Costa Rica Self-Drive Tours & Itineraries

Explore 19 self-drive trips designed by local kimkim specialists to get ideas for your trip to Costa Rica.

Costa Rica is full of opportunities for adventure—and one of the best ways to explore is on a self-drive road trip. Renting your own car means you have the freedom to take spontaneous detours and side trips. Your specialist will give you information on current conditions before you go, but here are some tips to get you started.

  • Do I need a 4WD vehicle? The short answer: yes. If you're visiting Monteverde or the South Pacific region, 4WD is needed—the roads aren't always paved, and 4WD is especially essential in the wet months.
  • What about GPS? Using GPS is essential. Costa Rica has no formal addresses, so having the exact coordinates is vital.
Costa Rica is a beautiful country to explore by car, and adventurous travelers who know what to expect will have an amazing time behind the wheel. Check out examples of our great self-drive itineraries below. 

To learn more about what to expect on a Costa Rican Road trip, check out our driving in Costa Rica FAQ.

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Durations: 7 days · 8 days · 11 days · 13 days · 14 days · 15 days · 16 days
Monteverde Cloud Forest
Map of Classic Costa Rica: 7-Day Self-Drive Tour
Classic Costa Rica: 7-Day Self-Drive Tour

Taking a road trip through Costa Rica gives you the freedom and flexibility to explore where you want. You'll pass through stunning natural scenery — from lush cloud forests to picturesque beaches — in seven days of scenic driving. This tour can be extended or shortened depending on how much time you have.

Arenal Volcano
Map of Arenal Expedition Self Drive Tour - 4 Days
Arenal Expedition Self Drive Tour - 4 Days

This itinerary is one of the shortest, yet most action-packed options for travelers looking for a compact Costa Rica experience. Zip-line, rappel, and horseback ride your way throughout the Arenal region and enjoy some of the best volcano views the country has to offer.

The scenic Pacific Coast of Costa Rica
Map of Costa Rica Essentials: Self-Drive Tour - 14 Days
Costa Rica Essentials: Self-Drive Tour - 14 Days

In this two-week tour, you can experience Costa Rica's main attractions as well as its lesser-known marvels. Drive along coasts, rainforest roads, and hills to discover the natural sights that make Costa Rica the most visited country in Central America.

Surfing in Tamarindo
Map of Costa Rica Pacific Coast Road Trip - 7 Days
Costa Rica Pacific Coast Road Trip - 7 Days

This 7-day itinerary is perfect for travelers who want a comprehensive beach holiday. You'll arrive in Liberia, the hub of Costa Rica's Guanacaste Province. From the airport, head south to Playa Sámara, a coastal village on the Nicoya Peninsula. Then, make the drive back north to the popular surf town of Tamarindo, where you'll spend your days riding the waves and taking part in nature excursions—you might even get to see nesting sea turtles, a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Sunset on the beach
Map of Costa Rica Highlights: Self-Drive Adventure - 11 Days
Costa Rica Highlights: Self-Drive Adventure - 11 Days

This self-guided road trip is ideal for those who love adventure. Visit Costa Rica's highlights, from the famous Arenal Volcano to the misty cloud forests of Monteverde and powdery beaches of Manuel Antonio National Park. Along the way, you'll fly over the treetops on a zip line tour, swim in waterfall lagoons, and spot wildlife on nature walks and snorkeling excursions.

Coast of Corcovado National Park
Map of Costa Rica Self-Drive Adventure - 14 Days
Costa Rica Self-Drive Adventure - 14 Days

This road trip itinerary is a truly off-the-beaten-path nature excursion. Head to the remote beaches and rainforest of the Osa Peninsula before a scenic drive up the Pacific coast. You'll experience white-sand beaches in Manuel Antonio National Park, along with the cloud forest ecosystem of Monteverde where you'll hike over the jungle canopy via suspension bridges. Finally, you'll pay a visit to Arenal, an active volcano and one of Costa Rica's most famous landmarks.

A sloth hanging around in Costa Rica
Map of Costa Rica Wildlife Road Trip - 8 Days
Costa Rica Wildlife Road Trip - 8 Days

This self-drive tour is ideal for families who love animals and exploring the outdoors. You'll spot plenty of the country's adorable mammals like sloths and monkeys, as well as rare species of birds, reptiles, amphibians, and tropical fish. Along the way, stay at unique eco-lodges

Beach on the Pacific Coast at Sunset
Map of Costa Rica Arenal, Monteverde & Pacific Coast Self-Drive Tour - 12 Days
Costa Rica Arenal, Monteverde & Pacific Coast Self-Drive Tour - 12 Days

Explore the highlights of Costa Rica, from volcanos and jungles to beach and surfing in one self-drive vacation. Arrive in Liberia and head to Tenorio National Park, where you'll hike along the electric blue waters of the Río Celeste. Next up is Arenal Volcano National Park, a hotbed of adventure activities. After a waterfall trek and whitewater rafting excursion, drive to Monteverde for a zip-line tour of the cloud forest canopy and a guided wildlife night hike. Finally, it's off to the beaches of Sámara and Tamarindo on the Nicoya Peninsula for surfing and relaxation.

Costa Rica Self-Drive Adventure - 8 Days
Map of Costa Rica Self-Drive Adventure - 8 Days
Costa Rica Self-Drive Adventure - 8 Days

This itinerary is perfect for those who want a vacation filled with tropical beauty and adventure. Take a self-drive tour of Costa Rica that begins in the cloud forests of Monteverde, where you can hike over suspension bridges and zip-line over the forest canopy. Then it's off to Arenal Volcano National Park—your days here will be spent trekking around the base of the volcano, soaking in natural hot springs, and embarking on waterfall hikes.

Arenal Volcano in the Sunset
Map of Arenal, Monteverde, and Manuel Antonio Self-Drive - 11 Days
Arenal, Monteverde, and Manuel Antonio Self-Drive - 11 Days

This itinerary combines mountain excursions with a bit of a beach holiday and some aquatic adventure. You'll arrive in Liberia, the hub of Costa Rica's Guanacaste Province. From there, drive to Arenal Volcano National Park, where you'll hike to a waterfall, relax in natural hot springs, and raft world-class whitewater. Then it's west to the Monteverde to see the cloud forest canopy via suspension bridges and a zip-line tour. A drive south will take you to Manuel Antonio, a unique destination with a combination of the beach, jungle and national park. After a couple days enjoying the beach and wildlife in Manuel Antonio, you'll return to San Jose for your journey home.

Admire Costa Rica's diverse wildlife
Map of Costa Rica Highlights: Self-Drive Adventure - 16 Days
Costa Rica Highlights: Self-Drive Adventure - 16 Days

Explore many of Costa Rica's off-the-beaten-path destinations on this 16-day self-drive tour. You'll travel to all corners of the country, from the surf town of Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean coast, to Arenal Volcano in the north, and to Pacific beaches and protected areas home to exotic wildlife like scarlet macaws. The final leg of this adventure will be a trip to the far south and the remote and beautiful Osa Peninsula.

Sunset on the beach
Map of Classic Costa Rica Self-Drive Adventure - 14 Days
Classic Costa Rica Self-Drive Adventure - 14 Days

This self-guided road trip is ideal for those who love nature, beaches, and adventure activities. It covers all of Costa Rica's highlights, starting at the famous Arenal Volcano. From there, on to the Gulf of Papagayo on the northern Pacific coast. It's the perfect spot to snorkel and take a sunset sailing cruise. Then, you'll venture into the misty cloud forests of Monteverde—spot rare birds, partake in a zip-line canopy tour, and embark on a nocturnal wildlife excursion. End your trip with hiking and beach time in Manuel Antonio National Park.

Wild beach in Costa Rica's Osa Peninsula
Map of Costa Rica Self Drive Adventure - 15 Days
Costa Rica Self Drive Adventure - 15 Days

This itinerary is designed for those who want a classic tropical excursion into Costa Rica's rainforests. Start with the remote Osa Peninsula, where you'll visit beaches and hike through the rainforest. Then, drive north along the Pacific coast to the white-sand beaches of Manuel Antonio National Park before heading northwest into the Monteverde region. Finally, pay a visit to Arenal, an active volcano and one of Costa Rica's most famous landmarks.

Nosara  - Amongst the top 10 beaches in Central America…
Map of Self-Drive Luxury Beach and Volcano Adventure - 11 days
Self-Drive Luxury Beach and Volcano Adventure - 11 days

Time to hit the open road and enjoy the wonders of Costa Rica on this 11-day self-drive tour. Your adventure begins on the Pacific beaches of Tamarindo and Nosara, both gems of Costa Rica's Guanacaste Province. On top of exploring and surfing these beaches, you'll make pit stops in coastal villages and glean insight into the local culture. Continue your journey eastward to the towering Arenal Volcano. Here you will soak in natural hot springs and brave whitewater rapids on a rafting trip.

Spot howler monkeys among other wildlife
Map of Costa Rica Road Trip: Arenal and the Pacific Coast - 14 Days
Costa Rica Road Trip: Arenal and the Pacific Coast - 14 Days

Costa Rica's rainforest, volcanoes, and beaches are yours to explore on this two-week self-drive tour. First, you'll take in sweeping views of Arenal Volcano as you zip-line over the treetops and even take a hands-on chocolate making class. Then, it's on to the Pacific Coast to explore three of Costa Rica's most beloved surf towns: Tamarindo, Nosara, and Santa Teresa. These coastal towns offer a lot more than just surfing though.  With world-class yoga studios, pristine nature reserves, and breathtaking sunsets, the Nicoya Peninsula offers something for everyone.

Sunset at Tamarindo Beach
Map of Relaxing Nicoya Peninsula Road Trip - 15 Days
Relaxing Nicoya Peninsula Road Trip - 15 Days

Get ready for a laid-back beach vacation to the stunning beaches of Guanacaste and the Nicoya Península. This slow-paced trip allows you to slow down and adjust to the Costa Rican lifestyle of pura vida in four quintessential surf towns: Tamarindo, Nosara, Playa Sámara and Santa Teresa.

Relax in Costa Rica's serene nature
Map of Relaxing Nicoya Peninsula Road Trip - 13 Days
Relaxing Nicoya Peninsula Road Trip - 13 Days

Get ready for a laid-back beach vacation to the stunning beaches of Guanacaste and the Nicoya Península. This slow-paced trip allows you to slow down and adjust to the Costa Rican lifestyle of pura vida in three quintessential surf towns: Tamarindo, Nosara, and Santa Teresa.

Pacific coastline on the Nicoya Peninsula
Map of Costa Rica Self-Drive Vacation - 13 Days
Costa Rica Self-Drive Vacation - 13 Days

This self-guided road trip is ideal for those who love nature. You will visit the highlights of the country, from the infamous Arenal volcano to the misty cloud forest, to the beautiful beaches of the Nicoya Peninsula.  Along the way, you will zip through trees on zip lines, swim in waterfalls, and also have a chance to spot the wildlife (from monkeys to the resplendent quetzel) on naturalist lead walks.

Yoga on the beach in Santa Teresa
Map of Arenal and the Nicoya Peninsula Road Trip- 16 Days
Arenal and the Nicoya Peninsula Road Trip- 16 Days

Experience the best of Costa Rica's rainforest, volcanoes, and Pacific beaches during this 16-day self-drive adventure. You'll explore the jungle via suspension bridges and zip-lines, and even have a free day to go whitewater rafting or relax in the charming town of La Fortuna. Then, it's time to head westward to the Nicoya Peninsula where you'll adjust to the laid-back vibes of three quintessential surf towns: Tamarindo, Nosara, and Santa Teresa.

costa rica
Map of Self-Drive Birding Excursion in Costa Rica - 10 Days
Self-Drive Birding Excursion in Costa Rica - 10 Days

Costa Rica is a prime destination for birders. It's home to 850 different species including rare specimens like green parrots, scarlet macaws, resplendent quetzals, and motmots. This 10-day birding itinerary includes stops at the best locales in which to view Costs Rica's abundance of birds, including national parks, remote mountain ranges, and rivers near the Pacific coast.

costa rica
Map of The Ultimate Costa Rican Birding Roadtrip - 11 Days
The Ultimate Costa Rican Birding Roadtrip - 11 Days

Costa Rica is a Mecca for bird lovers. Here there are around 850 species of not only endemic birds but also migratory birds that arrive from throughout the hemisphere. Over 11 days you'll view many of these exotic species as you travel to remote rainforests, national parks, biological research centers, and even birding hotspots on Costa Rica's stunning Pacific coast.

costa rica
Map of Ultimate Birding Road Trip in Costa Rica - 7 Days
Ultimate Birding Road Trip in Costa Rica - 7 Days

In a mere week you can see some of the most exotic birds in the entire world. The destination is Costa Rica, home to over 850 different species. On an active journey through rainforests and over mountains, you'll see many of them, including macaws, toucans, motmots, aracaris, and more.

costa rica
Map of Self-Drive Birding Tour of Costa Rica - 8 Days
Self-Drive Birding Tour of Costa Rica - 8 Days

Costa Rica is home to around 850 different bird species, making this small tropical country one of the best sites for birding in the world. This eight-day itinerary trades sunbathing for binoculars as you venture into the rainforest in search of toucans, herons, macaws, and more. You'll even have an opportunity to spot the rare and beautiful resplendent quetzal.

costa rica
Map of Birding Road Trip in Paradise - 12 Days
Birding Road Trip in Paradise - 12 Days

One of the best places in the Americas to spot the widest variety of exotic birds is Costa Rica. This relatively small nation is home to some 850 species, including colorful motmots, parrots, toucans, and even the rare resplendent quetzal. This 12-day self-drive birding excursion will take you from the Pacific coast to the remote mountains and rainforests for the best  vantage points to witness the most marvelous specimens.

costa rica
Map of Costa Rica Self-Drive Birding Adventure - 15 Days
Costa Rica Self-Drive Birding Adventure - 15 Days

The Central American nation of Costa Rica may be small, but it boasts a diverse amount of wildlife. There are 850 bird species here alone, and you can witness the most exotic specimens on a cross-country road trip. Over 15 days, you'll visit some of the most remote mountain regions flourishing with the rarest species including motmots, herons, hummingbirds, and the iconic scarlet macaw.

costa rica
Map of Ultimate Costa Rica Birding Road Trip - 16 Days
Ultimate Costa Rica Birding Road Trip - 16 Days

This 16-day itinerary is perfect for birding enthusiasts who also love a bit of tropical adventure. On a self-drive tour of Costa Rica, you'll be able to view many of the nation's 850 species of birds as you drive from the northern plains to the southern and central coasts. It's a wild road trip that features exotic birds by day and tropical eco-lodge accommodations by night.

costa rica
Map of Exotic Birding Road Trip in Costa Rica - 9 Days
Exotic Birding Road Trip in Costa Rica - 9 Days

If you're the kind of traveler who likes to combine tropical R&R with unforgettable wildlife excursions, then Costa Rica is for you. This nine-day adventure allows you to view many of the nation's some 850 species of exotic birds, which includes colorful toucans, macaws, and hummingbirds. So grab your binoculars because you're off to the rainforests, mountains, and valleys of one of the most beautiful countries in the world.

costa rica
Map of Costa Rica Birding Road Trip - 14 Days
Costa Rica Birding Road Trip - 14 Days

Costa Rica is one of the most biodiverse nations in the world. Particularly, it's a haven for birders who travel here to catch glimpses of the 850 species that call this country home. On a 14-day tour, you'll visit the best national parks, protected reserves, and even biological research stations where you can view these magnificent specimens in their natural habitats.

costa rica
Map of Birding Self-Drive Adventure in Costa Rica - 13 Days
Birding Self-Drive Adventure in Costa Rica - 13 Days

There are few nations in the world in which you can see more bird species than Costa Rica. On a 13-day self-driving tour of this tropical paradise, you'll visit rainforests, beaches, mountains, and even scientific research stations in pursuit of the rarest specimens. This not only includes such colorful species as hummingbirds, toucans, and macaws but even the exotic resplendent quetzal.