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, going to Tamarindo, Monteverde, Bijagua and Rincon de la Vieja/Curubande, created specifically for repeat travelers to Costa Rica who have not been to the Guanacaste province and are looking for more than just a beach vacation.
14 Days in Costa Rica Itinerary
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! It even works for a first time trip if you’re interested in more mountains with a sprinkling of beach time.
I created this itinerary for my parents, who visited for the third time but have not explored the Tilaran mountain ranges. They were more keen on mountains and hiking rather than beach.
Best Time of the Year for this Itinerary
For this itinerary, we did it with my parents at 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 climate. Plus, being from Washington state, they didn’t mind rain or cold.
You may want to do this itinerary in dry season if you don’t want to deal with any rain and you want the best weather possible. The best months would be February and March for the best weather for sunny skies and clear weather. October, November and December may be quite rainy for Bijagua and Monteverde. Tamarindo and Rincon de la Vieja are in the dry tropical forest, so those areas tend to be drier and hotter.
Pro tip: Make sure you bring long pants, socks, closed toed shoes, a jacket and rain jacket (any time of the year) for Monteverde.Read our packing list for more information.
If you visit in March or April, you have good chances to see the Resplendant Quetzals in Monteverde. But you won’t really be able to see marine wildlife in the Gulf of Papagayo unless you visit during February or July – October.
In September, we saw turtles, dolphins, monkeys, sloths, tons of toucans and birds.
If you’re on a budget and don’t want to be around tons of people, avoid the high season months December – April and July. Shoulder season months (May, June, November) or rainy season (August, September and October) are the best. There were many people at the destinations we visited.
Read our guide to visiting Costa Rica during the rainy season here.
Getting around this 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.
We have a car and for this itinerary, it was the best way to get around to maximize the time. These destinations are a hard to get by bus and we like to be on our own schedule. Plus a car is way more comfortable for my parents who are in their early 60’s as we could stop whenever we wanted to and stayed at hotels away from the town center.
Since the average driving times between the destinations is around 3 hours one way, 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 clearance car is recommended for Monteverde so a 4×2 SUV in dry season or 4×4 SUV in rainy season.
International Airport to fly into
Guanacaste Airport (airport code LIR) is the airport to fly into. It’s a 1 hour drive from Guanacaste Airport to Rincon de la Vieja and 1.5 hours to 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. The beach is beautiful and is a great way to get your taste of a touristic beach town in Guanacaste, Costa Rica.
For those looking for a less touristy destination, head to Playa Avellanas. This is one of our favorite beaches in Costa Rica and it’s way more chill than Tamarindo. It’s not as developed but it’s only a 30 minute drive to Tamarindo. Avellanas has a few hotels and many vacation rentals. For luxury travelers, you can stay at JW Marriott Guanacaste or rent one of the fancy houses in Hacienda Pinilla.
Where to stay in Tamarindo
There are many lodging options in Tamarindo from hostels, standard hotels, bungalows, cabinas, vacation rentals, houses and apartments. If you are looking for a luxury beach front resort, read our review of the Tamarindo Diria Beach Resort. Want to book a room? Contact us and we will assist you.
What to do
- 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.
- Surfing: Tamarindo is famous for surfing due to its long breaks and constant waves. Take a surf lesson (~$55 USD for 2 hour group lesson) to learn how to ride the waves.
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 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.
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.
This is the day you land so relax, settle in, walk around town, watch the sunset on the beach. Have dinner at Pikatas.
On your first full day, you don’t need to wake up super early as it’s your day to enjoy the beach and town. Around mid morning, take a boat tour through the estuary in Tamarindo. It’s about 2 hours on a boat and around $45 USD per person. You can walk directly to the boats by the Marino Las Baulas National Park entrance on Tamarindo beach to arrange your tour with the boat captains.
Have lunch after the tour at Volcano Brewing Company for typical American bar food or Soda Buffet El Estero for local food.
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). Then watch the sunset on the beach and relax.
For dinner, head to Mercadito open food court for a laid back dinner. For something a bit nicer/fancier, Pangas, Dragonfly or Agua Salada are excellent options.
If you’re visiting during the season (July – November), you can stop by Ostional Wildlife Refuge to see Olive Ridley sea turtles (1.5 hour drive from Tamarindo), 4wd required.
Go on a snorkeling/sailing/boating trip to see the beautiful coastlines and waters of the Guanacaste province!
If you book the private beach hop and snorkeling tour in Playas del Coco, the morning is best for snorkeling. Full days are also an option if you want to have the ultimate boating and snorkeling day.
If you don’t want to drive that much, book a shared afternoon catamaran tour from Tamarindo. The sunset tour is the most popular.
You can also go on a fishing trip. They will normally let you keep what you catch and you can have the restaurants cook it (check El Be or El Chiringuito).
Day 4 – 7: Monteverde
On days 4-7 in this 14 days in Costa Rica itinerary, you’ll visit Monteverde. Monteverde is a rural farming area up in the Tilaran mountain range, famous for its cloud forest, hiking and birding. There are 3 cloud forest reserves perfect for hiking and nature.
It’s also a popular spot for adventure ziplining 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 total. We recommend to leave around 11 AM (hotel check out time usually) so you can get to Monteverde in the light before dark.
You do not want to drive this route at night. You can read more about Monteverde road conditions here.
Where to stay
We have stayed at different hotels in Monteverde: Hotel El Establo, Monteverde Country Lodge, Hotel Poco a Poco, Sibu Lodge and Natura Lodge. Use our 5% promo code “mytanfeet” to save $$ at the following hotels: Hotel Poco a Poco, Monteverde Country Lodge and Sibu Lodge.
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.
- El Tigre Waterfalls Monteverde: Awesome waterfall hike! 8 kilometer (5 mile) trail passing 6-8 waterfalls and hanging bridges.
- Bird watching: Monteverde is an excellent place to see birds, particularly the Resplendant Quetzal. During the months of January – July, 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!
- 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 Treetopia 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.
- Free spots: Discover some cool local spots without spending much money. Read more: free/cheap things to do in Monteverde
Check out our Monteverde tours booking page if you want to do guided nature walks, night walks, birdwatching and much more!
Sample Monteverde Itineraries
Day 4: You will be arriving in Monteverde in late afternoon after driving from Tamarindo. After checking into your hotel, relax and check out Santa Elena town. Drive up to Cerro Pinocho to see the sunset if you have a 4×4. Have dinner at Restaurante Sabor Tico for delicious local food (try their beef stew).
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, walk the hanging bridges and get up close with the cloud forest. We highly recommend Selvatura Park for the ultimate 1 day experience as you can also visit their butterfly garden, sloth center and reptile/amphibian exhibit.
After your day at Selvatura Park, have dinner at your hotel or grab some yummy tacos at Taco Taco.
Day 6: Do the full Trapiche tour (sugar cane/coffee/cacao, around 2 hours) in the morning at 10 AM. For lunch, head to Orchid Cafe. Afterwards, check out the art galleries or souvenir shops around Santa Elena to do some souvenir shopping.
Then relax in the afternoon and watch the sunset at the Mirador Valle Escondido Preserve right in town. For dinner, head to Tramonti for delicious pizza and pasta.
Day 7: Go for an early morning birding tour at Curi Cancha Reserve. If you aren’t interested in birdwatching, then visit the Santa Elena Reserva Bosque Nuboso or the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve for a self guided walk (~2-3 hours). Afterwards, get brunch/lunch at Stella’s. Relax for the rest of the day and head to Mirador San Luis to watch the sunset. If you’re not interested in birdwatching, visit El Tigre Waterfalls Monteverde to hike and see waterfalls.
Day 8 – 11: Bijagua
Bijagua is a small farming town up in the northern highlands, right at the border of Guanacaste and Alajuela. This area is famous for the Tenorio Volcano National Park where Rio Celeste (sky blue river) is.
The drive from Monteverde to Bijagua via the Interamericana highway is about 2 hours.
Where to stay
Casitas Tenorio B&B, Rio Celeste Hideaway, Heliconias Rainforest Lodge, Tenorio Lodge or Celeste Mountain Lodge. The Hideaway Hotel is very close to the entrance of Tenorio Volcano National Park and is a luxury hotel.
What to do
- Hike Rio Celeste in Tenorio Volcano National Park. 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. This 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.
- See sloths at Finca Verde: This family owned property has small cabins, a garden and natural surrounding forests home to many sloths. Great place to see toucans, frogs and sloths in the wild.
- 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 Rio Celeste swimming hole.
There are also night tours at a frog farm, horseback riding tours, a hike to Bijagua waterfall and the Heliconias hanging bridges.
For these days, we hiked Rio Celeste one day and then the next day, we spent the morning birdwatching at our hotel, swam in the public section of the river and relaxed at our hotel.
Sample Bijagua Itineries
Day 8: You’ll arrive in Bijagua, check into your hotel and relax.
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. Also include a visit to Heliconias Hanging Bridges to hike their hanging bridges through the rainforest and Finca Verde to see sloths and toucans in the wild.
Day 12 and 13: Rincon de la Vieja
The last two days are i Rincon de la Vieja. This area is by the national park and 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.
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. They also have blue pools and waterfalls.
- Borinquen Mountain Resort & Spa: This hotel is out in the mountains of Rincon de la Vieja in a very peaceful and tranquil area. They have their own hot springs, ziplining and horseback riding trails on the property. Rooms are a lot nicer with a modern rustic touch. Recommended for couples.
- Buena Vista: Buena Vista has another fun adventure combo tour with a waterslide. Rooms are more like basic cabins, but they also have a coffee farm, cultural activities, hot springs, trails, waterfalls and horseback riding.
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.
- Hike the national park: You can also spend the 1 full day hiking the Rincon de la Vieja national park. 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. The hotels mentioned above all have spas, hot springs and mud baths. Spend your day in spa bliss before heading home.
Day 14: Fly out
And on day 14, you fly out of Liberia after a fun 2 weeks! Rincon de la Vieja to Guanacaste Airport is about 30 minutes. Remember to get there 2-3 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
13 days in Costa Rica: San Jose, Puerto Viejo, La Fortuna and Monteverde
1 week itinerary: Jaco, Manuel Antonio and Uvita
Costa Rica Vacation Checklist
- First time to Costa Rica? Read our First Time in Costa Rica guide.
- Not sure how to move around Costa Rica? Read our How to Get Around Costa Rica guide to find the best transportation method for you.
- Click the link to get our detailed Costa Rica Packing List so you know what essential items to bring.
- Do not forget to purchase Travel Insurance for your trip to Costa Rica.
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