Need tips for planning your 2 week Costa Rica trip? We can help! We put together this exact 2 week Costa Rica itinerary for my family and friends when they visited and they had a blast. 2 weeks is an excellent amount of time to see many different places in Costa Rica without feeling too rushed.
In this sample 2 week Costa Rica itinerary, you get to visit some of the most beloved places in Costa Rica and you get to experience beaches, volcanoes and the cloud/rain forest. Throw in a bit of adventure and leisure activities and you got an epic 14 day Costa Rica itinerary in Arenal, Monteverde, Santa Teresa and Playas del Coco.
This 14 day Costa Rica itinerary is geared for those who want adventure, beaches and rain forest.
A Few Things to Keep in Mind First About this 2 Week Costa Rica Itinerary
14 days seems like a lot but first, don’t believe everything you see on Google Maps. Due to poor road conditions and traffic travel time between destinations is always more than it says on the GPS. We rented a car for this trip so we could explore more since we were going to several destinations and in the end, we were much more comfortable and saved a lot of time.
Thinking about renting a car?
Second, this itinerary starts in Liberia International Airport but you can also land in San Jose Airport. You will have to stay in a day at either airport for your first day anyways to rest up. You must depart from LIR for the closest international airport.
Day 1: Land in LIR or SJO
Whether you land in the morning or at night, you’ll want to spend your first day near the airport to rest and settle in. If you land in the morning and want to explore, here are some ideas.
San Jose: You can head to Central Avenue in San Jose to check out the main part of the city. This is where all the Ticos usually go for work and there are a couple of museums and a national theater. Also remember that the airport is technically located in Alajuela, so depending on which hotel you stay at, you may be fairly close to downtown San Jose or much further. We recommend Hotel La Rosa de America or the Best Western Irazu.
Liberia: You can visit Liberia city, which honestly is not very exciting. It is a typical Costa Rican city so you can check out the park, observe local life and do some souvenir shopping. Or just relax at the hotel to get ready for your trip!
If you need suggestions for hotels near LIR airport, here are our top picks.
Days 2-4: Arenal
As one of the most popular tourist destinations in Costa Rica, Arenal is the best place for your first introduction to the country. Arenal is an area in the northern lowlands famous for the volcano and lake. It offers many adventure activities as well as wildlife watching opportunities. Spend the next couple days exploring the national park and the surrounding attractions.
It is about a 3.5 hour drive from both San Jose and Liberia to Arenal, so make sure you leave early in the morning to take advantage of your time in Arenal. There are flights from both San Jose and Liberia to Arenal on Nature Air that take about 30 minutes.
Where to stay in Arenal
There are a ton of hotel options in La Fortuna and Arenal. Many backpackers and those on a budget stay in La Fortuna town because there are more hostels and cheaper hotels. There hotels around Arenal Volcano are more expensive as those normally have a view of the volcano and can range from $100 and up. Hostels are as cheap as $12 a bed and hotels in La Fortuna are around $60-90.
There are more upscale and luxury hotels in Arenal such as Nayara, the Springs and Tabacon so if you want to splurge on your trip, this is the best place to do so in this itinerary. You can check our list of best luxury hotels in Arenal.
If you’re coming with a family or big group, check out this Airbnb in Arenal that fits up to 12 people.
What to do in Arenal
- Arenal Volcano National Park: Walk the trails of the national park to learn about the history of Arenal Volcano and the impact its huge eruption had back in 1968. Previously famous for its constant mini-eruptions and lava spews, Arenal Volcano has been quiet for the past five years emitting only smoke and gas. Visitors can get up close and personal on the trails, see various flora and fauna and get beautiful views of the volcano and the lake.
- Canyoning: Looking for adventure in the rain forest? Go canyoning! Rappel down cliffs and waterfalls 200 feet tall in the middle of the rain forest.. Hear your heart pounding and feel the adrenaline flow through your fingertips as you grip tightly onto the rope and hop down deep into the jungle. Read more about canyoning in La Fortuna.
- Rio Frio Nature Safari: Want to see wildlife? Take a nature safari down the Rio Frio, a slow moving river in the Caño Negro Wildlife Reserve, one of the most biologically diverse protected areas in Costa Rica. You’ll raft down the river for a few hours, using only a paddle as your engine and the guide will point out various wildlife such as caimans, toucans, sloths, otters, birds and more. Read more about this nature safari.
- Hot springs: No visit to Arenal is complete without a trip to the hot springs. Soak in pools of varying temperatures surrounded by the lush rain forest. Some of them even have views of the volcano! Hot springs open until late, so you can go to relax after an already fun day.
There are plenty more activities to enjoy in Arenal and La Fortuna. For more ideas, check out post of top 11 things to do in Arenal.
Days 5-7: Monteverde
Leave early in the morning to travel to your second destination, Monteverde. We drove but if you don’t rent a car, you can take the water taxi across Lake Arenal for a fun trip which costs $25 per person and takes around 3 hours.
Monteverde is the area that consists of the cloud forest, Santa Elena town and Cerro Plano town. This area is an important part of Costa Rica as it is home to hundreds of birds, reptiles, amphibians and insects, some of which can only be found in the cloud forest. Monteverde is also the site of the first zipline in Costa Rica, initially used as a lunch carrying system by the forest workers.
Where to stay in Monteverde
We love the El Establo Hotel and the Monteverde Country Lodge. El Establo is a bit more expensive and has bigger rooms with two floors with beautiful views of the cloud forest. Both hotels are outside Santa Elena town but you can walk to town in about 15 minutes.
There are a lot of hostels in Santa Elena town so if you’re a backpacker, you can find cheap accommodation around. La Pension and Santa Elena Backpackers are two good hostel options.
Airbnb is also an excellent option, there are some very nice ones in Monteverde. Here are 2 Airbnbs in Monteverde we stayed at, perfect for couples.
What to do in Monteverde
- Ziplining: Monteverde is famous for their canopy tours, with some of the longest and highest in the country. Go on 1 kilometer ziplines over the cloud forest for spectacular views and scenery. The most popular canopy tours are SkyTrek, Selvatura Park and Extremo (you can also bungee jump with them).
- Hanging bridges: Hanging bridges were built throughout the Cloud Reserve to allow visitors to get deep and high up in the cloud forest for amazing views. Discover the wonders of the cloud forest by walking the bridges from 150 to 510 feet high in the forest stretching nearly 3 miles. You’ll spot wildlife along the way such as snakes, insects and many birds.
- Butterfly/Hummingbird gardens: Monteverde is home to some exquisite species of insects and hummingbirds and there are several gardens where you can see them up close. There are also some insect, reptiles and amphibian exhibits, and Selvatura Park in Monteverde holds the 3rd largest insect collection in the world. Scientists and biologists from all over the world come to Monteverde to study the plethora of wildlife there, particularly the insects and birds.
- Bird watching: Monteverde is one of the few places in Costa Rica where you can see the elusive Resplendant Quetzal among many other beautiful birds. The best place is Curi-Cancha Reserve.
- Hike the cloud forests: This is an absolute must do. You can walk the hanging bridges in the adventure parks or you can visit the cloud forest reserves. The 3 reserves, Monteverde, Santa Elena and Children’s Eternal Rain Forest all have beautiful viewpoints, well maintained hiking trails and ample wildlife opportunities. It is recommended to go with a guide if you want to see wildlife. Read this guide to decide which cloud forest reserve in Monteverde you should visit.
We did a whole adventure day at Selvatura Park including a canopy tour, hanging bridges, hummingbird and butterfly garden, insect exhibit and herpetarium. Super fun and perfect for us to maximize our time in Monteverde.
Day 8: Travel to Santa Teresa
Today is a travel day to the beaches on the other side of the Gulf of Nicoya, Santa Teresa. We first went to Puntarenas to catch the ferry and then drove to Santa Teresa and this takes pretty much all day. Read our tips to taking the Puntarenas ferry.
If you’re not driving, unfortunately there aren’t many easy options left. You can:
- Take the bus back to San Jose (6:30 and 14:30) and take a bus to Santa Teresa (6, 14). This way takes roughly 9 hours.
- Take a bus to Puntarenas (4:30, 6 and 15) and grab a taxi to the ferry dock. Once you arrive at Paquera dock, take the public bus to Cobano (6:15, 8:15, 10:15, 12:15, 15:15, 16:30, 18:15). If you arrive in time, you can get a bus from Cobano to Santa Teresa, or take a taxi. Last bus from Cobano to Santa Teresa is 14:30.
- Bus back to San Jose and take a domestic flight with Nature Air from Arenal to Tambor. From Tambor you can taxi to Santa Teresa. This takes about 4.5 hours.
- You can also book a shuttle to take you to Puntarenas, take the ferry and then taxi to Santa Teresa from Paquera dock.
Whichever way you choose will be an adventure. The ferry is quite nice with beautiful views of the Nicoya Gulf and you can see what Puntarenas, an important fishing town in Costa Rica is like.
Days 9-10: Santa Teresa, Mal Pais, Playa Carmen
The next couple days are yours to enjoy at the beautiful, lesser visited beaches of Santa Teresa, Mal Pais and Playa Carmen. Santa Teresa attracts surfers, yogis and those looking to escape the busy crowds of touristic areas. This undeveloped beach town offers a rich Tico beach experience.
What to do in Santa Teresa:
Here you can try surfing, watch the beautiful sunsets on the beach, go horseback riding or take a yoga class. Your first week in Costa Rica has been full of excitement and adventure, so take these couple days to relax and fall into the pura vida beach life.
Surfing and yoga are the two popular things to do in this area, during certain times of the year there are some big swells for surfing!
Where to stay in Santa Teresa
We stayed at Hotel Playa Carmen which was really nice. It’s about a 1 minute walk to the beach and you’re close to small supermarkets and restaurants. Their pool is pretty small but that didn’t bother us, the best thing about the hotel is the location and the comfy rooms.
For hostels, Selina Santa Teresa is a great one in town.
Day 11: Travel to Playas del Coco
Today is another travel day and this one is a fun one. There are a couple routes to take by driving but the safest and easiest is by Route 21, going back around the Puntarenas ferry, Jicaral, Santa Cruz and Filadelfia.
It’s about a 5 hour drive and it gives you an opportunity to see various landscapes and towns of Costa Rica. You’ll drive through some rural areas and then once you get up to the Papagayo area, you’ll see more developed beach towns.
You can also take a Nature Air flight from Tambor to Liberia International Airport, and then bus to Playas del Coco (bus every hour).
Days 12-13: Playas del Coco
For your last few days in Costa Rica, relax and enjoy all the beach has to offer. You can spend your days exploring Playas del Coco, but I highly recommend doing a couple of activities to get the most out of the beautiful Guanacaste coast.
What to do in Playas del Coco:
Boating: Visit beautiful hidden beaches, go snorkeling and see marine wildlife on a boating trip in the Gulf of Papagayo. Coco beach isn’t the prettiest, so if you’re yearning to visit a secluded white sand beach, a boating trip is the best way to do so. Read about our experience and recommendations for boating.
Rincon de la Vieja Adventure Tour: If you haven’t gotten enough adventure, go on a mega combo adventure tour in Rincon de la Vieja National Park. It’ll be a day to remember as you zipline, horseback ride, jump off waterfalls, visit hot springs and lather yourself in volcanic mud. Our favorite tours are Buena Vista that has a 450 meter water slide and Guachipelin that has a 5km white water tubing.
Tamarindo/Conchal/Brasilito/Flamingo: If you want to check out some other beaches, head south to Playa Tamarindo, Playa Conchal and Playa Flamingo. All of these beaches are pretty close to each other so you can have a whole day of beach hopping. Conchal and Flamingo are white sand beaches whereas Tamarindo is a surfing beach.
Nicaragua: Want to add another country to your list? There are one day tours to Nicaragua where you can visit different spots such as Masaya Volcano National Park, Lake Nicaragua and Grenada. This is an excellent way to see Nicaragua if you don’t plan on traveling in the country. Read more about this Nicaragua day tour.
Catarata Llanos de Cortes: This waterfall makes for a wonderful day trip. It’s a little over an hour from Coco and completely worth the drive. Go early in the morning to have it all to yourself, swim in the pool, climb up the rocks to sit under the water or hike up to the top. Read more about Catarata Llanos de Cortes waterfall.
Where to stay:
We stayed at our condo and my brother and friends rented a house on Airbnb (get $20 credit here) since they wanted to have the comforts of home. There are many rentals on Airbnb where you can get a fully furnished condo with 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and a pool for an excellent price.
If you want to stay at a hotel, we recommend Toro Blanco. It’s less than 1 minute walk to the beach and downtown. Has a beautiful pool, furnished kitchen and outside sitting area. For the price and location, this hotel is our favorite to take friends to.
Unfortunately Playas del Coco doesn’t really have hostels. A cheap option are the cabinas by Toro Blanco or to couchsurf.
Day 14: Fly out of LIR
And your two week Costa Rica trip has come to an end. Fly out of Liberia International Airport full of cherished memories and the feeling of pura vida in your soul back home.
Tips for this Two Week Costa Rica Itinerary
- For this particular 2 week Costa Rica itinerary, it is best to rent a car. You’ll save so much time compared to taking the bus. You will also save money compared to flying everywhere too. Get our car rental discount here.
- Monteverde is considerably cooler than the rest of the destinations, so make sure to bring a jacket and long pants when visiting the cloud forest.
- Make sure to bring the appropriate clothing and gear for the activities such as hiking sandals, beach gear, hiking, etc. You can check our packing list for Costa Rica for more tips.
- For your time in Guanacaste, you don’t necessarily have to stay in Playas del Coco. You can stay in any of the beaches like Hermosa, Ocotal or Panama near the Papagayo Gulf or stay down south near Tamarindo and Brasilito. There are so many beaches in this area so you have plenty of options if you don’t want to stay in Coco.
- Have a few more days and want to throw in another destination? Check out our list of the 10 best places in Costa Rica for first timers for more ideas.
2 Weeks in Costa Rica Budget
If you’re staying in hotels that are about $80 a night, spending about $40 a day on food and doing a few tours, your estimated cost for this sample 14 day Costa Rica itinerary will be around $1500 per person not including the car rental. This also depends on how many tours you do as tours will take up a big chunk of your budget.
You can lower your costs by staying in hostels or cheap lodging and eating at more local places.
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