Travelers to Costa Rica typically plan a trip for 8 to 10 days when combining both Arenal and Gulf of Papagayo with Monteverde. If you're only headed to Arenal and Gulf of Papagayo, you can enjoy a comfortably-paced trip in 7 to 8 days. Even travelers with limited time can see the highlights in as few as 5 or 6 days. Read on for the best itineraries including Arenal, Gulf of Papagayo, and beyond.

How many days do you need?

  • Most travelers spend 7-8 days in Arenal/La Fortuna and Gulf of Papagayo combined
  • Visiting Arenal/La Fortuna and Gulf of Papagayo in 5 or 6 days is possible, but will feel rushed
  • With 9 or more days, most travelers choose to add more stops to their trip
  • The most common extensions are Monteverde, Tortuguero, and Tamarindo

How Many Days Should You Spend in Arenal?

Recommended Itineraries for Arenal/La Fortuna and Gulf of Papagayo

Recommended Itinerary for 7 Days

Coffee beans on a local plantation
Enjoy a cocoa tasting
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in San José San José
Day 2 San Jose Transfer to Arenal Volcano, Chocolate Making & Hot Springs Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 3 Waterfall Hike & Cooking Class Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 4 Coffee Farm Tour Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 5 Arenal Transfer to the Gulf of Papagayo Gulf of Papagayo
Day 6 Beach Day and Sunset Catamaran Sail in Guanacaste Gulf of Papagayo
Day 7 Gulf of Papagayo to Liberia, Depart Costa Rica  


On this 7-day food-themed itinerary you'll explore food stalls at San José's Mercado Central, learn how to make traditional dishes during a hands-on cooking class, participate in chocolate making—one of Costa Rica's most important exports. You'll also experience the country's incredible natural surroundings with jungles, beaches, and plenty of relaxation. Read more

Recommended Itinerary for 8 Days

Coffee beans on a local plantation
Coffee beans on a local plantation
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in San José San José
Day 2 San Jose Transfer to Arenal Volcano, Chocolate Making & Hot Springs Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 3 Waterfall Hike & Cooking Class Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 4 Coffee Farm Tour Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 5 Arenal Transfer to the Gulf of Papagayo Gulf of Papagayo
Day 6 Beach Day and Sunset Catamaran Sail in Guanacaste Gulf of Papagayo
Day 7 Free Day in Papagayo Gulf of Papagayo
Day 8 Gulf of Papagayo to Liberia, Depart Costa Rica  


One of the best ways to experience a destination is through its cuisine, and Costa Rica is no exception. This itinerary will have you visiting food stalls at San José's Mercado Central, trying your hand at traditional recipes in a cooking class, aand sampling coffee at a plantation. You'll also have time to relax and experience the jungles and beaches Costa Rica is known for. Read more

Extended Itineraries

8-Day Itinerary Including Monteverde

Baby squirrel monkey and mother
Baby squirrel monkey and mother
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in San José -> Transfer to La Fortuna Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 2 Hanging Bridges & La Fortuna Waterfall Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 3 Arenal to Monteverde by Boat with Free Afternoon Monteverde
Day 4 Free Day - Night Tour in Monteverde Monteverde
Day 5 Monteverde Transfer to the Gulf of Papagayo Gulf of Papagayo
Day 6 Beach Day and Sunset Catamaran Sail in Guanacaste Gulf of Papagayo
Day 7 Free Day in Papagayo Gulf of Papagayo
Day 8 Gulf of Papagayo to Liberia, Depart Costa Rica  


Costa Rica is an ideal destination for families and this itinerary ensures you'll experience the best the country has to offer. On your 8-day adventure, you'll explore the towering Arenal Volcano, visit the beaches of Guanacaste, and have time to relax in volcanic hot springs. There are plenty of kid-friendly activities along the way, from waterfall hikes to crossing suspension bridges above the trees. Read more

10-Day Itinerary Including Monteverde and Rincon de la Vieja

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Liberia -> Transfer to Rincón De La Vieja Rincon de la Vieja
Day 2 Hiking in Rincón de la Vieja National Park - Oropendola Waterfall Rincon de la Vieja
Day 3 Gulf de Papagayo Transfer to Arenal Volcano National Park Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 4 Waterfall Hike & Cooking Class Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 5 Arenal to Monteverde by Boat with Nocturnal Nature Tour Monteverde
Day 6 Zip-Line Fun in the Cloud Forest Monteverde
Day 7 Monteverde Transfer to the Gulf of Papagayo Gulf of Papagayo
Day 8 Beach Day and Sunset Catamaran Sail in Guanacaste Gulf of Papagayo
Day 9 Free Day in Papagayo Gulf of Papagayo
Day 10 Gulf of Papagayo to Liberia, Depart Costa Rica  


This 10-day itinerary combines mountain adventures with a bit of a beach holiday. Spend two days in Rincón de la Vieja exploring the area around one of the country's most active volcanoes. Then travel deeper inland to cross suspension bridges in the jungle, zip-line over trees, and enjoy guided hikes in La Fortuna and the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. You'll end your trip by returning to Guanacaste for relaxation on the beaches of Papagayo. Read more

14-Day Itinerary Including Monteverde and Tortuguero

The Guanacaste region on the Pacific Coast is known for its arid landscape and beautiful beaches
The Guanacaste region on the Pacific Coast is known for its arid landscape and beautiful beaches
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in San José San José
Day 2 Private Transfer San José to Tortuguero National Park Tortuguero
Day 3 Turtle Tour in Tortuguero Tortuguero
Day 4 San Jose Transfer to Arenal - Whitewater Rafting on the Sarapiquí River Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 5 Volcano Hike & Hot Springs Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 6 Chocolate Experience - Swimming in Waterfalls Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 7 Boat to Monteverde, with Coffee & Chocolate Tour Monteverde
Day 8 Zip-Line Fun in the Cloud Forest Monteverde
Day 9 Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve Guided Hike Monteverde
Day 10 Monteverde Transfer to the Gulf of Papagayo Gulf of Papagayo
Day 11 Beach Day and Sunset Catamaran Sail in Guanacaste Gulf of Papagayo
Day 12 Day of Adventure - Zipline, Horseback Riding, and Hot Springs Gulf of Papagayo
Day 13 Free Day in Papagayo Gulf of Papagayo
Day 14 Gulf of Papagayo to Liberia, Depart Costa Rica  


Experience the country from both coasts on this two-week trip. You'll visit San José, Tortuguero National Park, the towering Arenal Volcano, Monteverde's cloud forest, and the remote beaches of Guanacaste. There will be plenty of activities to choose from along the way: watch sea turtles hatch on a Caribbean beach, sample locally produced chocolate, and take a surf lesson in the glittering Pacific. Read more

How to travel between Arenal/La Fortuna and Gulf of Papagayo

When heading from Arenal/La Fortuna to the Gulf de Papagayo, the 108-mile (173 km) trip will take you almost directly west to the coast. These two locations are connected by some of the most direct routes in the country.  Read more

Map

Map of Arenal & Gulf of Papagayo: Best Itinerary Ideas
Map of Arenal & Gulf of Papagayo: Best Itinerary Ideas