If you’re lucky enough to have a full month in Costa Rica, here is an epic one month Costa Rica road trip itinerary. This one month Costa Rica itinerary takes you all around the country from coast to coast, experiencing the best of what Costa Rica has to offer.
Costa Rica One Month Road Trip Route
This route starts and ends from San Jose so you will fly into and out of San Jose International Airport. The destinations in this Costa Rica road trip itinerary are San Jose, Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, La Fortuna, Monteverde, Playa Hermosa Guanacaste, Samara, Manuel Antonio, Uvita and Drake Bay.
What Type of Car to Rent for This Costa Rica One Month Road Trip
It is best to rent a 4wd or a high clearance car because of Monteverde and Uvita for this itinerary. For 2 people, cars that work are Toyota Rav4, Suzuki Vitara, Mistubishi ASX, Hyundai Tucson or Suzuki Jimny. **If you are on a budget, visiting during dry season and staying hotels in the town center, a sedan like a Hyundai Accent can work. You will not be able to go up in the steep mountains in the Uvita area.**
If you have a bigger group, the Chevy Trailblazer, and Mitsubishi Montero Sport are 7 passenger 4×4 SUVs that work (best for 4-5 people with luggage). These cars will not work for 6-7 people with luggage.
If you are just 1-3 people with minimal luggage, you can rent a high clearance car that is not necessarily a 4wd or 4×4. An example is the Hyundai venue or Geely Gx3. However, if you are visiting in the rainy season, we do recommend a 4wd with high clearance due to the locations. Many hotels and vacation rentals are up in the mountains so if you want to explore a bit more, a 4wd is highly recommended.
We can help you get the best rate and deal for your car rental. You can read our renting a car in Costa Rica tips first. Then click here to get our Costa Rica car rental discount and extra benefits. We also offer monthly rates. Additionally, for any tours, please contact us as we have discounts and partnerships with tour companies in various parts of the country.
What to Pack
Swimsuit, flip flops/sandals, trail running shoes or sneakers, rainjacket, clothes that are lightweight, dry fast and wick away moisture, sunscreen, mosquito repellent, microfiber towel, battery pack, handlight/small flashlight, toiletries, cell phone car holder.
Best Time to Visit Costa Rica for this 1 Month Road Trip Itinerary
January through April for the best weather in Costa Rica as these are the driest months (summer months). December can work as well however that is the tail end of rainy season so it may still rain a lot and roads are in the worst condition. Likewise, December is incredibly busy and expensive due to Christmas and New Years so I don’t highly recommend the month of December.
It is possible to do this itinerary May – November, however if you visit in the rainiest months of September and October, be extremely prepared for rain which can come with flooded or washed out roads, storms and less sun. If you are visiting during those months, I recommend removing days somewhere and adding more days to Puerto Viejo. This is because the Caribbean coast has a different weather pattern and October is their summer month.
Costa Rica Road Trip Map
The map below has all the destinations, the driving route, hotel and activities recommendations for this one month Costa Rica itinerary. Click the sidebar for more information.
Day 1: Fly into SJO, Travel to Puerto Viejo
Puerto Viejo Hotel Recommendations
Hotel Banana Azul: Adult only beach front resort on Playa Negra
Le Chameleon: Beautiful luxury resort
Cariblue: Very nice, relaxing resort
If you are landing in the afternoon, then we do not recommend driving to Puerto Viejo right away as this is an extremely long drive. It is best to stay somewhere in San Jose and then leave the next morning to drive in daylight. It gets dark at 6 PM everyday in Costa Rica.
Day 2, 3, 4 & 5: Puerto Viejo
Puerto Viejo is famous for gorgeous beaches, lush jungles, a chill atmosphere, parties and abundant wildlife. On day 2, we recommend to checking out and walking around Puerto Viejo town.
Then on days 3, 4 and 5, you can split your time renting bikes and riding around to the different beaches like Playa Cocles and Playa Chiquita, visiting Cahuita National Park for hiking and snorkeling or seeing cute animals at Jaguar Rescue Center on a guided tour.
You can read about other things to do in Puerto Viejo here.
As for day trips, the best one for adventure is the Pacuare River white water rafting Class 3 & 4. This is an amazing rafting trip and one of our favorite things to do in Costa Rica! We offer a small discount for the Pacuare rafting tour here.
You can also do a 1 night, 2 day trip to Tortuguero. If you’re visiting July – October, this is a fantastic time to see nesting Green Sea Turtles!
Day 6: Travel to La Fortuna
Today is a travel day and the second destination on this one month Costa Rica road trip is La Fortuna, the main town near Arenal Volcano. The drive from Puerto Viejo to La Fortuna takes around 5 hours depending on traffic.
We recommend to leave before noon so you can get to La Fortuna before dark. Early is best however, since there is a lot of traffic out of Puerto Viejo during the day.
La Fortuna Hotel Recommendations
- Hotel El Secreto: Cute little hotel in La Fortuna town, cheaper/mid range with hot breakfast included.
- Arenal Observatory Lodge – Best lodge for nature lovers. Has the closest view of the volcano and has their own hiking trails, waterfall and hanging bridge.
- Nayara Springs: Romantic luxury adult only hotel with bungalows that each have their own private plunge pool.
- Los Lagos Hotel: Beautiful hot springs, rooms and property with their own frog sanctuary.
- Arenal History Inn: This hotel has 10 bungalows and a great budget – mid range option.
- The Springs Resort & Spa: Luxury hotel with their own outdoor center, two separate hot springs sections and beautiful rooms with a stunning volcano view.
If you’re on your honeymoon or want to splurge on a nice hotel, La Fortuna is one of the best places to do so! You can find a handful of luxury hotels here. Read more about where to stay in La Fortuna here.
Day 7, 8 & 9: La Fortuna
La Fortuna is the adventure capital of Costa Rica and the amount of amazing things to do is endless. You can go canyoning, hiking, rafting, ziplining, horseback riding, tubing, ATV’ing, mountain biking and so much more! It also has great hiking and birdwatching and is the best place to see a “cone shaped” volcano.
Here are some of our favorite activities:
- Arenal hot springs. This is a must!
- River safari float. Great way to relax, see wildlife and enjoy a beautiful river scenery. Peñas Blancas and Rio Frio are two great ones.
- Canyoning and ziplining. Both awesome outdoor adventures to experience the rainforest.
- Club Rio: This adventure club by Arenal River on the Springs property offers a package that includes 2 adventures, lunch and a 2 day hot spring pass. (get $10 USD off their multi adventure package)
You can read in this post for more ideas of things to do in La Fortuna and we have a discount for La Fortuna tours. For day excursions, you can take a day trip to hike Rio Celeste or Children’s Eternal Rainforest.
Day 10: Travel to Monteverde
Today is a travel day to Monteverde. You’ll drive around Lake Arenal and go around to the other end to Monteverde. This route has some gorgeous views so leave early, go slow and enjoy the bumpy drive! If you leave early in the morning, you can make a quick stop at Los Vientos waterfalls.
Monteverde Hotel Recommendations
- El Establo Hotel: Very big property with pools, restaurants and their own trails. Rooms are separated out by sections, get a room at the very top for the best views.
- Hotel Poco a Poco: City style hotel for those who want high speed Internet, a pool and air conditioning.
- Hotel Belmar: luxury hotel with gorgeous views of the mountains. Beautiful wood rooms, very quiet.
- Monteverde Country Lodge. We stayed at the Country Lodge and really enjoyed it. Cute, cozy, very cabin in the woods like hotel. Excellent restaurant.
Day 11: Monteverde
Monteverde is famous for the cloud forests, birdwatching and ziplining. Since you only have one day in Monteverde, head to the adventure parks for a full day of ziplining and hanging bridges. Selvatura Park, Sky Adventures Monteverde, 100% Aventura are some of the best.
If you’re more into hiking and nature, you can take a guided tour of Santa Elena Cloud Forest, Monteverde Cloud Forest or Curi-Cancha Reserve. For birders, Curi-Cancha is a must as it’s an excellent place to spot Resplendant Quetzals!
We recommend to do a guided tour of Curi Cancha in the morning and go ziplining and walk the hanging bridges in the afternoon. Perfect way to experience the absolute best of Monteverde!
Day 12: Travel to Playa Hermosa GTE
The fourth stop on this Costa Rica road trip is Playa Hermosa, Guanacaste and the next week is all about relaxing at the beach. This drive is around 3.5 hours via Route 145 (Las Juntas) from Monteverde.
Playa Hermosa hotels
- Hotel Bosque del Mar: Lovely hotel on the beach
- Villas Sol: Rooms and condos, also has an all-inclusive option
- Condovac La Costa: Resort with beach club and villas
Day 13 and 14: Playa Hermosa
Playa Hermosa is a very beautiful, quiet beach in the Gulf of Papagayo. There’s not much going on which makes it perfect for relaxing.
A must do thing in Hermosa is to take a boating tour in Gulf of Papagayo as Hermosa is a dark sand beach and doesn’t have good snorkeling. If you take a boating tour, you’ll find gorgeous boat access only white sand beaches and crystal clear turquoise waters in the Gulf!
You can also go into Playas del Coco one night for souvenir shopping, nightlife and to check out the town because Hermosa is pretty low key.
Day 15: Travel to Samara
Now it’s onto a beach town further south in Guanacaste, Samara. This is a small but lively and family friendly coastal village with beautiful beaches.
- Hideaway Hotel Samara: Cute boutique hotel with a pool on the road towards Carrillo. On the far end of Samara, very quiet and about a 20 minute walk to downtown.
- Hotel Samara Beach: Nice standard beachfront hotel.
- Villas Kalimba: 6 villas with a pool and Jacuzzi.
- Hotel Villas Playa Samara: All-inclusive resort on the beach.
- Tree House Inn: Beautiful wooden villas on the beach.
Day 16, 17 & 18: Samara
Samara is an excellent beach town for all tourists, especially families. There are lots of restaurants, hotels and activities and it has a very family friendly atmosphere.
You can take a surf lesson, visit Puerto Carrillo beach, go for a guided walk at Camaronal Wildlife Refuge, go horseback riding, kayak to Isla Chorro and go snorkeling or hop in your 4×4 and visit Barrigona beach.
If anything, you have to watch the sunset on the beach. Samara has some of the most beautiful sunsets in Costa Rica!
Day 19: Ferry and Travel to Manuel Antonio
After the past week in Guanacaste, it’s time to head down the Central and South Pacific coast in the Puntarenas province. Today is a long travel day so bring lots of water and snacks.
You’ll drive around the Nicoya Peninsula to take the Naranjo ferry to Puntarenas and then drive to Manuel Antonio. The drive to the Naranjo ferry dock is 2 hours, the ferry is about 1 hour and the drive from Puntarenas to Manuel Antonio is about 2.5. I recommend to take the morning ferry so you can drive to Manuel Antonio in daylight.
The ferry has beautiful views of the Nicoya Peninsula and if you’re lucky, you may see some whales or dolphins!
Manuel Antonio Hotels
- Hotel La Mariposa: Beautiful luxury resort with infinity pool
- El Faro Beach Hotel for the closest location to the national park.
- Jungle Beach Hotel: Nice “jungley” comfortable hotel by the beach.
- Tulemar: Luxury vacation rental that has its own beach and offers an exclusive sloth walk to guests.
Manuel Antonio is another great destination to splurge on a nice hotel. You can find a handful of luxury resorts, all with ocean views!
Day 20 & 21: Manuel Antonio
Manuel Antonio has gorgeous beaches, lush jungles and a national park that was named as one of the most beautiful parks in the world. Take one full day to hike Manuel Antonio national park to see monkeys and sloths. For your second day, you can relax at your hotel, go parasailing, go souvenir shopping or hang out at the beach.
You can read about other things to do in Manuel Antonio here.
Day 22: Travel to Uvita
For the next stop on your Costa Rica road trip, you’ll head down to Uvita, the small beach town in the Costa Ballena. It’s a short trip thankfully, only about a 1 hour drive.
- Hotel Cuna del Angel: Hotel off the highway with beautiful gardens, pool and spacious rooms.
- Hotel Los Laureles: Nice family owned property. They have cabins and their own rainforest trails.
- Manoas: Beautiful glamping and villa resort by a river, 2km from town.
- Whale Tail Hotel: Hostel and brewery right in town, great for solo travelers with shared and private rooms.
Another option is to stay in Dominical, a laid back surfing town 45 minutes south of Manuel Antonio. As it’s only 15 minutes from Uvita, you can do the same things and take the same day trips. You can even stay in Ojochal, a small town 20 minutes south of Uvita. These three towns: Dominical, Uvita and Ojochal are collectively known as the “Costa Ballena.”
Day 23, 24 & 25: Uvita
If you visit during January – April or July – November, you have a good chance of seeing humpback whales so you should definitely take a humpback whale watching tour. Best times are August and September.
You can read about more things to do in Uvita here.
Day 26: Take Boat from Sierpe to Drake Bay
On your last stop for your Costa Rica road trip, you’re actually going to return your rental car! Since you’ll be going to Drake Bay via boat and then flying back to San Jose, you’ll return your car rental at the Sierpe dock.
The drive from Uvita to Sierpe is around 1 hour and the boat ride is around 45 minutes to 1 hour. The boat ride is fantastic with wonderful views. It will drop you off at your hotel in Drake Bay. You can read our guide on taking the boat from Sierpe to Drake Bay here.
Drake Bay Hotels
- Tranquilo Lodge: Beautiful small hotel up in the hills with ocean view. Modern and luxury cabins.
- Copa del Arbol: Amazing exo-luxury hotel with a very big property and steps from the beach.
- Drake Bay Backpackers: Nice hostel in town with nature trails and lounge room.
- Casa Corcovado Jungle Lodge: A lodge outside of Drake Bay very close to the national park.
Day 27, 28 & 29: Drake Bay
Drake Bay is in the Osa Peninsula, one of the most biologically diverse places in the world. It’s known as the “last frontier” of Costa Rica for its remoteness and wildness. Spend your last few days in Costa Rica getting your fill of nature and wildlife in Drake Bay.
You can go fishing, hike Corcovado National Park, go scuba diving or just relax and soak up all the jungles and sunsets before you go home.
Day 30: Fly to SJO Airport, Fly Home
Today you’ll take a local flight from Drake Bay to San Jose and then fly out of San Jose Airport to go back home. Make sure to keep your camera out because the views on the local flight are spectacular!
If your domestic flight and international flight times don’t match up, you may need to stay a night in a hotel near the SJO Airport.
Adapting the Itinerary to a Two Week Costa Rica Road Trip
You can perfectly adapt this itinerary to a two week Costa Rica road trip.
A sample Costa Rica two week road trip itinerary is San Jose – Puerto Viejo – La Fortuna – Monteverde – San Jose. Another one is San Jose – La Fortuna – Jaco/Manuel Antonio/Uvita, San Jose. If you want to keep Drake Bay, you can do San Jose – La Fortuna – Monteverde – Manuel Antonio – Drake Bay.
We have written a two week Costa Rica road trip itinerary you can read here.
Ten Day Costa Rica Road Trip
We have also written a ten day Costa Rica road trip itinerary and one week Costa Rica itinerary for those who are shorter on time. For more ideas, check out our Costa Rica itinerary page. We hope this Costa Rica road trip planner helps you create the perfect vacation!
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.
- Stay connected by purchasing a prepaid SIM Card in Costa Rica.
- Save money with Mytanfeet Deals for tours and hotels. Save more money with our Costa Rica Car Rental Discount.
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