Get ready to zigzag your way from the Pacific to the Caribbean with this ultimate 10-Day Costa Rica itinerary.
Anyone who follows my blog will know that Costa Rica is one of my favourite countries on the planet. It’s a country that offers an adventurous experience-packed style of travel, with endless memories created along the way.
One day you’ll be white water rafting on ferocious rapids, the next you’ll be staying in a unique eco-lodge falling asleep to the sound of howler monkeys and tree frogs. It’s a destination where you can truly connect with nature and forget the stresses of daily life back home.
Venture out to the rainforests for incredible wildlife encounters, relax in bubbling hot springs and get stuck into simple, delicious BBQ’ed Costa Rican food on the Caribbean coast. I can’t guarantee you’ll see a sloth, but I can guarantee you’ll return home with some epic stories!
I’ve already written a detailed guide to spending two weeks in Costa Rica, but I know many of you are pressed for time on your vacations. Coming up is the perfect route to take you from Pacific Coast to the Caribbean Coast over 10 fun-packed days.
This 10-day Costa Rica itinerary is for those who want to cram in a lot to their trip. You won’t be able to squeeze in much downtime if you want to see and do as much as possible on your 10-day adventure, but you’ll make the most of every minute.
From the wildlife in Corcovado and Puerto Viejo, to the beaches of the Pacific and Caribbean, and adventure activities including zip lining and white water rafting, this really is the best way to spend 10 days in Costa Rica!
The Ultimate 10-Day Costa Rica Itinerary
If you’re planning a 10-day Costa Rica itinerary, and want to gain a good overview of everything the country offers, you’ve come to the right place.
This route will take you on a little zigzag tour from one side of the country to the other, stopping off at a few highlights in the middle too. When you factor in travel time, you might find you want a little longer in some of the places, or skip one.
Whether you’re planning a wildlife themed trip or are keen to try some activities, this travel guide will give you a good starting point.
READ MORE: Wondering what to pack for your trip? Find out in my handy Costa Rica packing guide or learn more about the country before you get there with 34 fascinating facts about Costa Rica.
Day 1 + 2: Corcovado National Park
I’m kicking off this 10-day Costa Rica itinerary with a walk on the wild side over on the Pacific Coast. Assuming you’ve flown into the capital (San José) I’d recommend catching a flight straight over to Puerto Jimenez down in the Osa Peninsula. The views from the plane make it well worth the journey!
Once there, make your way to an eco-lodge, get an early night and prepare for one of the best days of your life as you go trekking in Corcovado National Park.
This is on of the top places to spot wildlife in Costa Rica. From whales and turtles, to monkeys, snakes and frogs, there’s SO much to see. I’d recommend booking a rainforest trek via your hotel or a local provider. The guides in this part of Costa Rica know all there is to know about every creature in the rainforest and this isn’t somewhere to wander around solo!
We woke up at 4am for our rainforest tour. It was well worth the early start! Even on the drive to the national park we spotted scarlet macaws and monkeys playing in the trees.
Once inside Corcovado National Park, we spotted all four of Costa Rica’s varieties of monkey (squirrel, spider, howler and white-faced capuchin), coatis, agoutis, macaws, Halloween crabs, and learnt all about the park’s impressive trees, sea turtles and more. I loved it!
We trekked along deserted sandy beaches, hiked through thick jungle and enjoyed a packed lunch with an amazing view of the Pacific.
There are lots of hotels and lodges in spectacular locations around Corcovado, but the ultimate has to be Lapa Rios Lodge. This remote hotel is one of Nat Geo’s ‘Unique Lodges In The World’, and when you check in, you’ll understand why! I loved my stay here – the views, the architecture, the wildlife – all of it made for a magical experience.
Check availability and latest prices at Lapa Rios here
Day 3: Naranjo de Alajuela
So, you’ve kicked off your 10 days in Costa Rica with a flavour of what the country is all about, with some epic wild encounters in Corcovado. Now it’s time for a change of scene. After hopping on a flight back to San José, it’s time to drive an hour north to a pretty lodge up in the hills.
This is an area I fell in love with on my last trip. You’re unlikely to find on a lot of generic Costa Rica itineraries out there. Consider it a hidden gem, away from the tourists!
The accommodation at Chayote Lodge is stunning, designed around the old coffee receiving stations. You’ll notice this coffee theme continues through the interiors. The wall hangings are made from coffee sacks as are the backs of the seats in the restaurant. They serve a great cup of coffee at breakfast too!
For me though, it was the view that took my breath away. Looking out from my little wooden home, I could see three volcanoes, layers and layers of stunning morning mist and epic sunsets, along with lush gardens filled with more hydrangeas than I’ve ever seen in my life. I still remember exactly how I felt as I snapped these photos and WOW was it a special moment!
Check availability and latest prices at Chayote Lodge here
If you want to plan an activity or two for the day you’re in this region, I’d recommend visiting Espiritu Santo for a coffee tour, or taking a trip to see the impressive Catarata Del Toro waterfall.
On the coffee tour you’ll learn how the ripe red coffee cherries are turned into the satisfying caffeinated drink we start our days with. It’s always amazing to come face to face with the processes for things we take for granted! I picked up a few bags of coffee beans to take home too.
If you want to see lots of amazing scenery during your 10 days in Costa Rica, definitely plan a visit to the 90m tall Catarata Del Toro. This waterfall is one of the most impressive in the whole country. The route down to the falls is steep, but you’ll get incredible photos once you reach the base of the waterfall.
READ MORE: Top Things To Do In Costa Rica
Day 4 + 5: Monteverde
Around three hours northwest of Naranjo is one of the most famous areas in Costa Rica and somewhere you cannot miss, whether this is your first trip to the country or your tenth.
Monteverde is the region famed for the country’s ‘cloud forests’. It’s a very special sight to see the lush forests submerged in low hanging mist and clouds.
There are plenty of great ways to see this unique scenery too. You could hop on board a sky tram (a gondola), walk along the sky walk (beautiful hanging suspension bridges) or even zoom through the trees on a zip line. Don’t miss a trip to Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve too.
If you like a little bit of adrenaline, you’ll love the zip lining in Monteverde. It’s still some of the best I’ve ever done! There are lots of zip lines at 100% Aventura Extreme including the longest zip line in Central America and a heart rate inducing Mega Tarzan Swing!
Day 6 + 7: La Fortuna
I love how varied this 10-day Costa Rica itinerary is. One minute you’re hanging out with monkeys in the rainforest, the next you’re zooming through the cloud forests on a zip line, and now it’s time to come face to face with one of Costa Rica’s most amazing views.
Arenal Volcano is a highlight of any trip to Costa Rica. You’ll be mesmerised by views of the 1,670m peak as you drive around towards the small town of La Fortuna. Depending on what you fancy, you cold go on one of the many treks inside Arenal Volcano National Park, go cycling or even take in the scenery on horseback.
Other things to do in La Fortuna include visiting La Fortuna waterfall which is immersed in thick jungle, or chilling out in the region’s hot springs. It’s a beautiful area – even if you just go on a little road trip, you’ll love visiting this part of Costa Rica.
Day 8 – 10: Puerto Viejo de Talamanca
For the last few days we’re heading to the stunning white sands of the Caribbean. It’s a pretty long drive (around 5 hours) from La Fortuna, so I’ve factored in 3 days here as you might want to use one just for the journey.
If you want to travel in an adventurous way, there are a few tour companies who offer a day tour where you go white water rafting on the Pacuare River (one of the best places for this activity in the country) during the day, then they drop you to your location of choice after. Essentially, rather than sit on a bus for the day, you could get picked up from Arenal, spend the day out on the water and still end up in Puerto Viejo at the end of the day!
There’s a big difference from Caribbean coast to the Pacific, and it’s something you’ll feel as you arrive in this hippie town. Expect rasta vibes, the sounds of reggae and the scent of jerk chicken.
Daytimes are chilled with surf time, chill time, perhaps a bit of yoga or a trek through the rainforest. After dark it gets lively, especially as this a popular town for backpackers travelling through Central America. It’s also one of the best beach towns in Costa Rica.
No doubt you’ll want to see some more of the country’s wildlife before you round off your 10 days in Costa Rica, and there are two amazing spots near this funky Caribbean town.
Cahuita National Park’s rainforest sits right on the beach close to Puerto Viejo and is a prime place to see all sorts of creatures including toucans, monkeys, lizards, snakes, giant crickets, leaf cutter ants and even Costa Rica’s most famed animal – the sloth.
To guarantee seeing some amazing creatures before you fly home, take a trip to the Jaguar Rescue Centre – a refuge for sick, unwanted or underdeveloped wild animals.
I love the backstory of this place. It was set up by a couple of biomedical scientists from Europe who moved to Costa Rica for a change of pace. Little did they know, as soon as they moved to the area, locals heard they could help animals and turned up on the doorstep with sick monkeys, owls with broken wings, and blind crocodiles! They decided to set up the rescue centre and it’s been expanding ever since.
When I visited a few years ago I was invited to sit inside one of the monkey enclosures while spider and squirrel monkeys played around. It was also amazing to see sloths so close.
Useful Info For Planning A Trip To Costa Rica
Currency: While colones are the local currency in Costa Rica, lots of places will accept US dollars too. If you pay in dollars, you’re likely to receive colones as change. On my recent trip I noticed a lot more places accepted credit cards and contactless payments.
Packing advice: With so many climates and landscapes, you’ll want to plan your packing carefully. I’d recommend reading my Costa Rica packing guide before you go. Lots of extras you might not have thought about.
‘Pura Vida’ is a way of life in Costa Rica! I heard it used as hello / goodbye / thank you. Translating literally as the pure life, but the meaning is more about a good life, a relaxed life and a happy/content life. Slip it into conversation and you’ll certainly impress the locals!
Do you need to speak Spanish to travel around Costa Rica? No, but it will certainly help in more remote areas. As tourism is a huge part of Costa Rica’s economy, lots of guides, drivers and shopkeepers speak English. I’m sure after two weeks in Costa Rica you’ll have a few key Spanish phrases at your fingertips too.
Is Costa Rica safe? I think it’s very safe. Compared to its neighbours, Costa Rica is an extremely peaceful country. It doesn’t even have an army! People are warm, friendly and helpful, plus there’s a huge passion for the country’s nature and landscapes – the Costa Ricans really want to preserve their country, as they know more than anyone else, that it’s a very special place.
Travel: While Costa Rica isn’t a big country to drive around, some of the roads are windy, rugged and bumpy, so what looks like a 2-hour drive, could end up taking 4. If you’re short on time, take a look at internal flights to speed journeys up.
I hope these suggestions help with planning your 10 days in Costa Rica. If you’re visiting for longer, take a look at where else I recommend in my guide to spending two weeks in Costa Rica.
I’ve featured a few other great spots in my guide to the best beach towns in Costa Rica, including Manuel Antonio National Park, Nosara, Santa Teresa, Tamarindo and Tortuguero National Park. They’re on my list for a future trip!
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my 10-day Costa Rica itinerary and it helps you plan your holiday! Have an amazing time, and feel free to comment below if you have any questions!
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6 thoughts on “The Ultimate 10-Day Costa Rica Itinerary”
Thank you for the excellent blog. We are planning to have similar 10 day trip, including the Osa Peninsula. Will you please provide some suggestion, which airlines to use to fly in to Puerto Jimenez, from San Jose, how many days you stayed there. Thanks.
Hi there! Amazing – it was such a great trip! I flew with Sansa airlines. I was in Corcovado for 3 days roughly, but would love to stay longer! Hope that helps. Have a great time!
Thanks for this. We’re looking at Osa Peninsula. What was it like flying there? I’m nervous about small planes.
Hi Melissa, I really enjoyed the flight on the small plane as you could see so many amazing views from the window! It felt like being on an exclusive private jet! If you’re a nervy flier you might not like it, but I think most people would enjoy the experience.
Me and my partner are heading to CR in December for 10 days and loved reading your pages!
We’re from the UK and we drive, but I’m always apprehensive about hiring cars abroad and was wondering whether your itinerary is doable with public transport/busses/shuttles?
What would you suggest?
Priten & Heena
How exciting! You’re going to love it. To be honest, I think visiting Costa Rica is much better with your own set of wheels. You can get public transport between key places but it’s not great for getting off the beaten track to some of the less touristy spots. I think you’d miss out on some pretty special experiences. I’d also say it’s a bit cheaper as you might end up on expensive tour after expensive tour if you try to plan an alternative way of seeing key spots. Driving is pretty easy in CR. Most roads are decent and while some are a bit bumpy at times, they’re better than most countries I’ve visited! I hope that helps.