You can have a great adventure in Costa Rica in as short as a long weekend. With only a few days to spare you will have enough time to hike through a rainforest, see an active volcano, and take a surfing lesson. Of course, a week or more is recommended so that you can take advantage of the wide range of activities and biodiversity, giving you more opportunities to explore the culture and vast natural surroundings like a local. This is a breakdown of optimal itineraries to explore Costa Rica, listed from shortest (4 days) to longer (up to 2 weeks).
How Many Days To Spend in Costa Rica
A common question we get is "How many days should I spend in Costa Rica"? While Costa Rica is a small country (size of West Virginia), there are many things to see. The good news is that many sites are situated fairly close together, with great roads (mostly), throughout the country, makes it easy to get around. In 7 or 8 days you will be able to see the best of the country, with 2 weeks you will be able to get all the key highlights, and with more than 2 weeks, you will be able to really explore some regions in depth.
No matter how many days you have, our detailed guides will help you make the most of the time you have in Costa Rica.
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If you have just three days to spend in Costa Rica, it’s wise to prioritize one activity or region. From whitewater rafting to wildlife viewing and catching a world-class wave, here are some suggestions for how to spend a long weekend in this beautiful country.
With less than a week, it's possible to experience many of Costa Rica's star attractions. You can visit misty cloud forests, go whale watching on the Pacific, view wildlife in remote corners of the country, or hike around a volcano—just choose the adventure that suits you best. Let this diverse collection of 5-day itineraries inspire you to do just that.
Six days is a great amount of time to experience Costa Rica—you can easily combine two of the country's biodiverse national parks with a day of exploration in San José. Visit the cloud forest of Monteverde, take a surf lesson at Playa Manuel Antonio, zipline across the jungle at Arenal, or cycle the Continental Divide with the five unique itinerary ideas below.
Cycle from coast to coast, take a culinary journey, chill on the beach, or have a world-class whitewater adventure: there are countless ways to spend a week in Costa Rica. These 5 itineraries pair the country's biodiverse regions with activities that offer a deep dive into culture, nature, and adventure—read on to find your perfect match.
An eight-day trip to Costa Rica provides plenty of time for both adventure and relaxation–explore the history of San José, take a national park tour or two and swim in the hot springs, beaches, and waterfalls that await. Active travelers will appreciate cycling to the Continental Divide, wildlife sightings on a riverboat safari in Nosara, and riding Class IV rapids down the Rio Pacuare in these five trip plans.
Nine days in Costa Rica offers a great canvas of exploration in this biodiverse paradise. Tour a handful of the country’s volcanoes, including Arenal, Irazú, Poás, and Turrialba. Relax in the thermal hot springs of La Fortuna. Explore the cloud forests of Monteverde, or go whitewater rafting on the Pacuare River—see the itineraries below for more on what to do during your trip.
Travelers with more than a week to spend in Costa Rica have time to experience much of what makes the country so exceptional, from its many ecosystems and spectacular wildlife to culture, cuisine, and adventure activities. Each of these itineraries takes a theme and runs with it—you can hit all the highlights, spend ten days on the coast, or focus on specific interests like surfing or wildlife.
With eleven days in Costa Rica, travelers have plenty of options. Combine three major highlights like Arenal, Monteverde, and Manuel Antonio, or dive deep into the offerings of one region, like the Caribbean coast. Take a tour of the country's top highlights, take a national parks road trip, snorkel on a private tour with luxury accommodations, or learn about Costa Rica's indigenous communities: you'll learn how with these five unique itineraries.
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.
With 13 days to spend in Costa Rica, you can choose an action-packed adventure that takes you to rainforests and beaches all over the country — or you could focus your energy on one region, like laid-back Nicoya Peninsula. Spot toucans in the wild on a bird-themed tour, visit indigenous villages and traditional farms on a culturally-oriented itinerary, cycle along the coast on a mountain biking trip, road trip to quiet surf towns, or raft and kayak on an outdoorsy trip plan: learn how with these five unique itineraries.
With two weeks, you can traverse the length and breadth of Costa Rica. You can visit the most famous national parks, indulge in all the adventure activities, laze on white-sand beaches or surf the coastline, and view an abundance of exotic wildlife unrivaled anywhere. Stick to the highlights, or get off the beaten path with these 5 itineraries.
If you have 15 days to spend in Costa Rica, take your time exploring the country—see the best of multiple national parks, get off the beaten path with an interest-driven trip like birding or cycling. Road-trip around the country, hike through rainforests and snorkel around coral reef, mix adventure sports with luxurious spa treatments, and more, with these unique itinerary ideas.
Sixteen days is plenty of time for a comprehensive tour of Costa Rica, including multiple regions and national parks. Road-trip to waterfalls and Caribbean beaches, go rafting down wild rivers, relax in luxurious hot springs, hike to volcanoes, spot sloths and monkeys in the jungle, visit indigenous villages, try zip-lining in the cloud forest, go horseback riding with real-life cowboys: learn how with these unique itineraries.
Arenal Volcano National Park (along with the gateway town of La Fortuna) is a highlight of any Costa Rica itinerary. In an afternoon, you can get a feel for the park from one of its hiking trails or hot spring pools, but you'll need a few days to further take advantage of the views and adventure activities that make this region special. With four days or more, you can add world-class whitewater rafting and indigenous culture excursions to your itinerary.
Monteverde is one of the Central American nation's most popular ecotourism hot spots, and the main reason travelers come here is to tour the cloud forests. In 24 hours, you can do many of the activities make this area famous—ziplining, canopy walks on suspension bridges, and naturalist-led night hikes. With an extra day or two, venture into the surrounding countryside for coffee plantation tours and special garden visits. Read on to find out more.
Manuel Antonio National Park is a microcosm of many of the things that travelers come to Costa Rica for, and its proximity to San José makes it an ideal destination if you're short on time in the country—it's possible to go for just a day. But for travelers with more flexibility, extra time spent in and around Manuel Antonio won't be wasted, with so many natural and outdoor activities to enjoy. Here's a guide to spending your time in Manuel Antonio wisely.