From the epic volcanoes at Arenal and zip lining in Monteverde, to the wildlife on the Pacific and Caribbean coasts, it’s time for the ultimate two weeks in Costa Rica.
I’ve just returned from my SECOND trip to Costa Rica. While I saw a lot on my first visit in 2014, it definitely left me wanting more! A few weeks ago I received my Costa Rica itinerary and wow did it look AMAZING. The big attraction? The fact it would take me to places I’d never been before, including Corcovado National Park – one of the world’s top destinations for spotting wildlife.
I know a lot of you choose to spend two weeks in Costa Rica, which I would say is the perfect amount of time to get a feel for the country. So I figured the most useful post I could write was a big fat Costa Rica itinerary – combining the best of the best from my two trips.
From the incredible volcanoes close to La Fortuna and the wildlife of Puerto Viejo and Corcovado, to the beaches of the Pacific and Caribbean, beautiful views in Orosi and Naranjo and adventures including zip lining and white water rafting, this really is the best way to spend two weeks in Costa Rica!
Two Weeks In Costa Rica: The Ultimate Costa Rica Itinerary
To design this Costa Rica itinerary, I’ve selected my top seven places from both of my trips and suggested how many days to spend in each. Obviously, with travel time, you might need a few extra days if you want to see ALL of them, but it’s a good starting point if you’re planning to spend two weeks in Costa Rica.
Costa Rica is ALL about nature. While some areas are becoming a little overrun with tourists during high season, there are still plenty of great places that still feel ‘secret’. I’ve included a nice mix in this Costa Rica itinerary. I think you’d regret it if you don’t visit a few parts that feel truly off the beaten track.
MAP: TWO WEEKS IN COSTA RICA
I’ve marked all the key spots from my Costa Rica itinerary on this handy map…
La Fortuna: 2 Days
One of my favourite spots on my Costa Rica itinerary! For me, this area really is the best of the best in Costa Rica. The looming 1,670m peak of Arenal Volcano is easily one of the most impressive sights you’ll see in the whole country. I’d recommend basing yourself in the town of La Fortuna, which has the volcano as its backdrop. There’s a mix of accommodation in the area, from luxurious hotels with private pools, to hostels perfect for backpackers and solo travellers.
Along with adventures around the volcano (including some lovely hot springs close by) don’t miss a trip to La Fortuna waterfall. It’s in a beautiful location in the middle of the jungle, but from the second you start the descent, you’ll hear the sounds of the plummeting weight of water. The waterfall is 65m high, and while the water is cool, you can take a dip if you’re feeling brave!
Monteverde: 2 Days
You’ll have heard about Costa Rica’s ‘cloud forests’ and Monteverde is THE place to see some of the country’s most unique scenery. Walk the Sky Walk (six hanging suspension bridges) and you’ll feel first hand what it’s like to be submerged in the low hanging mist and clouds within the lush forest. There’s also the sky tram – gondolas that glide right through the epic scenery.
If you like adrenaline, spend a day at 100% Aventura Extreme taking on the longest zip lines in Central America, finishing with the Mega Tarzan Swing. The swing is one of the scariest things I’ve done to date as it involves a free fall of 35m, before you swing over 30m from side to side! The zip lines are a lot of fun, and make a change from the hiking and exploring that you’ll no doubt be doing during your two weeks in Costa Rica.
Naranjo / Zarcero: 1 Day
After some of the more extreme activities, I’d recommend a night at Chayote Lodge up in the hills above San Jose. It’s probably not an area that features on many Costa Rica itineraries, but this is one of those special ‘secret’ spots away from the tourists. For me, San Jose isn’t an amazing city, but you’re likely to visit it as part of your trip, whether that’s to fly in and out of the airport, or to pass through as you venture from one part of the country to another.
The accommodation at Chayote Lodge is stunning, designed around the old coffee receiving stations. The coffee theme continues through the interiors where you’ll find old coffee sacks for wall hangings, a giant coffee bean table and of course, delicious fresh coffee for breakfast! Yet, however much I love coffee, it’s the views from Chayote Lodge that make me recommend it. 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 – it’s just gorgeous.
No doubt you’ll be visiting a few waterfalls during your two weeks in Costa Rica, and at 90m Catarata Del Toro is one of Costa Rica’s most impressive. While you can see it from just beyond the visitor centre, I’d recommend the trek to the base of it. It’s tiring but worth it, especially once you feel the spray and the force of the water.
Also, as the region has coffee at its heart, I’d recommend booking onto an Espiritu Santo Coffee Tour where you can learn how coffee plants are transformed into the morning cuppa you’re used to. It’s fascinating to see the plants and processes up close. You’ll never look at a cappuccino in the same way again!
READ MORE: Top Things To Do In Costa Rica
Corcovado National Park: 3 Days
Corcovado National Park in Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula has been on my bucket list for a while! In terms of wildlife, it’s one of Costa Rica’s top spots, and let’s face it, Costa Rica is one the best country’s in the world for seeing wild animals in their natural habitats. From whales and turtles, to monkeys, snakes and frogs, there’s SO much to see here, plus it’s also paradise for bird lovers.
It’s not the kind of park to explore alone, so book onto a tour (hotels will be able to recommend local wildlife guides), set your alarm for 4am, and head out early for an experience you’ll never forget.
Across the day 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 didn’t see any sloths sadly, but they’re often chilling out in the trees here.
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! Just look at that staircase!
Set in the rainforest, Lapa Rios has 17 wooden bungalows, each with terraces overlooking the ocean. There are no glass windows, only nets, so you’ll fall asleep listening to the howls of the howler monkeys, croaks of frogs and more. It’s somewhere you’ll feel truly immersed in Costa Rica’s incredible nature, especially when you spot macaws from the breakfast table, monkeys on your terrace, or find a frog on your door (true story!!)
If you’re spending two weeks in Costa Rica, I’d recommend around three days in the Corcovado region. As it’s such a remote area to get to, check out the flights that run from San Jose to Puerto Jimenez. Not only will it save you time, but you’ll also be treated to stunning views like these…
Orosi: 2 Days
South of San Jose, Orosi is home to rainforests, volcanoes and rivers. It’s also one of Costa Rica’s most historic regions, where you’ll find the oldest Catholic Church still in use in the country. This is another spot I would say is a little on the secret side. It’s not experiencing the mass tourism of Arenal and Monteverde, and is a great place to escape the crowds during your two weeks in Costa Rica.
While nearby Tapanti National Park (aka the wettest spot in the country, with rain approx. 360 days a year!) is a beautiful place to go hiking and exploring, I’d recommend taking things up a few notches with an adrenaline-fuelled white water rafting trip down the river.
It was my first time rafting, and I was really nervous as I waited by the edge of the river listening to the safety briefing. The guides were enthusiastic and fun, and I started to feel at ease… until I hopped on the raft and we set off!! The water was flowing so fast, and almost immediately we reached one of the trickiest spots on the entire course. After a thorough soaking, I relaxed into the experience, whooping and screaming as I paddled. I loved it and would say it’s one of my favourite experiences from the trip!
Orosi is also a wonderful region for relaxation, with my favourite spot being Hacienda Orosi – a thermal mineral spa with absolutely spectacular views. Up in the hills, with low hanging clouds and several thermal pools, it’s a great place to unwind after lots of outdoor adventures.
If you’re looking for somewhere truly unique to stay, I’d recommend Queveri. This eco lodge is located in the mountains overlooking Orosi and has impressive views of Irazu volcano, waterfalls and more. There are plenty of hiking routes nearby, plus wildlife right on the doorstep including pumas, mountain lions, monkeys and coatis! The owner will treat you like you’re part of the family too. It’s a lovely experience, although I’ll warn you now, it’s a steep and bumpy drive to get there!
Puerto Viejo De Talamanca: 3 Days
Then it’s time to head to the Caribbean coast to experience a totally different side to the country. To be honest, rastas and reggae wasn’t something I naturally associated with Costa Rica, but when you’re in Puerto Viejo you’ll feel like you’ve landed on a Caribbean island.
Expect chilled daytimes and a bit of a party after dark. It’s an area popular with backpackers too, so a great place to base yourself if you’re travelling solo.
I think it’s a great area to round off your two weeks in Costa Rica, as it’s another fab region to spot wildlife. Similar to Corcovado, Cahuita National Park’s rainforest sits right on the beach close to Puerto Viejo. There you can spot all the animals you’d dream of seeing in Costa Rica including toucans, sloths, monkeys, lizards, iguanas, snakes, giant crickets, leaf cutter ants and more.
Another amazing place for wildlife is the Jaguar Rescue Centre. Nope, it’s not a home for jaguars, but 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 up close!
I hope these suggestions help with planning your two weeks in Costa Rica. If you’re visiting for longer, I’d recommend adding in places such as Manuel Antonio National Park, Tortuguero, and some of the country’s beautiful beaches to your Costa Rica itinerary.
Useful Info For Planning A Trip To Costa Rica
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.
‘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.
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 you’ve enjoyed reading my Costa Rica itinerary and it helps you plan your holiday! Whether you’re spending two weeks in Costa Rica, or several months exploring at a slower pace, have an amazing time, and feel free to comment below if you have any questions!
Big thanks to Visit Costa Rica for inviting me back. You’ll find plenty more info to help you plan your travels on the Visit Costa Rica website.
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