Costa Rica: Perfect 2-Weeks Itinerary
Costa Rica is a country in Central America boasting with incredibly diverse flora, landscape, and wildlife, so no wonder it is one of the most visited and heavily traveled countries on the continent. We've put together the perfect 2-weeks itinerary aiming to help you narrow down your plans, and also offer you with other possibilities as it was not possible to see it all in such a short time.
Costa Rica is so different from other countries in Central and South America that when traveling long term and crossing borders from one country to another, you might get a feeling that you found yourself in a completely different, cleaner world.
Costa Rica is a popular travel and vacation destination for families with kids, retirees, but also surprisingly for backpackers, despite higher prices. Also, the style of traveling is a bit different as the majority of travelers rent a car to explore the natural beauty of this exotic country, and also spend less time in Costa Rica - usually ten days to two weeks.
We've decided to put together the perfect 2-weeks itinerary for Costa Rica, but we will also share other destination we did not have the time or desire to visit, so after reading the post, you should be able to create your own perfect itinerary.
When in Costa Rica, we stuck to the Pacific side of the country, and we traveled from borders with Panama towards the borders with Costa Rica.
Two weeks is plenty of time to get a taste of what this country has to offer, so happy planning!
DAY 1 - 2: CORCOVADO NATIONAL PARK
One of the world's most biodiverse regions, Corcovado National Park, is a place not to miss when in Costa Rica.
Prepare to sweat, fight against mosquitos and wade through mud and rivers, but all those things will only enhance the unique experience. You can visit the park only for a day if you do not have enough time, but we can tell from our personal experience when we spent seven days camping in the Amazonian jungle, further and longer you go, and more time you spend, the better chance to see wildlife you have.
It is not possible to visit Corcovado National Park without a guide, so book one, forget about your budget for once, and keep your eyes open to see macaws, monkeys, and maybe even a jaguar.
DAY 3: UVITA
Uvita is a destination on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, where you can absolutely unwind.
It is a pretty little town, a bit overshadowed by its famous neighbors, but totally worth visiting. Uvita lies withing Ballena Marine National Park and is most famous for its beaches, especially for Whale Tail Beach - a beach which during low tide uncovers and has a shape of whale's tail, which is even more exciting considering the fact that Uvita is a destination where you can book a tour to spot migrating humpback whales every year.
DAY 4 - 5: MANUEL ANTONIO NATIONAL PARK
Are you looking for a place which is mixing picturesque white sand beaches, jungle and wildlife watching?
Manuel Antonio National Park is exactly the place. You can spend an entire day in the park looking for playful monkeys and spotting elusive birds, almost invisible snakes, frogs and insects, and once tired, you can hit one of several beaches within park's area. Keep in mind, that although this national park is the smallest in Costa Rica, it is also the most popular one, and getting to the park, especially during high season can be a challenging task - read our post on how to visit the park to avoid disappointment.
You can spend the second day by only lazying on the beaches outside the national park, or you can book a night tour to explore the jungle and see animals living within its borders from a different perspective.
DAY 6 - 7: JACO
Jaco is a city on the Pacific Coast, one of the biggest we've visited in Costa Rica, as we tried to be as close to nature as possible, but traveling to Jaco was an inviting change.
Jaco has a nice long city beach, where you can spend time before hitting the streets in pursuit to find something good to eat or something nice to buy. Jaco is also known as a perfect place for outdoor activities because there is a jungle and many waterfalls around. You can sign up for ATV tours, or try one of the adventure activities such as bungee jumping, ziplining or canyoning. That's what we had tried, and it was one of the best days we've had in Central America.
Another thing you can do close to Jaco is to visit Carara National Park and the famous crocodile bridge nearby.
DAY 8 - 9: MONTEVERDE
Monteverde is the most popular cloud forest in Costa Rica.
Once you enter the park, you'll be surrounded by impenetrable greenery dripping with moist, and the cloud forest will most likely look like you had ever imagined it. Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is an awesome place to admire fauna and flora - no wonder it's been known as a paradise for birders for years.
The only downside of visiting this place is the expensive admission fee, $22 per person.
You can easily spend two days in Monteverde, as you can visit the cloud forest, go for a night tour to see nocturnal wildlife, do ziplining, try to walk on hanging bridges, visit a coffee farm or do horseback riding.
DAY 10 - 11: VOLCAN ARENAL
Arenal Volcano is another significant landmark you can visit in Costa Rica.
The national park protecting the area carries the same name, and you can admire the perfectly conical shaped volcano from one of the park trails or from a boat when cruising Lake Arenal. You can easily spend two days here as activities in the area are endless.
The town of La Fortuna is usually the base for visiting Volcan Arenal.
DAY 12: RIO CELESTE
Rio Celeste in Tenorio National Park is the new must-visit place in Costa Rica.
It has not been known for long, rather contrary, but the word about otherworldly blue waters of Rio Celeste has spread out (mostly thanks to pictures on social media), and more and more people have been adding this natural attraction on their Costa Rica itineraries.
You can allocate only a half day to visit the waterfall and the river in case you have a car, and later explore lush green hills around Tenorio National Park, but we had to rely on our legs to get to the park, so that's why it took us all day. The closest village where you can stay before visiting Rio Celeste is Bijagua.
DAY 13 - 14: SAN JOSE & VOLCANOES
It depends where are you traveling from, but if you are coming to Costa Rica by plane, chances are that San Jose will be the first or the last destination on your trip.
San Jose doesn't have the best reputation when it comes to the safety, and it also does not boast with many architectonic gems, but like in every capital city, there is always something special and noteworthy, you only need to give this city a chance prove itself.
Also, you can visit two active volcanoes close to San Jose. It is Volcano Poas and Volcano Irazu. You can reach both of them when you have a car, or you need to take a tour or public transport, but in that case, you need more than one day in case you decide on visiting both.
Poas Volcano has been really active in the past couple of years and rules for the visit are more strict, so do not forget to obtain your permission in advance when visiting independently.
HOW TO TRAVEL AROUND COSTA RICA
Costa Rica is a specific country in Central America. It has a reputation for being a much safer country than others in the region. It has better roads (although still far from perfect) distances are not that great, and those two factors influence the style of traveling in Costa Rica.
Rental Car | The most popular way how to get around is by rental car for reasons mentioned above, but also because of the demographics of visitors in Costa Rica is a bit different. It is a paradise for American holidaymakers, especially for families with young kids, who appreciate a certain level of comfort and because of limited time, they want to get from one place to another quickly and efficiently. It is easy to rent a car in San Jose, the capital. If you prefer this style of traveling, you should only remember one thing - do not leave your belongings in the car, and always use secured parking lot if there is one, as rental cars have been lately targeted by thieves.
Public Transport | We found traveling by public transport simple in Costa Rica, and the big advantage was that it ran usually on time. Buses are not somehow modern, and they lack air-condition which was quite challenging at times, but overall by using it, public buses were a good way how to get around, and tickets were surprisingly cheap.
Shuttles | If you do not drive or generally do not want to have a car as your responsibility during your holiday, but traveling by bus seems too slow and complicated, the third option on how to get around Costa Rica is by using tourist shuttles. Local companies run their shuttles between major tourist destinations, and you can book services online, or without prior reservation in all heavily visited towns.
SAFETY IN COSTA RICA
Costa Rica is a safe country and stands out among its neighbors, and countries in Central America overall.
Of course, capital city San Jose is a bit different - as every big city - and it is better to watch out for your belongings and do not go out after dark, or at least stick to well-lit streets.
People are generally friendly, and they often speak at least basic English, especially in often visited places.
WHAT DID WE SKIP & WHAT CAN YOU VISIT IN COSTA RICA
We were traveling from Boquete in Panama, so we crossed borders to Costa Rica close to the Pacific Coast, and it is also where we stayed for our entire visit.
If you have more time or simply want to see more of this country, there are still an uncountable number of places you can visit and we bring you more suggestions how you can extend your itinerary. For example, a beach town Puerto Viejo or a wildlife haven Parque Nacional Tortuguero is worth checking when traveling on the Carribean Coast.
If you are heading more inland and want to do some serious hiking, you can sign up for an overnight hike to Cerro Chirripo, the highest peak of Costa Rica.
Also, for a more laidback atmosphere and even more beaches, you can carry on to the Nicoya Peninsula of the Guanacaste province.
WHAT TO PACK FOR COSTA RICA
Costa Rica is all about wildlife, hikes, beaches, outdoor adventures and day trips. Pack light and smart.
Here are 5 essential things you need to bring to Costa Rica.
Hiking Poles | We would bring trekking poles to Costa Rica for a different reason than you would think. When in the jungle, you can carry them as a monopod in pair and use them as protection against snakes.
Binoculars | It's big, heavy, pricey and a must-have for wildlife spotting in Costa Rica.
Camera | You should bring GoPro for all your outdoor adventure and water activities. If you take photography seriously, you need something better than your phone for photographing wildlife. Canon 80D paired with Tamron 150-600mm will get the job done.
TRAVEL INSURANCE - SIMPLE & FLEXIBLE
We never leave our home without travel insurance which is designed to help cover your expenses if something goes wrong on your trip. World Nomads Travel Insurance has been designed by travelers for travelers, to cover your trip essentials.
Travel smarter and safer!