Visiting Costa Rica for two weeks but not sure where to go? This two weeks in Costa Rica sample itinerary will help! We put together this specific trip for some friends who wanted to experience both the Caribbean and the Pacific sides of the country.
In this 14 days Costa Rica itinerary, you will be able to see tons of wildlife, hike, visit several different national parks, go on adventures, see a volcano and relax at the beach. You get a little of everything!
What to Know About This Two Weeks in Costa Rica Itinerary
Here are the destinations for this sample 2 week itinerary in Costa Rica:
- Day 1: San Jose
- Days 2 – 3: Tortuguero
- Day 4: San Jose and La Fortuna
- Days 5 – 7: Arenal/La Fortuna
- Day 8 & 9: Monteverde
- Days 10 – 13: Guanacaste
- Day 14: Fly home
Two Weeks in Costa Rica Itinerary Map
Below is an interactive map where you can look through the filters to see the routes and our guides.
You land in San Jose and leave from Liberia
For the most convenience in this itinerary, you will have different arrival and departure airports. You’ll land in San Jose International Airport and fly out of Liberia International Airport. However, if you do have to fly out of SJO, then you will need to leave on day 13 and stay a night by the airport as it is around a 4-5 hour drive from Guanacaste to San Jose.
You can also fly from Liberia to San Jose via a 30 minute local Skyway flight.
There are several transportation options
This itinerary will start by booking a tour package to Tortuguero. Then you will pick up your rental car in Guapiles and returning it in Liberia. The easiest transportation method for this itinerary is to rent a car as you will have more freedom and flexibility, especially if you want to explore. In this itinerary, I will be using the car rental method to get around.
If you don’t want to drive, you can book shared or private shuttles. Shared shuttles is more cost friendly for 1-3 people. For groups of 4 and more, a private shuttle is an excellent and in our opinion, better option. Especially for families.
For those on a strict budget, you can take the bus. We don’t highly recommend it unless you’re on a really tight budget. You will have to transfer several times from San Jose to Tortuguero, Monteverde to Guanacaste so make sure to plan out your routes and travel days extremely carefully.
For the car rental, we recommend Adobe Rent a Car who have a partnership with. Save with our Costa Rica car rental discount and get 2 free drivers, free baby & booster seats and more!
It is recommended to rent a high car for this 2 week Costa Rica itinerary
For this itinerary, a high car is the best option (4×4 or 4×2). If it is just 2 people, a Suzuki Jimny 4×4 (manual only) and Mistubishi ASX 4wd automatic are good options. Other options are Hyundai Creta 4×2 (dry season is fine) or Hyundai Tucson 4×4. If you have a large group of people (4-5), a Mitsubishi Montero Sport 4×4 or Hyundai Gran Santa Fe 4×4 will work.
This itinerary includes a booked tour to Tortuguero but you can also go on your own
For the first destination, Tortuguero, I chose to visit on a tour package as it is super easy. The package includes roundtrip transportation, meals, lodging, guided boat rides and walks. (Save 7% on your Tortuguero package!)
However, if you don’t want to do it that way, you can go on your own. You can book a flight to Tortuguero, a shuttle to La Pavona dock from San Jose or you can take the bus. Read about how to get to Tortuguero here.
Prepare for rain at the Caribbean side
The Caribbean coast tends to rain more throughout the year. If you are visiting beginning of May to mid December, come prepared for rain as that is the Costa Rica rainy season. Monteverde and Arenal tend to rain more since it is the rain forest and in higher elevation, Guanacaste tends to be drier.
Check our Costa Rica packing list for tips on what to bring.
Day 1: San Jose
Welcome to Costa Rica! Today is a rest day to get ready for your trip. If you arrive early, you can walk around downtown to check out the sights and sounds or simply relax.
Where to stay in San Jose
We recommend staying in a hotel in or near downtown San Jose so that you can easily walk around downtown and experience local city life. The Tortuguero package includes pick up at hotels in San Jose only as well.
It is about a 25 minute drive from SJO airport to downtown San Jose which you can either book a shared shuttle, take a taxi or Uber. Uber costs around $15 USD. Get $10 USD Uber credit in our Uber Costa Rica guide.
Day 2: Tortuguero
About Tortuguero: Tortuguero is a small village in the northern Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, famous for the Tortuguero National Park and nesting sea turtle beaches. It is a rural area of Costa Rica, with a population of around 500 and is plane and boat access only.
Thanks to the rich biodiversity and rainforest covered sandbars and canals, Tortuguero’s nickname is “little Amazon”!
Today is an early day as you get picked up around 6 AM to head to Tortuguero. It is about a 4 hour bus ride and they stop for breakfast on the way. Then you will reach La Pavona boat launch where you will take an hour boat ride (depending on the tide, it may take longer) to the hotel.
After you have lunch, take the boat to Tortuguero village to walk around town and go on the beach to see turtles. If you are visiting during turtle nesting season (July – October), you will be able to see the turtle nestings. If you visit in November, you will likely be able to see baby turtles hatching.
Recommended packages/tour companies and cost
Pachira Lodge and Mawamba Lodge are the two biggest lodges that offer all-inclusive tour packages. A 2 night, 3 day Tortuguero package costs around $340 USD per person for a double occupancy. Click here to get our Tortuguero package discount with Pachira!
Day 3: Tortuguero
Day 3 is dedicated to exploring Tortuguero National Park. For the best wildlife watching opportunities, take a 5 AM boat ride around the national park to see different birds and mammals. This is about a 2 hour boat ride, make sure to bring binoculars or a telephoto lens to get pictures of wildlife!
After the boat ride, it’s time for breakfast and to relax a little. Most packages also include a guided walk around the trails. This takes about 1.5 hours and you can see more wildlife like monkeys and sloths.
Then the afternoon is free for you to do what you wish. You can relax and go to the pool but we recommend kayaking in the national park.
Even though you already went to the national park in the morning, there are places in the park that motored boats can’t go. We kayaked through Tortuguero National Park when we visited last November and it’s still one of our favorite Costa Rica experiences.
We glided quietly through the mangroves, with nothing but the sound of the water and birds all around us. The water shined a stunning green due to the reflection of the trees and in our kayaks, we were able to paddle up just a few feet away from turtles, ducks, an anteater and a kingfisher.
It’s a breathtaking experience to get so close to nature without disturbing them and since not many people go kayaking, we were completely alone the whole time.
Go back to your hotel before 5 PM (sunset) to relax for the rest of the day. Tomorrow you will travel back to San Jose.
Day 4: Travel to San Jose
Today is a travel day. You’ll take the boat back to La Pavona dock with the tour company. Then, the tour company will take you to Guapiles where you will pick up your rental car from Adobe Rent a Car after you have lunch. From there, you will drive to La Fortuna, which is about a 2 hour drive.
You’ll usually get the car around 1-2 PM and reach La Fortuna before dark.
Day 5, 6 and 7: Arenal
About Arenal: Arenal is the area encompassing the lake, volcano and La Fortuna town. Famous for its plethora of outdoor adventure, the national park, hot springs and the volcano, it’s an excellent place for first time visitors. You can experience the rain forest and volcano. It is more locally known as La Fortuna.
Where to stay in Arenal
You have a ton of options for hotels in Arenal. There are hostels in La Fortuna town or luxury hotels in Arenal. If you want to splurge on a hotel for this 14 day Costa Rica itinerary, Arenal or Guanacaste would be the best places (for the volcano or ocean view). Many upscale hotels in Arenal have a great view of Arenal Volcano, hot springs, spa or their own private hot tub/pool.
Budget hotels (below $100 USD): You will have to stay in La Fortuna if your budget is below around $75 USD a night. Check Hotel Las Colinas, El Secreto, or Hotel La Fortuna. Noisier but they have clean and basic rooms.
If you’re coming in a big group or family, we stayed at an Airbnb in Arenal that was awesome. Fits up to 8 people and only 5 minutes from town with tons of wildlife on the property!
Things to do
You have a lot of adventure activities in Arenal to choose from for your 3 full days there.
Ziplining: Our favorite zipline in Arenal is SkyTrek. You go up the aerial tram to zipline over the rain forest with views of both the volcano and lake!
Canyoning: An exciting adventure deep in the rain forest. Jump down 200 foot waterfalls!
Hot springs: No trip to Arenal is complete without visiting the hot springs. Many hotels have their own or you can visit hot spring establishments like Baldi, Eco Termales or Paradise.
Click here to read more of our favorite things to do in Arenal.
Book tours or guide?
Since you have a rental car, you don’t need to book a tour. You can drive yourself to the attractions and do a self guided walk. If you’d like a guide for the national park or hanging bridges, you can hire one there or from a tour company. But you can perfectly visit the national park, hanging bridges, La Fortuna waterfall and go to the hot springs on your own.
Day 8: Travel to Monteverde
On Day 8, you will travel to Monteverde. The drive takes around 3 hours and goes around the lake and up the mountains to Monteverde so you will get some gorgeous views.
If you decide not to rent a car, a cool way to get from Arenal to Monteverde is by the Lake Arenal taxi boat. Get picked up at your hotel in Arenal, take a 2 hour boat ride across the lake and get dropped off at your hotel in Monteverde. This costs around $25 USD per person, takes 3 hours and they have one in the morning and afternoon. Way more fun than sitting on a bus!
Where to stay in Monteverde
Monteverde has hostels and hotels and since this area is more rural, lodges and inns are very common. There are a few hostels in town such as Santa Elena Backpackers and Selina or you can stay at a hotel with views of the cloud forest such as Hotel Poco a Poco or El Establo.
We stayed at 2 Airbnbs in Monteverde that were lovely. Perfect for couples or 2 friends.
Day 9: Monteverde
About Monteverde: This area is famous for the vulnerable cloud forests of which hundreds of birds, insects, plants and flowers call home. Tropical cloud forests are unique in that they only exist in a few places in the world, one being Costa Rica. Monteverde has been named as the best place in the world to see Resplendant Quetzals so if you love birds, this is your chance to see them. Monteverde is also great for hiking and ziplining, as they claim to have set up the first recreational zipline in the world.
There are a lot of things to do in Monteverde but since you went on adventures already in Arenal, we recommend to hike the cloud forests. There are 3 cloud forest reserves: Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve, Santa Elena Reserve and Children’s Eternal Rain forest and they are all wonderful places for hiking.
Not sure which one to visit? Check our post comparing the three Monteverde cloud forest reserves.
Things to do
For your 1 full day in Monteverde, here are some ideas.
Take an early morning bird watching tour at Curi Cancha Reserve to see Resplendant Quetzals and then hike one of the cloud forests in the early afternoon. There are trails of varying lengths and difficulties in all the reserves so you can do an easy loop. Or if you’re not super interested in seeing birds, you can go straight ahead to the cloud forest reserves. We recommend hiring guides for any hike or walk you do as they can point out wildlife (specifically birds) and teach you about the importance of cloud forests.
You can also take a night walk at 6 PM. They offer night walks in Arenal too which has more opportunities to see frogs, snakes and two types of sloths. In Monteverde, only the 2 fingered sloths lives there and there aren’t many snakes or frogs.
Another idea is to visit one of the parks like SkyTrek Monteverde or Selvatura Park for a full day. SkyTrek has an aerial tram and hanging bridges and Selvatura Park has hanging bridges, a butterfly and hummingbird garden and an insect exhibit.
Day 10 – 13: Guanacaste
Now it’s time to hit the beach! You have several choices for beach towns in Guanacaste that are all about a 3.5 hour drive from Monteverde. The most popular places are Gulf of Papagayo, Tamarindo, Flamingo and Samara.
Playas del Coco/Gulf of Papagayo
Playas del Coco is the main beach town in the Gulf of Papagayo and is excellent for scuba diving, fishing and boating. You don’t have to stay in Coco as there are many beaches in this area with hotels like Playa Hermosa, Playa Ocotal and Playa Panama all close to each other.
Samara is another mellow surfing beach town, 2 hours from Liberia International Airport. Has lots of hotels, restaurants and chill vibe. Great beach town for families.
Nosara is a much smaller, more rural beach town about 1 hour from Samara that has more surfing beaches. Nice for young adults, surfers, backpackers.
What to do in Guanacaste
Boating: This is a must in the Gulf of Papagayo which has the best snorkeling in Guanacaste. Discover boat access white sand beaches that you can have all to yourself! Read more about boating in Playas del Coco here.
Scuba diving: Flamingo and Coco are two of the best beaches for scuba diving.
Kayak and snorkel to Isla Chorro in Samara
Surfing: Tamarindo is an excellent beach for surf lessons that is one hour from Coco. If you are an intermediate to expert surfer, you can boat to Witch’s Rock from Playas del Coco.
Catarata Llanos de Cortes waterfall: This beautiful waterfall is near Liberia and makes for a nice day trip. Here is our guide to visiting Catarata Llanos de Cortes.
Here are some more ideas of fun activities in Guanacaste. If anything, you must watch the sunset on the beach and just enjoy!
Day 14: Fly out from Liberia airport
And today you go back home. Drop off your car at the Adobe Rent a Car Liberia office and they will take you to the airport in their free airport shuttle.
With this itinerary, you will have had a wonderful time exploring the Caribbean and Pacific coasts. You got to experience the rain forest, volcano, cloud forest and beach during your two weeks in Costa Rica.
Estimated Two Weeks in Costa Rica Cost
If you’re staying in hotels that cost around $100 USD a night, eating around $40 USD a day and doing several tours, the estimated cost for your two weeks in Costa Rica is around $1600 USD per person not including the car rental. The average cost of a 10 day car rental for a Hyundai Tucson automatic can be around $800 USD and a Suzuki Jimny manual is around $650 USD (without insurances, fees, taxes, extras, etc. and it also depends on the time of year you visit).
Check out these other Costa Rica itineraries below for more ideas!
1 Week Costa Rica itinerary: Jaco, Manuel Antonio and Uvita (Central and South Pacific)
14 days in Costa Rica: Tamarindo, Monteverde, Bijagua and Rincon de la Vieja
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