Are you visiting Costa Rica for a return trip and need ideas for where to go? This is a great 14 days in Costa Rica itinerary for repeat travelers, visiting a few places that are not quite as touristic, making it ideal for those who are already familiar with the country. I put together this itinerary for my parents who came to visit us recently for the 3rd time. The destinations are Tamarindo, Monteverde, Bijagua and Rincon de la Vieja.
We’ve already taken them to La Fortuna and Playas del Coco so we wanted to take them to a mix of touristy and non-touristy destinations. We included Tamarindo since it’s the closest beach town we live by and then went to the rain forest, cloud forest and dry forest for hiking, bird watching and a touch of adventure.
If that sounds like something you want to do for your 2nd (or 3rd) trip to Costa Rica, check out the 14 day Costa Rica itinerary below!
14 Days in Costa Rica Itinerary
Here is our interactive map of the 14 days in Costa Rica sample itinerary. You can use the sidebar to sort through the filters to see the driving route, destinations, hotels, activities and restaurants we recommend.
Best Time of the Year for this Itinerary
My parents visited in the beginning of September, during the heart of rainy season. Although Bijagua and Monteverde are high elevation areas that tend to rain more (read more about Costa Rica weather here), we wanted them to experience the tropical cloud forest and the climate and being from Washington state, they didn’t mind a little rain.
Even though it didn’t rain as much as I thought it would, you may want to do this itinerary in dry season if you’re absolutely against running into any rain or being cold. This also gives you better chances of seeing Rio Celeste super blue. In September, we were still able to see a blue Rio Celeste and a very cloudy cloud forest.
Make sure you bring long pants, a sweater and rain jacket for Monteverde (any time of the year).
If you visit in March or April, you have good chances to see the Resplendant Quetzals in Monteverde. But you won’t have many chances to see turtles, dolphins or whales in the Gulf of Papagayo unless you visit in July – end of November or as many toucans in Bijagua and Monteverde.
In September, we saw turtles, dolphins, monkeys, sloths, tons of toucans and birds.
If you’re on a budget or don’t want to be around as many people, avoid high season months December – April and middle of July. Shoulder season months (May, June, November) or rainy season (August, September and October) are the best. There were barely any people at all the destinations we visited and the visitors that were there, were all Europeans as September is the peak month of travel for them.
If you are visiting in rainy season, make sure to read our rainy season packing list so you come prepared!
Getting around this 14 days in Costa Rica itinerary
We have a car and for this itinerary, it was the best way to get around. These destinations are a bit hard to get by bus and we like to be on our own schedule since we’re more on the adventurous explorer side. Plus a car is way more comfortable for my parents who are in their early 60’s.
Since the average driving times between the destinations is around 3 hours, a car is the best way to be flexible, enjoy the views and get around in a timely matter. We took our Mitsubishi Montero Sport (7 pax, 4×4) but you can rent a mid-size SUV for 4 people plus luggage. A high car is recommended for Monteverde.
Take advantage of our Costa Rica car rental discount here!
Airport to fly into
Liberia International Airport (LIR airport code) in Guanacaste is the airport to fly into. It’s a 1 hour drive from Liberia Airport Airport to both Rincon de la Vieja and Tamarindo. The drive from the airport to Tamarindo is on a well paved road with plenty of signage.
Day 1 – 3: Tamarindo
Tamarindo is a great starting point for this 14 days in Costa Rica itinerary since it’s a popular beach town with lots of hotels, restaurants and all the services and amenities.
It’s in an excellent location to enjoy the Guanacaste golden coast with plenty of stunning beaches for beach hopping, snorkeling and other activities.
Looking for a less busy beach to stay at in the area? Consider Langosta, Playa Grande, Brasilito or Potrero. Looking for a few luxury beach days? Check out the resorts W Costa Rica, JW Marriott or Westin Conchal.
Where to stay
Budget: Cabinas Marielos, Botella de Leche, Oveja Negra or Coral Reef Hostel. Mid range to high range: Hotel Mar Rey, Luna Llena, Ramona Charming Hotel, Sirena Serena, Ocho Artisan Bungalows, Tamarindo Bay Boutique Hotel, Diria, Esplendor or Jardin del Eden.
You can also find vacation rentals, VRBOs and Airbnbs in Tamarindo. If you rent a car, you can check out Villarreal for rentals in a local town.
What to do
- Beach hopping: Drive to the many beautiful beaches nearby such as Playa Conchal and Playa Flamingo. Or if you prefer to explore and visit hidden beaches, check out Playa San Juanillo, Playa Real or Playa Mina. If you’re visiting during the season (July – November), you can also stop by Ostional Wildlife Refuge to see Olive Ridley sea turtles (1.5 hour drive from Tamarindo).
- Snorkeling or sunset catamaran: You can take a snorkeling trip or sunset catamaran sailing trip. Snorkeling isn’t possible right off shore on Tamarindo beach however, so you will need to book a snorkeling tour. Our recommendations is a private boating trip in Playas del Coco where you can also visit hidden, boat access only beaches (1 hour drive one way). For a closer location, you can take a private boating trip from Flamingo. For something right in Tamarindo, there are several catamaran and sailing tours like Marlin del Rey, Antares, Dream Chaser and Blue Dolphin. These are open sailing tours and the sunset tour is the most popular.
- Surfing: Tamarindo is famous for surfing due to its long breaks and constant waves. Take a surf lesson (~$50 USD for 2 hours) to learn how to ride the waves.
- Nicaragua day tour: Interested in seeing Nicaragua? Being so close to the border, you can take a 1 day Nicaragua tour to see highlights such as Granada, Masaya Volcano and Laguna de Apoyo.
You can read about more things to do in Tamarindo here.
Sample Tamarindo Itineraries
Here is an idea of what to do during your 2 full days in Tamarindo.
Day 1: This is the day you land so relax, settle in, walk around town, watch the sunset on the beach.
Day 2: On your first full day, you don’t need to wake up super early! Around mid morning, take a boat tour through the estuary in Tamarindo. It’s about 2 hours on a boat and around $25 USD per person. To book the tour, from Witch’s Rock on Tamarindo beach, walk to the right until you see a lot of locals with boats. Talk to them to book the tour. Have lunch after the tour at Pico Bistro, Witch’s Rock or El Chiringuito on the beach.
After lunch, lay by the beach, swim, tan, have a cold coconut and relax. You can also take a surf lesson (around 2 hours, $50 USD per person for a group lesson). Check out Iguana Surf, Walter’s, Banana Surf or Witch’s Rock for surf lessons. Then watch the sunset on the beach and relax.
For dinner, head to Mercadito or Longboards for a laid back dinner. Seasons, Dragonfly or Pangas for a more upscale dinner, Jolly Rogers for chicken wings, burgers and beer, Green Papaya for fish tacos or Surf Shack for burgers.
Day 3: Go on the snorkeling/sailing/boating trip. For snorkeling and fishing tours departing from Tamarindo, check out Sea Breeze. If you do the open sailing tours from Tamarindo, sunset is the most popular. You can sleep in in the morning and go to the beach. If you book a private tour, morning is best for snorkeling. Full days are also an option if you want to have the ultimate boating and snorkeling day!
Day 4 – 7: Monteverde
On days 4-7 in this 14 days in Costa Rica itinerary, you’ll head to Monteverde.
Monteverde is a rural farming area up in the Tilaran mountain range, famous for its cloud forest and birding. There are 3 cloud forest reserves perfect for hiking and nature. It’s also a popular spot for adventure canopy tours where you can tarzan swing, bungee jump and zipline over the cloud forest!
The drive from Tamarindo to Monteverde is about 3.5 hours. We recommend to leave by noon so you can get to Monteverde in the light. You do not want to drive this route at night. You can read more about Monteverde road conditions here.
Where to stay
Budget: Claro de Luna, Sleepers Sleep or Cabinas Vista Al Golfo. Mid range: Hotel Fonda Vela, Camino Verde, Los Piños Lodge, Monteverde Country Lodge. High range: Hotel Poco a Poco, Hotel Belmar, Senda Monteverde, El Establo Hotel.
What to do
- Hike the cloud forest: This is a must! The cloud forests are extremely vulnerable and rare in the world, housing hundreds of flora and fauna that don’t live outside these conditions. Monteverde and Santa Elena are the two most popular cloud forest reserves. Read our guide to the Monteverde cloud forest reserves here.
- Bird watching: Monteverde is an excellent place to see birds, particularly the Resplendant Quetzal. During the months of March – July which is their mating season, you can see these brilliant birds. Take a guided birding walk Curi Cancha Reserve for the best Quetzal opportunities.
- Coffee tour: Monteverde’s climate and fertile soil makes it an ideal location for coffee. Visit the El Trapiche or San Luis coffee plantation to learn all about the process of growing, harvesting and processing coffee. And sample and buy delicious coffee! El Trapiche is one of our absolute favorites.
- Ziplining: To add some adventure to the trip, go on an extreme canopy tour like 100% Aventura where they also have a 45 meter tarzan swing. Or head to Selvatura Park or Sky Adventures with breathtaking views of the cloud forest.
- Hanging bridges walk: Go on a self guided walk through the hanging bridges so you can get high up in the cloud forest. Many adventure parks have their own, such as Selvatura, Sky and 100% Aventura so you can do multiple activities in one day.
Sample Monteverde Itineraries
Here are ideas on how to spend your time in Monteverde.
Day 4: You will be arriving in Monteverde after driving from Tamarindo. After checking into your hotel, relax and check out Santa Elena town. Have dinner at Amy’s or Toro Tinto.
Day 5: Spend a full day at one of the adventure parks for a fun day of ziplining, hiking and nature! You’ll zip through the cloud forest, get stunning views on the hanging bridges and get up close with the cloud forest. We highly recommend Selvatura Park for the ultimate 1 day experience. Have dinner at Restaurante Sabor Tico for yummy Costa Rican food.
Day 6: Take a coffee tour in the morning at El Trapiche or Don Juan. For lunch, head to Orchid Cafe. Relax in the afternoon, drive to the sunset view point on the way to San Luis to see the sunset. For dinner, head to Tramonti for delicious pizza or Monteverde Beer House for craft beer and Mediterranean fusion food.
Day 7: Go for an early morning birding tour at Curi Cancha Reserve with Three Brothers (great birding guides) and then visit La Reserva Bosque Nuboso Santa Elena to hike around the trails, climb up a ficus tree and see Arenal Volcano (on a clear day).
Day 8 – 11: Bijagua
Bijagua is a tiny rural town up in the northern highlands, right at the border of Guanacaste and Alajuela. The drive from Monteverde to Bijagua via the Interamericana highway is about 2 hours.
This area is famous for the Tenorio Volcano National Park where the incredible Rio Celeste (sky blue river) is.
Where to stay
What to do
- Hike Rio Celeste. You can do a self guided hike to the river as the trail is well laid out and easy to follow. It’s a 25 minute drive from Bijagua to the national park entrance. Important thing to note: if you’re visiting in the very rainy months of September – January, sometimes the park closes due to intense rain and floods or the water isn’t as blue why is why we stayed for 3 full days so we could see how the weather was in the morning. If you visit during that time of year, be flexible!
- Bird watching: Bijagua has a great number of unique birds due to the type of forest around and you can see hummingbirds, 3 species of toucans, all sorts of tanagers and other birds.
- Swim in the river: You can’t swim in Rio Celeste in the national park but there are spots outside the park that are open to the public by the bridge. We spent a day swimming in the river at the free entrance.
There are also night tours at a frog farm, horseback riding tours, a hike to Bijagua waterfall and the Heliconias hanging bridges.
Sample Bijagua Itineries
Day 8: You’ll arrive in Bijagua, check into your hotel and relax. Take a night walk at the frog farm to see frogs, reptiles, insects and other night critters.
Day 9, 10 and 11: Check how the weather is to visit Rio Celeste in Tenorio Volcano National Park, especially if you’re visiting during rainy season.
The other two days you have free, you can go swim in the public area of Rio Celeste, hike to Bijagua waterfall, take a horseback riding tour or just relax and enjoy the beautiful mountain air.
Day 12 and 13: Rincon de la Vieja
The last two days are in the Rincon de la Vieja area. It’s at the Rincon de la Vieja National Park and it’s the best place to explore the dry tropical forest and the Rincon volcano.
Bijagua to Rincon is about a 1.5 hour drive via Interamericana highway 1 and Liberia.
What to do
- Adventure combo tour: All the hotels in the Rincon de la Vieja area have their own adventure park with activities like ziplining, waterfalls, horseback riding and hot springs with mud baths.
- Hiking the national park: You can also spend the 1 full day hiking the national park if you’re got your fill of adventure in Monteverde. There are some charming waterfalls you can hike to or do the short trail around the boiling mud pots. Read about the hiking trails in Rincon de la Vieja National Park here.
- Relax. A couple of the hotels have spas so you can relax the last couple days before going home.
You will arrive on day 12 and on day 13, you can hike or do the one day adventure pass.
Where to stay
- Hacienda Guachipelin: This hacienda has our favorite adventure combo tour with white water tubing. Rooms are nothing spectacular but the activities and property are really nice.
- Borinquen Mountain Resort & Spa: This hotel is out in the mountains of Rincon de la Vieja in a very peaceful and tranquil area. There’s nothing around except trees and they have their own hot springs, ziplining and horseback riding trails on the property. Rooms are a lot nicer with a modern rustic touch.
- Buena Vista: Buena Vista has another fun adventure combo tour with a waterslide. Rooms are nothing special either, but they also have a coffee farm, cultural activities, hot springs, trails, waterfalls and horseback riding.
- Rio Perdido: It’s not as close to Rincon de la Vieja as the other properties but this resort is very nice for hot springs and adventure.
Day 14: Fly out
And on day 14, you fly out of Liberia after a fun 2 weeks! Rincon de la Vieja to Liberia Airport is about 30 minutes depending on which hotel you stay at. Remember to get there 2 hours before your flight.
We hope this itinerary was helpful for your trip planning!
Check out other Costa Rica itineraries below!
10 day Costa Rica itinerary: San Jose, Puerto Viejo and Manuel Antonio
1 week itinerary: Jaco, Manuel Antonio and Uvita
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