With twelve days in Costa Rica, travelers can visit three or four popular regions, or travel to a more remote part of the country for an off-the-beaten-path adventure. Road-trip around volcanoes and national parks, look for whales and monkeys on a wildlife tour, treat yourself at luxury spas and hot springs, or cycle from the Pacific to the Caribbean: learn how with these unique itineraries.

Itinerary #1: Highlights of Costa Rican Wildlife 

Monkeys, sloths, lizards, birds, insects, jaguars—Costa Rica's wildlife await you on this colorful itinerary that takes you to beaches, jungles, and cloud forests.

Vibrantly hued toucans on a tree branch in Costa Rica's jungle
Vibrantly hued toucans on a tree branch in Costa Rica's jungle
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in San José San José
Day 2 Fly to Osa Peninsula - Explore Bahía Drake Corcovado National Park
Day 3 Corcovado National Park Hike Corcovado National Park
Day 4 Snorkeling, Dolphins and Whales Tour Osa Peninsula Corcovado National Park
Day 5 Osa Peninsula - Drive to Manuel Antonio National Park Manuel Antonio
Day 6 Guided Hike of Manuel Antonio National Park Manuel Antonio
Day 7 Horseback Riding Day Trip from Manuel Antonio Manuel Antonio
Day 8 Transfer to Monteverde Monteverde
Day 9 Zip-Line Fun in the Cloud Forest Monteverde
Day 10 Boat from Monteverde to Arenal & Hot Springs Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 11 Proyecto Asis Rescue Center Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 12 Chocolate Making Class, Then Back to San José San José

Arrive in San José, then fly to the Osa Peninsula, where you'll explore Corcovado National Park for the next few days. You'll see exotic birds on a full-day hike through the park, swim with tropical fish while snorkeling in the waters offshore, then have the chance to spot whales and dolphins during a boat tour around the peninsula. On day five, you'll pick up a rental car and drive to Manuel Antonio National Park, stopping along the way to look for humpback whales at Marino Ballena National Park.

Once you arrive at Manuel Antonio, go on a guided hike through the park, then go horseback riding in nearby Tocori Private Ecological Reserve. Move onto Monteverde the next day for a zip-line adventure in the cloud forest and a tour of local flora and fauna with a knowledgeable guide.

You'll catch a boat to the Arenal region of Costa Rica, where you'll hike to La Fortuna Waterfall and visit Proyecto Asis, a rehabilitation and rescue center for local animals. Visitors usually see anteaters, snakes, monkeys, parrots, and sloths. Finish up the trip with an educational program focused on the history and production of one of Costa Rica's key exports: chocolate. Learn more

Itinerary #2: Arenal, Monteverde, & Pacific Coast Road Trip

See many of Costa Rica's highlights, from national parks to world-class beaches, on this road trip around the country.

Hit the open road in Costa Rica
Hit the open road on a self-guided trip through Costa Rica
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Liberia - Drive to Río Celeste Tenorio National Park
Day 2 Hiking in Río Celeste - Drive to La Fortuna Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 3 Hanging Bridges & La Fortuna Waterfall Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 4 Arenal - Whitewater Rafting on the Sarapiquí River Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 5 Drive from Arenal to Monteverde - Night Nature Tour Monteverde
Day 6 Aerial Fun in the Cloud Forest Monteverde
Day 7 Drive from Monteverde to Playa Sámara Playa Sámara
Day 8 Sámara Beach Free Day Playa Sámara
Day 9 Playa Sámara - Drive to Playa Tamarindo Tamarindo
Day 10 Private Surf Lesson at Playa Tamarindo Tamarindo
Day 11 Free Day in Tamarindo Tamarindo
Day 12 Depart Costa Rica from Liberia  

The trip begins in Liberia. Pick up a rental car and drive to Río Celeste, just outside Tenorio National Park. After a day of hiking, you'll get back in the car and drive to La Fortuna to explore Arenal Volcano National Park, including the La Fortuna waterfall and the region's famous Hanging Bridges. On day four, you'll go whitewater rafting on the Sarapiquí River. Continue along the road trip to Monteverde for a guided nighttime nature tour and an aerial canopy adventure in the cloud forest, spotting colorful birds high up in the trees. 

On day seven, drive from Monteverde to Playa Sámara, where you'll relax for a day on the beach. Continue along to the Refugio Nacional Ostional (Ostional Wildlife Refuge), a protected mile of coastline is where hundreds of olive ridley sea turtles come during nesting season to lay their eggs. (The peak time is from August through December, but turtles lay eggs all year long.) Then drive to one of the country's most beloved beaches, Playa Tamarindo, for a private surf lesson followed by a free day to practice your newfound skills, try other water sports, go for a hike, or just enjoy some sand and sun. Learn more

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Itinerary #3: Costa Rica's Wild South

This action-packed trip plan features 12 days of zip-line tours, canyoning, horseback rides, rafting trips, and kayak excursions in Costa Rica's beautiful southern region.

Whitewater rafting is a popular adventure sport in Costa Rica
Whitewater rafting is a popular adventure sport in Costa Rica
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Costa Rica - Experience San José's Culture and History San José
Day 2 Rafting Río Pacuare Río Pacuare
Day 3 Free Day in the Jungles of Río Pacuare  Río Pacuare
Day 4 Río Pacuare -> Transfer to Turrialba Turrialba
Day 5 Canyoning and Zipline Turrialba
Day 6 Transfer to San Gerardo de Dota - Optional Birding San Gerardo de Dota
Day 7 Transfer to the Southern Pacific Coast Dominical
Day 8 Kayak in Marino Ballena National Park Dominical
Day 9 Free Day in Dominical Dominical
Day 10 Horseback Ride to Nauyaca Waterfalls Dominical
Day 11 Transfer to San José and Sightseeing San José
Day 12 Depart San José  

Get to know a few things about Costa Rican culture and history with a day and night in San José at the start of the trip. Then get out of the city for your first outdoor adventure: a rafting trip down Río Pacuare. The next day, you have options: you could zip-line through the jungle canopy or go canyoning at El Tesorito Creek, where you'll rappel down a 98-foot rock face that extends beside a small waterfall. Afterward, transfer to Turrialba for more canyoning and zip-line opportunities in virgin rainforest, followed by an optional birding excursion in San Gerardo de Dota.

Midway through the trip, you'll move onto the southern Pacific coast. Go kayaking in Marino Ballena National Park, where you might spot humpback whales in the water. From Dominical, the next stop on the trip, you could go hiking in Corcovado National Park or snorkeling past a vibrant coral reef at Caño Island Biological Reserve. Finish up the outdoor adventures with a horseback riding excursion to the gorgeous Nauyaca Waterfalls before you head back to civilization for one last night in San José. Learn more

Itinerary #4: Luxury Spas & Outdoor Adventures

On this luxury itinerary, you'll enjoy Costa Rica's great outdoors while whitewater rafting and hiking, then treat yourself to spa treatments and relax in natural hot springs.

La Fortuna waterfall and its refreshing pool
La Fortuna waterfall and its refreshing pool
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Costa Rica - Private Transfer to The Retreat Alajuela
Day 2 Luxury Rainforest Lodge on the Pacuare River Turrialba
Day 3 Rafting the Río Pacuare - Bajos del Toro Bajos del Toro
Day 4 Bajos del Toro Waterfall Hike With Private Guide Bajos del Toro
Day 5 Transfer to Arenal - Luxury Tabacón Hot Springs Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 6 Exclusive Chocolate Making Experience Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 7 Transfer to the Pacific Coast - Playa Esterillos Quepos
Day 8 Pacific Coast Excursion With Private Guide Quepos
Day 9 Transfer to San Isidro del General San Isidro del general
Day 10 Free Day at Hacienda AltaGracia San Isidro del general
Day 11 Transfer to Alajuela Alajuela
Day 12 Depart Costa Rica  

This high-end itinerary kicks off in style with a private transfer to The Retreat, a wellness center where guests can practice yoga, get a massage, or just relax over healthy meals made with locally grown produce. On day two, you'll move onto Pacuare River Lodge, a riverside getaway in the rainforest. After a few days of taking it easy, you'll be ready for the rafting adventure down the Río Pacuare to Bajos del Toro, where you'll go on a waterfall hike with a private guide. Transfer to Arenal on day five and check into Tabacón Grand Spa Thermal Resort, an elegant refuge with its own thermal hot springs — the perfect place to relax.

In the second part of the trip, you'll be treated to an exclusive chocolate-making tour and class before traveling to the Pacific coast and the beach of Playa Esterillos. Here, you'll go on a three-hour outrigger canoe, kayak, or stand up paddleboard excursion with optional stops for snorkeling and wildlife viewing. Continue onward to San Isidro del General, where you'll check into the luxurious boutique lodge known as Hacienda Altagracia. Hang out by the pool or visit the local farmer's market on the next day before the final stop of the trip: the five-star Xandari Resort and Spa, complete with hiking trails, gardens, waterfalls, three pools, two poolside Jacuzzis, and a spa with panoramic views. Learn more

Itinerary #5: Bike Costa Rica - Manuel Antonio to the Caribbean Coast

Pedal from the Pacific coast to the Caribbean coast—crossing the entire country—on this challenging bicycle trip.

A quiet road on a cross-country cycling trip
A quiet road on a cross-country cycling trip
Day Destination Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Costa Rica – Experience San José's Culture San José
Day 2 Transfer to Quepos Quepos
Day 3 Biking & Trekking to Naranjito Naranjito
Day 4 Cemetery Hill Trekking & Cycling  Santa Maria de Dota
Day 5 Biking Over the Continental Divide Orosi
Day 6 Cycling & Trekking Through Tapantí Taus
Day 7 Pacuare Adventure – Biking & Rafting Rio Pacuare
Day 8 Pacuare Adventure - Free Day in Pacuare Valley Rio Pacuare
Day 9 Pacuare Adventure - Finca Pacuarito Siquirres
Day 10 Pacuare Cycling & Kayak Adventure - Puerto Viejo Puerto Viejo
Day 11 Caribbean Coast Free Morning - Transfer to San José San José
Day 12 Departure  

Spend a day sightseeing in San José before taking a three-hour bus ride the next day to the village of Quepos, next to Manuel Antonio National Park on the Pacific coast. There, you'll get fitted for a bicycle that you'll use for the rest of the trip. Get some rest before the next day's cycling and trekking trip to Naranjito with sweeping coastal views along the way.

On day four, push yourself to pedal up the famously challenging Cemetery Hill: the strenuous eight-mile ride ascends to an elevation of 5,200 feet. Sleep in a cozy bungalow in Santa Maria before biking over the Continental Divide and cycling and trekking through Tapantí National Wildlife Refuge.

Take a break from your bike to go whitewater rafting down Río Pacuare, then pedal around Pacuare Valley before continuing onward to Finca Pacuarito, where you'll spend the night. The next day, pedal through a series of old banana plantations before hopping on a kayak and traveling seven miles down the river. Overnight in Puerto Viejo and enjoy a free morning on the Caribbean coast to relax on the sand. You'll head back to San José, weary but happy, to finish the trip. Learn more

More Great 12-Day Costa Rica Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your Costa Rica trip? Check out these other 12-day Costa Rica itineraries, ranging from active, to cultural, to luxury, or family-friendly trips.

Or, describe your ideal trip and we will connect you with a local specialist to make it happen.


Map of 12 Days in Costa Rica - 5 Unique Itinerary Ideas
Map of 12 Days in Costa Rica - 5 Unique Itinerary Ideas