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!
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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: Travel to La Fortuna
Days 5 – 7: Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 8 & 9: Monteverde
Days 10 – 13: Jaco/Manuel Antonio
Day 14: Fly home
Two Weeks in Costa Rica Itinerary Map
You land and depart from SJO Airport (San Jose International Airport)
If for some reason, you absolutely have to fly into LIR (Guanacaste International Airport), you will need to arrange transportation to San Jose the day you land, this is about a 5 hour travel day. You can book a private shuttle (best option, can pick up directly at airport), shared shuttle (not ideal, only two departures) or take the public bus (least ideal, must taxi to Liberia, then take bus to San Jose). You have to be in San Jose on Day 2 to get picked up for the Tortuguero trip around 530-6 AM.
Then if you are flying out of LIR Airport, you will need to leave on Day 13 to stay the night before near the airport (Hilton Garden Inn Guanacaste Airport is the best option). Jaco/Manuel Antonio to LIR Airport is approximately a 3.5-4.5 hour drive.
If you need to book a private shuttle, please contact us for a quote.
There are several transportation options
This itinerary will start by booking a tour package to Tortuguero that includes roundtrip transportation from the tour operator. After your Tortoguero trip, you will pick up your rental car in Guapiles to drive directly to La Fortuna. 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. 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 the Pacific Coast 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 Venue 4×2 (dry season is fine) or Hyundai Tucson 4×4. If you have a group of 4 to 5 people with limited luggage, a Mitsubishi Montero Sport 4×4 or Chevy Trailblazer is a good option.
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.
Likewise, Monteverde is a bit cooler than the other destinations so bring a warm sweater and long pants.
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. You can arrange an airport transfer or call an Uber which is super easy. Get $10 USD Uber credit in our Uber Costa Rica guide.
Hotel recommendations are Hotel Presidente, Hotel Grano de Oro, Park Inn by Radisson, San Jose Barcelo Palacio, Exec Center San Jose, Selina San Jose, Costa Rica Backpackers Hostel San Jose. It is best to stay in a hotel near downtown San Jose or La Sabana because the Torutugero tour operator will pick up directly from hotels in that area. They do not pick up at Airbnbs or vacation rentals/houses outside of the San Jose area.
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. If your package includes this walk, it 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.
If you would like to see more of the national park on your own, you can ask the lodge to help you arrange a public boat to the town and see if any of the local guides there are available for a kayaking tour. We kayaked through the national park which was an incredible experience as we got to get closer to the animals. We were also able to kayak to areas where motorized boats can’t fit, so it was a very peaceful and serene experience.
If you go kayaking, make sure to return back to your hotel before 5 PM) to relax for the rest of the day (it starts getting dark around 5 PM). Tomorrow you will travel back to San Jose.
Day 4: Travel to La Fortuna
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 from the Guapiles lunch spot.
You’ll usually get the car around 1-2 PM and reach La Fortuna before dark.
Day 5, 6 and 7: Arenal/La Fortuna
About La Fortuna: La Fortuna is the main town and tourism hub near Arenal Volcano. Famous for its plethora of outdoor adventure, the national park, hot springs and the volcano, it’s an excellent place for first time visitors.
Where to stay in La Fortuna
You have a ton of options for hotels in La Fortuna. If you want to splurge on a hotel for this 14 day Costa Rica itinerary, La Fortuna is an excellent place to do so with a plethora of luxury resorts. Many upscale hotels have a great view of Arenal Volcano, hot springs, spa or their own private hot tub/pool.
High end hotels ($300 USD and up): Nayara , Springs Resort & Spa, Arenal Kioro, Amor Arenal, The Royal Corin, Los Lagos, Volcano Lodge and Tabacon. You can read about other Arenal luxury hotels in this post.
Budget hotels (below $100 USD): You will have to stay in La Fortuna if your budget is below $100 USD a night. Check Hotel Las Colinas, Choza Inn, El Secreto, San Bosco Inn, or Hotel La Fortuna. These hotels are in town.
There are also many Airbnbs and vacation rentals. 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!
We personally love Arenal Observatory Lodge for a unique experience close to the rainforest.
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 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 Monteverde. You can stay at a more upscale hotel with views of the cloud forest such as Senda, Hotel Belmar, 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 garden, sloth sancutary and a reptile exhibit.
Day 10 – 13: Jaco/Manuel Antonio
Now it’s time to hit the beach! You will head to the Central Pacific coast to either the towns of Jaco or Manuel Antonio, about a 3-4 hour drive from Monteverde.
Jaco is the most developed beach town in Costa Rica, it is like a city beach. It’s only a 1.5 hour drive from San Jose so you will see lots of locals there. Jaco is famous for surfing, nightlife and food. It’s a great destination for those looking for more amenities, beachfront lodging and an exciting night life. Jaco beach is not the prettiest, with dark sand and lots of rocks but has excellent surfing and sunsets. Not good for swimming or snorkeling.
For hotels, there is a range of small family run hotels to an all-inclusive beachfront resort and a ton of vacation rentals/condos. Las Palmas, Paloma Blanca, Jaco Bay, MonteCarlo, Costa Linda and El Encanto are just a few options of the many condos in Jaco. As for hotels, some good ones are Jaco Beach Break, Tuanis Aparthotel Jaco, Birds of Paradise and Hotel Tangeri.
What to do
You can relax at the beach, take a surf lesson, go shopping (tons of super cute bikinis stores), check out Playa Hermosa, party, or just simply relax. We highly recommend to visit Manuel Antonio National Park for a day trip or Vista Los Suenos Adventure Park in case you want to add some more adventure to your trip (their ATV tour is great). Get 5% off in that link!
Manuel Antonio is home to the famous Manuel Antonio National Park, several white sand beaches and tons of lush rainforest. It offers more luxury lodging than Jaco so in case you’re not that interested in partying or surfing and you would rather continue exploring the rainforests and see a white sand beach, Manuel Antonio is the better option. It’s about a 1 hour drive from Jaco. There is also more wildlife in Manuel Antonio.
Where to Stay
If you want to end your trip with a little luxury, then Manuel Antonio’s got the hotel for you. In fact, it might be a bit hard for you to decide which hotel to stay at because there are so many beautiful, incredibly nice hotels and beach resorts! Some luxury options are Tulemar, Arenas del Mar, Gaia, Hotel Makanda by the Sea, the Falls, La Mariposa, Jungle Beach Hotel and Hotel Costa Verde.
What to Do
Definitely a visit to the Manuel Antonio National Park! A must for hiking, beach and wildlife. A guided visit is recommended to learn more about the park and see animals.
You can relax, take a sunset cruise, go shopping, Damas Island mangrove kayaking, parasailing, enjoy the beach, go ziplining, fishing, surfing or hang out by the pool. Read more about things to do in Manuel Antonio in our post and also get our Manuel Antonio tours discount!
Day 14: Fly out of San Jose International Airport
And today you go back home. From Jaco, it’s about a 1.5-2 hour drive. From Manuel Antonio, it’s about 3 hours. Make sure to plan accordingly so you can return your car and arrive at the airport at least 2-3 hours early. Drop off your car at the Adobe Rent a Car San Jose Airport 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).
Please note that the cost of traveling in Costa Rica has risen the past couple years so car rentals are more expensive now as well as some tours and hotels.
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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