Five days in Costa Rica is the right amount of time to focus on an off-the-beaten-path region. Travelers eager to experience the unspoiled landscapes of the Caribbean Coast should set their sights on Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, while those seeking a mix of beach time and culinary delights will find Manuel Antonio National Park the perfect fit. Other options include an activity-packed trip in Rincón de La Vieja National Park or a wildlife adventure on the lesser-visited Osa Peninsula.

Itinerary #1: Quick Road Trip to Costa Rica's Caribbean Coast & Turrialba Valley

Discover Costa Rica's captivating Caribbean coast and the remote Turrialba Valley on this five-day road trip offering authentic local experiences. Beginning and ending in San José, you'll enjoy a perfect blend of city exploration, culinary delights, nature treks, and thrilling adventures. Notable highlights include an Afro-Caribbean cooking class in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, a hike in Cahuita National Park, and the choice of river rafting or canyoning in Turrialba.

Explore the Carribean coast near Puerto Viejo de Talamanca
Explore the Caribbean coast near Puerto Viejo de Talamanca
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in San José, Explore San José
Day 2 Drive to Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, Take a Local Cooking Class Puerto Viejo de Talamanca
Day 3 Hike in Cahuita National Park, Jaguar Rescue Center Tour Puerto Viejo de Talamanca
Day 4 Drive to Turrialba, River Rafting or Canyoning & Night Hike Turrialba
Day 5 Drive to San José, Depart  

Welcome to Costa Rica! Your quick but thrilling five-day itinerary begins in San José, and after refreshing at your hotel, delve right into the capital city's highlights during a nighttime tour. Meander through the charming Barrio Escalante neighborhood and treat yourself to a three-course meal before calling it a day. Next, get behind the wheel of your rental car, ditch the typical routes, and hit the road to Puerto Viejo de Talamanca. Once there, seek out the unspoiled waves at Playa Cocles, find solace at the serene Playa Chiquita, and dive into the secrets of Afro-Caribbean cuisine alongside a local chef.

Begin Day 3 in the untouched wilderness of Cahuita National Park, arriving at dawn to maximize wildlife encounters during a 5-mile (8 km) trek. Then, dedicate the afternoon to learning about animal rehabilitation at the Jaguar Rescue Center before kicking back at Chile Rojo for dinner. Your adventure continues west to the Turrialba Valley, where you'll have the difficult decision to relax, raft the Río Pacuare, or go canyoning. Lastly, embark on a night hike in search of nocturnal wildlife and catch a morning flight back to San José for your onward travels. Learn more

Itinerary #2: Costa Rican Nature Adventure in Manuel Antonio

Discover Costa Rica's hidden gems and remote shores on this outdoorsy adventure featuring Manuel Antonio National Park. Ideal for nature enthusiasts who prefer quiet trails and authentic wildlife encounters, you'll explore the park on foot, alongside a guide, and by boat. Plus, with a self-guided city tour in San José and a cooking class taught by a local on the agenda, you'll get a sampling of Costa Rica's warm culture and flavor-packed cuisine.

The shimmering waters and white sands of Manuel Antonio National Park
The shimmering waters and white sands of Manuel Antonio National Park
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in San José, Explore San José
Day 2 Transfer to Manuel Antonio, Visit the Beaches Manuel Antonio
Day 3 Guided Nature Hike & Boat Tour in Manuel Antonio National Park Manuel Antonio
Day 4 Beaches & Culinary Experiences in Manuel Antonio Manuel Antonio
Day 5 Return to San José, Depart  

After arriving in San José and refreshing at your hotel, your adventure begins with a self-guided walking tour. Wander the lesser-known alleys of Mercado Central, discover the secrets of Parque Central, and uncover ancient tales at the Museo del Oro Precolombino  (Pre-Columbian Gold Museum). Then, wake early for the long-anticipated transfer to Manuel Antonio National Park. Once you've arrived, dedicate your first day to hiking one of the park's secluded trails, followed by time at Playa Espadilla or Playa Espadilla Sur and an authentic seafood dinner at a tucked-away eatery in Quepos

Eager to delve deeper into the raw wilderness of Manuel Antonio National Park, join a local naturalist guide the following morning to search for the park's secretive species of mammals and birds. Next, experience the park from a new perspective while gliding across the wildlife-filled waters of Damas Island Estuary on a boat tour. During your last day in the park, delight in a local cooking class and take advantage of a free afternoon to relax, hike, or enjoy the lively nightlife. Then, with your trip winding down, transfer back to San José to catch your next flight. Learn more

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Itinerary #3: Exotic Adventures on Costa Rica's Caribbean Coast

Costa Rica's unspoiled Caribbean coast is featured in this itinerary specially crafted for travelers looking to escape the crowds and explore deep in the rainforest. Activities include a coffee date with a sloth, touring the forgotten canals of Tortuguero National Park by boat, and kayaking off the shore of Punta Uva. Top off the adventure with memorable dinners on the Caribbean coast—best visited from July to October for good weather and to spot sea turtles—and a deep dive into Puerto Viejo de Talamanca's culinary scene during an exclusive cooking class.

Explore the waterways of Tortuguero National Park
Explore the waterways of Tortuguero National Park
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in San José, Visit Toucan Rescue Center San José
Day 2 Transfer to Tortuguero, Guided Boat Tour of the Tortuguero Canals Tortuguero
Day 3 Transfer to Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, Local Cooking Class Puerto Viejo de Talamanca
Day 4 Punta Uva Kayaking & Rainforest Hike, Beach Visit in Cahuita Puerto Viejo de Talamanca
Day 5 Transfer to San José, Depart  

Your action-packed adventure kicks off in the lively city of San José. Settle into your hotel, then head straight to the Toucan Rescue Ranch to spend the afternoon hanging with sloths and learning about the center's mission. Leaving the city behind, you'll next find yourself in Tortuguero National Park, a biodiversity hotspot known for its rainforests, swamps, beaches, and mangroves. Explore the park's hidden canals and tucked-away lagoons by boat and celebrate the end of a memorable day with a quaint dinner in Tortuguero.

After a stop by the Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) on the morning of Day 3, settle in for a relaxing transfer to Puerto Viejo de Talamanca. Upon arrival, delve into Afro-Caribbean cuisine during a cooking class and rest up for the next day's immersion into the region's hidden gems. Start with a rainforest hike and river kayaking trip in Punta Uva, take a tour of Cahuita National Park, and celebrate your final evening by dining on local Afro-Caribbean cuisine. Lastly, set your sights back on San José, where you'll say your goodbyes and board your onward flight. Learn more

Itinerary #4: Discover Costa Rica's Rincón de La Vieja National Park

Steering away from the beach, immerse yourself in the natural wonders—jungle, waterfalls, hot springs, and volcanoes—of Costa Rica on this inland getaway focused solely on Rincón de La Vieja National Park. Perfect for nature-loving travelers who want to maximize their time in the jungle, you'll spend four uninterrupted days boating, hiking, and horseback riding. In between, the evenings are yours to soak in natural hot springs and enjoy the lively ambience of the jungle.

Hike through jungles to hidden waterfalls and lagoons in Rincón de la Vieja National Park
Hike through jungles to hidden waterfalls and lagoons in Rincón de la Vieja National Park
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Liberia, Drive to Rincón de la Vieja National Park Rincón de la Vieja
Day 2 Horseback Riding with Cowboys, Self-Guided Hike in the National Park Rincón de la Vieja
Day 3 Explore Palo Verde National Park by Boat & Visit a Sugar Plantation Rincón de la Vieja
Day 4 Full-Day Exploring Waterfalls & Río Negro Hot Springs Rincón de la Vieja
Day 5 Drive to Liberia, Depart  

Upon landing at the Liberia airport, you'll immediately collect your rental car and hit the road to Rincón de la Vieja National Park. Along the way, watch for the steaming Rincón de la Vieja volcano towering above and the crystalline waters of Río Celeste meandering past. Rested from a relaxing first evening, you'll be ready to uncover the park's secrets, starting with a memorable horseback ride into the jungle. Then, after a refreshing dip in the breathtakingly blue Río Blanco, explore the less-trodden Las Pailas loop trail independently. 

Ready for more off-the-beaten-track adventures, set off to explore the jungle by boat. Glide through the vast wetlands of Palo Verde National Park in search of elusive crocodiles and friendly monkeys, and round off the day rejuvenating at the Río Negro Hot Springs. There's plenty more nature to experience in the Guanacaste region, and you'll uncover the best of it over a seven-hour expedition, complete with stops by the Chorreras Waterfalls and Victoria Waterfall. Then, squeeze in one more visit to the hot springs before returning to Liberia for your international departure. Learn more

Itinerary #5: Wildlife Adventure on Costa Rica's Osa Peninsula

Unleash your inner explorer on this five-day adventure to Costa Rica's lesser-visited Osa Peninsula. Ideal for wildlife enthusiasts, this trip gets you out snorkeling the clear waters of Isla del Caño, hiking through the biodiverse Corcovado National Park, and cruising through the sprawling Terraba-Sierpe Mangroves. With nocturnal jungle walks and wildlife spotting opportunities, this itinerary promises an exhilarating encounter with nature's fascinating inhabitants. 

See remarkable wildlife, including spider monkeys, on this quick jaunt to Costa Rica's Osa Peninsula
See remarkable wildlife, including spider monkeys, on this quick tour to Costa Rica's Osa Peninsula
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in San José & Fly to the Osa Peninsula  Corcovado National Park
Day 2 Snorkeling Tour of Isla del Caño, Night Walk in the Jungle Corcovado National Park
Day 3 Hiking in Corcovado National Park Corcovado National Park
Day 4 Terraba-Sierpe Mangrove Tour, Fly to San José San José
Day 5 Depart San José  

After landing in San José, catching a connecting flight to the Osa Peninsula, and settling into your jungle lodge, the first day is yours to explore independently or relax on one of the many secluded beaches. Rejuvenated, it's time to delve into the many wonders of "The most biologically intense place on Earth," as deemed by National Geographic. Start with a morning snorkeling tour of Isla del Caño in search of turtles, stingrays, and manta rays. Then, as night falls, join a local guide for a thrilling night walk in which you'll have a chance to spot monkeys, bats, and even a puma or jaguar.

Next, lace up your hiking boots for an incredible day of hiking in Corcovado National Park. Begin at the San Pedrillo Ranger Station and make your way through mangrove swamps, lowland rainforest, and highland cloud forest, all while enjoying the company of your eagle-eyed guide. Then, dedicate your last full day to exploring Terraba-Sierpe National Wetland by boat, keeping your eye out for the endemic mangrove hummingbird while gliding down the maze of canals. After a return flight to San José and a free morning to explore, the time will have arrived to catch your onward flight. Learn more

More Great 5-Day Costa Rica Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Costa Rica? Check out these other five-day Costa Rica itineraries, with outdoor adventures, cultural trips, and best-of tours to hit the highlights.


Map of 5 Days in Costa Rica - 5 Off-the-Beaten-Path Itinerary Ideas
Map of 5 Days in Costa Rica - 5 Off-the-Beaten-Path Itinerary Ideas