on the Jan 3rd. We could change the flight if needed since we booked with points, and have been considering changing it to fly out of San Jose. We have a bunch of Marriott points that we want to use at the JW Marriott Guanacaste, so plan on staying there over Christmas (from Dec 22-26). Our itinerary looks like this right now: Arrive early in the morning in San Jose (stay overnight),
    Drive to Arenal/La Fortuna and stay 20-22
    Drive to Guanacaste and stay from 20-27
    Drive to Samara and stay 27 to 29
    ?? from 29 to 3rd (leave from Guanacaste or San Jose?)
    I think that’s a lot of driving, but wanted to get your opinion. I’ve been reading through this blog post, also, and Manuel Antonio and Drake Bay also sound amazing, as well as the Santa Elena Cloud Cover. I was hoping you could give us a little direction on if this sounds too busy and if there’s another location you’d recommend for the last part of our trip.

    Thanks so much!
    Sandy and Devin

    1. Hi Sandy and Devin, Glad that our book has been helpful! You’re off to a great start with the planning. What you have makes a lot of sense. Some suggestions- we’d recommend adding a night in Samara and taking off one night in your last destination. Two nights is a little too rushed. For the 4th destination, you could try somewhere that will be different from everywhere else you will have been. Bijagua is a good option and you could keep your flight out of Liberia. It’s backtracking a bit from Samara, but not too bad. Check out our post about Bijagua but it has the beautiful Rio Celeste Waterfall and is smaller so won’t feel as crowded as some other destinations. Manuel Antonio is great too but will be really congested from the 30th to 3rd. Drake Bay is too out of the way for the itinerary you have planned. Another option is the Rio Perdido resort near Miravalles Volcano. It’s kind of in the middle of nowhere but is a beautiful spot and the resort has plenty to do on site. Monteverde is an option too, but it’s quite far from both airports. Hope that helps!

  119. Hello Jenn and Matt!
    Thanks for all the great info! We just committed to 10 days in CR (January) and are super excited. Family of four (7 and 11 yr old kids). We chose to fly into Liberia. We intended on beach time in Guanacaste (Nosara likely), but the family is split and are trying to figure out rainforest (monteverde) and Volcano options. Also, everyone is excited about a chocolate tour… We are open to driving (rental car), but would also be ok with shuttle. Any info would be helpful for a 10 day itinerary incorporating beach/rainforest/chocolate – keeping kids in mind. Thank you so much!

    1. Hi Cody, You could get some good ideas from our book, Top 10 Costa Rica Itineraries. The Family chapter actually goes to Nosara and La Fortuna, which has a couple of great options for chocolate tours. La Fortuna has rainforest too. With ten days, we’d focus on 2 or a max of 3 destinations. Nosara, Monteverde, and La Fortuna could work with that amount of time. Hope that helps!

  120. Great blog and site! It’s easy to read and makes me feel very comfortable with the decision to visit CR! I will be volunteering in San Jose for a week starting 09/10, and then staying for another week for vacation (possibly longer). I saw the 2 week guide, but was wondering if you could provide general information on areas to visit within one week, without a car. Its too late for your planning services, so hoping for a little guidance. I prefer a nice beach town (activities, good food, and culture) and also a place with lots of greenery, hiking, exploring! Thank you!

  121. Hi Matt and Jenn,
    We are traveling to CR for 2 weeks (Nov 24 – Dec 8th) arriving in Liberia and traveling back home from San Jose. We are traveling with our 2 kids age 9 and 6 and my brother and his wife. Can you suggest some areas to stay in. We’d prefer adventures at the beginning of the trip and narrowing it down to beaches and relaxing towards the latter half of the trip. Any tips and advice would be great! Your website is fabulous!!

  122. Hi

    Love the site – so informative though from a quick glance at the 2 week itinerary and comments I can’t seem to see much mention of Tortuguero. Planning on a 2 week visit next July/ August and would be good to get your views on the practicalities of including this in the plan ( I guess at the expense of Drake and osa)

    1. Hi Graham, With 2 weeks, we usually recommend just one remote destination so this sample itinerary goes to Drake Bay, which we prefer personally. If you’d rather visit Tortuguero, that’s a great choice too, especially in July/August since that’s green sea turtle nesting season. Our book Top 10 Costa Rica Itineraries actually has a 2-week itinerary (the Wildlife itinerary) that includes Tortuguero so you could check that out.

  123. Love all your information. We are fly into San Jose in January and spending the night. Then we are going to Arenal for two nights than to Puerto Vieja. We only have 9 days total. Do we need a 4×4 for these drives. The rafting to the Caribbean sounded exciting but we are in our 60’s and have never done it but love water(not surfing) What do you suggest?

    1. Hi Linda, You won’t need 4×4 for those drives unless you plan on doing some exploring in the Arenal area (e.g. to Rio Celeste Waterfall). The main roads are all paved and in good condition.

      The rafting trip that gets you from Arenal to Puerto Viejo along the Sarapiqui River is a really fun way to travel. We work with a company that will let you do either the Class III-IV portion of the river or the easier Class II-III. We’ve done the Class II-III trip ourselves and it was a lot of fun. It was Jenn’s first time rafting and she loved it and wasn’t too scared. Let us know if you’d like us to send you more information about the company we go through.

  124. Hi Jenn and Matt,

    Such a great website. Thank you! It has helped so much with my planning. The hard part is choosing what to do! I have finally decided on this itinerary over Christmas, although slightly condensed into 11 days.

    Wanted to ask – how frequent/reliable is public transport on Christmas Day itself? I’m travelling alone so don’t feel comfortable driving and will be on a budget. I will be making the journey from MA to Osa Peninsula on Christmas Day as I have a Corcovado tour on the 26th. Should I try to arrive in Osa a day earlier? I know there’s a few connections that I’d need from MA (bus to Quepos, bus to Golfito, ferry to Puerto Jimenez) so just concerned it might be a bit painful on Christmas Day! My tour through Corcovado National Park will then take me to Drake Bay which I will then head back to SJO from.


    1. Hi Yvonne, Buses generally run as normal on Christmas Day because the locals rely heavily on them to get around. But since you have a lot of connections to get from MA to Puerto Jimenez, we’d recommend making the trip the day before just in case you run into any glitches with timing the transfers.

  125. Hi there, so enjoying reading this. Best blog I’ve found and will buy the book too. But I have several specific questions since it seems like you’ve updated your information and recommendations over the years (esp about the small planes). My family of 5 w teenage children is headed to CR in August for two weeks. We are spending the second week without good friends who live in Flamingo Beach. Right now, we are flying into San Jose and want to spend a week experiencing the more adventurous parts of CR, hiking, zip lining, rafting, and seeing the unique ecology and wildlife since the second week will be getting r and r at the beach. We are physically hearty but do not love spending hours and hours of vacation days in the car. My thought was to spend 3-4 days is Manuel Antonio and then where? Would love Osa but it seems too far and driving or flying back to SJ and then getting all the way over to Flamingos Beach feels too complicated. I had thought we should go from Manuel Antonio to 3/4 days in Arenal and Monteverde, but our friends said they were tourist traps and to steer clear. Would really love your advice here. We have never been to CR and maybe a touristy destination is ok, or maybe there’s a better coupling with Manuel Antonio for first week before heading to Flamingo? Welcome any suggestions or help with itinerary. Thank you.

    1. Hi Ashley, If you don’t want to spend a lot of time in the car, La Fortuna and Monteverde are probably your best options. They are more touristy, but they are popular for a reason since they have a lot of awesome activities, including all the ones on your list. I wouldn’t say they are tourist traps by any means. If you stay outside the main area of La Fortuna, you will be surrounded by rainforest and there are plenty of smaller hotels that won’t feel too busy, especially in August. I wouldn’t recommend the Osa or Caribbean coast due to travel time because they are so far from Playa Flamingo. Hope that helps give you some direction!

  126. Adventurous family of four (kids age 11) planing to travel to CR for the first time in late summer (July/Aug) for 12-14 days. Airports have not been chosen but I think we would like to visit Arenal and Monteverde. For the coastal/beach portion of our trip I am undecided between somewhere in Guanacaste egion/Nicoya peninsula versus Manuel Antonio. Plan to do most of our adventures/excursions while in Arenal and Monteverde, For nice beaches, a nice hotel or vrbo rental with pool (close to ocean), near a vibrant walkable town with a good vibe, unique shops and good restaurants should we wrap-up our trip in Guanacaste or Manuel Antonio? I do plan on renting a car to drive between destinations

    1. Hi Scott, Guanacaste has more options for hotels and vacation rentals that are within walking distance to the beach. In Manuel Antonio, most are set on the hill so about a 5-10 min. drive away. Guanacaste is typically busier but shouldn’t be too bad in late July/early August. Hope that helps!

  127. Is there anything you can share about Cabuya? We will be staying at Los Carcoles mid-February for about three weeks. This is close to Montezuma and in the province of Puntarenas.

    Thank you

  128. Hi – thanks for a great blog. We a family of five going to CR 16 days in July. We have the option of a round trip from San Jose or flying in to Liberia and out of San Jose. No two option is slightly more expensive. The bucket list yoga, surf, waterfalls, rainforest, Atv, volcanos and diving. Will we get better sights up north and maybe save some driving? Is it less crowded up there or same all over? Where is the best place for seeing turtles and finding a nice boattrip? What would you recommend?

    1. Hi Kim, The advantage of flying into Liberia is that it gets you closer to Guanacaste, if you wanted to go there. This area is more developed in general but does have some things on your list like yoga and surfing. For seeing turtles, your best option is Playa Ostional near Nosara in Guanacaste or Tortuguero on the northern Caribbean coast. You could do either option for airports really. I think I’d recommend figuring out exactly where you want to go first and then committing to the plane tickets.

  129. Hi, many thanks for this great blog. We are planning a 10-11 day trip in mid-August with two yound children (3 and 7 years old). We will be staying one week in Manuel Antonio after landing in SJO and are looking to visit another spot in addition to Manuel Antonio for a 3 day stop. Given the time of the year, we will skip the drake bay suggested in your itinerary. I was thinking of traveling to Arenal from Manuel Antonio but am concerned about the rain as I read that it is much more heavy rain than on in Manuel Antonio in August. Travelling to the Nicoya peninsula using the ferry looks very attractive (especially Nosara and Samara) but I am concerned that it is two much roads for the kids. What do you think? Where would be the most attractive for us to travel from Manuel Antonio to end our trip before returning home? Also, do you recommend that we rent a car to move around Manuel Antonio for day trips? I the 4X4 needed there and to drive to Arenal? Thanks in advance for your help!

    1. Hi Celine, The weather in the Arenal area doesn’t follow the typical patterns so August is usually less rainy so that’s a good option if it appeals to you. It is a great destination with young children. Samara would be another good choice – we often recommend it to families because the ocean is calmer and it’s convenient to get around since the town is set up near the beach. It’s not too much of a drive from Manuel Antonio to Samara and then on to San Jose. We did it with our son when he was a baby. For a car, you don’t necessarily need one for Manuel Antonio since there is a lot to do there and tours usually include transportation, but it can be more convenient with young kids because of car seats (tour companies do not usually provide them since they are not required to by law). You don’t need a 4×4 to travel to Arenal unless you’re planning on exploring on back roads. Hope that helps!

      1. Thank you Jenn and Matt for taking the time to respond. Your recommendations are highly appreciated. And thank you for this great blog. I definitely intend to purchase your book.

      2. Hi Jenn & Matt,

        Really enjoyed reading your blog, great advice so thank you! My boyfriend and I are considering a 2 week trip to Costa Rica next year, please could you let me know when is the best time of year to avoid rain? We are thinking perhaps December.. do you know what the weather is like at this time?

        Also, do you have any idea of a rough budget for 2 weeks in Costa Rica excluding flights, but including medium range accommodation, car rental, all other costs etc?

        Many thanks,


  130. Jenn and Matt, wow thanks! We went to Costa Rica 23 years ago on our honeymoon and now we are taking our 12, and 16 year old there in June. the trip is 14days(but that includes the flight in and out days, so really 12 vacay days). I knew we wanted to do Arenal and Manuel Antonio again but debating on the third location so your blog was perfect. Only concern is that its rainy season, would you still choose Corcovado as the third location in rainy season? Or opt for a different one? We are looking forward to the hot springs in Arenal/the waterfall La fortuna /I loved the idea of the water taxi to Corcovado. My daughter loves to study animals, so I thought a rehabilitation center/area with lots of wildlife would be great. I’ll definitely check out the car rental through you and the itinerary book, and if you have tours to suggest we would love to use your services.

    1. Hi Gretchen,
      How fun to do a return trip 20 years later! We think you will find that a lot has changed but some things will be the same, like how nice the locals are.

      June is early in the rainy season so we think it would be totally fine to still do Drake Bay and Corcovado. If your daughter is into animals, Corcovado is a must. We have a lot of ideas for tours for your family. We know of some great options for wildlife rehab centers in La Fortuna and Manuel Antonio and have some other things in mind that would be good with a 12 and 16 year old. If you’d like help choosing and booking tours, please contact us through our Tour Booking Service page (LINK). Thanks!

  131. Hello and thank you for this great blog, we’ve read lots of it. We made our itinerary (2 adults + 9y & 13y) as: Arenal/Fortuna 3 nights, Monteverde 3 nights, Manuel Antonio 4 nights, Puerto Jimenez 5 nights. Is that too much time in Osa or M.Antonio? Thank you again!!

      1. Thank you, just coming back from the trip. We did (family of 4, 9y old and 13 y old):
        . 1 night in Alejua upon arrival
        . 3 nights Fortuna
        . 3 nights Monteverde
        . 3 nights Manuel Antonio
        . 4 nights Puerto Jimenez
        . 1 night close to Los Quetzales
        . 1 night San Jose to catch a very early flight
        overall I would not change a thing except the precise location in Fortuna (we stayed just south close to the waterfall, should have stayed west close to volcano).

        Rented the large Montero 4×4 and so glad I did. The car they gave me initially was bad, I requested another one, that one had electronics issues, and finally the 3rd car worked, but wasted a precious 4 hrs. Adobe was nice about it but watch that the car condition is not to the standards we have in the US. Btw driving in San Jose is quite an experience – would compare that to driving in Boston or in Paris, you just have to be an aggressive driver and be 100% focused on the road, eg watch for those driving against (happens in California too just be on your guard). The pavement condition is overall very good – better than in San Francisco! – but the markings are not good and watch for those 4ft gutters at night. Also be mindful that you can drive for hours without gas stations so be more conservative than at home to fill up your tank.

        Overall people are very nice, cell signal is everywhere (again compared to California coverage you’ll be amazed how better costa rica is), tap water won’t make you sick, there are restrooms available everywhere, stores stay open late. The cost of things is quite high (about 30% less than San Francisco, and equivalent to Texas more or less). As a reference an espresso will be about $2 ($1.75-$2.50), diners for 4 was about $55, lunch $35 – food is delicious although we quickly got fed up with the ‘typico’ meals. We slept for about $80-$110 a night for about *** hotels with breakfast. Nothing super fancy but clean, AC, pool, with parking, etc. I used airline points for our arrival and departure nights in San Jose to save money from the kids accounts as points never quite are enough for flights when you want them 😉

        Overall this was an outstanding vacation that I would recommend to anyone. Our trip was for those who want to explore and not a ‘do nothing’ vacation.

        Thanks again for your website that helped us plan and set our expectations!

  132. Hello. great suggestions. We will be spending our fist week in CR over Xmas week at the Osa Verde Conservation center in the Corcovado/matapalo biological corridor with my extended family. We will fly in and out of Puerto Jiminez. I then plan to spend 10-14 days with my 18 & 20 yeasr olds and my husband. I am interested in white water rafting in Saraquipi and visiting Tortuguera and the caribbean cost and then arenal/fortuna. do you think that is too much to cover. I was planning to skip Manuel Antonio since it will be crowded over xmas break. How would you suggest we do it all? thanks, Audrey

    1. Hi Audrey, If your plan is to fly back to San Jose after Puerto Jimenez, that will work well for visiting the Caribbean coast. Then you could head to Sarapiqui, Tortuguero, and end on the southern Caribbean. This would work well with 10-14 days because it’s all Caribbean focused. Let us know if you’d like any help booking your tours. We know of a great operator in Sarapiqui for rafting.

  133. Hi. We are thinking of doing a family trip in January to Costa Rica. We have been looking at the Uvita/Dominical area. Is that area safe for families and would you recommend it? We don’t speak Spanish and we have kids from 17-10 years of age. We are wanting both jungle and beach experiences without a lot of driving. We would love to hike, river raft, snorkel, and have beach time. It seems like that area has a little of all the activities we are wanting but I’ve read some reviews about it being unsafe. Any info would be great!

    1. Hi Nicole, The Uvita area is wonderful and it does have all those activities you mention. It’s great for jungle and beach and feels super lush even in January. Unfortunately, there have been some incidents of crime there lately, but we still consider it fairly safe if you follow the usual precautions (see our Safety post here). Mainly, we don’t recommend visiting isolated beaches, and if you get a vacation rental, make sure it has decent security and always lock it up. Hope that helps!

  134. Two weeks in Costa Rice Jun/July 2020. I have been considering this exact itinerary – Arenal, Manual Antonio, Drake Bay. Picked Jun/July because our 12yo kids will be out school and we can travel longer. Flying in and out of SJO. Renting a car. Do you recommend starting this itinerary in Arenal or can it be done staring in Drake Bay too? I have heard rumors of two week break or slow down in the rain in mid- July. Should we go then or does it not really matter versus traveling at the end of Jun or early July

    1. Hi John, There is often a “mini summer”/veranito in early July, but it’s the weather, so you never know of course. If you can arrange it so that you are in Drake Bay during those first two weeks of July, that would maximize your odds for good weather. It’s fine to start the itinerary there and work backwards. You will just have the long drive at the beginning but could break it up with an overnight somewhere on the way like Dominical/Uvita to see another area.

  135. I have read both your books and am seriously considering I am considering Costa Rica for an early April 2020 trip. We like hiking, seeing wildlife, short to half-day boat cruises, and beaches or hot springs for 2-3 hour visits later in the day when sun is less strong. We are not interested in zip-lining, white water, etc. I’m struggling with including a variety since this might be our only trip to CR vs leaving enough time to appreciate each area. We will be 68 and 70 by the trip, healthy and reasonably active. Will drive or use private transport, will get guides at least one day in MA and probably also Arenal area.

    Plan 1:
    1 night near San Jose CR airport, following long flight from SF Bay Area OR if arrive early enough head straight to first destination.
    4 nights La Fortuna/Arenal
    4 nights Manuel Antonio
    1 night likely needed near San Jose airport before departure

    Plan 2:
    1 night near San Jose CR airport, following long flight from SF Bay Area
    3 nights La Fortuna/Arenal
    2 nights Monte Verde (to spend one day on a cloud forest tour, probably Santa Elena, and any other activities that fit)
    3 nights Manuel Antonio
    1 night likely needed near San Jose airport before departure, or if not, add to MA

    Plan 3:
    Other suggested visit of same length to less touristed sites that still allow for diverse ecosystems.

    Thanks for your insight.

    1. Hi Barbara, It looks like the main difference between the itineraries is Monteverde. Monteverde has some nice hikes and the chance to see interesting birds and plants, but if you didn’t include it, you would have more time in each town to appreciate the area. It’s hard for us to say whether you should include it, or whether you should go to some other lesser known areas, without knowing more about your specific preferences. If you’d like, we could work with you to design a custom itinerary. Here’s the link to our page about that service. Thanks!

  136. Hi Jenn and Matt, we are planning a 7-8 day trip to costa rica with our 2 and half year old. Is it safe to travel with toddler in costa rica?

  137. thank you, your website is proving invaluable. We are planning next summer with kids age 15 and 11. We are tied to uk summer holidays so will be late july/ august for 2 weeks. We will fly into SJO, Eldest is desperate to see turtles so was thinking Torteugo for a couple of nights , then Arenal area for 4 nights then beach. have been recommended to go as north as possible to get the best weather, but most of the ‘tours’ / agents have you going to Manual Antonia. Certainly a lot easier to get back to the airport in San Jose but concerned it will be 3-4 days in the rain. Alternatively could break trip back from north west coast to SJO with a night in Monteverde, but not sure 1 night is sufficient to do it justice.

    1. Hi Clare, Guanacaste is good in late July/August but so is Manuel Antonio. Manuel Antonio usually doesn’t get too rainy until mid August or sometimes later, so you should go to whichever place is more appealing. We wouldn’t recommend a stopover in Monteverde if you choose Guanacaste because like you said, one night isn’t really enough time. It’s not a horrible drive to do all at once anyway, just plan on an overnight before your flight. We also offer a custom itinerary service where we could provide more in depth help. Hope that helps!

  138. Hello Jane and Matt..Thanks for replying. We are travelling through a travel company (since we dont have time to do the planning 🙁 ) they are suggesting bajos del toro(2 nights), rio celeste(3 nights) and playa hermosa(2 nights). we love wild life and bird watching and hitting beach to keep my toddler happy..what do you think about the itinerary?

    1. Hi Karuna, That isn’t the itinerary we’d suggest when traveling with little ones but it’s hard for us to say without knowing more about what exactly you’re interested in. Playa Hermosa in Guanacaste is a good beach with kids. But for the other destinations, I think we’d recommend somewhere with more kid-friendly hikes and nature opportunities. We also offer a custom itinerary service and are a travel agency so let us know if you’d like us to help with the planning. Thanks!

  139. Firstly, your website is amazing! secondly, I am planning a 17 day trip and after a lot of research was thinking SJO > Manuel Antonio > Arenal > Tamarindo > SJO
    Would it be quicker / better to do this in a different order? Thanks so much in advance.

    1. Hi Steph, That order works fine. The only downside of the itinerary is that Tamarindo is a little far from San Jose. If you could fly out of Liberia instead, you’d be driving a lot less.

  140. Hi Guys, your site is a lifesaver! We are a 2 adults and 2 kids aged 6 and 8 and we’ll be travelling in CR for just over 3 weeks in March/April 2020. We’ve worked out an itinerary but we’re hoping that we are not trying to squeeze too much in. We will be driving (using your discount code!).

    Does this sound reasonable:

    1 night San Jose (our flight arrives in the evening)
    3 nights Manzanillo
    3 nights Tortuguero
    3 nights Uvita
    4 nights Drake Bay
    3 nights Manuel Antonio
    3 nights Monteverde
    4 nights La Fortuna
    2 nights Sarapiqui

    Any particular highlights you would recommend or changes to this route?

    1. Hi Vinny, Thanks for renting a car through our site! Your itinerary looks good but we’d recommend a reordering. This is assuming you’re also flying out of SJO.

      Uvita is too far from Tortuguero to make it one day with the boat ride, so you would need a stop over or to rearrange your destinations. You could do: San Jose to Manzanillo/Puerto Viejo to Tortuguero to Sarapiqui to La Fortuna to Monteverde to Uvita (this is a longer drive but there are some good stops on the wasy to break it up) to Drake Bay and end in Manuel Antonio. There are probably other permutations but that order would prevent really long drives and doesn’t cut out anything. Hope that helps!

  141. Hi Jenn and Matt,
    loving your blog so far as I’m starting to get intrigued about the idea of going to Costa Rica in the Spring!
    Have some cheap tickets in my sights for end of April & beginning of May (about 25/4 – 9/5) – from what you guys have posted it seems like a good balance between avoiding the crowds, getting enough sun, but also getting the jungle green with some rain, right?
    Just wondering on this itinerary – would you say it’s suitable for a solo traveler in his mid-20s? Doable by buses and shuttles without renting a car? If any, which parts would you swap out with that in mind? Does it make sense perhaps to stay in San Juan for a night extra for the going out scene?
    Secondly, any additions/changes you can think of for fluent Spanish speakers who want to get an authentic experience if possible?
    Lastly, and this is perhaps a larger worry than the rest: It seems like a lot of the fun stuff there is to do in CR (tours of natural parks, ziplining, diving, etc.) is great for groups but harder/pricier to do individually – do you think there’s enough of a solo traveler scene that I’d be able to group up with people ad-hoc for these experiences?
    Thanks so much and keep up the good work, best of luck!

    1. Hi Adam, This itinerary would be a good option for traveling solo and taking the bus or shared shuttles. Getting from Manuel Antonio to Drake Bay is a little tricky but there is both a bus and shuttle option from MA to Sierpe and then you’d take the boat from Sierpe to Drake Bay. You could add a stop in the Dominical/Uvita area before Drake Bay for something more authentic/off-the-beaten path. Dominical gets a lot of solo travelers. San Jose does have some fun bars so you could add on a night there and stay in downtown if you wanted. End of April is a good time to come for all the reasons you said and some things will be cheaper.

      For tours, you can still do the same things as long as the tour is opened, meaning the operator has enough people signed up already on the day you want to do it. This doesn’t take much as most tours have a 2 person minimum so then you would just pay the regular per person rate.

      Hope that helps! Best of luck with the rest of your planning.

  142. Hi Matt and Jenn

    We have come across your very helpful website – we have booked flights to CR for next February for 2 weeks.

    I cannot find any mention of seeing crocodiles on the Tarcoles river – what are your views on this ?

    many thanks

    Mark and Bridget Steward (UK)

    1. Hi Mark and Bridget, Yes, we definitely recommend stopping at the Tarcoles River to see the giant crocs that live below. You can also take a boat ride to see them closer up from the town of Tarcoles. We’ve done this tour and loved it. Here’s a link to our post about it. They also have secure parking so you can do it on the way to a destination.

  143. Hello,
    My wife and I will be going to Costa Rica for 9 nights in late February. We are planning on staying in Arenal and Manuel Antonio for 4 nights each. Do you guys think we should stay in Arenal and Manuel Antonio for 3-4 nights and spend 1-2 nights in Monteverde?
    Thank you!

  144. Love your blog! We have 9 full days in CR (flying in and out of SJO). We have 2 teen boys. Was thinking of doing Manuel Antonio (is 3 nights enough), then Arenal (4 nights) and 2 nights at the Peace Lodge. Do you have any thoughts on the Peace Lodge? Would that be a good place to stay, or should we check out another spot? Also, would we be able to drive from Peace Lodge to SJO at 5 am? Our flight leaves at 8 am. Wasn’t sure if that was cutting it too close. Would love to hear any recommendations you have. This is our first trip out of the country and we are very excited!

    1. Hi Kelli, That sounds like a good itinerary with 2 teen boys. 3 nights in Manuel Antonio is enough time. The Peace Lodge is a great spot – it’s higher altitude so the environment is interesting and will be different from the other places you will be visiting. If you have extra time after you do the Waterfall Gardens, you could visit the nearby Catarata del Toro (waterfall).

      If your flight leaves at 8 am, you should aim to be at the airport by 5 am (current recommendations call for arriving 3 hours in advance) so we’d recommend staying somewhere closer to the airport for that last night, or taking a shuttle.

      Feel free to contact us through our Tour Booking Service page if you’d like help arranging some fun adventures. We also have an Activities Guide to Manuel Antonio. Hope your family has a great trip!

  145. Thanks for such a great website. Have you reviewed any of the language schools in Costa Rica? We are coming for two weeks with kids in high and middle school, and we hoped to spend one week learning Spanish in one of the schools. It’s hard to figure out the quality of the school (without breaking the bank) combined with a good location/area for a family to stay for the first half of the trip. Any thoughts?

  146. Hi, I am trying to plan a 2 week trip from the UK with my family (10, 6 & 3) and wonder what changes to the above itinerary you would suggest? We are pretty adventurous and active. Any help much appreciated.

    1. Hi Daniel, This is a great itinerary for an active, adventurous family since you can do high adrenaline activities like whitewater rafting, waterfall rappelling, ATV, jungle hikes, zip lining, etc. from Manuel Antonio and La Fortuna. You could also add Monteverde since there is a lot to do there with kids those ages – lots of great wildlife exhibits, hanging bridges, etc.

  147. Hi Jenn and Matt
    What a helpful blog this is, thanks a lot for this!

    We are a Belgian family of 4 travelling to CR over Xmas with our 2 boys of 8 and 10 yrs old. We love the outdoors and some good adventure, and our youngest has had CR on his wishlist for a while so he’s very excited about our upcoming trip.

    We will have 16 full days to spend, not counting the days of arrival and departure (arriving 17 December and flying it on 3 January).

    Our plan would be to base ourselves in 3 hubs from where to explore the area:
    1. La Fortuna (5 nights)
    2. Manuel Antonio (5 nights)
    3 Drake Bay (4 nights)
    Then back to San José (2 nights)

    We intend to hire a car for our trip. However am trying to figure out the best way to organise the last part, from Manuel Antonio to Drake Bay and then back to San José.

    One option is to leave the car parked in Sierpe and then drive back to San José but am wondering whether that’s not going to be too long a day of travel.
    Another option could be to drop off the car (do rental companies allow that without adding a ridiculous amount to the rental fee?) and then fly back to San José.
    Flying however doesn’t seem to be recommended?

    What would be your advice?
    Any further advice on the above itinerary would be great!


    1. Hi Fem, Glad our site has been helpful! That looks like a really good plan. It will show you a nice mix of the country and won’t be too rushed.

      Yes, we don’t recommend small planes right now for reliability reasons. It is a long drive back to San Jose from Sierpe, but it’s not horrible. That’s what we usually recommend for people. You can take the early morning boat taxi from Drake and get back to Sierpe before 9 am to pick up your rental car and get on the road. There are some good stops you can do to break up the drive. You could stop for lunch on the beach either in Playa Hermosa just south of Jaco or on Playa Herradura at a restaurant called El Pelicano. Some of the Playa Hermosa restaurants are right on the sand, so it’s a really nice break. Those are right off the highway too.

      In case you haven’t seen it, here’s a link to our rental car discount page. We work with a great company here and our readers get 10% off their rates, plus other things like a free second driver and booster seats if you need any for your boys. Hope that helps and that you all have a wonderful trip! Costa Rica is great for kids!

      1. Thanks for the reply.
        When checking the link to Adobe it seems there is no discount applied (I don’t see the “Welcome to two weeks in Costa Rica” either). Checked with the usual rates and they’re the same.
        Any suggestions on how to make this work?

        1. Thanks for bringing this to our attention. We tested the widget on our page and it is working fine on desktop but not mobile. We think that Adobe must have done an update to their mobile site and that caused a problem. We have contacted them and it should be resolved soon. In the meantime, it should work for you on desktop. If you have any problems, please email us at info(at)twoweeksincostarica(dot)com. We could always get a manual quote for you if needed. Very sorry for the inconvenience.

    2. Good afternoon I’m interested in moving to Costa Rica do you have any suggestions on how to make that move? Buy or rent a home also purchase a vehicle… any suggestions we did a 10 day vacation a few years back and we loved it.

  148. So, Matt and Jenn,

    I’m really excited about finding this blog. My wife and I are actually thinking about moving down there in two years. I’m hoping your blog will steer us in the right direction. Any info you or your readers can share with us would be greatly appreciated. Our primary wants in location is close proximity to water, the view! We’d also like to have some of the usual amenities like grocery shopping, medical facilities, some restaurants, and bars. I think we’d like to be on the Pacific side, but that’s not an absolute must. Any places with the above in mind, suggest away. Looking forward to reading more on this site.

    Dave and Kim Westberg
    Seabrook Island, SC

    1. Hi Dave and Kim, We have lots of info on our site about moving to Costa Rica. Definitely peruse our Life in CR section ( when you have some time.

      For where you may want to land, the central Pacific coast ( might be a good option. The different towns in that region are 1-2.5 hours to San José for medical facilities. This area is also good for restaurants and shopping. There are lots of beach towns with nice ocean views too!

      Hope that helps. Feel free to reach out through our Video Chat Service ( if you want to talk more specifics. Best of luck with your plans!

  149. Hi Jenn and Matt:

    I just ran across your website and blog yesterday. We are a family of 8 ( 2 adults and 6 kids, aged 6-15). We were supposed to be in Costa Rica last year, but got postponed 2x due to covid issues. Our trip is with an ecotourism company. This year, we had hoped to finally go in late March/early April; however, we keep debating if it’s really safe and what the potential would be for us to get stuck in CR due to the pandemic issues, if we were to travel. In reading your website, it still looks like CR is very safe right now with minimal issues. The 2 different trips that we could choose from are the Osa Peninsula (Alajuela, Savegre Region and Uvita stops) or Arenal, Monteverde, Manuel Antonio stops. Would either one be any better, safer than the other and/or better for kids our age? We would have guides with us the entire time. And is everyone wearing masks in those areas or mainly inside only (which we would prefer) vs trying to hike in a hot, humid mask. Thanks in advance. Just trying to decide if we should postpone the trip again until later 2021 or try and do it now and it’s really hard to get a “true” read on the situation since most folks aren’t actually in CR right now.

    1. Hi Lisa, The first itinerary doesn’t have the exact destinations, just cantons/counties. But if you’re going to major tourist destinations outside the San José area, which it sounds like you are, it should be fine. The tour company should make sure they are using operators who are following the Covid protocols. But you should ask them if you haven’t already.

      If you’d like to talk further about what it’s like here right now, you could reach out to us through our Video Chat Service ( so we could talk one on one. We do know where most of the cases are concentrated so could guide you on that, though, of course, it’s a constantly changing situation so it could be somewhat different by the time of your trip. We could also talk about which trip itinerary would be better for your family based on your interests. Hope that helps!

      On mask wearing, most people are not hiking in masks. They aren’t required outdoors almost everywhere, except at the entrance to a national park and other areas of congregation.

  150. Your website has been so helpful! We are planning a trip to Costa Rica the end of end of May, early June for 12 days. We are a big group of three families with 12 kids 6-17 (most are 10+). I know we want to spend 3-5 days in La Fortuna doing zip lines, white water rafting, canyoneering/rappelling and hot springs, but I’m really torn with where else to go. (Also considering a day trip to Rio Celeste.)

    We’d like to spend a day or two playing on the beach and (trying) to surf, but we want to see lots of animals and not spend too much of our precious time driving. I’m debating whether we head south to Jaco for beach/surfing and then to Manuel Antonio or do we head over to Guanacaste? I’m also super intrigued by the Osa Peninsula and would love to visit there for two nights/one day but I’m really worried it would use up too much time driving.

    Would you recommend SJO to Quepos/Manuel Antonio then to Osa Peninsula, then back up to Jaco, then on to La Fortuna? Or should we skip Osa Peninsula this trip and focus on Manuel Antonio/Quepos/Jaco? Also, how do the beaches in Guanacaste compare to Jaco?

    Lastly, we’re also interested in stopping at the La Paz Waterfalls and Peace Lodge animal sanctuary. Is that a place you’d recommend? Can that be done as a day trip or do we need to stay overnight nearby? Or is there another animal sanctuary that you’d recommend where we can be sure to see some animals up close?

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