Are you visiting Costa Rica for a return trip and need ideas for where to go? This is a great 2 week Costa Rica itinerary for repeat travelers, visiting a few places that are not quite as touristic and are 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.
We’ve already taken them to Arenal and Playas del Coco so we wanted to take them to a mix of touristy and non-touristy destinations. We included Playa Tamarindo since it’s the current town we’re living in and then went to the rain forest, cloud forest and dry forest for hiking, bird watching and 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 a map of the 14 days in Costa Rica sample itinerary.
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 and if you visit in March or April, you have good chances to see the Resplendant Quetzals in Monteverde. But you won’t be able 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 were still able to see a blue Rio Celeste and a very cloudy cloud forest. As for wildlife, we saw it all except for Resplendant Quetzals since they aren’t in Monteverde during that time.
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!
We have a car so that is how we got around and for this itinerary, it is also best to rent a car. These destinations don’t have direct buses and shared shuttle companies don’t go to Bijagua. The driving times are not that long for this trip, they are all around 3 hours. A car is the best way to be flexible, enjoy the views and get around in a timely matter. A 4×4 is recommended for Monteverde but you can get by with a mid-size SUV.
Take advantage of our Costa Rica car rental discount here!
Airport to fly into
LIR Airport (Liberia) is the airport to fly into. It’s a 1 hour drive from LIR 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: Playa Tamarindo
Playa Tamarindo is a great starting point for this 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.
What to do
- Beach hopping: Drive to the many beautiful beaches nearby such as Playa Conchal, Playa Flamingo and Playa Brasilito. Or if you prefer to explore and visit hidden beaches, drive down to Playa San Juanillo. If you’re visiting during the season (July – November), you can also stop by Ostional Wildlife Refuge to see Olive Ridley sea turtles which is not too far from San Junillo.
- Snorkeling or sunset catamaran: You can take a snorkeling trip or sunset catamaran sailing trip. Snorkeling isn’t the best at the Tamarindo beaches however, it is much better up in the Gulf of Papagayo which is a 1 hour drive north. You can book a private snorkeling trip out of Playas del Coco where you can also visit hidden, boat access only beaches.
- Surfing: Tamarindo is famous for surfing due to its long breaks and constant waves. Take a surf lesson ($50 for 2 hours) to learn how to ride the waves. If you’re an intermediate or expert surfer, you can head to Playa Avellanas or Playa Grande for bigger 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.
Where to stay
Day 4 – 7: Monteverde
Monteverde is a rural farming area up in the Tilaran mountain range, famous for its cloud forest. There are 3 cloud forest reserves perfect for hiking and nature. It’s also a hot 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 went through Las Juntas which is on a mostly concrete road but it is super windy. You can read more about Monteverde road conditions here.
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, it is common to see handfuls of these brilliant birds in one tree dancing around each other. Go to Curi-Cancha Reserve for the best Quetzal spotting 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 buy tons of coffee for cheaper than the supermarket/souvenir stores!)
- 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 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.
Where to stay:
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 all on a well paved highway.
This area is famous for the Tenorio Volcano National Park where the incredible Rio Celeste (sky blue river) is.
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 Sept – Nov, 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.
- 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, the Heliconias hanging bridges and a chocolate tour in Bijagua.
Where to stay
Casitas Tenorio B&B, a super cute B&B with rooms and villas. Has sloths on the property, their own trails, great bird watching and beautiful views. Get 10% off your booking here!
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. The road to Rincon is unpaved but nothing bad.
What to do
- Adventure combo tour: All the hotels in the Rincon de la Vieja area have their own adventure park with ziplining, waterfalls, horseback riding and hot springs with mud baths. Depending on which hotel you stay at, those are the standard activities and each one has their own special activity such as white water tubing or a waterslide.
- 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.
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.
Day 14: Fly out
And on day 14 you fly out of Liberia after a fun 2 weeks hiking and adventuring at the beach and in the rain, cloud and dry forest.
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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