How Many Days To Spend in Costa Rica

Planning a trip to Costa Rica? Read this first to maximize the things to see and do during your visit

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.

Know how long you have already? Explore tours and itineraries by duration: 5 days · 6 days · 7 days · 8 days · 9 days · 10 days · 11 days · 12 days · 13 days · 14 days · 15 days · 16 days

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How Many Days to Spend in Costa Rica

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).

Riding a zip line high above the trees in Costa Rica
Map of 3 Days in Costa Rica - 3 Unique Itinerary Ideas
3 Days in Costa Rica - 3 Unique Itinerary Ideas

If you have just three days to spend in Costa Rica, it’s wise to prioritize one location 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.

Guanacaste coast
Map of 5 Days in Costa Rica - 6 Unique Itineraries
5 Days in Costa Rica - 6 Unique Itineraries

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.

Try SUP (stand-up paddle boarding) in Manuel Antonio National Park
Map of 6 Days in Costa Rica - 5 Unique Itinerary Ideas
6 Days in Costa Rica - 5 Unique Itinerary Ideas

With six days to spend in Costa Rica, one excellent option is a classic tour that takes you to popular highlights like Arenal and Manuel Antonio National Park. Active travelers might opt for a cycling tour or an adventurous itinerary featuring a two-day whitewater rafting excursion. Other great options include a wildlife luxury trip to the Osa Peninsula and a trip that mixes culture and nature in the Gulf of Papayayo. Learn more about the possibilities with these five unique itineraries.

Explore the clear waters of Manuel Antonio National Park
Map of 6 Days in Costa Rica - 5 Family-Friendly Itinerary Ideas
6 Days in Costa Rica - 5 Family-Friendly Itinerary Ideas

With six days in Costa Rica, travelers can easily explore one or two destinations. Itineraries fun for the whole family include a trip to La Fortuna Waterfall Reserve, an excursion to Manuel Antonio National Park, a wildlife excursion around Arenal Volcano (plus a zip line adventure!), and a trip plan centered around volcanoes and beaches. Add a cultural element to the trip by spending a day exploring the historic center of San José. Read on to learn more about your options for family-friendly trips around Costa Rica.

Punta Uva Beach on the Caribbean Coast
Map of 7 Days in Costa Rica - 6 Unique Itinerary Ideas
7 Days in Costa Rica - 6 Unique Itinerary Ideas

Hike around active volcanoes, spot wildlife in a cloud forest, soak in natural hot springs, learn to surf, or relax on the beach: there are countless ways to spend a week in Costa Rica. Featuring activities ranging from whitewater rafting and zip-lining to cycling tours and cooking classes, these unique itineraries take you to the country's biodiverse regions for a deep dive into culture, nature, and adventure. Read on to find your perfect itinerary for seven days in Costa Rica.

Learning to surf in Costa Rica
Map of 1 Week in Costa Rica - 6 Family-Friendly Itinerary Ideas
1 Week in Costa Rica - 6 Family-Friendly Itinerary Ideas

Plan the perfect week in Costa Rica with these family-friendly itinerary ideas. From volcanoes and hot springs to waterfalls and estuaries, each plan features a range of outdoor experiences. Focus your time around hiking and wildlife viewing in national parks, opt for an adventure centered around volcanoes and Pacific beaches, or choose a trip filled with active pursuits like sailing and snorkeling around the coral reef off the Catalina Islands. With hands-on activities like chocolate-making workshops and nighttime rainforest walks, these action-packed trips are a hit with kids and adults alike.

Arenal Volcano National Park
8 Days in Costa Rica - 6 Unique Itinerary Ideas

An eight-day trip to Costa Rica provides plenty of time for both adventure and relaxation. Choose a classic tour that leads you to the country's volcanoes, cloud forests, and beaches, opt for a wildlife-focused tour of Tortuguero and Cahuita National Parks, or choose an active itinerary that includes whitewater rafting and zip-lining. Alternatively, choose a luxury tour, a cultural trip, or a cycling itinerary across the country. Find out more about your options by reading over these unique itineraries.

Snorkel with kids off the Costa Rican coast
Map of 8 Days in Costa Rica - 5 Family-Friendly Itinerary Ideas
8 Days in Costa Rica - 5 Family-Friendly Itinerary Ideas

Spend eight days exploring Costa Rica's beaches, volcanoes, and cloud forests. These family-friendly itineraries offer both adventure and education. Divide your time between national parks, wildlife viewing excursions, and hikes to volcanoes and waterfalls, or opt for an itinerary that includes a full day of sightseeing historic San José. Families with smaller children might choose a trip with low-key outdoor activities, like a sunset catamaran cruise or a hike through a sloth habitat, while those with older kids may prefer an itinerary with zip-lining, snorkeling, and other adventure sports.

A little girl feeds a blue and gold macaw
Map of 9 Days in Costa Rica - 5 Family-Friendly Itinerary Ideas
9 Days in Costa Rica - 5 Family-Friendly Itinerary Ideas

Hike to volcanoes, snorkel with tropical fish, and zip-line through the rainforest on these 9-day adventures designed for families. Each trip plan offers a mix of outdoor activities and wildlife viewing. The most classic itineraries lead you from Arenal to Manuel Antonio National Park and the Monteverde Cloud Forest. Other excellent options take you off the beaten path to destinations like Tortuguero National Park, the Gulf of Papagayo, and Sámara for boat tours, kayaking in the mangrove, hiking through a sloth habitat, and other active pursuits that will challenge and inspire travelers of all ages.

Mistico Hanging Bridges Park
Map of 9 Days in Costa Rica - 5 Unique Itinerary Ideas
9 Days in Costa Rica - 5 Unique Itinerary Ideas

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.

Clouds over Arenal Volcano
Map of 10 Days in Costa Rica - 6 Unique Itinerary Ideas
10 Days in Costa Rica - 6 Unique Itinerary Ideas

Travelers with more than a week to spend in Costa Rica have time to experience more of what makes the country so exceptional. These unique 10-day itineraries lead you through the best of Costa Rica, whether you're interested in seeing the top natural highlights or focusing on a specific interest, like adventure activities or wildlife spotting. From a family-friendly tour to a coastal adventure featuring snorkeling and whitewater rafting, there's something for everyone.

Run and play with the kids on Costa Rica's beaches
Map of 10 Days in Costa Rica - 6 Family-Friendly Itinerary Ideas
10 Days in Costa Rica - 6 Family-Friendly Itinerary Ideas

From natural landscapes to wildlife experiences and adventure sports, Costa Rica has much to offer families. Travelers with younger children might opt for a 10-day itinerary with easy guided hikes and visits to wildlife refuges. And those with older kids may choose a trip plan that features zip-lining, whitewater rafting, and surf lessons. Whether you focus your time around Arenal Volcano and Monteverde Cloud Forest, base yourself in the surf town of Tamarindo, or go further off the beaten path on a trip to coastal Sámara, these family-friendly itineraries offer outdoor education and thrills for all ages.

The Pacific coastline in Costa Rica
11 Days in Costa Rica - 5 Unique Itinerary Ideas

With eleven days in Costa Rica, travelers have plenty of options. Combine popular highlights like Arenal Volcano, Monteverde cloud forest, and Manuel Antonio National Park, or delve into one region, like the Pacific coast. Other possibilities include a family-oriented itinerary, featuring wildlife viewing and kid-friendly outdoor activities, and a luxury tour that incorporates adventure sports like zip-lining and whitewater rafting. Learn more by reading over these five unique itineraries.

Snorkel with the kids in Costa Rica
Map of 11 Days in Costa Rica - 6 Family-Friendly Itinerary Ideas
11 Days in Costa Rica - 6 Family-Friendly Itinerary Ideas

Outdoor adventure, wildlife viewing, and relaxing beach time await families on these exciting 11-day itineraries around Costa Rica! Travelers with younger children might opt for a trip featuring sunset sailing, farm tours, and easy walks through the rainforest, while those with older kids may prefer an itinerary with zip-lining and snorkeling around a coral reef. Whether you spend your time around Arenal Volcano and the Monteverde Cloud Forest or venture further to the beaches of Sámara and Palo Verde National Park, these trips offer fun for the whole family.

A sweeping view of the volcano in Rincón de la Vieja National Park, Costa Rica
12 Days in Costa Rica - 6 Unique Itinerary Ideas

With twelve days in Costa Rica, travelers can visit several regions. Choose a highlights tour that includes Arenal and Monteverde, focus on the top sights along the beautiful Pacific coast, or road-trip around volcanoes and national parks on a self-drive tour. Opt for a wildlife-centered adventure, enjoy a luxury itinerary featuring overnight stays in elegant eco-lodges, or take on the challenge of a cycling trip to the Caribbean coast—learn all about the possibilities with these unique 12-day itineraries.

An aerial view over Manuel Antonio National Park
13 Days in Costa Rica - 5 Unique Itinerary Ideas

With 13 days to spend in Costa Rica, you could choose a coast-to-coast highlights tour that takes you to volcanoes, beaches, and national parks. You might opt instead for an itinerary focused on the Caribbean side, an action-packed tour featuring whitewater rafting and ziplining, or a birdwatching tour that leads you to bird habitats around Costa Rica. For the ultimate mix of relaxation and adventure, try a self-guided road trip around the country's best beaches. Learn more with these five unique itineraries.

Enjoy a stroll on Conchal Beach in Costa Rica
Map of 2 Weeks in Costa Rica - 5 Unique Itinerary Ideas
2 Weeks in Costa Rica - 5 Unique Itinerary Ideas

With two weeks to spend in Costa Rica, travelers can truly enjoy the country's natural beauty and geographic diversity. Look for wildlife in the national parks, relax on white-sand beaches, venture underwater to snorkel or dive with colorful marine life, or try adventure activities from whitewater rafting to zip-lining through the jungle. Stick to the highlights, choose a self-drive trip, opt for a luxury tour, or get off the beaten path with these five unique itineraries that showcase the best of Costa Rica.

Turrialba Volcano, Costa Rica
Map of 15 Days in Costa Rica - 5 Unique Itinerary Ideas
15 Days in Costa Rica - 5 Unique Itinerary Ideas

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.

Rappel down a rushing waterfall in Costa Rica
Map of 16 Days in Costa Rica - 6 Unique Itinerary Ideas
16 Days in Costa Rica - 6 Unique Itinerary Ideas

Sixteen days is plenty of time for a comprehensive tour of Costa Rica. Hit the country's highlights on a classic itinerary featuring volcano hikes and hot springs, take to the open road on a self-drive trip to Arenal and the Nicoya Peninsula, choose a cultural tour, or stay in luxury lodgings on a wildlife-focused trip. Outdoor adventurers may opt for an itinerary filled with adventure sports, from whitewater rafting to canyoning, or a trip featuring wellness experiences. Learn more with these unique itineraries.

Monteverde bird
How Many Days to Spend in Monteverde

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.

La Fortuna
How Many Days to Spend in Arenal

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.

Manuel Antonio Beach
How Many Days to Spend in Manuel Antonio

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.